23 September 2012

Chocolate and Kale match made in cupcake heaven

At some point on Wednesday while reviewing the weekend happenings in DC, I came across the DC State Fair. If you've been around this blog for more than a day, you know that I love fairs and I love competitions. Well after a little more reading it was clear that this fair wasn't the traditional "state fair", but a way to celebrate DC gardeners, cooks, bakers, photographers, and artists in a state fair way. And by celebrate... they meant compete. Sadly since I came across this group so late, most of the competition's deadlines had passed. If I wanted to compete I had to either make a bike accessory or cupcake.

With the short time frame, I settled on cupcake. Upon reading the details I discovered along with overall prizes for first, second, and third, there were two category prizes. One for most creative cupcake and the other for best vegetable cupcake. I'm not the baking sister in my family so I decided to hedge my bets and go for the veggie gold.

After sending 100  a few texts to my sister and analyzed the cupcake world with one of my coworkers, I decided I would make chocolate-kale cupcakes. 

For a brief second I contemplated fondant, but after reading a recipe online I realized I wasn't ready to buy a candy thermometer. My second idea was a chocolate decoration. At first I thought, a chocolate White House! hahahhahahhahaa yeah, that didn't work out the bets. My second idea, the DC flag, though was golden  chocolate.

can you at least tell which ones I attempted the White House on?

I melted two baking chocolate squares and used a zip lock bag with a corner cut out to pipe my designs on waxed paper. I popped them in the freezer, but later realized that was a bad idea. Simply let them sit out and harden.

I'd never made a chocolate-kale cupcake, I'm not sure if I have ever made cupcakes from scratch before,  but I was up for the challenge. I consulted many websites, mainly the following:

And then got to work.

First I prepped the kale. I went a little crazy at Safeway and bought a two pound bag of kale. Luckily I didn't go crazy while kale prepping and I only measured out two heaping cups of raw kale. First important step- remove all big stems and spines. Then I steamed/boiled the kale (bring 1 inch of water to boil, insert kale, cover, wait like two minutes), drained off excess water, cooled a bit, combined with a tablespoon of milk, and pulverized it in my mini food processor.

bright green goodness
Then I watched some TV and like any competitive baker I waited till the grocery stores closed before checking to see if I had all the necessary ingredients. The night before I purchased the more exotic ingredients, but hadn't checked to see if I had any sugar. I only had a half cup of sugar on hand, so I added a trip to the supermarket to my morning baking activities and went to bed.

Cupcakes had to be delivered between 11:30 and 12:30 for judging, so I set to work at 8:30am.

Mixing went well and baking was smooth.
cooling down
While the cupcakes were cooling I started mixing up cream cheese/buttercream icing. I made a bit of a mess.

big mess
I used the zip lock baggy method once again, but this time with a bigger hole cut out of the corner. I only had snack sized bags, which at first I thought were too small, but they worked well because my hands are a bit small.

pipping icing on

I picked the best six and started to add the decorations, only they seemed to melt when I took them out of the freezer... I reevaluated and all though they got soft, they kept their shape so I decided to put them on three of my cakes and see how they looked upon arrival.

packed for travel

Then I did something I never do before 2 am, I took a cab. It was worth it as my cupcakes arrived unscathed.

row after row of cupcakes
a judge with his helpers
While the judging was taking place I walked around the fair a bit and around the larger Barrack's Row festival. I also watched the honey judging, which was quite intense. There were at least twenty entries and the three judges were quite thorough, checking taste, clarity, and even moisture content.

After an hour I was running short on time (I had a football game at 2pm) so I went back over to the judging table. They were eating my cupcake! One girl took a bite and did this lovely positive head nod. Then I heard her tell a fellow judge that mine deserved a five because it had kale in it (in a good way!). I couldn't leave early now! So I went to change into my athletic gear in a nearby bar's restroom. When I got back they had lined up the top six cupcakes for the final judging by the "celebrity" judges. Well mine wasn't in the top six, but I was gunning for a different prize. A few agonizing minutes later they announced that...

I won! Best Vegetable Cupcake!

I received a blue ribbon and a $50 gift certificate to Whole Foods. And my photo with the Whole Foods guy.

Because of the delay I snuck back in the crowd and literally had to run. I ran a mile and a quarter to my football game and arrived just in time.

my winnings, my new t-shirt, and one of my cupcakes
I have issues with following recipes, I don't buy enough powdered sugar, I substitute vegetable oil, I forget the salt, and I roll with it. So with that in mind I decided to share the recipe I actually made and not the one that might be most ideal (because that one didn't win!).

DC Chocolate Kale Cupcake

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup Hershey's Special DARK Cocoa
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup OlivExtra Canola/Olive Oil blend
1/4 cup kale steamed and processed into very small pieces (I used 2 cups raw kale)
1 cup boiling water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and fill cupcake pan with paper liners.
2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and kale; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for two minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin, at this point I thought I ruined everything, but don't worry). Pour batter into prepared pan. Fill cups 3/4 full.
3. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Cream cheese buttercream icing*

1 8oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature
3 sticks of butter at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
3 cups powdered sugar (the recipe I was following called for 6 cups, I only bought one bag of powdered sugar, 3 worked fine, but 6 would of created a stiffer icing and no I didn't think to halve the recipe until my mom suggested it late that afternoon)
2 T vanilla extract (recipe called for 2 teaspoons, I misread, but was happy with the result)

1. Beat cream cheese till creamy
2. Add butter, beat till incorporated
3. Add brown sugar and beat till fluffy
4. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, till mixed
5. Add Vanilla till combined

*I don't remember where I pulled this recipe from, but since I basically butchered it, I don't feel too bad sharing.


  1. Congratulations, best Kale cup cake ever. nice story too. MOM

  2. So we will be trying your award winning recipe on Tuesday, although I'll have to change the frosting (I don't have the refrigerated display case for cream cheese), can I still give you a shout out?

  3. They look so good! Do you think it would hurt the recipe to up the kale a little?

    1. They are denser than most cupcakes, but I definitely support trying to add more!

  4. Wow, congrats! I have a giant bag of kale in my fridge at the moment. I see this as a great way of getting my husband to like kale! Love the chocolate DC flags! :D


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