Eggnog Cupcakes


Eggnog seems to be one of those polarizing things.  You either love it or you hate it.  After spending most of my childhood on the fence and feeling unsure, I now definitely love it.  I mean, not so much I drink glasses and glasses of it, but enough that I look forward to enjoying it during the holidays.  I also look forward to finding other ways to use it, particularly in baked goods.  These cupcakes are not new to the blog, but this year I decided to revamp them slightly and make a sturdier frosting to top them.  If you are in the “yea eggnog” camp, you will like these cupcakes.  The cake is light and fluffy, and the creamy eggnog frosting is the perfect compliment.  I’m really happy with the updated version and thought I would share for those of you who can’t get enough of this seasonal treat!

Side note – Today’s holiday giveaway is a year’s subscription to either Cook’s Illustrated or Cook’s Illustrated Entertaining – your pick!  See the Facebook page to enter.  Details will be posted before 7 am.  Good luck!


Eggnog Cupcakes
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Yield: about 18-20 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
¼ cup dark rum or bourbon (optional)
1 cup eggnog
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

For the frosting:
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2½ tbsp. eggnog
1 tbsp. dark rum (0ptional)

For garnish:
Ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, vinegar, and sugar.  Beat on medium-low speed until well blended.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling the cups 2/3 full.  Bake 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 20-30 seconds.  Add in the powdered sugar, salt and nutmeg, and mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and smooth, about 1 minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add in the eggnog and  whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 minutes.  With the mixer on medium-low speed, blend in the rum.

Fill a pastry bag with the frosting and decorate the cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip for these cupcakes). Sprinkle with ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg, and garnish with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Source: cupcakes adapted from Baking Bites, frosting adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

I still can’t believe that I used to think I didn’t like snickerdoodles.  I guess they just weren’t snazzy enough for me as a kid when sitting in a bakery case next to a double chocolate or M&M cookie, or even better a giant Rice Krispie treat.  Now that I’ve come to my senses snickerdoodles are definitely a favorite of mine.  Certainly one of the best things about them is the amazing scent that fills the house while they are baking.  These snickerdoodle cupcakes were a coworker’s birthday request and I was thrilled to have a reason to make them.  This is a fluffy cinnamon cupcake topped with seven-minute frosting and garnished with cinnamon-sugar and mini snickerdoodles.  Overall these were wonderful and really did have the flavor of a snickerdoodle.  I think next time I would consider topping them with a regular vanilla buttercream instead of the seven-minute frosting, but otherwise I was happy with the end result.  It also might be fun to hide another mini snickerdoodle underneath the frosting, to add even more of that snickerdoodle flavor.  Yum!

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
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Yield: about 28 cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups cake flour, sifted
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¾ cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups milk

For the frosting:
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar, divided
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
3 large egg whites, at room temperature

For garnish:
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. sugar
Mini snickerdoodles*

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Combine the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl; whisk to combine.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pans about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup in a saucepan with a candy thermometer clipped to the side.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally so the sugar dissolves.  Continue boiling without stirring until the temperature reaches 230° F.

In the meantime, while the sugar mixture is heating, beat the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium-high speed until medium-soft peaks form.  As soon as the sugar mixture reaches 230° F, remove the pan from the heat.  With the mixer on medium-low, pour the syrup down the side of the bowl in a slow steady stream until it has all been added to the bowl.  Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and whisk until the bottom of the bowl is completely cool to the touch and stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.  Use immediately.

Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired.  (I used an Ateco tip #829 to frost these cupcakes.) In a small bowl, whisk together the ground cinnamon and sugar.  Sprinkle a pinch of the cinnamon-sugar on top of each frosted cupcake.  Garnish with mini snickerdoodles.

*To make the mini snickerdoodles, I used a half recipe of regular snickerdoodles (and didn’t even use all of the dough) and rolled the dough into tiny balls, about ¾-inch diameter.  I reduced the baking time to about 8-10 minutes.

Source: Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes

Triple Butterscotch Cupcakes


These cupcakes are not for the faint of heart.  If you like butterscotch, you’ll like these a lot, but if you’re one of those that often finds desserts to be “too rich”, run away and don’t look back.  This is a true butterscotch lover’s dream – butterscotch flavored cake, frosting and drizzle.  I am definitely a major lover of butterscotch, and I have quite a few friends who feel the same way.  Add butterscotch to a baked good and I’m bound to try it eventually.  One of my coworkers also falls into the butterscotch lover group, and triple butterscotch cupcakes were her choice a couple of weeks ago.  Excellent choice, if I do say so myself.  I had been dying for someone to choose these.


