A Very Cupcake Christmas

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

And just as fast as it came, Christmas was gone in a flash.  The baking, wrapping and preparing all worth it.  The smiles on the faces of loved ones, the text or call from those far away and the hugs from family not seen often enough.  I'm thinking this merriment should last into the new year, maybe even carry me through the winter.  If only we could bottle that feeling to last all year long.

My house smelled of cupcakes all week long.  Seven dozen cookies-n-cream were made in celebration of my sister's birthday.  I was happy she asked me to make her treat to bring to work.  I also made tiramisu cupcakes for the first time.  I had found this recipe here and only made a few slight changes.  I did not use a box mix of cake and instead started with a yellow cake recipe I had.  Within that recipe, I replaced some of the milk normally used with brandy.  I used 1/4 cup and it gave the cake a nice flavor without overpowering it or being too boozy.  This of course could be adjusted based on your like or dislike of brandy.  I wanted it added as I knew I was preparing these for a tiramisu connoisseur.  It seemed many of the cupcake recipes I found omitted the brandy or any kind of alcohol that was often called for in regular tiramisu recipes.  I then prepared the liquid coffee just as the recipe suggested.  I'm not one to usually have instant coffee on hand but since Starbucks has come out with handy instant packets of many of their fabulous roasts, I usually have a few laying around.  Three of those packets (I used Italian Roast Extra Bold) were just the right amount.  For future batches of these I will poke more and possibly larger holes for the coffee to soak into.


Next I prepared what the recipe intended for the "filling".  I felt that the small amount that would be injected into the cupcake would not be nearly enough fluffy, creamy goodness.  The recipe called for the filled cupcake to be topped with a buttercream, which I was told by a tiramisu loving friend would ruin the tiramisu-esque flavor of the cupcake.  So the filling (which is fabulous and could be a fantastic topping for ANY dessert) became my frosting.  With the light texture, I wasn't sure how well it would pipe on and  it definitely required a steady hand.  I used Wilton tip #2D.  I may experiment with different tips and piping techniques in the future.  A light dusting of cocoa powder was all that was needed atop  these delightful treats.  One dozen was sent off with a coworker for her Mom's birthday but I made extra for friends and family to sample.  A dear friend who has become the Tasty Sweet photographer took some pictures for me.  My sister even gave me an early Christmas present to use as a prop.  These cupcakes made cute passengers in my new ice skate cupcake stand.  The trio of cupcakes looks so inviting sitting next to a warm cup of coffee.

I finished out my week making 12 dozen mini peppermint hot chocolate cupcakes.  I was flattered that friends of mine wanted these cupcakes to share with their family, friends and coworkers during their Christmas celebrations.  I did keep 2 dozen to share with my family on Christmas Eve as promised!  I needed to get a shot of them all before being divided out as it as my biggest one day batch to date.

After all the baking was complete, I managed to finish shopping and wrapping gifts.  All that was left to do was enjoy, and that I did!  Wine, too much food and treats, gifts shared with family and friends and all around merriment.  I must have made Santa's nice list this year as I was spoiled with many wonderful gifts including many to inspire me in my cupcake adventures.  My parents surprised me with the creme de la creme of baking equipment, the KitchenAid Stand Mixer.  I had recently burnt out the motor of my hand mixer and was using my Mom's stand mixer this past week.  Needless to say, I am very excited to try out the mixer and all my other new supplies this week!  I'm posting a picture of the baking related items I received.  Yes, I know I am very lucky.  No, I'm not trying to brag.  When I look at this picture, I see the support of family and friends for this crazy cupcake dream of mine.  And that my friends is the best gift I could ever receive.  I am truly blessed.

