Category: white chocolate

Pink velvet hot cocoa for you & your Valentine.

Yep, it’s February. That means time for Valentine’s Day- get over it. It’s  freakin’ cute. Stop being so goddamn cynical and enjoy the loooooove.

Loooooove. Not love. Loooooove.

Pink velvet hot cocoa! Insanely easy and insanely pretty.

So yeah, you can hate on Valentine’s Day. But nobody can hate on hot cocoa. And this here just happens to be some PINK velvet hot cocoa. Thanks to A Beautiful Mess for the recipe idea!

Plus, how BEAUTIFUL does it look? Wouldn’t this be a perfect Valentine’s Day dessert beverage? I think so.

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Dark-chocolate-peanut-butter-filled-white-chocolate candies from heaven.

Finally- it’s heading into the second week of December. Christmas is like, the Mount Everest for bloggers. Especially food or crafty bloggers. Since before Halloween it’s been a slow build-up to right now. First came all the fall stuff, then the spooky stuff, then the turkey stuff. But now… now shit is getting’ real. All the good foods, cakes, cookies, snacks, decorations & crafty stuff is out right now. It’s officially CHRISTMAS!

What would Christmas be without tons of insanely delicious sweets, candies & cookies? Horrible. I mean, it’s only natural. It wouldn’t seem right to have a Christmas or a holiday season without a little over-indulgence. If not now, then when?!

Homemade Reese's- white chocolate filled with dark chocolate & peanut butter.

These little babies right here are a result of late-night holiday cravings. Inspired by my original creations- which were also a late night craving. Thankfully, they’re insanely simple to make and take all of a half hour tops, including the melting.

Homemade peanut butter cups! No preservatives, no chemicals!

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Cheery lil’ cherry Christmas muffins.

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It never fails; every holiday season, I try to come up with different pretty little muffins and things that can go from breakfast to lunch to “snack time.” Whether it’s breads or loaf cakes or muffins or rolls, I like to have things on hand that can be grabbed at any time of day, whenever anyone pops in or decides they want one with a cup of coffee or tea… or a glass of milk. Because this is the time of year when people are always coming by, stopping in, etc. and you’ve gotta have something on hand to give these wandering wassailers, whether they’re coming morning, noon or night.

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Cupcakes don’t always go with breakfast. And they’ve also got a shorter table-life than muffins. Muffins last forever, it seems. And in the new issue of the Food Network magazine, there’s a buttload of inspiration in the form of a booklet with 50 muffin recipes! So I guess I’m not alone in my idea that muffins make great snacks for last-minute guests, eh?

A lot of the recipes sounded amazing, but the ones I really liked I had bigger plans for. So I gathered up some things I had in my cupboards- dried Bing cherries & white chocolate chips, namely- and threw ‘em into my favorite muffin recipe base. If I had had some pistachios, I’d have thrown them in there too. Pistachio goes well with both cherry & white chocolate. Oh- and cranberries would work just fine instead of cherries- both fresh and dried. The tartness of both cherries & cranberries work because of the sweetness of the white chocolate.

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WHITE CHOCOLATE CHERRY MUFFINS

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons set aside
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter — melted and cooled
  • 2 eggs – beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios (optional, I didn’t have any)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400° F. and grease up 12 muffin cups or put liners in them (I prefer liners because it’s less messy that way).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, cooled butter, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients; add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in cherries, then white chocolate chips. DON’T OVERMIX THE BATTER.
  3. Spoon batter into muffin cups, filling them almost to the top; top each muffin with a sprinkling of sugar from reserved 2 tablespoons. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center of one muffin comes out clean.
  4. Remove muffin tin to wire rack; cool 5 minutes and remove from tins to finish cooling. Serve with whatever you like, whenever you like.

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The cool thing about the white chocolate chips in this case is that they don’t melt like semisweet or milk chocolate chips would. They stay whole, as do the cherries, so you taste each of them separately & get the texture too. That’s why the addition of unsalted shelled pistachios would be great! Not only would it make the muffins Christmas colors, but the texture of the three separate things would be awesome. Chewy cherries, thick white chocolate and crunchy-ish pistachios.

