Irish Cream Hot Cocoa – Easy Recipe!

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But I thought this was a cupcake blog, you say? In my defense, my favorite mug does have a cupcake on it.

Oh snow, we meet again. From the three large storms that have dumped over six feet of snow in New England, I’ve developed a serious case of cabin fever. I read Tim Geithner’s Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises, made more cupcakes than I can eat, and watched too many episodes of 30 Rock. The only thing I haven’t done is blogged about some phenomenal homemade hot cocoa.

I first thought of making homemade hot cocoa when I wanted hot cocoa but didn’t want to go to the store to get some. I found some overly complicated recipes online and others that took hours to make (though I hear making hot cocoa in a crock pot is delicious). I was looking for a quick and simple one serving recipe. It took a few tries to get the perfect ratio of sugar to unsweetened cocoa powder, but now I think I have perfected the easy-to-make-hot-cocoa.

This recipe is not only simple, but it is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s rich, but not too sweet. Of course, you can add more sugar, depending on your preference. The friends that I have made it for all said they loved it. And I swear it wasn’t because a slip of hand on the Irish Cream.* 😉

Well, here is the recipe!

Xoxo
-JJC

Recipe, yield 1 serving

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa power
1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 oz vanilla extract
1 oz Irish Cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and cocoa powder.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, add the milk, vanilla, and sweetened cocoa mix.
3. Whisk the mixture until the milk is JUST about to boil.
4. Pour hot cocoa and Irish Cream into your favorite mug.
5. Enjoy! Preferably with a good book or with the company of good friends.

* If you do not want to add Irish Cream, add a bit more sugar so the ratio of unsweetened cocoa powder to sugar is 1:1.

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Chocolate Orange Cupcakes

Orange Chocolate Cupcake

Greetings! Two posts in two days? Yup! I need to somehow make up for not posting in nearly a year. That, or it might be the dreary February weather of New England. Three storms, including two blizzards, 4+ feet of snow, and more on the way. I’ll be staying in, baking tons of desserts, and blogging about them.

I spent the morning thinking of what flavor I should try next and what I had in my pantry. One thing that I love is Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. So, why not try a chocolate orange cupcake? I absolutely loved this recipe and wish I could continue eating all of the cake I made without feeling guilty of half a dozen cupcakes (I halved the recipe listed below). This recipe is not that much different from a normal chocolate cake recipe, but the added coffee and orange extract made it 1000 times better than “plain” chocolate cake. Adding the coffee is optional, but I prefer a darker tasting chocolate.

The only challenge with this recipe was the frosting. The frosting that I made was an orange vanilla buttercream. Orange extract by itself does not smell, let alone taste, that great. When mixing it with vanilla extract, the frosting begins to smell like an artificial orange creamsicle. Spoiler alert: I added a few teaspoons of freshly squeezed orange juice, which helped eliminate the creamsicle taste.

Without further ado, here’s the recipe!

Happy baking!
–JJC

RECIPE

Cake
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 eggs

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
2. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, vanilla extract, orange extract, and coffee.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition. Consistency should be similar to a pudding.
6. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
7. Bake at 325F for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Batter

Frosting
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1½ stick)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon orange extract
¼ cup milk/cream
3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar
A dash of fresh orange juice

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.
3. Frost cupcakes and decorate.
4. Enjoy!

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Vanilla Glazed Donut Holes

Glazed Vanilla Donut Holes

And we’re back! Well, kind of. Today’s post, and the first of 2015, sorry I’ve been slackin’, is not of cupcakes, but of glazed donut holes! Why, you may ask? I recently got Rachael Ray’s mini muffin tray and have been obsessed with making all things mini. Plus, they’re adorable. I also have been craving donuts since having an embarrassingly long conversation about donuts. Side note: thanks Massachusetts for having a Dunkin’ Donuts on every corner to satisfy the desire for donut. I’ve eaten too many in the past week. This is the real reason why I run. Anyway, I digress…

Since I’ve never made donuts/donut holes before, I took a recipe from the Interwebs. But of course, by “took,” I really mean that I started with one and then changed it until it a bit. This recipe is pretty easy to make and is great for if you are hosting people. Bite-sized sweet treats? What could be better?

Now a few tips for making donut holes. ie: the lessons learned:
– The batter is pretty thick and sticky when you try to scoop them into the muffin tin. Try to roll the batter into balls so the donuts actually are round.
– Start making the glaze with 5 minutes left of baking. This allows the glaze to thicken but also remain liquid when you dip the cake.
– Definitely use tongs (or in my case chopsticks) when dipping the cake into the glaze. It’s hot.
– Other tips? Feel free to share! I promise also for more cupcakes in the near future! Yum!

Happy baking!
— JJC

RECIPE

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Cake

⅓ cup (5 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream 1/3 cup butter and granulated sugar together on medium speed. Mix in the egg, vanilla extract, and milk. Gently stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt by hand. DO NOT overmix, or the donuts will be too dense.
3. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin – about 2/3 of the way full (It helps if you use two spoons to shape the into balls)
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 400F.

