Spring Flower Cupcakes

springflowercupcakesI had big cupcake decorating plans today. And then, facing down my batch, I just couldn’t do it. No flower nail, no multiple shades, no practicing blossoms with my flower tip. I took the easy road instead, using both my Wilton M1 and 4B tips to create something that might, very vaguely, look like flowers. Truth be told, the cupcake pictured here is the best-looking one of the bunch. The others, well…not so much.

Granted, I’m a much tougher judge of my own baking then others are, but I fear that taking these in to work might cause me to lose some of my baking cred, at least in the decoration department. There are yellow rose-like cupcakes too, along with moderately mum-type ones that have way too many leaves and probably look like a four-year-old piped them. Still, if it’s taste that counts, these do have great flavor…so I’ve got that going for me.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Yellow, pink, and green gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; my batch made 15.

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Mix until well-blended, then make three wells for the wet ingredients.

Place vinegar, vanilla, and vegetable oil into the wells; add water and mix until the batter is smooth. The mixture will bubble up slightly when you add the water, so just keep mixing until you get a smooth consistency in the batter, which will be fairly thin.

Using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup, fill cupcake wells with batter – you want them to be about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the pan immediately, cooling completely on a wire rack before frosting.

For frosting, in a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 1 minute. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until all of the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and almond extract, beating well to combine.

Reserve a small portion of frosting for your leaves; tint the rest to your desired shade. I used yellow for about half the cupcakes, then mixed in some pale pink to create a light peach color for the rest. Fit a piping bag with your desired tip and pipe your desired shapes. Tint remaining frosting green and pipe on leaves using a small piping bag and leaf tip. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes

chocolatestrawberrycupcakePeople can go all out on Valentine’s Day, buying expensive chocolates, sparkling jewelry, and dozens of roses. But some of my favorite Valentine gifts have been hand-drawn or fashioned from construction paper by my nieces and nephews, requiring only creativity and some art supplies.

I’m also a fan of home-baked gifts for any occasion, and these chocolate strawberry cupcakes are an easy option for a Valentine’s Day treat. You just need cocoa powder for the cupcakes and could substitute strawberry jam for the fresh strawberry puree if that’s what you have on hand. 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1/3 cup strawberry puree 

Preparation 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners; my batch made 13 cupcakes. 

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, and vanilla extract. Whisk until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, combine butter and powdered sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed until the sugar is fully incorporated into the butter. Add vanilla and strawberry puree to taste, beating to combine. Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (like the Wilton M1) and pipe generous swirls onto each cupcake. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 1-2 days. Makes 12 or 13, depending on how full your cupcake wells are filled. 

Hydrangea Cupcakes

hydrangea cupcakeHappy Mother’s Day, friends! Several years ago, while preparing to move to North Carolina, my sister-in-law Kristin encouraged me to take some plants from her yard. Into buckets went hostas, daffodils, and my absolute favorite, tiny shoots of an Annabelle hydrangea that had just begun to grow beneath a tree at the edge of their front lawn. 

My own mother took a pick axe to said hydrangea shoots (nearly missing my head) in order to remove them from the stubborn western Pennsylvanian soil, and we planted them in a newly created flower bed in our back yard. Today, Annabelle lives on in riotous glory; she blooms green each spring, turns white in the summer, then turns back to green again in the fall. These cupcakes were inspired by that beloved plant, and were very easy to make. Piping flower blossoms onto cupcakes is actually quite easy if you have the right equipment: all you really need are some star tips and a piping bag. And because nothing in nature is perfect, your piping skills don’t have to be, either.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon  vanilla extract

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • Green, yellow, and moss green food coloring 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, and vanilla extract. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on low speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this takes a few minutes. Add vanilla extract and beat another 1-2 minutes. 

Reserve a very small portion of white frosting and set aside; tint the remainder light green by combining green and yellow gel food coloring. Fit a piping bag with a Wilton M1 (large star) tip and pipe blossoms over the top of each cupcake, leaving just a bit of room at the edges for some leaves. I did a single layer of blossoms so they could fit easily into the container Mike uses to take them to work, but if you’re displaying them for a party or get-together, you could add a second row if you like.

Fit a small piping bag with a plain round tip and pipe blossom centers. Scoop out the remaining white and green frosting from your piping bags to maximize your frosting use, then add moss green coloring to reach a medium-dark green for your leaves. Fit a piping bag with a leaf tip and pipe leaves around the edges. 

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 12. 

Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

The holidays are in full swing, and I’m baking like there’s no tomorrow. Or perhaps I’m baking like tomorrow is Christmas? In any case, I’m baking a lot.

