Tag Archives: cupcakes

Our Year in Review (2014)

2014 went by so fast! We can’t believe it has been almost two years since we started UCL. Here’s a review of our eventful year:


We went to Canoe for Winterlicious.


We learned about Nigerian cuisine for a school project.


We went on a Vancouver food trip. This was Ricelessasian’s first time visiting  Vancouver.


Baked a giant cupcake for a special girl’s birthday party!  


Ricelessasian made a lot of colourful cupcakes.


Although Matchachoco stayed in Vancouver, we met again in Los Angeles a few months later. We went on a food trip…again (lol).


We made our own birthday cakes!

Ricelessasian’s birthday cake:


Matchachoco’s birthday cake: 


Virtual Thanksgiving Potluck with EatPrayBake 🙂


We had a couple of pasta posts throughout the year 😛


Ricelessasian made an edible Christmas tree.


Looking forward to more food experiments in 2015! 🙂

Happy New Year!

– Underground Culinary Lab Team

Filipino Independence Day Swirl Cupcakes

It’s Independence Day in the Philippines today (June 12)!

These cupcakes were requested by my mom for a Filipino Independence Day party at work a few days ago. She also made the flag cupcake toppers too (about 40+ pieces of them)! I’ve never made this many cupcakes all by myself before (Matchachoco, where are you? lol), so I was pretty exhausted after all the baking and cleaning involved.


I was a little disappointed with how the frosting on the cupcakes turned out though. For some reason, the red food colouring turned out pink, and the blue food colouring gave me this baby blue tint, quite far from the solid red and blue colours of the Filipino flag. I still couldn’t figure out this frosting puzzle, despite using gel food colouring, which is pretty strong and concentrated compared to liquid food colouring. It seemed that the more I added food colouring, the frosting just turned into a bolder colour of pink and baby blue, but not a solid red or blue. Any advice? I also didn’t want to add more food colouring because it’s something I try not to use a lot of for baking (that’s why we’re on the look out for natural alternatives). Oh well, at least the swirl design turned out very colourful and festive 😛


As usual, I used this chocolate cupcake recipe as my go-to cake recipe with cooked frosting. Now I’ve used this cooked frosting recipe a couple of times already with success, but for some reason they turned out somewhat bland this time. I’m assuming it had something to do with the type of butter, the food coloring, or the type of vanilla extract I used. Despite that, the frosting turned out very light and fluffy, but stable at the same time. If done properly, this frosting should taste reminiscent of sweetened whipped cream (I once used vanilla bean paste to flavour the cooked frosting and someone commented that it tasted like the vanilla bean frappuccino from Starbucks). It is also not overly sweet like the regular homemade buttercream frosting, which is what I like about this frosting.


To get the swirled look: Divide frosting into 3 bowls. Tint one bowl of frosting with red food colouring, and tint the other with blue food colouring. Leave one bowl of the frosting with no food colouring. Using a piping bag with a 1M piping tip, fill 1/3 of the side of the piping bag with blue frosting, 1/3  with red frosting, and 1/3 with uncoloured frosting. Make sure that the different frosting colours remain separate in the piping bag. Before piping the frosting to the cupcakes, pipe frosting on a clean plate first as a trial. Usually, only one colour appears first. Pipe until all three colours appear. Once all three colours appear, pipe frosting to the cupcakes and sprinkle each cupcake with a generous amount of yellow sugar sprinkles.


Happy Independence Day!

– Ricelessasian

Giant Birthday Cupcake!

This month has been an incredibly busy time for us! After final exams in April, we headed to Vancouver for a very special celebration and our first cupcake order. The birthday girl, Samantha, was turning 1 and her mother requested a gigantic ‘smash’ cupcake to celebrate the occasion.


A few weeks prior, Ricelessasian and I made a prototype of the giant cupcake for practice. I’ve made many regular-sized cupcakes before, but I was really excited to finally make such a massive cupcake! Luckily, Ricelessasian has had experience making one before so, we weren’t so ‘lost’ in the whole baking and molding process of the cupcake.


Aren’t these funky and vintage-y cake stands so cute? For the party decor, our client also requested that we integrate the new OhJoy! decor line from Target. We happily obliged because all the pieces are incredibly adorable!!


We decided to use this recipe , one – because of the enticing title and two – because vegan ingredients were requested for the giant cupcake (with the exception of the sprinkles). Personally, I think I will definitely use this recipe again one day. The title of the recipe did not lie! The texture of the cupcake was moist and chewy – which was very different from the cupcakes we have made in the past, in a positive sense. I must admit – we had a good chuckle during the baking process because of the unique baking method 😉 (refer to Step 1). For the frosting, we made vegan buttercream using this guide.


