Category: meringue

Sweet little s’mores meringues.

I love making meringue. Ever since Lola came into my life, it’s been easier than ever. But even with my hand mixer (better known as He Who Must Not Be Named), it’s pretty simple. And fast. I haven’t made them in years, though. I figured it was time. And now that I have a new oven… Well, it doesn’t matter the reason. There’s never a bad reason for cookies.

So yeah, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a while: meringues.

Meringues turned into s'mores? YES.

And meringues- or meringue in general- is extremely easy to make, if you have a mixer. Even a not-so-strong mixer can handle making meringue. I do recommend a stand mixer, however. Mainly because you can walk away & just let the mixer do its thing, without standing there with your arm feeling like it might fall off. I will say, though, that meringue has been made in France & Switzerland since before 1692, and they didn’t have stand (or hand) mixers. So it’s definitely possible… it just isn’t as easy.

But its still easier than mixing cheesecake by hand. Did I ever tell you about the time I broke a mixer on cheesecake batter? It was cray x 100.

Okay, anyway. Back to the subject at hand. Yep. These are meringues. However… not just any meringues:

S'mores meringues: vanilla meringues dipped in chocolate and then sprinkled with graham cracker crumbs.

Meringue cookies are actually quite simple. Even more simple than your average chocolate chip cookie, really. They require 3 ingredients, the mixing is 1-2-3 and the baking time isn’t very important to get perfect since they need to be “dried” in the oven anyway. The roughest part is the mixing- or the creation of the foamy egg whites (or worse yet, the notorious “stiff peaks”). And the chocolate sauce is really easy too, I swear.

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Double chocolate bourbon cupcakes!

A new year, and a new recipe! And for cupcakes, no less! I haven’t made cupcakes in forever. I know. I’m an asshole, what can I say? I’ve been neglecting the very thing that got my blog any attention when it was a newbie. It’s downright horrifying of me. I’m ashamed & embarrassed. But I’m back in the game!

It’s pretty cold out, so it’s baking time. It’s been baking time since October,  late September even… so who am I kidding? But it’s serious baking time now.  A high of 11° F? I think that means it’s time to bake. And cook. Hell, I’ll use any excuse to have the oven on when it’s this cold. Plus… I got a new oven… now I’m REALLY using any excuse! Yup- on December 26th, Santa Claus brought me a late Christmas present: a new gas stove, refrigerator & dishwasher. I have no backsplash yet, and my new counters are far in the future, but I can finally cook & keep butter cold. It’s pretty sweet. So yeah, I’ve been busy breaking in my new range & getting used to it. It’s beauuuuutiful!

And really, for me, what better way to break that baby in than with cupcakes?

Chocolate bourbon cupcakes with vanilla frosting & a chocolate bourbon ganache.

Everybody loves cupcakes. Except Duff Goldman. I mean, right? How can you hate a mini-individually-sized-cake? What could possibly be SO BAD about having a small cake, all to yourself? Oh. I get it. Anything “trendy” is awful. Mmm hmm. So I guess you don’t use an iPhone, a mason jar or eat kale either, correct? ANYWAY….

These are cupcakes WITH BOOZE. Oh, yes. So there’s even more to love.

Chocolate bourbon cupcakes! With chocolate bourbon ganache!

I think anyone who hates cupcakes is nuts, personally. But I digress…

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A pie for the ages: bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie!

I’m publishing this pie today, because I wanted to give you time to make it for Thanksgiving. I purposely didn’t post it too early, and I specifically waited until this date. I wanted to give you enough time to really absorb what you’re seeing. Then get up, go out to the store & get the ingredients you need to make this, then come home & plan to do so on/by Thursday. I felt it had to be done this way. So I’m giving you a few days, and I expect you all to make it. You must. Seriously.

It’s THAT good.

Don’t believe me?

Bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie, anyone?

It’s the pie to end all pies.

It’s a pie for the ages!

Bourbon. Sweet potato. Pumpkin. With toasted meringue. Toasted bourbon meringue, that is.

Sweet potato pumpkin pie with bourbon! And more bourbon in the meringue.

Say word.

A motherflippin’ bourbon sweet potato pumpkin pie with toasted bourbon meringue! 

When I told Jay of my plans to make it, his jaw dropped open. And he doesn’t even really like pumpkin anything! I knew I was on to something. Although, in hindsight, it might have just been the mention of bourbon. Either way, I combined a few different recipes for a few different pies & came up with this: the holy grail of autumn piedom.

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Birthday pie.

The best thing about summer is fresh squeezed, ice cold lemonade.

Okay so maybe there are lots of “best things” about summer. The beach, the sun, vacations, my freckles coming out, flip flops, the luxury of laying on a blanket in the grass & reading, barbecues, fireworks, me running through a sprinkler like a 5-year-old, etc. But lemonade has to be one of ‘em. Ice cold lemonade with slices of fresh lemon in it. Actually… anything lemon reminds me of summer. Something about those bright yellow slightly oblong orbs sitting in a bowl that reminds me of sunshine. And versatile, too; pop a slice or two in some plain homemade iced black tea, a glass of Pellegrino, seltzer or even just ice water, and it changes everything. Serve some wedges with grilled shrimp or fish, or sprinkle some zest over pasta tossed with ricotta cheese & olive oil as a quick meal. And don’t throw out a  leftover lemon (once you’ve used the zest and juiced it)- cut it up and use it mixed in a spray bottle with regular white vinegar as a great household cleaner. You can even freeze lemons. Needless to say, there are always plenty of them around here.

