Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

Well it is Christmas Day! In addition to celebrating the birth of Jesus we are eating some good food today. Sadly I'm sick (most likely allergies thanks to all the warm weather we are having in Georgia) so I did not get to help out too much in the kitchen this year but I still wanted to share these fabulous recipes.
Breakfast started out with overnight french toast! Wow it is delicious!!! It was so nice waking up and just putting it in the oven. We made eggs and sausage too. The french toast reminded my parents and I of a pecan swirl or a honey bun. I would highly recommend making this recipe that we found on the Six Sister Stuff blog on any weekend.



Overnight Baked Caramel French Toast
(Recipe from Tablespoon.com)

Ingredients

Topping:
1 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup whipping (heavy) cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
(I added chopped pecans for a little somethin' extra!)

French Toast:
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 (3/4-inch-thick) diagonal cut slices French bread

Directions:
1. Spray 13x9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray. In 2-quart saucepan, mix topping ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. DO NOT BOIL. Spread topping in baking dish.

2. In shallow bowl, beat eggs with fork. Beat in milk, vanilla and salt. Dip bread slices into egg mixture, making sure all egg mixture is absorbed; arrange over topping in dish. Cover; refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

3. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400°F. Uncover baking dish; bake 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and toast is golden brown. Remove from oven; let stand 3 minutes.

4. Place large heatproof serving platter upside down over baking dish; turn platter and baking dish over. Remove baking dish, scraping any extra caramel topping onto toast. Serve immediately.


Also, my mom made Cranberry White Chocolate Bars that we discovered on the Glorious Treats blog. I've not tried the Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks that Ms. Glory was trying to replicate but either way these are amazing.  Mom said she struggled a bit cutting them so needless to say they are not in any fancy shape - just rectangles. Oh well, the shape doesn't effect the taste.



Cranberry White Chocolate Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (slightly softened)
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup dried, sweetened cranberries, chopped
6 ounces (about 3/4 cup) white chocolate chips

~ Frosting ~
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract

1/2- 2/3 cup dried, sweetened cranberries, chopped
2 ounces white chocolate, melted

~ Directions ~
1.) Preheat oven to 350 (F) degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 pan then set aside (I also like to line the pan with parchment paper, leaving some hanging over the two long sides- this allows the bars to be pulled out of the pan after baking for easier cutting).
2.) In a medium bowl add the flour, powdered ginger, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Set bowl aside.
3.) In a large bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla, and orange zest and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture and blend until combined.
4.) Stir in cranberries and white chocolate. Pour the batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
5.) Bake 25-30 minutes, until edges are light brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6.) Prepare frosting by beating the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla and orange extract. Beat about 1 minute until fully incorporated.
7.) Assemble dessert by spreading the frosting onto the baked and cooled bars. Sprinkle additional cranberries on top. Drizzle melted white chocolate on top as desired.

Mom and I enjoy the Food Network - big surprise for a foodie family. Saturday mornings are often spent watching our favorite line up while on the phone with each other - kind of like cartoons for kids. A few weeks ago a Deen Family Christmas aired. It was hilarious! Her family visited her dressed up as elves as they prepared an amazing meal. We decided to make slow cooked roast with herb sauce and twice-baked shrimp stuffed potatoes. Check out Paula's food network site for the recipes.


Merry Christmas Ya'll!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peppermint Fudge Cupcakes

Merry Christmas!

I love peppermint desserts for Christmas. When I found this recipe on the Our Best Bites blog I was sold. I decided to make the cupcake version instead of the jars. Maybe next year I'll try the jars. The recipe is very easy and does not require a mixer! I chose to double the recipe again because I was feeling the Christmas spirit. Well that and my coworker asked twice if I was bringing cupcakes in this week.

No real hiccups this time. I practiced the "cone method" again for the ganache. I went with the pairing knife this time and felt like my skills are improving. One coworker sliced her cupcake in half and you could really see the yummy ganache center.


I decided to be a little creative with my decorating too. You will have lots of ganache left over especially if you make 24 and I did not want it to go to waste. (Fingers crossed for the rest of the ganache I stuck in the fridge!) So some cupcakes have a ganache center and topping. Ooohhh! Then I added red, green, and white sprinkles before the ganache set. Target had cute snowflake cupcake liners and toppers in the dollar spot so I used the toppers for the white cupcakes. Chocolate buttercream was still lurking in the freezer from Thanksgiving and I like how it looks with white sugar pearls. So fancy! Lol. I plan to try the tip for swirling two icing colors they explained in the blog post soon - may look nice on some red velvet cupcakes.


