Category: cuteness

The wicked witch of the cupcake.

Vintage postcard: flying witches.

Yeah. That’s right. Today we’re talking about witches. Because in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s October, and that means one thing to me: Halloween.

Ohh, Halloween. My favorite time of year. The leaves changing (hopefully) & crunching beneath my boots, the air getting brisker, the wind kicking up. The costumes & makeup start appearing in stores earlier & earlier nowadays, but I reserve my Halloween excitement for the first week in October. I refuse to do ANYTHING Halloween-related before October 1st. Yes, it’s my favorite holiday & yes, I’m excited. But it’s like buying Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving; it’s just wrong to me. I’ll wait until October to celebrate Halloween… & I’ll wait until December 1st for Christmas, thanks.

That being said, I was super psyched to post this little cupcake topper how-to. I couldn’t wait any longer! I didn’t come up with this idea myself (unfortunately) but I did somewhat modify it from the original directions. I did that because I didn’t have matching mini cupcake liners & regular liners. I don’t do many mini cupcakes, so I never buy the liners. I adapted the directions to suit me & my materials, and with just a little bit more work put in I think they look just as cute. Ladies & germs, I give you…

Cupcake…

liner…

witches’

hats!

Easy DIY witch hat cupcake toppers made from cupcake liners!

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Cherry-bomb cupcakes for Julia’s birthday.

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good & loaded & whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.”
-Julia Child

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I think every food blogger in the universe has been inspired by the book and the ensuing movie Julie & Julia; or at the very least thought, “Wow… that could happen to me!” But we love it not just because it’s a fabulous blogger-makes-good story, but because it involves Julia. The unflappable and beloved Julia Child, she herself who is an example of the very same path most of us food bloggers have taken: non-cook morphs into cook (or baker) and writes about it. And then- success! However, with bloggers, if we’re lucky we get one one-thousandth (or one one-millionth) of the readers that over the years have bought, read and attempted to execute recipes from Julia’s books. Julia was a pioneer in many ways, and her life was fascinating. Her relationship with her husband Paul reminds me a lot of my relationship with Jay; he was un-endingly supportive and encouraging of her in all her exploits & possible craziness. Of course he & I are not quite Julia & Paul Child clones- I doubt Julia ever had a mohawk and Paul was certainly never a cop nor was he in a death metal band- but seriously. Jay has humored me in all of my blogging lunacy, and it can also be said that without him there might not even BE a blog. And without Paul, there would have been no Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So yes, at this point it may seem cliche to love her and be a big fan of hers, but I can’t deny that I spent a large portion of my childhood watching the show Julia had on PBS with Jacques Pépin: Cooking at Home (as well as watching The Galloping Gourmet, the Frugal Gourmet & Yan Can Cook… remember those dudes!?). I always loved Julia, even before I knew who she was & how important she was. And whenever we were at my aunt & uncle’s house for dinner, my Uncle Pat used to do a hilarious impression of her while he cooked.

Well, today would’ve been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.

Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton University graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn (“Caro”) Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. The eldest[3] of three children, she had a brother, John III (1914–2002), and a sister, Dorothy Dean (1917–2006).[4]

Child attended Westridge School, Polytechnic School from fourth grade to ninth grade, then The Katherine Branson School in Ross, California, which was at the time a boarding school. At six feet, two inches (1.88 m) tall, Child played tennis, golf, and basketball as a child and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, from which she graduated in 1934 with a major in English.[1] A press release issued by Smith in 2004 states that her major was history.[5]

Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications, working in advertising, and volunteering with the Junior League of Pasadena[6].

Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs.[15] She joined the women’s cooking club Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to Americans.

In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L’école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.

In 1963, the Childs built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier in the hills above Cannes on property belonging to co-author Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. The Childs named it “La Pitchoune“, a Provençal word meaning “the little one” but over time the property was often affectionately referred to simply as “La Peetch”.[16]

PBS announced an interactive celebration called Cook For Julia about a month ago, and I really wanted to participate. So I popped ‘Julie & Julia’ in the DVD player, flipped through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got to work! ‘Cause see, I was debating doing a version of Julia’s cherry clafoutis, just with “drunken cherries” instead. That’s when I decided (as I often do) to go against the grain. And not just recreate a Julia recipe as they suggested, because everyone will be doing that… but instead, I made Julia some birthday cupcakes. That is, after all, what I do best. Cupcakes. For people in my family, every year, they get a batch of birthday cupcakes, and Julia should get the family treatment. Not only that but what better ingredient to use in a birthday cupcake than alcohol? Or even better… alcohol-soaked fruit?