And they go great with milk & pretty paper straws, too.

Table runner custom-made for me by Yoyo of topstitch.org/topstitch.artfire.com

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Hoppy Easter.

My mom’s Easter tree this year!

Again, this year, I had no idea what I was going to make. That’s been a common theme. I was lost as to what I was going to make for Valentine’s Day, then for St. Patrick’s Day, then again for Easter. It’s just been that kinda year I guess. I saw a million cute things but I hate repeating the same shit everyone else does.

But that’s basically what I ended up doing anyway. Pfft.

I made some simple vanilla-flavored cupcakes and topped them with vanilla frosting, then dipped them in chocolate sauce, then I added egg-shaped quins and white chocolate bunnies. Can’t get much easier than that, huh? THESE ARE NOT HI-HAT CUPCAKES. They’re just regular cupcakes dipped in chocolate. I used ‘The Ultimate Vanilla Cupcake’ from the Cupcake Project for this, and the chocolate sauce is one I’ve used before that hardens when it dries but doesn’t really harden to a crazy hard consistency. It just hardens enough to not be melty and messy. Deelish. The white chocolate bunnies are just white chocolate bars melted & poured into bunny molds. Very, very easy. The larger molds were more like the traditional chocolate Easter bunny, but they were too large for toppers so I just paired each cupcake with one.

By the way, I’ve started using salted butter in my confectioner’s sugar buttercream. I find it adds a nice touch, takes away some of the super-sweetness that you can get from a high-sugar buttercream. Just a lil’ tip from me to you.

So I hope you all have a Happy Easter, Happy Passover, Happy Eostre, Happy Spring! There might be another Easter-y surprise thrown in sometime this weekend. Maybe. Maybe not. *wink*

Simply put: I L♥VE Y♥U.

And sometimes that’s all you need to say.

But make sure you say it with a cupcake.

These are vanilla cake (Crumbs’ recipe) topped with a delicious chocolate sour cream frosting (Sprinkles’ recipe) made with 90% chocolate. Funny thing about that chocolate. A few weeks ago, me & Jay were out shopping & we saw that the Lindt store in our mall was closing. Ever since Jay went to Switzerland with his band in August, he’s been a fan of Swiss chocolate (thanks to me, who requested he bring me back some in the first place!) and Lindt is the most popular brand. Although I will say the chocolate he brought back from Europe tasted much better than the Lindt you buy here, I still like American Lindt. Same thing with Cadbury- when I go & buy the imported Cadbury chocolates, they’re so much better than the American version made by Hershey’s. Anyway, all of the chocolate in this Lindt store was 50% off, from the huge bittersweet bars to the little tiny milk chocolate bars. Needless to say, Jay went a bit cocoa- looney and purchased about $50.00 worth of chocolate (the full price would’ve been over $90.00) in a variety of flavors: dark chocolate mint, white chocolate with coconut, dark chocolate sea salt caramel, Mozartkuglen, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, etc. And of course, he bought a ton of crazy dark chocolate: 50%, 65%, 70% and 90%. Jay really likes dark chocolate, you see. However, this high percentage dark chocolate was more like baking chocolate. There was no sweetness about it. Excellent quality, yes, but way too bitter & chalky.

So I got to steal all those bars to bake with! And chocolate is love, right? Or at least it mimics the feeling of being in love, thanks to compounds like phenylethylamine.

So that’s how these cupcakes were born. I had some 90% Lindt chocolate I was looking to use up, I found a new (to me) frosting recipe, and I had all these white chocolate chips. I piped the frosting on with nothing but a disposable pastry bag (no tip) then used an offset spatula to smooth it out. Why, I don’t know, because I just ended up covering up my neat-o frosting job with chips & sprinkles. Best frosting ever, by the way; not sure if it was the Lindt or the recipe… but wow. Oh! And let me take a minute to say I used a small batch of homemade buttermilk that I keep in a little Ball® jar in my fridge to make the cupcakes, and I’ll never use anything else again. Who’da thunk that a homemade not-even-real version of buttermilk would make the cakes taste so much better than store bought buttermilk? Hm.

