Monkey Themed First Birthday!

When my friend Kristin asked me to make cupcakes for her son Micah’s first birthday of course I was super excited about it!  My cupcakes were going to be the first sugar baby Micah would get to eat!  Then, when she decided on a jungle theme for the party and asked if I could make monkey cupcakes, I was even more excited.  I had the perfect cupcakes that I had pinned oh so long ago and I knew they’d be great for this occasion.

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Kristin and I decided on half chocolate cupcakes and half banana chocolate chip cupcakes because, well, how cute is it to have banana flavored cupcakes that look like monkeys??  I went with one bowl chocolate cupcakes since they are my ultimate favorite chocolate cupcake recipe.  They always come out perfectly, it’s a no fail recipe if you’re looking for a good chocolate cupcake.  And for an extra bonus, you only have to use one bowl so less to clean!

monkey

For the banana chocolate chip cupcakes I went with a recipe I had made very early on in starting my blog.  But instead of the butter, I used canola oil since I think it makes for a moister cupcake.  I also used about half the amount of chocolate chips because I didn’t want them to be too chocolatey.  Blasphemy, I know.  But I figured since I was making chocolate cupcakes already and both kinds were going to have chocolate frosting, I didn’t want to go too crazy.

monkey 2

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Decorating the cupcakes were super easy.  I just used large and mini Nilla Wafers for the face and ears.  It did become a little ridiculous when I decided to pipe little white chocolate rounds for the eyes.  After I had piped about a hundred of them I realized that I had basically made white chocolate chips.  It would have been a lot easier had I made them but what can you do.  The last step is to use black gel frosting to pipe on the eyes, nose, and mouth.  I liked positioning the eyes differently so that the monkeys look like they have different expressions.  Some silly and some serious.  I’m not going to lie, I like my cupcakes better than the original ones I pinned!

The monkeys definitely fit in with the jungle theme of Micah’s birthday and he had a huge monkey balloon tied to his highchair so it was perfect!  Can I tell you how chillaxed little Micah is?  I mean that boy almost never stops smiling.  And it’s so adorable how he loves driving his little car around with his arm hanging out the window.  Parents hide your daughters!

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IMG_2410 I’m pretty sure he enjoyed the cupcakes as you can see from the picture.  He seemed a little reluctant at first and unsure but once he got a taste, he really dug right in.  I was so happy to see that mess all over him but I don’t think it was as exciting for mom and dad to clean up!  Micah definitely had a good birthday and we loved celebrating with  him!

Cake Decorating Class: Part II

Week two of cake decorating class was all about frosting flowers and fondant.  It was definitely more successful that the first week but I think that’s because working with fondant is like working with play-doh.  It’s super easy to roll out and cut shapes from it that look like they took a lot of work.

Just looking at the flowers and the butterflies seems super impressive but I pretty much used cookie cutters to make the shapes.  I think I’m going to have to start using some fondant decorations on my cupcakes to really up the wow factor of them.  cupcake

Frosting flowers on the other hand aren’t quite as easy as fondant.  They definitely require a bit more skill to get the frosting to do what you want it to do.  And did you know that you have to make those roses on a wooden dowel sharpened like a pencil and then transfer them to the cake on a pair of scissors?!?  I didn’t and it’s definitely as hard as it sounds to make the transfer.

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Excuse the blurry picture from my phone but there’s my cake complete with roses and lily of the valley (which was much easier than the roses).  I had originally just had the roses and pipped pink dots all over it but when I saw the lily of the valley I had to try it.  So I scrapped all the pink dots off for the lily (you can see the remnants of the pink dots smudged into the white frosting).

Stay tuned for the final installment of cake decorating class!  I really think I improved by the third class!

Making the Move to WordPress.org

I’ve been wanting a blog makeover for some time now with a cute customized page and less clutter than what I have now.  I only just recently realized that in order to do this I’m going to have to move WordPress sites from a  .COM to a .ORG.  Apparently on WordPress.org you have a lot more control over your site since it’s self hosted.  Who knew?  Well probably a lot of people knew but I’m not one of them.

