Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Perfect Cupcake

Sometimes you have an idea about a certain cupcake flavor in your head but it can be difficult to find the right recipe.  I don’t yet consider myself good enough to just completely whip something up on my own like the contestants on Cupcake Wars.  Once, when I was a teenager I wanted to make microwave brownies but I didn’t have the cocoa called for in the recipe.  I (mistakenly) thought I could use hot cocoa mix instead.  Instead of gooey, chocolaty brownies I created the most foul-smelling thing to have ever come out of a microwave.  So you can see why I don’t quite trust myself to just wing it.

A friend has asked that I make Rum and Coke cupcakes for her son’s 21st birthday coming up later in the month.  Having never made them before, I wanted research some recipes and do a test batch.  I found this recipe for Cola Cake, direct from the makers of Coca Cola themselves.  I figured that would be a good place to start.  I followed the recipe exactly, and then topped the cupcakes with a basic vanilla butter cream icing that I spiked with some Gosling’s Bermuda Black Rum.

I got to have some science experiment type fun, dissolving the baking soda in the buttermilk and watching it fizz up, and I ended up with a very tasty, slightly chewy around the edges cupcake that tasted NOTHING like Coke.  : /  The icing did taste like rum at least, but I was definitely not getting the Rum and Coke vibe.  Back to the drawing board…

I found a recipe on Betty Crocker‘s website for rum cupcakes which I think I will try, and then I purchase a bottle of cola extract online which I will try to incorporate into the icing.  I have never used cola extract before so if anyone has some experience with it and can offer some advice, I’m all ears!

As you can see, in the meantime I got my Rum and Non-Coke cupcakes all gussied up for the upcoming holiday!  I hope everyone has a fun and safe 4th of July!  And here’s  just a little bit of humor for the road…

Take the Plunge!

I recently bought a cupcake plunger.  It’s a plastic doohickey that removes the center of a cupcake so it can be filled with all kinds of yummy stuff.  No, I didn’t NEED one – a knife works just as well – but it looked like it would be a fun gadget to have.  I got to use it today while I was making some orange cream cupcakes.

Why does my thumb look like it belongs to an old person?

It’s really simple.  You turn the plunger back and forth as you press it down into the cupcake, then pull up and voila!  Cupcake with a hole in the middle!

The flavor I was originally going for was orange creamsicle, so I made a marshmallow cream filling to fill my orange flavored cupcakes with.  I had NO IDEA that mixing together unsalted butter and Marshmallow Fluff could produce something so divine.

I spooned the cream into a pastry bag with the tip cut off (after I finished taste testing…I think I’m going to dip some strawberries in the leftover cream!) and filled all the cupcakes.

I didn’t bother putting the tops back on, mostly because I ate them.  : )

As I mentioned, I had been attempting a creamsicle flavor using a mix of recipes I found online.  I had to go to FIVE different stores before I found the cheesecake flavored JELLO called for in the cupcake recipe.  I probably could have saved myself the trouble (and gas!) because I’m not sure I really tasted it in the cupcake.

I guess the marshmallow cream was supposed to add to the creamsicle-y-ness, but the cupcake just did not taste like the frozen treat to me.  That’s okay though, cause it was still tasty and very cute!

America’s Next Top Cupcake
Did I mention it was tasty?

Orange Cream Cupcake Recipe from the blog Bird On A Cake.

1 package white cake mix
1 (4 serving size) package cheesecake instant pudding mix
1 (3 oz.) package orange flavored Jello
1 1/4 cups orange juice
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour batter into liners, filling each 2/3 full. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Allow to cool on a rack.  Makes 24 cupcakes.

Marshmallow Cream Filling from I Heart Cuppycakes.

1-7 oz jar of marshmallow cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature

In a large bowl, whisk the marshmallow cream and butter until smooth. Cover with plastic and chill until firm about 15-30 minutes.

Orange Buttercream adapted from recipe on I Heart Cuppycakes.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
1/8 (maybe a splash more) cup orange juice
6 cups confectioners sugar

In a stand mixer, with flat beater, beat the butter and shortening until creamy. Add half of the powdered sugar, both extracts and the orange juice. Combine. Gradually add the remaining sugar.  This made enough to frost all 24 cupcakes with some left over.

One Mudslide Cupcake, Hold the Kahlua

Last night I was making cupcakes for a birthday at the office.  I was just going to do something plain, so I grabbed a box of Devils Food cake mix and dumped all the ingredients into a mixing bowl.  It was after this that I was struck with the idea to make Mudslide cupcakes.  Not sure why, but I have had Applebee’s giant ass (because it’s huge AND contributes to one having a giant ass) Mudslides on the brain lately.

Mucho size Mudslide from Applebee's
Mucho size Mudslide from Applebee’s (Photo credit: Newbirth35)

I thought I could kick my craving with some Kahlua and Baileys cupcakes.  I didn’t want to add any more liquids to my cupcake batter because I had already put in the required water, eggs and oil so I figured I would just brush the tops of the baked cupcakes with Kahlua and then frost them with a Baileys buttercream.  I should have just gone to Applebee’s.

