Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes With a Secret Ingredient

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I made these cupcakes last year and they were gone so quickly that I didn’t get a chance to take pictures. Luckily, everyone loved them (some people ate two!), so I knew what I was going to make when it became peppermint season again this year. I love peppermint mocha lattes and get them whenever I get a chance. I’ve had the version from Starbucks, but I actually prefer one made by a local smoothie shop called South Block where they have tons of alternative milks. I get my peppermint mocha with almond milk and Intelligentsia espresso and it hits the spot.

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This year I upped the decadence and dipped the cupcakes in a dark chocolate mint ganache before frosting them. The secret ingredient in these cupcakes is the type of coffee I used in it. Instead of using regular coffee, I used some very special Kopi Luwak that my friend Elly gifted me. For those that don’t know, Kopi Luwak is a rare and expensive coffee that is made from coffee berries that a tropical jungle cat has digested. Some people were a little put off by the idea of cat-poo-treated coffee, but surprisingly, most everyone embraced it and loved the quirkiness of it.

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I used a few different recipes combined together, and the end result leaves nothing to be desired – this really is an edible peppermint mocha! Coffee-infused chocolate cake with mint pieces folded in, dark chocolate mint ganache, a mint cream cheese frosting, and a chocolate drizzle. Some lucky snackers picked some out that had mint chocolate penguins on them that I purchased from my Girl Scout troop.

I also tried something new with my Martha Stewart cupcake liners. The liners look pretty, but bake horribly! To solve this problem I lined them with a white liner before putting the batter in and was very pleased by the result.

Patriotic Cheesecake Delight (Happy Election Day! & Hello Kitty for President 2012)

Happy (Early) Election Day!

My sister was craving Cherry Delight pie and requested a red, white, and blue colored dessert to go with the occasion. Most patriotic desserts involve strawberries which my sister is allergic to, so I had my work cut out for me. The Cherry Delight pies my sister was thinking of consisted of canned cherry pie filling. Instead, I went to the grocery store and picked up what red and blue fruits I could find – Bing cherries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

I did take a shortcut and used a pre-made graham cracker crumb crust, but didn’t skimp out on any other steps from this Martha Stewart recipe.  It’s good that I skipped the crust because I had forgotten cherries needed pitting! Red hands and pulverized cherries later, this cheesecake was cooling in the refrigerator waiting to be eaten. This cheesecake was a bit on the sour side since it has sour cream and cream cheese paired with the tart fruits. It was fun making this cheesecake “delight”, but I don’t think it’s worth making again, especially if you don’t own a cherry pitter!

Also, for the past couple of days, Hello Kitty has made her campaign headquarters for the 2012 Election DC! You didn’t know she was running? Well Tuxedo Sam is her Vice President and she’s not running for any traditional party and entered the race late.

I went with my sister this past weekend to her headquarters to show my support for her cause and to have some cheesy good fun.

 

Rainbow Bridging Cupcakes (& Cake Push Pops)

With Hurricane Sandy approaching, I thought it might be a good idea (while we have power) to post about these rainbow cupcakes.  I’m not sure that there will be a rainbow after Sandy, but you can make your own with these cupcakes!

I made these cakes for a Girl Scout Ceremony where a troop was bridging from Cadettes to Seniors. As a result, they get a rainbow-bridge patch to signify their “bridging”.

I used light color liners so that the colors would show through. If I had to do this again, I would omit the white swirl in the rainbow and keep it to only colors. The addition of the white swirl made it look more like paintball or graffiti cupcakes instead of a true rainbow.

I used Duff Electric Color Gels that my Mom gave me as a gift a while back. Because they are “electric” colors, they are a bit off compared to primary colors which are much deeper. For the red, orange, and yellow I used Williams-Sonoma Vivid Food Pastes. If you don’t want dyed skin, wear gloves. I didn’t care so ended up with rainbow fingers.