With about 5 minutes left, start the vanilla glaze.

Vanilla Glaze

VANILLA GLAZE

2 tablespoons milk
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners sugar

1. Add milk, vanilla and confectioners sugar to a small saucepan
2. Heat over low-medium heat, constantly stir just until all is well combined.
3. Dip the doughnuts into the glaze, one at a time and transfer to cooling rack.

Glazed Donut Holes

Chocolate and Vanilla Checkerboard Cake

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Greetings! It has been quite awhile since my last post. This last semester was quite rough, and ain’t nobody got time for baking…or sleeping for that matter. But now, I have officially finished my undergraduate studies, and it’s time to tackle bigger and tougher projects! For this post, I tried making a chocolate and vanilla checkerboard cake. The first time I saw this kind of cake was at Lady M Confections in New York City. It was absolutely incredible. Naturally, I wanted to try making it–challenge accepted, if you will (HIMYM fans?). 

 

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Checkerboard cake from Lady M Confections

The construction of such checkerboard cake is no walk in the park. If you ask my mother (happy mothers’ day to all moms out there. May your day be filled with joy), I probably spent 20 minutes trying to dissect the cake, but of course, without any success. However, thanks to the internet, I had a plan! I was going to make 2 separate 9-inch cakes–one chocolate, and the other vanilla. I would then use some circular cutters to cut the various rings of the cake to remove and alternate the flavors of the cake and give it the checkerboard look.

Even with this “foolproof” plan in mind, the task at hand was far more difficult than previously imagined. The making of the 2 cakes was an operation that took up the entire kitchen and our dining table.

After the cakes cooled, I took them out of the pan and put them onto parchment paper to start to cut and re-construct the cakes. The issue was that I didn’t have any of the fancy cake/cookie cutters that would form a perfect circle. Instead, I ended up using a lid for a pot, a cup, and…a shot glass to measure the circles. After outlining the print, I used a knife to cut through the rest of the cake. Little did I know, I made the cakes too fluffy! I wonder if it would be better to make a thicker cake so that it isn’t as crumbly when you cut into it and so it will stay together.

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There was quite a lot of “reconstructive surgery” to ensure the cake didn’t completely fall apart, but the frosting definitely stitched up the cake. After putting together the first layer, I put a layer of homemade chocolate buttercream, and then proceeded on the second layer. Most checkerboard cakes have 3 layers, but I decided on 2 tiers for the first try. I was also a bit grossed out by the amount of butter used in the entire cake, but that must be why it’s so delicious, if I do say so myself.

After constructing the 2 layers of the cake, I started to frost it with the buttercream. It definitely was a fun but also super messy experience trying to frost a crumbly cake. But again, the frosting served as a nice glue.

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Overall, the process took nearly 3 hours. It definitely is not the prettiest cake in the world, but it still is quite tasty and a good first attempt. If you are going to make a checkerboard cake/for future attempts, here are a few tips:

– Ensure that you fully spray the cake pan with vegetable oil so that the cakes don’t stick
– The cake should be more of a brownie consistency and not super fluffy. I was having trouble picking up the rings of the cake to assemble them into a pattern. I am still questioning how Lady M has so many checkers.
– It would probably be preferable to find cake/cookie cutting rings so that your rings actually are even. Time to take a trip to Sur La Table?
– I used chocolate frosting throughout the cake, but it might be nice to glue the inner layers of the cake using white or another color frosting to give the cake the “pop” and crisp looking lines. The brown chocolate blended with the cake, so it’s not as clean.

If you have additional tips, feel free to share them!

Happy baking!
-JJC

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Hard Cider Cupcakes

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Would you believe it? It’s Thanksgiving weekend and almost December. I can’t believe how the year had gone by so quickly. Given the time of year, it’s prefect for the cupcake of the week: hard cider cupcakes! So what exactly do I mean, you might ask? This cupcake is an apple cider cupcake with a cinnamon whiskey buttercream. And yes, it’s as good as it sounds.

There of course is a back story behind each cupcake I make. For this one, I need to thank Janie and Denise for the idea and also sharing the Buzzfeed post about cupcakes that “will get you drunk.” After doing the math, unless you want/can eat at a minimum 30 cupcakes, there is no possible way to get drunk off these cupcakes. Nonetheless, these were really fun to make and scrumptious desserts at Thanksgiving dinner yesterday.

I based the recipe off one of the Buzzfeed recipes but ended up adding a lot more spices and ingredients to make the cake flavorful and fluffy. In the cake, I also used spiced apple cider from Trader Joe’s rather than traditional apple cider, which I imagine would be just as delicious.

While I normally am not a fan of frosting, this cinnamon whiskey buttercream was really delicious. The whiskey provided a nice kick to the sweet cinnamon vanilla. I ended up adding a dash of salt as well to “cut” the strength of the whiskey.