Don’t get me wrong, the cupcakes tasted good but apparently I should have soaked them in Kahlua rather than just brushing the tops with the booze because I tasted no Kahlua.  Any good alcoholic knows that a Mudslide contains Kahlua.  : (

I wanted this…
I got this.

Another little snafu I ran into was the icing.  I used a recipe I found online.  It called for two sticks of unsalted butter, three cups of confectioners sugar and three tablespoons of Baileys.  I went with this one because I didn’t have any more sticks of shortening, which I usually use when I make my icing.  I won’t tell you where I got the recipe from because it sucked!!  When I did my requisite taste test, all I could taste was butter with a hint of Irish Cream.  BLEH.

I added another cup of confectioners sugar and then ANOTHER.

Five cups got the job done and the finished product was pretty good; it just wasn’t what I had hoped for.  So now I have eaten a cupcake that will go straight to my thighs, and I still need to hit up Applebee’s for a Mudslide.

Piña Colada and Sweet Tea Vodka

Don’t worry, I’m not making Sweet Tea Piña Coladas.  This post is a two-fer!  First off – Piña Colada cupcakes!!

There was another birthday in the office last week.  This time I went with Piña Colada cupcakes.  I recalled an at-home jewelry demonstration where the birthday girl consumed quite a few pineapple Jell-o shots made with coconut rum, so I knew she’d love the flavor combo.

At first I considered incorporating some coconut rum into my cupcake batter, but all I had was a bottle of 90 Proof Parrot Bay.  I’ve baked using a little bit of alcohol before (made cupcakes with some Caramel Bailey’s once) but for some reason the thought of sticking 90 proof booze in a hot oven filled my head with thoughts of cupcakes on fire so I decided to skip it.

Instead, I grabbed another boxed cake mix and in place of the water I used pineapple juice.  I also folded in some crushed pineapple.  I went with my basic buttercream recipe and put in a little coconut extract.  One of my favorite parts of a Piña Colada is the little plastic sword skewered through a cherry and a chunk of pineapple, so I mirrored that on my cupcakes using a dried pineapple bit instead of fresh fruit.

I seem to recall an episode of Cupcake Wars where the baker got bashed for putting a maraschino cherry on top of her cupcakes as decoration but the judges were obviously being idiots that day.  There’s a reason the phrase “cherry on top” exists!

The balance of pineapple and coconut was perfect, and I ended up helping myself to a second one of these before the work day was done.

Cupcake Wars style

In other news that actually does involve alcohol (time for all you underage kids to go back to looking up Justin Bieber or whatever it is you do these days)… A coworker was telling me about Jeremiah Weed Sweet Tea Vodka on Friday afternoon.  I’ve heard of Sweet Tea vodka obviously, and I had seen this brand in the liquor stores but hadn’t tried it. She said that you can make a great boozy Arnold Palmer by mixing it with lemonade.

That night, I was out at a local bar/restaurant and what should be on the happy hour menu but a Jeremiah Weed Arnold Palmer for just $5?  Yup!  I had to try it and I’m glad I did!  It came out in a mason jar type glass garnished with a lemon wedge and tasted dangerously just like iced tea lemonade.  I’m not sure what the ratio of lemonade to sweet tea vodka was, so I can’t give you an exact recipe but I’m sure you won’t mind experimenting to figure it out on your own!

If I hadn’t been the chauffeur for the evening I would have doubled up on this drink the way I did on those Piña Colada cupcakes!

 

Pineapple Cupcakes

Ingredients:

White boxed cake mix and oil and eggs listed on box
8 oz can crushed pineapple
pineapple juice

Directions:

Prepare mix according to directions on box, subbing in pineapple juice for the amount of water called for.  In my case, I needed one cup of water.  I drained the juice from the crushed pineapples into a measuring cup and then used Dole pineapple juice to get the 1 cup needed.  Once you have beaten the batter for the requisite two minutes, gently fold in the crushed pineapple and bake according to the directions on the box.

For the coconut buttercream, use the same basic recipe from my Cherry Lemonade cupcakes but instead of the grenadine use 1 teaspoon of coconut extract.

 

 

Buttons (Or, Why Sometimes Boxed Is Better)

I have been tasked with making cupcakes for a coworker’s 60th birthday celebration tomorrow.  At first I was thinking of making the Snickerdoodle cupcakes I posted about in Cupcakes Taste Better Than Gasoline, but then I decided I wanted to try something new – something light and fruity for spring.  I did my usual internet perusal and found a recipe for lemon cupcakes made with light coconut milk.  Sounds tasty, right?

Since I always like to be cautious, I baked them last night.  This way, if they didn’t turn out as hoped I still had tonight to make a new batch.  Good thing.  They were…weird.  Perhaps it was the light coconut milk?  I’ve cooked with it, but never baked with it before.  The batter was made from scratch, and that was the only thing in it that wasn’t normal for a cupcake…  Whatever it was, I knew that recipe was not a keeper.

