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.

 

Heart Month Cupcakes

heart-month-cupcakesIt’s American Heart Month! As some of you know, I manage heart and vascular marketing for a medical center in Pittsburgh, and Heart Month is a big deal. We have events all throughout February that encourage people to get heart screenings so they can learn about heart disease risks. My cube is decked out with heart decorations, and I’m featuring daily heart tips on my dry erase board all month long.

Okay, so maybe it’s a little strange that the heart marketing gal is also the office baker. While cupcakes could never be construed as heart-healthy, being baked with butter, sugar, and eggs, they do make people happy. And happiness is an important part of heart health, so…you be the judge. These cupcakes make a large batch of 30, so they’d also be great for a Valentine’s Day party.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 10 2/3 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk

For the frosting

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tablespoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • Wilton Fill Your Heart sprinkles*

*I found these sprinkles at Joann; craft stores are always a great source of holiday-themed baking supplies. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line three cupcake tins with paper liners; if you don’t have three, just let one of your tins cool down after baking one of your batches before you do your last batch.

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

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for one minute. Add sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating for one minute after each.

Add flour mixture and milk alternatively, beating until combined.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, scoop batter into prepared muffin cups, filling about half-full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting, place butter in a mixing bowl and beat for a few minutes using the paddle attachment.

Add 3 cups powdered sugar.  With your mixer on low, beat until all of the sugar is incorporated into the butter. This will take a few minutes, and I find that placing a kitchen towel over the mixer during this stage prevents a powdered sugar blizzard.

Once all of the sugar is incorporated, scrape down your bowl and beat on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes.

Add vanilla extract, almond extract, and 1 tablespoon milk and beat on medium for another 2 minutes.

Scrape down your bowl, then add the remaining half-cup of powdered sugar and half-tablespoon milk, beating for another 1-2 minutes until completely combined.

Fit a 14-inch piping bag with a Wilton M1 tip and pipe swirls of frosting onto each cupake; you’ll have enough for all 30 cupcakes as long as you don’t go too overboard with your portions.

Sprinkle each cupcake with Wilton Fill Your Heart sprinkles (or other heart-shaped sprinkles). Note: I don’t recommend dipping the cupcakes in the sprinkles, as this will result it sprinkle overload. Because these sprinkles are so large, it’s best to literally sprinkle them onto each cupcake.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Makes 30.

 

Small Batch Cupcakes – Makes 6

small-batch-cupcakesSometimes you just want a small batch of cupcakes. Maybe you’re having a few friends over for dinner, or making a special meal for yourself and your partner. Even a single 8-inch round layer cake can be too much, but cutting recipes down further – especially when eggs are involved – can be a challenge.

This recipe is adapted from one I found at The Baking Fairy, which was designed for wedding cake tastings. Once you have your batter base, you could very easily flavor it many different ways, using vanilla, almond, citrus, and so forth. I chose fiori di sicilia, a delightful vanilla/citrus extract often used in Italian baked goods like panettone, and paired it with a vanilla almond buttercream. The end result is absolutely delicious, sort of like a creamsicle but with more depth of flavor.

Note: the original recipe was said to yield 4 cupcakes, but mine yielded 6.

Small Batch Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 drops fiori di sicilia*
  • 3 tablespoons milk

*Yes, I use a medicine dropper for this, because it’s a very powerful flavor. If you don’t have a dropper and want to use fiori di sicilia, use about 1/8 teaspoon. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake tin with 6 paper liners.

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

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until very well-blended. Add egg, vanilla, and fiori di sicilia and beat until combined.

Add flour and milk alternatively in two batches, beginning and ending with the flour and beating until completely combined.

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

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Small Batch Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons milk

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy.

Add powdered sugar all at once, then beat on low speed until all of the sugar is incorporated into the butter; this will take a few minutes, and you’ll need to scrape the bowl a few times to get all of the sugar to incorporate properly, since you’re working with such a small batch. Once sugar is incorporated, beat on medium speed for 2-3 minutes.

Add vanilla extract, almond extract, and milk, then beat for another 1-2 minutes.

Frost cupcakes using a small offset spatula; you should have just enough for a generous portion on each, with a little bit left over.

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

Black Forest Cupcakes

black-forest-cupcake-1My cube mates and I all have nutcrackers on our desks for the holidays. Because we’re writers, we’ve decided that these nutcrackers need personalities and back stories. My nutcracker, Karl Henrik, hails from a tiny hamlet deep in the Black Forest…which made me really want to make Black Forest cupcakes.

This treat is much more fun to say in German: Schwartzwalder kirschtorte. Technically, this recipe is a very American adaptation on the German classic; it uses a dark chocolate cupcake recipe I’ve baked many times before, cherry pie filling (because one cannot find fresh tart cherries in Pittsburgh in December), and a kirsch-flavored whipped cream frosting. Mike proclaimed this cupcake delicious, whether it’s true to the original recipe or not. Someday, I’ll make a real Black Forest cake, but for now these treats will do!