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Remember my bourbon cherries? Well the one month waiting period is up! And those little bourbon cherries are ready (and in turn, the cherry-infused bourbon is ready, too, but that’s another post).

I was thinking, what can I make with this stuff? I mean… a drink is obvious. Using the bourbon to make a glaze is obvious. And to plop one of these cherries in a cold glass of Coke is obvious, too. But I wanted to do something a little different. And after all, Julia loved to cook with liquor, and she even put it in the food sometimes. *wink*

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So I decided to make cupcakes with those drunken little cherries instead of using them in a clafoutis! By the way, if you remember a while back (on my birthday, actually) I mentioned that those vanilla cupcakes were my new favorite- well, this is them. They’re moist with a great vanilla flavor and they aren’t cornbread-y.

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CHERRY-BOMB CUPCAKES FOR JULIA

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 12 brandy-infused cherries (stems, pits & all- you can also use regular fresh Bing cherries, but if you do, substitute 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in the recipe with either Kirsch, brandy or bourbon)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir with a whisk lightly to incorporate. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Slowly add the vanilla (and/or Kirsch), milk and sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.
  5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
  6. Let cool 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.

Make sure, before serving, to tell everyone they still have the pits in them! No broken teeth for Julia’s birthday, k? It’s easiest to eat these with a spoon, that way you can eat around the pits… which brings me to what I served them with…

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I served them with a some whipped cream in a jar, ’cause it just seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a delicious, fun, offbeat kinda way of topping these off, and just the kinda thing Julia would’ve approved of. It’s really cool, actually, and if you keep shaking it, you’ll get butter. Which also seemed incredibly appropriate for Julia.

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We all know that long before Paula Deen, Julia Child was the Queen of Butter.

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All you have to do is take a clean, empty 8-oz. jar. Fill it with 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar and two drops of pure vanilla extract. Close the jar tightly and shake! Seriously. Shake it. For anywhere from 2-3 minutes, vigorously. If you keep going, like I said, you’ll get butter. Then you can refrigerate it, add a little salt and shmear it on some toast. But if you wanna keep it at the whipped cream, be sure to check it after 3 minutes of shaking.

It has an amazing fresh taste. If you like your whipped cream on the sweeter side, add 1 full teaspoon of sugar.

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They’re definitely an adult cupcake, not for children. You can definitely taste the bourbon, however it’s not overwhelming or overpowering at all. It just gives the cake and the cherry an extra added oomph. And the whipped cream on the side is just perfection. And as a matter of fact, it’s excellent to make at a dinner or a party. It would be so much fun to have your guests help you make it! Make the cupcakes, set them out, and then fill the jar with the ingredients. Then just pass it around, letting each person shake it. Then… voilà! Fresh whipped cream! And of course serving the entire kit & kaboodle with a cocktail made from the cherry bourbon is a must. Taking a swig or two while baking is probably even more of a must.

So that’s the end of my little tribute. I hope it’s something Julia would’ve been proud of. I can’t help but think that she would be… although seeing how she wasn’t a fan of Julie Powell (and her sometimes irreverent attitude) I don’t know if she’d much like me or my little blog. But it doesn’t matter. Because I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for her and all she did to pave the way for food freaks like me to feel comfortable talking about our dinners with such passion, our desserts with such gusto and our butter with such adoration.

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Regardless of how she would feel about me, Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!

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I love you, and as evidenced by this celebration, I think we all still love you. Bon Appetit!

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Follow more bloggers as they #cookforJulia at the Twitter hashtag!

She sells seashell cupcakes by the seashore.

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One of the things that just screams summer, especially when you live near an ocean and are apt to see them A LOT, are seashells. Once the seashells come out, I know it’s definitely summer. You start to see them hanging on wreaths, on restaurant tables, used as planters or candle holders, hanging on walls, on sandals, as earrings, etc. Most people don’t think of the ocean when they think of New York, they just think of “the city.” But New York boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in- dare I say- the world. Coney Island, The Hamptons, Jones Beach, Point Lookout, Brighton Beach, Rye Beach, Manhattan Beach, etc. All of those are not only beautiful but historic beaches. As a kid, going to to beach a few times a week was one of the glories of summer; I could be the little mermaid I was born to be all day long, collecting seashells & starfish, finding little crabs & tide pools, making sand castles and of course swimming myself silly. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. And I still love seashells. I can’t help it, I’m a true summer baby- born July 30th, the height of summer.


