Patriotic Cupcakes

Happy Independence Day, Americans! I haven’t done a lot of red, white, and blue baking, so this year I thought I’d whip up some patriotic cupcakes and practice my frosting tinting and piping skills while I was at it. I also experimented with a new buttercream, based on a Wilton recipe that uses both butter and shortening. I’m pleased to say it turned out very well!

Tint-wise, I wanted to make “colonial” colors – darker blue and red than what you’d get with your standard gel food coloring. To make a color darker, you need a hint of black, and let me stress the word “hint” here – it’s really a teeny, tiny amount. While my colonial blue turned out very well, my colonial red turned out more like raspberry. I’ll use it on something else, but I was glad to have plenty of white frosting for a second batch of red – this red is just your standard red gel food coloring, though in a very generous amount. Design-wise, the flag cupcakes are my favorites; alas, my fireworks cupcakes (the ones on the center ends in the photo above) look far too much like something that contains genetic material for my liking. Oh well…we pipe, and we learn.

Ingredients

For the vanilla cupcakes

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

For the Wilton-inspired buttercream

  • 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 –  1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream or milk
  • Royal blue gel food coloring
  • Red gel food coloring
  • Black gel food coloring

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-count cupcake tin with 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 eggs and vanilla and beat until combined; scrape down the sides of your bowl a few times during this step.

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, scoop batter into cupcake wells, dividing evenly and filling about 2/3 to 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from the tin; cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

To make the frosting, place butter and shortening in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat for 1-2 minutes, until very well-combined. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing very well between each addition. Add vanilla and heavy cream, beating for 1-2 minutes on medium-high speed; if your frosting is too thick, add another 1/2 tablespoon of heavy cream.

Divide frosting into three portions. Reserve 1 portion for white; using an offset spatula, frost the tops of each cupcake with a base of white.

Tint one portion colonial blue using royal blue and a very, very small amount of black. Tint the other portion red.

Fit two pastry bags with small star tips and pipe designs as you like. I chose the following:

  • Stars (top left and bottom ends in the photo above) – pipe a ring of blue around the edge of the cupcake, then fill in with red stars
  • Fireworks (center ends) – pipe red and blue stars with tails
  • Waves (top right) – pipe alternating red and blue waves
  • Flags (center) – pipe a patch of blue on the upper left-hand side, then add red stripes
  • Full coverage stars (bottom center) – pipe blue stars to totally cover the top of your cupcake, then add red star accents

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

 

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Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream

vanilla cupcakes with raspberry buttercream

Some women go overboard in the shoe store, but I’m the kind of woman who goes overboard at her local nursery, falling in love with plants at first sight. This explains why our yard has an eclectic collection of flowers and shrubs; I see a plant, I love it, I buy it…then I figure out where I’ll put it later. Our most recent addition is a beautiful blue hydrangea, which lives next to a pink/peach rhododendron, a white azalea, and a yellow-flowering coreopsis plant.

Although we don’t have roses in our yard, I hope to add a few someday. These cupcakes were inspired by roses, easily frosted with the Wilton M1 tip.

Ingredients

  • 1 recipe Crazy Vanilla Cupcakes
  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

Bake cupcakes and allow to cool completely before frosting.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter and raspberry jam on medium speed for about 2-3 minutes; mixture will look crumbly and curdled, but don’t worry – it will be fine when you add the powdered sugar.

Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until the sugar is incorporated in the butter/jam mixture; this will take a few minutes. Scrape down the bowl, then add your vanilla extract and beat on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until frosting becomes somewhat fluffy. Note: this buttercream will not be as fluffy as regular buttercream, because the jam gives it a different texture.

Fit a 14-inch pastry bag with a Wilton M1 tip; beginning in the center of your cupcake, pipe a swirl and continue piping around the edge to make a rose design.

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

Classic Sprinkle Cupcakes

classic sprinkle cupcakesThere are plenty of super-fancy cupcakes out there…filled, artfully frosted creations that look incredible and, sometimes, taste incredible too. But I’ve been fooled by many a super-fancy cupcake in the past; they look amazing, but when you take a bite…it’s only okay. Not the delicious creation you’d expected.