The original recipe is for a triple layer cake.  I have now adapted it just slightly to yield cupcakes and an appropriate amount of frosting.  The frosting is definitely the richest part about these cupcakes so go easy when applying it.  I tried to use a lighter hand than normal and I still thought it was a little overwhelming.  It may be a bit too runny for piping just after mixing, so try chilling it in the refrigerator for a little while before proceeding – I think I chilled mine for about 30-45 minutes.  Now I have a squeeze bottle with lots of left over butterscotch sauce in the fridge.  Oh, the possibilities…

Triple Butterscotch Cupcakes
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Yield:
about 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
15 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1¾ plus 2 tbsp. dark brown sugar, lightly packed*
1½ tbsp. canola oil
3 large eggs
1½ tbsp. dark rum
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. sour cream

For the frosting:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
½ cup heavy cream
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. dark rum
1-1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

For the butterscotch sauce:
6 tbsp. dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. butter
¼ cup light corn syrup
Pinch coarse salt
¼ cup heavy cream

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and brown sugar and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the oil until well combined.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the rum and vanilla.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to blend.  With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat just until incorporated.  Blend in the sour cream.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients, again mixing just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared liners.  Bake 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it turns deep golden brown and fragrant, about 6-9 minutes.  Add the brown sugar, cream and salt, whisking thoroughly until the sugar dissolves.  Bring the mixture to a boil and continue boiling, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until the bowl feels cool to the touch, about 8-10 minutes.  Blend in the rum.  With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining butter 1 tablespoon at a time until each addition has been incorporated.  Continue beating until smooth and creamy.  Blend in the sifted confectioners’ sugar.  If the frosting is not firm enough for piping, cover and chill for 30-60 minutes until the consistency is correct for frosting.  Pipe onto cooled cupcakes as desired.

To make the butterscotch sauce, combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves.  Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove the mixture from the heat and gradually whisk in the heavy cream (be careful, as the mixture may bubble up!)  Return the saucepan to the heat and cook for 2 minutes more.  Remove from the heat and let cool until room temperature.  Drizzle the cooled sauce over the frosted cupcakes.

*Note: I don’t routinely keep dark brown sugar on hand, and don’t like to buy it just for one recipe here and there.  You can get the same effect by using an equal amount of light brown sugar plus 1 tablespoon of molasses per cup.  Works for me!

Source: adapted from Peanut Butter and Julie

Monster Cupcakes

These aren’t the scariest Halloween treat, but they were so cute I just couldn’t resist making them for our pumpkin carving party this past weekend.  Cupcakes disguised as colorful furballs with crazy eyes?  I love it!  The kid in me had a wonderful time putting these together, so I can only imagine how what a fun project these would be to make with kids helping.  They may look complicated, but these are one of the easiest decorative cupcake designs I have tried.  There is so much room for creativity – different colors and textures of the “hair”, different colored candies for the eyeballs, adding optional noses, maybe adding some antennae…the  possibilities are endless.

Monster Cupcakes
What you’ll need:
Standard size cupcakes in colored liners (any flavor)
Equal number of mini cupcakes, liners removed (any flavor)
Vanilla (or other white) frosting (I used easy vanilla buttercream)
Icing colors
Piping bags fitted with desired decorative tips
Small round lollipops (such as Dum Dums)
Gummy peach or green apple slices
Small round candy-coated chocolates (such as M&Ms)

Start out by baking your desired flavor of standard size cupcake in colored paper liners.  (I like the look of the monochromatic monster so I went for solid liners.)

Pipe or spoon a small blob of frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes.

Place a mini cupcake upside down on top of each standard cupcake, using the the frosting to help them adhere.

Fit piping bags with decorative tips that will achieve whatever sort of “hair” you want your monster to have.   Divide your frosting into small bowls and tint with icing color to match the colored cupcake liners.  Fill the piping bags.

Go to town covering the cupcake in frosting hair.  (I used a Wilton #3 tip for the purple guys.) 

Note: If you are using a buttercream type frosting, particularly homemade, the heat from your hand can melt the frosting slightly if you are holding the piping bag for a long time.  If you notice this happening, just pop it into the fridge and let it firm up again before continuing.  Work with another color in the meantime, if you are making more than one shade.

Repeat with the other cupcake colors.  (Wilton tip #352 here.)

(Wilton #21 tip, I think.)

If you want the centers of the eyes of each monster to be the same color, match up your lollipops by flavor.  (By the way, there are a lot of weird flavors of Dum Dums!)

Fit a gummy peach or apple slice around each lollipop.  Pipe a small dab of frosting onto the front of each sucker.  Place an M&M on each as a pupil, using the frosting to adhere.  (Side note: I looked at two stores before I found the gummy peach slices, and never found the apple flavor.  What is up with that?!  I love gummy peach slices!)

Insert the lollipop sticks into the top of each cupcake so that they look like crazy awesome eyeballs.
Voila!

These are some cute and tasty furballs.

Source: What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson

Butterfinger Cupcakes


Trick or treating was like, a mega big deal for me.  My friends and I took it pretty seriously.  We used pillow cases to carry our candy because none of the cutesy little buckets were large enough for our haul.  We weighed our loot at the end of the evening – I believe once I had nearly 10 pounds!  When we all got home, my brothers and I would set out our candy and begin the very serious business of candy trading.  I would divide my candy into categories – mini candy bars,the few good fruity candies (Starburst, Nerds, etc.), the gummy types (Dots, Mike and Ikes, and other yucks), and always that sorry miscellaneous pile that includes the mysterious black-and-orange wrapped awful chewy things.  Once in categories, I then divided things up further into even stacks of each individual type of candy. When I was younger I weirdly did not like Reese cups, and those were as good as money in the candy trade.  One of my favorite things to trade for?  Butterfingers, baby.

