Pregnancy Craving #4: Chocolate {Death by Chocolate Cupcakes}

What?

I’ve already listed chocolate as a pregnancy craving?

Ooops.  Oh, well.

Not feeling too guilty about it, though, since it is by far the strongest craving I’m having.  Baby Girl really likes her chocolate.  (And I kinda do, too.)

I feel, though, that I truly need to officially warn you before you embark upon this recipe:

This recipe is not for the faint of heart or any chocolate novices.  You many want to consult your doctor before ingesting this amazing chocolate treat.  It is not sweet.  It is not creamy.  It is dark.  It is rich.  It cures any craving in one decadent bite.  Milk, ice cream, and/or coffee is highly recommended to pair with this dessert.

(You think I’m kidding… but I am totally serious.)

The Recipe:

Death by Chocolate Cupcakes, adapted from allrecipes.com

1 1/8 c flour

1/4 c unsweetened cocoa

1 1/4 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1 large egg (which I did not have and substituted 1 T white vinegar and 1 t baking soda)

1/2 c firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c + 2 T whole milk

1/3 c strong brewed coffee

1/2 c unsalted butter, melted

1/4 c + dark chocolate chips, lightly tossed in flour

~~~~

1 c semi sweet chocolate chips

3/4 c heavy cream

3 T unsalted butter

extra dark chocolate chips for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 cupcake molds or muffin tins with paper liners or spray with nonstick spray.

To make the cupcakes, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In a separate bowl, mix together the egg, brown sugar, and white sugar.  Whisk in the milk, coffee, and melted butter.  Add the dry ingredients.  Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake molds, filling them about three-quarters full.  Drop dark chocolate chips into the batter – as many or as few as you would like.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes. Using a small spatula or knife, remove the cupcakes from the pan. Continue to cool on a wire rack to room temperature.

To make the frosting, melt the chopped chocolate in the top of a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl, over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.  (I just microwaved mine in a glass bowl on high for 3-4 sets of 30 seconds, stirring between sets.)  Heat the cream until hot.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate.  Transfer to a bowl and cool to just warm.  Whisk in the butter until smooth.  Let sit until it reaches a spreading consistency, about 1 hour.  Spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes.  Sprinkle them with chocolate chips.

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes.

The Results:

These were pretty simple to make.  I’m not sure if it was my egg substitute or something else, but my cupcakes ended up being pretty flat on top, with a small collapsed indent in the middle.  Now, you would think this would be disappointing… but it just made more room for the topping.

My only issue with the topping was waiting for that whole hour for the ‘frosting’ to set.  I’m also going to clarify that this really didn’t make what I’d consider a true frosting – it’s more like a thick ganache – and I am NOT complaining.  It was heavenly.

The overall flavor knocks you off your feet with chocolate (refer to warning above).  For me, it was utter perfection and exactly what I was hoping for.  I’m pretty sure, though, it’s not for everyone…

IMG_1813The cupcakes are not as rich as the topping, but they are still amazing – and the addition of some chocolate chips thrown in the batter, adds to each bite, contrasting with the lighter texture of the cake.

So, to sum up, if you LOVE chocolate (dark chocolate, that is), this will be the recipe for you.  It will definitely take you to your happy place.

(I’ve may have gone there several times this weekend… please don’t judge.  🙂  )

Key Lime Cupcakes

Our weather stayed nice for almost five days!

Five whole days of warmth, backyard play, impromptu playdates with the neighbors, gardening, and cocktails on the patio.  It was the perfect spring gift that we’d been waiting for.

And now we’re back to gray.

But I can totally deal with it now – especially since this weekend is looking good again (fingers crossed).

And I decided to make a little sunshine of my own in the kitchen, in the form of some citrus-y light cupcakes.

The Recipe:

Key Lime Cupcakes, slightly adapted from My Madison Bistro

(Makes 12-14 cupcakes.)

1 3/4 c cake flour

1/2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t  salt

1 stick butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces

1 1/4 c sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3  T  key lime juice

1 1/2 T key lime zest

2 drops green food coloring

¾ cup buttermilk, at room temperature

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

Stir the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a whisk and set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low until it’s softened a bit.  Add the sugar and increase the speed to medium.  Beat until fluffy.  Add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the lime juice, zest, and food coloring and beat until mixed.  (The mixture may look curdled.)

Add the flour in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, scraping down the bowl as necessary.  Mix on low until just combined.  Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool completely and frost with cream cheese icing.

