Apple Butter and Cinnamon

It might not be fall yet, but it's never too early to start testing out some great fall treats.  One of my favorite things about fall is apple season.  Last year, my husband and I went to an orchard and had a great time picking apples and eating apple treats!  I much prefer apple to pumpkin, so to me fall is all about caramel apples and Starbucks caramel apple cider. Sure you can get these other times of the year, but there's something about the crisp autumn air that makes me crave apples!

One of my husband and my favorite apple treats is of course apple butter.  I think I could eat Cracker Barrel's apple butter out of the bowl with a spoon.  :)  It is that good.  A couple months ago, I saw a vanilla with apple butter cupcake on Pinterest.  Its captioned said "It tastes like fall."  That's all I needed to see, I was sold!

I like to mix and match ideas and recipes, so I decided to use my new favorite vanilla cake recipe in place of the one they give.  I also switched out the icing. The original recipe, found at Bake it in a Cake, called for a vanilla buttercream icing sprinkled in cinnamon and topped with a toasted pecan.  I decided to alter that and use my cinnamon buttercream recipe.  The combination of apple butter and the rich cinnamon buttercream seemed like a perfect fall combo.

These cupcakes are a definite treat!  They are pretty simple to make as well.

Apple Butter Cupcake Ingredients (yields approx 24):

  • Ingredients for your favorite vanilla cupcake recipe
  • Apple Butter
Apple Butter Cupcake Directions:
  1. Start by preparing your favorite vanilla cupcake batter.  If you don't have a favorite recipe, see my post, "A Taste of NYC" for a recipe (leaving out the cannoli cream).  Or you can try the vanilla cake recipe from Bake in a Cake.
  2. Fill the cupcake liners about 1/2 full of the batter - foil wrappers are definitely the best bet for even and consistent baking.
  3. Scoop a regular sized spoon amount of apple butter onto the top of the cupcake.  If your spoon touches the cake batter and then the apple butter jar, it can be contaminated.  I was very careful not to mix the two, but am still using the jar for cupcake filling only.  I don't want to risk salmonella!
  4. Finish filling the wrappers with a small amount of cupcake batter to make it about 3/4 full. You want to cover the apple butter.  The apple butter will sink while cooking, so you want it to be near the top to start out.
Cinnamon Buttercream Ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cinnamon Buttercream Directions:
  1. Beat butter until light and fluffy.
  2. Add in powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time. Mix in sugar completely before adding additional sugar.
  3. Mix in 3-4 tablespoons of milk.  The icing should have a firm, but not real stiff consistency.
  4. Add in vanilla and cinnamon and mix well.
To complete my cupcakes, I piped on the icing using the Wilton 1M tip.  I just did a spiral starting with the outer edges and working in.

Hope you try them out and share these fall treats with your friends and family!  If you are interested in more apple goodies, check out my post from a couple months ago, Apple Treats.  I previously blogged about apple pie and apple pie cupcakes with a caramel buttercream!  

Cake Disaster and Dream

As anyone who's read my blog knows, I focus on smaller desserts, mainly cupcakes.  I haven't made a cake in years, not even one from a box.  I didn't even own a cake pan until a week ago. But, I've decided to take the Wilton cake decorating classes and therefore have jumped into the world of round cakes.  So far, I love it!  I have learned so much from the classes already.  A couple weeks ago I never thought I could bake, slice, fill, and smoothly ice a cake.  But after much instruction, and some handy tools, I have accomplished just that! Read on to hear about my near disaster cake and then to hear about a cake that's simply a dream! :)

When I finish my first Wilton class, I will be submitting a blog soon that shows some of the handy Wilton tools and some interesting cake tips and techniques - so stay tuned for that!

My first cake was a challenge and definitely seemed to be heading for disaster.  It seemed like every step was having issues.  To begin, I decided to try one of the more complicated white cake recipes.  Instead of just using a cake mix for my first cake assignment, I decided to jump right in. After all, I had made cupcakes from scratch!  This cake proved to be more challenging than I expected, though.

My first blunder came from purchasing the wrong ingredient.  I mistakenly purchased egg beaters made with egg whites instead of egg whites!  After a quick trip to the store, I had the correct product.  Beating them into "stiff peaks, but not dry" proved to be my next challenge.  I just used my new mixer and beat them...for a long time and it was still just liquid.  I decided not to give up and try again, this time with a whisk attachment which worked much better!

Next, while making my icing I misread an amount and ended up having double the shortening and butter.  I caught the mistake, though, and was able to just make a double batch.  I had already needed to double it, so it quadrupled it and BARELY all fit in the bowl!

But, in the end the cake baked and I was able to fill and ice and decorate in class the next night.  Given that it was my first cake and all the almost disasters, I think it turned out pretty well. I learned a lot and found a much simpler, but still tasty white cake mix.

I still managed to work in cupcakes to the cake!  :)

I filled the cake with a Cookies in Cream mixture!

