Peppermint Icebox Cupcakes

peppermint icebox cupcakes

I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m a complete sucker for just about anything peppermint-flavored during this time of year.  I was the only one in my family who ever wanted candy canes for the tree and when I graduated up to the foot-long, 1-inch diameter candy cane sticks in junior high, I may have stockpiled a few through February.  This year, I’ve already used up more calories on peppermint hot chocolate from Starbucks than I care to admit since the week of Thanksgiving and I’ve been mopping up the Pinterest- and Foodgawker-induced drool daily.

peppermint icebox cupcakes

As you can imagine, these peppermint icebox cupcakes were a pretty natural step in my 2012 peppermint obsession.  Crispy chocolate wafer cookies are sandwiched between layers of fluffy peppermint whipped cream and as the stacks chill overnight, the cookies soften into deep chocolate cake-like layers.  I always feel like traditional cupcakes have a heavy cake:frosting ratio but these icebox cupcakes completely solve that problem, leaving with you just about equal parts of both…with some extra whipped cream on top for good measure.  They were quite the hit at our housewarming party this past weekend and my mom and I had quite a fun Friday night putting these guys together.  Needless to say, I fell for so hard for these cupcakes (surprised?) that I ended up sending most of the leftovers home with my parents – I couldn’t take the risk of being left to my own devices with them!

Peppermint Icebox Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

This recipe is based on a traditional icebox cake but it elevates the cake to another level with homemade chocolate wafer cookies and peppermint whipped cream stacked in cupcake form. If you make your own cookies, form the dough into two logs of 1 ¼-inch diameter and cut the chilled dough into 1/8-inch slices so that they will fit inside the bottom of a cupcake liner after the cookies are baked. Store-bought cookies are too large to do this neatly so you’ll need to fuss with the liners a little as you assemble your stacks, but they will definitely work in a pinch. The liners will inevitably relax with the moisture from the cupcakes overnight anyway but I still highly recommend you make your own cookies for this recipe – a little extra effort makes a huge impact here.


  • 120 chocolate wafer cookies, [homemade||] or store-bought
  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar (add more or less depending on your desired level of sweetness)
  • ½ tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/8 tsp clear vanilla extract
  • Crushed candy canes or peppermint candies, for garnish


  1. Chill a large bowl and whisk attachment for 20 minutes prior to starting this recipe.
  2. Set out 24 cupcake liners in a baking pan or on a tray where you can easily wrap them later (9×13-inch aluminum lasagna pans work great for this). Place a cookie in the bottom of each liner (the cookies should fit snugly). Don’t worry too much if they snap in half while doing this – you’ll never know the difference once they are fully assembled.
  3. Add the heavy cream to the chilled bowl and beat with the whisk attachment, starting on low speed and working up to medium-high once the cream starts to thicken. After the cream has slightly thickened, sprinkle the powdered sugar over the cream and continue to whip until stiff peaks have almost formed. Check for desired sweetness. Beat in the peppermint and vanilla extracts for about 5-8 seconds on medium-high until stiff peaks have formed and the whipped cream is thick and scoopable. Transfer some of the whipped cream to a piping bag or a zip-top bag with a hole cut in the corner.
  4. Pipe a thin layer of whipped cream onto each cookie (about the height of the cookie) and top with another cookie, pressing down ever so slightly. Repeat until you have 5 layers of cookies then top the 5th cookie with a swirl of the whipped cream, reloading your whipped cream bag as needed but keeping the bowl chilled in between refills. You can either sprinkle on some crushed candy cane at this point (it will melt into the whipped cream overnight and give the frosting a cool pink swirly effect) or wait until you’re ready to serve the cupcakes and top with candy cane then. Chill the icebox stacks for 30 minutes (uncovered) to allow the whipped cream to set up then cover the pans loosely with foil and chill overnight. An unheated garage works great for this if you are limited for space in your fridge.


Smells Like Home original | inspired by Smitten Kitchen's Icebox Cupcakes

Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes

I made myself cupcakes.  Well, I shared them with Kyle too but really, I made them for myself.  And for good reason…my birthday was Sunday!  And as I approach my ::ahem:: mid-30s, I’m finding that I’m not nearly as fussy about what type of birthday dessert gets made for or by me.  Every single year growing up, my single birthday request was for a marbled cake with chocolate butter cream – no compromises.  Last year, I switched things up big time with this pink vanilla bean birthday cake.

