Category: conversion tips

Tips, tricks & cheats!

Okay so, nobody is perfect. I always say it’d be a pretty boring world if we were. People mess up in different ways everyday; thats why there are erasers on pencils. And not everyone has every single ingredient they need for every single recipe at any given moment. I have a tendency to bake at weird hours. I’m a night owl who hates sunlight and prefers to get things done at 3 a.m., so when I decide to bake, lets say, chocolate cupcakes that require buttermilk at 3:15 a.m. on a Monday, and I discover I don’t have buttermilk, I am not discouraged. Because I have these handy-dandy tips and tricks up my sleeve.

And now, young grasshopper, I share them with you. *

Homemade buttermilk:

1 cup milk + 1 tsp white distilled vinegar. Allow to set, or “sour,” for five minutes. Change the quantity based on the amount you need, for example: 2 cups buttermilk = 2 cups milk + 2 tsps white distilled vinegar, and so on.

Homemade Sweetened Condensed Milk:

Mix 6 cups whole milk with 4 and a ½ cups of sugar, 1 stick of butter, and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract. Cook over medium heat, reducing liquid, for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Let cool. This can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for several weeks. (I haven’t tried this yet, but it would’ve come in handy before Christmas when I made those magic bars!)

Self-Rising flour:

Instead of buying self-rising flour, or if you’re like me, and never have any and decide to bake at 4 a.m… its easy to cheat. Its 1 ½ tsps baking powder and ½ tsp salt per cup of self-rising flour needed. Simply take the amount of self rising flour called for in the recipe, use regular flour and add the baking powder and salt, for example, lets say you need 1 cup self rising and one cup regular. Okay, so then you would put in two cups regular flour + 1 ½ tsps baking powder + ½ tsp salt. Got it? Easy.

Homemade brown sugar:

1 cup packed brown sugar = 1 cup sugar + 2 tbsps molasses.

Homemade baking powder:

1 tsp baking powder = ¼ tsp baking soda + ½ tsp cream of tartar.

Saving cupcakes:

If you find yourself with an exorbitant amount of cupcakes, or don’t have time to finish frosting them, or whatever, you can freeze cupcakes for up to 3 months. I myself haven’t done it for that long so I can’t vouch for flavor and texture. But it can be done. An airtight ziplock bag or something similar is recommended, or double wrap in foil or plastic wrap. Freezer burn is the main problem. If you can avoid that, you’re good.

Keeping brown sugar moist:

Brown sugar gets hard, like a friggin brick, if you don’t keep it moist. There are a few ways to do this: place an apple slice in the container is the easiest and cheapest. They do sell terracotta discs meant for this purpose but I’d rather DIY it anyway. Another tip is to place a slice of fresh white bread in the package if it has started to harden. And if its already too far gone- break out the cheese grater.

Recipe Conversions:

I always go here. Its helped me enormously. Its easy, and you can even print out the finished product and save it as an alternate version of the recipe!

I hope these tips help you in some way. Otherwise I just wasted a post. 🙂

*Please note: I didn’t come up with these. I’m not that smart. I gathered them over the past few years/months from different sources.

Magnolia’s vanilla “snowcakes” with coconut snow

I had to bake tonight. I HAD to. I had a new apron and new Wilton supplies just sitting there looking at me mournfully. I had all these ideas swimming through my head but I thought of this yesterday and liked it a lot. Originally, they were going to be coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, a la The Barefoot Contessa, seeing as how I had coconut and cream cheese both sitting around doing nothing. However I overestimated the amount of coconut I had leftover after my other baking, and then realized that Jay hates coconut anyway, and I know he feels put out when I make cupcakes he can’t enjoy. So I figured I’d do it this way. A slight sprinkling of coconut has to be tolerable, right? You barely taste it. And how can you go wrong with vanilla? You can’t. I do plan on doing the coconut cupcakes sometime soon though.

So I used the Magnolia recipe because thats my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe. In case you didn’t know, Magnolia’s is a bakery in Manhattan thats been made like, crazy famous by Sex & The City. Carrie & Miranda were eating them once on the show and after that it was all “Magnolia this!” and “Magnolia that!” Then they were closed due to health code violations, which makes me a bit icked out. But now they’re open again & all is right with the world. Not that that has shit to do with making their recipe at home, I’m just saying. Anyway the hype is true, they’re good-ass (I was gonna say bad-ass but I thought maybe you’d think that meant lousy) vanilla cuppin’ cakes. Nice and light, good flavor. Not dry or hard. Just perfect.



  • 1 ½ cups self-rising flour
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  2. Line 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake papers.

  3. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

  4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

  5. Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

In lieu of self rising flour I did a little cheating by using regular flour combined with 1 ½ tsp’s of baking powder and ½ tsp of salt per cup… so for this particular recipe, since it called for 1 ½ cups of self rising, it was roughly 1 ½ cups of regular flour plus 2 ¼ tsps baking powder and ¾ tsp salt. Add thats IN ADDITION to the 1 ¼ cups of regular flour already called for in the recipe. (Or you could just buy self rising flour…but I certainly wasn’t running to a supermarket just for that, and I’d forgotten that this recipe called for it).. I hope that wasn’t confusing. I confused myself while writing it, but it made perfect sense while I was baking.

THIS RECIPE “SUPPOSEDLY” MAKES 2 DOZEN. If you need less, or want less (of any recipe), I use this nifty thing. I happen to love having 2 dozen cupcakes around at any given time. You may not. I’m just telling you so that when you go to pour it into your tins, you don’t fill up 12 and then say, “Jeez I’ve got a lot left over!” And I’m especially warning you because I got close to 36 cupcakes out of this. Thats A LOTTA cupcakes. But I’m gonna send some either to work with Jay or to his family. I certainly don’t need 36. 24, I can work with… 36… thats just crazy talk. I ended up freezing like 15 of them for use later on this weekend.

I frosted them with plain white vanilla buttercream (tip: use CLEAR vanilla extract if you want a whiter white, the brown vanilla extract causes it to be a cream color) first, making it smooth as possible. I then sprinkled a bit of coconut around the on top.

I call them “snowcakes”, as in snowflakes + cupcakes. But thats because I’m a corny, cheesy bastard. They’re basically pseudo-coconut cupcakes. Coconut cupcakes for people who aren’t too thrilled with coconut.

I used the Magnolia frosting recipe as well, so here it is.


Note: The vanilla buttercream we use at the bakery is technically not a buttercream but actually an old-fashioned confectioners’ sugar and butter frosting. Be sure to beat the icing for the amount of time called for in the recipe to achieve the desired creamy texture.

Makes enough for one 2-layer 9-inch cake or 2 dozen cupcakes*

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar. If desired, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly. (Use and store the icing at room temperature because icing will set if chilled.) Icing can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

*This is a BIG FAT frosting recipe. I cut it smaller, using only about half the amount of confectioners sugar, however, because of that I did not have enough for all 30-something cupcakes. Hence me freezing some.

And thats that.