Friday, August 22, 2008

Battle of the Cupcakes on Test Tube Kitchen (part four)

It’s the final countdown (dah dah dah dah! Um…it sounded good in my head).

Welcome to the Battle of the Cupcakes on this week’s Test Tube Kitchen.

In this four part series I have baked two competing Root Beer Float Cupcake recipes, compared the results and will crown the Winner of the Root Beer Float Cupcake.

Competing Recipe #1 comes to us from
Bittersweet, a vegan recipe blog. Competing Recipe #2 hails from Teamsugar, which pretty much says it all.

How did a vegan baked good compare to one made almost entirely of sugar?

Let’s go to the FINAL COUNTDOWN!!

The cupcake recipes and the results were given up to five “smiles” in four categories; Ingredients, Preparation & Clean-up, Presentation and Tasting.

Let’s look at how our competing recipes fared in each category.


Recipe #1 - 3.75 smiles

This recipe had almost no cost to me, with the exception of Apple Cider Vinegar, which I will get plenty of use out of. Where Recipe #1 lost out was a key ingredient of root beer extract is not available to me and neither was sarsaparilla extract or even sarsaparilla cordial. After some extensive research I was able to find, within Australia, a company that produced sarsaparilla cordial which you could order over the internet, however time was not on my side. Unfortunately, there was no alternative listed in the original recipe so no smiles were made up for.

Recipe #2 - 4.00 smiles

Initially Recipe #2 lost major points for not only calling for Root Beer Schnapps, an ingredient that is not only impossible to find in Australia, but difficult to find in other countries as well. However, some of the loss was picked up because the creator of this recipe listed an alternative ingredient of plain old Root Beer. The cost of the ingredients were relatively low to me, as most of them are pantry items, except I did have to go out and specifically buy two bags of icing sugar.


Recipe #1 - 4.67 smiles

This is an easy recipe to prepare, there are no special tools required and I only had to wash up a minimal amount of dishes and utensils. You can’t beat that.

Recipe #2 – 3.50 smiles

Recipe #2 wasn’t didn’t not have a high level of difficulty but it was definitely not a beginner recipe either. If this recipe was a steak, I would say it was medium-rare. There were no special tools required, but there was a ton of clean up and dirty dishes to wash. To add insult to injury, the dishes were not just dirty, but covered in a sticky glaze or sugary mix. Somehow it got all over my floors and I had to mop as well.


Recipe #1 – 3.67 smiles

Recipe #1 received a full five smiles for the shape of these cupcakes. They came out of the oven perfectly formed. I was incredibly impressed. The colour was a bit placid, however possibly it would be slightly more decisive if I had been able to find root beer extract, sarsaparilla extract or sarsaparilla cordial/concentrate. The decoration suggested by Bittersweet was simple bordering on boring, so I took the liberty of dusting them with vanilla sugar.

Recipe #2 – 4.00 smiles

The cupcakes baked over the liners and spilled out onto the tin, which not only made them more difficult to “flip”, it also made the shape a bit more abstract. The colour of this cakes was scrumptious, almost the colour of root beer. As for the decoration, it was impossible to fully cover the top of the cupcakes with the glaze without also covering the sides and liners. The recipe suggests garnishing the butter cream frosting with a root beer barrel candy. If they were accessible to me, it would have certainly increased the amount of smiles given for the decoration.


Recipe #1 – 3.00 smiles

My biggest issue with these cupcakes was their lack of enough moisture to create an instant positive reaction. The flavour intensity of the sarsaparilla was detectable but not enough to make it instantly recognisable. In the recipe’s favour, the extract or cordial may have boosted the intensity. As was stated earlier, this recipe creates a perfectly shaped cupcake, which means not a crumb falls when being eaten, which is why this recipe received top marks in ‘ease of devouring.’

Recipe #2 – 4.13 smiles

This recipe created cupcakes that were super moist. So moist in fact it received the top number of smiles. If they had been any moister, they would have fallen apart. I can safely bet that the high moisture content had something to do with the tablespoon of sarsaparilla which was poured over the top of the cupcakes when they were fresh out of the oven. The flavour was intense, without being over the top and if anything, due to the high sugar content, sugar glazing and buttercream frosting, it was is danger of being too sweet. Because of the cupcakes moistness and sticky glaze, devouring was slightly hampered.


This was a very difficult decision to make. Each recipe offered completely different and at times conflicting strengths and weaknesses. However, as I stated in the beginning, each cupcake is judged on its own merit against four categories. The individual category ratings were then tallied to create and overall score. The battle was close, with only a .13 of a smile difference.


Recipe #2 from Teamsugar with a total of 3.90 smiles!

RUNNER-UP – Recipe #1 from Bittersweet with a total of 3.77 smiles

You can check out my smiley rating sheets here:

Let’s not forget that Recipe #1 is a vegan recipe. This means no milk or animal fats such as butter was used. I was a vegan for over 3 years and let me be the first to declare that it is exceptionally difficult to translate recipes into veganhood. If you are vegan or trying to cut back on the sugars and fats, this is the recipe for you. My props go out to Bittersweet for doing such a fantastic job creating this recipe and many other recipes on her site.

Congratulations to Recipe #2 from Teamsugar. If you make these cupcakes, please do not send me your dental bills.

If you, gentle reader, have made either of these recipes I want to read your comments, see your photos and hear your stories!

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