SPRINKLES’ DARK CHOCOLATE FROSTING

Makes enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes, can be halved

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound plus 8 ounces powdered sugar
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Melt and cool chocolate (until just slightly warm). Beat butter until light and fluffy.
  2. With mixer on low speed, gradually add powdered sugar. Add salt, vanilla and sour cream and mix until very smooth.
  3. Add chocolate and mix until just incorporated.
*Don’t over-whip and add too much air into the frosting. The consistency should be rich and dense, like ice cream!

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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.

A new year & peppermint bark.

Well it’s a new year and with a new year comes… a new copyright logo on the bottom of my pictures (which you may have seen on my champagne cupcakes)! In case you aren’t aware, I went about 3 years having this blog without needing to (or feeling the need to) copyright my photos, and then some dipshit named Sharon Louann Swann Stallings went and stole a bunch of them and used them as advertisements for her “up & coming baking business” on Craigslist & Facebook. Yeah, like I said, dipshit. Anyway, after that, in September or October of 2010, I decided I better tag ‘em with my blog name so that when they’re stolen, people will know, unless these dipshits have the ability to crop in Photoshop, which I highly doubt. So for the next 12 months you’ll see this new copyright on the bottom of the photos. It’s a shame I need to do this at all, I hope someday I can remove this step in my photo editing for good. But for now, it stays, just updated for 2011 and with all this other newness, comes a new recipe!

Most people think of peppermint bark as a Christmas-y treat, however, I think it’s also a great way to use up all your leftover candy canes after Christmas. Although, to me & my family, Christmas lasts until tomorrow which is Little Christmas, so it’s still appropriate to make it with those. You’ll never catch us taking our tree down before tomorrow! If anything, it’s up another week or two. The outside decorations, that’s a bit different. They had to come down before we’re hit with another blizzard.

Peppermint bark is a chocolate confection. Generally it consists of peppermint candy pieces in white chocolate on top of dark chocolate, but peppermint bark can refer to any chocolate with peppermint candy pieces in it.

It is especially popular around the Christmas season. Companies known for selling it seasonally include Williams-Sonoma, Ghirardelli, and Dove. Though they do not label it as peppermint bark, Hershey’s also sells peppermint Hershey’s kisses.

Peppermint + chocolate = wonderful. Funny story; Jay never liked the mint/chocolate combo until eating these. He’ll probably still deny liking it, though. I saw him smile when he ate a piece on Christmas- he can’t fool me.

Needless to say, I did indeed make mine for Christmas, and I put it in Martha Stewart treat bags and used them as place settings for the table on Christmas Day. This way, everyone could take theirs home with them and enjoy it. Although like I said, I think it’s a sweet way to use up your candy canes when the holiday is over, and I think it’d be equally sweet for Valentine’s Day, perhaps using white chocolate colored pink? Or even better: use white chocolate & pink Candy Melts with dried cherries. Or try making it with all white chocolate and crushed starlight mints, then drizzling melted pink candy melts over the top? Or for St. Patrick’s Day; white chocolate with crushed spearmint starlight mints or crushed green candies. You can do it in any way you like, for any holiday, even with cherry or blueberry or fruit-flavored candy canes.

My recipe is just a basic one, very simple. There are tons of them out there, and there are also commercially made pre-packaged ones that usually cost a pretty penny. Williams-Sonoma makes a fantastic one, but buying it really takes the fun out of it to me. This is a project kids would love- it takes no time at all, lots of smashing (the candy canes), very little cooking, no baking, and the end result is delicious.

PEPPERMINT BARK

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup crushed candy canes

Directions:

  1. Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, smoothing out any wrinkles.
  2. Melt the semi sweet chocolate and 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Immediately pour the melted chocolate into the prepared pan and tilt the pan so the chocolate makes an even layer. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
  3. Then, melt the white chocolate and remaining 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Immediately pour the melted white chocolate over the dark chocolate and tilt the pan so the chocolate is in an even layer. Sprinkle the crushed candy canes evenly over the white chocolate. Place in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until the chocolate has set.
  4. Remove the Peppermint Bark from the pan by lifting the edges of the aluminum foil. Peel back the foil and break the bark into small irregular pieces. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Makes about 25 pieces, depending on how large you break it up and whether or not you double the recipe.

