Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m a day late- and I apologize. But I’ve been working on some cookies and some great holiday ideas for your holiday goodies that I can’t wait to share!

But that also means that this coming week’s entry may be a bit late.

So I hope that you all have been enjoying your time with family and friends! Eat lots of food, but save room for dessert! Even better, eat dessert first!

And yes— it’s OKAY to eat pie for breakfast.

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Apple Cider Cupcakes

I’ve been waiting to share this recipe. It was featured on Weaver’s Orchard’s Blog late last week. It’s my first featured recipe and I’m so excited about it, and I just can’t stop myself from sharing it AGAIN. I’m hoping to get the opportunity to share more recipes in the future (Wonka wants my Pixy Stix Cupcake recipe once it’s perfected!). To me, it just seems to cement the fact that I’m doing the right thing. This is what I was meant to do.

Anyway- on to the recipe!

Fall means apples. Apples mean orchards. Orchards mean fresh cider. At least for me.

I had my first apple cider donut in Illinois about 12 years ago, but I’ve never forgotten them. I recently found an orchard nearby that makes them fresh daily (and let me tell you- a warm cider donut is practically heaven!). A chilly fall day is perfect for a warm cider donut and a mug of hot cider.
100_3799Yes, I grabbed a few more sweets than I planned- and I really need to recreate that Peanut Butter Cup Muffin recipe (just saying). 100_3802

I think you’ll agree that these are magical donuts. I was never a fan of cider, but coated in cinnamon sugar? How terrible can it be? I even convinced my mom to try one and she thought they were fantastic.

But, donuts can be hard work. I’m not a huge fan of rolling dough and I find it tedious to fry things. I don’t have a large supply of oil and it’s just easier to not fuss. So, apple cider cupcakes were the perfect replacement! All the taste, a moist cake…. yum.

100_4013 I topped mine with a cinnamon brown sugar buttercream and a cider reduction drizzle. In a bite sized cake. Or, you can choose the standard size cupcakes– both options are in the recipes below.

It starts simply. Butter, sugar, flour, eggs… and, of course, apple cider!

100_3995 (it obviously wasn’t the first time I used this cider).
100_3996I mixed all the dry ingredients in the bowl of my food processor. I’ve found that using cold butter, cutting it into chunks and mixing it with the other ingredients in the food processor really helps attain a smoother batter. But you can certainly use a mixer if you’d prefer.

100_3998Nice and smooth!

100_4002 100_4000

The batter tastes fantastic and baked into a beautiful moist cake. I know- I keep using the same adjectives!

100_4006I topped my cakes with brown sugar cinnamon buttercream.
And, for a bit of a cider glaze.100_4010

You could use caramel, or skip the glaze altogether, but I think it adds a bit of a decorative touch while being tasy.100_4011

I did end up sprinkling more cinnamon and sugar on top as well.

100_4031

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Buttercream 

Ingredients:
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
(or I use half shortening and half butter)
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed (I used light, but dark is fine)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla (or to taste)
1-4 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

Directions:
1) In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.
2) Beat in the ground cinnamon and salt.
3) Beat in the powdered sugar slowly, adding the cream gradually. If frosting is too thick, add a small amount of cream until desired consistency is achieved. If frosting is not thick enough, add powdered sugar until desired consistency is achieved. Humidity plays a huge part in the frosting consistency- so you may need to add more or less liquid depending on humidity.


Apple Cider Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 cup apple cider, room temperature
½ cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 pinches of nutmeg
½ teaspoon of salt
2/3 cup of white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Directions:
1) Preheat over to 350. Line muffin tin with liners.
2) In a medium bowl, measure out flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk to combine.
3) In a larger mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar at medium-high speed. Once light and fluffy, add eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated.
4) Reduce the speed to low and add in 1/3 of the dry (flour) mix. Slowly add ½ of the apple cider then mix until incorporated. Repeat with the flour and cider, ending with the flour mixture.
For standard size cupcakes:
5) Use an ice cream scoop (or other desired scooper) add the batter to the lined tin filling about 2/3 of the way.
6) Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
For Mini cupcakes:
5) Use a small cookie scoop to add the batter to the pan- filling 2/3 full.
6) Bake for 10 minutes at 325 until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool completely before frosting with brown sugar cinnamon buttercream. Top cupcakes with a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar and cider reduction drizzle.

