Cocoa Pumpkins

I recently read on the Cupcake Project that because I have a food blog, I can do whatever the heck I want involving food. Given this permission, I thought it’d be a good time to start the pumpkin season (I’m aware it’s only August, but I love pumpkin the way I love peanut butter…and also, I can do whatever the heck I want involving food). I also prepared pumpkin pancakes for our guests last weekend, and I couldn’t bear to let the remaining pumpkin puree go to waste. I had a small portion of chocolate ganache left over from my Peanuts cake so I figured I’d try a little experiment-cocoa and pumpkin.

No, no, that’s Coco and pumpkin.

This is cocoa and pumpkin. Two fabulous ingredients blended together into one delightful little cupcake…that I hated. As you can see from the picture above, the cupcakes look lovely, and they’re moist and fluffy and pumpkin. Something was just off for me….

Mmm chocolate!

…I even dipped them in chocolate ganache…

Ooh whipped cream frosting!

…and topped them with a fabulous cinnamon whipped cream cheese frosting…

…and still nothing. I just couldn’t fall in love with these. Why am I still posting them, you ask? Because someone once told me that just because I don’t like it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. I thought some of the more adventurous bakers out there may enjoy this because surely I do not. Anyway, I’ll pumpkin-up in the next few months with some fabulous, delicious things 🙂

Cocoa Pumpkin Cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 batch of chocolate ganache

For the Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

How to Do It

  1. Line two muffin pans with paper liners, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a small mixing bowl, and set aside. Lightly whisk the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl, and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars together using the whip attachment in a stand-mixer or whip with an electric hand mixer. Gradually add the eggs one at a time, and add the yolk. Once the eggs are blended, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add approximately 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl, and whip at low speed. Alternately add 1/2 of the pumpkin mixture and 1/3 of the flour mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Use and ice cream scoop to scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each liner no more than 2/3 full. Bake the cupcakes for 28 minutes, rotating the pan once at the halfway point, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed.
  6. While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting. Whip the heavy cream and granulated sugar at high speed until stiff peaks begin to form, and the whipped cream is heavy and thick. Set the whipped cream aside. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment of a stand-mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Blend the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon in a small bowl, and begin adding the mixture to the cream cheese 1/4 cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary, and when the ingredients are fully combined, remove the bowl from the mixer and begin to fold the whipped cream in with a sturdy rubber spatula. Chill the frosting in the refrigerator in a stainless steel bowl while the cupcakes finish baking and cooling.
  7. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and let them cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling. When the cupcakes are cool, dip the tops in chocolate ganache. This is easiest when you dip the cupcakes upside down into a shallow bowl of chocolate ganache, and spin them until they’re completely covered. Chill the dipped cupcakes for 15 minutes or until the ganache layer has hardened. Top with cream cheese frosting, and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from Cakeeventsblog.com

You Might Also Like…

Spiced Sweet Potato Cake

Pumpkin Cupcakes

Summer Muffin’ Had Me A Blast

I went a little nuts at farmer’s markets and at Trader’s Joe’s this past weekend. I couldn’t help it. Everything is so fresh and bright, and I love fruits and veggies. However, I’m terrible at using everything up from these produce binges before they start to spoil so I decided this time that I would just let the food inspire me. I was going to pick up whatever I felt like turning into something delicious. Since I’ve been craving fresh berries and fruit smoothies daily ever since the temperature started to creep up over 90 degrees, I decided I couldn’t pass up the chance to get some juicy red strawberries before the season started to wane.

I looooooooooove strawberries. I would pick a bowl of juicy, ripe strawberries over any cookie/brownie/cake in this world if I had the choice. I suppose that’s a bit of an extreme statement and may be a slight exaggeration, but when I think of that burst of sweetness from biting into a strawberry or how they make me feel after snacking on them over a heavier dessert, I tend to think it’s accurate. I think strawberries can be paired well with almost anything too-they’re fabulous in a spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette, they’re refreshing in a bowl with sliced bananas and kiwis, and they’re lovely covered in dark chocolate.  And they make a really fabulous lemonade.

And because I was already getting lemons to surprise my fiance with homemade summer shandies (lemonade mixed with beer, all the rage on the beer scene right now), I figured maybe the lemons could do double duty.

They could flavor my beer and flavor my muffins. All at once.

