Clear Sinuses, Full Hearts

I’m the Training Specialist for my company, so when new employees start, I’m the one who trains them. In the Client Services realm, the Client Services Manager takes the new employee(s) out to lunch for their first week. I had three new employees start yesterday, so the four of us plus Kelly (Client Services Manager) and Sara (Client Services Team Lead) went out for sushi.

The meal started out quite normal: we told funny stories about disastrous past co-workers, we compared TV shows we like (well, Friends. You can’t see Salmon Skin Roll on a menu and not reference the Unagi episode of Friends!), we had a short discussion on what Sara’s tea smelled like (I said bad breath but I think the consensus was garbage).

Then the food came. As is my usual sushi ritual, I placed a tiny bit of wasabi on the bite I was about to eat and smushed it down into the rice so the wasabi didn’t hit my tongue directly.

I ate a bite of my white tuna roll and thought to myself, “Oh, I got a bit too much wasabi on this pie… oh, God… OH, GOD…”

Too Much Wasabi

I will try to explain the feeling that started happening in my face. It started on my tongue: that wasabi burn, but it quickly began creeping up my nose, deep into my nasal passages. Deep deep. Brain deep.

My eyes started to water. I started to sweat. I could feel that I was about to sneeze and it was coming on fast. Without time to get my napkin up, I cupped my hands over my mouth…

But I didn’t sneeze. Not exactly. Trying to describe it now I would say simply that my face exploded. 40% bark, 30% sneeze, 20% cough, 10% gag. It was like some rabid seal with a head cold let itself into the restaurant.

It was like the scene from Paranormal Activity 2 when the entire kitchen bursts and pots and coffee cups come flying out of the cupboards.

Only it wasn’t skillets and dinner plates flying out of my face; it was barely-chewed rice.

I glanced at my horrified lunch companions and assured them, “That was a sneeze.” Kelly, across from me, nonchalantly gestured at her shirt. I looked down at my shirt. Rice. She swiped her lip discreetly. I felt my lip. Rice.

Friends, I would be lying if I told you that I did anything other than spit partially-masticated food at my brand new trainees. Trainees that I am expected to train for the better part of two weeks.

After cleaning myself up and removing my fleece (because DAMN, I was sweating), I think I said something like, “Don’t use too much wasabi, guys. That shit is for real.”

I continued to sweat and sniff for the next several minutes. Kelly and Sara told me that they had seen me pre-wasabi a few pieces, including the one I then double-wasabied. PRE-WASABI! Rookie mistake.

I did not finish my lunch; I took it in a To Go box and then threw it away when I got back to the office. After all, who knows how many little wasabi bombs I had waiting for me??

My trainees handled it gracefully and, thus far, have yet to tease me about it. We’ll see if they come back tomorrow, or if the prospect of facing someone who has expectorated half-eaten food in your general direction is just too much for them to bear.

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Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Nutella filling and Nutella Buttercream Frosting

Guys. I don’t want to toot my own horn… but TOOT-freaking-TOOT. These cupcakes are AMAZING. Easily the best I’ve yet to make.

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I used a Devil’s Food recipe I found on Your Cup of Cake, piped each cupcake with straight Nutella, and then made a Nutella Buttercream Frosting I found on Pinterest.

Chocolate Cake (found on Your Cup of Cake)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs
¼ cup water
½ cup buttermilk
Devil’s Food Cake Mix
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. Using a whisk, mix sour cream, oil and vanilla extract together. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well in between each addition.
3. Alternate adding the cake mix and liquids (buttermilk and water), starting and ending with the cake mix.
4. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for 14-18 minutes, or until and inserted knife come out clean.
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Then I filled a piping bag with an entire jar of Nutella and, using a long filling tip, piped some Nutella into each cupcake.
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Then Kelly and I split one, unfrosted, because they are THAT good.
Nutella Buttercream Frosting (found on My Baking Addiction via Pinterest)
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 13-ounce jar of Nutella
pinch of fine grain sea salt
1 tbsp clear vanilla extract
1.5 lbs confectioners’ sugar, sifted
6-8 tbsp heavy cream or milk
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and Nutella until well combined, thick and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Slowly add in confectioner’s sugar, and continue mixing until well blended.