Cider Reduction Drizzle (optional)
1 cup of apple cider

Over medium-high heat, add one cup of cider to a saucepan and allow to boil until reduced and thickened (about 15-25 minutes). Watch carefully. The mixture will reduce to about a tablespoon or so. It will thicken greatly as the mixture cools. Allow it to cool completely before drizzling over your frosted cakes.

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

100_4179It sounds egotistical to say that I know my cupcakes taste good, but it’s true. And it hasn’t just been me telling everyone– I’ve had several people rave about my cupcakes! I guess there’s no shame in being good at something and knowing it. 🙂
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But, I can now say that I’m a prize-winning baker… it’s legit. Kind of. The artwork prize is from Leslie McCarthy (Please, please, please check out her website for more artwork!)

The weekly ladies Bible study group was holding a ‘snack’ competition. And these little guys won 100_4174“Best Sweet Snack.”100_4172

100_4182(And my kitty sure thinks I’m a winner! She’s been a fan of my buttercream for years! Besides, every time the camera comes out my little girl has to ham it up. It’s just like having a child, I’m sure of it!)

While the last weeks have been filled with more adventurous cupcakes- those with less traditional flavors, like apple cider and margarita- I decided to go back to the basics and stick with what I do best. The original. The signature.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.100_4176

I begin with a chocolate cupcake recipe. Second to the fudgy beet cupcakes, this chocolate cupcake recipe featuring Greek yogurt is a favorite.

Even though I HATE yogurt, you can’t even taste it in this recipe. Trust me. I HATE yogurt, like I said. 😉
You’ll want to begin with 1 container of a good vanilla Greek yogurt. I used Yoplait, because that’s what I had coupons for. The 5.3oz size is all you really need.

You’ll also need your basic cupcake ingredients: sugar, egg, flour, milk (buttermilk in this case), water, baking soda, vanilla… But there’s one twist!

I used a combination of white and brown sugar. It’s unusual to have brown sugar in a cupcake recipe, but I find that it really helps balance the Greek yogurt which can be a bit sour-tasting (hence the reason I don’t like it). The added sweetness helps fool you into not even noticing that there is no oil or butter in this recipe. At least that’s what I tell myself.

I won’t try to fool you into believing that this is all healthy. I DID use my peanut butter frosting, which negates any healthy properties of the low-fat cupcakes. Or, maybe you can justify having your frosting because the cupcakes aren’t as fatty. You can always use a whipped frosting, or marshmallow frosting is you’d prefer. I just love the taste of peanut butter and chocolate.

You’ll whisk the dry ingredients with the yogurt and sugars,100_4152 Mix in an egg,some cocoa, and buttermilk100_4153 Finish off with some boiling water and you have a beautiful batter.100_4154 100_4155

The outcome is a traditional looking chocolate cupcake. Nothing extremely spectacular to look at, but it is mighty tasty.

100_4157It certainly needs frosting though!

I wanted to decorate them in a cute fall theme, so I tinted some of my peanut butter frosting a darker brown color and piped on trees using a size 2 Wilton tip. I covered the top in festive mini leaf sprinkles.
To do this, you’ll want to flatten the top of your frosting. I piped on a bit of frosting, then used a spatula dipped in warm water to smooth out the top, as so:100_4161

These particular ones didn’t get completely flat, but flat enough for the trees.100_4159

I loved just sprinkling them on top then turning the cupcake over to remove the rest of the sprinkles that didn’t fit. I wanted it to look like the leaves were falling off the trees, so the trees don’t need to be covered heavily with the sprinkles.

