Coca-Cola Float Cupcakes

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Hello everyone!  Got a request from my mom this weekend to create a treat for a birthday at work.  Her co-worker LOVES anything coca-cola!  When she came home with gifts of all coke memorabilia, I knew we were going with some kind of coke themed dessert.  This particular cupcake is representative of a coke float, cherries and all!

First the cupcake itself:  I’m no stranger to a boxed cake mix and use them very frequently in my baking, as was the case here.  My go to recipes for these quick fixes usually come from Anne Byrn’s Book, The Cake Mix Doctor (you can purchase it here: http://www.cakemixdoctor.com/books/the-cake-mix-doctor/), but her chocolate cake recipe calls for ingredients I didn’t have, namely sour cream.  So some internet searching brought me to this recipe from Duncan Hines:  http://www.duncanhines.com/recipes/cakes/turdra/chocolate-cola-cake/.  I was really just looking for a recipe that could confirm success when replacing coke for the liquid and this one did the trick!

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I stopped after the recipe for the actual cake, however, the only change I made from here was replacing the oil with melted butter.  The cupcakes baked up very nicely (I read some horror stories about runny and exploding cupcakes).  Once they cooled I cut out the middles and filled them with ready-made cherry pie filling.  How easy, right?

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(Sorry for the not so great quality pictures.  I left my camera in PA while visiting my sister last weekend, so these are from my phone).

In the second picture you can also see that I added a glaze.   Originally, this was going to be a chocolate ganache coating, but I found that the cupcakes themselves didn’t seem to have enough coke flavor, so I wanted to add another coke element.  I added about 2-3 Tbs of Coca-Cola to about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar so it had a rather thin consistency and dipped each cupcake in the glaze.  Then I let them sit to harden slightly.

Finally, the topping:  I went with a very simple and classic whipped cream.  Whipped up about 1 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs  of powdered sugar.  With the sweetness of the cupcake and the glaze I wanted to keep the whipped cream less sweet.

I found some adorable paper milkshake straws at target (on clearance!!!!!!!!!!!!) in all different colors, so I pulled out the red ones, cut them to size (about 1.5″) and placed them into the whipped cream like straws in a Coke Float! 

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My Bakers Box

Are you guys familiar with those monthly “box” memberships? I’m sure you are at least seeing them advertised on your Facebook feed. I’m always tempted to sign up for all of them! Who doesn’t love surprise stuff sent to them every month? Well by month three when the items you’re getting are still going unused, you may be rethinking this whole monthly subscription idea and wondering if it’s worth it. Well, in my case, I’ve found a box worth every penny! It’s called My Bakers Box (you can visit their website here: http://www.mybakersbox.com/). They send you a few samples of some fun and creative baking essentials and embellishments each month.

These boxes usually coordinate with the season; for instance August’s Box was ice cream themed and included supplies such as mini ice cream cones, sprinkles, and chocolate sauce, among other things. They will even include recipes or suggestions on how to use some of the products. I’m always eager to create treats for various holidays but am hesitant to buy supplies in regular stores. I may only make 12 Halloween cupcakes, but I still need to buy that pack of 50 cupcake liners. Sure, I will probably use them again, but I am always looking to do something new and fresh the following year! Okay, I’m rambling. My point, well what is my point? My point is that so far, I am a very satisfied customer and hope that these gals can stay in business for a very long time. I am going to try to make an effort to make a post with each box I receive and I’m currently three boxes behind schedule!! Stay tuned for some really cute treats!

Jelly Donut Cupcakes

It’s spring, right??

Well, I’m trying to get in the spirit anyway with this delicious recipe. If you hadn’t noticed from the sales at your local supermarket, strawberries are in season! What a better way to use some strawberries than in a yummy cupcake? I added a little twist to your basic vanilla cupcake to make it extra special. I will call these Strawberry Jelly Donut cupcakes.

