Sunday, November 6, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

I love this time of year - the weather, the baking, the holidays. This is when baking is appreciated as everyone wants to know what you are making for Thanksgiving or giving away for Christmas. I also don't think people really diet during this time either, which is good for me.

I am starting the month of November with these delicious pumpkin cream cheese bars. These bars are a cross between a pumpkin muffin and pumpkin bread. Soft delicious cake with a cream cheese swirl, how can these not be great? They could be easily eaten for a snack or for breakfast or for both. My vote is all day personally as I have had a few since baking these

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars
Recipe taken from Let's Dish

6 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 can pumpkin  - 15 oz
1/4 cup water

2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil and spray with non stick cooking spray.
Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside. Using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until incorporated and smooth. Add the eggs, pumpkin and water. Slowly add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the ingredients are mixed well. Spread about 2/3 of the mixture into the pan.

Cream Cheese Swirl:
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar 
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla
1 large egg

Using a stand mixer, cream the cream cheese and sugar together. Add the vanilla and egg, mixing until smooth. Scoop out the cream cheese mixture on top of the pumpkin mixture. I smoothed the cream cheese layer out a little bit before adding the remaining pumpkin mixture on top of the cream cheese layer. Then use a knife or spatula to swirl the mixture together. Bake for 30 minutes or until middle is set. Enjoy!

Be on the lookout for more pumpkin recipes this month...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Cupcakes

Happy Halloween!! 

I kept it simple for the holiday. I made chocolate cupcakes with purple/orange swirled icing on top. I used the left over batter from my s'more cupcakes that I made previously and frozen. The wrappers are from Target. The buttercream recipe is below.

Buttercream Icing - This made one batch, which is enough to frost 12 cupcakes generously

1 stick of salted butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup of Crisco
4 cups (1 lb) of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract
2-3 Tablespoons milk or water
Small dash of salt

Using a stand mixer, cream Crisco and the butter together . Make sure to scrap down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and slowly add the powdered sugar. Once the powdered sugar is mixed together add the dash of salt and add as much of the milk/water to get a nice smooth consistency.

Color and frost cupcakes as you desire.

Since this is a crusting buttercream, make sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap or put in a container with a lid if not using the icing right away.

Friday, October 21, 2011

S'more Cupcakes

For about a week we had nice fall weather and what better way to celebrate the the cooler weather than with some s'mores. I admit that other than the nice cool weather, I wanted to try out my new kitchen torch so these cupcakes were a must. These cupcakes were fun to make and incredibly gooey to eat. Everyone loved them and I can see making these again with some slight changes (see notes section).. Eating them with a fork is totally acceptable, at least in my house to limit getting frosting all over your face and hands.

S'more Cupakes - yields 24 cupcakes

Recipe Adapted from Annie Eats

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare your cupcake pan(s)

Graham Cracker Crust:
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs (most of one sleeve)
1/4 cup of sugar
5 1/3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
4 oz bittersweet chocolate

Using a food processor or bag/rolling pin method, crush the graha m crackers and put into bowl. Add the sugar, melted butter and mix well. Scoop 1 tablespoons to 1.5 tablespoons of graham cracker mixture into prepared cupcake pan and press the mixture down to form a crust (the bottom of a squeeze bottle works well for this). Chop the bittersweet chocolate very finely and sprinkle a little into each cup, on top of the graham cracker crust. Bake for 5 minutes then put on a cooling rack to cool whole making the cupcake batter.

2 cups and 2 tablepoons sugar
1 3/4cups AP flour
 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
1.5 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Put all of the dry ingredients into bowl of mixer and mix until incorporated or you can whisk the dry ingredients together if you don't have a stand mixer. Whisk together the wet ingredients except the boiling water together in a separate bowl and slowly add to the dry ingredients. Mix together, stopping once to scrap down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the boiling water and mix until just combined. Scoop the batter onto the top of the graham cracker crusts, making sure to fill the cups 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cupcakes are done.

