Vanilla Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

I am gearing up for real life…and am a little bit in denial right now.  I feel like when my alarm goes off tomorrow, it will feel like I am participating in the Polar Bear Plunge.  Nothing like a good wake up call for the new year.

I am embarrassed to say that I am finally getting around to posting the cupcakes I made for my younger daughter’s birthday party this year.  If you remember, she requested these for her actual birthday – making sure that they had nothing to do with any type of Thanksgiving dessert.  But she wanted something pretty mainstream for her party - but boy were they delicious.

This week was my birthday – I am not sure when, but at some point, I really stopped looking forward to my birthday.  Once you have kids – your birthday is really just an excuse for them to pick out a cake for you.  So this year I decided to do something a little different.  The girls were still off from school – and I was not back at work yet.  As you can tell – I am pretty into food – particularly baked goods – and I do a lot of reading about the hottest new bakeries in the city.  Unfortunately I don’t get a lot of time to visit them – and most of the time I would rather make my own treats.  Except on my birthday.  In the past I have been known to make my own cake – but this year I came up with a better plan.  I decided we would visit four local bakeries that we had not been to – sample some stuff while we were there, then bring home goodies for later.

Here was the list:

They were all outstanding in different ways.  Holy Cannoli had some delicious Stromboli’s – we thoroughly enjoyed them.  The cannoli’s were pretty darn good as well.  Fuji Bakery was like a cross between a Japanese and French bakery – we had a great bacon roll but their cinnamon bun was the winner.  At Crumble and Flake, they didn’t have a ton of selection, but the pain of chocolate took me right back to Paris – completely authentic.  Last but not least was Bakery Nouveau – where we sampled some of their pizza’s and I had a veggie sandwich.  Their baked goods looked outstanding, but I needed some healthy food at that point.  I will definitely be back.

So there you have it – what a great day.  Now I leave you with my baked goods.  I found the Vanilla Cupcakes on the blog SugarCooking – which I only changed slightly.  The recipe actually was adapted from “Baking: From my Home to Yours” – by Dorie Greenspan.  The frosting, well I used my favorite Marshmallow Frosting, and they made a perfect pair.

Ingredients

Cupcakes:

  • 2 ¼ cups cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Center a rack in the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Beat together the butter and sugar at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light. Beat in the extract, then add one-third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed. Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated. Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2-minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and will aerated.

Fill each cupcake 3/4 full. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch- a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool.

To make the frosting, bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Combine the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar in a large bowl.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

With an electric mixer on high-speed, beat the mixture, still over the simmering water, until thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Serve this the day it is made as it becomes granular if it sits.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Vanilla Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

My grandmother was 100% goodness.  There is really no other way to describe her.  She was beautiful – no stunning; she was quiet yet always had something to say; she was very strong, although she didn’t have a lot of will power when it came to sweets – which always cracked me up.  I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and I always enjoyed it – in fact, I longed to be at her house with her.  She offered me advice from time to time, but like a good grandmother, mostly she just loved and supported me unconditionally.  In my life, she was a strong force of stability.

I have so many good memories over the years – her calming voice, her endless love of flowers (which I did not inherit), watching her play bridge with her friends or having a glass of Scotch before dinner, spending endless days at the beach then having her get the aloe plant for my very red body – it goes on and on.  She was a great traveler – and was very adventurous.  When most of her friends were spending their winters in Florida, she and my grandfather would go to Portugal.  About 12 years ago she wanted to go to Alaska, so I told her I would go with her.  We had a great week together and even went on some fun excursions – she was over 80 at the time, but that didn’t stop her.  She was incredibly active most of her life – and it inspired me.  I remember that my goal when I was younger was just to be able to keep up with her.  I remember the day when I started walking faster than her, and it made me sad.  When my daughters were born, she came out to Seattle to help – again, she was over 80 at the time.  The girls loved her – and she loved them.  I can still see her smile as she stared at them – even just watching them eat made her happy.

Sweets were just about her only vice that I knew of – my grandfather died when I was in high school – and he was diabetic.  She hid just about anything with sugar from him – and after he passed away, she was free to eat what she wanted.  I never saw her go nuts, but she would tell me stories about how she couldn’t keep ice-cream in the freezer because she would eat it all.  She always kept baked goods in the freezer just in case she happened to entertain – and she would wrap them tightly and in multiple layers – just another way to make it difficult for her to indulge.  She was never overweight – so I had a hard time believing she really had a problem – which made it somewhat funny to think about.

