A Year With Goop [best birthday cake]

We did it! We kept our son alive, and quite adorable, for a whole year! A celebration was in order.

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A celebration, of course, approved by my introverted husband. We took a trip to the zoo, and came home for cake and presents. Perfection.

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Though I love to bake, I’m just not a cake-decorator. I kept it classic with Deb’s best birthday cake. But, I did cover the whole thing with Lucky Charms marshmallows. One big box gave me all I needed to completely coat a six-inch, two-layer cake. I got 18 cupcakes out of the batter in addition to the mini cake, and stuck a leprechaun hat marshmallow in the center of each.

p.s. I often love what Janssen is doing over at Everyday Reading, and she wrote about making mini cakes for each of her girls on their first birthdays. One of their other birthday rituals is sugar-y cereal for breakfast in bed. Love that.

Years in the Making [boston cream cupcakes]

When Pinterest first became a thing, I pinned Boston Cream cupcakes.

I can pass on almost any donut unless you come at me with Boston Cream.

Please, come at me with Boston Cream.

So this was the perfect merger, my favorite donut flavor in one of my favorite dessert forms.

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But time passed, as it always does, and I never made them. I am slightly afraid of custard, or really, anything that requires precision in baking. I would always cycle back to the recipe when picking cupcakes to make, but never commit to the time it would take to make them.

And then I found a cheater version, and I adapted it even more, and here we are.

I’ve finally made Boston Cream cupcakes, and shared them with people I love.

To make 2 dozen, you will need:

  • Your favorite yellow cake mix, with the necessary ingredients (some eggs, some oil)
  • A small box of French vanilla pudding mix, and the necessary milk
  • Your favorite chocolate frosting (yep, I used store bought here…the horror)

Make the cupcakes according to the directions on the package.  Let them cool completely, and while doing so, make the pudding.  When the cupcakes are completely cool, unwrap them and slice the cupcakes in half cross-wise.  Spread frosting on the top half (it is so much easier to do it now, then once there’s a smushy layer of pudding in the middle).  Once the pudding is set, spread a layer of it in each cupcake, and sandwich the cupcake back together.

Store, wrapped, in the fridge, until you serve.

Happy Birthday Hey Girl, Hey [chocolate chip cookie cupcakes]

Hey Girl Hey and I like to run away for the summer, finding various beaches where we can spend the better parts of 10-12 weeks. So imagine my surprise when the stars aligned and we were both in town for a piece of August. Better yet, the piece that included her birthday. When I asked her dessert preference, she divulged that she is, in fact, an equal opportunity dessert lover, and I could make whatever I pleased. Cupcakes.

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I used to be a cupcake machine, cranking out new flavors for friends’ birthdays left and right. But when #andthenweboughtahouse happened and I was ousted from my kitchen for a year, I got thrown way off my game. And cupcakes aren’t quite in the spotlight the way they once were. So I don’t remember the last time I made them. It was glorious fun to be back in the kitchen whipping these up, and even better that they were in celebration of the great, Hey Girl, Hey.

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I flipped through one of my favorite old cookbooks, and landed on chocolate chip cupcakes with chocolate glaze. And because I was feeling fancy, and because these are already insanely brown-sugary, I sprinkled the tops with toffee bits.

To make about 20 cupcakes you will need:

  • 2 C flour
  • 2 C brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C butter, cold, and cut into small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 C sour cream
  • 1/4 C whole milk
  • 2 C chocolate chips

In the bowl of a mixer, combine flour, brown sugar, and baking soda. Add butter, and continue mixing until butter is in smaller pieces (you may still have some chunks, that’s okay). Add egg and vanilla, mixing till incorporated. Add sour cream and milk, and beat the batter just till smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

Using an ice cream scoop if you have it, scoop equal portions of batter into about 20 muffin tins, lined, or sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Bake 25-30 minutes.

For the glaze (this recipe came from a different cupcake cookbook because I didn’t have the right ingredients for the one called for):

  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 1 heaping T cocoa powder
  • 2 T melted butter
  • 2 T milk, possibly a little more
  • Toffee bits, if you like, for garnish

Stir powdered sugar and cocoa powder together. Add melted butter and stir as much as possible. Add milk and stir till completely incorporated. If mixture is still too thick,  add milk, a tsp at a time, stirring to incorporate completely before

When You Need to Eat Junk [Oreo and Peanut Butter Brownie Cups]

Life is a double-standard, no?  I would never (honest!) judge you, dear readers, for finding a “quick, easy, funfetti” recipe on Pinterest and making it for dessert tonight, but would never do it.

peanut butter brownie oreo cups.