This year, I decided to go with cupcakes that I had been dreaming up all summer.  My Friday afternoon treat this summer has been my old favorite Starbucks drink and very rarely ordered, a caramel frappuccino – with whipped cream, which I can justify having just once a week, can’t I?  Anyway, I read through probably 20 different recipes for caramel frappuccino cupcakes I found online and 95% of them had chocolate cupcakes as their base.  And that made no sense to me at all because the drink contains no chocolate!

So I made espresso-caramel cupcakes, topped them with whipped cream frosting, and drizzled on some vanilla bean caramel sauce.  And oh yeah, these cupcakes totally hit their mark.  The cupcakes, even without frosting, were outstanding – rich coffee flavor and a hint of buttery caramel with great structure and a really soft crumb.  For a caramel frappuccino cupcake, the whipped cream frosting is basically obligatory to stick to the theme of the drink, but it can definitely be swapped out for a coffee Swiss meringue butter cream if you so choose and I’m sure that was be completely amazing as well.  And the caramel?  It’s completely amazing and if you opt for a different caramel for these cupcakes…or ever…you’re totally missing out.  Perfect cupcake treat?  Check.  Deflect the anxiety of an almost-mid-30s birthday?  Definitely.

Caramel Frappuccino Cupcakes

Total Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes

A great tip for this multi-step recipe is that once the cupcakes go into the oven, immediately wash and dry the mixing bowl and stick it and the wire whisk attachment in the fridge to chill it before making the whipped cream frosting. A cold bowl keeps the whipped cream chilled better than a warm/room temperature one does. The caramel sauce can be make days (weeks!) in advance – just warm it ever so slightly in the microwave before drizzling it on to the cupcakes.


    For the cupcakes:
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar, divided
  • 1/3 cup very hot water
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp espresso powder
  • ¾ cup (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup strongly brewed coffee, warm or at room temperature
  • For the whipped cream:
  • 2 ½ cups cold whipping cream
  • ½ cup + 2 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract, clear if you have it
  • For the caramel drizzle:
  • ¼ cup vanilla bean caramel sauce


  1. To make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two 12 cup muffin pans with cupcake liners; set aside.
  2. Spread ½ cup of the sugar out in an even layer in the bottom of a small saucepan. Heat the pan to medium and when the sides of the sugar begin to liquify, start slowly stirring the sugar together until all of the sugar has melted and only liquid remains. (Lower the heat to low if the sugar or liquid sugar begins to brown too quickly. If the sugar clumps, turn the heat to low and let it melt – try not to stir it so it has a chance to heat up slowly.) Once the liquid reaches a deep amber color (you can check this by dropping a little onto a white plate), remove the pan from the heat and slowly pour in the hot water while whisking quickly to incorporate the water into the sugar. Once the caramel mixture is completely smooth, set it aside to cool.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, salt, and espresso powder together until well-combined; set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the remaining 1 ¼ cups sugar together at medium-high until they are light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until they incorporate fully before adding the next, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the vanilla extract. Stir in the caramel. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with two equal additions of the coffee, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Allow the ingredients to just incorporate into the batter before adding the next. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are fully mixed in. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the center cupcakes comes out mostly clean, with just a few tiny crumbs clinging to it. Let the pans cool on wire racks for 5 minutes then remove the cupcakes and let them completely cool on the racks before frosting.
  5. To make the frosting: Pour the whipping cream into a chilled stand mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until soft peaks are formed. Sprinkle in the powdered sugar and continue to beat the cream until stiff peaks form when you pull the cream up with the whisk. Beat in the vanilla extract until just incorporated. Be careful not to over beat the cream or it will be clumpy when you pipe it.
  6. To assemble the cupcakes: Using a large star tip (I used Ateco #828) fitted inside a pastry bag (or the snipped-off corner of a plastic zipper bag if you don’t have a pastry bag), pipe the whipped cream frosting onto the cupcakes. If the frosting becomes too soft (which can happen if you handle the bag too much), transfer the frosted cupcakes to the refrigerator for a few minutes until the frosting sets up a little. Using a small squeeze bottle or a spoon, drizzle the caramel sauce on top of the whipped cream frosting and serve. The cupcakes can be stored at room temperature for a couple of days (because the sugar stabilizes the cream) but the frosting will soften considerably so keeping them in the fridge (covered) is probably a better idea.


source: Smells Like Home original idea, cupcake recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats

Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Raspberry Curd Filling

I love it when an idea comes together.  When what I’ve been dreaming up in my head turns out just how I pictured it.  That was these lemon cupcakes.  I had made this recipe as full-on lemon poppy cake a few years back for a girlfriend’s baby shower and have since wanted to remake the recipe not only to share with all of you (because it’s pretty awesome) but also because I’ve always thought a cupcake version would be perfectly delightful.

