Mocha Monkey Cupcakes

I don’t often toot my own horn, but I must say, quite frankly, these cupcakes are THE BOMB.

I recently started following a blog called The Cupcake Project, which is written by a very creative woman who makes cupcakes out of everything but the kitchen sink (though I wouldn’t be surprised if that was next). She announced an annual contest for ice cream cupcakes in conjunction with Scoopalicious with the grand prize winner receiving a $250 gift card to a kitchen supply store of his or her choosing. Once I realized how simple it was to make “ice cream cupcakes” (i.e. cupcakes with ice cream on top…um, delicious), the little cupcakes in my head started spinning with ideas. After numerous Venn diagrams, spreadsheets, and web diagrams, I decided to mimic my favorite frozen treat in the world, the Mocha Monkey.

Unless you live in Quincy or Braintree, MA, you may not know exactly what I’m referring to though I’m certain plenty of other variations exist across the planet. The Mocha Monkey is a frozen coffee drink that has very little coffee but plenty of mocha, bananas, and peanut butter in it. It’s literally everything I love about dessert masked with the term “coffee”, which naturally makes me want it for breakfast. Unfortunately, I’m not one of the lucky ones who lives in Quincy or Braintree, MA, so the only time I get my precious Mocha Monkey is when I visit my very lovely jewelry-making, nature-loving, dog-mom friend Lauren, which is far too infrequently.

So I thought what better treat to come up with than an at-home cupcake version of the Mocha Monkey? If you enjoy banana bread, peanut butter, chocolate, or caramel macchiatos, you’re in for a treat.

Mocha Monkey Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 16 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

How to Do It

  1. Line two muffin pans with liners, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Cream the butter using the paddle attachment in a stand mixer for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Scrape the sides of the bowl, add the mashed bananas, egg yolks, and vanilla, and beat the mixture again until blended and creamy. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Using the whisk attachment or a handheld electric mixer, whip the egg whites at high speed until stiff peaks form, 8-10 minutes. Gently fold 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the banana mixture.
  4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until blended. Fold the remaining 2/3 of egg whites gently into the mix.
  5. Scoop the batter into the prepared pans, and bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, rotating the pan once at the halfway point. Remove the pan from the oven, and let them cool slightly in the pans. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool the rest of the way.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

For the Ganache

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 8 oz heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 oz semi-sweet baker’s chocolate, chopped

How to Do It

  1. Place the chopped chocolate in a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl.
  2. Heat the heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to boil, and remove it from the heat. Pour the cream immediately over the chopped chocolate, and let the mixture sit for 3-4 minutes. Whip with a whisk until the chocolate is fully melted, and the mixture resembles chocolate sauce.
  3. Refrigerate to cool while making the buttercream and allowing the cupcakes to cool.

For the Buttercream

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp creamy natural peanut butter (not an extra sweet kind)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

How to Do It

  1. Cream the butter with a paddle attachment for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add peanut butter, and whip again with the paddle attachment until blended. Add salt and vanilla, and whip again. Scrape the sides of the bowl and the paddle, and switch to the whip attachment.
  2. Add one cup of confectioner’s sugar, and whip at low speed to blend the sugar. Increase the speed as the sugar incorporates into the peanut butter mixture. Add the second cup of sugar, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until the mix is slightly stiff but fully blended.

For the Ice Cream Topping

  • Two pints of Starbucks Caramel Macchiato ice cream or another rich coffee flavor

Putting it All Together

Here comes the fun part. Well, really, the fun part is eating the cupcake, but it can be pretty fun making it too. After I made the different components, I used a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip to pipe clumps of the peanut butter buttercream on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and I put the pan in the freezer while I worked on the other items. Next, when the cupcakes were completely cooled, I dipped the tops of each of them in the chocolate ganache, and stuck them in the freezer so the ganache would harden slightly. I then poured myself a glass of delicious Rose wine, and took the ice cream out to soften. Once it was soft enough to work with, I used a large pastry bag fitted with a large cake icer and piped the ice cream (the best I could) over the chocolate-topped cupcakes. I used a sharp knife to cut slices of the ice cream from the icing tip, and finally, I placed the peanut butter rosettes on top of the ice cream.

Though it’s tricky to eat, this cupcake is on par with Heaven. I’m actually getting hungry thinking of one right now…

Wish me luck for my contest entry, and I’ll post a link to vote as soon as it goes up!

Lemon Blueberry Cream Cheesy Goodness

I’m not sure what it is about lemon and blueberry that makes such a delightful combination. Perhaps it’s the blend of fragrant citrus and the natural juicy sweetness of the blueberries that makes this such a refreshing summertime flavor, or maybe it’s the fact that blueberries are loaded with antioxidants and lemons provide a heavy dose of vitamin C, which is reason enough to indulge.

If you don’t care about the health benefits of blueberries and lemons, perhaps you’ll just appreciate that they’re delicious together, especially if there’s a range of textures in the dessert as there is in this one.

And if you can’t appreciate that, well maybe you’ll just like that you can layer the dessert in a wine glass. 😉

I mixed several different recipe ideas to create this little parfait with the thought that none of them could be too heavy or rich. After all, this is swimsuit season. I stumbled on this lemon-vanilla pound cake recipe when I was searching for ideas for Mother’s Day, and I scribbled a little note on it that said “blueberry compote or strawberry?”. I pushed it aside when my mother told me she wanted something “healthy” for Mother’s Day and didn’t think of it again until I ran into this: blueberry and cream cheese trifles from Sweet Revelations. That’s when I started thinking about how delicious it would be to do it with lemon pound cake…you know, so I could get all that vitamin C.