The other regular-sized cupcakes (chocolate cupcakes with matcha frosting) were for the guests of the birthday party. We used our go-to chocolate cake recipe with a matcha cooked frosting.  I think they were a bit hit, as some of the friends took a few cupcakes to-go!


The birthday girl, Samantha, didn’t end up smashing the giant cake, after all. She may have been too lady-like to ruin it or perhaps she thought it was too pretty to eat like I did. Haha!


H-o-o-r-a-y!! These were the perfect decorations for the simple yet sophisticated matcha cupcakes.


We made certain improvements to the giant cupcake we served after making the prototype one. For instance, we made the frosting colour more vibrant (more green and pink), created more defined ruffles at the bottom of the cupcake and added flowers made from vegan frosting to the top of the cupcake. Organizing all the little details that were involved with putting the cupcake together were well worth it 😀 Needless to say, we were happy about how the end product turned out. We hope all the guests and the birthday girl enjoyed it as well!


Thanks for reading and hope you had a wonderful Victoria Day long weekend,


Matcha Christmas Tree Cupcakes

O’Christmas tree, o’christmas tree…

It’s our favourite time of the year! For UCL’s first Christmas post, Ricelessasian and I decided to make our signature Matcha Chocolate Cupcakes…with a twist of course!


Besides the natural green colour matcha provides, we love using it because it gives a subtle hint of tea flavour when used in small quantities. It’s a versatile ingredient that goes well with anything really, even mixed in oatmeal! I usually buy my premium matcha powder from Ten Ren Tea shop and it lasts for at least a year, which gives me plenty of time to make them frequently for birthdays or other events.


To fit the theme of Christmas, we piped the cupcakes frosting into the shape of a tree and everything else fell into place. Honestly, half of the fun was going with Ricelessasian to Bulk-barn to buy all the neat little decorations – the tiny gingerbread men, the miniature snow-flakes and the red glitter! We had a blast shopping for what decorations would be on our ‘Matcha tree’ so much that we were giddy when we left the store!


For the chocolate cupcake base, we used the same chocolate cupcake recipe from our Ghostly Halloween cupcakes.

For the matcha frosting,  the frosting has to have a fluffy, stable consistency so it can be piped into a tree. We recommend using an American buttercream, Swiss meringue buttercream, or Ermine frosting recipe. Omit the vanilla flavouring and add matcha powder 1 teaspoon at a time to the frosting recipe according to your liking. The frosting we used for the photos is Swiss meringue buttercream.


To give the cupcakes a snowy effect, we sprinkled them with powdered sugar.


We’d love to hear what you’re baking this holiday season! Feel free to leave us a comment 🙂 Keep posted for our upcoming entries this month and the exciting things that are store for us in 2014!


Happy holidays and as always, happy baking,


Halloween Baking!


Trick or treat!

This Halloween, Matchachoco and I participated in our program’s Halloween themed bake sale. I whipped up some ghostly chocolate cupcakes, while Matchachoco made some mini pumpkin tarts. Actually, it was very sneaky of her because she didn’t even tell me she was going to bake something!


She made the tarts using the extra filling for the pumpkin empanadas we made for a school event, and added some condensed milk to it. The tart crust was already premade, but the lattice design on top was handmade by Matchachoco using this recipe. Cutenesss! We would have made a blog post about it, but it was one of Matchachoco’s impromptu baking adventures.


As for me, I made some chocolate cupcakes with chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. I topped the cupcakes with meringue cookie ghosts. I’m always looking for a good chocolate cake recipe, and I think I may have just found my go-to recipe. Aside from requiring ingredients that I usually have at home, the process is relatively simple compared to other chocolate cake recipes. I also like how it uses oil instead of butter. The result was a dense, moist cake with a strong chocolate flavour. This is the first time I used this chocolate cupcake recipe, and I’m glad it wasn’t a fail, whew! For the frosting, let’s just say that I’m not a huge fan of the typical frosting made with butter and powdered sugar, so I like it complicated 😛

Anyways, without much further ado, here’s the recipe for the chocolate cupcakes.

– Ricelessasian


Chocolate Cupcakes (makes 24 cupcakes)
 Recipe from Add a Pinch


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. espresso powder
1 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder. Whisk the ingredients together.
  3. Add milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to the mixture of dry ingredients. Mix together on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Reduce the speed and slowly add the boiling water. Beat on high speed for about 1 minute to incorporate air to the cake batter.
  5. Fill cupcake liners ¾ths full, and bake for about 12-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted to the cupcake comes out clean or with moist crumbs.

