Last time we took on baking, I targeted novice and beginner bakers. Or just those who don’t like the precise nature of measuring and skill that is baking but abhor paying an outrageous $4 for a simple cookie. This blog entry will target those of you who are above average bakers. You know, those of you who watch Best Baker in America (No, Suzie from Kansas, not the macaroons!) and The Great British Baking Show (What in the name of Mary Barry are you doing, contestant from Cornwall? That bread will never rise in time!). In honor of the recent win by the American woman’s soccer team at the world cup, these are what I call Mid-Fielders, those who rule the pitch and most of the kitchens of America. Those who can whip out a batch of homemade cookies that pass muster with kids and friends and who venture into basic cakes, pies and muffins with no fear. We are talking bakers who try their hand at the occasional homemade bread upon occasion and have a few of grandma’s holiday specialties up their sleeves and down pat. In short, we are talking about bakers who can follow directions and recipes with excellent results. if your grown kids ask for a special birthday treat or look forward to your Thanksgiving rum raison pumpkin pie every year, then you are a Mid-Fielder and this blog is for you.
Most Mid-Fielders became decent bakers out of frugality. They simply can’t see paying $20 for a cake they can whip up themselves for less than $5 while making dinner and, with a little ingenuity, they can even make their baked goods look festive. Cupcakes? No problem. A heavy dusting of sprinkles or other cheap decorations can cover any mistake or hurried frosting effort. And Mid-Fielders know that special frosting tips can make them look like professional bakers. My frugal choice for short cut frosting tips can be found here. Pop one of these babies in a disposal zip lock bag, snip off the bottom, fill with frosting and you can decorate with the best of them. I’ve fooled many a discerning cupcake lover into thinking that my cupcakes came from a bakery using those tips. Another sure fire way to decorate cupcakes is to melt chocolate chips in the microwave with a teaspoon of coconut oil until melted and shiny. Dip cupcakes into the melted chocolate and top with sprinkles. Below are some additional dollar store finds and frugal baking hacks for Mid-Fielders.
Cakes. Many Mid-Fielders may opt to make basic cakes and cupcakes from scratch using one of the basic recipes below instead of cake mixes but both are good options. If this is the case, try using dollar store coffee liquors to flavor your homemade cakes. Those little bottles are loaded with special flavors, hazelnut, peppermint, caramel, etc., and offer a frugal way to amp up the flavor of any cake or cupcake. In addition, there are about a thousand types of candy and sweets at the dollar store that can be used for both decorations and to flavor your cake or cupcakes. Butterscotch or peppermint hard candies can be crushed and used inside a cupcake or as a texture in layering your cake, the same for toffies or caramel bites, they make great fillings for your sweet treats. A can of coconut milk offers endless possibilities to flavor your cake or even make a delectable tropical frosting, see recipe below. Toss some drained pineapple chunks into a vanilla cake and with this frosting you have a tasty tropical cake for very little money. Canned pie mixes are also very useful in adding both textural and flavor interest to your homemade cakes.
The Possibilities Are Endless Muffins
Base Recipe Ingredients:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs a room temperature
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 tablespoon baking powder and cinnamon
1/2 cup low fat milk
Flavor options: 1 cup mashed bananas, 1 cup applesauce, 1 cup pureed zucchini, 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes, etc. The choices are pretty much endless.
Method: Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside. Whip the butter and sugar together, adding in one egg at a time until incorporated. Milk wet with dry ingredients, leaving the milk and then flavor options for last. Spoon into 15 to 18 greased muffin tins (making sure not to fill more than 2/3’s full) and bake for 22 minutes in a 350-F deg preheated oven. Best served warm though I keep a supply handy in my freezer for any and all occasions.
1 and a half sticks of butter
generous pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons coconut flavoring or vanilla extract (dollar store)
5 to 6 cups powdered sugar and 1 cup coconut milk or coconut cream from a can (dollar store)
Beat the butter and sugar with a hand mixer or in your kitchen aid mixer for at least five minutes. Add in the salt and coconut flavoring or extract and beat for a minute longer. Slowly pour in the coconut milk or coconut cream and beat until fluffy.