This year for my younger daughter’s birthday (which was on Thanksgiving), she had a very specific request – Red Velvet Whoopie Pies.  She loves her cream cheese frosting – and she wanted to make it clear that this dessert was all birthday and not about Thanksgiving.  She loved helping me find a good recipe on Annie’s Eats.  I remember telling my grandmother on the phone what I was going to make for her birthday, and she wasn’t quite sure what I was talking about – once I explained them to her – she told me they sounded delicious. I know she would have loved them – but what she would have loved more was watching my daughter devour hers.

When I saw my grandmother this summer, I remember I gave her an extra big hug when I said goodbye.  For some reason I knew it might be the last time.  Unfortunately I was right, but she was ready to go.  All I could think of when I hugged her frail body is that she will always be 100% goodness.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 oz. red food coloring

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Using a circular template (biscuit cutter), trace evenly spaced circles onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets. Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.  Blend in the food coloring.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter.  Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip.  Pair the cookies up by shape and size.  Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.  Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear.  Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.  To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Green Tomato and Fig Cupcakes

Green Tomato & Fig Cupcakes 2

I am sitting here at the International Food Bloggers Conference – day 2.  The first day pretty much blew me away, and if breakfast is any indication on what today will bring, I have a lot to look forward to.  Let me give you some highlights of yesterday’s food blogger’s extravaganza (per my husband):

After registration we were greeted with a delicious lunch from Chipotle and the highlight of the meal – ice cream from Cupcake Royale.  Now, I have to admit – their cupcakes are not my favorite – but their ice cream is a different story.  Wow.  I tried to mini cones – coconut and red velvet – I seriously couldn’t tell you which one I liked better, they were both incredible.

Dorie Greenspan was the key-note speaker, and I was blown away. What an accomplished and articulate woman, and she lives in Paris.  She is my new idol.

Next was what I call “speed blogging” – where we tried a bunch of different products while people tweeted and blogged about what they thought.  The highlight for me was this Manuka honey – oh my.  Not something I ever would have bought, but after hearing about the health benefits of the New Zealand honey bees, I am completely sold.

I then chose to attend a talk by Michael Cain about WordPress.  It was very informative, and they are sticking around today asking questions at the “WordPress Happiness Bar.”

The grand finale last night was the Gift Suite – where we put together swag bags with tons of different products.  My husband and daughter had so much fun going through the bags last night – he opened at least a dozen different items, what fun!  At the same time, the had tons of Seattle restaurants highlighting different dishes for us to try.  Amazing.

So as you can see – I am pretty much in food paradise right now, and enjoying every minute.  I leave you with this very unique recipe that I found in Cooking Light.  The girls were not happy when they saw those blended green tomatoes go into the batter – but what came out of the oven was completely transformed.  The cupcakes were incredibly moist, and had a really nice flavor – but seriously the highlight for me was the cream cheese frosting.  Oh, and don’t they look adorable?

I better get back to the conference, but I have to say – this is hands down the best conference I have ever been to.  Seriously, where else can you eat all day, and be encouraged to blog?  Someone, please pinch me…

 Ingredients

  • 8 ounces green tomato, cored and quartered
  • 7.6 ounces cake flour, sifted (2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2  large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
  • 4 ounces fresh Black Mission figs, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 ounces chopped pecans (2/3 cup)
  • Cooking spray
  • 4 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Dash of salt
  • Sliced fresh figs (optional)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Place tomato in a blender; blend until smooth.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Place sugar, oil, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high-speed until blended. Stir in tomato puree and orange rind. Add flour mixture to egg mixture; beat at low-speed just until combined. Stir in chopped figs and pecans.

Place 18 muffin cup liners in muffin cups; coat liners with cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups. Bake at 350° for 17 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Place cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high-speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and dash of salt; beat until smooth. Spread frosting over the top of each cupcake. Garnish with sliced figs, if desired.

