Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas candy cane cupcakes

I love the holidays.  After all, more parties means more reasons to bake.  For example, this past weekend I baked some candy cane cupcakes to take to a party. They were pretty darn tasty, if I do say so myself.  Want to make your own?  Well, luckily for you, that's the whole point of this blogging thing.  Read on for details...

For the cupcake itself, I kept it simple.  I used my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe (it may be familiar to you).  However, in keeping with the candy cane theme, I decided to take my inspiration from Bake It In a Cake and stuck a Candy Cane Kiss inside before baking.

All you need to do is fill the cupcake liner with batter, plop a Kiss in there, and then cover the Kiss with batter.

You want the liner to be about two-thirds to three-quarters full when you're done. Much more than that, and they'll be a little too big.  I'd also recommend that you put most of the batter in the cup before you add the Kiss - it has a tendency to sink towards the bottom.

While those were baking and cooling, I whipped up the icing.  I decided to make two types to add some variety.

First, I made a peppermint buttercream, topped off with crushed candy canes.  (I attempted to do two colors and swirl it... as you can see, the results were... not that great.)

Then, I made a cheater's chocolate candy cane frosting.  Instead of making buttercream from scratch, I doctored a can of prepared dark chocolate frosting.  (I ran out of powdered sugar, so I had to improvise.  Forgive me!)

I decorated these in three different ways - with crushed candy canes, with a Candy Cane Kiss, and with red and green M&Ms.  I think it made for a pretty fun assortment.

Here's a shot of the finished product...

Finally, the recipes - each makes enough to frost approximately 12 cupcakes:

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 lb. powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. peppermint extract
24 drops red food coloring (optional)

Combine butter, powdered sugar, milk and extracts in mixer.  Once combined, increase speed and whip on medium speed until creamy.  For two colors of frosting, divide in half.  Set aside one half, and stir food coloring into remaining half

Cheater's Chocolate Candy Cane Frosting

1 container prepared dark chocolate frosting
1 tsp. peppermint extract
Crushed candy canes

Beat frosting in mixer on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add peppermint extract and candy canes.  Mix at low speed until full incorporated.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kick the Can Cranberry Sauce

Brace yourself... today's recipe is not a dessert.  (I know!)  However, it may change your life - I kid you not.

What am I sharing with you today?  The answer is simple - cranberry sauce.  You might be wondering what's so special about cranberry sauce.  After all, isn't that just the can-shaped item that gets plopped onto a plate every Thanksgiving?  Au contraire... homemade cranberry sauce puts that stuff to shame. 

Consider me a cranberry evangelist (ecrangelist?) - I'm here to spread the word.  Kick the can this year - you won't regret it.  This recipe is so simple, yet so delicious.  You only need three ingredients - cranberries, orange juice, and sugar.

These three simmer for a while, and magic happens.  (Sometimes an overflowing stockpot happens too... it's okay. Embrace it.)  Here's the recipe:

Kick the Can Cranberry Sauce

4 cups cranberries
1 cup orange juice
2 cups sugar

Bring cranberries and orange juice to a boil in a large stockpot.  Add sugar and return to a boil.  Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the cranberries have popped.  (I recommend lowering the heat - simmer on low if possible.  You'll need to check the sauce periodically - it will occasionally overflow if you don't.  I wouldn't recommend leaving it completely unattended, although you can easily do other things in the kitchen while it's simmering away.)

Remove pan from heat.  Allow sauce to cool slightly.  While it's still warm, pour sauce into containers.  (When it cools to room temperature, it will look kind of like cranberry jam... and it will be delicious.)  Refrigerate until ready to use.  (You can freeze it too, if you want to save some for the future.)

Makes approximately 3 cups.

I told you it was easy.  It's also a snap to adjust quantities - to make more or less, just remember a 4:1:2 ratio of cranberries to OJ to sugar.  (I just made a slightly larger batch using 6 cups cranberries, 1 1/2 cups orange juice and 3 cups sugar.)