So the following is an original creation with a few influences and a lot of deliciousness.

Lemon-Vanilla Pound Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 10″ Bundt pan

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated sugar plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract or lemon juice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 10″ Bundt pan, pastry brush

How to Do It

  1. Generously brush a 10″ Bundt pan with melted butter, and refrigerate pan until butter hardens, about 15 to 20 minutes. Brush any uncovered spots, and place in the fridge again while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Bring milk and butter pieces to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat , and set aside.
  4. Sift flour and salt together in a small bowl, and set aside.
  5. Beat the eggs until very light and fluffy at medium-high speed for about 5 minutes in a stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with an electric hand-mixer. Reduce the speed to medium, and gradually add 2 cups of granulated sugar until blended. Add the extracts (or 1/2 tsp lemon juice).
  6. Reduce the speed to low, and add the flour and salt slowly until the ingredients are just blended. Slowly pour the hot milk mixture into the batter, and add baking powder. Beat until blended, and remove the bowl from the mixer.
  7. Using a rubber spatula, fold the lemon zest into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared Bundt pan, and bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester or fork inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, and cool in the pan for 5 minutes.
  8. While the cake is cooling, pour the lemon juice over the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Lightly whisk the ingredients with a fork, and set aside.
  9. Invert the cake to a wire cooling rack to finish cool, and using a fork, gently poke holes throughout the surface of the cake. Use a pastry brush to brush the lemon/sugar syrup over the entire surface of the cake. Cool completely before serving.

Recipe adapted from Redbook.

Baker’s Tip

The original recipe calls for 1/2 tsp lemon extract, which can be very strong. I used lemon juice (mostly because I forgot to pick up extract at the store…), and the lemon flavor was PERFECT-subtle without being overly sweet or citrus. Don’t waste your money if you don’t have it already on hand, and use some of the juice you squeeze for the syrup.

Extra Baker’s Tip

To get the most juice possible from a lemon, quarter, rather than halve, the lemon, and squeeze each piece until there’s nothing left.

Blueberry Compote

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and dried
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

How to Do It

  1. Heat 3/4 pint blueberries, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup sugar over medium-high heat until the liquid begins to boil. Stir and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until the blueberries soften. Remove from heat, and let the syrup cool briefly.
  2. Put the mixture into a food processor or blender, and whip until smooth. When completely cool, stir the remaining 1/4 pint blueberries into the compote.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp butter, unsalted and softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 12 oz heavy cream

How to Do It

  1. Whip butter and cream cheese until fluffy with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes. Add vanilla extract, and whip again until blended. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and switch to the whisk attachment.
  2. Add 12 oz of heavy whipping cream, and whip at high speed for 4-5 minutes. Add the salt and lemon juice, and whip until blended.
  3. Put the mixer on high speed, and begin adding the confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time, stopping the mixer as needed to scrape the sides. Whip until the mixture is creamy and slightly stiff. Add additional confectioner’s sugar 1/4 cup at a time if needed to reach desired consistency. Remove from the mixer, and refrigerate while assembling other ingredients.

Layer the parfait by laying pieces of the pound cake on the bottom, top with blueberry compote, and scoop some cream cheese frosting on top. Add as many layers as you think you can handle, and always serve in a wine glass. 😉


My Kitchen, My Sanctuary

Moving is not fun. Moving on a hot weekday from a second story apartment with your 73-yr-old dad and his equally aging friend who are both just in a hurry to get the heck out of there is even less fun. It’s sweaty, it’s stressful, your stuff suffers the damage of being thrown down a flight of stairs (no, seriously…), but throughout the days of heavy lifting, cleaning, and stuffing my possessions into old boxes, all I could picture was how serene and beautiful my new home was going to be compared to my last one. It was going to be airy and roomy and have an old farmhouse charm. It would be surrounded with trees and a stream and wildlife galore, and there would be NO screaming children on any side of us. Brendan would have a place to disappear, my girls would have plenty of windows to watch little birds frolicking from, and MOST importantly, I would have my own private sanctuary…

I couldn’t wait. Naturally, the kitchen was the first room I unpacked, and I’ve managed to mostly finalize it while still tripping over boxes to get to my wardrobe. Of course, it may never be “perfect” because I’ll always find things to add or ways to improve it, but as of now, I’m completely, utterly, head-over-heels in love with my kitchen.

A fabulous new feature to my kitchen. In my old apartment, which had thismuch space in the open kitchen, I was able to watch TV while cooking and baking, but I usually used that time to watch my DVR. I don’t have a DVR on this TV, and I have no choice but to watch inspirational things while working in the kitchen, i.e. Food Network and the Cooking Channel.

What’s up Pinterest project?

A shelf for extracts and flavors

A shelf for liquid ingredients and decorating sugars

A shelf for dry ingredients

A cookbook nook (I made that up, but feel free to steal it. It’s quite clever.)

Dining Room hutch where I store my library of books and my pans because a lady should be well-read and well-baked

And well-drunk.

An old cookie tin serves as a place to store foil wrappers for candies, stencils, and other decorating tools-plus it’s kinda cute.

So there it is. My lovely little kitchen. I didn’t take pictures of the gorgeous granite bar, but I will once I start baking again. Speaking of, FINALLY, I’ll get to start baking again this weekend after a month-long hiatus that has made me less-than-friendly and overly anxious (kind of like withdrawal symptoms…). I can’t wait! I’m sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written, but I’ll be updating with fun new recipes starting again next week.

With that said, enjoy your weekend, drink your wine, and enjoy the view from my kitchen window.


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