Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pretzel M&M Cake






It's pretty clear why Pinterest has quickly become my new favorite site. It's a watering hole for creative minds, with inspirational photos ranging from food and drinks, to weddings, fashion and great reads. Pinterest lets users create virtual pinboards to organize and share unique ideas which they find on the web. Browsing pinboards lets you find users with common interests, enabling you to connect with users all over the world.

Last week, I came across this fun and creative cake idea originally pinned by Plaidpoppy onto Kid food. Anytime you combine candy and cake together, it is sure to result in yummy goodness! The idea was so cute, I couldn't wait to try my own version of it! With a few minor adaptions, my attempt was a success and a piece of cake to make!

For the Cake:

I took the easy way out this time and resorted to using a box mix. You can adapt this by using any of your favorite cake recipes, but I opted for the Pillsbury Funfetti mix to compliment the color of the M&Ms.

Follow the directions on the back of the box and pour the mixture into two 8 inch round pans. Bake according to directions and let cool completely. Place cakes in the freezer for one to two hours to make frosting easier. While cakes are in the freezer, start making the chocolate covered pretzels. The original version of this cake uses KitKat bars instead of chocolate covered pretzels. However, I was working on a budget and found the KitKat bars to be quite costly.
I used the Utz Country Rod Pretzels and they were the perfect size! Dip the top half into melted chocolate and place on a baking sheet covered with wax paper. It took about 42 pretzels to completely encircle the cake. Place chocolate covered pretzels in the freezer for 30 minutes or until chocolate has completely hardened.

Frost the cake with your favorite icing recipe. I used a simple buttercream. Next, Place the chocolate covered pretzels along the outside of the cake, gently pushing into the frosting to secure. Using a colorful or satin ribbon, tie a bow around the outside of the cake. This will help hold the pretzels or KitKat bars in place. Fill the top of the cake with Pretzel M&Ms (about 1 large bag). To show off the beauty of this cake, I recommend placing on a crystal or clear cake stand for presentation. I used my Kate Spade Larabee Dot cake plate, perched on top a colorful crystal bowl.

This cuteness of this cake is sure to please your guests, while the sweet and crunchy flavor will melt in their mouth.



Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blueberry Lemon Scented Cupcakes with Mixed Berry Frosting





If you haven't picked up the September issue of SELF magazine yet, you must do so! This issue is filled with articles to help you build a better, healthier, happier YOU! Their feature article this month is titled The #1 Way to Erase 8 Pounds. With my diet at a stagnant plateau for the past month, this headline had me at hello!

After taking the quiz, it was concluded that I was a Bootcamp Style fit personality. After glancing over the doable diet, I made my menu plan for the week and headed off to the market for some fresh vegetables and produce. And I had hit the jackpot....The Fresh Market had blueberries on sale this week 3 pints for $10! So I stocked up and packed my cart full of berries. After following the diet for two days to a T, I only had one problem...I was left ravenous!! I knew I wasn't eating enough calories for what I was burning off at the gym, so later that night, I decided I needed to whip up a little treat for myself :)

With an obnoxious supply of blueberries from my splurge at The Fresh Market, I thought I would throw together some Blueberry Cupcakes. I found a great recipe on MyRecipes.com that featured a Blueberry Cupcake with a hint of Lemon zest in the base. I paired that with a buttercream recipe from Wilton's, adapted by omitting the butter and adding the simmered blueberry juice. The combination resulted in a decadent bite of berry bliss. Light, refreshing and not overly sweet.

For more details and baking instructions, follow the recipes listed below.

For the Cupcakes


  • 1/2 cups (about 6 3/4 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
  • 10 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed
  • (Fresh blueberries have an extra burst of antioxidant advantages compared to frozen)


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Place 12 decorative paper muffin cup liners into muffin cups.
  • Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine melted butter and egg in another large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk, milk, and 1 teaspoon rind to butter mixture; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Add blueberries with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold blueberries into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
For the Frosting

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening (1/2 cup additional if omitting butter)
1/2 cup butter softened
1 tsp clear vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioner's sugar
2 tablespoons of milk

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

In a small sauce pan over low to medium heat, heat 3/4 cup blueberries or mixed berries combined with 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Continue to heat until blueberries burst and juice starts to lightly boil. Cool slightly and fold into icing.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Tropical Luau Cupcakes with Orange Cream Icing






Can't make it to the beach this summer? You can still have a bit of tropical fun right in your own back yard by hosting your very own poolside luau. Suitable for just about any occasion, a luau is the creme de la creme of summertime festivities. Hawaiian shirts, raffia skirts, tropical flowers, all provide a colorful and vibrant atmosphere for guests to kick back and let loose while envisioning themselves on a tropical island. Traditional Hawaiian Luaus include a feast of foods consisting of ham, teriyaki dishes, and an explosion of citrus flavors like pineapple, orange and mango. Consider incorporating these flavors into desserts such as a Tropical Luau Cupcakes.