Mixing the food coloring into the batter was tricky because of the cake recipe I chose. I used the simplest White Layer Cake recipe I could find from Martha Stewart and I did not like the taste or process at all. I was wondering why everyone that made rainbow cakes started with a box mix; I figured that making a white mix from scratch and then coloring it 7 different colors and then swirling it wouldn’t add too many steps. Sadly, the cake I picked required folding in of egg whites at the end which just made it bake weird. The worst thing? After baking it tasted like box mix!

But, these cupcakes weren’t really about taste. It was about presentation. I went to a local drugstore and picked up some rainbow strips and mini-marshmallows. I dyed a simple cream cheese frosting blue to simulate the sky and cut the strips. You’d think that over 8 feet of rainbow strips would be enough, but I ran out and soon had to improvise. I cut some mini-marshmallows in half and fashioned hearts out of them. I had to cut all the mini-marshmallows in half anyways because un-cut they would not cooperate with the cupcake tops.

This was also my first time ever making cake push pops! I bought the containers from The Baker’s Kitchen, but am not sure I would buy them again in hindsight. At over $1 a piece, you better believe I was going around to all the kids and collecting them for wash and re-use.

To make these cakes, I made one 9″ cake by dropping in white and colored batter and swirling it together. After baking and cooling, I cut it in half. Some of the cake was overdone and some was still gummy. This was probably because of the pockets of egg whites that the recipe had me fold in. I then used a 1⅞” cutter to cut rounds of cooked cake, plopped them in, and layered with icing.

I tried to keep the icing to a ring just around the outside of the cake when layering because I did not want them to get too sweet. Since the main audience for these cakes was children, I didn’t fret too much over the disappointing flavor of the cake. I made extra for my office, which unfortunately, has been spoiled by the quality of my previous baked goods.

Everyone loved the novelty of the push-pops and asked where they were purchased from. My home, silly!

Oatmeal Cookies

I find it hard to believe that I haven’t posted about these Oatmeal Cookies yet. We make these cookies so often that I’ve almost memorized the recipe. I say almost because I don’t usually make these, my boyfriend does. He’s much more of a cookie/pie guy and not so much in to tarts and cupcakes.

This recipe is very flexible. The traditional recipe calls for 1 cup of raisins, but we usually sub them for more interesting ingredients. You could try other dried fruit, chocolate, peanut butter, or nuts. Our go-to is half peanut butter chips and half mini-chocolate chips.

These are best right out of the oven, but last several days if covered.

I accidentally forgot the “additional” 6 tablespoons butter mentioned in the recipe below– that’s almost half the butter and these cookies still tasted great! Because of the lack of extra butter, it did make 19 cookies instead of 24 (I was doing a half recipe).

Quadruple Strawberry Cupcakes

These cupcakes have four different types of strawberry in them – Strawberry Cake, Strawberry Lime Gin Compote Filling, Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting, and a Chocolate-dipped Strawberry on top. Needless to say, my strawberry-allergic-sister got no where close to these. I made these cupcakes for a surprise baby shower that we threw for a co-worker. The cake was very moist, maybe even a little too moist, but I’ll attribute that to the liquid-y filling. I actually made these the night before and for once, a swiss meringue frosting turned out! Unfortunately, I chilled it overnight and it separated. No amount of beating or adding of powders could solidify it again. I took the remaining strawberry gin compote and tossed it a traditional cream cheese frosting which tasted just as good.

These cupcake liners are Martha Stewart. I splurged on a bunch of them because they were on sale at a local craft store. I wish I would have tried the liners before buying so many – these are not worth it! You would think that Martha Stewart products for the price would be good quality, but these liners are equal or less quality than grocery store brands for about 6x the cost! This is a light, yellow cake with a dark purple and white liner and you can barely see the pattern. *sigh* I might be able to salvage them by baking a pastel muffin liner inside them, but I don’t know if it’d be worth it.