And I was right.  The lemon cupcakes are soft-crumbed clouds with a dollop of fresh raspberry curd running through the center, topped with a billowy mound of the fluffiest lemon buttercream I’ve ever eaten.  The cupcakes themselves are sturdy and soft at the same time, a cupcake trait not always easy to achieve, and they were able to withstand a hollowed-out the center for the curd and the frosting on top without falling into pieces after the first couple of bites.  Of course flavor-wise, berries and citrus are a match made in heaven and even though you’d like to think that these cupcakes would be too lemony and tart between the cake and the frosting, the bright raspberry curd keeps perfect balance.  Of course, some sugar helps with this balance as well. 😉

You’ll cone-out the center of each cupcake and add some of your very own, homemade raspberry curd (don’t cut corners and buy it!), a treat worth licking the spoon for in and of itself.  If you’ve never made curd before, it’s quite a simple process which involves straining out all of the seeds so you’re left with a thick and silky sweet condiment that can be spread onto biscuits or scones, drizzled over ice cream, or used however else you can dream up.  It’s a lovely and necessary component to these cupcakes and I wouldn’t skip making it.

The verdict from Kyle, the non-lemon-loving heathen that he is, was clearly indicated by the random wrappers I’ve found around the kitchen.  One or two before I get home from work…another one while I’m making dinner…you get the point.  We both adore these lemon cupcakes and I know you will too.  In fact, I love them so much that I’m contributing them to Memorial Day Virtual Blogger Potluck Party that I’ve been invited to.  Have a look on Celebrations (link below) to see the party as a whole and be sure to stop by the other awesome bloggers’ blogs to see what they brought to the party as well.

Lemon Cupcakes with Fresh Raspberry Curd Filling

Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes


    For the raspberry curd:
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 pint ripe raspberries or 1 12-oz. package frozen raspberries, thawed
  • 5 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • For the lemon cupcakes:
  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 2 ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¼ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 12 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • For the lemon buttercream frosting:
  • 16 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • For garnish:
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries


  1. To make the raspberry curd: Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the raspberries, egg yolks, sugar and salt, and cook, mashing the berries. Stir frequently at first and then constantly at the end, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Pour the mixture through a coarse strainer set over a bowl, pressing hard on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Cool to room temperature; the curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Stir in lemon juice to taste. Cover and refrigerate until fully chilled. The curd can be made 2-3 days in advance.
  2. To make the cupcakes: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl; set aside. In the clean, dry bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium-high. Beat just until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Transfer the egg whites to a separate bowl (not plastic), clean and dry the mixer bowl and reattach it with the paddle attachment.
  4. Add the butter to the mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the sugar and beat until incorporated. Mix in the lemon zest. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in ¼ cup of the milk until just blended. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture alternately with the remaining milk in three batches, beginning and ending with the flour; scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Beat until just blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold one quarter of the egg whites into the batter, being careful not to deflate the mixture. Once incorporated, add in the rest of the whites (including any liquid that may have accumulated on the bottom of the bowl) and gently fold in until well combined; no white should remain.
  5. Using a large cookie/ice cream scoop, divide the batter between the cupcake liners, filling each liner about 2/3 full. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18-22 minutes, turning the pans around halfway through the baking time. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes then remove them from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely.
  6. To make the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and zest on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth. Add the heavy cream and lemon juice and beat for one minute longer; the frosting should be light and fluffy.
  7. To assemble: Once the cupcakes have cooled, hollow out the center of each cupcake using the cone method and spoon about 1 tsp of raspberry curd in to each hollowed-out cupcake. The filling should sit just shy of the top of the cupcake. Frost as desired, taking care not to push the curd out of the cupcake with the weight of the frosting. Garnish with fresh raspberries.
  8. Serve and store at room temperature, though the frosting will soften significantly at temperatures above 75° F.


