Friday, March 30, 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

I'm warning you now.  These are sinful!  The coarse salt offsets the sweet caramel and chocolate curls perfectly.  I could eat this buttercream with a spoon.

You NEED to make these right now and then devour 3 of them before anyone in your house notices that you're baking.  You will NOT regret it.

Well, ok, so you might think twice about it tomorrow morning when you step on the scale but these cupcakes are worth it.  I promise.

I have to give credit to Kate of Grin and Bake It for her caramel recipe that I tweaked for this caramel buttercream.

You can download the recipe from Scribd here.

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes

1 box chocolate cake mix (I prefer Pillsbury)
3 eggs
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup water
3 tbs dutch-process cocoa powder

On low for one minute, beat cake mix, eggs, butter, water and cocoa powder.  Increase speed to med-high and beat for one more minute or until batter is smooth.  Do not overmix.  Scoop into lined cupcake pan filling cups 2/3 full.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes before moving to cooking rack.

Salted Caramel Buttercream  adapted from Grin and Bake It (she has pics of the caramel that I found helpful my first time through)


FRAN’S CARAMEL (or your favorite caramel sauce)
CHOCOLATE CURLS (I get mine at a local kitchen shop but you could make your own or just use shaved chocolate)
Stir sugar and water in a small pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, without stirring, until mixture turns dark amber in color, about 5 minutes. Do NOT stir it.  Remove from heat and slowly add in cream and vanilla (start with a few spoonfuls), stirring until completely smooth. Set aside until cool to the touch.

Beat butter in a large bowl.  Add powdered sugar and about 1/3-1/2 of caramel.  Beat until mixed, adding caramel in small amounts until buttercream is the right texture.  I really go by feel on this.  All of the caramel is a little too much but I use ¾ or more of it.
Pipe onto cupcakes.  Working with 4 cupcakes at a time, drizzle Fran’s Caramel (or your favorite caramel sauce) over the top.  I find that I have to soften it a little in the microwave first.  Sprinkle a pinch of coarse salt over cupcakes and then sprinkle chocolate curls on top.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Liebster Award

I haven't been blogging long.  Just a few months really.  I love it but I find it difficult at times to balance my baking hobby, blogging, my "real" job as a 6th grade teacher, mommy-hood, and being a wife.  Which means that my blogging is inconsistent which I know is not ideal.  But, it is what it is.

So imagine my surprise and joy when I opened my email last Thursday and saw a very sweet message from Keri at The Sweet Life telling me that she had chosen MY BLOG to receive the Liebster Award!  One thing I have learned in my short time blogging is that bloggers are the nicest people you'll ever meet.  They are kind, generous, and always looking out for each other.  It's an amazing community that I am thrilled to be a part of.

Liebster is German for Dear, Beloved, Favorite.  The Liebster Award is given to blogs with fewer than 200 followers.  I am so honored that Keri chose me for this.  Please check out her blog and tell her I sent you.  She makes the cutest cake pops!  I envy her cake pops.

I now get to pass the Liebster Award along!  Here are the rules: 

The honor of accepting is done in the following fashion:
1.  Link back to the person who bestowed the honor on you.
2. Pick 5 blogs with less than 200 followers to pass the award forward.
3. Post the award on your blog!

Here are the sites I chose to share the award with:

All The Weigh by Kenlie--I actually have no idea if Kenlie has under 200 followers or not but I love her blog.  She has worked hard and lost over 100 pounds.  I know it seems odd that a baking blogger is following a weight loss blogger but seriously, this girl is inspiring!

Yammie's Noshery--This is a beautiful blog by an amazingly talented young woman.  She makes food that has me drooling on my keyboard.  AND, she's only 19 years old!  Check her out.

Jennifer Cooks by Jennifer--I fell in love with Jennifer's blog the moment I first stumbled across it.  Her layout is easy to follow as are her tutorials and recipes.  She makes the most delicious looking food.  I think my favorite is the Portobella Pizzas or maybe the Avocado Eggs in a Basket or the Pear and Gorgonzola Pizza.  Now I'm hungry.  We need to move on.