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First, make your favorite vanilla cake recipe into cupcakes. Boxed mixes are a-okay for this one! The donut-ifying comes with the next step:

1. Get your prep station ready. You’ll need a bowl with 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter and a bowl with a blend of cinnamon sugar, approximately 1/4 cup.
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2. Dip the top of the cupcake in melted butter
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3. Then dip in the sugar mixture
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They should look like this:
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4. Poke a small hole in the middle of the cupcake and fill with strawberry jelly or jam (whatever you have on hand).
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I went ahead and topped these with my favorite cream cheese frosting (you can find the recipe here: http://partydesignswithapersonaltouch.com/2013/05/07/simple-cake-pops/) and a half a strawberry. Yum!!
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Pumpkin Mushroom Risotto → Pumpkin Arancini

So forgive my lack of pictures on this one.  I had some issues with losing my battery charger for my camera for a short period of time.  Don’t worry, it’s back!  I would have never made it through all of pumpkin season without it!

So we’re, of course, attempting another pumpkin recipe (are you sick of pumpkin yet?  I’m not!!!) and then we’re going to do a little recipe upcycling and use the leftovers of our pumpkin risotto to make some untraditional italian rice balls AKA arancini!  Ambitious?  You be the judge of that!

Risotto

So I kind of followed this recipe for the pumpkin risotto:

http://table.io/pumpkin-risotto/

Okay, I mostly followed this recipe!  Just a few differences:

  • I did not have shallot, so I used a regular ol’ yellow onion
  • I added mushrooms.  I added them with the onions to saute before adding the rice
  • I added the pumpkin puree to the rice mixture instead of the stock.  I just preferred the idea of the pumpkin cooking with the rice instead of boiling away in stock.  I don’t have a good reason why
  • I used dried sage, so I added just a pinch more than the recipe calls for

So that was yummy dinner one night.  I could have eaten that risotto for the next few nights, but in the interest of pumpkin recipe experimentation, I decided to upcycle my risotto!

Arancini

Rice Balls.  So the concept goes, stick a square of mozzarella cheese inside a ball of cooked risotto, bread, and fry.  I did just that.

You’ll need these additional ingredients:

  • Mozzarella, cut into 1″ squares
  • 2 Eggs, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Italian Bread Crumbs
  • Canola Oil

You wanna get your oil on first and bring it to your standard frying temperature (about 350°F)

Roll your risotto into a ball around the square of cheese, cover in egg mixture, cover in bread crumbs, and fry until golden brown. Couldn’t be any more simple, right?

Serve these warm!  The cheese in the middle melts perfectly adding another dimension of flavor to your already delicious risotto.  Plus, who can resist anything that’s breaded and fried?  I served these just by themselves.  Typically you would serve arancini with some marinara sauce.  I’m thinking these would be delicious with a creamy alfredo sauce with a pinch of nutmeg.  My mouth is watering.

Pumpkin Ravioli with Mushroom Brown Butter Sauce

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On to the next recipe on our pumpkin adventure! That’s just silly. 

Again we have another technique that you can use in endless variations.  Since, it’s fall, aka the time of the pumpkin, I tried my hand at some homemade pumpkin ravioli.  They were beyond delicious.

So, don’t tell, but my dad taught me one of the best secrets when it comes to making homemade ravioli without tearing apart your kitchen with dough frustration.  What is that secret you ask?  Well, my friends, meet the wonton wrapper.  Yes, it’s a little thinner than your typical ravioli.  Yes, it requires a bit more tenderness when cooking so that they raviolis don’t rip apart, but I have to say taste-wise, they are light and soft and really allow the filling of your raviolis to take the spotlight here. 

Speaking of filling, simply mix together:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not the pumpkin pie ready one, just pumpkin)
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesean
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • salt and pepper to taste

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So now to assemble.

  • Take one wrapper
  • Place a small mound of filling directly in the middle
  • Brush some egg wash (just an egg beaten with a splash of water) around the entire wrapper
  • Place another wrapper on top and press the all the edges together firmly so no filling escapes

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So you’ll cook these in salted, boiling water for about 2-3 minutes. I like to wait for them to float to the top and that’s how I know they are done.  I would advise getting your sauce together before boiling your ravioli, so you can take them right out of the water and put them in the sauce. They’ll all stick together otherwise, trust me!

So this sauce I’m speaking of?  A mushroom brown butter sauce that is prepared exactly how it sounds.

  • Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a pan until it browns slightly.  Keep a close eye because remember, this isn’t burnt butter sauce
  • Add sliced mushrooms and some onion and let them saute until they soft and also browned slightly
  • Finish the sauce off with some salt, pepper, and dried sage
  • Add in your boiled ravioli and serve!

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I’m serious.  So yummy.

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It’s Pumpkin Season!!!!

 

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Forgive me if I’m a little late to the party, but IT’S PUMPKIN SEASON!!!  It’s my favorite time of year and to commemorate I’m trying to cook dishes and desserts that focus on our favorite fall friend, the pumpkin!

First up, pumpkin cream cheese muffins.  I didn’t vary much from this recipe:

http://recipesweet.net/easy-pumpkin-cheesecake-muffins/

They were moist, spicy enough and just overall delicious.  Not to mention, they really put me in the fall mood.  My sister shares in my pumpkin obsession, so she took the lead on making these for the most part.  I just played photographer. 

The great thing about this recipe is that you can take the technique and apply it to a multitude of different flavor combinations.  For instance, add some strawberry jam to the cream cheese mixture and swirl it into your favorite plain muffin recipe and you have strawberry shortcake muffins.  I’d personally also like to try a chocolate/peanut butter variation on this too.  The options are limitless!

You’re going to prepare two different batters.  The pumpkin batter (and I just followed that recipe exactly):

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and the cream cheese batter (of which I neglected to snap a picture).

After spooning your pumpkin batter into the muffin liners, add a spoonful of the cream cheese batter on top, and use some kind of long skinny utensil (a butter knife works great) to swirl the two batters together.

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Bake and serve!  Not to mention, this makes your house smell heavenly!!!

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Summer Fruit Crumble

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I’m a huge fan of crumbles! I think because they are so versitle.  You can use just about any combination of fruits in a crumble; from apples to berries; citrus to stone fruit.  In the spirit of summer, I chose to use an assortment of berries, plums, and nectaries.  I was hoping to use rhubarb and strawberries, but I couldn’t find rhubarb anywhere!

For the filling you will need:

  • 2 plums
  • 2 nectarines
  • handful of strawberries, sliced thickly
  • handful of raspberries
  • handful of blueberries
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 3-4 tbsps of butter, cut into small pieces

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Slice up the necessary fruit into somewhat large pieces, because they will break down a bit in the oven, and toss with the brown sugar and butter.  Place the mixture in an oven-safe dish to await the crumble topping before baking.

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For the crumble, you will need to combine:

  • Half a stick of butter, softened
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour

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Sprinkle the crumble topping on top of the fruit and bake at 350°F for 35-40 mins.

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You can easily bake this crumble ahead of time, cool, bring it along to your Labor Day BBQ and reheat using the stove or even the grill! My favorite way to enjoy this recipe is also with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream, YUM!

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S’mores Brownies

With summer soon coming to a close, I feel like everyone is holding on to things that remind them of warmer days.  What says summer more than s’mores?  Just about everyone has a fond summer memory of standing by a fire, roasting a marshmallow on a long stick and squeezing it between some chocolate and graham crackers.  Well, I’ve taken this idea and transformed it to brownie form, as many have done before.  My 11 year old niece still raves about these brownies.

For this recipe you will need:

  • Your favorite brownie mix
  • Chocolate Chips
  • Marshmallows (minis are best, but I cut up some large ones)
  • Crumbled Graham Crackers

I began by lining my baking pan with some parchment paper.  This trick really helps when it comes time to slice the brownies.  The parchment paper allows you to just lift the whole batch of brownies out all at once.

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Next, prepare your brownies according to the package, pour in the pan, and start to bake.

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When there are approximately 5 minutes of bake time left, pull out the brownies and sprinkle the marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham cracker crumbles on top of the almost cooked brownies and place back in the oven to finish cooking.

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The marshmallows should expand a bit and the chocolate chips melt slightly.

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Once they are cooled, lift the brownies out using the parchment and slice.  I sliced them into small squares and plattered them up for all to enjoy!

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Fish (not flavored) Cake

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I have a cousin who is an avid fisherman who has been an amazing help to my family for the last few weeks.  So when his birthday rolled around just recently, I knew I had to do something special for him.  I came across this fish-shaped cake idea on pinterest and decided to give it a whirl. 