I'm getting all professional with transporting these jokers. I'm taking some cupcakes to my hair stylist so I purchased Wilton four count boxes. They are so cute! When you stack the boxes the cupcakes line up.

Peppermint Fudge Cupcake JarsRecipe by Our Best Bites
Makes approximately 8 jars or 12 Cupcakes

Cupcakes (cake base for this dessert adapted from Shelly Kaldunski)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 oz chocolate, chopped.  (or abt 1/2 C chips) Use bittersweet, dark, or semi-sweet.
1/2 C + 3 Tbs real butter, cut into pieces
3/4 C plus 2 Tbs sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

8 8oz wide mouth mason jars (the short squatty kind)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.   Set mixture aside and let cool 10-15 minutes.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  Using a wooden spoon (don’t use an electric mixer) stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture until combined.  Stir in the eggs one and a time, beating with your spoon until combined after each addition, and then beat in the vanilla.  Gently fold in the flour mixture just until no traces of flour remain; do not overmix.


Place the mason jars on a cookie sheet.  Divide the mixture evenly among the 8 jars (no need for greasing the jars) or 12 cupcake liners if you’re going that route.  The jars should be about half full or a little less.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the jar comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached 22-25 minutes.   Remove from oven and carefully (with a pot-holder!) transfer jars to a cooling rack.  Let jars cool till at least close to room temperature before topping with ganache.

Peppermint Ganache
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate (chocolate chips are fine)
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

Place chocolate chips in a bowl.  Heat cream in microwave until bubbles form around the outside.  Pour in bowl over chocolate chips and immediately cover bowl with plastic wrap.  Let sit for 5 minutes, add peppermint extract and then whisk until smooth.  Let cool un-covered until thickened slightly, almost like a thin pudding.
To assemble, pour 1 1/2-2 Tbs ganache over the top of each cupcake jar.  If desired, use a paring knife to first hollow out a well in the middle of the cake.  Tilt jars to distribute ganache evenly over the top of the cake and then let cool for the ganache to set.  If storing overnight, place lids and rings on jars and leave at room temperature.

Storage: Note that just because these are in jars does not mean they are shelf stable for extended periods of time.  Also, baked goods are always best fresh, that being said, here are a few storage options.
When fully made, store with lids on at room temp for a day or two.   If made up to the ganache step (before frosting) you can screw lids on and store in the fridge for 3-4 days, then frost right before gifting.  If you’d like to fully prepare them a day or two ahead of time, I would actually reverse the filling and topping.  Core out the center of the cupcakes and fill with frosting.  Place the “cap” of the cupcake back over the hole and then top the entire top with ganache and a sprinkling of candycane.  Store at room temp for 1-2 days or refrigerated for 3-4.

For my frosting - I added 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract to the Wilton buttercream recipe.

Be sure to check out the Our Best Bites blog because they included printable labels for the mason jars.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Wonderland


Well another Alpha Gam Alumni function inspired me to make these "snow" cupcakes. This was my first year attending our annual Holiday Brunch and it was lots of fun. I love Christmas like most people but my idea of Christmas is not traditional. Snow people, snowflakes, gingerbread people and houses, and penguins are more my speed. Something about blue, white, and silver is just elegant in my opinion of course. In my search for blue Christmas cupcakes I found this Bakerella picture for inspiration.

I was considering baking Gingerbread Cupcakes but I was concerned that not everyone is a fan of gingerbread so I chose cinnamon instead. Back in my pumpkin phase I found a recipe on the Pink Parsley blog for Cinnamon Cupcakes with Pumpkin Icing that I did not get around to making. I began by baking these cupcakes with Mary Engelbreit  snowmen cupcake liners. Oh and I doubled the recipe so I could spread more Christmas cheer. The recipe says to add buttermilk to melted butter. I let the butter cool a bit but was still concerned about combining the two ingredients. As suspected I ended up with a lumpy mess. Luckily my mom was helping and she reassured me that the heat of the mixer would dissolve the lumps. Not sure about that theory but the lumps eventually disappeared. I must say the cupcakes were perfect - great cinnamon flavor and moist!

Next it was time to make icing. Of course I made Wilton Buttercream thin icing which I used to frost about half of the cupcakes. I had some light blue almost teal in the freezer and added a few drops of blue to get that blue Christmas color I love for the rest of the cupcakes. Also, in the fridge was some purple and again I added a couple drops of blue to make it darker. Don't judge me for reusing icing people! There is nothing wrong with it.