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It might have been because of that fact that for my mother’s birthday (which was yesterday), instead of a traditional birthday cake or even cupcakes, she requested lemon meringue pie. I never made it before, but I had made that pineapple pie, and it was a similar concept. I was still nervous about it but I kept thinking of that pineapple pie, and how good it came out. That and, let’s face it, meringue loves me. Well, meringue loves Lola, that is. Anyway, it turned out really good (my mother agreed with the author’s statement that it is indeed the best lemon meringue pie ever). I used the recipe from my “go-to pie book”; Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories by Patty Pinner. Why is that my go-to pie book? Because nobody, NOBODY, makes pies like Southern women, that’s why. If they can’t do it, no one can. Same goes for cobblers, crumbles, fried chicken and biscuits. Mmm, biscuits.

Anyway… my mom’s birthday.

Yeah. So when it came to making the pie, I was nervous as hell, truth be told. I had all sorts of visions of my meringue not setting and my pie filling being like soup. Especially with my pecan pie failure still looming in the back of my brain, and the weather we’ve been having which is basically hazy, hot & humid. But I knew I could trust that cookbook. If the weather was on my side, and I did everything right, I knew the book would see me through.

I have a sort of love affair with Southern things. Let’s get one thing straight first: I’m a 100% certified (and bona fide) city girl, and an even bigger bona fide Northerner. I had a great-great-great-grandfather who fought for the Union in the Civil War. I do not think “the south will rise again”- at least not in the way most people who say that phrase actually mean. But that said, I love a lot about Southern life, or country living. As much as I love urban living, and apartments in Brooklyn with uber cute balconies or terraces or even fire escapes for container gardens and exposed brick walls, I dream just as much about living in a house like Sookie Stackhouse’s on True Blood. Maybe even a smidge more so. I mean- yes, it’s fictional. But have you seen that kitchen?! It’s huge! And it has a farmhouse sink. Be still my heart. So yeah, I dream about big country houses with wrap-around porches, kitchens with lots of windows and room for all my jars and baked goods and lots of yard space for gardening. Or I dream about living down there and having my own version of the Whistle Stop Cafe from Fried Green Tomatoes, but with more baked goods and less racist assholes frequenting the joint. I love old country music, not the new drivel like Taylor Swift or Kellie Pickler or Rascal Flatts- the REAL shit, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, etc. I love Paula Deen, and her accent. I love sweet tea. I love pecan pie, shoo fly pie and coconut custard pie. I also love fried chicken, fried pickles, and… well… in reality, I love fried anything. But I could never fully leave the city, or stop living close enough to it to take it in whenever I want. I guess maybe my ultimate dream would be to have the city home and the country home, and divide my time. That way, I’d get the best of both worlds, and I could always pack up and flee to one when the other got to be too much for me. Flee to the country when I want to make pies with fresh berries or take it easy on my wrap around porch, smell fresh cut grass, drink lemonade from a Mason jar, and listen to crickets… and then flee back to the city when I miss the museums, fashion, nightlife, tall buildings, concrete and sounds of the traffic. The country can get way too quiet for me. I get antsy if I don’t hear sirens, car alarms or horns honking all night.

Enough dreaming. What’s with me today? This post is about pie, & my mother’s birthday… not me & my future dream homes. This ain’t HGTV, it’s Food Network. Sheesh.

The pie was a success, despite my initial freaking out. I’m going to give you the recipe for the pie here, but not the crust. That’s pretty simple to find, though, and you probably already have one. The pie is time consuming, with a lot of steps, but worth it. Trust me. Lemon meringue pies are impressive pies. Even if it’s not visually perfect, you’ll impress everyone if you make one.

LEMON MERINGUE PIE (from Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories by Patty Pinner)

Ingredients:

Filling:
  • 1 baked 9″-inch pie crust
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Meringue:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Prepare the pastry for a 9″-inch single pie crust. Bake it in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is set. Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside.
  3. Make the filling: add the cornstarch, sugar, flour and salt to a large, heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in the water, and cook over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Boil while stirring vigorously for 3-8 minutes; it’ll turn “clear and uncloudy” in appearance. Take the saucepan off the heat.
  4. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and, using a fork, beat them well. Gradually stir half of the sugar mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the sugar mixture and return to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the temperature to low, cooking and stirring for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Stir in butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix well. Pour the filling into the prepared and baked pie crust. Set aside. Leave oven on.
  6. Prepare the meringue: blend 2 of the tablespoons sugar with the cornstarch and cold water in a medium saucepan. Stir it until the cornstarch dissolves, then add the boiling water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture is thick and clear. Take off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  7. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Adding them one at a time, add the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. When those are done, add the pinch of salt and vanilla. Beat at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, then continue to beat until they form stiff and glossy peaks.
  8. Spread the meringue over the lemon filling to the edges of the pie crust, covering the filling completely. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Alright so… the pie came out great. My crust-making is still kinda shitty, but you know what? I don’t really care. I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t really matter. Maybe the rustic, rough look is better. It all ends up in the same place, right? And the thing I was most worried about, nobody even noticed. Not one person said, “This pie tastes great, but boy, you don’t know how to fold a pie crust for shit, Marilla.” So why do I stress it? I don’t know. Same reason I used to have wastepaper baskets overflowing with drawings I didn’t deem worthy of finishing. I need to stop, even though all I see when looking at some things are my mistakes. Big, glaring mistakes. *sigh* It’s hard being a perfectionist.

But my meringue- as you can see- turned out beautifully. As always. My meringue is always rockin’, it seems. As a matter of fact, I think my meringue could redeem any failure. I could put a big dollop of meringue on just about any baking mistake and it would automatically become wonderful. Not that this pie was a failure! I’m just saying. A heaping pile of meringue makes everything even better.