I bought these Mary Englebreit cupcake liners last spring, with all intentions of using them last summer. But that didn’t happen. I thought they were so cute, I couldn’t resist! I saw a whole summer cupcake theme going on in my head. Sadly, my summer last year was not how I expected. So this summer I decided I would definitely use those little seahorse liners. And I had an idea! I wanted to do a little seahorse on top of each cupcake. But I couldn’t find appropriate molds, nor could I find any edible toppers that were up to my standards. So I decided I’d buy a set of chocolate seashells, and put one on top of each cupcake. But then I saw the assortment of chocolate shells on the internet, and I wasn’t really pleased. I could’ve made my own, by buying some seashell chocolate molds, but then the weather got really hot.  And that’s when I said, “Self.. maybe chocolate isn’t the best material to use right now.” I was stuck, yet determined. I’d already put off using those liners for a year! I was GOING to use them.

And right about then is when I saw these cute little molded sugar shells at the Cupcake Social and they were perfect.


I brushed them with some gold Wilton pearl dust to give them a little something extra special. It also reminds me a little of sand.


I used an extra large open star tip to frost the vanilla cupcakes with a sweet but ever-so-slightly salty blue frosting (supposed to be reminiscent of saltwater taffy!). Then I topped each one with two seashells. And there you have it- the perfect beachy summery cupcakes.

VANILLA CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and almond extracts.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a small bowl. Then, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the flour.
  4. Fill each cup 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the center of the cupcakes spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting.

SLIGHTLY SALTY “SALT WATER TAFFY” BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 stick SALTED butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 pound – 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk (perhaps more)
  • food coloring, if desired

Directions:

  1. Place the butter and shortening in a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add the first pound and a half of powdered sugar, a cup at a time until all is incorporated. Turn off the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl very well. Add the vanilla and mix again.
  2. Slowly add half of the milk while the mixer is on, and beat for one minute. Add food coloring. Blend.
  3. Add more milk or sugar as needed to achieve a frosting consistency that’s suitable to piping.

For this frosting color, I used regular McCormick liquid food coloring: two drops of green and three drops of blue. It was the perfect color, wasn’t it? And if you don’t have any salted butter, use a little bit of table salt. Just sprinkle it in, a teeny bit at a time until the desired saltiness is achieved. If you’re concerned about the possible grittiness, then just grind the table salt until it’s super fine. And I usually use homemade buttermilk for things like this; I just mix milk & white vinegar together in a ratio of 1 cup to 1 tablespoon (or 1/2 cup to 1 teaspoon). I mix it together and then just let it sit for 15 minutes. I just find the flavor is better, and this way I don’t have to keep throwing away buttermilk that’s been in my fridge too long or worry about the powdered kind getting all clumpy. Of course any kind of buttermilk works, but that’s just what I like to do.

That beautiful cake stand was a gift from my cousin and his wife who live in New Orleans; it’s from a store called Roux Royale, just in case you’re wondering.


Sometimes, you have to just make some pretty cupcakes for no other reason than to enjoy them, and put them on a pretty cake plate. Even on a random Monday. Or Tuesday… or Thursday. Whenever. Even if it’s pretty hot out. Even if it’s so hot you think your face is going to melt off. ‘Cause look at these! They’re so beautiful, you can’t help but smile.


They’re worth it.

And of course, they go perfectly with my grandmother’s vintage 40′s/50′s summer tablecloth that I recently found. How amazing is this? And how jealous are you? ‘Cause I bet you’re pretty friggin’ jealous right now. That’s okay, I would be too. Between my cake plate and this… pfft. You might as well give up. You ain’t got nuthin’ on me & my summer steez.

Anyway, I love you summer. ♥ Here’s to you & all your awesomeness.

Here comes Peter Cottontail.

And he’s riding on a parade of cupcakes, apparently. Yep, you guessed it folks. We’re two weeks away from Easter, and spring is officially here… that means so is the annual Best of Easter Cupcakes Compilation!