Until I find one that totally grabs me, that I have to make right now.  This dessert has no nutritional value, but man, is it good.  It’s made of high-fructose-ly, processed ingredients, at which so many of us would turn up our noses, but it’s irresistible.  Deal with it.

To make 18 Oreo and peanut butter brownie cups, you will need:

  • brownie mix, and all the accoutrements called for on the box
  • peanut butter*
  • about a pack and a half of Oreos (I bake exclusively with Double Stufs)

Line 18 muffin tins with paper liners.  In each, place a stack of an Oreo, a layer of peanut butter, another Oreo, and another layer of peanut butter.

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions.  Pour batter over the “cupcakes” until tins are about 2/3 full. Bake 18-20 minutes, until brownies are cooked through.

*When I pin anything made with peanut butter, AGOMYR inevitably asks, “Have you tried it with Nutella?”  And so, dear readers, I did try these with Nutella.  And here is what I will say.  They are good.  But Nutella is chocolatey, and so are Oreos.  I like the contrast between the Oreos and peanut butter much, much better.

On Health {lemon blueberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting}

Dear readers, can I tell you something awful?  Though you wouldn’t know it from the likes of this blog, I think I’m becoming a healthier person.  Not just because my pants are much looser around my waist (#purebarreproblems), but because I can’t eat sugar in the same massive quantities as before.  Here is what I know for sure.

1.  I started going to Pure Barre in September, thanks to Ali.  I went about 2 or 3 times a week.  Now I go 4 or 5 times a week, and I love it.  It’s a challenge, it makes me stronger, and I am crazy more flexible now than every before.

2.  Since my mother in law has assumed responsibility for 2/3 of my daily meals, I eat healthier.  But it’s healthier in the foodie-way in that it still involves plenty of fat and calories.  They’re just sourced from better food than, say, Doritos, and other neon-orange, artificially flavored cheddar foods.

3.  I drink a ton of water every day.  Lemons, please.

So somewhere in the six months between starting to act like this, and now, I became healthy.  Whatever things people say about exercising and eating well and drinking plenty of water must actually be true.  I can now tell when I am starving and need to inhale everything in sight, and when I can’t.  I can say no to baked goods (but not M&Ms).  I don’t even know myself.  I swear, we are going to move into our house and all will go to hell and a hand basket because all of a sudden, I’ll be the one controlling what we eat again.  But for now, I’m enjoying these couple months of living like the other, healthier half lives.

lemon blueberry cupcakes.

This is all a really long-winded way of saying thank goodness for my sister-in-law.  Whilst drowning in a sea of chocolate oreo peanut butter nutella drizzle caramel girly and super sticky sweet and sugary cupcakes, she requested a bright, fruity mix for her birthday.  The funny thing about the birthday cupcakes I make for people is that I could take or leave most of them.  Rarely do I get too worked up over a flavor someone has chosen.  But these were instant faves.  Not too sweet, super bright-tasting, and almost sort of muffin-like and healthy.  Introducing, lemon blueberry cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

To make 16, you will need:

For the cupcakes:
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour, divided
¾ cup cake flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
Zest of  1 lemon
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. milk, at room temperature
1 cup fresh blueberries

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of 1 large lemon
Additional fresh blueberries, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the ¾ cup all-purpose flour, the cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar and lemon zest. Beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice. With the mixer on low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Blend in the milk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.

In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with the remaining 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Using a spatula gently fold the berries into the cake batter. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners, filling each about ¾ full. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.) Garnish with fresh blueberries.

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

cookies and cream cupcakes.

When I asked Ali for birthday cupcake inspiration this year, one of the flavors she mentioned was cookies and cream.  I had just made chocolate Oreo cupcakes for another coworker’s birthday, and was worried I wouldn’t have fresh inspiration.  But the internet never lets me down, and I found cookies and cream cupcakes, reminiscent of the Oreo cake I enjoyed at The Lady and Sons, which I still dream about to this day.  These got rave reviews.

cookies and cream cupcakes.