Green Tomato & Fig Cupcakes

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Green Tomato and Fig Cupcakes

Little Apricot Cakes

Apricot Cakes

Another beautiful weekend in Seattle – boy have we been spoiled this summer.  And you should just see the markets.  I seriously haven’t seen such amazing looking produce at the farmer’s markets in years.  I walk around in awe at just about everything.  This Saturday was no exception.  The market was more crowded than usual – because word is getting out about how beautiful everything is – I just know it.  There was so much to buy, my daughter finally had to tell me to stop, and walk around the entire market before I put anything else in my bag.  I have taught her well.

I remember leaving work on Friday and telling my coworkers that I was not going to work this weekend.  One of them even had the audacity to suggest that I turn off my email on my phone – like that would ever happen.  I told her that the anxiety I would get when I started syncing my mail again would be enough to throw me over the edge – and that I would do better just monitoring things, but reminding myself that it was time for a break.  Then they asked me if  I was going to cook this weekend – as I emphatically said “YES!”  I explained that I had absolutely no idea what I would be making – and that it would all depend on what I found at the farmer’s market in the morning.  Well, I found the mother-load.  I had big plans based on what I brought back to the house – and I am pleased to report that I made everything that I wanted (ok, not exactly – I made everything I thought I could make, but believe me, that was not everything I wanted – that would take me another couple of weeks)…and everything turned out exceptionally well.  What did I make?  Well, I started with a couple jars of these, I made a big batch of this, and some new stuff that I can’t wait to show you.  Everything was made from locally sourced produce, which makes me even happier.

One of my favorites stands at the University District farmer’s market is this woman who sells her amazingly perfect apricots.  They are just stunning.  I get them in my hands, and I don’t want to put them down.  I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and I immediately thought of this nice woman.  Her apricot’s would make these little cakes glow.  These little babies were delicious – just the perfect size, and just the right amount of golden apricot flavor.  They were super easy to make – and with or without whipped cream, they were a wonderful summertime treat.  I can hardly wait to see what the market will bring next week – all I know is that I am starting the week refreshed and ready to go, with my eye on the prize – next week’s market that is.

Ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher  salt
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 apricots, halved, pitted, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat muffin cups with nonstick spray.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in another  medium bowl, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy,  about 2 minutes. Add egg, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat until combined.  With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients in 3 additions  alternately with milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Divide batter among muffin cups (cups will be only 1/3 full) and smooth tops.  Top with apricot slices and sprinkle with raw sugar.

Bake until cakes are golden and a tester inserted into the  centers comes out clean, 20–25 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack; let pan  cool 5 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack and let cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Cakes can be made 1 day ahead.  Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Little Apricot Cakes

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze

Dairy-Free Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze 2

I am tired – I actually think my body still thinks it is in Paris – that is until mealtime.  Then it knows, it is no longer in that wonderful food paradise.  I am also a little depressed…I am in love with a city that is thousands of miles away.  And the food here is good – but nothing compares what I experienced last week.  The ingredients are just better there.  The farmer’s markets are overflowing right now with beautiful looking produce.  Oh, and the cheese and bread, and just when you think it can’t get any better – the pastries.  All those butter-rich pastries.

So of course I couldn’t help but wonder…what about the people who are allergic to dairy, or allergic to gluten?  Do they starve in France?  Of course not – first of all, I hear there are far fewer people with allergies there because of how the food is regulated.  Still – there is enough fresh food there for just about anyone to survive.  My husband will do just fine there – especially since he has now successfully introduced gluten back into his diet – as well as eggs.  We are now down to soy and diary – and to tell you the truth – those are actually pretty easy to stay away from.  Things are looking up.

It was my husband’s birthday the other weekend, and I had to make him something special.  We actually discussed it for a while, and settled on these delicious dairy-free cupcakes that I have made before.  Because he is not a huge marshmallow fan – I decided just to melt dark chocolate, and create a glaze.  Wow – these were something else.  They were intensely chocolate – almost too much for me to handle.  He loved them though, and the girls had a fun time decorating.  It was a win-win.  Now if I could just beam myself back to Paris with my husband and two girls – then we would have a win-win-win.

