Archive | November, 2010

The Time Is Here!….

26 Nov

…for Christmas baking to begin!  With Thanskgiving long gone, it’s time to start dishing out Christmas goodies. Well, maybe “long gone” isn’t quite right. I actually still have one Thanksgiving dinner left to eat. 🙂 I love that after getting married you have twice as many holiday dinners, because you need to eat with both sides of the family. Lucky for me, both my family by blood and family by marriage happen to both be great at cooking. 🙂
So maybe Thanksgiving isn’t a thing of the distant past. but the truth is….if I don’t start now, I’ll never be able to try all of the Christmas recipes I want to make. I’ve had my eye on this recipe for a couple of months, and was just waiting for the holidays to come so that I could try it out. I’d  never heard of a gingerbread cupcake before one of my friends introduced me to mingmakescupcakes, a blog with lots of great recipes. But once I heard the name of these, I knew I would be in love. I love the taste of gingerbread cookies, but I’m generally not a fan of crunchy cookies. I like the soft versions much better. 🙂 I knew that the taste of a gingerbread cookie in the soft texture of a cupcake would be marvelous. Search mingmakescupcakes for the full recipe. I’ll show you how your batter will look along the way.

Of course you’ll need to gather together several ingredients. A few different spices are needed here: ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg, plus some other basic cupcake recipe staples. (I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that you’ll need sugar, butter, and flour) 🙂

Mix the flour and baking soda in a bowl and set it aside for a little later.

In your next bowl you’ll start working with all those wonderful smelling spices. You’ll beat together the butter, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. And you’ll swoon from the aroma in the process. I wish someone had already invented Smell-O-Vision by now. If I could take a picture of how this smells and post it to the blog, I guarantee it would convince you to try this recipe. It might even help me win some sort of blogging award. After I smelled all of this goodness mixed together, I started  moving around the kitchen a little quicker. I wanted to get these cupcakes in and out of the oven as quickly as possible so that I could taste them!

Once it’s all mixed together well it will look something like this:

Now it’s time for the molasses. Until trying this recipe I couldn’t remember ever using molasses before. When I opened up the jar, I decided to take a big sniff to see what it smelled like. Eh. I wasn’t a big fan of this aroma. Maybe because it was just so strong? I was a little worried about dumping this into my heavenly smelling batter.  But, I decided it was probably a necessary part of the gingerbread flavor. Besides, once mixed in with all of the other ingredients I was sure it wouldn’t smell so strong. I crossed my fingers that it would end up enhancing the other flavors instead of overpowering them, and dumped 1/2 cup into the bowl. This stuff is thick and sticky!

The eggs will also go in at this point, and then you’ll see a smooth mixture that looks like this:

Lastly I added the flour  mixture and the sour cram. For some reason, I didn’t see anything about the flour mixture being added into the recipe. Maybe there was a small typo/omission when the recipe was being typed. So I just tossed it in towards the end of the batter process and hoped for the best. 🙂

I would definitely be licking this bowl right about this point if it didn’t have raw eggs in it. Now it’s time to get these into the oven. Cute Christmas cupcake liners aren’t mandatory, but they sure don’t hurt. 🙂 I found these great liners at Michael’s. 75 of them for only $2!

The recipe says to bake these for 30 minutes. That sounded like a long time to me, compared to other cupcakes I’ve made in the past. I wondered if I should check them sooner. I decided to check on them at 25 minutes, just to be on the safe side. I figured even if they weren’t done it would be easy to stick them back in the oven for 5 more minutes. I’m really glad I did this. I think if they had stayed in the oven for the entire 3o minutes they would have been overdone. Even at 25 minutes, I think it wouldn’t have hurt for them to come out a tad sooner. In the future, I’ll check on them at 20 minutes and go from there.

While these were cooling I started making the filling/frosting from the recipe. I decided not to go to the trouble of filling these cupcakes, and just ice them instead. I added a little extra powdered sugar to the filling recipe to stiffen it up just a bit. As written, it seems just a little too soft to frost a cupcake with (of course, it would have been perfect for filling). It was very easy: mix the cream cheese and butter, add the marshmallow fluff and vanilla and beat until it’s smooth.

I piped this icing on and then added one little piece of garnish on top. 🙂

I hadn’t necessarily planned on putting anything on top of these cupcakes. But when I was at the grocery store buying ingredients for them, I happened to run across these…

How perfect are these?!? I like the idea that by placing one of these on top of the cupcakes, it makes them cute but also makes a statement about the flavor. If these cupcakes were just sitting in the office break room by themselves with cream cheese icing, your co-workers might not know what to expect. But a little gingerbread man on top gives them the perfect clue. 🙂

One taste of these, and I knew they would become a part of my holiday baking traditions for years to come. Try them for yourself, and I bet you’ll agree. 🙂 This is a recipe that you’ll want to have on hand again next year. 🙂

Next Up: Not entirely sure yet, but keep your eyes peeled for more Christmas treats. 🙂

Random Thought of the Day: How long has it been since you made a gingerbread house? What is your favorite candy decorations to use for them? I’ve always loved using peppermints and gumdrops on gingerbread houses. 🙂

The End!