Each holiday I post a compilation of my favorite (or the best) cupcake or dessert items that are pertinent to said holiday; I also throw in links to other things like snacks or cookies or even meals that relate as well. I started doing it last Halloween (2010). Afterwards, I’d gotten good feedback from people who said it helps them come up with ideas without having to search too much, so I kept it up. The rest is history, as they say.

So here you are. A convenient little list of pretty cakes (& other things listed at the bottom) that are perfect for spring/Easter/Passover/whatever you celebrate. I celebrate chocolate bunnies, myself. Anyway, click on each image & you’ll be brought to the recipe. Enjoy!
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And there’s more than this that I haven’t pictured here, both for the sake of time & space. If you’re interested in them, I’m listing them below. I hope this helps you guys out with some ideas! And don’t forget- there’s plenty more to come in the next week or two.

Chocolate fudge Easter egg cake pops

Chocolate hi-hat cupcakes with banana-flavored Italian meringue

Sweet noodle kugel

Shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate (shape ‘em like bunnies!)

Thumbprint cookies
…………………………………….(shape ‘em like eggs & use all different colored springy jams & jellies to fill them)

Cherry filled low-sugar cupcakes
…………………………………….(great for diabetics, dieters or people who don’t like frosting.. freaks!)

Carrot cupcakes with lavender-colored cream cheese frosting

Coconut macaroons & chocolate-covered coconut macaroons

Alfajores with dulce de leche filling

Be My Valentine.

‘Tis the season of hearts. It seems as if everywhere I’ve gone since shortly after New Years’ Day, I saw hearts & chocolate hearts & heart-shaped lights & heart-shaped boxes… it’s a good thing I love Valentine’s Day (& the color pink) or else I’d get homicidal. But I do love it all. See, people have this idea about me that because of appearances or my general likes/dislikes that I’m going to be this angry person who hates this terrible “Hallmark holiday.” In reality, that’s far from the truth. I love any & all excuses to cook & bake & decorate with all my vintage stuff, not to mention the fact that the color scheme for this one is kinda delicious. Anyway, it’s February 1st, and that means there are just 2 weeks until Valentine’s Day. Yup, just 2 measly weeks to fit in all the hearts, lace, red & pink that you can stand, then shove it down your throats until February 15th, and then I’ll stop.

So until the 15th of February… suck it up. Even the biggest anti-Valentine’s Day person (if that’s you, you’ll want to make these cupcakes then) can enjoy a double-layer cherry-on-top cupcake, or cookie, or whoopie pie, or cake pop, or some risotto made with red wine. Last year I did a round-up of my favorite cupcakes, too, but of course there are more to include now. So here’s the start of my Valentine’s Day Fairy Tale… just a few ideas to get you in the mood, so to speak. Click each picture & you’ll be magically transported to the recipe!

If you’re going to go the Fairy Tale route this Valentine’s, Black Forest cupcakes are especially perfect, because Snow White originated in & was said to be written about the Black Forest in Germany. All that fairy tale stuff is what Valentine’s Day is made of, isn’t it? All you need is some pretty pink cupcakes with a cherry on top, a fancy dress & some birds tying ribbons in your hair & you’re ready. Some of us may be attracted to the Maleficent’s instead of the princesses, but that doesn’t mean we can’t like the color pink, or Valentine’s Day, or cupcakes. Sometimes the harder you try to portray yourself, the more anti-everything you say you are (even if it’s genuine), the more people think “yeah right”, & laugh at you. There’s no harm in liking things. So fucking lighten up a bit. And I hate everything, so take it from me.

On that note, I’ll end this post. But first you should also check out some of these recipes; while not all were specifically made for/are Valentine’s Day related, they can be adapted quite well:

Heart-shaped shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate

Chocolate whoopie pies with mint filling & a chocolate ganache

Double-layer chocolate & vanilla cupcakes

Red velvet cupcakes (always good for Valentine’s Day)

Anti-Valentine’s Day cupcakes of darkness (my cupcaking skills were immature back then)

Thumbprint cookies (use a red-colored jam or jelly)

Double chocolate pudding

Peppermint bark (includes ideas for making it “Valentine-y”)

The best cocoa brownies (ever!)

I’d say, “The End” but I’m afraid this is just the beginning of the Valentine’s-themed fun. Me & Lola are excited to get in as many rouge-colored desserts & condiments as we can for you guys, so stay tuned!