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces)

Glaze

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cupcake tin with papers. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cups water; whisk until smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate. Scoop into cupcake wrappers, around 3/4 full; smooth top. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, 17-20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

To make the glaze, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water.  Stir frequently to prevent scorching.  When the chocolate is completely smooth, it’s ready.  Working with one cupcake at a time, spoon a heaping teaspoonful of melted chocolate on top.  Tilt and rotate the cupcake to coax the chocolate out to the edge.  Alternatively, use a knife or icing spatula to spread the chocolate.  The top of the cupcake should be entirely covered with a thin layer of chocolate.  Spoon on more chocolate as needed.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Dairy-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze

Bunny Cupcakes

Bunny Cupcakes

What a week – I felt completely caught up after the long Thanksgiving weekend – and then something happened (work maybe?) and by Wednesday, everything had completely turned around.  I was back to being in the weeds, and this week, I couldn’t find my way out.  It was my younger daughter’s birthday on Wednesday – the big 7.  She had been looking forward to her birthday for months – I was almost worried it would be a let down when it finally came, but this year really took the cake, so to speak…

My mother and step-father flew in for her birthday, and it was a surprise for her.  They showed up at her classroom with donuts on Wednesday morning, and she was beside herself.  I saw a video my step-father took, and it was so adorable.  That night we had a nice family birthday dinner, Friday night we went out to dinner to celebrate her birthday, and then the big birthday party was on Saturday.  This was no ordinary party – this was a bunny birthday party – with live bunnies – 15 of them.  Yes, you are reading this correctly – there were 15 live bunnies in my house, and they were not in a cave.  Not only were there 15 bunnies, there were 14 little girls in my house, enjoying these little bunnies.  And while they were doing that, I was making these – the bunny cupcakes.

It was quite chaos in my house – but I just had to go with it.  It seriously took we all day today to recover from yesterday.  The party was a big hit though, and the girls loved the cupcakes.  Fortunately my mother made the fondant ears, and she found these adorable edible eyes – which helped me immensely.  I went with the tried and true Downy Yellow Cupcakes from the Cake Bible - and my favorite Marshmallow Frosting.  For the most part, the girls loved them – I did get one very noteworthy comment from one of her good friends, who reminded me that cupcakes don’t have a lot of nutritional value:  There is no protein or calcium in cupcakes – yes, this is from a 7-year old.  Next time, maybe I will go with some Meatloaf Cupcakes.

Ingredients

Cupcakes

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup  milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups sifted cake  flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons  unsalted butter (must be softened)
  • 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

Frosting

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 cusp sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Decorations

  • 1 pound of white fondant
  • Tylose Powder (about 1 teaspoon)
  • Corn Syrup
  • pink sugar crystals
  • mini marshmallows
  • edible eyes (or you can use mini-chocolate chips)
  • pink M&Ms
  • pink hearts
  • thin soba noodles
  • pink food coloring

Preparation

Cupcakes – makes 24

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low-speed for  30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low-speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high-speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop  the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3  batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the  ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake tins lined with papers. Fill them about 3/4 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a  tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on racks for 10 minutes.

Frosting

Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Combine the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar in a large bowl.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

With an electric mixer on high-speed, beat the mixture, still over the simmering water, until thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Serve this the day it is made as it becomes granular if it sits.

Makes about 6 cups – you will have extra.

Decorations

Add about 1 teaspoon of the Tylose Powder to the fondant, and knead well.  This will make the fondant harden.  You can test it by trying out a small piece to see if it starts to harden – depending on the humidity, you will need different amounts of powder.  Roll the fondant out so it is about 1/8 inch thick, and using a bunny cookie cutter, make bunny ears.  You should make sure the bottom comes to a v so it is easy to stick the ears in the cupcake.  Let the bunny ears lay on a wooden spoon handle, so the ears bend a little on the top.  Let them sit overnight to harden.

Take your finger, and dip it into some corn syrup just inside the ears, then sprinkle some pink sugar crystals inside.

Take a little bit of frosting and put a thin layer on top of the cupcakes.  Take about 6-7 mini-marshmallows and put them in the center of the cupcake – this is going to help the frosting mound up in the middle.  Then put frosting all around to cover the marshmallows.  At this point, you can take a butter knife, and put a slit into the cupcake where you would like the ears to go.  Stick the ears into the cupcake.  Place two eyes, the M&M nose and heart mouth on the cupcake.  Take a soba noodle and break it into 6 small equal pieces – use those for the whiskers.  I put a little bit of marshmallow frosting into a small bowl and mixed in some pink food coloring and piped a little bit next to the whiskers for the bunny cheeks.