8 large room temperature egg whites
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Add the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar to your mixer bowl and place on top of a pot of boiling water. Place a candy thermometer into the bowl. Whisk the mixture until the the temperature reads 160 degrees. Using the whisk attachment, mix the mixture until stiff peaks form (several minutes) and add the vanilla extract.

Frost the cupcakes anyway you choose and either use a kitchen torch or your ovens boiler to toast the frosting.


Next time, I think I would make the graham cracker crust thicker since there really wasn't a distinct
graham cracker bottom but still delicious.

The chocolate batter didn't rise as much so make sure to fill these up to the recommended 3/4 cup full.

Don't be shy with toasting the frosting. The general consensus was that I could have toasted the frosting a lot more. The cupcakes could have done with less frosting but you know, I personally love a lot of frosting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kahlua Red Velvet Cupcakes

These cupcakes are different than the traditional red velvet cakes that most people like but I actually prefer this over others I have tried. I have only tried these with cream cheese frosting but I bet a white chocolate frosting would also be wonderful. This recipe bakes up really well and I always get compliments whenever I make it. It also makes a lot, like tons of cake batter if you stick with the recipe as written, however, you can play with the recipe or just freeze the leftover batter like I do so it is easy to bake up a cake or cupcakes in a hurry.

Kahlua Red Velvet Cupcakes
Adapted from Earlene's Cakes

2 white cake mixes
1 devils food cake mix
3/4 cup flour
32 oz or 2 pounds of sour cream
2/3 cup whole eggs
1 1/3 cup egg whites
1 1/2 cup oil
1 Tablespoons Butavan
1 bottle of powdered red food coloring
2/3 cup Kahlua

Mix the first nine ingredients (mixes down to the red food coloring) until incorporated and then add the Kahlua and continue to mix until you can't see any streaks in the batter. Scoop batter into prepared cupcake pans and bake for 12-18 minutes until done.

Cream Cheese Frosting (enough to frost 12 cupcakes):
8 oz cream cheese
6 Tablespoons butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla and mix until smooth.


Instead of mixes you can use your favorite white cake recipe and devils food cake recipe.

Butavan is a butter/vanilla emulsion that Earlene loves and uses in all of her recipes. You can substitute 1/2 Tablespoon butter extract and 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract.

If you can't find red powdered food coloring, you can use the gel coloring however, you might want to use 2 bottles. The powdered food coloring works great and I always get a nice rich red.

Earlene has a recipe for Homemade Kahlua but I find it is easier to just buy Kahlua.

The recipe freezes well. I have done this and the cupcakes/cakes taste just like I made the batter the same day.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Breakfast Sweets - Cinnamon Rolls aka Cinnamon Squirls

My husband sent me this article from NPR, Showing Compassion Through the Gift of Food (recipe is at the end of the article) last week and he requested I try homemade cinnamon rolls or as we call them cinnamon squirls. I wasn't sure if I was up for the challenge but it was something new so I thought I would give it a shot plus my husband deserved some sugar since I haven't baked anything for two weeks.

These turned out great and the glaze was a wonderful touch, not heavy for the already rich cinnamon squirls. I will post my recipe after I play with it a little more, however the recipe as is would be great for a Sunday morning.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guest Post over at Frosting for the Cause

Please take a moment and click over to Frosting for the Cause to see my post for the day. In honor of Anne Tison, a lovely lady who lost her battle with cancer I made apple pie cupcakes.

Please consider becoming a part of this and sign up to share a dessert and donate to charity.

Monday, September 19, 2011

PB&J Cupcakes

This is my first time posting a failed dessert. It isn't the first time something didn't turn out great in my kitchen. I have a very temperamental and old oven and sometimes rush and skip over ingredients. What can I say? I am not perfect. Because of this I have had several cupcakes/cakes that have seen the trash can after my first bite. Sometimes, my husband will still eat the so called failures because he loves anything with sugar.