NOMS! CRUNCHY CHOCOLATEY PEPPERMINT NOMS ALL IN YOUR FACE!


If you like more peppermint flavor in your bark, stir some peppermint oil (not extract), maybe ¼ – ½ teaspoon, into the white chocolate before pouring it on top of the other chocolate. You can also put more melted chocolate over the top, like a drizzle. I split my chocolate up unevenly, so the semi-sweet chocolate layer is thicker than the white, and used some mini chips in the semi-sweet layer that I didn’t allow to melt completely, so that layer is a little chunky. See? So many possibilities! You could even use white chocolate chips in regular chocolate… whatever your imagination can come up with, it’ll work.

I also want to say that these candy canes were the best ever. I got them at Target and the flavor wasn’t too peppermint-y, it was a perfect balance of sweet and mint. Which made them perfect for peppermint bark. It’s a shame I now have to wait almost a whole year to buy them again. But on the plus side… Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it.

I think I’ll keep the snow up on the blog for a few more weeks, or maybe all through winter.

Veteran’s Day.

Coming from a family that has a long military history, Veteran’s Day is always important to me. That’s part of the reason why as soon as Yoyo asked me to, I began to participate in Military Monday.

My great-great-great grandfather, Albert Hebrank, fought in the Civil War. In 1861, he was an immigrant, right off the boat from Owingen, Hohenzollern, Prussia (Germany), and he joined the 54th Volunteer Infantry Regiment of New York, a.k.a. the Barney Black Rifles or ‘Schwarze Yaeger’- a unit comprised predominantly of German-speaking immigrants that fought in the some of the most famous and bloody battles of the war: Bull Run, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Manassas, and Cross Keys. My first cousin 4-times removed, Ferdinand Hebrank (Albert’s nephew), fought in the 71st New York Infantry in the Spanish-American War at the Battle of San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. My great-uncles, Jack Sonnanburg, Eugene Rooney, Thomas Rooney, Frank Rooney and Sam Prybuski all fought in WWII, stationed in various places all over the world, as well as my other great-uncle, Pasquale Civitillo, who was in the Navy, stationed near Cuba during the Cold War. Those are just a few of my family members who have served the United States Military, not to mention all the members who served in the military in other countries (like the Dylnicki’s who fought on the side of Poland in WWI). I have friends in the Military right now, who have served in Iraq & Afghanistan. I don’t agree with the war, but I will always & forever support our military.

So let’s all of us not forget our veterans today, whether we watch the parade or don’t, and let’s remember that no political party has the market on patriotism.

Patriotic liners & decorating kit from CupcakeCrafts4U!

A few months back, I received an awesome packet from Kim at Cupcake Crafts 4 U. It was a patriotic set that included: four kinds of liners, red sugar, red & white large sugar, blue & white large sugar, silver dragees, red/white/blue M&M’s, red lip-shaped sprinkles, white gel frosting, blue frosting with 2 kinds of tips and a recipe! I knew I wanted to save it for Veteran’s Day, so here it is.

I didn’t use the recipe that came with the kit, because I wanted a white chocolate cupcake (but the recipe looks awesome- red, white & blue cupcakes using red & blue Kool-Aid). I also decided to save the blue frosting and the gel as well as some sugars and the dragees for future cupcakes. I knew two kinds of sprinkles plus M&M’s would be perfect for the cupcakes I was making (I only made 10 cupcakes, I halved the recipe below). If I was making more, I’d have used everything and made each cupcake look different. Cupcake Crafts sells AMAZING cupcake-decorating kits, perfect for kid’s parties, those of you not artistically-inclined or even those of you who are, but want to get a full kit with everything you’d need. All you have to do is make the cupcake! I mean, look at how cute the Thanksgiving one is: make a cupcake into a turkey!