North Pole cupcakes.

I know I’ve been posting a few Christmas-y goodies, but no cupcakes. How is that possible? There are like 12 days until Christmas & I haven’t posted any Christmas cupcakes!? Well things are gonna change, as of right now. The funny thing about these is they’re a rip-off of a cupcake I saw in one of those little baking booklets on sale at the supermarket checkout line. I loved the idea of the red/white swirled cake & thick white frosting topped with crushed candy canes. But see, I’ve done that particular angle before (quite a bit, too, actually). So instead I used some of these Andes peppermint crunch baking chips that I bought back in October on top.

And of course, my grandma’s little vintage elves had to get in on the act. Are you prepared for the cuteness overload?

Super duper über cute. Those elves (or pixies?) are the coolest. I also have ones that are “candle huggers.” I think they were made by a company called Gilner in the 1940′s & 1950′s (and I think even some go back to the 30′s). These are from the ’40′s, when my grandparents were first married. Apparently they’re very collectible.

I kept the rest of the cupcake true to the original I’d seen, of course my own spin on it since I didn’t have their recipe. Peppermint twist “North Pole” cupcakes (topped with Andes Peppermint Crunch chips)! I bought this bag of Andes chips before Halloween… because I’m crazy. Well that & also because I knew I had to use them to bake with this year. I didn’t know at the time what I would make, but I knew it’d include those. Then I saw that little booklet of baking ideas with its adorable red & white striped cupcake on the cover. Brilliant. I could incorporate the Andes baking chips with red/white peppermint cupcakes- without having to use the tired old candy cane method! ‘Cause yeah, that’s cute & all, but let’s face it- it’s been done to death.

So I did what that little baking booklet did!

Or rather, my version of it.

‘NORTH POLE’ PEPPERMINT TWIST CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint extract
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • red food coloring (please remember to use a good quality NO-TASTE red food coloring!)
  • Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips (or crushed candy canes)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° degrees F.
  2. Line a cupcake pan with baking cups; depending on how big your cupcake tins are, you can make between 8 and 12 (I got 12 but I could’ve easily filled mine more). Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  3. Place the unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar; beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Add the egg, mix it in slowly. Combine the vanilla extract and milk in a large liquid measuring cup.
  4. Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then gradually add ⅓ of the milk mixture, beating until well incorporated. Add another third of the flour mixture, followed by a third of the milk mixture. Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the remaining flour mixture, followed by the remaining milk mixture, and beat just until combined.
  5. Scoop about ¼ – ½ of the batter into a separate bowl. Mix in the peppermint extract well, then mix in the red food coloring, drop by drop, until red color (not pink) is achieved.
  6. Spoon plain vanilla batter into baking cups, filling each about halfway. Add 2-4 teaspoons of the red batter to it & using a knife or toothpick, swirl & swish it around until there’s a swirled pattern. DO NOT THOROUGHLY MIX IT- you’ll end up with pink cupcakes, not red swirl. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
  7. After frosting, sprinkle baking chips or crushed candy canes on top.

Elf not included.

The frosting tip is this one, and the frosting is a plain ol’ vanilla confectioner’s sugar buttercream (an Italian meringue or Swiss meringue would be nice too). For cupcakes like this, I prefer to use a plain white liner so that you can see the swirl through it, but do whatever works for you. And like I said, I seriously stress the no-taste red color. If you don’t use it, you might taste an unpleasant bitter or chemical-y flavor that will overpower the peppermint & vanilla. Some good choices are Wilton’s No-Taste Red gel food coloring and Americolor Super Red gel paste food coloring. Same goes for making red velvet cupcakes, although with the cocoa powder I find it isn’t as noticeable.

I told you I was all vintage inspired this season. So on the kitchen table, in addition to these lil’ pixie people, I used my grandma’s vintage Christmas tablecloth & some of my mom & grandma’s vintage Santa’s. My mother has a Santa collection that would make Martha Stewart cry; you need a certain kind of Kris Kringle? Ask her. She has a bunch that belonged to my great-grandmothers, my grandma, and ones that were hers from when she was a child. Not to mention the tons of them she’s gotten as gifts or bought herself over the years. She has every single type of St. Nick you could ever want- Victorian, Colonial, 1950′s, 1920′s, plastic, metal, plaster, hollow, solid, papier mache, German Santa’s, Irish Santa’s, folk Santa’s, traditional Santa’s, modern Santa’s, American Santa’s, Santa’s in cars, Santa’s on sleds, cat Santa’s, happy Santa’s, sad Santa’s, angry-looking Santa’s, tall Santa’s, tiny Santa’s, etc. I’m not joking. Any type of Santa you can imagine, she’s got. But I just chose to borrow some of the 40′s/50′s/60′s ones for my little retro display. It seemed they’d be more fitting with the tablecloth.