Cupcakes Replaced By Candy

Monday, December 19, 2011

I took a break this weekend from baking cupcakes but was still in the kitchen.  My friends and I had our second annual Christmas candy making day.  On Saturday, cupcakes were replaced with all sorts of other sweet treats.  We were very ambitious, here is the list off goodies we made: oreo truffles, cookie dough truffles, peanut butter kiss cookies, peanut butter balls, fudge, sugar cookies, pumpkin cookies, corn flake wreaths and cracker toffee bark.  I was stressed for a while about the size of my kitchen (small) and the amount of room needed (a lot!) for all this candy to set up.  I needed a gentle reminder from my friend to just relax (and have a glass of wine).  That reminder was exactly what I needed.  If I didn't take the second to step back, I would have missed out on enjoying the time with friends and the many laughs.  Seeing a friend use a hand mixer for the first time was just one of the moments that made me laugh. 

containers waiting to be filled with goodies

some of the candy and cookies we made

Reminders to step back and take it all in are often needed around busy times like the holidays.  To do lists get long but sometimes have to wait in order to fully enjoy these times spent with friends and family.  It is also that hustle and bustle that gets me in the Christmas spirit.  I'm usually the one to procrastinate with shopping and decorating.  My tree is up but there are still presents to be bought.  There is also a lot of baking to be done this week.  I'll be attempting tiramisu cupcakes for the first time.  Cookies-n-Cream cupcakes will be made for my sister's birthday and my week is starting and ending with more Peppermint Hot Chocolate cupcakes.  I hope to also fit in making some chex mix and candied pecans to give as gifts along with plates of the wonderful cookies and candies made this weekend.  I love giving something home made as a gift.  It's the "one size fits all" kind of gift that is bound to please even the pickiest of recipients.

my newest ornament reads "She has it on very good authority that Santa prefers champagne and cupcakes". now that's my kind of Santa!

Yes, this week will be very busy.  Lots of baking, buying and wrapping to fit in amongst working my "real" job.  Stressful?  A little.  Worth it?  You bet!  I love this time of year.  Nothing beats spending time with friends and family over the holidays.  Merry Christmas from me and Izzy to each of you and your families.  During this busy week to come, remember to relax and enjoy every bit of it (wine optional).


Friday, December 16, 2011

Thanks to all the followers and those that posted their thoughts on great cupcake flavors yesterday.  I think some of those ideas might make the flavor list next year.  I hope you had fun, I think I will do contests like this again in the future.  I was so excited, I decided to pick two winners!  Cheryl and Angela's names were picked this morning and will each get 1 dozen cupcakes.  Congratulations ladies and I will be in touch to pick a day to get you your cupcakes.  Have a great weekend everyone.  More baking here for me and a day of candy making too!

Happy National Cupcake Day!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

There are so many things to celebrate this time of year, why not add one more?  No, this holiday is not on the Hallmark calendar so you probably won't find a greeting card fitting of this occasion.  According to the food site, The Nibble, it is National Cupcake Day.  You can check out the entire list of December food holidays here.  I think being a cupcake blog, it is only fitting to celebrate this food holiday and not something like Roast Suckling Pig Day (which is December 18th for you pork fans!).  I'm also celebrating 3 whole weeks of having this blog up and running!  To thank everyone for all of the support, I'd like to have a little give-away.

Here's how it works.  Comment below on what your dream cupcake flavor combination would be or become a follower of this blog.  It's that simple.  The names of all of those who submit comments today and all of those on the followers list (yes, current followers are automatically entered) will be entered in a drawing to win cupcakes or cupcake goodies.  Those local to Appleton, WI will get cupcakes.  Those anywhere else will get a cupcake care package mailed to them (non-perishable cupcake products).  So make sure to be signed in when you comment or leave an email address so I can get a hold of you.

I'll get everyone started.  My dream flavor combination would be chocolate, coffee and toffee.  Ben and Jerry's has an ice cream flavor, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, that I think I will be creating a cupcake based on.  Yum!  O.K. so what is your dream cupcake flavor? 

Have a Happy National Cupcake Day everyone!  How will you be celebrating?  I will be baking and dreaming up more cupcake creations!