Stella B's Kitchen--Stella B's blog is easy to follow and navigate through, which I LOVE.  She has mouth-watering recipes and takes fabulous pictures.  When I grow up, I want to take pictures like Stella B.  My new fave recipe that I MUST try for our next movie night is her Caramel Cereal Mix.  You make it in the microwave!  Also on my list are Mom's Ultimate Brownies, Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes, and Chicken Pot Pie (I'm a sucker for a good chicken pot pie).  I think my favorite thing about this blog is that she started it as a way to catalog her family's favorite recipes.

'A Casarella--This blog is new to my list.  I just wandered across it the other day when I saw a link on another blog to a fabulous recipe for Meatloaf Stuffed Peppers that you make in the crock-pot.  I LOVE a good crock-pot recipe!)  I love that Elena is real.  She doesn't hide that not everything turns out perfectly.

Please go check out these blogs and share the love.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Guinness cupcakes with chocolate ganache and Bailey's Irish Cream buttercream

Whew!  That's a long title.  Good thing these are amazing cupcakes!

My youngest son turned 4 this week.  4!  I swear I just birthed him a few months ago.  I keep trying to convince my boys to stop growing up but they are really bad listeners and just keep growing anyway.

His birthday party is today.  St. Patrick's Day.  Since I believe in equally sugar-highs for adults and kids, I make "adult cupcakes" for my boys' birthday parties.  The kids get their birthday-theme-related cupcakes and the parents get a little "thanks for bringing your kid to my kid's party" cupcake.  Because it's St. Patrick's Day, I decided the best cupcake for today's shindig is a Guinness chocolate cupcake filled with chocolate ganache and topped with Bailey's Irish Cream buttercream.

I've never made ganache before so I searched the internet and found several highly recommended recipes and started tweaking them.  My primary sources of inspiration were The Mess Pot and Red Shallot Kitchen.

One thing I learned about ganache-you can't rush it.  Boiling the cream takes no time at all but waiting for it to cool is an exercise in patience, my friends.  I used the refrigerator to help with the cooling process and that worked great.  Just be sure to stir it every 10ish minutes until it's almost the thickness you're looking for.  It will set up a little more after you remove it from the fridge.

You can download the recipe from my Scribd account here.

Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Bailey’s buttercream 

Pre-heat oven to 350°
1 box chocolate cake mix (I prefer Pillsbury)
3 eggs
½ cup butter, melted
1 cup Guinness
3 tbs dutch-process cocoa powder
Heat Guinness in microwave for 3 ½ minutes, stirring after each minute.  On low for one minute, beat cake mix, eggs, butter, Guinness, and cocoa powder.  Increase speed to med-high and beat for one more minute or until batter is smooth.  Do not overmix.  Scoop into lined cupcake pan filling cups 2/3 full.  Bake for 22-24 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes before moving to cooking rack.  Once completely cooled, use a cupcake corer (this one's mine and I LOVE it!), 1 inch round cookie cutter, or a small knife to cut the middle out of each cupcake.

Chocolate Ganache                   

Place chocolate pieces in heat proof bowl.  Heat cream on stove top until boiling then pour over chocolate.  Let sit for one minute then slowly stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.  If needed, you can microwave cream and chocolate for 1-2 minutes to speed up the melting process.  Add butter and Bailey’s and stir again slowly, until smooth.  At this point, you need to let it cool until thickened.  You can either leave it on the counter for approximately 3 hours, stirring occasionally or put in the fridge for about one hour, stirring every 10 minutes.  Place heaping scoops of ganache in a piping bag, snip off the end, and fill cupcakes with ganache.
Bailey’s Buttercream                     

Cream butter and vanilla well.  Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating well between each cup.  As the mixture gets stiffer, add small amounts of Bailey’s and continue mixing.  You can add heavy cream if you’d like but I just stick with the Bailey’s.