2. Add salt, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 3-5 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

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These cupcakes are SUPER rich, so you WILL need a glass of milk. And, if you’re lucky, a little nosey cat to share it with.

Funfetti Cupcakes with Marshmallow Cream Cheese Frosting

As you know, my last batch of cupcakes were lovely little morsels – not too sweet, great texture, good flavor combinations. So, as I began making cupcakes last night, I admit that I was feeling a little bit cocky. 

I made the cupcakes (Funfetti, from a box) and was so impressed with the amount of mess I made (none) and the texture of the batter. I filled my little plaid liners and popped them into the oven, feeling good. I even did a load of dishes and updated my blog while they were baking. They came out good (not great – I have issues with getting the size of the two separate batches to be the same… but I’m working on it), so I set them aside to cool while I started the frosting.

This is where things started to go wrong. I was making a Marshmallow Cream Cheese frosting (found on Pinterest, here).  In my abundant confidence, I hadn’t made any preparations that morning, so my cream cheese wasn’t softened. No problem, I thought, I know how to soften this right up! I filled a glass bowl with hot water and tossed the still-wrapped cream cheese in, letting it soak in the hot water for about 20 seconds. As I was cutting it up to put into the mixer, I noticed that it wasn’t as soft as I would’ve liked (aka as soft as it would’ve been if I’d let it sit on the counter all day, as intended) but, still aglow in the success of my last batch of cupcakes, I told myself it was fine.

Next I tossed in the vanilla extract. No problems there.

Then came the marshmallow fluff. Now, we all know that I am a beginner baker, so I hadn’t worked with marshmallow fluff before. Did you know that it is the devil inside of a cute, harmless-looking glass jar?? Well, you do now. It is sticky and thick and somehow it creeps to places that it shouldn’t (ie. hair, eyelids, finger cleavage, the cabinets, etc). I used a spatula to scoop it out of the jar. After one scoop, it just stuck to the spatula and no amount of flinging, banging, or smushing would get it off.  I used another spatula to scrape it off the first spatula… and shortly thereafter I had two sticky spatulas. I finally managed to scrape enough into the bowl to have (vaguely) seven ounces. (Sidenote: a co-worker said to me today, “Why didn’t you spray some cooking spray on the spatula first?”. The only way I can describe my reaction is with this emoticon: 😐

I turned the mixer on and let it mix for quite some time, reasonably sure that nothing man-made could force this marshmallow fluff to mix with anything. After a couple of minutes, though, it actually resembled a nice textured frosting, free of grit since it had no sugar.

I was out of piping bags so I used a tip that Kelly gave me – a Ziploc bag with the corner cut off. I smushed my piping tip down in there and everything was just fine for 5 cupcakes. And then something happened. The tip suddenly came ROCKETING out of the Ziploc bag, taking about 4 cupcakes’ worth of frosting with it. This all landed on my table with a sick, wet clatter. This was the last straw. I squirted a hunk of frosting on each cupcake, smushed it around with a spatula, stored them, and opened a beer. (Well, a Coke but it was opened with the mentality of opening a beer.)

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I brought the demon cakes to work and they are a big hit. People love the frosting. So, there you have it. An incredibly long blog post for a very short, [theoretically] easy recipe.

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And, one last picture of one of the cute cupcakes:

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White Cupcakes with Cream Soda Frosting

I was trying to think of something clever (okay, cheesy) to call a “Cupcake Update”… like Cupdate but I haven’t had my coffee yet today, so nothing came to mind. For the Cupcake Recap, I made white cupcakes (just from a box mix but I did do the whole egg variation because I didn’t feel like dealing with egg whites) with cream soda frosting.

The cream soda frosting is a variation of some champagne frosting I made on New Years Eve. It was definitely creamier with the champagne, but the mixer was giving me grief this week, so that could’ve been the issue, too.

 Here is the recipe for the frosting:

3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter – room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cream soda

* With electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter on low until blended, then for another two minutes on medium.
* Add vanilla and soda. Beat on medium for another minute.

They came out pretty lovely, actually – the cream soda frosting was a good match to the plainer white cake mix.

Here are a couple of pictures:

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