~~~~

Icing:

1 stick butter, softened and cut into 8 pieces

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature, cut into 8 pieces

2 c powdered sugar

1 1/2 T key lime zest

Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on low until it’s softened a bit.  Increase speed to medium and add the cream cheese one piece at a time.  Reduce speed to low and slowly add powdered sugar until combined.  Beat in zest.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I know that I’m slightly ahead of the actual Key Lime season, but these cupcakes seemed like a necessary part of my week.  (Kinda like chocolate is, usually.)

I mean, how have I never made (or eaten for that matter) a lime cake/cupcake?  I have been missing out!

(And I have to also admit that I’d never actually seen a Key Lime before.  It was kind of fun working with these tiny little guys.)

The cupcakes, themselves, turned out extremely well.  They had the best texture of any cupcake I’ve made: soft, light, and perfectly balanced in flavor.

The key lime flavor was front and center – tart and sweet at once.  Then you top with the cream cheese frosting…mmm.  The added tang takes this dessert over the top.  I had to immediately send some to friends, or I knew we’d eat all of them very quickly.

I really wish the day had been a bit sunnier (or lighter) so I could’ve gotten a brighter picture – but you get the point, right?

Another cupcake winner.

Damn, I’m good.

(And humble, too.)

Funfetti Elmo Cupcakes

My baby is turning two tomorrow.

(What? How??)

That’s a big deal.

So, in honor of his love of Elmo, and his love of cupcakes (or as he calls them ‘mmm-tasty, mmm-tasties’), I put together some fun treats for his party.

The Recipe:

White Cake Funfetti Cupcakes, adapted from JoyofBaking.com

(Makes 12. I easily doubled this to make 24.)

2 large eggs

1 3/4 c cake flour, sifted

2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

1/2 c butter, at room temperature

1 c sugar, divided into 3/4 c and 1/4 c

1 t pure vanilla extract

1/2 c milk

1/8 t cream of tartar

3 T jimmies-style multi-colored sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

While eggs are still cold, separate the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl.  Cover the two bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).

In a mixing bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside. In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes).  Add 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat until light and fluffy(about 2-3 minutes).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Then, with the mixer on low-speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.  Add the sprinkles and mix well.

In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, (or with a hand mixer) beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.  With a rubber spatula gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then fold in the remaining whites until combined.  Do not over mix the batter or it will deflate.

Evenly fill the 12 muffin cups with the batter and bake for about 18 – 20 minutes or until golden browned and a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

Elmo Face Decorations

bright red frosting

mini marshmallows

orange peanut butter M&M’s

Oreos, cut in half and separated into 4 half-circles

mini chocolate chips

Using a star-shaped frosting tip, decorate the top of the cupcake.  Add one Oreo piece for mouth, two marshmallows for eyes, and an M&M for the nose.  Attach mini chocolate chips as eye-centers using a tiny dab of frosting.

The Results:

I simply am impressed.  The folding of the egg whites in at the end made such a difference.  These cupcakes are so light and buttery – I’m sure they’re going to be a big hit tomorrow.  I had to stop myself at my single sample, so that we’d have enough for the party, they’re that good.

And the sprinkles add the bright Funfetti colors throughout.  Perfect for the Sesame Street Theme I was going for.

Here they are, pre-frosting.

Now, I’m not going to lie about the decorating.  It was kind of a pain.

And I freely admit that I just bought some red frosting this time (after the Grinch Santa Hat debacle of 2011, I was not going to chance it).  It was so nice to just add the tip to the frosting tube and go.  I’m lazy, what can I say?

Anyways, frosting and decorating 24 cupcakes takes a lot of time and patience.

But they do turn out awfully cute – and I know my little one will love them.  And that’s all that matters, right?

Voila!

An Elmo to be proud of = one happy two year old.

Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes and a Birthday Recap

I had such high hopes for the birthday cupcakes.