WHITE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES (adapted from Baking Bites)

  • 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
  1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line muffin pans with 18 cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the chopped white chocolate by heating it in 30 second intervals in the microwave. Stir well with a fork between each interval and cook only until the chocolate is smooth when stirred.
  4. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by melted white chocolate and vanilla extract. Working in two or three additions, alternate adding in some of the milk and some of the flour mixture, ending with a final addition of flour. Mix until just incorporated and no streaks of flour remain.
  5. Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 325F for 20-23 minutes until a tester comes out clean and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a fingertip. Cool completely before frosting.

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • ½ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup butter, cut into pieces
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Place sugar and egg whites in the heat-proof bowl of an electric mixer. Set bowl over a pan of gently simmering water, and whisk until sugar has dissolved and egg whites are hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; it should feel completely smooth.
  2. Transfer bowl to mixer stand. Using the whisk attachment, beat on high speed until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the butter, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated after each addition. Don’t worry if the buttercream appears curdled after all the butter has been added; it will become smooth again with continued beating. Add vanilla, and beat just until combined.
  4. Switch to the paddle attachment, and beat on the lowest speed to eliminate any air pockets, about 5 minutes. If using buttercream within several hours, cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside at room temperature in a cool environment. Or transfer to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator, up to 3 days. Before using, bring buttercream to room temperature, and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes.

All in all, I really liked the kit. I’d totally recommend it. It makes decorating so much easier, because it puts everything together in one place. And some of the kits include really elaborate stuff that looks so impressive, yet it’s made easy for you. Like I said, these would be perfect for kid’s birthdays. Or even to buy a few kits and bake the cupcakes, then have the kids decorate them. Kim puts a lot of time and effort into this business, and you can definitely tell. Take a look at the kits they sell and buy one. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

And Happy Veteran’s Day.

The Devil’s road is paved with… orange marshmallow buttercream?

Before I get started on this post, I want to say how awesome it is that on October 13th the official Tru Blood Beverage website wrote a post about my True Blood Velvet cupcakes on their news page! So exciting, especially for me, I’m a huge fan of the show True Blood & the Sookie Stackhouse books. It was really spiffy that they noticed me & my lil’ ol cupcakes. I really geeked out over it for a while, truth be told (and still am, kinda). If you missed the post, and can’t find it, don’t worry. If you check out my press page, you’ll see a screenshot of what was written.

In researching my latest cupcake endeavor, I found out an interesting new fact. I didn’t know that black licorice was referred to as ‘Devil’s Road Tar’, but once I did I was so excited. I’m a big black licorice fan, I’m that person who eats all the black jelly beans and gum drops and leaves the rest. Not to mention there’s nothing like a good quality piece of licorice candy. I love it. Fennel, anise, licorice… whatever. I love it all. When I was little, my grandpa used to share his licorice pastilles with me, when I was a kid I’d devour Good & Plenty’s like there was no tomorrow, and as I got older I fell in love with Luden’s Honey Licorice cough drops (which are really hard to find, but I’ve been suckin’ ‘em down like crazy the past few weeks since I’m just getting over a bad ass cold) whether I was sick or not. I used to brush my teeth with Tom’s of Maine fennel toothpaste for a while, too. And Sambuca? Yes please. But all that aside, when I discovered that alias above, I knew it was perfect that I make these for Halloween. I stumbled upon a few different licorice cupcake ideas on the web. Some didn’t really appeal to me, to be honest, and others were combined with odd flavors. I don’t like chocolate with licorice, sorry. Vanilla was a safe bet, but I wanted something a little different. And so inspired by a few other bloggers, I decided the best bet would be an orange marshmallow topping made with Fluff. Why orange? Well, there’s an ice cream called ‘Tiger Tail’ (thanks Tania) that is orange ice cream with licorice sauce, and also there was a candy made by See’s that was a licorice stick, but orange & licorice together. The combination intrigued me, since both flavors are in my list of favorites. And really, what’s more Halloween-y than black & orange? Plus they match my Halloween cupcake cookie jar & cupcake candle… heh.