I stumbled upon a recipe on TLC Cooking for these cupcakes last summer when I was hosting my very own backyard bbq. After receiving glowing reviews, it has become my signature summertime staple for all outdoor picnics. On occasion, I adapt the recipe to include a bit of Parrot Bay Pineapple Rum which slightly kicks up the pineapple flavor in the cake base for a bit of added deliciousness. Most recently, I incorporated the leftover buttercream I had from my Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes which provided an extra burst of citrus flavor that melts in your mouth. Either way you choose to adapt it, your guests will be begging for the recipe!


Ingredients

2 cans (8oz each) crushed pineapple in juice
1 package yellow cake mix Without pudding in the mix
1 package banana cream instant pudding mix
4 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup flaked coconut, toasted
*** (to toast coconut, spread evenly on an
ungreased cookie sheet; bake in preheated
oven at 350* for 4 to 6 minutes)

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350*F. Line 30 standard baking cups. Drain Pineapple, reserve juice, and set aside.
2. Beat reserved pineapple juice, cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil, and nutmeg in large bowl with electric mixer at low speed for 1 minute or until blended. Increase speed to medium. Beat 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth. Fold in pineapple. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

3. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in to center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes on a wire cooling rack for 5 minutes.

4. Optional Orange Frosting:


Orange Frosting
1 cup butter, room temperature
6-8 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup orange juice

5. Top cupcakes with toasted coconut if desired!



Sunday, August 7, 2011

Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes






I'm gearing up for my getaway to Florida next week, and it got me thinking about the sweet citrus taste of Florida oranges. I've been visiting Florida at least once a year since I was a little girl and carry many memories in my heart of the times I've spent there. This past weekend was a bit of a scorcher in the Lehigh Valley, with humidity on the rise and temperatures once again soaring into the 90's, it felt as though I was already laying on the beaches in West Palm Beach, FL. I decided it was the perfect time to try out a recipe that has been on my baking list for quite some time....Orange Creamcicle Cupcakes


The Orange Creamsicle, a center of vanilla ice cream surrounded by orange flavored ice, has been a long-standing icon on a list of classic summer treats. It's been around so long that it has even earned its' own day...in the United States, August 14th is known as National Creamsicle Day. In honor of this upcoming event, as well as my trip to one of the nation's largest citrus suppliers, I put my own spin on this classic popsicle by incorporating it into a cupcake.

I knew that I wanted an orange cake base, and a swirled frosting combination of buttercream and orange flavoring, however I couldn't find a combination of the two to suit my liking. So I settled on an orange cake recipe from Nesting-Project, an orange flavored icing from GrinandBakeIt and the classic Wilton's Buttercream recipe.

The cake was an easy mix, however, please note that this recipe only makes 12 cupcakes. When mixing, it doesn't seem like there is enough batter to even fill a dozen, but it does work out as long as you leave nothing left behind in the bowl. I will definitely double the cake recipe next time. I was a little distracted when baking this time, so I wasn't checking them as often as I normally do while they are in the oven. I set the timer for 17 minutes, as the recipe cook time indicated 15-20. They were slightly overdone when I took them out, so next time I will start the timer at 15 minutes. While cooling, the sweet smell of oranges lingered in the air and the anticipation of taking the first bite was making me anxious.

I started on the orange frosting next. It was pretty much the same as mixing up a batch of buttercream, with the exception of the orange extract in replace of the vanilla and the addition of orange juice. I also chose to add a dime sized amount of orange gel food coloring for swirling effects later. To achieve the swirl effect in the frosting, I layered the orange and the buttercream in the piping bag, then used a long spoon to combine the two. It's now time to top the cake bases! As a young girl, I remembered ordering soft served orange creamsicle ice cream whenever our family would go for dessert. I wanted to create the impression of swirls of soft serve ice cream piled high on a cone. For a final touch, I placed an orange gummy candy at the peak of the icing mound. I was quite impressed with the final outcome. The flavors in the cake and the icing created a combination so authentic, for a moment, it was hard to believe that it wasn't an orange popsicle in my mouth, but instead a cupcake.