For the snowmen I piped three white "dots" with a round tip. Of course the dots get bigger in size like real snowmen. Next I used a knife to gently touch the icing and quickly pull up to create an uneven fluffy snow look. Hope you followed that explanation! Haha. I mean HoHoHo. Then with the dark blue I piped a scarf and hat. No snowmen is the same so each hat is slightly different on purpose. With black sparkle gel I added buttons, eyes, and a smile. Well I tried to make it a smile at least. Orange sparkle gel made a cute carrot nose! I added a few sugar pearls around the snowmen to look like falling snow. Brrrrrrrr!!!

My plan was to decorate some with raw sugar. This was my first time to purchase raw sugar and I chose the wrong kind!!! For future reference "sugar in the raw" is BROWN not WHITE. One of my friends said I should have just went with the brown to make it look more realistic. Sorry but I wanted fresh, clean fallen snow not dirty brown snow! My mom tried to dust some with regular sugar and it made the blue cupcakes sparkle a little. We sprinkled some with sugar pearls to add glamour. Lol.

Snowflakes are a little complicated at least for me anyway. I piped dark blue on white cupcakes and white icing on the blue cupcakes with a small round tip. Everyone said they looked great but the perfectionist in me expected better. Oh well.

All my Alpha Gam sisters seemed impressed with my skills. One sister asked "who made the cupcakes?" and the other replied "Jen, she is our chef." I was informed that it is now expected for me to bring cupcakes to our events.  Love it!

Here is what I decorated with:
- black sparkle gel
- orange sparkle gel
- white sugar pearls (you can use nonpareils too)
- white icing
- blue Christmas icing
- dark blue icing

Cinnamon Cupcakes
adapted from
Annie's Eats, originally from A Southern Grace
makes 12

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest (optional)
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 12-cup cupcake pan with liners, and spray with cooking spray.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Melt the butter and combine with buttermilk. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the sugar and eggs until a thick batter forms, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and orange zest, and mix until combined. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined, and then do the same with the butter and milk mixture.

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full, and bake 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Cool completely before icing
.

Happy Holidays!!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cupcake Camp Atlanta

Cupcake Camp was so much fun on Sunday! (Be sure to click on the link to see more beautiful pictures!) This was the first year in Atlanta and I hope it becomes a fully successful annual event. They were set up inside Octane which is a coffee shop downtown.

Fifteen or so cupcakes were available for tasting. I sampled a Red Velvet Bourbon mini, Boston Creme, Pina Colada, Limcello, Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate, and Amaretto. And no - I did not eat every bite of each cupcake. My mom came with me so we shared some and sadly a few cupcakes were only worthy of one bite.

The "eaters" were the judges and we voted on three categories. For "best tasting" I voted for the Boston Creme (I love ganache duh!), "best looking" went to the Amaretto for me because it had edible gold glitter and a white chocolate candy squiggle (I think that counts as an official cupcake description), and lastly I chose Limoncello for "most unique flavor".  The Twitter post after the event noted that 400 cupcakes were given out. Next year I plan to be a "baker"!

The Winners:

Best Tasting
1st: Salted Caramel Turtle
2nd: Chocolate Caramel/Vanilla Caramel
3rd: Black and Whites
Best Looking
1st: Lemon Curd Marshmallow Meringue
2nd: Amaretto with White Chocolate
3rd: Salted Caramel Turtle
Most Unique Flavor
1st: Earl Grey Lavender
2nd: Salted Caramel Turtle
3rd: Lemon Curd Marshmallow Meringue

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Biscoff Cupcakes

Anyone heard of Biscoff spread? Well it is a delicious spread made of Biscoff cookies and is produced in Belgium. The consistency is similar to peanut butter and it is very rich. I learned about it while reading the Beantown Baker blog. I began by eating the spread on apples as suggested on the jar. Then I had some chocolate cupcakes in the freezer and decided to try out this recipe. I'm so glad I did too.

However, I'm still trying to figure out the whole "cone method". My parents gave me a cupcake plunger for Christmas and I decided to finally try it out. Well things did not go smoothly. The directions seem easy but it was difficult to make a hollowed out space. I think this was because either 1. I was using cupcakes that were just out of the freezer or 2. the chocolate cupcakes were too sticky. I gave up on the plunger and tried the cone method with a knife. It was a little easier with the knife. I'm not totally giving up on the plunger though. Next time I will try fresh out of the oven cupcakes and maybe vanilla would be a better option. I highly suggest if you make these that you add a pinch of salt to the Biscoff center as the recipe indicates. At first I thought this was odd but I rolled with it and can't imagine what it would taste like without the salt.