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream (enough to frost 20-24 regular size cupcakes) Adapted from Yoyomax12

A little info about the Swiss meringue buttercream method: The idea behind the method is to incorporate butter and meringue to create a smooth, not-too-sweet, frosting consistency. I find that this frosting may too buttery for others when it’s just flavoured with vanilla extract, so I often use this method when there’s enough flavour to mask the buttery taste, such as this chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream recipe.

This frosting has a subtle chocolate flavour, so add more cocoa powder or dark chocolate if you’d like.


4 egg whites or 8 tbsp. of pasteurized liquid egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup softened butter, cut into cubes
~50 g 72% dark chocolate, melted
2 tbsp cocoa powder


  1. Using a double boiler, heat together egg whites with sugar. Continue to heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. If using raw egg whites, heat until the egg whites have reached a temperature of 160 degrees F for food safety.
  2. Remove egg whites from heat, and beat until the egg whites form a stiff meringue.
  3. While beating, gradually add softened cubes of butter. Keep beating until you get a smooth frosting consistency.
  4. Add melted chocolate and cocoa powder. Beat until fully incorporated.


  • If the frosting starts to look curdled after you added the butter to the meringue, keep beating! Don’t worry, it’s just a phase.  It’ll still transform into a smooth frosting consistency if you keep beating.
  • If the frosting is too runny, refrigerate for a few minutes or put in the freezer for about a minute or less. Take the frosting out when it starts to stiffen a bit, but not solid. Beat the frosting again until you get a smooth consistency.

Meringue Ghosts
Meringue recipe from here

Using a piping bag with a round tip, pipe small dollops of meringue in the shape of ghosts. Once the meringue cookies have been baked, draw the ghost faces using a toothpick and melted chocolate.



A Modern Thanksgiving Twist

I remember as a kid that it would take at least two days for my parents to prepare a Thanksgiving meal including time to defrost, marinate, roast the 12 pound turkey and prep for other side dishes. It wasn’t really until these last few years away from home that I’ve been really able to appreciate the time and effort that my parents went through to make Thanksgiving a special day out of the year for my family.


Our first attempt

Through experience, with ‘X’ number of dinners under my belt, I’ve realized that Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be overly complicated. This year, taking refuge at Ricelessasian’s lovely home for Thanksgiving was a unique experience because we had the opportunity of revolutionizing our own Thanksgiving and create our own new traditions. Ricelessasian suggested that we should create a modern twist to the traditional cupcake by making a savory Thanksgiving-themed cupcake. She found the perfect recipe – which was a very refreshing take on the traditional, often bland-tasting, meatloaf. I enjoyed this recipe also because it uses turkey which makes it a leaner, more guilt-free alternative. And who could forget mentioning the faux cupcake ‘frosting’ of roasted garlic mashed potatoes topped up with cranberries? Cuteness overload.

I was impressed with the overall flavour profile. It was a simple recipe but all the flavours associated with Thanksgiving that I was nostalgic for, were there – all in one cupcake. Who would have thought?

It was a real treat for me to help make, and eat, all while in good company.

Happy Thanksgiving,

– Matchachoco


Turkey Meatloaf Cupcakes with Roasted Garlic Mashed Potato Frosting (makes 9-12 cupcakes) 
Turkey meatloaf recipe from Skinny Taste


For the meatloaf cupcakes:
1.3 lb extra lean ground turkey
1 cup grated zucchini, all moisture squeezed dry with paper towel
2 tbsp onion, minced
1/2 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1 egg
1 tsp kosher salt

For the roasted garlic mashed potatoes:
3 large to medium yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped into equal size pieces
2 garlic bulbs
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/4 cup butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil

Dried cranberries
Dehydrated thyme


Turkey Meatloaf

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, zucchini, onion, breadcrumbs, ketchup, egg, and salt.
  3. Place meatloaf mixture into muffin tins and bake for about 18-20 minutes until cooked through.

Roasted garlic mashed potatoes

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. To roast garlic bulbs, chop each garlic bulb horizontally and spread olive oil into the cut portion of the garlic. Wrap the garlic bulbs tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for about 45 minutes. Once the roasted garlic has cooled, squeeze out the garlic from the bulb. Set roasted garlic aside.
  2. Boil potatoes in a large pot with salted water until potatoes are fork tender. Meanwhile, heat milk and butter in a saucepan.
  3. Using a potato ricer, mash the potatoes with the roasted garlic. Slowly add milk and butter mixture to the mashed potatoes just until you get the consistency you want. Season with salt and pepper.

To assemble the cupcakes, pipe the mashed potatoes using a decorative piping tip on top of the meatloaf. Sprinkle with dehydrated thyme and garnish with dried cranberries. Serve with gravy, of course 😉


Cupcakes for a Special Annual Event

This special Volunteer and Staff Appreciation event that we participated in called for 2 things: cupcakes and variety!!