I chose to use a white chocolate pound cake recipe for the cake and cupcakes.  The recipe is from a book I have entitled “The Cake Mix Doctor” by Anne Byrn.  In her book, she outlines recipes that utilize store-bought cake mixes and elevate them into more creative and better tasting cakes.  The recipe requires:

  • 6 oz white chocolate, melted
  • 1 package plain white cake mix
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend all of these ingredients together, place in the appropriate pans, which in this case would include a pan for 12 cupcakes and an 8″ circular cake pan, and bake at 350°F.  The cupcakes should bake for about 25 minutes and the cake for about 35 minutes.

 

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After the cakes cool, cut the round cake in half, so it appears as two half moons.  One of those half moons you will shave slightly to resemble a fin and the other you will leave in tact.  Arrange the cakes as pictured below:

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Oops, I frosted the “fin” before I had a chance to take a picture of the set-up.  The frosting is so easy and once you know how to make it you can make so many different variations.  I took one tub of cool whip, mixed it with french vanilla instant pudding powder (the “just add milk” kind), and colored it to my liking.  So simple, right?  The pudding mix thickens the cool whip slightly and adds another dimension of flavor.

Next, I frosted the rest of the cake, using a bit of black food coloring for the eye.

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I dragged a toothpick across the frosting to resemble scales on the fish.  The finished product:

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Simple Cake Pops

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So, most people have that go-to recipe that is fundamentally the same, but can be varied in so many different ways your results seem like completely different recipes.  The same applies to to cake pops.  You can make them using so many different flavors; you can stuff them; decorate them; make them into a multitude of  shapes; the list goes on and on.  Once you master the concept of the cake ball, the rest is up to your imagination.

For this batch, I have chosen to do a red velvet cake with vanilla cream cheese frosting, dipped in white chocolate.  I used a boxed red velvet cake.  Your first step is baking the cake as directed in the pan of your choosing.  The shape does not matter because your cake is just going to end up crumbled.

Next, I whipped up a batch of homemade cream cheese frosting.  The recipe couldn’t be more simple.  Just whip together 8 oz of softened cream cheese and one stick of butter. Slowly add 4 cups of powdered sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla and blend until everything is combined.  I actually ended up using a little bit less than 4 cups of sugar, mainly because I didn’t want the sweetness to be too much.  This is a nice thick and delicious frosting.

Once the cake cools, crumble it into little pieces, like I’ve started to do below:

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Then, begin to add the frosting and mix.  The mixture should resemble a “drop” cookie dough, like a chocolate chip cookie dough.

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Now the fun begins!  Begin to shape you cake balls.  Make round shapes by rolling the dough like you would a meatball.  You want to keep them on the smaller side, smaller than a golf ball, so that when you dip them in chocolate, they don’t become too heavy and fall off your sticks!

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Time to stab these guys with some lollipop sticks.  I melt a small amount of chocolate, dip the tip of the stick into the chocolate, and then place the stick in the top of the cake ball.  This is just another step to ensure the cake ball doesn’t fall off the stick when you’re dipping.  Then, I put the cake balls in the freezer for at least an hour, or until they are pretty firm.

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Now the fun part, dipping!  Melt your chocolate however you feel comfortable.  I typically use the double boiler method.  With this method you place a glass bowl on top of a pot of a small amount of simmering water.  You want to be sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water and that the water is never boiling. Keeping the water too hot will heat your chocolate too much and it will actually burn and seize up.  This is NOT a good thing, trust me!

Once your chocolate is melted, dip the balls one at a time and tap the stick on the side of the bowl to remove the excess chocolate.  Let them dry upside down by placing the sticks in a piece of styrofoam or a fancy cake pop holder.  This will allow them to keep their round shape. If you want to display the cake pops on a platter or plate, you can let them dry ball side down so that the chocolate pools at the bottom and bit, making a little shelf so they stay upright and don’t roll all over the place.

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From here, decorating is up to you.  I colored some chocolate green and splattered it on the cake pops.  You can also apply some sprinkles when the chocolate is not completely set, or add candy pieces, like mini marshmallows for bunny tails, for instance.  Seriously, the variations are endless.

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