I served it up with some Davidson’s Hibiscus Flower iced tea, which was amazing (remember it from this post?) and of course, a pink candle! Happy birthday, mom, thank you for everything you’ve done for me for the past 30 (almost 31- eek) years. I love you! I hope you had a fantastical birthday… and enjoy the rest of your pie.


Cupcakes in boxes for a Cupcake Rehab birthday.

If you’re a baker like me, or rather, I should say a person who enjoys baking/does it all the time/bakes for birthdays & holidays/gets requests all the time/pretty much rocks at it, then you know that there are serious problems presented when it’s time to transport said baked goods. Sure, you can use the old school way: a plate covered in tinfoil. But that’s kinda, well, ghetto. Or you could buy one of those silver foil take-out containers, or use a disposable foil cupcake pan… but those are also kind of cheap. And sure, you can go the “mom” route & buy one of those cupcake carriers (which are no doubt awesome, useful & very easy, but they’re kinda ‘bake sale’ & not very ‘bakery’). But you could also get yourself some bakery boxes.

How professional looking, right?

Recently, I was lucky enough to be sent a large box (yes- a box of boxes!) from Bake-A-Box. Inside was a variety of different-sized bakery boxes. Needless to say, I was super excited about this. And when presented with an opportunity to go somewhere for dinner, I decided to bring some cupcakes in my nifty new boxes. Killing two birds with one stone; bringing a lovely dessert to my host & also testing out these convenient little portable cupcake containers. Not to mention the fact that this coming Monday, September 12th, is my blog’s 4th birthday! Usually, I do a giveaway or a big birthday bash, but this year I just wasn’t into it. However, at the very least, I thought we I deserved some prettiful cupcakes after almost 4 years of bloggin’, rockin’ & rollin’… & beating people with whisks.

So me & Lola got to work.

Lola lookin’ foine & reppin’ Sourpuss Clothing! Have you met Lola?

You have to make a pretty dynamic cupcake to have it be prettier than Lola, just saying. My first attempt (strawberry shortcake cupcakes) was kind of a failure. Not for any other reason than they just weren’t “post-worthy.” They looked okay, tasted awesome, but just didn’t have enough oompf or pizzazz to blog photos of ‘em. I mean, look at these cupcakes I posted last week. They’re perfection. I can’t follow those up with average-looking, amateurish cupcakes. But not being one to waste perfectly good food, I packed up the boxes with them anyway to give to another deserving person. Not someone any less important, mind you, just someone who appreciates the taste more than the aesthetics. Then I went to Plan B: lemon marmalade cupcakes, all of them piped high with seven-minute frosting; some topped with marmalade, frosted, then toasted & some not topped with marmalade, but with candy lemon slices on the frosting. Ta-da!

See, I had an open 16 oz. jar of strawberry jam in the fridge & the urge to use it. Sure, it’s being eaten on toast & scones & bread, etc. But I wanted to bake with it. So the first batch was a vanilla cupcake filled to the bursting point with this strawberry jam, then topped with a Swiss meringue buttercream. Seeing as how those weren’t photo-worthy, I went on to make these, crossing my fingers they’d be better. But… the jam was mysteriously much emptier when I went back to use it. Not wanting to open another jar, I used the lemon marmalade I’d made recently instead of the strawberry jam (recipe here). The cupcakes are bright, lemony, sweet & tart yet had a slight complexity from the tea; plus they’re vintage-y looking. They were basically the perfect cupcake to showcase these awesome boxes- and celebrate 4 years of Cupcake Rehab!

LEMON MARMALADE CUPCAKES

Makes about 18 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 8-oz. jar Lady Grey’s lemon marmalade
  • 2 cups flour
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees F. Line cupcake or muffin tins with papers; set aside. Into a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg & mix thoroughly. Combine vanilla with milk in a glass measuring cup.
  2. In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk mixture and starting and ending with the flour. Do not overbeat.
  3. Add ¾ cup marmalade, a ¼ cup at a time, until combined.
  4. Spoon batter into prepared tins, filling cups about ¾ full. Bake until a cake tester inserted near the centers comes out clean and the tops spring back when pressed lightly in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven; spoon a teaspoon of marmalade on top of each while still hot, then remove from pan after 10 minutes. Let cool completely out of the pan before frosting.

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SEVEN-MINUTE FROSTING

Makes about 4 cups, plenty of frosting for 18, possibly 24 cupcakes depending on how high you frost!

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Combine ¾ cup sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230° degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining tablespoon sugar, beating to combine.
  3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230° degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

For those of you who have trouble with 7-minute frosting: the key is to accurately measure the temperature of the boiling sugar/water mixture. It MUST reach 230°! If not, the frosting will probably not work. I’ve never had a failed attempt at 7-minute frosting, and that’s because my candy thermometer is my best friend. If you don’t have one- get one. Especially if you plan on ever attempting cooked frosting’s or if you want to start to make candy or begin canning. Also, you probably need a stand mixer to make it. If not, your arm will most likely become numb & fall off long before the frosting is done. Have you ever tried to mix something with a hand mixer for over 7 minutes straight? You can also double the above recipe for frosting layer cakes or 24+ batches of cupcakes. Also, when it says use immediately, it means immediately. Do not wait. If you wait even a little bit, it’ll get clumpier and not pipe as smoothly. So make this frosting only when you’re 100% ready to use it.

Anyway, I piped the frosting high with my favorite tip, then toasted it slightly. For the rest, I used a quartered slice of candy lemon. Then of course I put them in my new Bake-A-Box boxes for delivery. Thanks to Lyns for the cute little yellow scalloped liners; they were perfect with these! Not only did the scalloping match the boxes, but the yellow was just the right color.

