Janell Brown, winner of the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" and owner of One Sweet Slice, is at it again. This time she's bringing her specialty cupcakes into readers' homes. Her recipe book, "One Sweet Cupcake: Professional Decorating and Recipe Secrets Made Easy" (Cedar Fort, $21.99), provides simple steps that just might give the home cook the confidence to compete in her own baking war.
Brown set out to do just that: If she was going to do a cookbook, she wanted it to help encourage anyone to cook and to feel confident in the finished product.
"I really wanted to create something — it's almost like there's two extremes when it comes to recipe books focused on cupcakes. They're either focused primarily on gourmet and organic cupcakes, so a lot of the ingredients can be really hard to find, so if you're not used to buying or working or baking with those types of ingredients it can be intimidating if you don't know how to pronounce those French names for things or where to find a certain chocolate," Brown said.
"So it almost feels intimidating, or 'I'm not a good enough baker to be able to purchase this type of book.' And then on the other end you have the just-throw-it-together-really-fast, use-a-cake-mix-and-doctor-it-up, and anyone can do it, but you're going to lose that bake-from-scratch and home feeling of actually creating and making a recipe," she added. "I wanted to find something that was a balance between the two where they're gourmet cupcakes that are delicious, but you can make them using the best of what you have."
The first recipe in the book, a simple vanilla cupcake, provides the base for all the other cupcakes. This allows users to become familiar and comfortable with any of the recipes fairly quickly. Ingredients usually include normal household items such as applesauce and sour cream, along with the normal baking ingredients like flour, sugar and eggs.
Brown's compilation keeps the home chef in mind, featuring pages with a large image for each recipe and numerous helpful tips.
"Cedar Fort came to me and asked if I could put a book together, and I had never even thought of doing something like that before. I had no idea where to begin or what to do, or really where to start," Brown said.
She said it was through the help of the editors at the publishing company and her family and friends that the book came together. While she is grateful for all the support, Brown ultimately recognized that her appearance and success on "Cupcake Wars" has changed her company forever.
"'Cupcake Wars,' hands down, was the No. 1 thing that helped open those doors of opportunity, and then each thing after that has led to building our business that much more and just giving myself more credibility about what we're doing and how we're doing it," Brown said.
With a growing business and publishing a recipe book, Brown pointed out the importance of having her family's support. It's what keeps her going, especially as her children express interest in getting involved.
"My kids are still fairly young and so they really didn't grasp or understand what was going on, or why I was so busy, or gone so much, or what was going on. But my older kids have kind of figured that out a little bit more now, so it's fun to see them with the light click on and think, 'Oh, this is why Mom was gone.' 'This is what she was doing.' ... That has helped so I don't feel as guilty or bad because I know that they understand and want to be a part of it," Brown said.
"And, of course, my husband is what makes everything happen. He's what holds everything together. He has been nothing but supportive through everything and has really been the one who says, 'You can do this, keep going!' That's been amazing."
"One Sweet Cupcake" is a fantastic combination of recipes, tools and ingredient tips, with the bonus of also providing decoration ideas. Brown provides a unique perspective of what a cupcake can be.
And now a tip from the reviewer: The recipe for the buttercream frosting is delicious and simple but makes far too much. I halved the recipe and still had plenty to frost 24 cupcakes.
White Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes
Lighter than the Chocolate Raspberry, it has a decadent flavor without being overbearing. The raspberry swirled cake layered with white chocolate ganache and white chocolate buttercream and garnished with a fresh raspberry will make these a hit every time.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unsweetended applesauce
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons pure vanilla
1 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup raspberry puree
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.
2. Beat butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add sour cream, buttermilk, applesauce, oil, eggs, vanilla and vanilla bean paste.
3. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Turn the stand mixer on low and add dry ingredients until just incorporated. The batter should be smooth. Fold in raspberry puree until batter is marbled.
5. Line two standard muffin tins with paper cupcake liners. Fill each cup two-thirds full with batter. Use an ice cream scoop for perfect measuring. Bake until the tops spring back at the touch of your finger and edges are just golden brown, 20-25 minutes.
6. Remove from tins and cool completely before filling or icing.
Finishing touches: Pipe a layer of White Chocolate Ganache, ice with White Chocolate Buttercream and roll in white chocolater flakes. Garnish with single fresh raspberry.
Note: Be careful not to overmix when adding the raspberry puree. The batter should be marbled, not pink.
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