The end result is what matters most. These cupcakes received the seal of approval from my parents.

Chocolate Biscoff Cupcakes
12 of your favorite chocolate cupcakes, completely cooled - I used this recipe
1 batch Biscoff frosting - recipe below
Biscoff spread
Sea salt

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, use the
cone method to remove a portion of the cupcake.

Scoop ~1 tsp of Biscoff spread into each cupcake. Sprinkle a scant 1/8 tsp of sea salt (or a heavy pinch) on top of the spread. Replace the top of the cupcake.

Pipe Biscoff frosting on top of cupcakes. Store in fridge.

Biscoff Frosting:
1 (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Biscoff Spread
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat the cream cheese in a mixer for 2 minutes until smooth.

Add the Biscoff spread and beat until completely combined.

Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on the lowest setting until powdered sugar is mostly mixed in. Turn mixer up to med and beat for 1-2 minutes. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Monday, November 28, 2011

More Pumpkin!

Even though I did not bake these two recipes I thought I would still share the deliciousness. My birthday was on Friday so mom asked what baked goods I wanted. I asked that she make two recipes - Pumpkin Crunch and Pumpkin Muffins. Yes that may sound spoiled but it was Thanksgiving and my birthday!

The Pumpkin Crunch she found to be some what easy. My mom struggled a little with making sure the butter covered the cake mix. I discovered this recipe on the B Dubs Cafe blog. Needless to say this made for a perfect birthday cake for candles. A lot better than a turkey has some friends have suggested. Now to see if my wish comes true :)

Pumpkin crunch
1 box yellow cake mix                
1 cup melted butter or margarine1 tsp cinnamon
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin                         
½ tsp salt
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk                          
3 large eggs (4 medium)                                   
1 ½ cup sugar 
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Cool whip/whipped topping or ice cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom of a 9x13 pan or 2 pie dishes.  In a large bowl combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt (instead of using cinnamon and salt, you can substitute with 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice if needed).  Pour into pan.  Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture.  Top with pecans (I have never done this since we are not nut lovers, but I think it had nuts in it the first time I tried it, so it is good either way).  Drizzle melted butter over pecans.  Bake for 50-55 minutes or until golden brown.  (My oven cooks faster and it only took about 35-40 minutes.  Just check it after 30 minutes.  It should be brown on top.  Cool.  Serve chilled with cool whip or ice cream.

Note: After I pour the butter over top, I usually spoon the butter over parts of the dry cake mix that didn't get covered with butter to make it more evenly distributed.


Next up are the Pumpkin Muffins which I found on Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Now if you recall I made White Chocolate Cranberry cupcakes for my mom's birthday. Those cupcakes were intense so I guess this was pay back. Mom did not enjoy all the steps involved with this recipe. She only has one muffin pan and got frustrated with layering the muffin mix and cream cheese so she placed the rest of the mixture in a 8" round cake pan. I highly suggest that you try the "coffee cake" option. It was more moist than the muffins. She said the coffee cake baked for 55 minutes. Also, be prepared to be annoyed with the cream cheese mixture. Mom claims she followed the recipe but the cream cheese did not firm up enough to work with. Luckily the end result was yummy!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Filling
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Topping
1/2 cup sugar
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-1/2-inch cubes

Muffins
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups vegetable or canola oil

To make the filling: In a medium bowl mix the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar together until smooth. Transfer to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log that is about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Wrap and transfer to the freezer for at least 2 hours (or until firm enough to cut).

To make the topping: In a medium bowl whisk together the sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add the butter and use a pastry blender to cut it in until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Refrigerate while you make the muffin batter.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners.

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, pumpkin and oil until blended. With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

Remove the cream cheese filling from the freezer and slice the log into 24 equal pieces. Place just enough batter in each muffin well to cover the bottom - about 1-2 tablespoons. Put one slice of the cream cheese mixture in each well on top of the batter. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin wells, covering the cream cheese filling completely. Remove the topping from the refrigerator and sprinkle evenly over the muffins.

Bake the muffins for about 20-25 minutes, or until they spring back when gently pressed in the center. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the muffins cool for 5-10 minutes before removing them to the rack to cool completely.

Makes 24 muffins

My mom said she would make the Pumpkin Crunch again but is not so sure about the muffins. Oh well! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.