source: adapted from Annie’s Eats

Salted Caramel Cupcakes for a Virtual Baby Shower

Sweet & Salty Cupcakes for a Virtual Baby Shower

One of my absolute favorite flavor combinations is sweet and salty.  Sit me down with some potato chips and a handful of M&Ms or chocolate-covered popcorn and I’m in trouble!  So you could imagine the level of my excitement when I flipped through Baked: New Frontiers in Baking for the first time and saw my nemesis flavor combo in a cake.  Add some salted caramel to a chocolate cake and I’m pretty much done for.

Now admittedly, I’ve had this cookbook on my shelf for well over a year and I’ve yet to make the cake.   It’s hard to justify making a whole cake for only two people just for the heck of it so the cake has ended up sitting on my list for what seems like forever.  And then came Courtney’s Virtual Baby Shower.  Among the many reasons why Courtney and I are such great friends (real-life friends, not just blogging friends!), I firmly believe that our love for Baked’s cookbooks links us together.  And while I’ve never visited the famous bakery in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Courtney and her awesome husband, Eric, did a few years ago during a trip to NYC and they had a blast.  (For the record, I’m jealous.)  This cake is perfect for Courtney.  She is seriously one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met and would go to any length to help a friend, but she’s also got this “salty” side, a sense of sarcasm, dry humor, and frankness that I adore.  I was lucky enough to be able to spend a whole weekend with Courtney this past weekend with Josie and Annie in Richmond when we surprised her with a visit for a real-life baby shower.  It was an insanely fun girls weekend filled with soothing Southern comfort food, a chocolate shop that blew us all away, tons of laughs, and so many memories I have to cherish with some of my best friends.

Sweet & Salty Cupcakes for a Virtual Baby Shower

These salted caramel cupcakes are truly an outstanding creation.  I used Baked’s sweet chocolate cake recipe (next time I’ll use my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe as I miss the domed cupcakes) and merged it with Sweetopolita’s recommendation of a salted caramel Swiss buttercream.  Need I say anything else?  Rich, sweet, salty, dreamy.  Perfect for my dear friend Courtney as she prepares for baby C’s arrival in the next few weeks.  Courtney, pour yourself a glass of milk, put up your feet, and enjoy!

Josie from Pink Parsley is hosting Courtney’s shower to be sure to head over there (and to Courtney’s blog as well!) to catch up on all of the other amazing treats nearly 15 other fabulous food bloggers have contributed to the shower!

Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling

Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling

For the most part, Kyle and I agree on pretty much everything that comes out of our kitchen.  It makes for pretty easy living in this house and loads of fun when I menu plan and decide on what kind of sweets to bake.  The only recent exception to this lovely mutually agreeable relationship is cream cheese frosting.  While I can eat the tangy frosting with a spoon, Kyle can take it or leave it.  And yet I keep making it not because I forget how he feels about it, but because I think I can change his mind with different recipes.  It never works.

Red Velvet and Strawberry Trifles with Cheesecake Filling

So when I made red velvet cupcakes last weekend, I ended up with a few extra frosted cupcakes and a moment of panic about what to do with them since I knew Kyle wasn’t about to bring Valentine’s cupcakes to his construction site at work.  It took me all of about .2 seconds to decide what needed to be done: repurpose them!  I scraped off the frosting (did you really just question what happened to it?), cubed up the cupcakes, sliced some fresh strawberries, and pulled together a no-bake cheesecake filling for some Valentine’s Day trifles.  And when I tell you that we both swooned with the first bite, I’m not kidding.  The silky filling has a touch of lemon that blends perfectly with the strawberries and soaks into the cake layers after a day-long refrigeration, resulting in a decadent and brightly-flavored dessert that would make the perfect ending to any sort of Valentine’s Day celebration.  We were hoping to celebrate this year in our new home but after another delay (?!*$), these trifles will be the perfect way to be celebrate how happy we are together, regardless of the situation.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