If you make these, let me know what you think.  I'm hoping everyone likes them this afternoon because I think they're heavenly.  (And, I don't even like Guinness.)
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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Mocha Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream

Tonight I made mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream.  You know that really creamy jamoca ice cream at Baskin-Robbins?  This buttercream tastes JUST LIKE THAT.  I really wanted to sit down with a spoon and polish it all off but that seemed like it would thwart my recent weight loss efforts so I resisted.

A little.

Sort of.

Here's the recipe:  (you can download it from scribd here)

Mocha cupcakes:

1 box chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup strong, dark coffee
3 tbl dutch-process cocoa powder

On low for one minute, beat cake mix, eggs, butter, coffee and cocoa powder.  Increase speed to med-high and beat for one more minute or until batter is smooth.  Do not overmix.  Scoop into lined cupcake pan filling cups 2/3 full.  Bake for 22-24 minutes.  Cool in pan for 5 minutes before moving to cooking rack.  Top with espresso buttercream.  (I also like to sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the top.)

Espresso Buttercream:

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
5 cups powdered sugar
approximately 1/4 cup heavy cream
4 tsp instant coffee
mini chocolate chips for sprinkling on top

Cream butter and vanilla well.  Dissolve coffee in 2 tablespoons or so of cream and add to butter.  Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating well between each cup.  As the mixture gets stiffer, add small amounts of cream and continue mixing.  I do a lot of tasting with this to get the consistency right so the amount of cream is really an approximation.  You’ll know when it’s right.

I hope you try these.  If you do, let me know how they turn out.  They are worth the extra time on the treadmill.  I promise!

I'm linking up to Jam Hands.  Check out this great blog!

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Saturday, March 10, 2012

The best chocolate chip cookies EVER!

OK, so that might be a pretty bold claim but I really do love these chocolate chip cookies.  Four years ago, while I was on maternity leave with my youngest, I got a little stir crazy and spent the summer working on the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.  And, I'm going to share it with YOU!

The key is the mix of milk and semi-sweet chocolate chips.  And to mix everything BY HAND. When you use your mixer, it overmixes everything and you get flat cookies.  It's a bit of a workout for the biceps but trust me on this one.


1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

Combine butter and sugars until well mixed.  Add vanilla and eggs and stir well.  Add flour and baking soda.  Once all ingredients are evenly mixed, add chocolate chips and keep stirring.

After a few hearty spoonfuls of dough to check that all is right in the world, use your handy spring-loaded ice cream scoop that you've been using to scoop all those cupcakes we've been making.  Scoop dough onto a baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 12 minutes.  Check on them after 10 minutes.

You can print my recipe from scribd here.

Here's my best chocolate chip cookie tip:  After making a batch of cookies, scoop the remaining dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and put in the freezer.  After about 15 minutes, they'll be frozen enough that you can pop them into a gallon sized freezer ziploc bag.  They'll be ready to enjoy in small batches whenever you get a cookie craving.

Freezing chocolate chip cookie dough works for me!

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

"From there to here, and here to there, funny things are everywhere!"

-Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Tomorrow is Dr. Seuss' 108th birthday and I decided to celebrate by making 80 Cat in the Hat inspired cupcakes for my yougest son's preschool.

Yep, 80.  You read that right.  Wanna see what 80 cupcakes looks like?  Well, I can't show you that.  But I CAN show you almost 80.  I couldn't get all 80 in the picture.

They were surprisingly simple.  I got the idea here

I used regular size marshmallows and dipped one end in melted red candy melts (from Wilton, bought at JoAnn's) and then put them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Once they had set (it only took a few minutes), I dipped the other end in the red candy melts.  Then I melted white candy melts (you could use white chocolate instead) and piped circles on parchment paper and dropped a marshmallow in the middle of the circle.

I really like the blue with the red and white hat.  It's very Seuss, I think.  They were a little plain, though, so I sprinkled white non-pariels on top before adding the hat.

The packaging is a genius idea I found online somewhere.   I put each cupcake in a clear, 6 ounce party cup and then dropped them in clear cellophane treat bags and tied them off with a red ribbon.  So portable and easy!

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!

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