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Chocolate, Almond, and Salted Caramel Cupcakes

On October 15th I attended a surprise going-away party for one of my best(est) friends, Stephanie. Stephanie is moving with her boyfriend from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, and though I’ll be able to see her every once in a while, it won’t be as frequent as when she was living a few miles away from me.

For her surprise party, I decided to combine some of her favorite things: almonds; salted caramel; coffee; chocolate. I found out about the surprise party a day or two before, so I was limited to the local Whole Foods for ingredients. I only had one chocolate cupcake recipe on hand and that hadn’t turned out perfect last time I baked it. I decided to use the same recipe (upped the chocolate chips to 1/2 a bag and cooked for 25 minutes exactly) and they turned out perfectly! I think it was because I was baking with love (^_^) and used sturdier liners this time.

Mise En Place

Before filling the liners, I crushed up some almond biscuits with a little melted butter in the food processor and pressed them into the bottoms of the liners. I then put the batter in, baked them, and waited for them to cool. Once cool, I cored them. I heated up the caramel, added some fleur de sel to balance the sweetness, and mixed to combine.

The caramel cream cheese frosting was made with dark, un-spiced rum as well as some more fleur de sel. I tried piping the frosting on, but my tip wasn’t working so I just cut a hole in the bag and worked from there. Since the caramel had been warm, it was thinner in consistency and seeped into the cake, leaving a space for the caramel cream cheese to fall in to, no matter how carefully I tried to balance the frosting on top.

I finished the top of the cupcakes with toasted almond slivers, a sprinkle of fleur de sel, and a drizzling of salted caramel.

Everyone seemed to love these cupcakes, and when I got a chance to try one the next day, they were delicious! The recipe yielded 28 cupcakes (probably because of the extra chocolate chips I put in), so some of them had almond cookie crusts and some didn’t.

This recipe has been deemed a "hit at home" and is one of the tastiest recipes on Hapa-tite!

Mimosa Brunch Cupcakes

This month my office was having a potluck, only this time it was a breakfast potluck! I thought this would be a perfect time to try my hand at the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge I’ve been seeing over at Sweetest Kitchen.

This month’s challenge was Orange and I had been dying to make some mimosa cupcakes–great for breakfast, right? If you feel inclined to vote for me, please head on over there on October 20th to cast your vote.

These cupcakes have orange zest and champagne in the cake, are filled with orange curd, brushed with champagne, and topped with a champagne whipped frosting and a candied orange peel. The cakes themselves seemed to go over well at work, but I wasn’t quite happy with them. I tried (again) to make a frosting involving corn syrup and egg whites and it just didn’t turn out. The cake was a little dense for my taste, and the orange curd didn’t sit long enough before filling the cupcakes.

I was imagining a light, bubbly, citrus taste, but got one that was sticky and heavy. Everyone at work seemed to like them so much, so I’ll link to the two recipes I combined for this one: Loves to Eat & Liz in Life. Next time I’d make a simpler orange cake with a champagne/whipped cream frosting. Sometimes simpler is better!

The winner of October’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from: Angela’s Images (a selection of handmade crafts; Bake It Pretty (a $5 electronic gift card); Beanilla (2-fold Madagascar vanilla extract & 3 Tongan vanilla beans); Hello Hanna (a pack of Sweet Stands cupcake stands); Lisa Orgler (an 8.5″x11″ original art print of your choice); Miss Kitty Creations (a handmade cupcake charm of your choice); Sweet Cuppin Cakes (a prize pack worth $25); Tundra Books (a selection 3 very sweet children’s books). Thank you to all our prize sponsors!

Spring & Summer Bento 2010

Whew! The warmer weather and abundance of sandwich-lunches instead of true bento made Spring and Summer light seasons for bento. Often times I made and photographed dinner and plopped the leftovers into a container to eat for several days, so no pictures of that boring stuff. Below find the bento that I made and had the mind to photograph before devouring. There are bento from the end of February to the end of September.

Graduation Cupcakes

Last summer my younger sister graduated from High School. I made some cupcakes for her actual graduation as well as some for her graduation party that happened soon after. Her graduation cupcakes were vanilla cupcakes filled with a homemade grapefruit curd and topped with a grapefruit-cream cheese frosting. This was when I discovered that adding citrus juice to cream cheese frosting in larger quantities doesn’t quite work. I didn’t try any of these cupcakes (I had some non-curd-filled ones), but heard they were delicious! I decorated them with hand-written messages or fondant letters, mixed with sprinkles.

A short time after my sister’s actual graduation, she held a party at our house for friends and family. There were games, good food, and of course desserts! I had a drink bar (all alcohol-free of course), including a cotton candy “mojito”! I took this inspiration and made some vanilla cupcakes with purple cream cheese frosting topped with cotton candy. Some of my sister’s friends also have gluten-free diets, so I made chocolate/vanilla marbled gluten-free cupcakes topped with purple-tinted frosting. I rolled the cupcakes in black sprinkles and topped them with a graduation pick. In case you couldn’t tell, her school colors were purple, black, and silver.

Read the rest of the entry for the full gallery of images and the recipe for the grapefruit curd filled cupcakes.