That was the case with these cupcakes. There are still a few in the fridge but at this point I just need to toss them and move on. The cupcake was very dry and crumbly, almost cookie like. That would be great if I was making cookies but I wanted a nice, fluffy cupcake. It made me think of linzer cookies with frosting on top.

I am not even going to post the recipe. I am still on the search for a good peanut butter cupcake recipe. Do you have one? Willing to share? I am sure it exists somewhere.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Butterbeer Cupcakes

We have been fascinated with this drink ever since we read that it was available at Universal. With the opening of Harry Potter World we planned a trip last year and had the joys of purchasing several cups, mugs whatever you call it of this butterscotch, cream soda bliss. Nothing else compares to walking around Harry Potter world, hearing my husband laugh like a little boy and enjoying a nice cool butterbeer in 90+ degree heat. We could have easily spent most of our vacation budget on this drink alone. This drink is worth the trip alone, that should tell you something.

Take a trip down there at least once and enjoy the rides and make sure to have butterbeer in your budget. Think $50 or more if you like butterscotch and cream soda. It is a fabulous addition to the whole Harry Potter experience.

You can read about our adventures here

Now back to the cupcakes...

I have to admit that even though these are very delicious, I really didn't think butterbeer. I don't know if my brain could relate the drink being in cupcake form or what so I can't say they are a true representation of butterbeer but they were wonderful butterscotch cupcakes. I would make them again and probably call them, Triple Butterscotch Cupcakes or something unoriginal like that.

Butterbeer Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from Sweet Tooth

2 cups flour
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teapoonp baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
1.5 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup cream soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare your cupcake pan(s. In a bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together and set aside. Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat the eggs in one at a time or be like me and just toss them all in making sure they are fully incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and then add the butter and vanilla flavoring. At this time you should combine and cream soda and buttermilk together. Start adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk/cream soda mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Fill your cupcake pan and bake for 15-17 minutes. I did my first batch for 15 minutes and they were perfect but my second batch I had to keep them in the oven a little longer. Place the cupcakes on a cooling rack and start on the ganache and buttercream.

Butterscotch ganache:
1 package of butterscotch chips (11 oz)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Using a double boiler, melt the chips and cream together until smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. I didn't have a squeeze bottle so I just kept my ganache in the bowl.

1/2 cup unsalted room temperature butter
1/3 cup butterscotch ganache
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon butter flavoring
1/8 tsp salt
l pound of powdered sugar or roughly 4 cups (I think - I just add until it is the right consistency)
Heavy cream or milk, use as needed

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and then add the ganache, flavorings and salt. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep mixing until the powdered sugar is combined. If the buttercream isn't nice and smooth you can add the cream, a little at a time until you get the consistency that you like.

I used the cone method (cut out a cone shape from the middle of the cupcake) to fill the cupcakes with the butterscotch ganache. I piped a buttercream swirl on top and drizzled the ganache on top. I let my ganache firm up and then didn't get a good drizzle so be prepared to warm up your ganache again at this step.

A lot of work but worth it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars

The bars are awesome, wonderful, amazing! If you love chocolate chip cookies and you love cheesecake then this dessert is for you. Think chocolate chip cookie and a cheesecake had a love child - IT WOULD BE THESE! I adore cheesecake and would love to have it everyday (in fact, I know I can eat a whole 6 inch even a 10 inch cheesecake in a day, maybe even an hour). If you can't tell my love for cheesecake runs deep then you are not paying attention yet, I don't feel any shame for this....

Onto the dessert, these are great little bars that are worth making at least once and the good news (or would it bad news?) that the recipe is made in a 8x8 pan so there are not a ton of bars. I would say enough to space out for a week or if you are me, just a couple of days.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake Bars
Recipe Adapted from Beantown Baker

Take a 8x8 pan and prepare it as you will. I put down parchment and used my CK Pan Grease but you can butter the pan and it should work fine.