Admittedly, these will not be for everyone. Most of you will probably gag at the thought of these. That’s alright. It’s my blog & I’ll bake licorice cupcakes if I want to! And if no one else likes them, then more for me. This recipe only makes 12, so it’s not like a lot will go to waste. Honestly, they were really delicious. Not too much of an in-your-face licorice flavor, just a pleasant anise taste. And I even added more anise to mine! Don’t be afraid to try them, even if you cut the recipe in half. I am not ashamed to say I ate three in a row. Okay, maybe I’m a little ashamed. But they’re made with egg whites, so they’re healthier. Right?

The cupcakes, with an interesting cast of characters on top.


.You know what I learned while looking up licorice? Licorice is not the same thing as fennel or anise, despite having the flavoring compounds.

The flavor of liquorice comes mainly from a sweet-tasting compound called anethole (“trans”-1-methoxy-4-(prop-1-enyl)benzene), an aromatic, unsaturated ether compound also found in anise, fennel, and other herbs. Additional sweetness in liquorice comes from glycyrrhizin, a compound sweeter than sugar.

But for our purposes, for this recipe, anise = licorice and does a pretty good job of it. Licorice has quite a rich history. It’s been used in drinks & teas for ages, and used to soothe many ailments. Not only that, but it’s just plain yummy.

Licorice. Just the word by itself evokes certain memories in each of us. Now imagine tasting some licorice right now; yum! In fact licorice has been enjoyed throughout the ages by pharaohs, kings, and people like you and I! Licorice comes in more varieties than the candy vines, it is used in teas, medicine, booze, food, and all sorts of candy. Let’s take a look at how licorice has become such a delectable treat worldwide.

Now, licorice wasn’t always used in candy of course, it was often put into a drink consumed by the ancient Egyptians. Often time warriors would use licorice because it could help out on long marches when a thirst needed slaking. Many wise men in many countries like Alexander the Great and the Indian prophet, Brahma, encouraged the use of licorice for its healing properties. Even today the Aveda Company makes a comforting tea using the licorice root, Glycyrrhiza Glabra. Licorice has even been used to soothe coughs and heal peptic ulcers.

In spite of all its medicinal qualities, its most popular quality is its wonderful sweetness and its use in candies. It can be found around the world: In the United States of course, and in Germany, England, the Netherlands, and Nordic countries. Its popularity knows no boundary.

In 1914 the American Licorice Company was founded in Chicago, Illinois. Black Vines were born that year and have remained a popular treat ever since. The chewy black goodness evolved into “yummies” such as: Black Crows, Licorice Snaps, Black Scotties, and an all time favorite, Good and Plenty. My favorite was a product call “Allsorts.” These were originally manufactured in England and looked like beautiful candy jewels with licorice surrounded by pink, blue, and yellow confections. They were cut into squares, cylinders, and rounds; usually layered so you could see the licorice in the center of say a pink round candy. The look was tempting and the taste magnificent. You can still buy these today.

Eventually, in 1920 the classic Raspberry Vines made their debut, and while they weren’t really licorice, they became synonymous with licorice because they were produced by the same company and had the same chewy characteristics as real black licorice. However, red licorice is made with strawberry or cherry extracts; they are not made with the licorice root, therefore, they don’t taste anything like black licorice, but are delicious in their own right.

Licorice has been used for kinds of purposes throughout the ages. One thing that stands true is the tastiness and the memories we get when licorice is on our palate. We reminisce a bit about when life seemed to move a bit slower, or when grandpa would hand us a licorice morsel out of his jar. Whatever the memory is, there is no denying the history and goodness of a licorice treat!