Ingredients

Dark Chocolate 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
  • Cherry pie filling*

*You’ll need half of a 21-ounce can; you can reserve the other half, as well as your cupcake cores, for a cherry chocolate trifle later on. 

Kirsch Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tablespoon kirsch (cherry brandy)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

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 measuring cup, scoop batter into cupcake wells, filling no more than 3/4 full.

Bake for 13-16 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Immediately remove cupcakes to a wire rack to cool.

Once cupcakes are completely cool, use a small knife to cut into the center of each cupcake at a 45-degree angle, about 1/8 inch from the edge, all the way around. Remove the core and reserve for another use (like a cherry-chocolate trifle, for example).

Spoon cherry pie filling into each center, being careful not to over-fill (which I definitely did). You should be able to fit about two cherries in each.

For the frosting: place heavy cream in a mixing bowl and, using your whisk attachment, beat on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and kirsch, beating on high speed for another 2-3 minutes, until stiff peaks form.

Fit a piping bag with a large plain tip and pipe frosting onto cupcakes; gently smooth with an offset spatula to cover most of the top of the cupcake.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Old-Fashioned Vanilla Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

old-fashioned-cupcakes-with-pb-frostingThis recipe is slightly adapted from Trisha Yearwood’s on the Food Network site. While it yields a delicious treat, I must say that the cupcake is much sturdier than I expected it to be. It’s almost like a pound cake cupcake, so if I ever make these again, I’ll probably pair them with a different frosting.

The frosting, however, is absolutely delicious. I tweaked mine to add more milk and vanilla for a fluffier, creamier texture than the original. I also want to note that the original said it yielded 12 cupcakes, but it really makes 24, so you’ll have plenty to share.

Old Fashioned Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.

Add flour mixture and milk in alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Add vanilla and beat until combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter in cupcake wells, filling about 3/4 full.

Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and place cupcakes on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and peanut butter on medium speed for about 3 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1/4 cup milk; beat on medium speed until well-combined, about 3-4 minutes.

Add remaining powdered sugar and beat for another 1-2 minutes, then slowly add remaining milk, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is a smooth, spreadable consistency.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of frosting onto cupcakes; spread with an offset spatula.

Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

 

Toasted Almond Cupcakes

toasted-almond-cupcakesIn the spirit of Pittsburgh’s famous burnt almond torte, I give you these toasted almond cupcakes. I have to admit: I like toasted, not burnt, almonds better, but you can certainly cook yours for longer if you prefer the burnt kind.

The next time I make these cupcakes, I’ll fill them with some almond pastry cream, but they’re absolutely delicious no matter what. While they may look fancy, they’re actually very easy to prepare; just put a simple white almond cupcake together with some almond buttercream, then add your toasted almonds on top. I recommend making your cupcakes first, then toasting your almonds, then making your frosting so the cupcakes and almonds are both cool enough to use.

Makes 16 cupcakes.

White Almond Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup milk

Preparation

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cupcake tins with paper liners.

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together sugar, shortening, and salt until fluffy.

Add egg, vanilla, and almond; beat until combined.

Add flour mixture and milk in alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour and beating until just combined.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of batter into each cupcake well, filling about half full.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and immediately place cupcakes on wire racks to cool before frosting.

Toasted Almonds

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preparation

In a medium bowl, combine almonds, sugar, and water; stir to combine.

Place mixture in a saute pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring regularly, for about 5-7 minutes until almonds turn a light golden brown. Almonds will start out looking wet and will appear dry when they are almost done.

Remove from heat and pour onto a platter to cool completely before using.

Fluffy Almond Buttercream

Ingredients

  • 10 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preparation

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.

Add heavy cream and beat for about 2 minutes until fluffy.

To frost and decorate the cupcakes: fit a 14-inch pastry bag with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe generous swirls of frosting onto each cupcake. Sprinkle toasted almonds onto each cupcake, gently pressing them into the frosting so they stick.

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

 

 

Crime Scene Cupcakes

crime-scene-cupcakesWant a fun Halloween cupcake? Make these. Seriously – they might be the most fun, creative cupcake I’ve ever made…and they’re incredibly easy to prepare.

When my colleague Rose asked if I’d bake for her Halloween party and come up with some creepy options, a “blood-spattered” cupcake instantly came to mind. While you can make edible blood with all manner of things, I chose to go with raspberry jam, tinted with red gel food coloring to make it more red than raspberry. You could certainly make any flavor of cupcake for these, and I look forward to making some vanilla ones in the future.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, sifted
  • 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 and blood spatter

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe yields 16 cupcakes.

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.

Use a 1/4 cup measure to fill the cupcake wells about half full.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan for a few minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.

Prepare the frosting and fit a 14-inch piping bag with a large plain tip. Pipe generous portions of frosting onto each cupcake, then flatten out each blob with a small offset spatula.

Stir together raspberry jam and red gel food coloring to your desired shade.

Using a teaspoon from your flatware, drop, drizzle, or splatter jam onto each cupcake. If you like, lightly drag a toothpick through the jam splatters to extend the splattered effect.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

crime-scene-cupcakes-2Here’s the dozen that went to the party – I hope they’re a hit!