What a fabulous summer idea. I don’t normally make muffins. In fact, I never make muffins because, quite frankly, I just feel like that’s far too many calories and too much sugar for something that normally doesn’t have any frosting on it that you’re supposed to consume for breakfast. Normally, I’d say “no thank you”, but I’ve had a recipe for strawberries and cream muffins sitting on my iPhone browser for approximately six months. I figured there had to be a reason, and since I had every other ingredient in them already waiting at home, I thought perhaps my strawberry raid at Trader Joe’s would finally be a good excuse to clear my browser history. The addition of lemon zest was just a fun little addition to satisfy the strawberry lemonade I’ve been craving.

Lemon Strawberry Cream Muffins

 



Stuff You’ll Need

 


Makes 16 cupcake-sized muffins

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup 2% milk
  • 2/3 cup regular half and half
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 oz full-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced into small pieces
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon zest


How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line 1-2 muffin pans with paper liners.
  2. Sift together the all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Lightly whisk the ingredients, and set aside.
  3. Blend the cream cheese, 1 1/2 Tbsp of the liquid from the lightly beaten egg, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, and the lemon zest in a separate mixing bowl with a fork or small whisk. Once the mixture is blended but still soft (not liquid), set the bowl aside.
  4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the vanilla and almond extracts, half and half, and milk into the saucepan, and continue the stir. Heat the mixture over low heat until it’s thoroughly warm but not bubbling. Continuously whisk the milk mixture while adding the eggs, and continue stirring until the ingredients are warm and just slightly thickened. Remove from heat.
  5. Pour the milk mixture evenly over the flour blend. Using a whisk, gently blend the ingredients together until they’re just uniform. Don’t over mix!
  6. Scoop the batter into the prepared pans, filling each cup about halfway up. Put several chunks of strawberries into each cup so they’re still visible, and spoon a tsp of the cream cheese mixture on top of each cup. Cover this with a small spoonful of the remaining batter, and top it with more strawberry chunks.
  7. Bake the muffins for 26-30 minutes or until they begin to brown around the edges and the tops spring back slightly when pressed lightly. Remove the muffins from the oven, and allow them to cool in the pan for 5 minutes on top of a wire cooling rack. Transfer the muffins to the wire cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

Recipe adapted from Jane’s Sweets & Baking Journal.


Finally, I can make room on my iPhone browser for something else! Stay tuned, my next little delight will be vegan-friendly 🙂

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!

The Breakfast Club

I had my monthly “bitchin’ book club” meeting last night, and we discussed our disturbing book choice while nibbling on different breakfast foods and (strawberry) mimosas. Alongside our overwhelmingly delicious mimosas (Andre Strawberry + orange juice = Heaven.), we selected from vegan almond coconut balls, mini vegetable or bacon and egg frittatas, delicious and crisp home-fried potatoes, granola, fresh fruit salad, and these…

Cinnamon swirl cupcakes with strawberry-maple cream cheese frosting and maple bacon. Two things I must point out before I get all excited about these-1) I did not make this recipe up, I stole it from a Cupcake Wars contestant, and 2) I do not, and will not ever again, promote the eating of roasted, smoked, maple pig fat.

With those things said, I aim to please. I know bacon is loved and obsessed over by many, and I’ve been wanting to make cupcakes with bacon on them for quite some time. The combination of sweet/savory/maple/salt sounds lovely, and since I don’t consume bacon myself, I had to make these:

“Don’t judge me-I’m delicious!”

Veggie maple bacon. I’m sure it sounds unappealing to those of you who like pork bacon, but I quite enjoy my Smart Bacon roasted with maple syrup, thank you.

The intention of this cupcake is that it has a variety of flavors from breakfast foods-a cupcake that tastes like French toast, a frosting that has fresh strawberries and maple syrup, and of course, bacon all rolled into one little bite-sized treat. When slightly overbaked and crisp (i.e. a little burnt), the cupcakes resemble the taste of cinnamon toast, and when slightly underbaked and soft, they’re similar to French toast. Quite frankly, it’s one of the most delicious cupcake recipes I’ve ever tasted, and if you choose to try, the cupcakes can be made entirely vegan without sacrificing taste. I’ve included the replacements below.