The thing I hate about most boxes- the assembly- was a cinch with these. And they were really cute! Not boring or plain, even though they’re white they’re attractive. People even asked me where I got them, or suggested I bought the cupcakes at a bakery *gasp* AS IF! So yes, I’d definitely buy from them, and yes, I’d encourage my fellow bakers to do so as well. The cupcake holders inside pop in and out, so you could fill them with cakes, cookies or brownies too. And they come in a ton of different sizes. The shipping was super fast too! Go visit Bake-A-Box & tell them I sent you (I always wanted to say that).

Anyway, I love the yellow sunshine-y-ness of these cupcakes. The scalloped edges of the liners & the box not to mention the colors remind me of my marigolds.

It’s been a tough summer, and I know that there’s more rough spots ahead. And between my grandma’s passing, my crazy neighbor’s antics (another story for another day), an East Coast earthquake & then a friggin’ hurricane, it’s been full of excess drama & bullshit that I really didn’t need. But I’m making the best of things, and trying to enjoy at least a little bit of every day. I want to thank Nicole at Bake-A-Box for sending the fantastic boxes… all you bakers out there, go buy some! They’re awesome. And I want to thank all my readers & followers! You guys are the best & you make every blog post worth it, not to mention the past 4 years.

I may not have the most popular blog ever, I may not make the most beautiful or most creative cupcakes (however I do happen think they’re pretty amazing), I may not have the best or even the funniest blog (although, shit, I think I’m fucking HILARIOUS), I may not get so many hits my server overloads weekly, I may not have KitchenAid giveaways weekly or 560 comments kissing my ass on every post. But none of that has ever been important to me, nor was it why I got into doing this. I got into it for fun, all I really wanted to do was to bake fun stuff & share it with other cool like-minded people. So to me the fact that I have almost 1,000 Facebook fans & over 800 Twitter followers just blows me away. Every single time I get a comment or an e-mail that praise me or compliment me or the blog in the slightest, it automatically turns into a good day. That’s how much I value all of you. And don’t worry- I’m doing just fine in the visitors department, by the way, of course I ain’t on Dooce level… but who is? Other than Dooce, I mean. So no, I don’t make so much money off the blog that I can retire at 30, I don’t get any huge compensation for it, I don’t get money or trips thrown at me, nor is it always easy to do this; between the tech aspect, the design aspect, the social media aspect & the recipe aspect itself, it’s actually like a full-time second job. But I adore it. And it’s my personal opinion that anyone in anything JUST for money or fame is a phony, so rest assured when you read this blog, you’re reading the work of someone who puts 100% into it just for the fun & enjoyment of it, and for the community of it, not for any monetary gain. Not that that’s a bad thing at all… it’s just not where I’m at. I don’t give a shit about getting a TV show that might air after The Neely’s, getting an advertising deal with Le Creuset, or that I may have too filthy of a mouth to impress Martha. But again, I don’t give a flying fig about that or anything else; especially what people may think of me. Never have, never will. I’m in it for my amusement & yours, and that’s all, whatever positive things come from that are greatly appreciated & welcomed, but definitely not needed. I’m having a blast just the way things are & I hope my readers are too. The day it becomes a chore or just a way to make a buck is the day I quit. I enjoy it, I hope you do too, and I hope it continues for a long time.

So it’s been four whole years! And I, for one, am not going anywhere. Not anytime soon. But I just want to thank you all… you all who’s e-mails & comments make it doubly & triply worthwhile… all of the amazing bakers & cupcakers I’ve gotten the chance to “meet”… all the great businesses who I’ve had the pleasure of discovering… THANK YOU! YOU LIKE ME, YOU REALLY LIKE ME!

I look forward to spending many more with you.

Spring has sprung.

Not 100% of course, but for the most part anyway.

I’ve done one of these little compilation posts for Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas, Valentine’s Day & St. Patrick’s Day, so here’s my springtime/Easter version. I don’t really do “Easter”, I like bunnies, baby chicks, lilies & chocolate… so I celebrate those things & call it Easter. I’m not one of those Wiccans or “Pagans” either. I’m Agnostic, but I do love me some holidays. I can’t help it. I love to decorate and bake and cook and that’s the best part of life, in my opinion. So why not celebrate everything!?

The real meaning of Easter:

Easter (Old English: Ēostre; Greek: Πάσχα, Paskha; Hebrew: פֶּסַח‎, Pesakh, “Passover“) is the central religious feast in the Christian liturgical year.[1] According to Christian scripture, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Some Christians celebrate this resurrection on Easter Day or Easter Sunday[2] (also Resurrection Day or Resurrection Sunday), two days after Good Friday and three days after Maundy Thursday. The chronology of his death and resurrection is variously interpreted to be between AD 26 and 36, traditionally 33. Easter also refers to the season of the church year called Eastertide or the Easter Season. Traditionally the Easter Season lasted for the forty days from Easter Day until Ascension Day. The first week of the Easter Season is known as Easter Week or the Octave of Easter. Easter also marks the end of Lent, a season of fasting, prayer, and penance.

Easter is a moveable feast, meaning it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established the date of Easter as the first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox.[3] Ecclesiastically, the equinox is reckoned to be on March 21 (even though the equinox occurs, astronomically speaking, on March 20 in most years), and the “Full Moon” is not necessarily the astronomically correct date. The date of Easter therefore varies between March 22 and April 25. Eastern Christianity bases its calculations on the Julian Calendar whose March 21 corresponds, during the 21st century, to April 3 in the Gregorian Calendar, in which calendar their celebration of Easter therefore varies between April 4 and May 8.

Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages the feast called Easter in English is termed by the words for passover in those languages and in the older English versions of the Bible the term Easter was the term used to translate passover.[4][5]

Relatively newer[citation needed] elements such as the Easter Bunny and Easter egg hunts have become part of the holiday’s modern celebrations, and those aspects are often celebrated by many Christians and non-Christians alike. There are also some Christian denominations who do not celebrate Easter.

Yeah so that last part applies to me. Delicious chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs filled with creamy fondant? Yes please. I guess, though, I more celebrate just the coming of spring itself, which is more like Ostara:

Old English Ēostre (also Ēastre) and Old High German Ôstarâ are the names of a putative Germanic goddess whose Anglo-Saxon month, Ēostur-monath, has given its name to the festival of Easter. Eostre is attested only by Bede, in his 8th century work De temporum ratione, where he states that Ēostur-monath was the equivalent to the month of April, and that feasts held in her honour during Ēostur-monath had died out by the time of his writing, replaced by the “Paschal month“. The possibility of a Common Germanic goddess called *Austrōn- was examined in detail in 19th century Germanic philology, by Jacob Grimm and others, without coming to a definite conclusion.

Linguists have identified the goddess as a Germanic form of the reconstructed Proto-Indo-European goddess of the dawn, *Hausos, some scholars have debated whether or not Eostre is an invention of Bede’s, and theories connecting Eostre with records of Germanic Easter customs (including hares and eggs) have been proposed.

Notice the spelling similarities between Eostre and Easter? Hmm. Food for thought. I’ll let ya chew on that one.

So in short, I like to eat and make stuff, and that’s what holidays are all about, really. I don’t think you have to believe in a God to celebrate the coming of spring, especially after a winter where here in New York we got a whopping 60.9″ of snow total. At any rate… here are some delectable cupcake confections that celebrate this time of year, and can be adapted/used whether your celebrations are referred to as Ostara, Easter, Passover or just plain spring.

One of my favorite Easter cupcakes; lemon-vanilla cakes with a lemon-vanilla buttercream, topped with toasted coconut “nests” and Cadbury mini-eggs. Super cute and so easy! These were a humongous hit with everyone who ate them, I highly recommend trying them. Recipe here: Nest Eggs.

I grouped these two together because they’re in the same post from last Easter. The top ones are Creamsicle mini-cupcakes topped with a thick marshmallow Fluff buttercream, and the bottom ones are carrot cupcakes topped with a lavender-tinted cream cheese frosting. Check both recipes out here: Easter?
I didn’t actually make these for Easter, I made them for my grandmother’s 92nd birthday… however they’re a perfect springtime cupcake idea. A light chocolate cake topped with an Earl Grey/lemon icing and candied lemon peel garnish (which is deceptively easy). Very sophisticated & delicious. Find the recipes for the cake, icing and lemon peel here: Earl Grey with lemon “tea party” cupcakes.
Another one I didn’t make for Easter, I made them for Cupcake Rehab’s 1st birthday, but yet they would be totally appropriate for spring. Neapolitan cupcakes- vanilla cake, strawberry Kool-Aid frosting and chocolate sauce drizzled on top. Extremely delicious. Recipes: Neapolitan “happy 1st birthday Cupcake Rehab” cupcakes.
These I definitely didn’t make for Easter. But being that they’re almond cupcakes with a white chocolate buttercream, they’d be so cute with marzipan fruits or hand-rolled marzipan Easter eggs on top for Easter, wouldn’t they? This is one of my favorite cupcakes ever. Try them yourself: Frau Marilla’s Alpenblume Weiße Schokolade Kleine Kuchen!


So that’s that. If you’re not drooling by now, there’s something wrong with you. Also, I also have a recipe for chocolate hi-hat cupcakes that I made for Easter a few years back that I didn’t include above. So knock yourself out!  And If you’re looking for something more Passover-y, I have a recipe for sweet noodle kugel. I also have TONS of other cupcake and cookie recipes that can be adapted or used for this time of year, with just a little creativity.

As usual, I’ll be posting more spring-y things in the weeks to come so stay tuned... and tomorrow I’ll be guest posting over at Frosting 4 the Cause, so please come and check that out. I promise you’ll like it.

Valentine’s Day round-up.

I can’t BELIEVE it’s already February. It seems as though I was just cutting my fresh tomatoes down from my garden, not to mention making Christmas cookies, etc. But no. It’s already the Month of Love; and before you know it, these 2 weeks will fly by & it’ll be Valentine’s Day. Don’t you just hate it when you hear people say “Valentimes“? It’s not an ‘m’, people. It’s an ‘n.’ As in Valentine. Sheesh.

Saint Valentine’s Day (commonly shortened to Valentine’s Day)[1][2][3] is an annual commemoration held on February 14 celebrating love and affectionintimate companions.[1][3] The day is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 500 AD. It was deleted from the Roman calendar of saints in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, but its religious observance is still permitted. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as “ between valentines”). The day first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

Modern Valentine’s Day symbols include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have largely given way to mass-produced greeting cards.[4]

The Early Medieval acta of either Saint Valentine were expounded briefly in Legenda Aurea.[14] According to that version, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.

Since Legenda Aurea still provided no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail.

There is an additional modern embellishment to The Golden Legend, provided by American Greetings to History.com, and widely repeated despite having no historical basis whatsoever. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he would have written the first “valentine” card himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved,[15] as the jailer’s daughter whom he had befriended and healed,[16] or both. It was a note that read “From your Valentine.”[15]

For the past few holidays; Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas, I’ve done these “Best Of” posts. So seeing as how it’s cold out and I have nothing better to do, I decided to do one for Valentine’s Day too.

It’s just three of my Valentine’s cupcake ideas, put altogether in one place for easy finding. Enjoy!