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Everyone thought the trees were a cute idea, but I knew I had some frosting lovers as my audience. So, SWIRLS! 100_4180

These still look absolutely cute. But it’s basically a 1:1 ratio of cupcake to frosting, which isn’t a problem in my house!

Chocolate Greek Yogurt Cupcakes
Ingredients:

1 (5.3oz) container of Vanilla Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar (I used light brown)
1 egg
1 cup AP flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used a heaping 1/2 cup)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 buttermilk (I used dry buttermilk -found in the baking aisle- and mixed it with skim milk instead of water)
1 tsp vanilla (I never measure it, but since the yogurt is vanilla flavored, I didn’t use as much)
1/2 boiling water

Directions:

1-If using liquid buttermilk, measure into a measuring cup, add vanilla, and set aside. If using the dry buttermilk, combine the powder with the dry ingredients and measure out 1/2 cup of milk or water and set aside.
2-Combine sugars, egg, and yogurt in a large mixing bowl. Mix on medium speed until well combined.
3-Combine dry ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk together.
4-On medium speed, slowly alternate the dry and wet (buttermilk) ingredients into the bowl with the sugar/yogurt mixture. Begin and end with the dry mix and make sure it is incorporated before adding more.
5-Gently add boiling water on a low mixing speed.
6- Fill a lined cupcake pan 3/4 of the way full for mini cupcakes, 2/3 for standard cupcakes.
7- Bake at 350 for 10 minutes for the minis and 15-17 minutes for the standard or until a toothpick inserted in the middle removes clean. The cupcakes will have a moist/shiny top, so don’t let appearances fool you. These can be completely cooked but appear wet on the top.

**Note: I don’t have a recipe available for my peanut butter frosting (top secret!) but you can find many recipes online that are tasty.

Virgin/Mocktail Margarita Cupcakes

It seems like folks don’t understand the concept of “virgin” anymore. I was looking for a good non-alcoholic margarita cupcake recipe and every one of them called for tequila. Years ago a ‘virgin’ variation of a cocktail meant it did not have alcohol in it. Apparently, that’s not the case today. I suppose the word carries too much of a stigma and it was my own fault for using that word in my search! Apparently “Mocktails” is the way to go.

Whatever you choose to call them, they are delicious!

However, if you’re a cupcake purist, you may want to look away now….

Why? Because I started out using a white cake mix from a box.100_4115

I know, I know… I cringe when using a box mix too, sometimes. I’m all for using it when you’re going to be doctoring it up and personalizing it. I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I made it from scratch though. I wish I had, but I was having trouble getting the measurements to be just right. So, I took the cheater’s way. Don’t hate.

Besides- I added tons of fresh citrus:100_4112And a tasty margarita mix:100_4113

And used pretty green liners:100_4119And fresh lime zest (I used more than half of one lime, but if you want a more potent flavor, add more):

100_4120100_4116I replaced the water in the recipe with the margarita mix and some fresh lime and orange juice. I love my margaritas with Grand Marnier or Triple Sec, so the orange juice acts as that flavor. One large orange will produce more than enough juice, as you really only need about an ounce (or tablespoon if you’d rather measure that way).

You’ll need the egg whites and oil called for on the box mix. And you’ll want to throw in some fresh lime zest. A tablespoon will do, I ended up using more than half of one lime, but if you like a more lime flavor, add more. If you want a lower-fat cupcakes, it’d be absolutely acceptable to use 1 12oz can of a diet lemon-lime soda. You can use that in place of the margarita mix, eggs, and oil, but still mix in some fresh lime juice and zest.100_4127

The cupcakes bake up looking like white cupcakes- but there are little flecks of the zest throughout- so don’t be fooled! Depending on the amount of zest used, these little guys can pack a sour punch!