It’s known far and wide around the interwebs that anything red velvet is humungously popular around Valentine’s day and strangely enough after almost 5 years of blogging, I’ve yet to post a red velvet cake recipe.  So after quite a few reader requests in the past couple of weeks for a great red velvet scratch cake recipe, I decided it was about time to share.  And believe me, it wasn’t like you guys had to twist my arm!  I scoured a few recipes on Pinterest and my favorite blogs and decided on this one since it’s made with both buttermilk and vinegar to boost the tang that is so beloved in red velvet cake.  Topped with a swirled dollop of silky cream cheese frosting, these red velvet cupcakes are an outstanding way to say “I Love You” to the hunnies in your life.  And yes, if you’re thinking about making a layer cake instead of cupcakes, Annie says that it’s a great recipe for that too – just grease three 8-inch pans, divide the batter, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Café Mocha Cupcakes


We’re coffee lovers here and when we’re at home, we drink mostly half-caff or decaf which makes it easy for Kyle to justify the amount he drinks in a day.  And since we bought a Keurig back in the fall, not only can we brew a cup in about 30 seconds, but we’ve got lots of new flavors to try as well.  So when these café mocha cupcakes crossed my path a few weeks ago, I couldn’t resist.  Simple ingredients…good ingredients…lots of coffee…fantastic results.  This quite possibly is the best buttercream frosting I’ve ever made.  Espresso flavor is busting out of this smooth and decadent frosting and it’s the frosting that made this cupcake as great as it was. I’m not sure I would use this choice of cupcake recipe again since the cake was quite literally falling apart under the weight of the frosting and I really didn’t find as much coffee flavor as I had expected to.  I should have been leery of the cupcake since it’s adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe and it’s definitely not my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe so next time I make these, I’ll use my favorite devil’s food cupcake recipe.  In any event, treat yourself to some chocolate covered espresso beans for a little garnish and boost the buzz…something that’s certainly appreciated in this house after all that decaf!

S’mores Cupcakes

S'mores Cupcakes

Every so often, a dessert comes around that I consider to be a life-changer.  Folks, this here cupcake is a life-changer.  On the outside, they look pretty fancy, don’t they? But on the inside you’ll find the most down-home food combination out there: s’mores.  Everybody loves them.  Nobody ever turns them down.  And when talked about, s’mores light up peoples’ eyes.  The thought of them made into a cupcake certainly lit up the eyes of a certain 4 year old when we talked about what kind of cupcake he wanted for his birthday party this year!  The party was a YMCA swimming party in the middle of December and these cupcakes were the perfect dessert…so reminiscent of summer, don’t you think?


Pumpkin Yumkins

This is quite a silly name for such a serious goody!  These Pumpkin Yumkins are a cross between a pumpkin cupcake and a pumpkin muffin so rather than calling them one or the other, isn’t it so much easier to call them a Yumkin?  They are dense, filling, and oh so delicious…and it took every ounce of my energy not to have a second one this morning for breakfast!

I made a few changes to the recipe, which you’ll see below.  The original recipe calls for pecans and dates but I swapped in white chocolate chips and raisins, two of my favorite mix-ins and substitutes in recipes that call for nuts.  I also used vanilla extract and maple flavoring in place of the orange because I’m infamous for not reading all of my planned recipes before going to the grocery store.  It’s all good though since vanilla and maple are the perfect compliments to pumpkin! And lastly, I added some cinnamon to the flour mixture.  The recipe doesn’t call of any spices and well…what’s pumpkin without a little spice??  In just over an hour this morning (yes before work), I had these Yumkins mixed, baked, cooled, and frosted…and such little effort certainly made today’s birthday girl a very happy one.

Be sure to check out what’s happenin’ over at Project Pastry Queen…I suppose it’s not a surprise that we have another pumpkin recipe ready to go for next week!

Peanut Butter Dulce de Leche Cupcakes

After years of making chocolate peanut butter cup cakes and cupcakes, I honestly didn’t think this kind of dessert could get any better. Then along came peanut butter dulce de leche.

I’ve got Peabody to thank for this new obsession but I wish I could say that I came up with the idea on my own because it really is a brilliant one.  Dulce de leche + peanut butter + heavy cream. That’s it. Three ingredients make up one of the most extraordinary fillings you could ever imagine.  We all know how dreamy dulce de leche is on it’s own but adding peanut butter? Oh mylanta!