To make 24 cupcakes, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

white cake mix
3 Large Eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup of water
24 Oreo cookies, twisted apart (I always use Double Stuffs)

For the frosting:

1 stick butter softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
5 cups powdered sugar

Preheat over to 350.  Line muffin or cupcake pan with 24 cupcake liner cups.  Place the side of the Oreo with the cream in the bottom of the muffin tin, cream side up.

Whisk cake mix, eggs, butter, and water together till smooth.  Break remaining cookie pieces into chunks and fold into the batter.  Pour batter into muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake according to box directions, and let cool completely.

Prepare frosting by beating butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, until completely smooth.  Slowly beat in vanilla and powdered sugar.

Frost cupcakes and enjoy.

On Willpower [pumpkin spice latte cupcakes]

The (Not So) New Girl has better willpower than anyone I know.  Our workplace is often overflowing with cookies, brownies, and whatever leftover piece of grocery store sheet cake from your grandma’s birthday celebration your family didn’t want.  Once Mrs. CV(D) and I decide something is worth the calories, we go all out, and eat to our heart’s content.  But not The (Not So) New Girl.  She values restraint and moderation, and I do admire her for that.

pumpkin spice latte cupcakes.

I just don’t know how she does it.

This is all a long-winded way of saying that The (Not So) New Girl had a birthday, and it took a full 363 days of life after it happened for me to make her cupcakes.  We had to find a window in which I had time to bake and she deemed it acceptable to consume the calories.  And if that day was two days before her next birthday, then so be it.  She requested Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcakes.  I’m affectionately titling them “basic” cupcakes, to be best enjoyed while wearing yoga pants and Uggs.

To make 24, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. espresso powder
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs
½ cup coffee or espresso, for brushing

For the icing:

2¼ cups heavy cream, chilled
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

For garnish:

Caramel sauce
cinnamon

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Stir together and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush them two or three times with the coffee or espresso, allowing the first coat to soak in before repeating. Let cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the heavy cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-low speed at first, gradually increasing to high speed. Blend in the confectioners’ sugar gradually. Whip until stiff peaks form, being careful not to over-beat. Use a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip to frost the cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel sauce. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.

 

Happy Birthday Sous Chef Lauren [brown butter cupcakes with bourbon buttercream]

They’re quite alliterative, really.

But more importantly, it’s Sous Chef Lauren’s birthdayyyyyyyy!!!!!

scl and me.

(Oprah voice.  You could probably tell.)

Well, it was Sous Chef Lauren’s birthday.  On Saturday.

me and scl.

And much like the way we became friends, which was because I told her we were going to be, I invited myself to her birthday party.  It involved a chef coming over and teaching us to cook a four course meal.  With a wine for each course.  And a lot of cheese.  It was everything.

cooking lesson.

I also told her I’d be making cupcakes.  Because I always make them for my coworkers, and it doesn’t seem right that SCL never gets in on any of that.

She asked for something with cream cheese frosting and I….

brown butter cupcakes with bourbon buttercream.

Didn’t make that.  I made brown butter cupcakes with bourbon buttercream.  Whoops.  I was limited by the combination of my pantry and the 5.5 inches of snow falling on the ground.  I wasn’t going to the store, so I had to work with what I had.  And what I had were the ingredients for brown butter cupcakes with bourbon buttercream.

If I had a pound of bacon during the snowstorm, I would have friend it up and plopped a giant piece on top of each of these.  But as it were, I didn’t.  Next time.

To make brown butter cupcakes with bourbon buttercream, you will need:

For the cupcakes:

1 3/4 C cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 C milk, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 C + 2 T sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Generously butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, melt one stick (1/2 cup or 113 grams) of butter, stirring constantly until it begins to foam. Continue to cook and stir until the foam subsides and milk solids begin to form on the bottom of the pan. Keep a close eye on the pan and turn down the heat if things start to get too toasty. When the butter has deepened in color and smells wonderfully nutty, turn off the heat and pour the butter into a small freezer-safe bowl. You should have about 1/3 cup or 90 grams of brown butter. Freeze for about 15 minutes or until the edges of the butter start to solidify. I set a timer so I wouldn’t forget about it hanging out in the freezer! Also just in case – a visual tutorial on how to brown butter.