These are by far my absolute favorite. White cupcakes that I colored pink (with Wilton gel food coloring in rose pink) & topped with spirals of thick vanilla buttercream made with clear vanilla extract so it’s extra white. Topped with pink & white heart sprinkles, these were a big hit with everyone who tasted them. PICTURES DO THEM NO JUSTICE. You can find the recipe here at this post: “It’s a nice day, for a, white cupcake” – Billy Idol

Another big hit; these cupcakes were so textbook it was almost embarrassing. Amy Sedaris’ vanilla cupcake recipe topped with a strawberry Swiss meringue made from strawberry preserves, and of course, a sliced strawberry half that coincidentally is shaped like a heart. Aww. Want the entire 411? Here’s the deets: Valentine’s Day strawberry heartcakes, plus a ton of other stuff.


These were just a last minute, thrown together cupcake that came from a cake recipe I got from Ruth Reichl’s book, Garlic & Sapphires. Made with Grand Marnier (or a bit of orange extract), they were an indulgent & decadent treat for V-Day. For these, you’ll have to take a trek over to Cooking The Books for the recipe: Chocolate for Valentine’s Day… how groundbreaking!

There are literally a gazillion other recipes that can be used for Valentine’s Day. Red velvet is a big one, so cute when piled up high with white frosting and heart sprinkles. Chocolate cupcakes topped with chocolate buttercream and red & white striped peppermint meringues (like these, for example) can also be used for Valentine’s Day. Coconut cupcakes work too, either with coconut buttercream or cream cheese frosting, try red liners to make ‘em more Valentine-y. Heart-shaped shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate and then drizzled with melted red & white candy melts would be adorable. Maybe try a vanilla pudding with some delicious raspberries suspended in it?

I, myself, am planning on trying some of Bakerella‘s cake pops for Valentine’s Day this year, but I also have some special cupcakes & other treats planned, some maybe even this week. So stay tuned. I won’t fail you!

Moon over my macaroon.

Macaroons are different from macarons. Macaroons are usually coconut, whereas macarons are usually almond. Macaroon is typically North American, whereas macarons are French. Macaroons are usually white with golden to dark brown spots and quite rough, and macarons are pastel or brightly colored and smooth.

The word macaroon is applied to a variety of light, baked confections, described as either small cakes or meringue-like cookies depending on their consistency. The original macaroon was a “small sweet cake consisting largely of ground almonds”[1] similar to Italian or Moroccan amaretti.

The English word macaroon and French macaron come from the Italian maccarone or maccherone. This word is itself derived from ammaccare, meaning crush or beat,[2] used here in reference to the almond paste which is the principal ingredient.

Most recipes call for egg whites (usually whipped to stiff peaks), with ground or powdered nuts, generally almond or coconut. Almost all call for sugar. Macaroons are commonly baked on edible rice paper placed on a baking tray.

In North America, the coconut macaroon is the best known variety. Commercially made coconut macaroons are generally dense, moist and sweet, and often dipped in chocolate. Homemade macaroons and varieties produced by smaller bakeries are commonly light and fluffy.

Macaroons made with coconuts are often piped out with a star shaped tip, whereas macaroons made with nuts are more likely shaped individually due to the stiffness of the dough. Because of their lack of wheat ingredients, macaroons are often consumed for Passover in many Jewish homes.

In all my baking adventures, I have made neither. Shameful, really. But I refuse to make almond macarons until I have an entire day to play in the kitchen. So when I was craving some sweetness & got bitten by the proverbial baking bug late one night, while on a Honeymooners’ watching marathon, I decided to make some coconut macaroons.  There are a million variations, including some made with condensed milk (like this one) and some without almond extract. I tried a few different versions, and I wasn’t thrilled with any of them… then I found Paula Deen‘s. And what an epic win that was, after altering it a bit. I smothered some in chocolate, left the rest plain.

I classified these under healthy eating because they’ve got no butter or egg yolks. It’s got condensed milk, which has a lot of calories &  fat, of course. I’m not saying it’s like eating broccoli or kale, but it’s better than a shortbread cookie or a butter cookie, I’m sure. Make a recipe without condensed milk for a much healthier treat.

COCONUT MACAROONS

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine coconut, vanilla & almond extracts, and salt. Mix in condensed milk to form a thick paste.
  3. Fold in egg whites gently with cream of tartar.
  4. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.

My macaroons baked for about 20 minutes, but my oven is wacky. I need an oven thermometer, like, yesterday.

I use the Jacques Pépin method of separating egg whites from the yolk. I used to use the two shell halves as cups, holding the yolk in them and transferring it back and forth until all the white dripped off into a bowl. Then I watched Jacques on his show with Julia Child, where she insisted her method was better (the egg shell method) and he said his was because it got all the albumen and “little white stuff” and did it more consistently than with the shells. So I started doing it, and I find it easier, and yes… more efficient. Clean hands, of course. You don’t want any grease or dirt or anything in your egg whites.

…….

Okay so I coated some in chocolate, like I said. I used my old fashioned tried & true method of melting a half to three-quarters of a cup semi-sweet chocolate with 2 tablespoons shortening in either the microwave (10 second intervals, stopping in between to mix until smooth) or a double boiler. Then let it cool slightly, and dip or drop completely cooled cookies in it. Take them out and allow to cool/dry on waxed paper, or if you’re in a hurry, pop ‘em in the freezer.

So I ate my macaroons while watching ‘The Honeymooners.’ And I loved them both. If you don’t like coconut, or Jackie Gleason, then POW, RIGHT TO THE KISSER! TO THE MOON! BANG, ZOOM! Classic.