Cinnamon Swirl Sour Cream Cupcakes with Strawberry Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Maple Roasted Bacon

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 24 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 oz salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 oz) sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • Strawberry Maple Cream Cheese frosting, recipe to follow
  • Maple-Roasted Bacon, recipe to follow

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, and line two muffin pans with 24 cupcake liners.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl, and set aside.
  3. Using the paddle attachment in a stand mixer at medium speed, cream the salted butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the vanilla extract and one egg at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary to incorporate the ingredients.
  5. Decrease the speed of the mixer to its lowest setting, and alternately add the flour mixture and the sour cream (3 additions of flour, 2 additions of sour cream).
  6. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add the cinnamon and brown sugar. Using a rubber spatula, fold the ingredients into the batter so they create a nice little swirling effect.
  7. Using an ice cream scoop and a small spatula or spoon, scoop 3-4 tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner. Bake the cupcakes for 32-34 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when pressed lightly. Remove from the oven and cool slightly in the pans. Move the cupcakes to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Hollis Wilder on Foodnetwork.com.

Strawberry Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 oz strawberry jam
  • 1/4 cup strawberries, hulled and diced

How to Do It

  1. Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, whip the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and fold the jam and strawberries in with a rubber spatula until the ingredients are blended. Set aside or place in the refrigerator until the cupcakes are completely cool.

Recipe adapted from Hollis Wilder on Foodnetwork.com.

Maple-Roasted Bacon

Stuff You’ll Need

  • 1/2 lb thick-cut smoked (organic) bacon
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp good-quality maple syrup
  • Baking sheet, pastry brush, non-stick cooking spray, wire rack, parchment paper, tongs

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray a wire rack on both sides with non-stick cooking spray, and place the wire rack securely on top of the baking sheet.
  2. Line bacon strips in a single layer across the wire rack, and roast in the oven for 15 minutes, or until slightly browned.
  3. Remove the pan carefully from the oven. Using the pastry brush, brush the bacon with a generous coating of maple syrup. Use the tongs to flip the bacon strips, and brush the underside with maple syrup. Carefully put the pan back in the oven, and roast them for another 3 to 5 minutes, or until they’re browned and crisp.
  4. When the bacon is done, transfer it to a plate lined with paper towels to cool. Chop it into small pieces to top the cupcakes.

Recipe from Barefoot Contessa on Foodnetwork.com.

Assemble the cupcakes by adding a tablespoon of frosting and sprinkling bacon bits on top

Vegan-ize it!

I’ve recently discovered my local grocery store sells a pretty decent replacement for sour cream and for cream cheese. These cupcakes can easily be vegan-ized (or made healthier and dairy-free) by using Earth Balance buttery sticks in place of butter (add 1/4 tsp of sea salt for the cupcake recipe), sour cream replacement, and cream cheese replacement. The eggs can be replaced with egg replacer or flax seeds soaked in water, and the bacon can be replaced with Smart Bacon. However, Smart Bacon only needs to be roasted for approximately 5 minutes (turning the strips in between) before adding the maple syrup. Enjoy your completely guilt-free breakfast cupcake 😉

 

Cinco de Cupcake

It’s Cinco de Mayo this weekend as well as the Kentucky Derby. Other than tequila, mint juleps, and big floppy, flowered hats, I can’t think of any better way to celebrate than festive foods.

With that said, holy mole, these are my favorite cupcakes in the world. No cupcake shoppe I’ve ever been to has made anything close to comparing to this, and I’ve been to a lot. This combines the dynamic duo of peanut butter and chocolate (of course) with spiced chocolate cream cheese frosting so the flavors are so fun you’ll think there’s una fiesta de la boca happening.

If you’ve never baked cupcakes with cookies or candy in the middle before, my best suggestion would be to avoid the temptation to push the mini peanut butter cups all the way into the batter. Not only will the batter rise while baking, the peanut butter cup will naturally begin to sink because it’s heavier than the surrounding batter. You’ll be covering it with a bien grande glob of frosting anyway so no one will see the candy until they bite into the cupcake, and then muy bueno! It’s a surprise in the middle! If you bake the cupcake and the peanut butter cup has sunk all the way to the bottom, it means you’ve pressed it down too far. Just press each candy slightly down, and they’ll turn out perfect.

Surprisingly, the cupcake itself is not the star of the show. The cream cheese frosting is a form of spiced chocolate that is incredibly pleasing to the palette. If you haven’t tried spiced chocolate in any form but you’re a chocolate fan, you need to immediately add chilli powder and cinnamon to your next chocolate fix. This frosting in particular has the subtle taste of chocolate with a kick of these spices that will have you saying “muy caliente!” Luckily, the cream cheese keeps it from getting too hot.