Let’s just say they didn’t quite meet the vision in my head or my perfectionist standards (but really, the five-year olds could’ve cared less).

But this blog isn’t called Misadventures in Cooking for nothing.  (Though I admit that nowadays my successes far outweigh my semi-failures.)  We gotta have a little mess up here and there to keep it interesting.  I just wish it hadn’t happened at his birthday party…

My son was very, very adamant that he wanted mint chocolate chip cupcakes (just like the ice cream).  This fell in perfectly with my plan to have the cupcakes be an obnoxious Grinchy green color.  I discovered a small problem, though, when I went to search for a mint chocolate chip recipe – everything I could find was a chocolate cupcake with mint pieces.  He wanted a mint cupcake with chocolate chips.  In his mind (and mine) not the same thing.

I finally somewhat lucked out when I found this recipe on (of all places) Oprah.com.

The Recipes:

Vanilla-Peppermint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes, adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes on Oprah.com

3 c all-purpose flour

2 t baking powder

1/2 t coarse salt

1 c whole milk, room temperature

2 t pure vanilla extract

2 t peppermint extract

1 c (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 c sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

4 large egg whites, room temperature

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.  In a small bowl, mix together milk and extracts; set  aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy.  Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy.

Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended.  With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just  blended.  Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended.  Slowly add remaining  flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.