So I’ve use this filling twice already and get the same knee-wobbling reaction from everyone who’s tried it.  It’s that good.  This time around, I filled my favorite chocolate cupcakes with it (using the cone method to cut out the cake), topped them with the best peanut butter frosting ever and then of course, threw a few obligatory bits of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup on top.  These cupcakes had people coming back to my cupcakes at Cupcake Camp New Haven two and three times.  When you’re faced with a room of 2000 cupcakes and you have repeat visitors, you know they’re that good.

I’m going to end this delicious post with a reminder about FoodBuzz’s Project Food Blog.  In case you missed my earlier posts this week, I’ve made it to the 2nd Challenge (The Classics – a foreign dish outside my comfort zone) and I recreated a dish without using a recipe called Irish Beer-Braised Bangers and Colcannon with Brown Sugar Gravy. Voting ends tonight at 9pm ET so please make sure you get your vote in if you think I should move forward to Challenge 3, Luxury Dinner Party, which I’ll be hosting this weekend regardless of the voting outcome. You’ve got to be signed up for FoodBuzz but if you’re not, it only takes a few seconds to do so.  Here’s what you do:

1. Click on the link in paragraph above    2. If you’d like to vote for my entry, click on the gray heart under the Buick LaCrosse symbol (be sure to read the entry post too!)    3. sign-up if you haven’t already.  You won’t need to sign up again for voting in subsequent challenges.

Madagascar-themed Birthday Sugar Cookies & Cupcakes

One day a few weeks back I had a meeting with a little boy, W, the son of a friend from work,  in my office at work about what kind of cupcakes he wanted me to make for his birthday.  When you’re 5 going on 6, birthday cupcakes are a serious matter that warrant meetings.  And he took this meeting seriously.


Caramel Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Cupcake Camp New Haven has come and gone and I’m so happy to have participated!  It was a nerve-wracking couple of weeks leading up to the event for a couple of reasons.  First, I was questioning my sanity about putting myself “out there”; I am just a home baker after all and I knew the event would be filled with area professional bakeries. And second, I couldn’t decide on a final flavor to make.

But once I had that final flavor chosen, made, and tasted, all of my worries were washed away in a sea of caramel frosting.  This cupcake boosted my confidence and sent me on a sugar high for the rest of the weekend.  I should note here that I’d never made any sort of pumpkin cupcake before this weekend and went solely on the recommendation of Elly from Elly Says Opa! about it’s greatness. And the caramel frosting was a new recipe for me too – talk about taking a chance!

I’m a lover of all things pumpkin but to tell you the truth, I could take or leave pumpkin pie.  That’s why these caramel pumpkin pie cupcake are so great.  It’s got all of the fabulous flavor of a pumpkin pie without the so-so texture.  The caramel frosting is really what pulls the whole experience together though.  You’ve got the spicy (not heat spicy) cupcake balanced with this deliciously sweet caramel frosting…top it with a few Heath bar pieces and you’ve got yourself an out of body experience.  So…I didn’t win any contests at Cupcake Camp New Haven (not sure what the judges were thinking!) but I’ve got an outrageous new cupcake in my repertoire!

Caramel Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes

Yield: About 27 cupcakes and enough frosting to liberally frost all of them

I'm not a proponent of using vegetable shortening but I feel that it is needed in some frosting recipes. This is one of them. Due to the caramel in the recipe, this frosting needs a little extra stability which the shortening adds. Alternatively, add 3-4 tbsp butter in place of the shortening. The butter will yield a frosting that gets soft quickly and doesn't hold up well in warm temperatures.


    For the cupcakes:
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups firmly packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¾ tsp table salt
  • ¼ tsp plus 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 can (15oz) pumpkin pureé (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • For the caramel frosting:
  • 3 ½ sticks unsalted butter; room temperature
  • 3 tbsp vegetable shortening
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ lbs confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • ½ cup caramel sauce - slightly colder than room temperature
  • ¼ tsp Kosher salt


  1. To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare two standard-size muffin/cupcake tins with cupcake papers.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl; set aside. Measure out the buttermilk and stir in the vanilla.
  3. Add the eggs 1 at a time to the mixer mix for 30 seconds each, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and buttermilk in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Using a large ice cream scoop, fill muffin papers.
  4. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the pans on racks for 5 minutes and remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. To make the caramel frosting: Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add the vanilla extract, salt and caramel sauce and combine well.
  6. Gradually add the sugar and mix thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, give it a taste and decide if you want to add in more caramel sauce. For thicker frosting you can gradually add in a little more sugar.


cupcakes adapted from Leite's Culinaria via Elly Says Opa | caramel frosting adapted from My Baking Addiction

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

It seems like ages since chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream was all the rage which, in essence, makes these cupcakes retro.  And these days, retro is all the rage. In fact, the Baked bakery guys are set to release a whole cookbook devoted to twists on the classics.  So yes.  The chocolate chip cookie dough dessert is back.  And it’s back even better in this cupcake.