I made the cheesecake first and put it in the fridge while I made the crust and then the cookie dough.

Cheesecake Layer:
10 oz cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Using a mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar together until creamy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing until everything is combined. If you make this first, I would put it in the fridge but you can also choose to make this last.

1.5 cups of graham cracker crumbs
5 Tablespoons of butter

Stir the crumbs and butter together, making sure all of the crumbs are moist. Press the crumbs down into the prepared pan. Put the pan in a preheated 325 oven for 6 minutes. Place the pan on a cooling rack to cool.

Cookie Dough:
5 Tablespoons room temperature butter
1/3 cup brown sugar (I used light brown sugar)
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
3/4 cup AP flour
1 cup chocolate chips

Using a mixer, mix the first 5 ingredients together until smooth and creamy. Slowly add the flour making sure to not over mix. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Once the crust is cool, add the cheesecake layer and then drop/place teaspoon size portions of the cookie dough on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until it set. Place on wire rack to cool.

Don't be like me and be impatient and cut into these while they are still warm. Still delicious but the picture would have been better. I have to learn to be patient, which is impossible when it comes to anything cheesecake.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

No Bake Banana Split Pie

So lets pretend that it hasn't been over a month since I posted anything on the blog and jump right into a lovely summer recipe. Summers and banana splits go together for me so I jumped off my summer by making this lovely no bake dessert. Any dessert that doesn't require me to turn on the oven in 95+ degree heat works for me.

No Bake Banana Split Pie
Recipe Adapted from Natalie's Killer Cuisine

1 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed
1 stick melted butter
2 sticks room temp butter
2.5 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 cup diced pineapple
6+ Bananas (use as many as it takes)
8 oz container of Cool Whip or if you love cool whip like me I suggest using a 12 oz tub of cool whip
Various toppings (cherries, chocolate syrup, nuts, sprinkles etc)

Crush the graham crackers by putting them in a food processor or you can hand crush them.

Mix the graham crackers with the melted butter and press down in a 9x13 pan

Use your mixer to combine the butter, powdered sugar, eggs and vanilla until you get a creamy buttercream

Spread the buttercream over the crust

Cut the bananas length wise and place them on the buttercream mixture. I pressed them down slightly.

Spread the pineapple over the bananas

Spread the cool whip on top of the bananas/pineapples

Top with your favorite toppings

Refrigerate for several hours (at least 2 hours)

Overall this recipe was a success. If I make this again, I would use more melted butter when making the crust and I would use more cool whip on top. I only used 1 stick and found the crust to be a little dry. I also only used 1 8 oz tub of cool whip and felt that it was a stretch to cover the whole pie. This is worth making at least once this summer. Now get into the kitchen and forget about turning on the oven.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Helpful Sundays - Eggs

I always have several dozen in my fridge at any given time (I have been known to actually use two dozen in a few days). I am lucky that I get a good portion of my eggs from my in-laws who have a farm in North Georgia (at least when the darling hens actually lay them). This means I get eggs in various sizes and colors (green eggs anyone?) but it also means that I don't have an expiration date on a carton so I can determine if the eggs are good. There is a easy test that you can do to determine if an egg is good instead of just going by the date printed on the carton.

Fill a glass or bowl with water and carefully drop the egg into the water. If the egg floats, then it isn't good to eat. If the egg stays on the bottom then go ahead and crack that sucker.

I should mention that the FDA has guidelines for eggs and the website states that even if the egg floats you can crack it open and smell it. If it smells okay, then its okay to eat. I don't know about you but the smell of a rotten egg is horrible so I just go by what my lovely mother-in-law told me about floating eggs being bad.

It's possible I am the last person to know about this lovely test and I am just sharing something that is old news to everyone but hopefully that isn't the case. I consider this a great money saver since I always have so many eggs on hand. With a little but of internet searching there are several products that are still good after the expiration date (as long as they are stored correctly).