While the butter is chilling, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In a liquid measuring cup stir together milk, vanilla extract and the vanilla seeds. Set both aside.

Beat the remaining stick of butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the chilled brown butter, being sure to scrape the bowl so all the toasty bits of flavor that tend to settle to the bottom are included, and beat until incorporated. Add sugar and beat until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients and the vanilla/milk mixture in three alternating additions, scraping down the sides and the bottom of the bowl as necessary. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and carefully but firmly tap each pan on your counter top. This makes sure that there are as few air bubbles as possible as the cake bakes.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely. When your cake is fully cooled, frost with one batch of bourbon buttercream (recipe below).

For the bourbon buttercream:

1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 C powdered sugar
1 T bourbon
1/4 tsp. salt
splash of vanilla

Beat butter in a large bowl until light and creamy, about two minutes. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the bourbon, vanilla and salt and beat until smooth and spreadable, or about one minute more.

Chocolate Oreo Cupcakes

One of my soon-to-be-neighbors is a health coach.  She recently found out I have a blog.
GULP.
I told her to tread carefully once she finds my little corner of the internet.  This blog is all sugar and no nutrition lately.  But as people keep having birthdays, and I keep not having a kitchen to call my own, that’s how it’s going to be for a spell.  Besides, chocolate oreo cupcakes are some of the best yet.  They’re definitely three-step cupcakes, as they involve a Nutella drizzle garnish, but they don’t feel quite as intensive as other three-step cupcakes.  If you chop your Oreos accordingly, the frosting has big chunks of both cookies and cream swirled throughout.  The only negative I can find with these is that the recipe makes 12.  I’d definitely double it next time.
oreo cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Oreo Frosting

  • 1 (2 sticks) cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon milk
  • 2 1/2 (about 18 whole Oreos) cups crushed Oreos

For Garnish

  • 1/2 cup Nutella
  • 24 (12 whole Oreos cut in half) half Oreo cookies

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric or stand mixer  on medium speed, beat eggs and sugar for about 2 minutes, or until light and creamy. Add the butter and vanilla extract and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, or until well blended. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed until blended.  Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.

Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 the way full with cupcake batter. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.

To make the frosting:

Mix softened butter on medium speed with an electric or stand mixer. Beat for 30 seconds until smooth and creamy. Add powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla extract. Increase to high-speed and beat for 3 minutes.

Place about 18 whole Oreos into a storage baggie, and using a rolling pin to crush Oreos. Fold in chopped Oreos into vanilla frosting.

Frost cooled cupcakes by using a cookie scoop or knife.

For the garnish:

Place Nutella into a storage baggie with a small hole cut at one end or piping bag to drizzle on top of cupcakes. Cut 12 whole Oreos in half, and place one half on each cupcake. Enjoy!

Distracting Myself with Cupcakes {cinnamon toast crunch cupcakes}

cinnamon toast crunch cupcakes.

To make going back to work last week a little more bearable, and to celebrate a coworker’s half birthday, I made cupcakes.  I recently started following her on Pinterest, which was great, because it meant I didn’t have to ask her what kind she wanted, I could figure it out for myself.  She had several options that caught my attention:

But in the end, Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cupcakes won out, because (and this is where I got selfish) Cinnamon Toast Crunch is my favorite junky cereal.

If you’re dreading something, dear readers, may I recommend bringing cupcakes to the table.  It certainly helped here.

To make 18 Cinnamon Toast Crunch cupcakes, you will need:

Cinnamon Cake:
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream
Vanilla Cake Mix (not white cake mix)
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Cinnamon Toast Crunch Buttercream:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup Cinnamon Toast Crunch powder
(Crush the cereal in a bag and then sift out 2/3 cup)

Directions

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line pans with 20-22 cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, gently combine eggs, oil, buttermilk and vanilla.  Mix in sour cream.  Add cake mix and cinnamon and mix until smooth.  Fill cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

For the frosting:

Beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add Cinnamon Toast Crunch powder. Add vanilla and powdered sugar. Adjust the consistency using milk if it is too thick.  Pipe or frost onto cooled cupcakes and top with cinnamon sugar and Cinnamon Toast Crunch squares.