BLACK LICORICE CUPCAKES

First you get:

  • 1 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 oz white chocolate (good quality)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 5 egg whites at room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Then you:

  1. Melt chocolate and butter in a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water, or in the top of a double boiler. When completely melted and combined, stir in the sugar, and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl.
  3. In a large glass measuring cup, mix together the milk, vanilla, and anise extracts.
  4. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the milk mixture in 2 parts, starting and ending with the flour. Beat just until ingredients are combined after each addition.
  6. With clean bowl and beaters, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on low speed for one minute,then on high until soft peaks form.
  7. Transfer 1/3 of the egg white mixture into the batter bowl, gently fold to combine. Fold in the rest of the egg whites.
  8. Fill 12 cupcake papers to ¼ inch from the top rim. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly in the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

I frosted them with an orange marshmallow Fluff frosting that I striped with black & orange stripes, then piped it on and sprinkled it with orange and brown sprinkles with miniature black bats. I don’t often do the “holiday themed jimmies” thing, but these were so freakin’ cute with the mini-bats, I had to. The toppers are vintage, they include a jack-o-lantern, a flying witch, a black cat face, a witch’s head, a black cat, a scarecrow and a skull & crossbones. Cute, right? The liners are Martha Stewart for Michael’s, of course. She always pulls me in with these adorable liners and then I always buy way more than I need to. But that’s alright, it just means more cupcakes and muffins for this delicious holiday.

Honestly, even if you aren’t a big licorice fan, you might like these. They aren’t bold at all, they have a very light flavor. And if you’re looking for the frosting recipe, it’s here. Just add orange extract to it instead of vanilla and you’re ready for Halloween. And Arwyn, my darling little creature the color of licorice, is ready for Halloween too. As always.

And out come the (were)wolves…

And the witches, and ghosts, and vampires, and zombies… and all the other fun and “scary” creatures that inhabit this time of year. Which is my favorite time of year, as you might know. I know I’ve done a little “history of Halloween” briefly before on here, but I thought we could all use a refresher.

Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain (Irish pronunciation: [ˈsˠaunʲ]; from the Old Irish samain).[1] The festival of Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture, and is sometimes [2] regarded as the “Celtic New Year”.[3] Traditionally, the festival was a time used by the ancient pagans to take stock of supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. The ancient Gaels believed that on October 31, now known as Halloween, the boundary between the alive and the deceased dissolved, and the dead become dangerous for the living by causing problems such as sickness or damaged crops. The festivals would frequently involve bonfires, into which bones of slaughtered livestock were thrown. Costumes and masks were also worn at the festivals in an attempt to mimic the evil spirits or placate them.[4][5]

The term Halloween is shortened from All Hallows’ Even (both “even” and “eve” are abbreviations of “evening”, but “Halloween” gets its “n” from “even”) as it is the eve of “All Hallows’ Day”,[6] which is now also known as All Saints’ Day. It was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions,[3] until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints’ Day from May 13 (which had itself been the date of a pagan holiday, the Feast of the Lemures) to November 1. In the ninth century, the Church measured the day as starting at sunset, in accordance with the Florentine calendar. Although All Saints’ Day is now considered to occur one day after Halloween, the two holidays were, at that time, celebrated on the same day. Liturgically, the Church traditionally celebrated that day as the Vigil of All Saints, and, until 1970, a day of fasting as well. Like other vigils, it was celebrated on the previous day if it fell on a Sunday, although secular celebrations of the holiday remained on the 31st. The Vigil was suppressed in 1955, but was later restored in the post-Vatican II calendar.

God, what a great fucking time of year.

All the stores have already had all the Halloween decorations and candy out since late August, so I don’t think the first week in October is too early to be gearing up for it. This year, I decided to start out the season with a little compilation of my top 4 favorite Halloween cupcake posts, and also links to some of my other Halloween-ie themed baked goods, so that I might inspire some of you in your fright night baking. So I sat down with my favorite tea from Teavana and picked out some cupcakes worthy of a “Halloween Best Of” post. Don’t worry, I’m still making cupcakes this year (specifically something very special coming next week… bwahahaha), I’m just showing off some of my past ones.