For a printer friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Bunny Cupcakes

Brookies

Remember this commercial?  I actually don’t, but the saying is something I will never forget.  Each one is delicious on its own, but when you put them together – WOW!

When I started this blog, I was taking a leap.  I was doing something that was bottled up in my head for years, and I was finally getting it out.  As I have written before, most of my good friends enjoy their food, in fact I can even go as far as to say that many of them LOVE their food.  But there is a difference – I am consumed by food, and in a good way.  I have not let it affect my life in a negative way, but it brings me an immense amount of joy.  I love cooking and baking for my family – and with my family – and I love sharing what I make with others.

I remember when I started the blog, people started to find me.  I started to find people who were like me – they had regular jobs and families, but who loved food – they were obsessed like me.  I remember going to one of my first food photography classes at The Pantry, and finding out that there were a ton of people just like me.  It was great to be able to bond with them.  One of the people who found me was Keren Brown.  Her story is amazing – she was new to Seattle, and created a blog to connect with the Seattle food scene – and what a scene there is.  I had no idea.  I was so flattered that she invited me to one of her food events, it was like a dream come true.  Unfortunately I don’t get to participate as much as I would like to – my job is just slightly demanding (ha!), and when I am not working, I am spending time with my family – but occasionally I do something just for me – and it is pretty incredible.  She calls her events Foodportunity  – and they are just that – they are an opportunity to be surrounded by food.  Food to eat, food to discuss, and people to meet who are obsessed with food.  It is food attached to people who love it – getting them eating and talking about food, the perfect combination.

My mother sent me this recipe, and I was hitting myself for not thinking of this myself.  This recipe comes from the Brooklyn bakery Baked – and boy have they got a winner here.  Two great tastes that taste great together – is it a cookie or a brownie, no wait – it is both!!!  It was almost like someone dropped chocolate chip cookie dough onto a brownie, and it was genius – just like those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were.  Personally, I prefer a Brookie.  In a way, it was like a Foodportunity.  An opportunity to be surrounded by two of the most classic american baked goods, and opportunity to taste two favorites as one, and boy will this get people talking about food…

Ingredients

chocolate chip cookie dough

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

brownie batter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, plus more for muffin tin
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 5 oz. dark chocolate (top quality, 60 to 72 percent cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Using butter or nonstick spray, grease the bottom and sides of a 24 cup mini-muffin tin.  Set aside.

chocolate chip cookie dough

Add flour, fine grain sea salt and baking soda to a large bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together butter, white sugar and dark brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix until just incorporated. Add half of the flour mixture to bowl. Mix for a few seconds on low then increase the speed to medium. Beat until just combined (15 – 20 seconds). Add the remaining flour mixture and repeat the process above. Do not overmix here. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.  Cover bowl, transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours before using.

brownies

Add flour, fine grain sea salt and cocoa powder to a medium bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.

Bring a large pot filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl on top of the pot, but make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the simmering water. Add butter and chocolate to the bowl, stirring until melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl on the pot. Whisk white sugar and light brown sugar into the chocolate mixture. Remove the bowl from the pot and let cool to room temperature.  Add eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking until just combined. At this point, switch from a whisk to a spatula. You want to avoid adding extra air to the batter. Add vanilla and stir until just combined. Gently fold flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until just incorporated. Do not overmix here.

Fill each well of the muffin tin halfway with batter. Transfer muffin tin to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 1 hour. Both the cookie dough and brownie batter must be well chilled before baking to insure even cooking.

Preheat your oven to 375°F and place a rack in the center of the oven (please see notes above regarding cooking times and temperatures).

Once thoroughly chilled, take the muffin tin from the refrigerator. Using a small spoon, scoop out a small amount of chilled cookie dough. Using your hands, shape dough into ball then slightly flatten it into a disk. The disk should be a bit smaller than the top of the muffin tin wells. Gently press the disk into one of the wells of batter. Repeat this process with remaining 23 wells.*

Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake until the cookies are golden brown ( 11 – 13 minutes), rotating the muffin tin halfway through.