The combination of the orange frosting and the traditional buttercream doubles the amount of frosting. So unless you are going to double the recipe for the cake base, you are going to be left with a lot of excess frosting. I chose to store mine in a tupperware container, to use later in the week in another tasty concoction. Check back later in the week to see what I've come up with!




Orange Creamsicle Cupcakes
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
7 Tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup self-rising flour
2 teaspoon orange flavoring
(May use 1/2 teaspoon almond extract instead of the suggested 1 tsp.vanilla extract.)
2-3 Tablespoons milk
Directions :
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with baking paper cups. Put all the ingredients except for the milk into the mixer and blend until smooth. Add the milk.
Bake for 15-20 or until they are golden on top


Orange Frosting
1 cup butter, room temperature
6-8 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup orange juice

Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine softened

1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract

4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approximately 1 lb.)

2 tablespoons milk

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Frosting






I spend a good portion of my day daydreaming of far away places that I someday hope to visit. I subscribe to every imaginable travel newsletter that I come across, and usually start my morning by checking out the hot last minute deals on Travelzoo and CheapCaribbean.
Back in March, one week Travelzoo sent me their weekly Top 20 deals, featuring a 7 night luxury vacation to Ireland. My mind immediately started racing with thoughts of who I was going to find to go with me, how I was going to pay for it, and most importantly.....what I would wear!
After very little debating, my mother and myself, along with 3 other relatives, whipped out our credit cards and packed our bags. We were off to Ireland for a 7 night tour starting in Dublin, featuring stays at the Ritz Carlton and a real castle in Ashford!
Being 25% Irish, it has always been a dream of mine to visit Ireland. The beauty of pictures and postcards has always captivated my attention. But no photograph will ever compare to the breathtaking views that I've now seen in person. The rolling green hills spanning for miles paint a picturesque landscape so perfect, it seems like a movie. There I was, at age 24, another dream coming true :)
On our third day of sightseeing, we took a tour of the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. Not a fan of dark beers, I was a little hesitant at the thought of having a taste test at the end of the tour. But when in Ireland, do as the Irish do! The tour concluded with a trip to the Gravity Bar at the top of the brewery. Encompassed in glass, this bar offers panoramic views of the city and .....FREE BEER!! This is where I had my first taste of Guinness. It's said that women are supposed to be able to down a glass of Guinness in 3 gulps...men in 2. While I could finish it off in 3, it went down very quick and easy. It was at that moment I knew I had officially became a fan.

Yesterday, as I was starting to lose focus on my work, I couldn't help but stare at the little shot glass on my desk etched with the Guinness logo. I was quickly left with my mouth watering for that dark creamy brew. I opened my browser and started searching for something I could make and stumbled across a blog featuring a recipe for Guinness cupcakes with Bailey's frosting. I'm a huge fan of alcoholic cupcakes, so I knew this was going to be my task for the rest of my night. All the recipes on the blogosphere were pretty much the same, so, I settled on one from Sweetly Serendipity.With a dark cake, I thought this would also be a perfect opportunity to use my new zebra cupcake wrappers from Bev's Cakes and Candies.
My mouth was watering from the moment I started baking. The smell of Guinness quickly filled the kitchen as I popped the top and simmered the Guinness over low heat. With a beer in one hand and a spatula in the other, I measured, whisked, whipped, beated and poured my way through the recipe. The resulting combination was fabulous! The deep black chocolate base was light, moist and fluffy. While it was delightful, my tongue had to search to find the lingering taste of Guinness. Next time, I would probably kick up the beer a little more to overcome the cocoa powder, just slightly.
The Bailey's frosting on top, however, was the show stopper. Though very sweet, the flavor sent me back to the days of sipping Bailey's by the fire at the Ritz, while overlooking the hills of Ireland. Such a treat. On Sweetly Serendipity's note, I doubled the frosting recipe to ensure I would have enough, and it worked out perfectly. Finally, I finished off the cake with some milk chocolate shavings for an added piece of flair.
I served these at a little farewell get together that evening and they earned rave reviews! This crowd pleaser has definitely earned a spot in my recipe box!




Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey’s Buttercream
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

Baileys Frosting
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 to 4 tablespoons Baileys

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
For the Frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar.
When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, add the Baileys and whip it until combined.
Decorate and Enjoy!

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