I’m excited to move over and have more control over my blog but there’s one problem, I can only transfer over email followers.  So that means those of you who are following through being a WordPress.com user are going to get lost.  And that’s why I’m putting this post out there so that if you want to continue to follow me you can do so by email, Bloglovin, or on Facebook all on the right hand side of the page!  I hope you all continue to follow and look for a new design hopefully to come in the next month!

Cranberry Orange Cupcakes

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching…seriously, where did November go?  I wasn’t planning on necessarily making any Thanksgiving cupcakes but we were having a potluck at work so of course I was going to bring cupcakes.  Knowing that someone was already bringing a pumpkin dessert…pumpkin cheesecake which was amazing!…I started racking my brain for something that would be Thanksgivingish.  Cranberries!  And orange with cranberry is a match mead in heaven!

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For Cupcakes

Makes 24

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • zest and juice of one orange
  • 2 cups fresh cranberries tossed with 1 Tbsp. flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake tins with 24 liners.
  2. Beat eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Add in sugar and mix until well incorporated and light yellow in color.
  3. Add in oil and make sure to mix until well incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda.  Slowly add into the egg, sugar, and oil mixture and alternate with the milk until well combined.  Then add in orange juice and zest and mix well.
  5. Gently fold in fresh cranberries.
  6. Divide batter among the cupcake liners and bake for 23-25 minutes or until golden brown and the tops are springy to the touch.

Cranberry orange

For Frosting

  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 8 oz. of 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Mix together butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer
  2. Add in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed
  3. Mix in vanilla extract until smooth

Cranberry orange

The bitterness of the cranberries mostly cooks out but gives it enough flavor to pair nicely with the sweetness of the batter and the orange.  This cupcake pairs very nicely with the  mostly neutral flavor of the cream cheese frosting.  But I did consider making a spiced version of the frosting with cinnamon and a bit of ginger which would probably go well.  Whatever you choose for the frosting, these will make a great end to a Thanksgiving or holiday meal.

Happy Halloween!

 CupcakeHappy Halloween to all!  I didn’t get a chance to carve pumpkins this year but the picture above is from a friend’s pumpkin carving contest last year.  Can you guess which one is mine??  I’m sure it’s pretty obvious.  And I won the contest!

I’m not making any cupcakes this year for Halloween but came across these cute ones from Bakerella:

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Maybe next year I’ll have to try out some of these decorations.  The pumpkins and spider webs are particularly cute!

I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween!

Pear Spice Cupcakes with Honey Mascarpone Frosting

FallFall is the best time of year.  It’s finally cool and no longer humid, boot wearing weather!  Plus it’s leaf peeping time!  Looking at the beautiful colors of the fall is one of the few times that I love the weather in New England.  

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Going apple picking is one of my favorite fall activities.  If you spend any time on Pinterest you know that apples and pumpkins get all the credit in the fall recipe arena.  The apple and pumpkin definitely dominate most of the recipes you see at this time of the year.  But everyone forgets that fall is also pear season!  I love pear picking just as much as apple picking.  Plus pear recipes at this time of year seem so much more unique than an apple or pumpkin recipe.

For Cupcakes

[Inspired by Annie Eats]

Makes 16 cupcakesPear spice

  • 3 medium pears peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar plus 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1 and 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
  • Dash of ginger
  • Dash of nutmeg
  • 2 Tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. salt
  • 1 Tsp. vanilla bean paste (found on Amazon)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  1. Heat oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of water in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the pears, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook mixture until the pears are fork tender, about 7-8 minutes.  Set pear mixture aside.
  3.  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. In a separate bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light in color.
  5. Add eggs one at a time and mix to combine.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl if needed.
  6. Add in half of the flour mixture into the sugar, butter, and egg mixture and mix to combine.  Add in half of the milk.  Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and milk until all ingredients are combined.
  7. Fold in cooked pears until well combined in the batter.
  8. Divide batter among the cupcake pans and cook the cupcakes for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For FrostingPear spice

  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. milk (as necessary)
  1. Cream together butter and mascarpone cheese until combined.  Add in honey.
  2. Add in powdered sugar one cup at a time until well combined.
  3. If the mixture is too thick, add in a little bit of milk at a time until you get your desired consistency.
  4. Frost cupcakes.