Cookies and Cupcakes

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Today was a baking day for me.  It was windy and cold outside so it felt good to stay inside.  I listened to Christmas music, had several cups of coffee and put on my baking thinking cap.  My sister has requested Cookie-n-Cream cupcakes for her birthday later this month but I didn't have a recipe I loved for this flavor combination.  I decided to "sandwich" vanilla cake between two layers of chocolate cake.  The effect turned out exactly like I was hoping for and resembled everyone's favorite sandwich cookie, the Oreo.

I sprinkled the top of the cake batter with crushed Oreos before baking for a little extra crunch and flavor.  It added a nice look and the cupcakes looked good enough to eat coming right out of the oven even before frosting.  I could tell somethings was amiss though.

Unfortunately I got a bit distracted during the baking process.  I was cleaning up all my dishes and was singing along to all of my favorite Christmas carols.  This may not sound like a bad thing but because of this I let the cupcakes bake a little too long.  The result was a batch of good cupcakes but not great cupcakes.  Just a little too dry for my liking.  I knew I could salvage the batch with a great batch for frosting and that I did. 

The frosting turned out great!  It was sweet and creamy just like the filling of an Oreo cookie.  I then topped each one with a mini Oreo.  I think this recipe will be perfect for my sister's birthday.  I will make sure to be a little more attentive to my cupcakes next time.  It was hard today though, I get sucked in to those Christmas carols and suddenly I'm in a Winter Wonderland instead of my kitchen.

My night ended with a dinner out with dear friends.  Over glasses of wine and many laughs we enjoyed a scrumptious Italian meal at Carmella's.  For anyone going, I highly recommend the house made ricotta ravioli.  Delizioso!

More Cupcake Concoctions

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It is going to be another busy week in the Tasty Sweet kitchen.  The ever popular Peppermint Hot Chocolate cupcake is the first order of business.  It has quickly become a favorite.  I'll also be perfecting a batch of Cookies-N-Cream cupcakes for a (taste)test run in preparation for my sister's birthday later this month.  A new (not yet named) peanut butter and chocolate concoction is in the works for a special friend who is driving from Iowa for cupcakes.  Finally I'll be making some green and gold goodies to take along to the Packer game this Sunday.  Cupcakes make a great tailgating treat!  I hope St. Nick was good to all of you, my stocking is currently still empty but I'll give St. Nick until the end of the day.  He is certainly a busy guy and deserves a little extra time!

Cupcake Art

Thursday, December 1, 2011

My new logo arrived!  I'm excited to get this logo on boxes, just in time for some holiday orders.  Thanks to Shawnna and her shop (lovely to cu) on Etsy.  This was my first Etsy purchase and now I'm addicted.  It's a great source for a wide selection of homemade goods, even graphic art.  I'll definitely be doing some Christmas shopping there.

Today was a busy day in the kitchen.  Newest recipe was a success!  Check back soon for details and pictures of Cherry Chocolate Chip cupcakes.

I am thankful for.....

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." ~ William Arthur Ward

Thanksgiving.  My favorite holiday, second in line to my birthday.  Fall brings on a warm feeling that naturally has you going through a mental checklist of  things to be thankful for and dreams of new beginnings for the upcoming year. 

This year the holiday started in the early crisp morning to complete a turkey trot.  It was my first event of this kind but I hope it becomes another tradition with great friends.  Somehow completing a 2 mile walk/jog made me feel better about consuming the large meal to come.  Next it was on to food, football and most of all, family!  My Mom prepared a great meal of turkey and all the fixings, with a little help from Jamie Oliver.  No, the gnarly toothed chef did not make a visit to our family kitchen but he inspired the turkey rub and it turned out fabulous.  The best part of the meal for me was seeing the pride on my Dad’s face as we enjoyed corn, green beans, squash and raspberries all from the family garden.  The day was topped off with a Green Bay Packers win and more quality family time.