It was our second time making cupcakes for this event – the first time, with the assistance of Ricelessasian and our mutual friend, we featured solely Matcha Cupcakes. We received a lot of amazing feedback and were motivated to do something different this time around. We wanted something summery. After a long deliberation, we mutually chose to offer not one…not two…but THREE flavours of cupcakes – Fresh Strawberry, Tangy Lemon, and Luscious Red Velvet!


We chose to feature strawberries because they are in season and are very affordable this time of year. By adding fruit garnishes for decoration, it incorporated a more refined touch to the cupcakes. Red velvet cupcakes make a statement at any party and is great for anytime of the year. Of importance to us was to avoid using any artificial food colouring, which we managed to accomplish by using the red cherries in place of the standard red food colouring for the red velvet cupcakes.

We finished making them in the nick of time – whew! – to ensure freshness and to maintain the moistness of the cupcakes until a few hours later. Ricelessasian and I were ecstatic to see and hear that the cupcakes were a bit hit among the crowd of guests! People had a hard time choosing, so they ended up sampling 2 or 3 of them, which was gladly encouraged!

Stay tuned for the cupcake recipes. We will be featuring the recipes in future blog posts 🙂

Until my next sweet craving,


Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes
We used a white cake recipe with fresh strawberries cooked frosting.


Tangy Lemon Cupcakes
We used the same white cake recipe, but this time with lemon cooked frosting.


Luscious Red Velvet
We naturally coloured red velvet cupcakes with red cherries instead of beets. The cupcakes were topped with cream cheese frosting.


Avocado Lovers’ Double Chocolate Beet Cupcakes

Welcome to Underground Culinary Lab!


To start off, me and my partner-in-crime (PIC), also known as Ricelessasian, wanted to begin our journey into the food blogosphere by creating a healthy yet decadent dessert. We love the idea of pairing a nutritious & fresh ingredient with a higher calorie item because we truly believe and live by the idea that there IS such a thing as a ‘healthy’ dessert that avoids compromising its delicious flavour.

We chose a wonderful recipe that we were both inspired by when we attended a Healthy Baking event at school. Few people would think of using beets in their desserts, let alone in cupcakes, because of their ‘earthy’ flavour, but we appreciated the subtleness of the beet flavour in the final chocolate cupcake product. TIP: using beet puree is an awesome substitute to using red food colouring that is au naturel when making THE People’s Choice dessert: Red Velvet Cupcakes.collage1
Just recently, Ricelessasian thought of a way of ‘tweaking’ the recipe to making it even more nutritious…and at the same time, taste good! Instead of just plain dark chocolate frosting, we incorporated avocado to ‘up’ the omega-3 fatty acids (the GOOD fats), which made the frosting richer and more luscious. Though I doubted how it would taste like at first, just like I do with the notion of savory desserts, I love…love…loved them! The three empty cupcake liners are good evidence of that.

Hope you enjoy them too!


A note from Ricelessasian: Don’t put as much frosting as we did in each cupcake or it’ll be too rich. I got carried away with the frosting. 🙂


Chocolate Beet Cupcakes (makes 11-12 cupcakes)
Original recipe by Maria. The only change we did was replacing the butter in the recipe with non-hydrogenated margarine.


1/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine or butter
3/8 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
5/8 cup skim milk
1/2 cup beet puree*

*To make beet puree, boil peeled beets in unsalted water until fork tender (it took us about 45 minutes). Once cooked, let the beets cool and slice into chunks. Puree beets in a food processor.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream non-hydrogenated margarine and sugar together. Add egg and vanilla; mix well.
  4. Mix flour mixture and wet ingredients (beet puree and milk) in three alternating batches, starting and ending with flour mixture. After each addition, beat well and scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
  5. Fill 11-12 cupcake liners with the batter evenly. Bake just until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean, about 15 minutes.

TIP: To get fuller looking cupcakes, make only 11 cupcakes.


Chocolate Avocado Frosting (enough to frost 12 cupcakes with some leftovers)


2 large avocados
~50 g chocolate of your choice (we used 72% dark chocolate)
1/2- 1 cup powdered sugar*
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Skim milk (optional)

* Amount of sugar depends on what type of chocolate you use. Since we used 72% dark chocolate, we used 1 cup powdered sugar.


  1. Melt chocolate using double boiler or by heating in the microwave in 30 second intervals, mixing the chocolate in between intervals. This will prevent the chocolate from being overheated.
  2. Puree avocados in a food processor. You might have to add some skim milk if you have a difficult time pureeing the avocados. Add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and melted chocolate to the avocado puree. Blend well.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes to stabilize the frosting.

Feel free to make any adjustments to the amount of ingredients we used. This frosting has a strong dark chocolate twist to it.