These were my absolute favorite Halloween cupcakes ever. They look perfect, they were a fantastic tasting cupcake, and the white chocolate bones were too cute (and also delicious). You can find the original post and the recipe here: Creepy chocolate stout cupcakes with white chocolate “funny bones.”
Now these… THESE are some bad ass cupcakes! Another perfect looking cupcake, and even though I made it after Halloween, it’s totally appropriate for the holiday. The key here is to use cinnamon oil, not extract, so you get the heat of the “Red Hots” flavor. Otherwise it’s just like tasting cinnamon gum. Also in this post I uploaded the files so you can print out these toppers and use them yourself! The original post is here: Coop’s devilishly delightful cupcakes.
These were made to match a Jessie Steele apron Jay bought me for Halloween, but they’re perfect for those of you who aren’t into the themed Halloween stuff, or are more into celebrating fall than dressing up like a witch (spoil sports!). Delicious chocolate flavor with a hint of pumpkin. A grown-up pumpkin cupcake. The recipe and more can be found here: Jessie Steele (inspired) pumpkin cupcakes.
These are such fun. Lyns sent me some sweetmelt white chocolate monster eyes and I knew right away my cupcakes would be little green monsters. Great for kids, it’s just a plain vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream colored green. The fun comes in with the black frosting used for facial features & the amazing edible eyes. In this post I also explain why Halloween is my favorite holiday. Check out the post here: Slimer’s fright night gorey eyeballs cupcakes.


But sometimes, you may not really be in the mood for cake. Or frosting. So now we move on to non-cupcake treats. ‘Cause like I said, sometimes you aren’t in the mood for a cupcake, but maybe something else spooky, sweet & appropriate for the season. Or maybe you’re having a Halloween party and you want something that’s impressive but yet not as time consuming as cupcakes. Well I’ve got you covered on that too. Are you ready?

These little treats were so easy to make, plus they were a HUGE hit. Everyone loved them! Homemade marshmallow bones… great in hot cocoa or eaten by themselves. Find the recipe & more photos here: Mr. Bones, Mr. Bones, how do you feel Mr. Bones?
...As far as baked treats go, I have a recipe for pumpkin muffins. But they aren’t like your average, boring pumpkin muffin made from pumpkin in a can. The interesting thing about them is that the pumpkin you use is the cut out parts of your jack-o-lantern! It’s a recipe I’ve had since kindergarten when my teacher passed them out for Halloween, and I’ve made them every year since. Get the recipe & the story behind it here: Mrs. Blach’s pumpkin muffins.

And there you have it. That isn’t by any means the end of my Halloween themed treats, you can find more in my “halloween” category over there. I also have a recipe for roasting your own pumpkin seeds, which is another thing I make every year when I cut out my jack-o-lantern. If you’re looking for more cupcake ideas, another excellent cupcake recipe that would work really well for Halloween are Mexican hot chocolate cupcakes that have cinnamon and pumpkin in them, which I used for Thanksgiving a few years back, but it would be perfect for this holiday. So would cinnamon vanilla with Mexican hot chocolate buttercream, it’s a fall-flavor but it isn’t too overly-theme-y. Also, this recipe for mocha cupcakes with orange-vanilla buttercream is a great fall flavored cake & frosting combination. Another amazing cupcake recipe that fits this season perfectly are the apple cupcakes with brown sugar buttercream I made last year. Apples are a-plenty now and if you can pick fresh ones and use them, it’s even better. A great idea for fall-tasting treats that aren’t cupcakes are Donut-Muffins. They taste like donuts, but they’re muffins. The cinnamon sugar & nutmeg flavors are perfect for this time of year. Same goes for homemade apple cider donuts. And last but not least, Jay’s absolute favorite cookies… maple-iced fall leaf sugar cookies. And stay tuned later on this month for some new Halloween cupcake ideas. You know I won’t let you down.

As far as decorating goes, Lyns at Sweet Cuppin’ Cakes Bakery & Cupcakery Supplies has an awesome section in her store called “Our Halloween Party” with awesome liners, cupcake wrappers and toppers that will dress up any kind of cupcake for the holiday. Another place that has awesome cupcake decorating ideas is sweet estelle’s baking supply. Black & white liners, vintage looking toppers like these or these and orange /black sugars can make your Halloween cupcakes look even spookier.

And like I said… stay tuned this week for the start of some new Halloweenie cupcakes & more.