A Christmas HCCM – hot cocoa cupcake moment.

About a month ago, me and my brain-twin Sami went to go see Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Part 1. Before she arrived in Manhattan, I went to Starbucks and grabbed a peppermint hot chocolate to drink while I wait, since it was so cold. When she got there, she asked me what I was drinking, so I told her, and she said that was her favorite too, and asked me if I was having an “HCM.” I was totally confused for a few seconds until she told me it stood for “Hot Cocoa Moment” and that her husband Scott was a fan of the term. It sounded so funny & Hallmark-y to me, I knew I’d be using the term myself for a long time. Besides, how can you go wrong with acronyms?

To tie that in with this post, a few weeks before that, I was reading Jay’s mother’s Family Circle magazine and saw a recipe for hot chocolate cupcakes. So I stole borrowed the magazine to take it home and make a photocopy of the recipe. I actually have no idea if Jay ever gave it back to her like I asked him to, so if not, I’m sorry Marilyn.

So anyway, put together HCM and these cupcakes and what do you get? HCCM- hot cocoa cupcake moment. I took Scott’s idea and just ran with it, using it for my own purposes. Muahahaha….

Okay, I realize that was a long intro for cupcakes, but they’re worth it. I mean, hot chocolate cupcakes? Does it get any better, especially for Christmas? I put a different spin on these, going with a silvery and white  snow theme instead of the usual red/green. I think they look pretty awesome; those silver tree toppers are from Yoyo, she got ‘em for me at sweet estelle’ssilver dragees from Sur La Table, blue & white sugar crystals from… no idea.

(Elf not included)

I thought snow and hot cocoa just went perfectly together.

HOT CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup milk

Directions:

  1. In medium sized bowl, combine four, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a large bowl, with mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until smooth and creamy (two minutes). Beat in eggs and vanilla until fluffy, 1 minute. On low speed, beat in flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
  3. Fill each cupcake liner 2/3 full (about 3 tablespoons per liner).
  4. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan to wire rack to cool.

MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

First you get:

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 (7½ ounce) jar Fluff, or similar marshmallow cream
  • 3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Then you’re gonna:

  1. Beat butter in a large bowl with mixer on high speed until creamy. Beat in marshmallow cream. Reduce speed to low, and beat in confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Increase speed to high; beat until fluffy.
  2. Frost cooled cupcakes.

I added a little milk to make my frosting softer, like melting snow. Another cute decorating option is to use mini marshmallows and mini candy canes on top, like a mug of hot cocoa in cupcake form.

Last week I made red velvet mini-cupcakes with frosting wreaths on top. The frosting is Italian meringue buttercream, and the cupcake recipe is the same one I’ve made a million times before, Magnolia Bakery’s version. Bright red & usually very moist (these didn’t come out that great texturally, maybe because I was rushing, maybe because I was just making them for the sake of making them, who knows- but they just didn’t work out taste-wise this time) & just generally perfect. But not this time. Not for me. Also, my bows came out sort of messy. Eh. Oh well. In case you’re wondering: the wreath is green tinted frosting put on with tip #21; the bows are yellow tinted frosting put on with #102- both tips are by Wilton. I used silver dragees and red sprinkle-y things for the decorations on the wreath. You could also use royal icing for the wreaths and bows, I did not because I used up all my confectioner’s sugar making shortbread cookies. For the extras, I just frosted them and used red sugar on top. And don’t let my issues with the recipe this time fool you; the recipe is the best red velvet ever. I quartered the recipe and got 24 mini-cupcakes.

I used yellow ribbons on the wreaths for our troops. Yellow ribbons to remember them, those who’ve passed away, those still fighting today & those who’ve fought in any war; especially during this season. It makes me really sad that so many people don’t care/don’t think about them.

And on that note… I’d like to share with you a story that every year makes me a big mushball. It’s the story of Virginia O’Hanlon, a little girl from the Upper West Side in Manhattan asked her father, Phillip, a coroner’s assistant, if there was really a Santa Claus. Her father told her that she should as The Sun, which was a popular newspaper at the time, stating “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” So she wrote that letter in 1897, and it just so happens it was read by the editor. The Editor of the paper, Francis Pharcellus Church, was a war correspondent during the Civil War, and had seen much of the worst of man & society. Taking the opportunity to rise above the question itself and make a commentary on the philosophical issues behind it.

Some people really get it. Yoyo gets it. Other people I know really get it. But most don’t. Santa Claus is a concept. A concept that takes us through our whole life. Be kind, be good, be generous. Give to others without thinking of yourself. Give a dollar and some change to the man sleeping on the street; that dollar won’t even get you a Starbucks, but it can get him a burger at McDonald’s. Santa Claus isn’t an idea just for children; it’s something all us “grown-ups” can benefit from believing in and acting on.

So here I present to you Virginia’s letter, and the response from Mr. Church. Merry Christmas!

DEAR EDITOR:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong.

They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.


No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


Now bring us some figgy pudding, & bring some out here!

So, if you’re like me, that line from We Wish You a Merry Christmas always made you giggle as a kid. I mean, I’m sure most of us, especially us Yankees here in America, have asked ourselves at one point or another: “What the hell is a figgy pudding, exactly?”

Figgy pudding is a pudding resembling something like a white Christmas pudding containing figs. The pudding may be baked, steamed in the oven, boiled or fried.[1]

The history of figgy pudding dates back to 16th century England.[2] Its possible ancestors include savory puddings such as crustades, fygeye or figge (a potage of mashed figs thickened with bread), creme boiled (a kind of stirred custard), and sippets. In any case, its methods and ingredients appear in diverse older recipes. Today, the term figgy pudding is known mainly because of the Christmas carolWe Wish You A Merry Christmas,” which repeats, “Oh bring us a figgy pudding” in the chorus, indicating that it was a Christmas traditional dish served during the season and thus might potentially be given to Christmas carolers.