Chilli powder, cream cheese, peanut butter cups, and basic chocolate cupcakes may sound like a less-than-normal combination for dessert, but I promise-these will disappear faster than you can shout “Ole!”

Double Feature Cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate Frosting

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 12-14 Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 12-14 miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups, unwrapped

For the Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted plus a little extra for texture
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Combine the butter and chocolate for the cupcake batter in a microwave-safe bowl, and heat for 1 minute, or until both ingredients are melted. Be careful not to overheat and burn the chocolate. If the butter is melted, you can continue to stir the chocolate until it melts as well. Set the bowl aside.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Blend, and set aside.
  4. Pour the melted butter and chocolate in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the granulated sugar, and beat with a handheld mixer or by hand until the batter is smooth and combined, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix fully between each addition.
  5. Gradually add the dry ingredients, and whip until the batter is smooth. Do not overmix.
  6. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full using an ice cream scoop or large spoon. Gently place a peanut butter cup in the center of each cup, and press down slightly.
  7. Bake the cupcakes for 10 minutes, and rotate the pan. Bake another 10 minutes or until the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly. Remove from the oven and cool slightly in the pan. Move the cupcakes from the pan to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
  8. Prepare the frosting by creaming the butter and cream cheese together until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. It’s best to use the paddle attachment for this step if available. Add the chilli powder, cinnamon, and salt to cream cheese mixture, and whip until they’re blended. Add the vanilla extract next. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time until you’ve added the 3 cups. Continue to add confectioner’s sugar 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time if you need a more dense texture.

Recipe from Food Network.

 

The Luck of the Irish (Car Bomb)

Happy belated St Patty’s Day to all those who like to pretend to be Irish every March 17th…or the weekend before March 17th…or the weekend after…

I am not Irish. I’m proudly Portuguese and Italian with a little Russian mixed in, but I do enjoy a lovely Irish beer now and then. On special occasions, like March 17th, I usually take the time to delight in a lovely Irish car bomb. If you don’t frequent the bar scene, an Irish car bomb is enjoyed by dropping a shot of Bailey’s (or any other) Irish Cream liqueur into a healthy glass of Guinness beer and drinking very, very quickly. If you’re a hearty lass who already enjoys the flavors of the beer and liqueur and you drink it quickly, it’ll taste like a carbonated chocolate milk shake. If you’re a little less Irish and you drink it too slowly, it’ll taste like chocolate milk gone sour. Eww.

If you’re not up for taking a trip to ‘ye olde pub to suck one of these down, you could instead make these cupcakes.  They’re slightly more family-friendly and cost efficient.

And probably a little easier to swallow.

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 18 Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup or one stick unsalted butter or 1 Earth Balance vegan buttery stick, softened
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature, or 2 eggs’ worth egg replacer
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup chopped semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup Guinness beer at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup Irish Cream liqueur

For the Frosting

  • 1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter or 2 Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks, softened
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1 tbsp meringue powder (optional, but keeps the frosting sturdy and fresh for longer)
  • 2 Tbsp Irish Cream liqueur
  • Pinch of salt
  • Icing bag fitted with a large star tip, green gel food coloring, small craft paint brush

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two muffin pans with 18 paper liners.
  2. Place the flours, cocoa, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla extract, and chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. Blend on low speed for 1 minute, just to combine.
  3. Combine the beer and the liqueur in a glass measuring cup with a spout, and pour half of the liquid into the flour mixture. Blend on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed, and add the remaining liquid. Beat on medium speed for an additional minute.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to scoop the cupcake batter into the prepared pans, only filling them 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.
  6. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow them to cool slightly in the pan. Move to a wire rack as soon as possible to finish cooling.
  7. Prepare the frosting while the cupcakes are baking and cooling by whipping the butter, liqueur, salt, and meringue powder until creamy. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time, and scrape the sides as needed. Add additional confectioner’s sugar if you’re looking for a stiffer consistency for decorating.
  8. To decorate the cupcakes like the pictures below, use a small craft paint brush and green gel food coloring (it will not work with liquid food coloring). Dip the paint brush into the gel coloring, and paint a single streak inside the icing bag from the tip to half way up the bag. Repeat this process in regular intervals around the bag, spacing the stripes about 1/2″ apart. Fill the bag with frosting as usual. Pipe the frosting starting in the center of the cupcake, and move in tight, concentric circles around the center. The dye will color the edges of the frosting.