If you remember last week, I mentioned that I’m working my to-make cupcake list to the bone for the upcoming Cupcake Camp New Haven.  It’s gonna be a busy August.  But when cupcakes like this one come out of my kitchen, nobody is complaining. Especially not a group of fabulous food bloggers who were on the taste-testing end of this cupcake trial at Big Summer Potluck this weekend.  This event deserves it’s own post which will come later in the week so for now we’ll keep the cupcake front and center.

I was incredibly pleased with how these sweet little things went over with the group and even more pleased with how I thought they tasted.  Holy cookie dough cupcake!  The icing was a complete dead-ringer for the flavor of cookie dough and the hidden cookie dough surprise in the center of the cupcake made this cupcake.  I’m happy to report that I didn’t use all of the filling for the cupcakes so I rolled the filling into little balls and frozen them for cookie dough ice cream at a later point in time.  Because, you know, in this house, cookie dough ice cream will never go out of style.

I Heart My Chunky Hubby [Cupcakes]

Be forewarned that I’ll be in cupcake mode here for the next 6 weeks!  See, I’m attending Cupcake Camp New Haven on September 18th as a baker and I need to cut my list of about 300 choices of cupcakes down to just 4.  It won’t be an easy task (sigh) but I know the students working in my office for the summer will appreciate helping me narrow the choices down.

We started off the journey to cupcakedom with these Chunky Hubby cupcakes.  Remember the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Chubby Hubby flavor? Peanut butter-filled-chocolate-covered-pretzels…yum!  Well this cupcake is a deconstructed version of Chubby Hubby plus B&J’s Chunky Monkey flavor which adds banana to the mix.  Double yum!  I upped the ante and roasted the bananas before adding them to the cupcake batter and subbed in a some brown sugar for some of the white sugar.  The results of this already fantastic-sounding cupcake was truly a delight with the roasted banana and brown sugar. So you’ve got the roasted bananas, the obvious pretzel on top, some peanut butter frosting (which, if you haven’t tried this recipe yet, it’s a must), and a hidden surprise of chocolate ganache that fills the cupcake.  Does life get any better than this?!

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream


Sometimes you need chocolate.  And what a better way to get your chocolate fix comes in the form of a cupcake!  I’m always on the hunt for a great chocolate cupcake recipe…sometimes to get that chocolate fix and other times just to have the perfect recipe up my sleeve in the event one of those cravings emerge.  And I’m happy to say that for now, my hunt has ended.  I saw Annie post this chocolate cupcake recipe a few weeks back as part of some decadent triple chocolate cupcakes and I was enamored with the perfect amount of puffiness these cupcakes had in her photo.  I should have known they would be a great recipe though, since it is a Martha Stewart recipe and Annie tends to have some pretty great instincts when it comes to great cupcake recipes.

All in all, both the cupcakes and the Swiss meringue buttercream had some fantastic reviews from my co-workers and I totally loved them.  The cupcakes were moist and chocolaty and the buttercream was velvety smooth, dreamy and can best be described as some of the best frosting I’ve ever tasted.  While the buttercream is a little more labor-intensive than my usual Wilton recipe, the results are much more satisfying and I can honestly say that this will be a mainstay in my repertoire.


A couple of tricks to baking cupcakes that don’t sink:

1.  Find a good recipe…like this one!

2.  Don’t fiddle with the pans while the cupcakes bake.  If possible, don’t rotate the pans until the cupcakes are almost fully set.

3.  Ensure the cupcakes are fully baked through (use a toothpick!).

4.  Let them cool in the pan only until they are just cool enough to move to a cooling rack.  The majority of the cooling process should be done on a rack or on a room temperature baking sheet.  (I heard this tip on the Martha Stewart Sirius Radio channel during Martha’s recent Cupcake Week.)