I did partake in some black Friday shopping.  Nothing too crazy, my sister and I started shopping at a reasonable time of 9:30am.  I managed to get a few Christmas gifts and a little “just because” gift for myself, the 2012 Wilton Yearbook.  Think toy catalog for bakers.  I will definitely be starting my wish list soon.  I ended my shopping day at the least busy store, the grocery store.  I picked up a few ingredients to test out a new recipe.
I introduce to you, Tasty Sweet Cupcakes newest flavor, Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cupcakes! 
The base is my favorite chocolate cake recipe with a touch of peppermint added.  The topping more than doubled the height of  the cupcake alone!  Who can resist TWO layers of frosting?  The first layer is chocolate frosting rolled in crushed candy cane.  The top layer is marshmallow frosting with a dusting of hot chocolate powder and homemade peppermint white chocolate swirls and snowflakes.  Unintentionally the swirls turned out looking like steam rising from the rich cup of hot chocolate.  The only thing left to do was sample.  Let me just say, this cupcake is a meal in itself.  Not a well rounded meal but a tasty sweet one.  This cupcake definitely required a fork.  I’m thinking the next batch of these will be made in minis.  The family was once again on hand to sample my newest creation and the rest were delivered to friends today.  It’s nice to know I always have taste-testers to help me out.

So tonight I’m enjoying a glass of wine and once again going through my mental checklist of all things for which I am thankful.  The list is long and that gives me a warm calm feeling.  As days, months and years go on, items on my list may change but family, friends and football remain.  Oh, and cupcakes too!

Cupcakes: Not your average travel companion.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I have always loved cupcakes but my passion for cupcakes came in the most unusual of places.  The land of "shrimp on the barbee" and Crocodile Dundee doesn't conjure up images of rich velvety cupcakes. While on a dream vacation in Australia the cupcake earned its place at the top of the dessert pedestal. On a half day trip abseiling, an extreme sport similar to rappelling, in the Blue Mountains of Katoomba.  My instructor was cool and calm as he set up for our scariest and most difficult descent, 30 meters. 5 meters was child's play like going off a big rock, 30 meters was like going off a skyscraper.  The wind was strong, so strong that our instructor had to attach rocks to the ropes to stop the violent swaying of the ropes.  I tried to look over the edge to see what the hell I was getting myself into but was quickly reminded that without a harness attached to the rope the winds would easily blow me off the side of the mountain.  As our instructor singlehandedly staged our ropes and prepared us for abseiling, it was clear he could see how nervous we were.  To calm our nerves his light hearted topic:  Cupcakes! 
He told us about a wonderful shop just accross Katoomba St. from his office of High-N-Wild Mountain Adventures.  He described his favorite flavors, I would love to tell you his recommendation but the howling wind was drowning out his voice as his conversation turned to shouting. Though the fear of this crazy descent was still in the pit of my stomach, I now had a goal.  After this extreme adventure I would reward myself with one of the decadent cupcakes described by our instructor. The thought of a decadent cupcake brought me to my happy place allowing me to relax and enjoy the amazing views of the Blue Mountains. 
The ride was awesome and once at the bottom I released the rope from the intricate weaves and knots to climb back up and do it one more time before heading back into town. While in the van along the winding mountain road (my adrenaline still pumping from basically jumping off a skyscraper) I received the worst news of the day. Our instructor recalled the bakery was closed on Tuesdays.  Just my luck it was Tuesday and therefore Blue Mountain cupcakes was not going to happen.
My descent into the Blue Mountains
Our train was leaving for Sydney shortly and I knew chances were slim I would ever return to Katoomba, let alone this amazing feeling of adventure, accomplishment and mouth watering desire for a cupcake.  It was this right place at the wrong time misstep that started my new tasty travel tradition. Some people seek great bbq or pizza joints but I would now try the lands greatest cupcakes during my travels.  I seek out the sweetest of treats and will now share my experiences with you.  I may never return to Katoomba, but because of my experience in Australia, I've now sampled cupcakes in Boston, Washington DC, San Diego and several places in between.