Last Friday I took Cupcakes and Cocktails with Dustin Rennells in a class provided via
Blog and Tweet Boston. My school is right next door (152 Arlington St vs. 122 Arlington St), so I’ve often thought “hey, maybe I should take a class there” on my evening walks back to the T. Six years later, I am glad that I finally did!
If you take this class (it’s being offered again on March 28), definitely get dinner beforehand. The BCAE provided a cheese & fruit plate for us to snack on and Polar seltzer for us to drink, but I think I would have been on a sugar high and starving if I hadn’t eaten an early dinner with Jess and Erin first.
As a math teacher, I love to pick up new teaching strategies in my fitness classes or other occasions for learning. Cupcake class definitely supplied me with some.
1) Divide and Conquer: Dustin partitioned out the tasks so that we all got to participate. He did the most error-prone tasks (e.g., making chocolate ganache). I had wondered beforehand if we were all going to try to follow the recipes at the same time and bake 12 sets of cupcakes. In fact, Dustin partitioned out the tasks for the 3 cupcakes and 3 drinks (e.g., lining cupcake pans, chopping fruit, frosting cupcakes). I got to chop a pear and lemon for the sangria as well as frost the spring break cupcakes. I wish there was a way to do this division of labor with math!
For the actual cupcake making, he doubled the recipes and had two pairs come up to the demonstration table to mix. This also allowed for us to take pictures and observe.
2) Learn Names: Dustin made a valiant effort to learn participants’ names and use them. I appreciate that in any class, whether it be Pure Barre or Cupcakes and Cocktails! I found that I only caught about half the names and wanted to be able to connect people with their blogs, twitter handles, and Instagram handles. I would have liked name tags with name, blog, and social media information.
The Wealth of Knowledge
Though BCAE provided an excellent recipe packet, I found the baking tips from Dustin to be the most valuable aspect of the class. Tons of cupcake recipes can be found on the Internet, but the expertise of someone with 30,000+ cupcakes under his belt can’t be beat!
1) Cracking Eggs: Crack them individually into a glass to check for shell particles or a bad egg. I wish I had known this during a brunch I hosted for Cambridge Running Club a few years ago. I cracked all 18 eggs for the egg casserole into a mixing bowl…then screamed with revulsion when a bloody egg came out. I had to send a friend to Whole Foods to buy more eggs.
2) Bake At the Same Level: This helps avoid burning the tops or bottoms of the cupcakes.
3) Set a Timer for 2/3 of the Time: It’s always easier to undercook and bake more than it is to find burnt cupcakes.
4) Take Cupcakes out of the Pans to Cool: Dustin had us take out the cupcakes and then cover them with saran wrap. If the cupcakes remains in the pans, they will continue to cook. The saran wrap kept the steam emitted by the cupcakes trapped over them so that they would not dry out before frosting time.
5) Check for the Bounce, Don’t Use a Toothpick: If you poke the cupcake and it bounces back, it’s done. The toothpick method is not as accurate and can cause overcooking.
6) Kitchen Aid Tips: Using the “stir” setting won’t meringue the egg whites by mistake–that causes your baked goods to collapse. Additionally, when scraping down the sides, scrape around the dimple of the bowl as well.
7) Flip Before You Click: We used ice cream scoops to dispense the cupcake batter (use 5/6 of the scooper, then completely flip it before you click the button). This is to avoid air bubbles. Someone sang “you have to flip it, before you click it” after this directive. Dustin mentioned that it reminded him of a tessellation song from Pre-Algebra (“slide, flip and rotate”). Ha, math is still strong!
8) Chunks of Butter are Not Okay When Mixing: But chunks of sugar or flour are.
9) Leave Butter out for 5-6 Hours: This softens it to a good texture. Otherwise, microwave it in 15-second increments. My formerly germophobe self did not realize that it was safe to leave butter out that long! It is apparently totally fine to leave it out; it just develops a “skin” after 24 hours.
10) Aerate, Don’t Sift: Sifting is an antiquated practice left over from the days when gravel used to be in flour. Aerating means that you use another measuring cup to gently shake the flour into the measuring cup you are actually using. Then scrape off the excess with the flat edge of a knife. This results in the proper amount of flour for your recipe (while sifting it will often add enough extra that it will alter the recipe).
11) Add All Powdered Sugar at Once: If you add in increments, some sugar will get blended down super fine and the rest will be gritty.
Jess and I got to make this one. In spite of misconstrued directions (when Dustin said “now each of you crack an egg into the bowl,” all four bakers did, not realizing that he meant each *group* crack one egg), the cupcakes still turned out fine. Peaches are actually incorporated into the batter. To have them be suspended in there, Dustin partitions some of the flour from the recipe to coat and mix them before adding them to the batter. I love cream cheese frosting, fruit, and brown sugar, so these were almost my favorite.
Spring Break Cupcakes
I like that this cupcake included cake mix and jello. I wasn’t expecting such down-to-earth ingredients! Dustin says that he stockpiles unusual cake mix flavors such as strawberry. He advises not to substitute champagne or beer in the rum in these. He also suggested adding coconut, chunks of fruit, or chocolate chips because these do not alter the baking chemistry. These are very light and lemony.
This looked so difficult to frost well! Dustin filled a pastry bag over the top of his Cuisinart food processor and then created little walls that he then filled with compote. Then he melted chocolate and drizzled it over the top. These ended up being my favorite even though I initially thought I wouldn’t like them. The red wine flavor is very light, the chocolate is rich without being overpowering, and there is fruit 🙂
This shot, which included pineapple juice, amaretto, and Deep Eddy vodka, was quite cute and popular with the class, but I found just one overwhelmingly sweet.
I definitely liked the sangria the best. Infused with cloves and cinnamon sticks and brimming with lots of fruit = delicious! I would love to make this for a winter party along with the sangria cupcakes.
Apple Cider Hot Toddy
I didn’t end up taking a picture of this drink. It looked like what I imagined butterbeer from Harry Potter to be. It also included butter and Cool Whip, so it was extremely decadent. Now I see why some Paleo folks put butter in their coffee!
Overall, I enjoyed the class so much! It was great to meet fellow bloggers and put faces to Twitter handles. I was also proud of myself for getting out on a “school night”–though I was so grateful that this was a Friday night event. I’m looking forward to taking more classes at BCAE and to experiment more with cupcakes. Dustin mentioned that he has also cooked savory cupcakes (cornbread + scallion, Vidalia onion + cream cheese + pancetta). I would love to make those…and try some of his cupcakes from Bad Boy Bakeshop!
I left with 9 cupcakes in a lovely cake holder and a tin of Victoria’s Pie Spices.
Upcoming Classes with Dustin:
2.22 Comfort Food Classics
3.9 Top o’ the Mornin’ Treats
4.6 Boozy Brunch
4.6 How to Throw a Killer Dinner Party
4.11 Paint the Night Red
4.12 Cookie Workshop
4.18 More Cupcakes and Cocktails
Other Classes I’m Eyeing at BCAE
3.3 – 4.14 Knitting: Beyond the Basics
4.9 Righteous Ramen
4.14 Magnificent Mexican: Mexican Cuisine and Margaritas with Chef Erwin Ramos of Ole and Olecito
a May session of First Steps: Wedding Dance Workshop