Recipe Adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Tip: I tried making these cupcakes completely vegan without realizing that Irish Cream liqueur has real cream in it. 😦 However, if you’re looking to make these completely vegan-friendly, King Arthur Flour and some other specialty merchants offer Irish Cream flavoring similar to an extract.

My Favorite Valentine’s Day Cupcake

I think I like Valentine’s Day baking better than holiday/Christmas baking. All the desserts are pink and red and heart shaped…just so darn cutesy. I know Valentine’s Day can be slightly nauseating for some, but if you start focusing on the treats associated with that holiday, you won’t feel so queasy. I promise.

Take these cupcakes, which I’ve often baked in heart-shaped silicone liners (awwwwwww), for example. They really have nothing to do with all the love stuff on Valentine’s Day, but I associate them with the holiday because they’re pink and I often garnish them with sliced strawberries or hot pink sugar, which makes anything festive. So that helps. Some of my favorite techniques are used in this recipe too-doctoring a boxed cake mix, baking the cupcakes with a surprise filling, and using one of my favorite frostings-strawberry cream cheese. They’re perfect for anyone who adores vanilla or strawberry flavors, and you can even make them with chocolate cake mix for the chocolate lovers. They’re so fluffy and heavenly that even Cupid would be tempted. 😉

Strawberry Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 box of French Vanilla or yellow cake mix with pudding in the mix
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 oz cream cheese (Philadelphia makes a small square package that’s perfect for this), cut into 24 small squares
  • 3 Tbsp strawberry jam or preserves
  • 2 cupcake/muffin pans and some cutesy Valentine’s Day liners with little hearts and Cupids all over them

For the Frosting

  • 2 8oz packages of strawberry cream cheese, softened
  • 10 Tbsp or 1 stick plus 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • Hot pink sugar or sliced strawberries

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line cupcake/muffin pans with your cute little liners.
  2. Mix the cake mix, sour cream, canola oil, water, and eggs in a large mixing bowl until the lumps have smoothed. The batter will be thick. Fill the liners 2/3 of the way full.
  3. Lightly stir the strawberry jam with a fork until it’s smooth and free of large strawberry pieces.
  4. Gently press a small cream cheese square into each cupcake so that it’s just below the top of the batter. Put a small spoonful (approximately 1/4 to 1/2 tsp) of strawberry jam on top of the cream cheese.
  5. Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, and rotate the pan halfway through baking time. Remove from heat, and cool for 5-10 minutes in the pan before transferring to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.
  6. While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, cream together the butter and strawberry cream cheese using a paddle attachment of a stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract.
  7. If you’re using a stand mixer, switch to the whip attachment, and gradually add the confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time, whipping throughly between each addition. Continue to whip the frosting until it’s smooth and at desired consistency. Add more confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time if the frosting is too soft.
  8. After the cupcakes have cooled completely, frost them with a pastry bag and round tip or with a cake spatula. Garnish with hot pink sugar, pink sprinkles, sliced strawberries, or whatever pink and red decorations your little heart desires.

Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Just Cupcakes.

Tip: When you put the cream cheese into the cupcake batter, resist the urge to push it all the way down to the liner. You don’t need to. The batter will bake around the filling, and this goes for putting candy or other fillings in as well. Cupcake batter rises and will cover the filling, even when it’s close to the top of the batter.

Gingerbread Season

I’ve started to live by the motto “so many recipes, so little time” (written by me), and it’s so true. I’ve been pretty excited about these cupcakes since the weather started to grow cooler, and the moment I bring them into work to share, I see an even cooler idea that would have enhanced them-adding an orange kick to the frosting. I knew it…I KNEW when I looked into my cabinet that morning and saw orange extract next to the vanilla that it would have been an interesting twist…but instead of branching out, I stuck to the basic. Damn you Barefoot Contessa for not showing me this recipe earlier! I like Emeril’s recipe better, but I drifted from his to use a basic cream cheese frosting rather than his spiced creme anglaise (also with orange!). Ugh…there will always be time next year to do it that way…probably. When you love food this much, you’re bound to be drawn toward every interesting recipe you find…there is just never enough time!