Well, us Americans have a different concept of “pudding” than the Brits do; our idea of pudding is Jello instant pudding, or the pudding cups you bring to school in your lunch bag as a kid, or even a homemade pudding made with cornstarch and heavy cream, but regardless, all three have the consistency of what the English call “custard.” Over there, in jolly old England, pudding is more like a cake. Sticky toffee pudding, figgy pudding, spotted dick- they’re all more like our idea of fruitcake or rum cake. Oh! Speaking of England, the wonderful Nancy from The Inky Kitchen recently was kind enough to send me a package of some British candy not easily found here in the States: Galaxy Ripple and Cadbury Flake! We do have specialty stores that sell British candy, but it’s sort of hit or miss. You never know what they’re going to have, and since the turnover isn’t very high, sometimes it can be old & sitting there awhile. Needless to say I tore into those pretty quickly. And of course, in turn, I sent her two packages of candy not available over there; Candy Cane Hershey’s Kisses and Mint Truffle Hershey’s Kisses. What a nice Christmas present to get, right? Thank you so much Nancy. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas Hershey’s Kisses! I certainly enjoyed the ones you sent (and my mother loved the Ripple!). And just so you know, her blog, The Inky Kitchen, is great- awesome content and I love the artwork- so I suggest you take a look.

Upon learning last December that Cupcake Royale makes a figgy pudding cupcake, I decided to tackle the concept myself this year. Although mine is quite different- no chocolate chunks, no cocoa powder. Mine is more like a traditional figgy pudding in the sense that it’s a spice cake with molasses & buttermilk, with figs and walnuts in it. Traditionally, I’ve seen pictures of it topped with a sort of confectioner’s sugar glaze or icing, or a heavier creamier icing, usually poured on top and allowed to drip down the sides. I decided to use a regular frosting on them, instead of doing a glaze, but I added a little something extra to it. I made them as a sort of “gift” for my mother & father. This time of year I’m always making baked goods & giving them away. So this time it’s figgy pudding. I brought them some figgy pudding, and brought it right here!

“I am a wee figgy pudding… eat me!”

Full recipe makes around 18, if you halve it you’ll get 8 or 9 depending on your methods (whether you use a whole egg or take one egg, beat it in a bowl, and use half). If you do halve it, then DEFINITELY halve the buttercream (if you like really tall mounds of frosting) or quarter it, or else you’ll end up with tons left over. The full recipe makes 4 cups, so you do the math. I halved both recipes, and piled the frosting pretty high and still ended up with enough frosting left over for a good 5 cupcakes, so if you halve the cupcake recipe, you might actually want to quarter the frosting recipe. Unless you like having brandy buttercream in the freezer for later… hmm, I wonder if that’s where they got the idea for alcoholic whipped cream from?

FIGGY PUDDING CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon*
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg*
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups dried figs, stemmed and chopped fine
*optional

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and lemon zest; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Beat in figs and walnuts until combined thoroughly.
  2. Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Frost after completely cooled.

ITALIAN MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM FLAVORED WITH BRANDY

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon brandy

Directions:

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Continue boiling until syrup reaches 238° degrees on a candy thermometer (soft-ball stage).
  2. Meanwhile, place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on low speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat on medium-high speed until stiff but not dry; do not overbeat.
  3. With mixer running, add syrup to whites in a stream, beating on high speed until no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add butter bit by bit, beating until spreadable, 3 to 5 minutes; beat in vanilla, then the brandy. If icing curdles, keep beating until smooth. Don’t be alarmed if the frosting gets “slippery” in the bowl; that’s from the alcohol. It’ll pipe just fine.
Seriously… check out that buttercream…


Gorgeous.

Depending on the taste you’re looking for, you can start off with less or just add more brandy until you feel it’s got the right flavor, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to use too much. Using a dark rum would also work if you’re not a brandy person. If you’re not a drinker or never have alcohol in the house, some brandy extract or rum extract would be nice, or just plain ol’ vanilla too. I also added some little holly branches and berries on top to make it more traditional-looking (and a big thanks to Yoyo for my surprise Christmas cupcake package that those toppers & liners were included in).

If you prefer to make them look more like traditional figgy pudding, you can make a brandy sauce, and then dip the tops of each cupcake (after they’re cooled) into the sauce. Obviously, I didn’t use it, but because I’m really sweet and it’s the holiday season, I’m going to give you the recipe for a brandy sauce.

BRANDY SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, very soft
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup brandy

Directions:

  1. Beat egg white in the bowl of a stand mixer until stiff.
  2. Add sugar, egg yolk, whipping cream, butter.
  3. Stir in brandy. Dip cooled cupcakes into sauce.

If you’ve never given baked goods as gifts before, it’s a great idea. First of all, for someone who’s hard to buy for or who has everything, baking them something they love or something they would love is a fantastic idea. Anyone who bakes from scratch or knows what it’s like to do so would appreciate a homemade, delicious, from the heart cake/cupcakes/bread/etc. And baking a Christmas-themed baked good is an even better idea; that way, when the person you give it to is entertaining they can serve it. Especially if they can’t bake themselves. Or they can just eat it all themselves, which I wholly endorse.

In honor of the season, I’d like to share with you my favorite Christmas commercial ever since I was a child. Seven days ’til Christmas- happy baking, eating, shopping and gifting!

And before you go, did you enjoy my interview with Pamela Ahn, contestant on The Next Great Baker? If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? Go check it out, it’s the post right below this one.