Friday, November 18, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry Cupcakes

Today is my mom's birthday and she loves white chocolate and cranberries. When I found this recipe I knew this would be perfect for her! However I did not consider that this recipe was going to torture me. About a week before I started freaking out that this would be too much for me to accomplish in one day. (Wednesdays are my day off) It does not help that I also planned to decorate the Thanksgiving cupcakes from my previous post in the same day. I was doubting that I could make the white chocolate cranberry mousse and wondering if it would hold up on a cupcake. But then I remembered that I have a Kitchen Aid mixer and whip cream should be effortless and was I right. I seriously poured the whipping cream in the mixing bowl, cranked up the mixer, and let that baby work it's magic. It was awesome. Also, I thought to myself that if Ms. Beantown Baker could make it happen for these cupcakes then I could too.

White Chocolate Cupcakes filled with Cranberry Sauce and Topped with Cranberry Mousse - from Baking Bites - makes 18 cupcakes- Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
4-oz white chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup plus 1 tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 325F. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chopped white chocolate by heating it in 30 second intervals in the microwave. Stir well with a fork between each interval and cook only until the chocolate is smooth when stirred.

Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by melted white chocolate and vanilla. Alternate adding in some of the milk and some of the flour mixture, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix until just incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.

Divide batter evenly into muffin cups.

Bake for 20-23 minutes until a tester comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip. Cool on a wire rack.

I opted to not fill the center with cranberry sauce. White Chocolate is a pretty intense flavor and it is in the mousse and cupcakes so skipping the filling was fine with me. I wonder now though  how it changes the overall taste. Oh well! Maybe next time...maybe.

Sadly you cannot see the cute baking cups in the picture. They are a super cute design by Wilton.

White Chocolate Cranberry Mousse - from Baking Obsession - serves 8 (or frosts 18 cupcakes) Printable Recipe

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
Zest of 1 medium orange
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, or other orange liqueur
3 oz white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup whipping cream

In a small saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and becomes a jam-like, about 8-10 minutes total. Strain the mixture through a fine strainer into a medium bowl, pressing hard onto the solids. Add the orange zest and liqueur, stir. Cool to room temperature.

In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chopped white chocolate by heating it in 30 second intervals in the microwave. Stir well with a fork between each interval and cook only until the chocolate is smooth when stirred.

Whip the cream in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold about a third of the whipped cream into the cranberry mixture. Then fold in the melted chocolate. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream. Spoon or pipe into the serving glasses or bowls. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving. Cover with plastic wrap without touching the surface if refrigerate longer.


So glad I put on my big girl panties and made these cupcakes. They are yummy! I can't wait to hear my mom's reaction. I will post an update later.



Happy Birthday Mom!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving Cupcakes

Wow was I excited about making turkey and pilgrim hat cupcakes! I think I may have mentioned before that I was born on Thanksgiving Day so I'm obsessed with all things turkey, pumpkin, pilgrim, etc. These are really easy and a good way to decorate with some of that left over Halloween candy.

I started by making chocolate cupcakes and found a recipe from one of my favorite bloggers. I think she meant to type 2/3 full because you would have some sad little cupcakes with 1/3 full wells. I froze half of the cupcakes for later...hmm still trying to decide what to use them for.

hollicakes - Chocolate Cupcakes-makes about 24

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used half regular cocoa, half dark chocolate cocoa)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with liners; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
2.Add the eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla; mix batter until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
3.Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about one-third full (2/3 full). Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Now comes the fun part...decorating!!! Lots of ideas are out there for how to create these little guys. I liked this for turkeys and this idea for the pilgrim hats. I'm not a fan of bugles or else I would have made the cornucopias that I found on the Hoosier Homemade blog. Check out their blogs for directions but below are my modified directions.

Turkey:
1. Frost the cupcakes with the Wilton chocolate buttercream recipe.

2. Unwrap mini Reese's cups. With Wilton Orange Sparkle Gel pipe two eyes.

3. Add a small dollop of buttercream to the back of a candy corn and place it on the Reese's cup for the nose. You probably want to wait a bit for this to dry before going on to the next step.

4. Gently place the Reese's cup at one end of the cupcake.

5. Insert desired amount of candy corns around the perimter of the cupcake in a semi circle. As you can see I went with four candy corns and my perfectionist self had to alternate with regular candy corn and the chocolate candy corn. Special...I know!

Pilgrim Hats:
1. Frost the cupcakes with Wilton buttercream tinted orange. (My frosting is really orange because I used the icing I had in the freezer from Halloween.)

2. Place a fudge stripe cookie with the chocolate side up on top of each cupcake.

3. Add a dollop of buttercream in the center of the fudge stripe so the Reese's cup will adhere.

4. Unwrap Reese's cups. Pipe a buckle with Wilton Orange Sparkle Gel on the side of a each Reese's cup. You can also outline the Reese's cup with the same gel which I decided was optional. (I was not able to pipe a small buckle so it may be better to pipe with a small tip instead of gel.)

5. Place the inverted Reese's cup on top of the fudge stripe cookie.

Remember you are working with chocolate so be careful. You don't want half melted turkey heads and hats!

My small group had a non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner and these cupcakes were festive!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chai Latte Cupcakes

I love chai lattes! I enjoy the lattes at Starbucks, J. Christopher's, and other restaurants. When reading some of my favorite blogs I got inspired to make these cupcakes. While searching for chai tea at Trader Joes I found chai latte instant mix. Even if you don't want to bake these cupcakes I highly recommend that you head to TJs and pick up this mix!

None of the recipes I found mentioned using a mix so I had to google search and located a recipe from ole' Betty Crocker herself. Ya'll know how I feel about box cake mixes and frosting in a can. I was hesitant to try this recipe but felt it may be the only way to try out the instant Chai Latte mix. So I met Betty half way and made the frosting from scratch. And truth be told I could not find a French Vanilla mix from Ms. Crocker so I resorted to the old stand by - Duncan Hines - which is preferred by Wilton. There is even a Wilton logo on the box. I had some left over white Wilton recipe buttercream in the freezer and added 2 one ounce squares of melted white chocolate. Needless to say I was a little nervous about these cupcakes. This was my first time to add melted chocolate to frosting and there was no telling how the cupcakes were going to turn out either. From the Betty Crocker recipe I knew I had to work fast when piping. I think the chocolate reshaped my tip but that could have just been from me trying to get it out of the bag. Whoops! (No worries I reshaped it.)

How do you like this fancy photo? The frosting looks like little puffs of steam. Love it! These cupcakes are pretty mouth watering and suprisingly good for a box mix. I think the white chocolate buttercream helps. Man oh man is that stuff rich! Be ware you may have a foodgasm!

Ingredients:

Cake
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® French vanilla cake mix
Water, vegetable oil and eggs called for on cake mix box
 
1 package (1.1 oz) instant chai tea latte mix (or 3 tablespoons from larger container)
Frosting (my version)

2 (1 oz) squares of white baking chocolate

1 Wilton recipe buttercream (you probably will not use the whole recipe)


New little cupcake container

Step 1: Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pans). Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.

Step 2: Make and bake cake mix as directed on box for 24 cupcakes. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Step 3: In medium microwavable bowl, microwave baking chips on High 30 seconds; stir until melted. If necessary, microwave 15 seconds longer. Stir until smooth; cool 5 minutes. Stir in frosting until well blended.

Step 4: Immediately spread or pipe frosting mixture on cupcakes. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Store loosely covered.

I did sprinkle a few of mine with cinnamon but failed to take a picture to share with you. You know what sprinkled cinnamon looks like, don't you? If you don't then you are going to find out when you make these scrumpcious things. Let me give you a tip though - don't use a spoon to sprinkle. It will be too much cinnamon or at least that is my opinion. I do not have a small sifter so I opted to use my fingers. Nothing wrong with getting a little messy.

Happy Baking!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Cucpakes!




 
I love Halloween so making cupcakes was a must. I had lots of fun planning what to make and then executing it. Thanks to my mom for helping and I'm glad dad supervised the creative details.

I began with a good ole box of Duncan Hines Devils Food Cake. To add some flavor I decided to pipe strawberry jam in the center. First time piping jam and I was regretting buying "spreadable jam". It was really runny and hard to control. On second thought it is possible that spreadable is the best option because it may seep further into the cupcake versus just in the center. Like I said it was my first time so this is just a guess. I choose Wilton "trick or treat" baking cups.

Some of the ingredients!

For Jack Skellington I used black glitter gel and white butter cream icing (the Wilton variety).


RIP gravestone cupcakes are comprised of chocolate butter cream, a crumbled Oreo cookie, pumpkin candy corn, and a Milano cookie. Again I used the black glitter gel to write "RIP" which makes for a glitzy headstone!


Then the spider web was a little tricky. I reviewed this blog post and thought making a spider web would be easy. Wrong! I iced the cupcakes with orange and purple butter cream and then piped circles within circles with white butter cream. The next logical step is to run a toothpick through the circles. Yeah that is what I thought. The circles disappeared! I searched my iPhone safari for "how to" articles and discovered that gel is used for the circles. I just happened to have orange and black gel lying around...what do you know! I made different color combinations and here is the result:


You can't have spider web cupcakes without spiders and man do these jokers look creepy! I wondered where on earth does one find black licorice?!? Luckily my coworker said Fresh Market sells it and she was making a trip there that week. With the low, low price of $0.35 I had 4 rolls of black licorice. Thanks to my coworker for contributing to my master piece. Enter spooky laugh - wha ha ha ha! The eyes are red M&Ms and then the body is black sprinkles and more chocolate butter cream.


Last up is the Great Pumpkin! Orange butter cream, orange glitter gel, and adorable stems and leaves in green butter cream make these pumpkins look too pretty to eat.


Again the small group girls, my parents, and coworkers enjoyed these spooky treats. All in all everyone was impressed.

We had a small group pumpkin carving party and the cupcakes were a nice addition. Check out our carving abilities. Not to brag but we free handed these jack-o-lanterns. Well I eyed a stencil but I think that counts as free handing. In my book it does anyway.



Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting

Sorry that it has been a while since my last post. Two weeks ago I was on a cruise to Key West and Nassau. I tried lots of fun desserts. The cupcakes were dried out though from sitting out too long :( Then last week I was trying to detox from all the sugar I consumed and I went to Augusta to visit my grandmother in the hospital. My grandmother has smoked for 60 years so her COPD is at it's worst and she has Shingles. She is improving and is in a 21 day rehab nursing home bed. Please pray for her and our family.

While I was in Key West I tried a frozen key lime pie slice on a stick dipped in chocolate from Kermitz's. Yummy! I could go to Key West just for this!

So today it was time to crank up that oven again! Of course I've been craving pumpkin around the clock. This recipe by Ms. Ina Garten is really easy and did not even require the use of my Kitchen aid. Tear.
I was able to bake 12 cupcakes and I did not top them with toffee bits. I cheated a bit and used the maple frosting I had left over from the whoopie pies in the freezer. The recipes are similar. Next time I will have to try the icing recipe that came with the cupcake recipe. The only concern was when I was mixing the wet ingredients I noticed that the brown sugar was clumpy. Once I added the dry mix the clumps went away. Well so I thought but when the cupcakes were done I could see clumps again!!! I tried one and didn't even notice the brown sugar lumps. Who would really mind a small innocent brown sugar lump anyway?

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Frosting
Makes 10 cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Maple Frosting (recipe follows)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.

Maple Frosting
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

The small group girls said, "This is really good." One friend was hesistant to try them after reading the whoopie pie post. She lived in Canada for a while and could not believe I used Publix brand syrup. Well she was an instant fan and was quoted saying, "I don't mind the Publix syrup." Later she wrote on Facebook,  "What did you put in these cupcakes? It is 11:00 p.m. and all I want to do is clean the house." Maybe I have the same ability as the character in Like Water for Chocolate. My motivation for cleaning my house while baking went into the cupcakes. You never know. It is possible.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

It is my favorite time of year which means it is also pumpkin time. Oh yeah! Some of you may not know but I'm a Thanksgiving Day baby. I like to call myself a pumpkin freak! Love trying all things pumpkinPumpkin cupcakes (which I had my first of the season last Friday and it was not the best I've had - I don't want to talk bad about the bakery - let's just say it was not Gigi's) pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin beer, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin bread, pumpkin coffee creamer, pumpkin latte, pumpkin ice cream (yes I said ice cream - the best I've scooped is pumpkin cheesecake by my BFFs Ben and Jerry), pumpkin butter, pumpkin muffins, and of course pumpkin PIE! Do I sound like the guy in Forrest Gump? I thought so too. By the way does everyone consider Ben and Jerry their best friends forever? I'm a social worker so they are fun guys to hang out with sometimes.

Anyway now I can say I've had pumpkin whoopie pies!!! These little guys are catching on in popularity these days. And they are surprisingly easy to bake. I found the recipe on the browneyedbaker blog. Yes, this time I made sure the cream cheese AND butter were room temperature. Man was that nice. Something so simple really makes a difference. No real complications with baking today. The only thing I will say is that I had filling left over which could be because of two things I'm guessing. 1. I made my whoopie pies too big. Hmm..imagine that. The recipe yields 4 dozen assembled pies and I ended up with 2 dozen. Some are small..I promise. It is kind of like that question "how many licks does it take to eat a tootsie roll pop?". Well I wanted a lot of bites to eat my whoopie pie! 2. I used 2 tablespoons of Publix brand Original syrup and the recipe calls for pure maple syrup. I'm guessing the consistency of Publix syrup while good on pancakes is too thin for icing. Next time I plan to stick to the recipe when it calls for PURE maple syrup. I'm thinking the maple flavor would be more obvious too. I think they still taste good but I'll try anything with pumpkin so I may be a bit biased. Just a bit though!