So, here is what I brought to the table for a Christmas contribution at work-Emeril’s Gingerbread, made with turbinado sugar (a fancy, more natural, raw brown sugar), Guinness, and molasses, and I made it into cupcake form with (basic) cream cheese frosting.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  •  1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup turbinado sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup Guinness (or other dark beer…but unless you can think of something more heavenly, stick with Guinness)
  • 24 cupcake liners
  • 2 cupcake/muffin pans

For the Frosting

  • 16 oz plain cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla (or orange!) extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • Pastry bag, fitted with small star tip
  • Edible glitter

The best way to start the morning...baking

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake or muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. Sift or mix together your dry ingredients (flour, spices, baking soda, salt) in a bowl, and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix together the Guinness and molasses, and set aside.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy with a paddle attachment on a stand mixer (if you don’t have one, an electric hand mixer is fine). This takes slightly longer than it would with granulated sugar because turbinado sugar is more coarse. It may take up to 3-4 minutes.
  4. Beat the eggs into the butter and sugar, one at a time.
  5. Alternately add the dry ingredients and Guinness mixture to the butter, sugar, and egg, and beat after each addition. Occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.
  6. When the batter is mixed, it will be softer than a traditional cupcake batter. Use an ice cream scoop to fill cupcake liners 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full, and be sure that they are filled equally.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, and rotate the pans in your oven. Bake for another 12 minutes, or until the cupcakes bounce back when lightly pressed. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for several minutes before carefully moving to a wire rack to finish cooling. These will be soft and fragile cakes.
  8. While the cupcakes are baking and cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. Whip the cream cheese and softened butter together until uniform and soft. Add the vanilla extract and salt, and whip until blended. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar one cup at a time, and whip until blended between each addition. If you want to add color for a more festive appearance, add it after you’ve whipped in the confectioner’s sugar. It’s best to use color gel rather than liquid food coloring to avoid changing the consistency of the icing. See the tips below. Refrigerate the icing to thicken for 25-30 minutes.
  9. When the cupcakes have cooled and the icing is the desired thickness, frost the cupcakes using a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip, and frost in a counter-clockwise fashion, starting in the center and moving upward rather than outward. Top with edible glitter or sparkles to give the cupcakes a little glisten.

Cupcake recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse.

Tip: To color icing without changing the consistency, use a gel-based coloring. Wilton makes every color in the rainbow, and because the color is so concentrated, you need very little to get a bold hue (unless it’s red or black). Use a toothpick to dip into the color (use the toothpick only once-no double dipping!), and dip it into your icing. Whip the color in with a stand mixer or electric hand mixer, and if you want to darken your color, add another drop of the gel with a new toothpick. I used Leaf Green to create the color on these cupcakes.

Peanut Blossom…Cupcakes?!?!

Oh yes, I have taken that fabulous little cookie-shaped piece of heaven and turned it into a cupcake-shaped piece of heaven. I first came up with this idea three years ago when I was beginning to really fall in love with baking, and it took me a few tries to transform a (perfect) cookie recipe into a cupcake recipe. I am especially proud of this recipe because it’s the first one I’ve created from scratch. Unfortunately, when I first developed the recipe, I was using Reese’s Peanut Butter as one of the main ingredients, but when I went to the local grocery store to find it, I was disheartened. Apparently, Reese’s doesn’t make peanut butter anymore 😦 😦 😦 I had to use something a little different to get that chocolatey-peanut-buttery taste so I chose my absolute favorite “healthy” indulgence (I say “healthy” because it’s vegan-friendly dark chocolate peanut butter that has fewer calories per tablespoon than regular peanut butter), Peanut Butter & Co’s Dark Chocolate Dreams.

It’s absolutely vital that you use the right peanut butter for both the frosting and the cupcake because of the range of peanut butters there are out there. Some are too salty, some aren’t salty enough, some are too sweet, some aren’t creamy enough…I felt like the Goldilocks of peanut butters when I was selecting my ingredients. I knew I wanted the chocolatey taste in the cupcake so the selection of the Dark Chocolate Dreams was easy enough, but I wanted something a little more natural and just slightly salty for the frosting. I selected Smart Balance Creamy peanut butter because it had the right taste, and the texture was creamy and smooth and didn’t have to be stirred like some other natural peanut butters.