So, have I convinced you to kick the can and embrace the cran?  (I can't even believe how cheesy I just sounded.)

Happy Thanksgiving!  Perhaps you'll see this cranberry sauce again in a future dessert post...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese

For this month's Improv Cooking Challenge (hosted by Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker), the secret ingredients were pumpkin and cream cheese (another winning combo).  While trying to decide what to make, I stumbled upon this cute idea from Duncan Hines.  Cupcakes that looked like pumpkins seemed like the way to go.

Inspired, I set out to create a pumpkin cupcake with cream cheese icing that would look something like a pumpkin.  My version is a little more rustic, but I like it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Candy corn bark

Today, I have a quick and easy treat to share with you...

All you need is a microwave, a sheet pan, and 5 ingredients.  Ready?

Candy Corn Bark
Adapted slightly from The Recipe Girl

Crushed oreos
Crushed pretzel sticks
Candy corn
White bark coating or white candy melts (approx. 16 oz.)
Chocolate sprinkles

  1. Line rimmed baking sheet with wax paper.  
  2. Spread oreos, pretzel sticks & candy corn in single layer.  (You can play with the amounts to fill the pan as needed - leave a little room at the edges.)  
  3. Melt white bark coating and pour over the cookies, candy & pretzels.  Garnish top with additional candy corn and chocolate sprinkles.  
  4. Put pan in freezer to set.  Once hardened, break into pieces and serve.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Trifle

The Improve Cooking ChallengeToday, I'm excited to take part in my first Improv Cooking Challenge from Lady Behind the Curtain!  (It's kind of like Iron Chef meets Chopped meets blogging.) This month, the challenge ingredients are apple and caramel - can't go wrong with that combo.

I thought about doing a cupcake, but I recently hosted a dinner party and decided to go with something a little different.  I had a trifle dish that I'd never used, and I wanted a dessert I could make in advance and not have to worry about.  Thus, I decided on a caramel apple trifle.  (Recipe appears at the bottom of this post.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Are you ready for some football?

Somehow, I've managed to make it through week 5 of the NFL season with a 4-1 record in my fantasy football league.  I'm pretty proud of my team (the Rush Puppies), especially considering how poorly the season started last year.

Although I'm not really a fantasy football wizard, I like to think that I am a wizard when it comes to throwing a good party.  (I'm so modest, right?) 

So, if you're having friends over to watch a game, you might want to try out these cake pops.  (I made them for the Super Bowl last year, and I hope to make them again soon.)

I took my inspiration from Bakerella and made some cake pops in the shape of footballs.  You can find the basic instructions for making cake pops here.   

For these, I used chocolate cake mixed with chocolate icing.  Then I shaped them into little footballs and chilled them in the freezer.  I melted some chocolate chips and shortening together to dip them in and drew the laces on with white icing.  (Tip: the smaller ones held up a bit better, as the weight of the footballs made a few too heavy to stay on the stick.) 

They were adorable, and tasty too!

Do you make any fun football-themed desserts?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Monkeying around

As you can tell, I have been neglecting my humble little cupcake blog of late.  While it does take a back seat to the puppy one, I am a little embarrassed that I haven't posted in so long.

My baking time has been limited of late; however, with the holidays around the corner, that's about to change.  For example, I'm hosting a pumpkin carving party in October, so I'll have Halloween cupcakes, other holiday treats, and party ideas to share.  I'll also link to some cool ideas I've found on the Interwebs to share the cute.  Stay tuned - I plan to give this blog some TLC in the near future (and I don't mean that I'm going to sing "Don't go chasing waterfalls").  

Anyway, today I want to share with you a cupcake from my past.  I hosted a baby shower for a friend some time ago (in my pre-blog days).  The party had a sock monkey theme, so I made some monkey cupcakes.  Check them out - cute AND tasty.

(Note: the shower was also during my pre-awesome DSLR days.  Apologies for the photo quality.)

For instructions on how to decorate your own monkey cupcakes (and for some better photos), visit Amber's Delectable Delights.

The snouts are made of vanilla wafers (which I always have on hand in case I have the spontaneous desire to whip up some banana pudding... no wonder I felt an affinity for these monkey cupcakes).  For the ears, I chose mini-Nutter Butter cookies, but as Amber notes, you can use regular Nutter Butters as well.  I used M&Ms for the eyes.  Dab on some icing, and you're good to go!

You can use any cake/frosting combo - I went with a classic yellow cake and chocolate frosting.  Happy baking!

Friday, August 5, 2011

I'll have a scoop of the (mint) chocolate chip

This post was almost titled "why you should check your cabinets for ingredients before you start baking," but I decided that was a bit wordy.  In any event, let my story serve as a cautionary tale...

As you know, I've been in an ice cream-inspired mood of late.  So, when deciding what to make for a barbecue two weeks ago (obviously, I'm on blogging delay), I decided to go with something classic - just a basic cupcake inspired by some of my favorite ice cream flavors.  Chocolate chip ice cream or mint chocolate chip ice cream?  Why choose when you can have both?

I thought these turned out pretty well... don't they look like two scoops of ice cream waiting to be enjoyed?

I decided to do a simple chocolate cupcake as my base.  I found this recipe for One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes on Sprinkle Bakes, and it seemed like the perfect choice.  (My dear reader, do yourself a favor and click over to see what Sprinkle Bakes did with those chocolate cupcakes.  It's awesome.)  I with the cupcakes had been a tad more moist... so I think I'd make a few tweaks next time.  However, I was somewhat scattered that day, so perhaps I wasn't at the top of my game.  Exhibit A: I barely had enough sugar to make the cupcakes.  Once I'd measured it all out, my sugar supply looked like this:

I've never used all of my sugar before!  I usually have plenty on hand.  I should have recognized this bad omen and checked to make sure I wasn't running low on anything else, but I did not...

In any event... for the frosting, I decided to make two flavors - chocolate chip and mint chocolate chip.  (Recipe appears at the end of the post.)  After I creamed the butter, I realized that I was completely out of powdered sugar!  That's also something that has never happened to me before - I generally buy it in bulk from Costco.  I'm the only person I know who keeps 7 pound bags of powdered sugar on hand... and yet, I was out.  So, I left the butter in the mixing bowl and made an emergency run to the grocery store for powdered sugar.  Once that crisis was averted, I returned home to finish making the frosting.  Here are a few photos of the finished product - they were pretty tasty!

(Mint) Chocolate Chip Buttercream

2 sticks of unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 box  of powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. milk
6 oz. mini-chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
24 drops green food coloring

Cream butter in mixer on low speed.  (I'm a Kitchen Aid addict - buttercream is a snap when you can use a stand mixer.)  Slowly add powdered sugar and mix until smooth.  Add vanilla extract and milk - beat on medium speed until creamy.  Add chocolate chips and mix on low speed until incorporated throughout.

Divide frosting into two portions.  Remove half from mixing bowl and set aside - that's your chocolate chip buttercream.  Add peppermint extract and food coloring to remaining frosting.  Mix on low speed until frosting is a consistent green color.  (Add more food coloring if you want a darker green color.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Vanilla M&M cupcakes with chocolate buttercream

Never fear, I'll be featuring some more cupcakes inspired by ice cream soon.  First, however, I wanted to share a simple and tasty cupcake I whipped up the same night that I made those lemon-blackberry cupcakes.  I was obviously in a Bake It in a Cake mood that night (as you can tell, I'm more than a little obsessed with that  blog).  I wanted to do a kid-friendly batch of cupcakes, and I had some extra M&Ms on hand (meaning I purchased a bulk bag of them at Costco for some reason and seriously needed to start using them).  Feel free to modify based on whatever candy is handy. (Unintentional rhyme!)  Thus, the following creation was born...

The cupcakes are vanilla - I used this recipe for the famous cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery (courtesy of YumSugar).  I cannot rave enough about this recipe... the cupcakes were absolutely delicious and perfectly moist.  You simply must give these a try.  

I'm looking forward to adapting this recipe for years to come - the vanilla cupcakes would be the perfect base for a variety of frosting flavors, and I'm hoping to try some different flavor combinations in the cupcake batter as well.  Yum.  

(As usual, I was out of something.  This time, it was cake flour.  No problem... time to play culinary MacGyver again.  If you find yourself without cake flour, don't panic - you can make a quick substitution using all-purpose flour and cornstarch.)

Anyway, after enjoying far too much of the batter, I eventually prepared the cupcakes for baking.  I filled the cupcake liners a little over halfway full and decided to throw a few M&Ms in the mix for a fun surprise.

After that, I covered the M&Ms with some more batter and popped these babies in the oven.  While they were cooking, I made some chocolate buttercream (recipe courtesy of Brown Eyed Baker).  This frosting was light and creamy... the perfect companion to the vanilla cupcakes.

I piped the frosting on and topped the cupcakes with a few M&Ms.  These were a big hit with the kids (and some grown-up kids) at the barbecue I attended the next day.  If you're looking for a simple treat, you can't go wrong with these. 

Until next time...

Friday, July 8, 2011

These Bomb Pop cupcakes are... the bomb

For those of you that grew up chasing down the ice cream man, this post may bring back some delicious and refreshing memories.  I grew up in a fairly rural area - although the ice cream man was not likely to brave the gravel road to my house just to sell me a Push-Up, I did occasionally encounter him while in town or hanging out at a friend's house.

However, in elementary school there was a magical time of day in the afternoon when we could buy ice cream.  The selection would vary, but it was always a treat to get a Good Humor bar (Strawberry Shortcake, of course).  On really special days, you could score a Mickey Mouse ice cream bar (you know, the one with the chocolate ears) or a Snickers ice cream bar.  Another special treat is the one that inspired today's post... the Bomb Pop (sometimes known as the Rocket Pop)!  With multiple flavors and a patriotic flair, how could you go wrong?

When looking for cupcake inspiration for the 4th of July, I stumbled across this gem over at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.  Lemon-lime cupcakes with three kinds of frosting in Bomb Pop flavors?  Sign me up and seal the deal with some patriotic cupcake liners from Michael's.

I did make a few modifications to the recipe, especially with regard to the cupcake side of things.  I decided to use the lemon cupcake recipe I made the other day (for these delicious lemon cupcakes with blackberry buttercream).  In order to capture the lime flavor, I simply substituted lime juice for the lemon juice in that recipe.  It worked out quite well.

Once the cupcakes cooled, I poked some holes in the top.  Then I carefully poured a mixture of raspberry jello and hot water over the top.  I was a little worried about making a giant mess, so I did put some foil under the cooling racks to catch any overflow.  I didn't end up using all of the jello mixture because I was a bit nervous about what it would do to the consistency of the cupcakes.  As it turns out, I shouldn't have worried - the jello mixture was a fun surprise and added some great moistness to the cake.  Next time I'd use it all.

 With regard to the frosting, I stuck pretty close to the recipe - I saw no reason to mess with the yummy combo of raspberry, lime, and cherry.

First up, the raspberry buttercream... with blue food coloring, of course.  (Related thought: why is blue raspberry such a common flavor when raspberries are not at all blue?  Apparently I wasn't the only one who was curious...)

As you can tell from this photo, my decorating skills leave something to be desired.  I'm not a whiz at piping on buttercream.  I used disposable bags from Wilton and a basic leaf tip for these.  Nothing too fancy.  One of these days I'll figure out how to perform feats of buttercream brilliance.  This was not that day.

Anyway, the blue is followed by a ring of lime frosting and some cherry frosting in the center.  I was unable to find cherry extract at my grocery store, so I had to pull a MacGyver for that portion of the recipe.  In order to make the red frosting cherry-licious, I bought a can of cherries and made a cherry puree to use instead of the extract.  I think it probably made the buttercream a tad runnier than I would have preferred, so next time I would play with the proportions a little to account for that.

In any event, here's the finished product:

I have to say, these were pretty scrumptious. (You can find the full instructions at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.) They were so good that I'm considering devoting the summer to a series of cupcakes inspired by ice cream.  Could be a fun experiment, no?

So, let me know your favorite ice cream treats in the comments... perhaps they'll inspire a future post!

By the time we're through, the ice cream man will be searching for your cupcakes instead of you chasing him down for a popsicle...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Celebrate your right to eat cupcakes!

Hope you're having a wonderful 4th of July so far... I don't have time to do a full post today, but here's a sneak peek of the next treat in the cupcake parade:

Have a fantastic holiday!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Lemon cupcakes with blackberry buttercream

Today, I'd like to share with you a fantastic creation I made for a barbecue last week... I had some extra blackberries, so I wanted to use them.  I decided that blackberry and lemon would be a stupendous combo and headed over to Google to get some ideas.

While talking cupcakes with a friend (that's what friends do, right?) she pointed me to a recipe for Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes that just sounded divine.  I decided to use this as my base recipe.  I ended up following the recipe pretty closely... just subbing in seedless blackberry jam instead of raspberry.

Making these cupcakes was pretty easy - especially with the help of my Kitchen-Aid.  Seriously, bless the person who invented the stand mixer.  (Per Wikipedia, that would be Herbert Johnson.  So... thanks, Herbert.)  Anyway, the best part of these cupcakes?

When filling the liners with batter, you get to add a teaspoon of jam.  Then you cover it with more batter.  It's a cupcake with a surprise inside!  I couldn't be happier... I am a frequent reader and ardent fan of Bake It in a Cake, so this was right up my alley.  I will warn you - the jam ended up sinking into the bottom of the cupcake, even though I put a lot of batter in the bottom of the liner.  In retrospect, I realize I should have spread the jam more evenly so that it wouldn't sink as much.  Next time...

Anyway, while these were baking I whipped up the blackberry buttercream - it was easy and absolutely delicious.  I decided to just spread it on with a spatula (my hands were tired from piping some buttercream onto the other batch of cupcakes I'd made that night).  I then topped it off with a blackberry and a little bit of the lemon peel as a garnish.  Here's the finished product (complete with cute cupcake liners I found in the dollar bin at Michael's):

If you want to give these a try (and I would imagine you could swap in any flavor of jam for the frosting, leading to a variety of delicious results), visit Bakergirl for the recipe.

I did make one substitution, as I had no buttermilk in the fridge.  No problem... being a culinary MacGyver is all about the substitutions.

If you don't have buttermilk available, it's an easy fix... you can mix lemon juice or distilled white vinegar with regular milk to make your own buttermilk.   I decided to use lemon juice to make mine, as I figured a little extra lemon flavor couldn't hurt!  To make one cup of buttermilk, add one tablespoon of lemon juice to your measuring cup, and then add milk until the total liquid equals one cup.  You can adjust quantities as needed.  Let it sit for 5 minutes, and voila!  Buttermilk.

I know I promised you some M&Ms cupcakes next, but I may share the goodies I'm making for the Fourth of July first.  I'll be baking them tomorrow, so stay tuned...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Why a cupcake blog?

Welcome, friends!

I know that some of you may have visited my other blog, I Still Want More Puppies.  I've posted recipes on there from time to time, but it didn't seem on point to keep posting photos of cupcakes I made over there.  So, I thought I'd set up a separate space to do that... a cupcake outlet, if you will.  I'll be telling you about my baking adventures (with photos, of course) and sharing other interesting sugary (and buttery) goodness I think you might like.

Stay tuned for my first installment... lemon cupcakes with a blackberry buttercream.  After that, vanilla cupcakes with chocolate buttercream and M&Ms...
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