This, my friends, is not a super-fancy cupcake, but it’s certainly the delicious creation you’ve expected. Using a basic vanilla cupcake recipe, vanilla almond buttercream, and some fun sprinkles, these treats are the type of cupcake everyone should know how to make. The recipes are fairly simple, though I admit that most folks probably don’t stock cake flour in their pantries the way I do; still, you can find it easily at your local market and can use it in many cake and cupcake recipes, so it’s worth the buy.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup sour milk*
  • 1 recipe vanilla almond buttercream
  • Sprinkles for topping**

*To make sour milk, place 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to equal one half cup total. Stir; let stand for 5 minutes before using. 

**I use the Betty Crocker Parlor Perfect Confetti variety. 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners; this recipe makes about 21 cupcakes.

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

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and sour milk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared regular-sized cupcake liners, filling about half full.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Prepare your frosting and fit a 14-inch pastry bag with the Wilton M1 piping tip. Pipe generous swirls of frosting onto each cupcake.

Top each cupcake with sprinkles; I find it helpful to place each cupcake in a bowl for sprinkling so you don’t get sprinkles everywhere.

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

 

Pumpkin Patch Cupcakes

pumpkinpatchcupcakesMy friend Erika’s daughter is turning 7 this weekend, and I had the privilege of baking for her party. Erika requested a friendly, happy version of Halloween treats – nothing scary – and these pumpkin patch cupcakes fit the bill.

As a gal with a very low tolerance for scary things, I understand the desire to have a friendly, happy Halloween. I can handle creepy things, but once we get into scary territory, all bets are off. I hope that these friendly pumpkins are a big hit at the party, along with the brownies, M&M blondies, and chocolate sugar cookies I made – stay tuned for those recipes shortly!

Happy Birthday, AJ! You’ve got an awesome mom!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream
  • orange gel food coloring
  • leaf green gel food coloring
  • 4 miniature Tootsie Rolls

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with paper liners; this recipe yields 15 cupcakes.

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

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners, filling half full.

Bake for 12-13 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To decorate:

Cut Tootsie Rolls in half lengthwise, then cut each half in half lengthwise again. Knead each piece to soften it a bit, then mold it into a stem shape; set aside.

Prepare vanilla buttercream. Remove about 1/4 cup and tint green; tint remaining frosting orange.

Using a 1-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of orange frosting onto cupcakes, then frost with a small offset spatula.

Fit a piping bag with a leaf tip; place 1 stem into the top of each cupcake, then pipe leaves around the stem.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature; Tootsie Roll stems will soften because of the moisture in the cupcakes, so it’s best to prepare these within a few hours of serving.

Crazy Vanilla Cupcakes with Cocoa Frosting

crazyvanillacupcakes

Can you bake a cupcake without breaking eggs? Of course you can. People in the Great Depression did it all the time.

An egg shortage in the U.S. has commercial bakers scrambling (I couldn’t resist) for solutions in the wake of a massive outbreak of avian flu. I read about this earlier today, and it made me think of crazy cake, a Depression-era recipe that required absolutely no dairy because of rationing.

I’ve made crazy chocolate cupcakes before, and found a recipe for a vanilla version at Sweet Little Bluebird. Because I didn’t know how the cupcakes would turn out flavor-wise, I chose to pair them with a rich cocoa frosting in case they needed a bit of a flavor boost. I’m glad I did so; the cupcake flavor leaves a bit to be desired for me, but I didn’t want to stray too far from the original recipe since this was my first crack (yes, another egg pun!) at it. Next time, I’ll add more vanilla and hope that it doesn’t affect the stability of the batter.

Crazy Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt; make three wells for wet ingredients.

Add vinegar to the first well, vanilla to the second well, and vegetable oil to the third well. Add water and mix until smooth.

Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared cupcake wells.

Bake for 18-2o minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and remove cupcakes from pan immediately, cooling completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Cocoa Frosting (adapted from my previous recipe to yield a fluffier texture)

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preparation

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.