Overall, the cupcake was delicious and a hit at Thanksgiving, and I loved pairing it with some hot apple cider as well. Enjoy!

Xoxo,
JJC

Recipe
Cake, yield 15
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup sour cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition.
6. Fold in the apple cider and sour cream.
7. Fill 15 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 325F for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon whiskey (optional)
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids, cinnamon, and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.DSC_0516

Apple Cupcake with Maple Peanut Butter Frosting

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This week it finally begins to feel like autumn. I think it was the first time I actually felt cold this October. But what better thing is there to do other than stay inside bake some goodies and drink hot apple cider? I contend, again, that autumn is the most delicious season of all–and it finally feels like it.

This week I wasn’t exactly sure what type of cupcakes to make and started to troll Pinterest (where else?) and found a nice recipe for apple maple cupcakes. The cake was a delicious and easy to make. After the pumpkin cupcake incident, I was wary of putting too much apple in. However, by using two medium sized Macintosh apples from Trader Joe’s, the apple provided a nice moisture to the overall cake. I liked this cake because it wasn’t too sweet, as the maple (with peanut butter) frosting was a bit on the sweeter side.

Honestly, I had a bit of trouble with the maple frosting. When you make a buttercream, you add confectioner’s sugar to thicken the frosting. But when you add maple syrup on top of the normal amount of sugar, you may end up having to schedule a visit to the dentist’s office. While I knew that, I still put too much maple syrup in the frosting, making the butter a strange sticky concoction. It looked as if the frosting would fall off, but the maple syrup acted like glue. To thicken it without putting too much sugar, I dropped in a glob of peanut butter. The peanut butter immediately thickened the mixture and added a slight savory flavor to the sweet frosting.

Ultimately, the cake and the frosting were really delicious and basically have been getting me through midterm season. If you are not currently considering moving your bed to a library, then I’m sure that these are best enjoyed along some simmering mulled wine or spiced apple cider while relaxing on comfy couches.

Enjoy!
JJC

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Recipe
Cake, yield 16
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
2 cups shredded apples (I used Macintosh apples)

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition.
6. Fold in the apples.
7. Fill 16 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids, peanut butter, and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.DSC_0450

Pumpkin Chocolate Cupcakes

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Not only is it AT&T’s recent advertising slogan, it’s also generally human nature to think that “more is better.” However, that is not always the case when it comes to baking. Last week I thought that it would be nice to make pumpkin chocolate cupcakes to celebrate autumn, the most delicious season of all. I took a Martha Stewart and tried to half the recipe adapt it to what I normally make. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that my recipe would only call for half the can of pumpkin puree, instead of the entire can. So, I dumped the entire can in.

The issue with adding too much pumpkin is that it is a very dense food that sinks to the bottom of the cupcake. While the cake looked ready after 17 minutes from the top and passed the toothpick rule, there was uncooked pumpkin chilling (pun intended) at the bottom of the lining. When I took the trays out, the cake almost immediately sunk and turned into a crater:

Attempt 1: don't add too much pumpkin. But when all else fails, grab a pumpkin ale.

Attempt 1: don’t add too much pumpkin. But when all else fails, grab a pumpkin ale.

In an effort to save the cupcakes, I ended up putting them back into the oven, which you’re really not supposed to do, for another 5 minutes. This resulted in a chewy pumpkin cake, but at least it was cooked. The only good thing that came out of it was the pumpkin ale (so good!), and the overall flavor of the cupcake was still good.

Feeling unsuccessful, I tried to make the same pumpkin cupcakes the following week. This time, I reduced the amount of pumpkin in the batter and kept a watchful eye on the oven to ensure that the cakes were fully cooked before taking them out of the oven. I also added a little more cinnamon and nutmeg in the cake to enhance the pumpkin flavor. Finally, I changed the frosting recipe to include a bit of coffee to give it a nice dark chocolate flavor.

Once the cakes cooled and the dark chocolate frosting was applied, it sure tasted like a biting into autumn bliss. In the end, I really enjoyed this cupcake and now am stocking up on pumpkin puree. It’s the best when enjoyed with a cup of warm spiced apple cider (preferably farm fresh, but the one from Trader Joe’s isn’t bad either). Or, if you’re stuck in midterm season, these pumpkin cupcakes will make any trip to the library just a bit better.

Xo,
JJC

Recipe
Cake, yield 18
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 can (8 ounces) pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sour cream

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
4. Add the eggs to the mixture one at a time.
5. Add the flour mixture and the liquids alternately, beating well after each addition.
6. Blend in the pumpkin puree and the sour cream.
7. Fill 24 cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350F for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Frosting
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup milk with 2 tablespoons of dissolved cornstarch
1 tablespoon coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
~3 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Whip the butter until it is light and fluffy.
2. Mix in the liquids, the cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar until it is at a desired consistency.DSC_0425