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Gobble, gobble, gobble

18 Nov

Me and Jennifer-we go together like Thanksgiving and dessert. I’m her twin sister and we’ve been BFFs our entire lives. She always said that I wanted to be just like her, and I guess that was true because once she started showing me her baking projects I jumped right in! She’s letting me do her weekly blog post this week because I found a great recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes. What could be a better fall treat than the flavor of America’s most beloved Thanksgiving dessert in cupcake form?

I’m here to walk you through the process of making these yummy treats! First, gather your ingredients. This is what you should have:

Cupcakes:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

½ cup milk

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree

Frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup butter, softened

1 pd powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Two notes here; first- don’t be intimidated. It looks like a lot of ingredients but most of these things are probably already in your pantry or fridge. Secondly- no, you don’t need to have a chef pig canister but he is holding my white sugar which you do need.

Preheat your oven to 375 and line your pans with 24 cupcake liners.

You’ll want to sift the flour-trust me.

Please don’t skip this step! It’s tempting I know, but it really doesn’t take long at all. Then you can add in the pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Give these a quick whisk together and you’re ready to move onto a new bowl for the wet ingredients.

Beat together the ½ cup butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Yum-butter plus two kinds of sugar- you know these are gonna be good cupcakes.

You’ll want to beat them together for about 4 or 5 minutes until they are fluffy (it should also get lighter in color as you beat).

The next step is to add the eggs-one at a time-being sure the first is incorporated before you add the second. At this point your mixture probably looks like this…

…except there’s probably twice as much in your bowl. I’m halving the recipe today because I don’t want my husband and me to consume 2 dozen cupcakes by ourselves. If I baked the full recipe, we just might.

Now you’re done with the blender. You’ll want to stir the milk and pumpkin puree in with a spoon or spatula. Did you know that the tastiness of your cupcakes is directly linked to the cuteness of your spatula? It’s a scientific fact.

These cupcakes could win the blue ribbon at any county fair.

Only one more step! Dump the flour mixture into the wet mixture and stir just until incorporated.

Now you’re ready to put them in your cupcake liners.

Then bake for 25 mins. I usually use this time to wash all of my dirty dishes so I don’t have a huge pile at the end-but hey, I’m not here to judge you on what you do while your cupcakes are baking. I mainly do this because if I make the frosting while the cupcakes are in the oven, I’m tempted to put the frosting on right away; but of course that’s not allowed. You have to let your cupcakes completely cool before you frost them. That’s why I wait until they come out of the oven to make the frosting-which is super easy!

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until it’s smooth. Then add the powdered sugar and mix until it’s incorporated.

Almost done! Just add the vanilla and cinnamon, and beat until fluffy.

If the cupcakes aren’t cool by then you just have to find a way to distract yourself. Or you can stand there and stare at them hoping that your mental powers can make them cool faster. I usually choose the second option.

Now you can frost them and eat one!Or two, or three. If you eat enough cupcakes to spoil your Thanksgiving dinner, the turkey will be grateful.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Not Your Garden Variety Cupcakes

13 Nov

According to the always handy Google search, “garden variety” means something that is ordinary, common, nothing special. That is definitely not how I would describe the cupcakes for today’s post. I found the idea for these in an amazing book my mom gave me called “Hello, Cupcake!” I’ve been meaning to try these out for some time, and I’m glad I finally got around to it. I have LOTS of pictures for these. 🙂

Bake any chocolate cupcake recipe you like, and have some chocolate frosting and crushed Oreo’s ready.

Spread a little chocolate frosting on top of each cupcake, and then turn it over and dip in the crushed cookies.

Good thing this step is so easy, because the next several steps are: repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat….

….repeat until you have 4 nice little garden rows.

Now, I made my signs a little differently from the book. I didn’t have some of the materials/ingredients the book listed, but I had other things that I could  make do. So I’m not following their instructions exactly. I used gumpaste to make little garden signs, and I started cutting them out first because I knew they would need some time to dry.

I moved those to the side and started working on my vegetables. These were the best tasting vegetables I’ve ever had. 🙂 I mixed up a little orange food coloring into some fondant. You’ll only need a small amount of orange.

Then I shaped this into several little carrots.

I thought this next part was brilliant on the part of the “Hello, Cupcake!” authors. Use a knife to score the sides of the carrots and rub on a little cinnamon. It makes the carrots look like they were just pulled from the dirt. How cute is that?!?

Then I started working on my lettuce. I heated some green frosting and mixed in some Special K cereal. The book suggests using Corn Flakes, but lots of cereals that are somewhat flat would work.

Once it’s all mixed together, the pieces of cereal need to be spread out on wax paper to be refrigerated. This will help harden up the icing a bit and make the “lettuce” more stable.