Today’s chocolate peppermint cupcakes are inspired by the York Peppermint Pattie, one of the best treats around regardless of time of year, but a treat I always associate with winter. I’ve started eating chocolate again and have, thus far, remained stable in the migraine department. But darker chocolate – like the variety used on the famous pattie – will be a new frontier for me, so wish me luck. I found this recipe over at The Baker Chick and adapted it to include some peppermint extract in the cupcake batter, while omitting the peppermint pattie inside the cupcake itself. You could certainly do that, but I wanted to use the patties just as a garnish on top, like a delightfully delicious chocolate moon rising out of a peppermint cloud. Perhaps all the sugar has finally gone to my brain…

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Dutch process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract, to taste
  • 12 snack-size York Peppermint Patties

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir together, then add water, oil, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract. Beat on low speed for about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth; it will be thin.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin, filling wells about 2/3 full. Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from cupcake tin and allow to cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

To make frosting, beat butter on low speed for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until all the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this takes a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of milk and 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract and beat for another 1-2 minutes. Add another 1-2 tablespoons milk, plus additional peppermint extract to taste; my frosting used 3 tablespoons of milk and 1/8 teaspoon plus a few additional drops of extract to reach my desired flavor and consistency.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip (like the Wilton M1) and pipe swirls onto cupcakes. Press a peppermint pattie into the frosting to garnish. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 12.

Turkey Cupcakes

My nephew Roman loves chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, and these adorable little turkeys are on their way to North Carolina, along with my mom, for his Thanksgiving. I cannot get over how cute they are.

There are plenty of turkey cupcake decorating ideas out there, but I chose the M&M version for ease of completion. You can create their beaks, wattles, and feathers with the same candy, though I recommend buying a larger bag so you have enough for the whole batch. I used several different designs for their feathers, as you can see in the photo below, but I think the stand-up version – where you place the candies vertically instead of pressing them flat into the frosting – yields the best look.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Make frosting and hand-frost the tops of the cupcakes. Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe a blob for the face, then pipe additional frosting around the top edge of the cupcake to make it easier to place the candies.

Add candy eyeballs, then use a yellow M&M for the beak, red for the wattle, and the colors of your choice for the feathers. I used two different methods for the feathers; I pressed some directly into the frosting flat, while I stood others up vertically, using the frosting as sort of a bolster. I prefer the second method, as the candies look more feather-like that way.

Store in an airtight container and serve within a few days. The moisture from the cupcakes and frosting will affect the candies after a while.

Makes 13. Below is a look at the flock for Roman!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Filling

Today’s snickerdoodle sandwich cookies left me with about a cup and a half of vanilla cream filling, and I could think of nothing better to do with it than to pipe it into some dark chocolate cupcakes, Hostess-style. You remember the Hostess cupcake…dark chocolate cake, fluffy filling, waxy (in a good way) chocolate icing and that signature white loopy swirl. I actually preferred the orange version to the chocolate version, but both were quite a treat.

These cupcakes are a take on the classic store-bought version, minus the white loopy swirl (though I really want to do that next time). Mike proclaimed them better than the Hostess version, without intending any offense to the fine folks of Hostess, of course.

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before filling and frosting. Make filling; reserve leftover portion for another use.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch plain tip with about 1 1/2 cups filling. Insert the tip into each cupcake, piping in filling until the top of the cupcake starts to puff up.

Prepare icing; using a teaspoon from your flatware, scoop about 1 teaspoon of filling onto each cupcake and quickly frost with a small offset spatula.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 15.

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

chocolate cupcakes with pb buttercreamYou know how sometimes you have a chocolate peanut butter dessert and it’s not at all what you wanted it to be? The chocolate is too bitter or sweet, the peanut butter is too sweet or salty, one flavor overpowers the other, or the whole thing is just too heavy and rich?

This is not one of those desserts.

This, my friends, is the most delicious combination of chocolate cupcakes and peanut butter frosting I’ve ever made. The cupcakes, originally from the Nestlé Very Best Baking blog, offer a tender texture and smooth chocolate flavor, while the frosting is just sweet, salty, and peanut buttery enough. If left to my own devices, I could have eaten the entire batch.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk

*I actually use Nestlé baking cocoa and find that sifting it into the flour yields a more even texture, although the original recipe did not call for sifted cocoa. 

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • About 2 tablespoons milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-count cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla extract.

Add flour mixture and milk in three alternate batches, beginning and ending with the flour and scraping the sides of your bowl well, beating until smooth.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into cupcake wells.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately remove cupcakes from pans, cooling completely on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat butter and peanut butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes; mixture will be slightly lumpy. Scrape down the bowl and add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well between each addition. Add 1 tablespoon milk, then beat for 1 minute; if frosting is too thick, add another 1 tablespoon milk to think it out and beat for another 2-3 minutes until very light and fluffy, scraping the bowl well a few times. You want a fluffy texture that will be easy to pipe.

Fit a large piping bag with the tip of your choice; I used a Wilton 1A, which requires a 14-inch pastry bag and large coupler set.

Pipe frosting onto cupcakes in generous swirls or blobs. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Buckeye Cupcakes

buckeyecupcakesA while ago I made chocolate peanut butter cupcakes, which were inspired by the chocolate-covered peanut. They were delicious, but I always thought they needed more peanut butter filling and a few tweaks to meet my desired chocolate/peanut butter balance. After a bit of thinking, I came up with this: the buckeye cupcake.