 

St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

st. pattys cupcakesHappy (actual) St. Patrick’s Day! Yes, the baking extravaganza continued throughout this past weekend in my kitchen, and these were my final project. I like to think that St. Patrick would be proud of them…if he liked cupcakes, that is. 

The two things I love most about baking are that it is both creative and apt to make someone really, really happy. These cupcakes enabled me to be both creative, and the bringer of sugar joy to the family of one of my lovely colleagues from work, whose kids love this holiday.

Apparently, the cupcakes went over big…as you can see in the “aftermath” photo below. And yes, that is my laptop in this photo…a blogger needs her resources close by, after all! 

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 recipe vanilla buttercream
  • green liquid food coloring
  • leaf green and kelly green gel paste food coloring
  • green sparkling sugar, if desired

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line one regular-sized cupcake pan and one miniature cupcake pan with paper liners.

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

Place eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat for another 30 seconds.

Add vanilla and canola oil and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternatively in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping the sides of the bowl frequently. Batter will be very thin.

Using a quarter-cup measuring cup, scoop batter into prepared regular-sized cupcake liners, filling half full. Use a teaspoon measuring spoon to fill miniature cupcake liners.

Bake regular-sized cupcakes for 12-13 minutes and miniature cupcakes for 7-9 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack before frosting.

To frost:

Prepare vanilla buttercream. Add a few drops of green liquid food coloring to the frosting with your mixer running on low to medium speed to achieve a light green color.

Remove about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the frosting and tint darker green; I used a combination of leaf green and kelly green to create my shamrock color. Fit a piping bag with a small to medium-sized plain tip (I used a Wilton #5 tip) and place dark green frosting inside; set aside.

Frost regular-sized cupcakes first; using a 1-inch cookie scoop, scoop light green frosting onto each cupcake and frost in a smooth layer. Pipe shamrock shapes onto each cupcake; make three heart-like shapes then add the stem.

Frost miniature cupcakes next; replace your dark green piping bag with a large plain tip (I used Wilton 12) and pipe in swirls.

Fit another piping bag with a large star tip (I used Wilton 21) and fill with light green frosting. Pipe in swirls.

Dip half of each shade of the miniature cupcakes into the green sparkling sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for 2-3 days (or store in the fridge to extend the life of your buttercream).

The aftermath at the Houser family St. Patrick’s Day celebration is as follows:

IMG_2262

 

Vanilla Cupcakes with Cocoa Frosting

vanilla with cocoa frostingBaking trials continue! These cupcakes are yet another rehearsal for the gig I have next weekend, although those vanilla cupcakes will feature a salted caramel frosting, rather than the cocoa frosting I made tonight. 

The batter on these little beauties is very, very thick…thicker than pound cake batter, even. Scooping proved to be a bit of a challenge, so go easy. You can always add a bit more to each cupcake well if necessary, but it’s much harder to remove batter once it’s already been scooped. 

According to Mike, these cupcakes are a classic mix of chocolate and vanilla. I wish I could eat them and was seriously tempted, but my Lenten Sugar Fast continues. 

Note: this recipe made 12 miniature cupcakes and 11 regular-sized cupcakes; I suspect it would actually make 12 regular-sized cupcakes if a few of the miniatures and regular-sized ones had been just a bit smaller.  

Vanilla Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 cup milk

Preparation

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

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

In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the bowl frequently.

Add vanilla and beat to combine.

With the mixer running on the lowest speed, add flour mixture and milk alternatively, starting and ending with the flour and beating until just combined. Scrape sides of the bowl to incorporate any flour that gets tossed up.

Fill cupcake liners about half to three-quarters full; again, batter will be very thick. Bake miniature cupcakes for 8-10 minutes or regular-sized cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans for about 1 minute, then remove from pans and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting. 

Cocoa Frosting

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preparation

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine melted butter and cocoa powder. 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, but not too thin. You may need to add just a bit more powdered sugar if your frosting is too thin to be piped easily through a piping bag.

Fit a piping bag with a medium star tip and pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Store in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.