So, I decided to top them with a lime buttercream. You can take the cheater’s way and use a store-bought can of frosting if you want. You’ll be doctoring that up with some lime juice (or the margarita mix, if you wish!) and lime zest. I had just enough leftover from the large batch that I always make. I tossed in a little leftover green frosting to tint the buttercream (or use a tiny bit of green food coloring in a fresh batch to make it a light green color, if desired!). I tend to make a large batch without using all the liquid called for so that the batch is extremely firm. This gives me the opportunity to take from the large batch and add flavors (juices, etc) without making the buttercream runny. (I’ll post that recipe below as well.)

I added lime zest and mixed it all in!100_4121 100_4122

Then, I frosted a ring around the cupcakes:100_4129

Because I wanted to use a coarse sanding sugar to rim the edges (like you would a margarita!)100_4131 100_4132 100_4130 I finished the inside off with a swirl.100_4133And even tossed some left-over zest on top.

100_4138They still looked a bit lonely, so I candied some lime wedges:100_4143 100_4147

 

Virgin Margarita Cupcakes
Ingredients:

1 box of white cake mix
1 1/4 cup good margarita mix
1 tbsp orange juice
3 egg whites
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest (and the juice of that lime)

Directions:
1- Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl, saving the zest until last. Fold in the zest.
2- Scoop into lined cupcake pan until 3/4 full.
3- Bake at 350 for 12 minutes for the minis and 23 minutes for the standard size or until a toothpick inserted removes clean
4- Allow to cool completely before frosting with Lime Buttercream.
5- Once frosted, rim the sides of the cupcake with a coarse sanding sugar to create the look of the rimmed margarita glass.
6- Garnish with a lime wedge, lime candy, lime zest, or candied lime as desired.

Lime Buttercream
Ingredients:

1 Stick of Butter softened
1lb (about 2 1/2 – 3 cups) of confectioner’s sugar
Juice and zest of one lime
Green food coloring (optional)

Directions:

1- In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter.
2- Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar on a low speed. Mix it in in batches for a smoother frosting.
3- Slowly add the juice of one lime until it reaches a spreadable consistency. You may need more or less depending on how much juice your lime produces.
4- Fold in the zest.
5- Pipe onto cool cupcakes

 

Peanut Butter Kit Kat Cupcakes

Anyone still have candy from Halloween? I think it’s the perfect excuse to experiment with cupcakes, but we don’t get many trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood and I don’t have children of my own to sneak candy from- so I can’t blame anyone but myself if there is candy in the house. Occasionally, I do buy candy with the intentional purpose of cupcakes. But then I have to make the cupcakes right away or risk eating it myself. An extra bit of candy found its way into the house last year, along with some other inspirational ingredients.

So I experimented with cupcake flavors. I whipped up a batch of vanilla cupcake batter, divided it up, and added a bunch of different ingredients. Among a maple cake, a cinnamon cake, and a banana cake, I made a peanut butter lover’s. I topped it with peanut butter frosting and garnished it with a peanut butter chip. Amazing…. and, now that I knew I could add different flavors to what can be a boring vanilla cupcake, I decided to try something even more adventurous.

Thus, Peanut Butter Kit Kat cupcakes were born.

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Oh these things are a dream! A lush peanut butter cake with Kit Kat pieces and a milk chocolate truffle buttercream, topped with a mini Kit Kat. Perhaps you’re wondering what to do with all that ‘leftover’ Halloween candy? (Sorry, “leftover” candy is a foreign concept in my house. There is no such thing.)
You can pretty much chop up any candy and throw it into a cupcake batter or cookie dough. I just chose Kit Kats this time around. Afterall, I did Rolos and peanut butter cups awhile ago. Yes, I even did those Chocolate Malted Milk Balls for a cake. As for something not chocolate? Stay tuned for Pixy Stix Cupcakes.