Even though my grandma isn’t here physically this Christmas, her things are all around & in that, she is here. Here are a few close ups of the tablecloth. It’s so cute. I’m going to try & look through some old pictures & see if I can find any of either my grandparents’ apartment or their house at Christmas with this on the table. I mean how amazing is this? So stylized. It’s right out of Christmas in Connecticut.

Basically, this all boils down to the fact that I love all things peppermint & candy cane-like, I love all things vintage and I love baking with them & using them as inspiration. Luckily, my family saved a lot of their fantastic vintage stuff for me to swoon over. I’ll never understand people who don’t like vintage items! What is WRONG with you people?! This stuff is phenomenal. They just don’t make things like this anymore. Not to mention, a quick look on eBay or Etsy & you’ll see, this stuff goes for quite a bit of money. So if you’re lucky enough to have it, you’re sitting on a goldmine. Especially the Gurley candles (which I have a TON of, for every holiday), some of them go for a fortune!

Not that I’d ever sell. But anyway, I do love seeing/hearing about other people’s Christmas goodies that have been in their family for ages (or at least a few years), so if you feel like sharing, please do! You can add links to pictures or stories or whatever you like in the comments. I’m a nosy bitch so humor me…

Eye of newt & toe of frog.

This year for Halloween, when it came to edibles, I was 100% inspired by Martha’s Halloween issue. Literally, 100%. I found the perfect cupcakes for Halloween, not to mention other treats & ideas that I just had to make (see picture on the right). Some of them you’ve already seen (like the pumpkin cupcakes, or the candy apples with witches’ attached!), but these are the pièce de résistance, if you will. Gorgeous green pistachio eye-of-newt & toe-of-frog cupcakes, complete with chocolate frogs! As soon as I saw them I just knew they’d be absolutely amazing, not to mention they’d look perfect on my table for Halloween. I told you I was completely inspired *ahem* by Queen Martha’s Halloween issue this year, didn’t I? I know I must have. Like I said, I haven’t had an original cupcaking thought in my pretty head all season, sadly. I’ve also been nursing a wicked painful back lately, which is actually most inopportune for a lot of reasons- but such is life when you get old like me you’ve got a chronic back problem, and on top of that I’ve been fighting (and losing) a battle with a hardcore cold. Bottom line is I needed some ideas. These cupcakes jumped out at me; regardless of what plans I had for Halloween these babies were going to be on the menu. Ghastly, ghostly, sickly green cupcakes accompanied by my lovely skull (with his friend The Rat & Mr. Tarantula), not to mention some extra (kinda cute) edible ‘croaking’ friends. I usually make cupcakes frosted high with tufts of perfectly piped buttercream… but not this time.

This time I wasn’t going to be frosting the little green-ish cakes, but glazing them in two different shades of green goo. Sounds yummy, right? Haha. At Halloween, anything is acceptable! And honestly, how could I possibly name them anything other than ‘Eye of Newt & Toe of Frog‘ cupcakes? I could not. I would be doing a disservice to my literary education as well as underestimating (or rather under-using) my quick wit.

So like any good witch would do, I took a break from drinking Egyptian Licorice tea, blowing my nose & rubbing Tylenol Precise on my back (sexy, I know), took out my magical mixer, Lola, and started to create some evil, er, delicious cupcakes. Lola may be pink, but she’s pretty diabolical. Together we whipped up some rather eerie yet delicious green-tinted pistachio cakes with green glaze & little frogs. The chocolate frogs are made from frog-shaped candy molds. I used chocolate Candy Melts (and Spooky Green colored melts to make the dots on them) and then brushed them with green pearl dust when they were cooled.

The irony is, my dad’s birthday is the 29th of October, so every year I try to make a big batch of cupcakes & use half for his birthday, half for Halloween. Some years it doesn’t quite work out, and I end up making two batches anyway. But it just so happens that this year he requested pistachio cupcakes weeks before Halloween, and I never mentioned the fact I had planned on making these. So killing two birds with one stone made everyone a happy camper this year. And who wouldn’t love chocolate frogs!? Even Harry Potter likes chocolate frogs! They’re clearly magical.