So today I regrouped with a good old-fashioned lemon boxed cake mix.  Easy peasy, trusted results!  I put lemon batter in, I got lemon cupcakes out!  I did try a little experiment with the frosting – I decided to make a cherry flavored buttercream.  It may very well be the best thing I have ever created.  I had a decent amount left after frosting the cupcakes.  I didn’t want to wash it down the sink but I knew that if I put it in a container in the fridge that I would end up gorging myself on it at some point later in the evening.  I did eat a giant blob of it before disposing of the rest. 😛

So, lemon cake + cherry frosting = Cherry Lemonade Cupcakes!  I got a bag of colorful buttons from the local craft store to use as decoration because the birthday girl loves to sew.  Hopefully people can control themselves long enough to remove the buttons before diving into one of these babies…

Cherry Lemonade Cupcakes

Lemon Cupcakes

Box of lemon cake mix and ingredients listed on box.

Cherry Buttercream (adapted from Butter Cream Frosting II on allrecipes.com)

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons grenadine

Directions

Make cupcakes according to directions on box.  Let cool completely.

For frosting, cream butter and shortening in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add all other ingredients and beat well.

I like to put a lot of icing on my cupcakes, so if you’re going to do it my way make two batches of icing to decorate 24 cupcakes.

Foghat, Thunderbirds and a First Birthday

In January my friend’s son had his first birthday.  I made the cake, cupcakes and cookie favors.  I will share some pics of those with you shortly, but first some other firsts…

The first time I laid eyes on my all time favorite stuffed animal, my Bedtime Bear Care Bear..

Can you see the love?

I was 4.  I am now 32. I cannot sleep without that bear under my arm.

My first time operating heavy machinery…

My first pet, our dog Britt…

He was awesome.  He loved pizza crusts.  He would beg for one, we would oblige, he would run with it into another room and then run back to beg for another.  We figured he was scarfing them down but he was actually depositing them into a pile behind my dad’s recliner.

My first car was a 1986 Ford Thunderbird.  For some reason it was dubbed the Thunderchicken.  For some other reason, I don’t seem to have any pictures of it.

My first concert…No, it wasn’t New Kids on the Block or Debbie Gibson (although my first ever perfume was Electric Youth).  My first concert was the WDRE Fest – June 2, 1996.  Here was the lineup: No Doubt, 311, Filter, Toadies, Cracker, Fishbone, Gravity Kills, The Nixons, God Lives Underwater and Spin Doctors.  I’d say that was a damn good first concert.  My first “classic rock” show (At the time, this referenced music from the 60’s and 70’s.  Apparently now classic rock includes bands that I grew up listening to, like Bon Jovi, which means I am officially old)  followed two months later.

I was sixteen and I went with my mom.  The bands were Iron Butterfly and Foghat.  I watched women with a good ten years on my mother, women who looked like they could have been my teachers at school, screaming like teenagers and rushing the stage trying to grab the drummer from Foghat’s ass.  It was a good time.

The first time I was a bridesmaid (sharing this one because I LOVED my hair!)…

First time I ever saw the Pacific Ocean…

There are some firsts that thankfully went undocumented… The first time I threw up from drinking too much (Mad Dog 20/20 Orange – it will never again pass my lips),  the first time I was called Ma’am, the first (and only) time I watched the movie Twilight (I still have nightmares about the bad acting…”Your hand, it’s so cold!”).

Then there was the little man’s first birthday.  It was my first time making a crown shaped cake!  They had chosen a prince theme so I also made cupcakes with blue chocolate crowns on top and of course, I made #1 cookies.

AJ has many, many firsts ahead and despite my ever advancing age, hopefully I do too!

Cupcakes Taste Better Than Gasoline

Exactly how does one become addicted to drinking gasoline?!?!???  I’m watching My Strange Addiction on TLC and I am completely baffled.  “I liked the way it smelled, so I decided to drink it… It didn’t taste good.”  No, really?!  Yet somehow now this chick is addicted to doing daily shots of the stuff.

I like the smell of some weird things.  Elmer’s Rubber Cement and Play-Doh (check out Play-Doh Cologne!!) to name a few.

Rubber Cement suicide
Rubber Cement suicide (Photo credit: Chapendra)

I don’t eat them though!! Okay, so ONE time in elementary school I licked a smelly marker – who hasn’t done that?  Point is – I didn’t do it AGAIN!  I don’t need to become a member of Marker Lickers Anonymous.  I need to know – how does trying something once and NOT liking it lead to becoming addicted to it?  More importantly, where does TLC find these people?!

Sigh.

Here’s one of my addictions…

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes!!  You can get the recipe I used here.  I bought a package of Pepperidge Farm Snickerdoodle cookies and cut into triangles for the decoration.  This has to be one of the most delicious cupcake recipes ever, and it uses boxed cake mix so it’s super easy!

If you ever get the urge to drink some gasoline, try one of these instead.