*You will have extra chocolate chip cookie dough leftover. Don’t throw this out. Make cookies. Roll remaining dough into balls. Slightly flatten the balls into disks and place on a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake in a 375 oven until golden brown (9 – 11 minutes depending on the size of your disks). Let cool for a minute on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Or enjoy warm.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Brookies

Dairy-Free Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

As I have mentioned many times before, I am a sucker for minis.  I love just about anything that is served in a miniature version.  If practicality didn’t set in, I probably would own a Mini Cooper – I am that bad.  I don’t really consider cupcakes mini cakes though because they are just so mainstream.  I do prefer a cupcake to a slice of cake, but I don’t go nuts over them, like I do other miniatures.  The other month I came across a picture of mini cupcakes in little condiment holders.  I went nuts.  They were just about the cutest things I had ever seen.  There was only one problem, I only know of one place that has those condiment holders, and that is on the east coast.  I actually tried looking for them in Seattle, but had no luck – although I must admit, I didn’t try that hard.  I just kept my eyes opened at certain places, and nothing.

So, this summer when I was back east – we went to that place with these holders – Fred’s – just about the greatest hamburger/hotdog joint there is, and I grabbed a whole bunch of those little cups.  I couldn’t wait to bake some little morsels and test them out.  Then next challenge was to figure out which recipe to use on them.  For some reason, ever since I had made this, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the cake was dairy free, but the icing was not.  Isn’t that such a waste?  If you are dairy-free, that is almost cruel.  So – I decided to go entirely dairy-free this time.  I swear, you would never know it though – the cake is so moist and delicious, and with the marshmallow frosting – it was like eating a mini devil dog.  My grandmother loved these so much, I saw her go through 3 in a matter of minutes.  So – if you are a sucker for minis like me, give these a try – you just have to figure out where to get the cups, the rest is easy – I did all the work for you below.

Ingredients

Chocolate Cake

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces)

Marshmallow Frosting

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Chocolate Cake

Preheat oven to 350°. Coat bottom and sides of pan with nonstick spray; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil, vanilla, and 1 1/4 cups water; whisk until smooth. Fold in chopped chocolate. Scrape into prepared pan; smooth top. Bake until a tester comes out clean when inserted into center, 35–40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Marshmallow Frosting

Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Combine the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar in a large bowl.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

With an electric mixer on high-speed, beat the mixture, still over the simmering water, until thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Serve this the day it is made as it becomes granular if it sits.

Makes about 3 cups.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Dairy-Free Mini Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Marshmallow Frosting

All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Mini-Chocolate Chips

Summer in Seattle is called payback for all the clouds and rain we endure - it is absolutely spectacular.  The weather for the past week has been nothing short of incredible.  Blue sky, warm temperatures, no humidity (which coming from the east coast is quite a bonus), and just overall pure bliss.  Today we spent the afternoon at our neighborhood pool, and when we checked in, the computer said “Welcome to Paradise” – let me tell you, that’s exactly where we were.  As I am typing this, I still have my bathing suit on, I am just relishing in the fact that summer has finally come.

Now let’s think back to June, when I was singing a much different tune.  My older daughter’s birthday is at the end of May – and this year she wanted to have a pool party.  She is smart enough to know that a pool party at the end of May is laughable, so she requested that her party be at the end of June instead.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we were still playing with fire on that decision, but it was the only weekend before summer began where the majority of her friends were around.  This year June was one of the worst months I can remember – yes, it was Junuary for the entire month.  We were just hoping for dry skies, the pool is heated, and as long as it was over 60 degrees, we thought we could manage.

The morning of the party, it actually looked like the sun was going to come out, even though they were predicting rain (the weather people are as good at predicting the weather as they are at predicting horse races around here).  About 30 minutes before the party was supposed to start, the skies opened up, and it was an all out downpour.  It was quite something.  Well, that didn’t stop them.  She and all her friends jumped in the water anyway – and they had a grand old-time swimming in the pouring rain.  It was a birthday party to remember.

When it came to making cupcakes, my daughter was pretty sold on the summer beach theme – so we came up with this idea to make sand out of butter cookies, towels out of fruit leather, and a beach ball out of a sour ball.  We bought some of those drink umbrellas, and there was our beach.  We were actually quite pleased with how they turned out.  The cupcakes tasted even better than they looked though…I used a recipe out of The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Berenbaum, that was just incredible.  It was moist and delicious, and we added mini-chocolate chips just for fun.  I will definitely be making this recipe again – in fact I did so today – for a very very special occasion coming up…just keep your fingers crossed that I get to tell you about it (I am waiting to see how the final product turns out).  So, here’s to summer – may it last at least a few more weeks…come on, we deserve it!!