What an amazing looking set of cupcakes these turned out to be! And moist. And tasty. Who doesn’t love pistachio? I admittedly amped up the ‘nut’ flavor with some almond extract myself (which I included in the recipe below), but if you’re a purist you can just use a full 2 teaspoons vanilla.

EYE OF NEWT & TOE OF FROG CUPCAKES (adapted very slightly from Martha Stewart’s Halloween magazine ‘pistachio cupcakes’, 2011)

Makes 36

Ingredients:

  • 14 ounces unsalted shelled pistachios (about 1 ¾ cups)
  • 1 ¼ cups (2 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 large eggs, room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line 36 cups of standard muffin tins with paper liners. Coarsely chop ¾ cup pistachios, and reserve. In a food processor, grind remaining pistachios to a paste.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese, and pistachio paste until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Gradually add sugar; beat until smooth, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until each is incorporated, and scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla & almond extracts. Reduce speed to low. Add flour & salt, beating until just combined. Fold in chopped pistachios by hand.
  3. Divide batter among lined cups, filling each almost ¾ full. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (Cupcakes can be stored up to 1 day at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.)
  4. Place on wire racks that are over rimmed cookie sheets. Drizzle lighter glaze (see below) over each, let set until no longer tacky, 30 to 60 minutes. Drizzle with darker glaze, allowing the lighter to show around the edges, let set before decorating with chocolate frogs. Serve & enjoy.

GHASTLY GREEN GLAZE

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • Gel-paste food coloring in Moss Green, Brown, Juniper Green and Royal Blue (all Wilton)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth & combined. Transfer half to another bowl.
  2. For lighter green glaze (base color), add 4 drops Moss Green & 2 drops Brown food coloring to one bowl; stir to combine, adding more of each color until desired shade is reached.
  3. For the darker glaze (top color), add 4 drops Juniper Green, 2 drops Royal Blue and 1 drop Brown to the second bowl; stir to combine. Adjust by adding more until desired shade is reached. Use immediately (above).

I bought my pistachios at Trader Joe’s because they’re the only place that sells unshelled pistachios (other than perhaps Whole Foods, but Trader Joe’s is closer to me). The frogs Martha uses are from Black Dinah Chocolatiers. I, however, made my own. Like I said above, I bought a frog candy mold (slightly bigger than the Black Dinah “froglets”) and used Candy Melts to create the frogs. Do as you wish in that department. I also used slightly different colors of Wilton gel-paste food coloring (just the greens) for the glazes. I couldn’t find Juniper Green & didn’t want to order it online, so I used two other Wilton greens I already had. It worked just fine.

And also I carved my jack-o-lantern! I screwed up a bit, it’s supposed to be Jack Skellington but I broke two carving saws doing it & so he’s not the best. I had further plans for it, but like I said, I broke the tools & it was around midnight, so here it is. Not perfect. I’m a perfectionist, though, so it’s disappointing. Boo (pun intended). But it came out pretty decent, either way, better than a lot I’ve seen. And I roasted the seeds with Kosher salt & olive oil. Mmm. That makes up for any mistakes, right?

In case you aren’t aware, the phrase “eye of newt & toe of frog” is Shakespearean. It comes from the same text as “double, double, toil & trouble” and “something wicked this way comes”, also very popular terminology in modern vernacular… all of which just so happens to be from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. I’m 100% certain most people who use these terms haven’t a clue what their origins are. However I do, and it’s one of my absolute favorite literary classics. Anyway, the line about newts & frogs is from the part where the Three Witches (or “Weird Sisters”) are concocting a spell in the final scene. For those of you who slept through high school English class, here’s the full excerpt:


1 WITCH. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH. Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH. Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH. Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH. Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL. Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH. Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.


Those of you familiar with Shakespeare will align the image of the skull with another of his works, Hamlet. I guess these cupcakes are just totally Shakespearean! And now you know the origin of “double, double, toil and trouble.” Go impress your friends.

that ends our Halloween fare for the year (almost- bwahahahaha). I can’t believe in just 4 short days it’ll be Halloween- where the hell did the time go!? Insane. There might just be one more trick… or treat… before this month ends..