Fill muffin cups about 2/3 full.  Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to  25 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes.

~~~~

(Originally I used this frosting, from before, but – and I’ll explain in a minute – I had to move to the new frosting recipe below.)

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting, adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes and found on food.com

1 c butter, softened

3 1/2 c confectioners’ sugar

1 t milk

1 t peppermint extract

1/8 t salt

In a bowl combine butter, sugar and salt. Beat till blended.

Add the milk and vanilla and beat for an additional 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and creamy.

Provides frosting for a dozen cupcakes.

{Printable Recipes}

The Results:

Oh, I was so excited to make these.  I knew exactly what they were going to look like when I was done – and it was going to be fabulous.  I started out coloring the batter the exactly perfect Grinchy green.

Unfortunately, as they baked, the color faded to a barely there lime green.

But that was okay, since the wrappers were a lime green and the top was going to be covered with the bright red frosting hats… or so I thought.

I learned quickly, though, that red frosting is a very, very hard color to make.  I also learned that my frosting recipe from before (that held up nicely and made gorgeous rose shapes) wasn’t going to be my friend for this task.  Let’s just say it didn’t set at all on my cupcakes – which were completely cooled, I might add.

Yes, originally, these were stacked high swirls of hat.

Ummm, not the color or shape I was looking for.  It was getting late, so I just decided to live with it, and add the white frosting – hoping it would make it look better.  It was then that I realized that I had not saved nearly enough white frosting, so I went with the top dot of white.  (And then I had to put them in the fridge to set the frosting completely, so it didn’t continue to run off the sides like it really wanted to.)

Now, I really didn’t think they looked too bad, until the next morning, when I saw them all lined up in the box.  To be completely honest, they looked like rows of little nipple cupcakes.  Yikes!  Not appropriate for the party.

So, the morning of the party, I looked up another buttercream frosting recipe and got down to work.  I had very little powdered sugar and even less red food coloring left, so a lighter pink prevailed.  And this recipe held up SO much better than the first.

The cupcakes did look more like Santa Hats (at least the ones I could fix with the limited frosting I had).

Here was the whole display:

The roast beast sandwiches and punch were added later.

 I know they weren’t the most perfect cupcakes in the world, but as Hubs pointed out they looked exactly right for Who-cupcakes (a little odd, a little crazy, bright and colorful).  That made me feel much better.

The party itself was wonderful.  The kids enjoyed un-decorating the Grinch Tree.

Pinning the antler on Max was a hit, too.

(Orange background chosen by the birthday boy.)

I didn’t have a chance to get a picture of the Who-punch with the gummy worm ice, but it was quite tasty, too.  If you ever need a good punch recipe, I highly recommend this one from Miss Paula Deen.

And I think the kiddos enjoyed the cupcakes – I know the birthday boy did.  I was sad they got a little dried out from being in the fridge, but the overall flavor was very exceptional.  Light and minty with a rich chocolate chip crunch.  They tasted just like the ice cream.

My boy had a great time, and honestly, that’s all that mattered to me.

(And now, I think I need a long rest.  Three parties in four weeks is a lot.)

Grinchspiration

As you all know by now, my oldest is turning five.

And birthdays are a BIG deal in my family.  We kinda go all out – and it’s usually a multi-day event.

With his birthday being so close to Christmas, we really try to make it very special for him.  This year he requested a Grinch-themed party, and we were more than happy to oblige.  To find a little inspiration, I spent about several hours a little time on Pinterest searching for fun Grinchy things.

Now, the party isn’t until Saturday, so today is just a sneak peek of some of the ideas that I’m going to do my best to interpret for my boy…

Let’s start with the food (since I’m sure that’s why you usually check out my blog).

Of course we’ll have some who-pudding…and some rare who roast beast sandwiches.

To drink, we’re going to have some green punch inspired by this:

Grinch Punch Recipe

{via}

And you can’t have Grinch punch without some of these tasty ice cubes:

Pinned Image

 {via}

For dessert, I’m combining some cupcake ideas from these:

{via}

and

Pinned Image

{via}

We will be playing Pin the Antler on Max and be racing to see how fast we can un-decorate a Christmas tree.  With presents and time to eat, I’m hoping that’ll keep us occupied for the whole party.  (Because you never, never want un-occupied four and five year olds, trust me.)

The good news is, I didn’t have to pick up hardly any decorations.  With our regular Christmas decor and my mom’s Grinch-extravaganza collection (she collected Grinch stuff several year during the holidays), we’re all Grinched up.  🙂

I’m completely in prep-mode right now, so I’m hoping to be pretty much set by tomorrow night.  I’ll try to post some pictures then – if not, I will definitely get them up by Sunday.

(If I survive, of course.)

Controversial Vanilla Cupcakes with Light Cream Cheese Frosting

There’s been a big debate at preschool this year.

And it centers around food.

It turns out that many of the moms are concerned about their children eating healthy snacks at school.   Now, I can totally understand where they are coming from.  I like it when my children eat healthy, too.  But sometimes, can’t it be okay to have a little treat?

Next week is my oldest’s fifth birthday.  Since there’s no school next week, and Friday is their holiday performance, they are celebrating him on Wednesday.  Now, I’m snack person all week, and on Monday I sent a very healthy snack.  And I had planned to try to make something great and healthy for him for his birthday.

But, all he wanted is cupcakes.

I’ve tried talking him into muffins, healthy cookies, etc, but he was having none of it.  (It doesn’t help that other kids have brought cupcakes, too – which I totally understand.)  And I thought, why not.  I’ll take the backlash if it makes his day.  I know for sure that I brought in sweets for all my birthdays, and I turned out just fine, if I do say so myself.

Does that make me a bad mom?