Ingredients

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup  milk
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups sifted cake  flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons  unsalted butter (must be softened)
  • 1/2 cup mini-chocolate chips

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup milk, and vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for  30 seconds to blend. Add the butter and the remaining 3/4 cup milk. Mix on low  speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium speed (high  speed if using a hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop  the cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides. Gradually add the egg mixture in 3  batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the  ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake tins lined with papers. Fill them about 3/4 full. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until a  tester inserted near the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan on racks for 10 minutes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

For the frosting recipe, please click here:  http://firstlookthencook.com/2010/06/15/marshmallow-frosting-aka-7-minute-icing/

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: All-Occasion Downy Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Mini-Chocolate Chips

Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Rules.  They are everywhere.  At work, when they are mandatory to follow, we call them “policies” – but sometimes we create rules that could have exceptions, those are called “guidelines”.  At home, they are just called rules and for the most part, our girls are complete rule followers.  When they were very young, under 3, they would repeat rules to themselves.  They both did this, even though they were three and a half years apart.  It was hilarious, they both loved the rules, it gave them structure and they always knew where the lines were.

The rule we most often need to remind them about now is to finish your work before you play.  Fortunately for them, they can actually do that.  I am a rule follower as well, but I realized years ago that rule was just not one I would keep up with.  There would never  be time to play if that were the case.  My work is never done – not just at home, but at work.  I have this fantasy that eventually I will be completely caught up with everything I need to do.  I have been waiting 14 years for that to happen.  This week is no exception, I have had so much going on, that I have not even been able to break away to post these cupcakes.  The funny thing is that I am a morning person.  I do my best work in the morning.  Usually I am on the first bus of the morning, just so I can have some quiet time to crank on work before the craziness begins.  My blog though gets the shaft.  At 9pm, I am spent.  But I power through it, and somehow manage to get a post done.  This week it just didn’t happen.  So here I sit on the bus, my mind as sharp as it gets, words flowing out of my head freely.  Good thing I have to get off the bus soon, this could turn into a very long post!

I don’t usually mix work with baking, but I donated cupcakes in an auction we had for charity in the fall.   I have done this before (remember these?) and I swore I wouldn’t do it again, but here I was.  This time it was a much more pleasant experience – she let me choose whatever cupcakes I wanted!  What a gift.  The only problem was she wanted them to share with her team on Friday, which meant weeknight baking – but as I tell my kids – dig deep, you can do it – you can do anything you set your mind to.  I was so excited to try these cupcakes from this awesome cookbook Cooking My Way Back Home, it wasn’t too hard.  I decided to make minis, which would yield more cupcakes for her team.  I have to admit, I didn’t actually get to try the cupcakes, but they looked amazing.  These were real red velvet, not chocolate with a little red food coloring – this was the real deal.  I did get a spoonful of the cream cheese frosting – and what is not to love.  I heard these were a big hit – I certainly had fun making them.  Even though it was a Thursday night, and I was exhausted from the week, once I got that pastry bag in my hand ready to frost – I was a million miles away – in my happy place.  My older daughter helped me with the hearts on top, which is starting to be our specialty when it comes to red velvet.  They add just a little extra special touch.  She wanted to help with the entire process….but she had work to do.  Fortunately for me, my work that night was making the cupcakes.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup canola or safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 1/2 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 mini muffin-tin cups with paper liners.

To make the cupcakes, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into the bowl of a stand mixer.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, egg, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.  Add half of the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until a paste forms, stopping to scrape down the sides and along the bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.  Add the remaining wet ingredients and mix until smooth.  Do not over-mix the batter or the cupcakes will be tough.

Fill the prepared muffin cups two-thirds full with the batter.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, then remove from the pan.

To make the frosting, in the stand mixer, beat the cream cheese on low speed until smooth.  Don not whip!  Add the butter and mix until incorporated.  Use the rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and along the bottom of the bowl to check for lumps.  Sift in the powdered sugar and mix on low speed until smooth.  Add vanilla and mix until combined.

Spoon the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch star tip and pipe a rosette onto the top of each cooled cupcake.  Serve right away.  They will keep for a day in an airtight container.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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