First time freezing cream cheese icing, pumpkin purée, and 2 whoopie pies. I pray they all fare well. Before you go trying to claim the 2 whoopie pies - they are for my small group girl who is on the Daniel fast in preparation for her mission trip to Cambodia. Hence I'm praying they freeze well so she can enjoy them after the fast.

Two of my neighbors and my small group girls were lucky enough to try these jokers. One of my small group girls said "I think my roommate is going to come to Jesus through your cupcakes". I hope she likes whoopie pies too! The rest of the pies will be shared with my coworkers and momma.

Happy Fall Y'all!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Maple Cream Cheese Filling
Yield: About 4 dozen assembled whoopie pies (will vary depending on how large you make them)
Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 10 to 12 minutes
For the Whoopie Pies:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 cups chilled pumpkin puree (canned pumpkin)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Maple-Cream Cheese Filling:
3 cups powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
4 ounces (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, the dark brown sugar, and the oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until combined.
4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until completely combined.
5. Use a small cookie scoop or a large spoon to drop a rounded, heaping tablespoon of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart.
6. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, making sure that the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. The cookies should be firm when touched. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool completely on a cooling rack.
7. To make the filling, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth with no visible lumps, about 3 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth and combined, about 2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, then add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat until smooth.
8. To assemble the whoopie pies: Turn half of the cooled cookies upside down. Pipe or spoon the filling (about a tablespoon) onto that half. Place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spread to the edges of the cookie. Repeat until all the cookies are used. Put the whoopie pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to firm before serving.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Alpha Gam Always


During the Wilton class I signed up to bring cupcakes for my sorority tea. I'm an Alpha Gamma Delta and recently became active in the Atlanta Alum Chapter. The idea of 24 red and buff roses (our sorority flowers) came to mind. I must have been feeling ambitious that day because I had not even learned how to pipe roses when I came up with the idea. Luckily I felt comfortable piping roses during class. I found some paisely green baking cups at Michael's (green is another sorority color) As the date of the tea was approaching I started chickening out because I thought to myself..hmm maybe I should do a dozen roses and a dozen rosettes. I mean how in the world am I going to pipe 24 roses all by myself??? Well I enlisted the help of my mama (dad came too). We enjoy being in the kitchen together and she has been wanting to see my new skills in action.

I found this recipe online for simple vanilla cupcakes. This is my first time ever making vanilla and I learned some lessons. When the recipe says to use softened butter that means to leave the butter on the counter FOREVER. And in case you are not sure how long forever is then just know you have time to drink two cups of coffee while watching two to three shows on Food network. Unfortunately I was unaware of this time frame and thought the butter would be ready after I measured out the flour, cracked four eggs, lined 24 cupcake wells, and set up a card table for extra "counter" space. Needless to say my Kitchen Aid was not liking the butter. I plan to stick with Crisco from now on because when the cupcakes came out there was butter in the wells and the bottom of the cupcakes were greasy. In this case I would like Paula Dean to do some explaining!!! (For non Paula fans - she LOVES butter!)

Lesson #2 just because you have extra batter does not mean it all has to be used. I'm just going to be honest and say it - I filled the wells up way beyond 3/4 full. Maybe parents should not be so strict with the clean your plate rule during childhood because then the children grow into adults and over fill their cupcake wells. The pans got a little messy and some had muffin tops but it was something icing could fix. My mom may disagree though since her job was to frost the cupcakes. Then we struggled to place them in my cupcake carrier...so lesson learned. (the height of the roses didn't help matters) I'm guessing it is important to use the correct size pan as well - just a guess.

Thank goodness I had lots of icing in my fridge from class. It came in real handy. All we did was tint the yellow and red darker. Remember I said in a previous postsI was happy with pastels in class. This memory came back as we were aiming for that perfect red. Now this time mom was asking why do we have to use toothpicks. We totally popped the top open a bit on the no taste red. My mom said "we will be here all day!" Yeah you are telling me mom!



Of course we made the Wilton buttercream recipe for the white frosting. As I was piping roses mom kept saying, "I don't know if I like this mixer." Who doesn't like Kitchen Aid??? Geez!

It was hard not sampling them especially after working so hard and they look so yummy. Almost too pretty to eat really. I think my parents were impressed. I had so much fun!

Everyone loved them! One sister even said, "when I first saw them I thought they were from Publix. They look professional!" Love in Epsilon Pi ladies!!!