Lamb Cupcakes

lambcupcakeWhile searching for spring cupcake ideas, I came across these adorable lambs on Eats Amazing, a food blog out of England with incredibly creative treat ideas. The original recipe called for a chocolate/coconut combination, using shredded coconut to make the fleece, but I decided to just go with frosting. They’re probably the most adorable cupcakes I’ve ever made.

My frosting is a basic vanilla almond buttercream, but you could experiment with other flavors if you like to complement the chocolate – using chocolate frosting would make adorable brown sheep, so I might do that next time. You could also just frost these cupcakes by hand and make little swirls with your spatula for a wooly look instead of piping, but I really like how these turned out with the star tip.

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 extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

For the frosting

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 almond extracts, and vegetable oil into the separate 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.

Fit a large piping bag with a large open star tip; I used the Wilton 6B. Pipe frosting on the top of each cupcake to make fleece. Place one chocolate wafer, flat side up, on each cupcake. Using a smaller piping bag fitted with a plain tip (or just snipped to allow for a small amount of frosting to come out), pipe dots on each wafer to hold the candy eyes, then add candy eyes. Cut remaining chocolate wafers into quarters and place two quarters on each cupcake for the lamb ears.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 2-3 days. Makes 16.

Speckled Egg Cupcakes

speckled egg cupcakeA few years ago I saw a beautiful speckled egg cake, probably on Pinterest or in an issue of Real Simple magazine. Since then, I’ve intended to make something like it each spring, and I finally made a cupcake version this week.

A word of caution regarding the speckling: it is not nearly as simple as every single recipe online would have you believe. I set up a splatter guard made of parchment paper, and still ended up with speckles all over my countertop, with a few on my walls and many on myself, likely because I didn’t use a paintbrush with stiff bristles; my brush had soft bristles, which made things a bit messy. Still, the end result is worth it: these received rave reviews from Mike’s colleagues. Also, you could pair almost any flavor combination for these cupcakes, but I chose a classic chocolate and almond.

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 teaspoon almond extract

For the frosting

  • 12 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • Light blue, light green, and turquoise gel food coloring

For the speckles

  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-2 teaspoons water*

*Most online recipes did not call for water, but my mixture was too thick for it to flick from the paintbrush so I added some water. 

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 almond 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, vanilla extract, and almond extract; beat another 1-2 minutes. Add additional tablespoons milk, one at a time, beating well between each. To tint, add blue, green, and turquoise gel food coloring 1-2 drops at a time; I used 2-3 drops of blue and green, and about 3-4 drops turquoise. Frost cupcakes; you will have about 2/3 cup left over for another use.

For the speckles, stir together cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and 1-2 teaspoons water; you don’t want the chocolate to be too thin or it’ll bleed into the frosting, but if it’s too thick, you won’t be able to flick it onto the cupcakes. Dip a food-safe paintbrush with stiff bristles into the chocolate and use your fingers to flick the chocolate onto the frosting.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. Makes 12.