Other important things regarding eggs:

Blood spots are common and are totally safe. However, it is always good to crack eggs into a separate bowl.

3 small eggs equals 2 large eggs

A half an egg equals 2 Tablespoons of a beaten egg

Egg substitutes can be used in recipes that don't require cooking of an egg if you are worried about salmonella or you can heat the eggs in a liquid from the recipe, stirring until the mixture reaches 160 degrees.

I hope you learned something and find the egg test as useful as I have over the last couple of years. Now back to baking. Don't be afraid of cracking some eggs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Helpful Sundays - Substitutions

I love to bake but I don't like wasting money or ingredients so I am happy to say that with some google magic I was able to find solutions to these problems. You may know about these but I had no idea and felt bad for buying buttermilk everytime I needed it and not using it all. Cake flour is another expensive ingredient that I felt wasn't worth the cost for the handful of recipes that I have come across that use it.

Here are some easy substitutions for ingredients that you probably already have on your cupboard:

Buttermilk - add 1 Tablespoon of vinegar to a measuring cup and then add milk up to the 1 cup mark. Let stand for 5-10 minutes

Cake Flour - 1 cup of AP flour minus 2 Tablespoons

Brown Sugar - add molasses to sugar and you have brown sugar. 1 cup sugar with 1 Tablespoon of molasses. For dark brown sugar, add another Tablespon

Oil - if you have run out of oil or just don't want to use it, you can use applesauce instead

Baking Chocolate (unsweetened) - I don't care to have stacks of partial baking squares sitting around the kitchen so I was very happy to find this substitution. 3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder with 1Tablespoon of melted butter equals 1 baking chocolate square

Sour Cream/Yogurt - these can be used interchangeably

I am sure there are more but these are the ones I commonly use in my baking adventures and hopefully now you will too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cherry and Cookies and Cream Birthday Cupcakes

 It is a co-workers birthday tomorrow so I baked up some cupcakes to take into work. I am a bad baker since these were made to get rid of the extra frosting and batter that I had from the cupcakes I made over the weekend. However, cupcakes are cupcakes and it will be nice for the birthday girl tomorrow.

(I really like this photo)

I will share the recipes for the best chocolate cupcakes and the cookies and cream frosting in my next post.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy 4th of July!

This year I decided to bake cupcakes with a summer feel instead of patriotic (no red white and blue here). It’s not that I am not patriotic, it’s just my husband has to work the holiday so it’s just another day off for me. My husband enjoyed these cupcakes and I hope his coworkers do as well. On holidays when he has to work, I always try to send some cupcakes to work to hopefully ease the pain of having to work when other people usually get the day off. Maybe they even look forward to working since becoming my taste testers over the last year and a half.

Anyway, back to the cupcakes…

These cupcakes are worth making if you love cherry limeades (think Sonic!). The only thing I would do differently is add more of the syrup to the cupcakes so the lime taste was stronger. 

 Recipe Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Cherry Limeade Cupcakes - 24 cupcakes

3 cups cake flour (I used the AP Flour substitute – 3 cups of AP flour with 6 tbsp of cornstarch)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp limeade concentrate
3 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Lime syrup: (I halved the syrup recipe and still had plenty left over.)
3/4 cup limeade concentrate
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Frosting: (I had some icing left over)
1 cup salted butter
1 cup shortening
1 lb (1 bag) of powdered sugar
2 tsp clear vanilla
Maraschino Cherry Juice (I bought 2 6 oz jars and used the juice from one and half of the other)
Red food coloring (I didn’t add any food coloring)


Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Use your favorite cupcake liners and 2 cupcake pans.  In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together – set aside.  Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter then add the sugar. Once combined add in the limeade concentrate and then add the eggs. Make sure to scrap down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything is combined before adding the rest of the ingredients.  Now alternate the dry ingredients and milk, starting and finishing with the dry ingredients.