While these were in the fridge I started working on my peas. Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of peas. These, I just love. Very easy to make, too. You just need to roll out four small circles of fondant and one flat oval.

Then squish the peas together inside the oval and fold down one side. Simple as that! Of course, you’ll want to make several.

The last vegetable I worked on were the radishes. I didn’t think these were quite as cute as the others, but they did add a nice color. I used fondant to make the body part of the radish and a couple of the green-icing-coated-cereal pieces for the tops.

From here on out, it only gets easier! 🙂 It’s time to start putting the vegetables into the garden.

I decided to “plant” mine with the carrots in between the peas and lettuce, just to break up the green colors. Are they growing on you yet?

Yes, I really said that. I’m a dork. 🙂

The veggies are all ready, but I needed to go back and finish those signs. The book suggested using icing to pipe on the words and pictures, but I decided that using edible markers would be easier. You can use these to write on gumpaste or fondant and there’s no piping bag to clean up. 🙂

And of course, what’s cuter than fondant vegetables? Mini versions of them, of course. 🙂 I made some smaller sizes of each to go on the signs. Here’s how they turned out.

I forgot to take a picture of the hat making in progress, but I decided that a garden wouldn’t be complete without a floppy straw hat.

These were a lot of fun to make and I’m really happy with how they turned out! Hope you try them sometime. 🙂

Next Up: A guest blogger. You’re going to love it. 🙂

Random Thought of the Day: The holidays are coming up, and we all have a favorite food that always pops up this time of year! 🙂 What’s your favorite Thanksgiving or Christmas treat?

Real vs. Steal

6 Nov

Have you ever seen one of those shopping/fashion segments on TV where the host finds 2 outfits that look very similar, but one is a designer brand and one is a look alike? I used to watch them pretty often, and (as most teenage girls would be) was always amazed at how much some of the designer brands (the “REAL”) cost, when the look alike (the “STEAL”) looked so similar. If you’re wondering if this has to do with baking, I promise it does. 🙂
A few weeks ago I visited a new cupcake shop in town. I was impressed with their selection of flavors. They offered much more than the typical chocolate and vanilla (although I’m sure their chocolate and vanilla cupcakes were good). They had orange creamsicle cupcakes, raspberry lemonade cupcakes, and a cupcake called “Best of Bay.” I can’t remember what ingredients that one had. The nice lady behind the counter was explaining it to me, but it was sitting right next to the chocolate cupcake with mint frosting. My eyes had already found this beauty,so all  I heard about the Best of Bay variety was “blah, blah, blah…” [that Andes on top is practically screaming my name]…”blah, blah, blah…..and this next one is the mint chocolate chip.” [This is where I stated listening again.]

Here’s what I brought home that day:

It was almost lunchtime, so I was going to eat it after I’d had a sandwich. That was the plan. Was I kidding myself? Are you looking at that thing? I ate it and THEN had a sandwich. 🙂 It was amazing. The only downfall was that it cost $3.50. $3.50 for one cupcake! That seemed outrageous to me. I probably wouldn’t have even bought it if I hadn’t made a special trip to that part of town just to visit this new store. I knew that no matter how good the cupcake was, I would not become a regular at that shop. So my solution was to try to make my own “steal.” 🙂

Start with your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe. I didn’t use anything fancy, just the common boxed variety. I do have to recommend Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge. It’s the best chocolate mix I’ve ever tried. Bake them and give them some time to cool before you add any frosting. I made mostly regular sized cupcakes, but made a few minis too, just for fun.

How cute is that?

*It has been scientifically proven that if you do not think mini cupcakes are adorable, you do not have a soul. Period.*

Since I’d never made mint icing before, I tried looking up a recipe on google. There were several different varieties, but I thought I would like this one the best.

Start with a stick of butter, softened to room temperature. Paula would be proud. 🙂

Beat it a few seconds to get it nice and smooth. Then add 2 cups of powdered sugar, a tablespoon of water, and 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint extract.

Beat this together until well blended and smooth. Here’s how it will look:

Tastes good! Now it just needs a little green food coloring. 🙂 Having a mint chocolate cupcake without any green just wouldn’t seem right at all. Your brain would feel like your eyes and your taste buds were playing tricks on each other.

That’s better. I piped this onto a cupcake and then shaved a little chocolate on top and I was done!

Now I admit, I forgot to buy the Andes mints to top off the cupcake. The “real” one from the bakery did look nice with the Andes as a garnish. But other than that, I think they look pretty similar. And even without the Andes, the “steal” was a big win if you ask me. 🙂

Up Next: Not entirely sure yet, but I’m guessing it will involve chocolate.

Random Thought of the Day: I’m so excited about this cold weather, because on Wednesday my husband and I are having someone come over to our house to clean out the fireplace. We never used it last year, so hopefully by the next time I update the blog we will have built our first fire. 🙂 Pretty soon the lights and stockings will be hung around the fireplace, so it will be nice to actually have a fire going inside!