I hope not, because it sure makes one happy birthday boy.

The Recipes:

Vanilla Cupcakes, adapted from epicurious.com

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter

1 1/2 c sugar

2 eggs

2 t pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t salt

2 1/2 c flour

1 1/4 c milk

Turn oven on to 375 degrees F.

Put butter in mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth.  Pour in sugar and beat well.  Add 2 eggs.  Mix well. Add: vanilla, baking powder, salt, flour, and milk.  Beat until incorporated and pour into individual baking cups, about 2/3 full.  Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Light Cream Cheese Frosting, adapted from food.com

4 oz unsalted butter, softened

4 oz light cream cheese, softened

2 c powdered sugar

1 t vanilla extract

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer.  With the mixer on low-speed, add the powdered sugar a cup at a time until smooth and creamy.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

My son insisted on helping out with the cupcake baking (which I adore).  His favorite part is working the KitchenAid mixer.  It makes me nervous because I just know one of these times, something bad is going to happen.

Today, though, he only turned it on super high-speed – right after I added the flour.  The whole left side of the kitchen ended up being covered in the white powder.  And he felt so bad.  I would’ve taken a picture, but I was too busy trying to make him feel better.

But I discovered something that made him feel better really fast…

A tasty spatula to lick, of course.

We finished the batter, poured into the cups, and baked away.  The sun was nice enough to show up to light up our finished bounty.

After they had cooled completely (which seemed like an eternity to Mr. Almost Five), we made the frosting.  (I was in charge of the mixer this time.  His choice.)  He insisted that the frosting be colored and really wanted orange, his favorite color.  So a light orange frosting it became.

Of course, my frosting tip connector split, so I got to frost them the old-fashioned way, with a spreader.  Not the prettiest, but perfect for my boy.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the batter only made exactly 18 cupcakes – just enough for the class and teachers, so I haven’t had the joy of tasting one of these.  I’m crossing my fingers one makes it way back home for me – because what little tastes I had of the batter and frosting were very tasty.

Now we’ll just have to see how it goes at school…

Edited to add: So far so good.  No complaints.  I also lucked out that it was my friend’s carpool day, so I didn’t even have to walk them in.  🙂  She said she didn’t get any dirty looks, so I’m crossing my fingers all is good.

Also, I did get to try one of these, and the cupcake was really good.  Not what I was expecting from my previous experiences with boxed overly-sweet vanilla cakes.  This one was very buttery with an almost crunchy crust on the tip top.  It went really well with the cream cheese frosting which my oldest and I loved.  Though, according to him, it wasn’t a big hit with the preschool set.  Oh, well.

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

You can’t celebrate a holiday without chocolate.

(At least not in my family.)

Thanksgiving, of course, was no exception.  Since I was in charge of our dessert dishes this year, I wanted to make one traditional dessert (pumpkin pie) and one that was something a little different, a little seasonal, and a whole lotta good.

And, since I am inevitably drawn to a mix of mint, chocolate, and coffee every winter, I thought this recipe sounded perfect.

(By the way, I fully blame my mom for my love of the mint mocha combination.  Ever since she gave me my first Frango Mint Mocha at Frederick & Nelson’s as a teenager, I have been hooked — and if you know what Frederick & Nelson’s is, you’re either from the great Northwest, or I am very impressed!)

The Recipes:

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes, adapted from Bakers Royale

1 c all-purpose flour

1 c plus 2 T sugar

1/3 c plus 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and warm

2 large eggs

½ t peppermint extract

1 T instant coffee

1/2 c hot coffee

3/4 c chopped peppermint Andes

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line  wells of cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Add flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a blow and mix thoroughly to combine.  Add the butter, eggs, and peppermint extract and beat on medium speed for one minute.   Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the instant coffee and the hot coffee.  Beat for 20-30 seconds until the batter is smooth.  Fold in chopped peppermint Andes.  (The batter will be thin enough to pour.)

Fill about liners about 2/3 full.  Bake 18-22 minutes – just until a toothpick inserted into a few of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Set the pan on a rack to cool.

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting, adapted from tasteofhome.com

1/4 c butter, softened

2-1/4 c confectioners’ sugar

3/4 t peppermint extract

3 T 2% milk

In a large bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve desired consistency.

Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool.  Store and serve at room temperature.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Yeah, I think these might’ve been good.

Actually, I think they might’ve been exceptionally good.  At least in my humble opinion.

Let’s see how I got there…

Peppermint Andes Mints – not as easy to find as you might think, but so worth it.

The making of the batter was not exciting at all.  The only thing that threw me for a loop was that the batter was really, really thin.  I was worried I’d done something wrong, but it just happens to be a thin batter.

I used a small ladel to fill the cupcake liners, baked them for the allotted time, and…

these gorgeous beauties came out.  I love the little peeps of pink mint poking out.

After they cooled, I made my frosting.  Again, boring!  (What are we gonna do with me??)

I had a little fun playing with the frosting tips and figuring out what I wanted the tops to look like.

 In the end, though, it didn’t really matter how spectacular they looked, because, well, they were meant for some serious eating.

And we seriously ate them.

There was a wonderful balance of coffee, mint, and chocolate – and the texture was a perfect cupcake-lightness.

I think these were a great choice to enter the holiday season with.

And I’m pretty sure they’ll show up again.

(Holiday or not.)

Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone!