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My #ClearAmerican Cupcake Experiment

11 Dec

Walmart!

Source

It’s the one big American supermarket known the world over, yet despite living in the US for nearly 2 years, this weekend was only the second time I have ever set foot in a Walmart. On a Saturday? In December? Yes I think I may be slightly crazy. This was all for a good reason though. To find and try this:

Source

Clear American Water is a brand I had heard a lot about but had never tried, as they are only sold exclusively in Walmart, and sadly I don’t live as close to a Walmart as I would like. I have always been a fan of Flavoured Sparkling Waters, as I really struggle to get enough water during the day and find plain water really boring. After being introduced to Clear American via friends, I was amazed at the variety of flavours offered, and a bottle is ZERO calories!

So one busy Saturday afternoon in Walmart, I came up with a great idea. Could I use one of these flavours in a new Cupcake recipe?

Well the short answer was YES!

Black Cherry isn’t the most typical flavor for Christmas Baking, but for me it always reminds me of the winter season and Christmas time. Every year I would remember the amazing Black Forest Gateau’s as part of the Christmas day deserts, and this was always my favourite!

BlackCherry, Pomegranate Blueberry Acai Cupcakes!

Makes 24 Cupcakes

(adapted from My Baking Addiction)

  • 1 pack Chocolate Cake mix (my favourite to use in Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge)

  • 1 pack of instant chocolate pudding mix

  • 1 cup sour cream

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • 4 eggs at room temp lightly beaten

  • 1/2 cup Pomegranate Blueberry Acai Clear American Water

  • 24 Maraschino Cherries

Frosting

  • 1/2 C unsalted butter (for stiffer frosting, use Shortening instead)

  • 1lb of Powdered Sugar

  • 5 tbsp liquid from a jar of Maraschino Cherries

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • 2 tbsp Pomegranate Blueberry Acai Clear American Water

  • 24 Maraschino Cherries

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    2. In a large bowl, mix together cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and Clear American Water until well combined

    3. Line 24 cupcake liners into a cupcake tin, and evenly distribute the mixture between them. Roughly each liner should be 2/3rds full.

    4. Gently push a Maraschino Cherry into the center of the batter, making sure that the mixture completely covers the cherry.

    5. Bake for approx 22-25 minutes. You should be able to insert a toothpick into the cake and it come out clean.

    6. Leave Cupcakes to cool for about an hour on a wire rack.

For the Frosting

  1. Whisk together butter/shortening and powdered sugar for about 5 minutes or until the mixture is well combined and looks like frosting.

  2. Add in Cherry Liquid, Vanilla and American Clear Water, and mix for a further 2 mins, until combined

  3. Pipe Frosting onto the Cupcakes and top with a Maraschino Cherry.

When I initially planned out this recipe, I had planned on using the Clear American Wild Cherry flavor, to get a fully cherry effect on these cupcakes, however I was unfortunate in the fact my local Walmart had run out of stock. So to improvise, I decided to opt for the Pomegranate Blueberry Acai flavor. However, in this swap, I think it added a unique flavour to the cakes. The cupcakes had a subtle hint of Pomegranate, which complemented the cherry frosting without ruining the two flavours.

The hubby liked them too! When asked for his opinion, he said the flavour reminded him of a Bakewell Tart.

I would definelty like to try the recipe again with the Wild Cherry flavour in the future, so I am keeping an eye on my local Walmart! Also I will definetly heading back to try some of the other flavours for general use, as the Pomegranate Blueberry Acai was a refreshing compliment to the cupcake!

You can find out more about Clear American Water, and a lot of great recipes using it at their website clearamerican.com or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias, which is a vendor for Cott Beverages Inc., the manufacturer of Clear American® brand beverages. However all opinions expressed and recipes developed are my own, and you can Follow Collective Bias on Twitter (@CollectiveBias). #collectivebias#CBias

Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids #SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchool

3 Nov

#SmartFinalSupportsSoCalSchool

When I was first asked about being involved in helping promote the Smart & Final campaign for the California Milk Advisory Board “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids”, I thought “Am I the right person for this?” I mean, I don’t have kids, so I haven’t been very involved in the ‘schooling’ community in my local area.

