How To Be Good At Creating Recipes, In 10 Steps

August 28, 2013

When your best friend requests Vanilla Bourbon Bacon cupcakes for her birthday and you don’t have a recipe for Vanilla Bourbon Bacon cupcakes you first silently curse her and then you quickly get to work on creating a recipe. See, the real joy of being the author of The Dollop Book of Frosting: Sweet and Savory Icings, Spreads, Meringues, and Ganaches for Dessert and Beyond and a Cupcake Wars winner is getting to bring frosted creations to birthday parties in place of flowers and wine. And you thought it was just about book tours and dollars, huh? I’m always slightly nervous when bringing my cupcakes to gatherings since I’m unsure of how good they actually are; especially when it’s a brand new untested recipe that I finalized only an hour before the party. Last night as the cupcakes arrived to the table after dinner, I anxiously waited as the verdict on my Vanilla Bourbon Bacon cupcakes came in.
Cass: “These. Are. Amazing. You need to write about these.” George: “I’m just going to take the whole plate and leave now.” Adam: “Seriously, these are no joke. This cupcake is a winner.” Jess: -Speechless- Dan: “They smell incredible.” And to the real judge, 5 year old Lexi: Me: “Lexi, what makes these cupcakes so amazing?” Lexi: “There’s bacon and frosting on a cupcake. I’m not sure why you’re not getting this.”
It’s in these moments that I realize that I am pretty damn good at creating recipes. And you can be too. How To Be Good At Creating Recipes
  1. Decide on the type of baked good you want to make. A whole cake? Cupcakes? Brownies? Cookies? Biscotti?
  2. Pick one primary flavor you want to use as the base. Vanilla? Chocolate? Pumpkin? Lemon? Anything goes here. For the Vanilla Bourbon Bacon cupcakes I already knew that Vanilla Bourbon was going to be my base flavor.
  3. Now once you have your main flavor, ponder and research some complementary flavors to go with it. In The Dollop Book of Frosting I have a recipe for White Chocolate Blueberry Ganache frosted Pear Cookies. I picked blueberry as my base flavor and then researched flavors that would complement the blueberry before settling on white chocolate and pear.
  4. Decide how you’d like to incorporate all of your flavors. Once I settled on making cupcakes using the flavors of Vanilla Bourbon and Bacon I brainstormed ideas such as using the vanilla bourbon in the cake or making a vanilla bourbon ganache filling or mixing the bacon into the cake batter or the frosting. Play around with the ideas in your head until something feels right.
  5. Once you’ve decided how you’re going to use your flavors, start by making your focus piece first. My focus pieces or the “highlights” of the Vanilla Bourbon Bacon Cupcakes were going to be the frosting and the topping.
  6. If you don’t already have a base recipe for the cake and frosting, find one. My Vanilla Buttercream recipe and Vanilla Cupcake recipe in The Dollop Book of Frosting are great base recipes. If I’m doing a gluten-free cake and the focal point of my recipe is the frosting, not the cake, 9 times out of 10 I’ll use a boxed GF cake mix. No shame.
  7. Now once you have your base recipes, start making your focus piece first. Taste as you go along and tweak as needed. Make sure the flavor is pulling through yet not overpowering. Balance is key. For the Vanilla Bourbon frosting I took my Vanilla Buttercream recipe and switched out the regular vanilla extract for Watkins Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract.
  8. If you don’t know how to make something just Google it. I know I wanted a glazed bacon topping on this cupcake so I Googled recipes for “glazed bacon”. After learning that the bacon usually gets basted with maple syrup before baking I decided to baste my bacon with the Vanilla Bourbon frosting before baking instead.
  9. If it doesn’t come out the way you want, make changes. Once my bacon was done baking, I discovered that it didn’t have as much vanilla bourbon flavor as I wanted it to so I simply chopped it up, drizzled it with a little more Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, and tossed to coat. It was a simple and effective solution.
  10. Assemble your final product if you’re happy with your results. If not, make more changes. The key in all of this is to do your research, go slowly, and take time to taste, test, and think before making any sudden moves. If you’re unsure of whether something will work or not, try it first on a very small batch. Baste two strips of bacon with frosting, not the whole package of bacon to begin with. Make a half batch of frosting or even a quarter batch to start. Execute slowly, have fun, don’t be afraid, and you’ll be writing the next bestselling cookbook in no time!
What recipes have you created?

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