So, a vanilla cupcake. Seems easy enough. I have a few recipes that I enjoy, and I’m still seeking an absolute favorite, but you may already have one. If not, there is no shame in whipping up a box mix to personalize. When I first began experimenting with cupcakes I didn’t have a complete arsenal of from-scratch batters, so I did rely on cake mixes, but not anymore.

The vanilla cupcake I decided to use starts with two sticks of butter:

100_38534 eggs,100_38581 cup of milk. (I use whole milk in baking.)100_3860

And a mixture of cake flour, AP (all-purpose flour) and sugar. (It also needs baking powder and a whole lot of vanilla, of course.)100_3861

This picture shows it processed together with the cold butter- thus why it looks a bit like canned cheese. It tastes so much better than canned cheese, I assure you!100_3862

So, I mixed up the batter then, because I was only making 12 cupcakes, I measured out about 5 cups worth of the vanilla batter into a separate bowl to make  it peanut butter. The remaining batter can be baked up immediately or stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days (no more than a week!).

To make the batter peanut butter, I added 1/2- 3/4 cup of peanut butter. It depends on your taste. I started with 1/2 then added some more because I wanted a strong peanut butter flavor. Because the peanut butter thickens the batter slightly, it’s crucial that you don’t overcook these.100_3863100_3864I had Reduced Fat peanut butter on hand because that’s all the store had that day (That’s what happens when they have an awesome sale on peanut butter!). A regular peanut butter would work just fine, but stick with creamy. You don’t want to have a super crunchy batter (you need to chop up Kit Kats to add yet!)100_3867I had the snack size on hand (Hooray for candy being on sale in October!) And chopped up 10 of the snack size packs. That’s 10 of the 2 stick packs in ONE bag of snack size. Or 5 of the standard-size bars (at 4 sticks each). 2 and 1/2 of the King-sized (at 8 sticks each).100_3869

I did a rough chop. You’ll want a variety of sizes, but you don’t want to go too large or too small. You want to know that the Kit Kat is in the cupcake but not bite into an entire Kit Kat.100_3872

Your batter should have a pretty even distribution of Kit Kat pieces. Next, scoop them into lined cupcake pans!100_3875

And bake. Aren’t they lovely? I shortened my bake time. 325 for 20-25 minutes should do the trick. I checked it a bit before 20 and it was still slightly underbaked so I turned off the oven and left them in there for a few more minutes. I just wanted it to bake gently and evenly. Leaving the oven on would have overbaked them in my oven. You may find that you can bake them normally (following the directions for your cupcake batter). I have an older oven and have to compensate for uneven baking.100_3877

It almost resembles a muffin- but it has a cake texture.

But it needs frosting. Badly.
I had a batch of chocolate ganache frosting and a batch of buttercream in the fridge. Normally, I’d just melt some chocolate and once it’s cool, mix it into the butterceam, but, ganache is already so similar. It has heavy cream, melted chocolate and butter already in it, so it’s halfway there anyway. The buttercream has the confectioner’s sugar that makes it a little bit sweeter and the ganache has an intense chocolate flavor. I can’t tell you what measurements I used, I just mixed it until it taste right…. probably about 1:1 ratio. 1 part buttercream to 1 part ganache.100_3882

It’s a lighter brown color than usual, but tasted fantastic. Still VERY chocolatey. So, I used my 1M piping tip and piped a ‘rose’ on top.100_3886I could have left it as is, but I can’t do that. I love having an edible decoration that gives people an idea of what flavors they’re eating. So, Kit Kat Minis to the rescue!100_3883The best part is that I don’t even have to cut these to adorn the tops of the cupcakes! They’re the perfect size for a standard cupcake! They might be a little overpowering on a mini cupcake though.100_3888The middle has flecks of Kit Kat and consists of the deliciously moist peanut buttery cake.
100_3935 And the OCD in me says that I need to make sure that the “KIT KAT” on the cupcake is facing the same way, but it’s delicious!100_3890100_3900100_3894 Yum. That makes for one happy client.