When my fabulous friend and coworker Shanon mentioned Butterfinger as a potential cupcake flavor for her birthday, I was all over it.  I browsed a few ideas around the interwebs but nothing struck me as “the one”.  I knew that I definitely wanted the candy bar to be the shining star here, with the cake and frosting complimenting but not overpowering it.  I toyed with the idea of chopping up the bars and adding them to the cake batter, but then they would lose crispiness which is one of the best things about Butterfingers.  Eventually I opted for a banana cupcake base since banana and peanut butter are such a classic pair.  (I think they would also be good with a basic vanilla cupcake base.)  These particular cupcakes bake up with flat tops, so I cut fun-size Butterfinger bars in half and placed one half on top of each cupcake.  Then I covered them with my favorite peanut butter frosting (ohmygoshiloveit) and finished off with more crumbled candy bars.  The result was perfect.  I absolutely loved the surprise of the candy bar hiding under the frosting, and the overall balance of the flavors was just right with Butterfingers as the star.  I hope someone asks for them again soon!

Note: Some of the measurements in the cupcake recipe may seem a bit odd, but I made a 2/3 batch of my favorite banana cupcakes which made for some funny math.  But, it also made the exact number of cupcakes I wanted (24).  If this bothers you, make the full recipe as in the link above with additional frosting and extra candy bars.

Butterfinger Cupcakes
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Yield: 24 cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar
4 eggs
Scant 1 cup mashed ripe banana
2/3 cup buttermilk
12 fun size Butterfinger bars, cut in half

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
½ cup creamy peanut butter
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

For garnish:
4 fun size Butterfinger bars, coarsely chopped

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium low and add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in the mashed banana until well combined.  With the mixer on low speed alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 to ¾ full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth and well blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy.

To assemble the cupcakes, place a candy bar half on top of each cooled cupcake.  Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip and pipe onto the cupcakes, covering the candy bar completely.  (I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.) Sprinkle with chopped candy bars for garnish.

Source: cake adapted from Half Baked via Blake Makes, frosting adapted from Proceed with Caution, originally from Good Housekeeping

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes


Warning: it’s going to get all Halloween-y around here next week.  This is a little preview.  I am a total sucker for Halloween stuff.  Normally various holiday displays at stores don’t have quite such an effect on me, but make it orange, black and maybe purple, and I’m all over it.  Which is exactly how I ended up with one of those giant containers of various Halloween sprinkles and sugars.  Really, I could browse the Halloween aisles forever.

I first made these pumpkin cupcakes a few years back and they have been my staple recipe ever since.  The cake is light and tender, with the perfect balance of pumpkin and fall spices.  I have made them with white chocolate cream cheese frosting before but I think I prefer them this way, with just a thin spread of classic cream cheese frosting so the cake is really the star.  I most recently made these as a coworker birthday request and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to use up some of the fun sugars and sprinkles.  Just about 15 more Halloweens and then I’ll be ready to buy another enormous jar.

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes
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Yield: about 24-30 cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
4 large eggs

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract (I prefer clear)
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  With the mixture on low speed, add the flour mixture in two additions, mixing just until incorporated.

Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full.  Bake until the cupcakes are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.  Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: Williams Sonoma, frosting adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Hello Kitty Cupcakes


How cute are these?!  You are probably thinking I made them for a little girl’s birthday party, but these were actually a coworker request.  Colleague birthdays provide the perfect opportunity for me to have fun baking, try new recipes and share sweet treats with others.  Nearly all the time, they choose a favorite cake/frosting flavor but this time my coworker mentioned that she is a huge fan of Hello Kitty and asked if I could incorporate that into a cupcake.  Sure, why not?!  She did request a chocolate cupcake as the base, so I started brainstorming and went to work.


I used my favorite chocolate cupcake (just the cake portion of the chocolate whiskey cupcakes).  These are my favorite based on flavor and texture, but incidentally they were especially perfect for this purpose because they bake up with flat tops.  I used pink-tinted vanilla buttercream to frost the cupcakes.  Then I used homemade fondant to make the kitty shapes.  Since I couldn’t find a good Hello Kitty cookie cutter anywhere (and it probably wouldn’t have been the right size anyway), I just found a picture via Google, sketched it out on a piece of card stock, and traced around it with a very sharp knife to make the fondant shapes.  You could, of course, just print an image and use that as a template, but we don’t have a (functioning) printer at home.  Finally, I used black and pink royal icing to do the detailing of the eyes, noses, whiskers and bows.  These would be so much fun to make for any little kid who loves Hello Kitty, and would also be a great project to work on together!