Once everything is combined, scoop the batter into the cupcake pans and bake for 15-20 minutes. My cupcakes were done at 18 minutes. Cool cupcakes on wire racks.

Lime Syrup:
After the cupcakes have cooled, poke holes into the cupcakes with a toothpick. Whisk together the powdered sugar with the limeade concentrate and spoon the mixture onto the cupcakes. I let the cupcakes sit while I made the icing so the syrup would have time to soak into the cupcakes.

*Do not skip this step as the cupcakes do not really have a lime flavor without the syrup.

Cream the butter and shortening together. The longer you leave the mixer on the better. Add the vanilla and then slowly add the powdered sugar. After you have added all of the powdered sugar then add the maraschino cherry juice. Add as much juice as you want but be mindful of the icing getting too thin. I didn’t add any food coloring but if you wanted to this is the time to add it to the icing.

Frost the cupcakes and add the decorations of your choice.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Helpful Sundays – Reducing Recipes

When I first started baking I would always fix the recipes as written, which meant I always made more then I always needed and there were always ton of baked goods around the house. Of course, my husband didn’t mind but there is a time when you don’t want to try a new recipe and have to make 30 cupcakes or a full 10-inch cake.

I am not very good at math (fractions make my head hurt) so of course I had to search the internet everytime I wanted to reduce a recipe and I stumbled upon this website that was a life saver. I printed out the PDF to put with my recipes and saved a copy of the file on my computer.

Check this website out:

Please note the following:

Sometimes recipes are hard to reduce since halving an egg just doesn’t sound like fun to me but if nothing else, you can always freeze the batter. Yes, I said that correctly, you could put the remaining batter in the freezer and pull it out as needed. I have done this several times and the cakes/cupcakes come out just like I made the batter that day. I guess that is technically two useful tips for the day.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Helpful Sundays - Cocoa Powder

Not all of the time, but some of the time the quality of the ingredients that you buy really does make a difference in the final product. Cocoa powder is one ingredient I recommend not cutting corners. I have noticed a big difference between the store brands to Hershey’s to Ghirardelli’s. I am all about saving money and when I first started baking I did buy the store brand cocoa powder but noticed my cakes/cupcakes/icing did not have a very chocolate flavor and were very light brown colored – which was okay when I first started baking but I was on a search for something better and easily available.

I started buying Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and Hershey’s Special Dark and noticed a dramatic change in the flavor, color and overall quality of my baked goods. This brand is available at the grocery stores near me so it’s easier for me to get than Ghirardelli’s cocoa powder. I think the price difference between the store and Hershey’s is maybe $1.00-$1.50. Ghirardelli’s is better and of course more expensive than Hershey’s. I can only find it at the Farmer’s Market in my area so it’s not something I always have on hand. The price difference between Hershey’s and Ghirardelli’s is about $2.00-$3.00. These are just the brands that are usually available to the general consumer. You can get even fancier (more expensive) and buy Valrhona or Scharffen Berger cocoa powder but that is a little out of my price range and not available in my area but from what I have read, if you want to splurge, these are worth it.

Next time you need cocoa powder I recommend spending a little more. It will be worth it.

The chocolate cupcakes below were made with store brand cocoa powder. It is hard to tell but the cupcakes are a light brown. The Oreo Cupcakes were made with Hershey's cocoa powder and the cupcakes are very dark, almost black and have a rich, chocolate taste.

Keep on the lookout every Sunday for new tips, advice and product recommendations from Sugarmonkey Sweets.


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Yes, its been over a month since I posted. A lot has been going on but now I am back and I want to show you my Snickerdoodle Cupcakes. These little cupcakes are wonderful and this was my first attempt at 7 minute frosting. The frosting was a little stressful and took longer than 7 minutes but I was surprised that I liked it so much. If you like meringue or even marshmallows, you will love this frosting. I loved that this cupcake was not incredibly sweet or dense like most cupcakes. I found these easy to eat and reminded me of Snickerdoodle Cookies.