However I am a very big believer in making school the best experience it can be for all kids. I loved school when I was younger, and was very lucky to have great teachers and surroundings to help make it a great experience. Also, as a baker, I use Dairy products everyday, so how could helping the local school community be a bad thing!

Smart & Final are taking part in the amazing campaign from the California Milk Advisory Board “Help Our Teachers, Help Our Kids“, with all of its participating First Street products. All Students and families need to do is simply collect Real California milk seals from select First Street products, as seen on these participating products:

Students then give these to their teachers, and then teachers submit seals. Each seal counts as one sweepstakes entry. Teachers who submit 100 seals get 25 Scholastic books or $25 school supply gift card. Each teacher entrant gets one Scholastic book.

The California Milk Advisory Board is going to announce winners in February, BUT Smart & Final is so awesome that they’re doing a separate sweepstakes!

Entrants who go to FirstStreetSupportsSoCalSchools.com and tell why their SoCal school should win will be entered to win $500, $300 or $200 to be donate to the school of their choice EVERY MONTH! So that means that there will be a total of NINE winners, 3 per month, from those that enter at the site! Now I think that’s good odds!

SO utilizing some of the great products as part of this amazing campaign, and with Thanks giving on the way, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite recipes for this time of year. As a Brit who only arrived in the US last year, 2010 was the first all American Thanksgiving we celebrated. My first introduction was through the tradition ‘Pot-Luck’ Lunch at my office. I decided to stick to something safe, as I had no idea what was ‘traditional’ – and deserts have always been my thing.

I’m going to be honest as well here, and please don’t hate me for this people, but I really dislike Pumpkin. Fall is filled with Pumpkin flavoured everything, and I just can’t stand it. So with this in mind, I chose other classic fall flavours, like caramel, apple and cinnamon.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Food Network & Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski

For cupcakes

1-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large eggs (one whole egg, and one you will just need the egg white)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

For caramel apple filling

4 apples
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter

To make cupcake

  • Preheat oven to 350F, and line cupcake pan with paper liners.

  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside for the time being.

  • Beat together the sugar and butter until combined smoothly. Once smooth, add in the egg and 1 egg white and vanilla, and beat on a low speed for 2-3 minutes.

  • Add the flour mixture and milk in alternately. I spilt the flour mix into 3 portions, and the milk into two, making sure to end on the flour mixture. Then mix until the batter is smooth.

  • Fill cupcake liners, to about 2/3rds full and bake for about 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire cooling rack whilst to make your filling.

To make filling

  • Peel your apples and slice them up into small chucks, about the size of a small nut. To stop your apples going brown during this time, add a small amount of lemon juice over them.

  • Combine together all of the dry ingredients, then combine these with your apple chunks in a large bowl, making sure to evenly coat all your pieces.

  • Add the vanilla and heavy cream to the coated apple pieces.

  • Using a pan over low heat, melt your 2 tablespoons of butter. Cook the apple mixture in the skillet for about 10mins, to allow the apples to soften, but not too mushy.

The final touches to fill your cupcakes:

To remove the center of your cupcake, you can use multiple methods. I used a great little tool from Bed Bath and Beyond, a Cupcake Plunger. This a great little tool to remove even patches of cake from the center. Don’t have one of these? You can simply use a small cookie cutter, or using a sharp knife, cutting a small circle. Note: You only want to insert to go down about 2/3rds of the way through the cupcake, allowing the cupcake to look like a pie crust.

Then fill each cupcake with approx. 1 tsp of your caramel apple filling.

If you happen to be serving these out the same day that you make them, I strongly suggest adding s scoop of Dulce de Leche Ice Cream (which is included as part of the California Milk Advisory Board campaign –yay!) to enhance the caramel taste. However these little treats work great on their own, or topped with alittle whipped cream.

Show your support and find out more about Smart &Finals amazing program by following them on Facebook and on Twitter !

NB: This project has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for #collectivebias#CBias , however all opinions expressed and recipes developed are my own. Follow Collective Bias on Twitter (@CollectiveBias).