These treats use a basic chocolate cupcake recipe from my Better Homes & Gardens baking book, then get hollowed out and stuffed with peanut butter filling and topped with a cocoa frosting. In the future, I might use a chocolate buttercream instead – while they are delicious, they’re still not exactly what I’m after. And this, friends, is the beauty of baking…you can keep adjusting your recipe until you get exactly what you want!

Ingredients

Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups milk

Peanut Butter Filling

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • About 6 tablespoons milk

Cocoa Frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • About 6 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

For the cupcakes, allow butter and eggs to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe makes 3 dozen cupcakes, so you’ll need to re-use one tin for your last batch.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, scraping the bowl often. Once all sugar is added, beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat well.

Add flour mixture and milk alternatively in three batches, beating until just combine between each. Once all ingredients are incorporated, beat on medium speed for 20-30 seconds.

Fill cupcake wells half full and bake for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for 1 minute, then remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely on a wire rack before filling and frosting.

Make your filling: in a mixing bowl, beat peanut butter and butter together until smooth.

Add powdered sugar slowly, beating well after each addition.

Add vanilla, then add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time beating until well-combined.

Make your frosting: combine melted butter and cocoa powder, whisking very well until smooth. Place mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, then increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more.

Add 1 cup powdered sugar and beat on low speed, then add about half of the milk, continuing to beat on low speed, until combined. Follow with another cup powdered sugar and remainder of milk, beating on low until combined. Add remaining powdered sugar, then vanilla, beating until frosting is creamy and spreadable.

To assemble your cupcakes: core each cupcake and reserve scraps for another use.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop peanut butter filling into each hole and gently press down with an offset spatula. You’ll have about 1/3 cup of filling left over that you can reserve for another use.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, scoop drops of frosting onto each cupcake and spread with an offset spatula.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Buttermilk Chocolate Cupcakes

IMG_4941Happy World Chocolate Day! Let’s celebrate with some buttermilk chocolate cupcakes and cocoa frosting. If you want to add a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, that would be a great idea too.

Can you imagine a world without chocolate? I can, but I certainly don’t want to. This delicious creation is a culinary wonder, pairing easily with a range of flavors both sweet and savory. When you think about it, I bet you have at least one favorite treat that involves chocolate in some way, even if it’s a basic chocolate chip cookie or a tender chocolate cake.

These cupcakes remind me a bit of devil’s food, and the original recipe came from Taste of Home, one of my new favorite sites. I cut that recipe in half to make a dozen and chose to pair them with my favorite cocoa frosting, which uses simple ingredients you’re likely to have in your pantry. You could definitely go with the one in the original recipe, or use a vanilla frosting instead – but given that it’s World Chocolate Day, we’re going to go all-out chocolate.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup water

For the frosting

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • rainbow sprinkles, if desired

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 12-well cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a glass measuring cup, combine buttermilk and water; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until well-combined, then add vanilla extract and beat until well-combined, scraping the sides of the bowl a few times.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk/water mixture alternatively in two batches, beating well after each.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough into prepared cupcake wells, filling about 2/3 full.

Bake for 18-2o minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan for a few minutes (the original recipe suggests 10 minutes, but I cooled mine for about half that time), then remove to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: in a small bowl, combine melted butter and cocoa powder, whisking until smooth. Place mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon milk and beat until very well-combined, scraping the sides of the bowl well a few times. Add remaining powdered sugar and 1 more tablespoon milk and beat for about 1 minute; add vanilla and beat 1 minute more, then add final tablespoon of milk and beat for 2 minutes, until lighter in color and fluffy.

Fit a piping bag with a large star tip; pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Top with sprinkles if desired; store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes

double chocolate cupcakesHave you ever ordered an ultra-chocolatey dessert and regretted it after a few bites, completely overwhelmed by chocolateness? I certainly have. Most restaurants have some manner of “death by chocolate” dessert on their menus, usually involving layers of chocolate cake, mousse, cheesecake, ganache, and so on, and they’re all too overpoweringly chocolatey for me.

One of my lovely coworkers asked if I could bake for her son’s 13th birthday this weekend, and the guest of honor requested chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. While there are many cupcake and frosting recipes to choose from, I decided to go with a light and dark combination to prevent chocolate overload. The cupcakes themselves are my dark chocolate recipe, while the frosting is chocolate buttercream, light and fluffy and a great complement for a darker cake. Happy Birthday, Theo!

Ingredients

Preparation

Bake cupcakes in full-size cupcake pans; the recipe will yield 24 regular-sized cupcakes and 12 miniature cupcakes, or about 30 regular-sized cupcakes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Using a one-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of frosting onto cupcakes. Frost with a small offset spatula. If storing in the refrigerator, bring cupcakes to room temperature before serving; these do not need to be refrigerated, but I’m chilling mine because it’s quite humid in Pittsburgh tonight.