Anyway, on to the good stuff. I’ll include tips on decorating at the end of the recipe.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 18 cupcakes

For the Cupcake

  • 1/2 cup or 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sweet, chocolatey peanut butter like Dark Chocolate Dreams
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 18 Hershey’s chocolate kisses, unwrapped
  • 2 muffin/cupcake pans

For the Frosting

  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pastry bag with a star tip

For the Chocolate Topping

  • 10 Hershey’s kisses, unwrapped
  • Pastry bag with a small round tip

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line your pan with paper cupcake liners.
  2. Sift together the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and chocolatey peanut butter together on low speed until whipped and smooth, about 3 minutes. You can use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or use an electric hand mixer.
  4. Add the sugars to the peanut butter mixture, and cream together at medium speed until fluffy, or about 3 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract, and continue to mix until ingredients are fully blended. Stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  6. Gradually add the dry ingredients in 3 steps, and scrape the sides of the bowl between each addition.
  7. When the ingredients are just blended, stop mixing, and scoop the batter into the cupcake liners until they are no more than 2/3 full. Gently push a Hershey’s kiss into the center of each cupcake. As the cupcakes bakes, it will bake around the chocolate so there is no need to push it to the bottom of the liner.
  8. Bake the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes spring back when gently pressed.
  9. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and cool slightly in the pan. Move to a wire rack to cool completely.
  10. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the peanut butter buttercream frosting by whipping together the butter and peanut butter until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla extract, and continue to whip. Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, and pause to occasionally scrape the sides of the bowl.
  11. Melt the Hershey’s kisses to drizzle over the frosted cupcakes.

Tip: Use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip to frost the cupcakes. Both the buttercream and the cupcake are fairly rich so you don’t need much frosting. Fancy it up more by melting Hershey’s kisses and putting them into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip. Drizzle each cupcake with a little chocolate.

Lighten it Up! Use Earth Balance vegan buttery spread (it comes in sticks too) to replace the butter in the recipe. It’s closer to cruelty-free, healthier, and, I promise, no one will know the difference 😉

Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sometimes there are little shortcuts in life that you just have to take. Doctoring up a boxed cake mix to play with flavors and guarantee a tasty product is one of those shortcuts. These little coconut delights were a product of French vanilla cake mix, sour cream, and coconut milk. Easy as cream cheesey.

I have a secret little method I use when making cupcakes with a cake mix that involves the addition of sour cream. This makes the cake slightly less sugary and a bit creamier. It also makes me feel as if I’ve contributed a bit more to my product and didn’t fully cheat by using a boxed cake mix instead of making something from scratch. That’s just my way of making myself feel less guilty about it 😉

Another amazing thing about cake mix: it’s great for the experimental baker. You could replace the water in the cake mix with nearly any variety of juice or milk and create a brand new product (I’ll eventually post my version of apple spice cake with caramel frosting to further demonstrate).  For this recipe, I replaced the required water with canned coconut milk.

I can’t say the idea is fully my own since I worked for a fabulous little bakery for a short time that assembled a very similar cupcake. I loved them so much, I had to figure out my own version that was easy enough to make at home. I have to warn you though that this is my first version, and I would love to update it once I have the time.

Onto the good stuff.

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 24 small cupcakes

For the Cupcake

  • One box French vanilla or vanilla cake mix (preferably with pudding in the mix so the cake gets really soft)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk
  • Cupcake or muffin pan

For the Frosting

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 2 8 oz containers of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup toasted coconut flakes

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Prepare the cake batter by adding all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, and mix by hand until the batter is blended and soft. The addition of sour cream will make the batter thicker than normal.
  3. Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup dry measuring cup and spoon, pour batter into cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full.
  4. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed.
  5. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and cool for 5-10 minutes in their pans. Next, remove the cupcakes from the pans to a wire cooling rack.
  6. While the cupcakes are cooling (or before), make the cream cheese frosting. Begin by creaming together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy.
  7. Add the extract (you can substitute vanilla if almond isn’t your thing), and mix in the sugar one cup at a time.
  8. Beat until the frosting is thick and blended. If you prefer a heavier texture, continue to add confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time until you’ve reach the desired consistency.
  9. When the cupcakes are fully cooled, pipe cream cheese frosting on each cupcake with a pastry bag and star tip. Top with toasted coconut immediately.

Not sure how to toast coconut? It’s so easy! You have many options, but the one I’ve found the easiest (and quickest) is on the stove top. Lay a thin layer of coconut in a clean nonstick pan, and place the pan over low heat. Move the coconut around frequently with a wooden or plastic spoon until the flakes begin to brown. Remove the pan from heat, and continue to move the coconut around for another minute as the pan cools. Voila! You can store unused coconut flakes in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 7 days.

Tip: If the butter or cream cheese is too soft when you whip the frosting, refrigerate the final product for 30-60 minutes before using. The frosting will thicken, making it easier to frost your cupcakes with a pastry bag.

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