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart Cupcakes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Banana Pudding

My husband’s love for banana pudding was my motivation in finding a recipe that was easy, quick and delicious. Of course there are many recipes for banana pudding some include baking the pudding, some have meringue on the top and many other variations. After some searching I stumbled upon this recipe for a no bake banana pudding. It isn’t a heavy or soupy. In fact, its light and sweet and even better the next day. It isn’t exactly quick either but it’s worth the effort.

On a related note, I have never had baked banana pudding and I am curious if its actually good or not. Please let me know if baked banana pudding is actually worth it so I can consider giving it a try some time.

 I don't have a fancy trifle bowl so I used a deep dish tupperware container (I don't have a lot of room in my kitchen or refrigerator so I use what I have).

Recipe from Allrecipes

8 ounces sour cream
1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (5 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 cups whole milk
1 (16 ounce) package vanilla wafer cookies
4 bananas, peeled and sliced – I use the whole bundle of bananas so don’t be afraid to use them all

Combine the sour cream, whipped topping, pudding mix and milk in a big bowl. Stir or whisk until there are no lumps. Cut the bananas into slices. Once everything is mixed together and you have sliced the bananas take your trifle bowl, Tupperware container or whatever dish you are using and start layering everything. Start with a layer of cookies, then a layer of the pudding mixture and then bananas. Keep layering until you have reached the top of your container, making sure you end with a layer of pudding. Take the last few cookies and crush them or the crumbs left in the bag and sprinkle them on top. I think that completes this delicious dessert.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes

I think sometimes the simple, classic desserts are the best. Don’t get me wrong - I think that eccentric, unique flavors have a time and place but when you want to create something that can be enjoyed by everyone (unless they hate chocolate, which is just blasphemy I say) the classics are the way to go.
I made these cupcakes last year. In fact, I think that they were one of the first cupcakes I did that wasn’t for a class. The recipe is a simple doctored up chocolate cake recipe with a simple, very tasty chocolate buttercream. When it comes to chocolate buttercream this is my go-to recipe. It is light, smooth and heaven on the tongue. It also doesn’t get hard, crusty like other buttercreams.

Doctoring up a cake mix is just adding extra ingredients to a cake mix. The cake mix just gives you a base and you go from there. Some people add sour cream, more sugar, pudding, flavorings or Dream Whip to just name a few. I personally have had luck with this method more times than not but I do try baking from scratch as well.

1 box of chocolate cake mix
Mix the ingredients as stated on the box (oil and eggs)
1 box of chocolate cake mix
Mix the ingredients as stated on the box (oil and eggs)
Add 1 cup of sour cream
Add 1 cup of sugar
Add 1 cup of flour
Generous dash of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Mix everything together and pour in a prepared cupcake pan. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or the time stated on the box and depending on how your oven works. When the tops spring back when touched then you will know that the cupcakes are done. Take the cupcakes out and put them on a cooling rack to cool before icing.

This is the type of icing that I can eat right out of the bowl. Its just that good. I don’t remember where I got the recipe, most likely from the Wilton forums or from Cake Central but you have to give it a try.

Chocolate Buttercream
3/4 cup Crisco
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 lbs powdered sugar
1/2 cup of water or less depending on how thick or thin you want your icing

Beat the Crisco and butter together with the paddle attachment for your mixer. Add the cocoa. Mix again until the cocoa is all incorporated. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and most of the water. Beat at medium speed for a few minutes.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cupcakes for a wedding shower

I love cupcakes. They are fun to make and easy to decorate. I made these cupcakes for a co-workers wedding shower. They were a big hit and I even got a thank you note from the bride to be.

Yellow cupcakes with vanilla buttercream (swirled with a Wilton 1M tip) and royal icing drop flowers.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Welcome to my blog

I am very excited to start this blog and share my adventures in baking and creating various sugary desserts for you. Please check back often as I share stories, recipes, links, ideas etc in all things sugar.
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