These cupcakes taste like a bite of fall!  The pears make it so these cupcakes almost can’t dry out.  I had one when they were fresh and one from the freezer a week later and they tasted just as good as the first day.  The honey mascarpone frosting is pretty sweet but the actual cupcake isn’t super sugary so it balances out when you eat them together.  I brought these cupcakes into work and someone told me the cupcakes reminded her of her childhood.  She couldn’t quite pin point why but I’m going to assume that is a good thing!

Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

My mom is a big fan of key lime pie.  And I don’t blame her, a buttery graham cracker crust with a tart lime Key Limefilling, and soft whipped cream on top.  There’s a lot to like there if you make it right.  This year I wasn’t going to be able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom so I decided to drive down to Connecticut the weekend before for a surprise Mother’s Day celebration.  On a side note, you can see how overdue this post is since I’m talking about something that happened in May.  Since we weren’t going to be spending actual Mother’s Day together I wanted to make her some special key lime cupcakes based on one of her favorite desserts.

For Cupcakes

[Inspired by Annie Eats]

Makes about 18 cupcakes

  • 1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 5  Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 16 tbsp. (1 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • Zest and juice of 4 key limes
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1¾ cups milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Key Lime

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake tins with 18 liners.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter; mix well with a fork.
  3. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture in the bottom of each cupcake liner and press down to line the bottom..
  4. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, and maintain the oven temperature.
  5. For the cupcake batter , combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
  6. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.
  7. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.  Add in the lime zest.
  8. Add the sugar to the butter mixture, ¼ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
  9. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.
  10. Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full.  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

For Filling

  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
  • Zest of 6-8 key limes
  • 4 tbsp.  unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
  1. In a saucepan, combine the eggs and sugar.  Whisk together until well blended.
  2. Whisk in the key lime juice.
  3. Place the pan over medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring or whisking constantly, until the mixture is warmed through.  Be careful not to heat the mixture too quickly to avoid curdling the eggs.
  4. Whisk in the butter a little bit at a time, stirring in each addition until completely incorporated before adding more.  Continue to cook, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens and a spoon or spatula leaves a path when drawn through it.
  5. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and pass the mixture through a fine mesh strainer.
  6. Cut holes in the center of your cupcakes and spoon or pipe in filling until it reaches the top of the cupcake.

For FrostingKey Lime

  • 1 Tsp. unflavored gelatin
  • 1 Tbsp.cold water
  • 1 cup cold heavy or whipping cream
  • 3 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small dish and let sit for a few minutes until the gelatin absorbs the water.
  2. Microwave the gelatin for about 30 seconds at high heat.  The gelatin will be clear and melted.
  3. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the cream until it gets thick and starts to form peaks.
  4. Gradually add in your sugar.
  5. Mix in the melted gelatin and water mixture into the whipped cream.
  6. Add in vanilla and mix well.
  7. Pipe a ring of whipped cream frosting around the outer edge of the key lime cupcake so that you can see the lime filling in the center of the cupcake.

Key LimeThese cupcakes taste almost exactly like a slice of key lime pie!  I had seen other recipes that were just key lime flavored but I think the graham cracker crust on the bottom of these really gives them the essence of the pie.  They are tart and sweet with a little bit of crunch from the crust on the bottom.  I think my mom was very happy with her special Mother’s Day cupcakes.