You may be wondering what the cake "dream" is...  One of my absolute favorite flavors is orange. So of course, one of my favorite treats is the Dreamsicle.  I had been wanting to take on a Dreamsicle like cake but was looking for an orange cake mix, and a good recipe. We never can find the Duncan Hines orange cake mix at any store around here, but found some when we were on a weekend trip to Cincinnati.  If you are from the Cincinnati area, or ever visit there, you have to visit Jungle Jims! It is amazing and the ultimate place for foodies! It is this huge grocery store with food from all over the world. You literally travel the world as you go from section to section representing various countries and cultures. They also have a huge soda selection with drinks from around the world.  If all that wasn't enough, they have an incredible selection of unique and handy baking tools! My husband and I went multiple times in one weekend. We never thought we could spend hours at a grocery store - and enjoy it.  We found all kinds of ingredients, sodas, and food that we can't find locally but love.

But back to the orange cake! The Dreamsicle cake was a treat before even taking one bite, it filled the kitchen with a wonderful orange fragrance!  You start with simply making the orange cake box mix.  But then the real treat begins.  As if the orange cake wasn't enough, you add more orange flavor that is drizzled into the cake.  Then an amazing light and fluffy icing is created using cream cheese, Cool Whip, and orange/vanilla flavoring.  My mouth is watering just typing this!  The recipe comes from

Dreamsicle cake ingredients

  • 1 (18 oz) box orange cake mix
  • 3 eggs (or whatever is called for by cake mix)
  • 1/3 cup oil (or whatever is called for by cake mix)
  • 1 1/3 cup water (or whatever is called for by cake mix)
  • 6 oz (large box) orange Jell-O
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1 cup cold water
Frosting ingredients
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 oz (small box) vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 3 oz (small box) orange Jell-O
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 8 oz Cool Whip
Cake directions:
  1. Prepare cake per box directions - I baked in a round 8 in diameter cake pan.
  2. For a smooth cake, you can level using a cake leveler, as shown in the pics below. If you haven't used one of these, I will be blogging about this handy tool soon!
  3. After cake has baked and cooled, poke holes in the top with a fork.
  4. Mix large box of Jello with waters and just let it start to set up.  
  5. Slowly pour over the COOLED cake and allow to run into holes all over.
  6. Chill cake until Jello is set.
  7. While chilling, start icing by creaming the cheese until creamy.
  8. Add dry Jello powder, pudding mix, milk, and the vanilla extract and beat well.
  9. Fold in the Cool Whip
  10. Spread on cake and chill until serving

So pull out those cake pans and enjoy a wonderful summer treat before summer is over!

Donut Holes and Cake Pops

As promised, I have updated the blog to include cake pop and donut hole recipes. I am still working on perfecting the apple cider donut holes, but I have a breakfast puff recipe and vanilla cake pop that worked well. I have also updated my blog with an easier way to subscribe.  If you look to the right of the post, below the blog archive, I have a subscription link as well as a follow by email link.  Feel free to subscribe to my blog to get updates about new posts. I have quite a few ideas for new desserts I can't wait to share, especially some for fall.  One of my favorites I am looking forward to trying is an apple butter cupcake with a cinnamon icing.

I have been getting a lot of visitors on the blog lately, and would love to hear your comments and ideas!  Let me know any suggestions you may have for new cupcake or dessert ideas.

A couple weeks ago I purchased a BabyCakes cake pop maker, shown below. I had been looking at them for months and finally decided to purchase one when it was on sale at Meijer. The product's purpose is to create cake pops and donut holes.

First, I started with the French Breakfast Puffs. They are very quick and easy to make and taste great! The product comes with some recipes included.  You can use regular cake mixes, but it works better with the recipes included.

French Breakfast Puffs

Cake Ingredients;
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 shortening
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 6 tbs butter, melted
Cinnamon-Sugar Topping:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  1. Beat together the sugar and shortening in a bowl until light and fluffy.  
  2. Beat egg into batter.
  3. In separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.
  4. Alternately blend in the flour mixture and milk into the shortening mixture.  Begin and end with the flour mixture.
  5. Fill each cooking reservoir with about 1 tbs of batter.  I found it was easiest of measure one out and get an idea of how full that is, and then just quickly fill the rest without measuring.  If you take too long to fill, the donuts will start rising before closing the lid!
  6. Bake 4-5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when testing the puffs.
  7. Create cinnamon-sugar topping by combining the two in a small bowl.
  8. Roll hot puffs into melted butter and then toss in cinnamon-sugar mixture.

I also tried a apple cider donut, but wasn't real happy with the result.  I am not getting enough of the apple flavor.  I am working on the recipe and will hopefully have a nice apple flavor in time for this fall!

Another feature of the maker is of course the cake pop.  To get the best result on your cake pops, it is best to dip them in melted chocolate or some sort of glaze.  It is difficult to ice these, so a melted coating is the best choice to get that polished cake pop look.  Since I was just experimenting with a cake pop recipe, and had a frosting recipe I wanted to experiment with as well, I decided to frost them instead of a glaze.  These cake pops do not look great, but had a great taste!  I definitely would use a glaze from now on, but I discovered a wonderful cinnamon buttercream in the process.

Vanilla Cake Pop ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup milk
 Cake pop directions:
  1. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and creamy. 
  3. Beat in eggs and vanilla into the sugar/butter mixture.
  4. Alternately blend in the flour mixture and milk into the shortening mixture.  Begin and end with the flour mixture.
  5. Fill each cooking reservoir with about 1 tbs of butter.  I found it was easiest of measure one out and get an idea of how full that is, and then just quickly fill the rest without measuring.  If you take too long to fill, the donuts will start rising before closing the lid!
  6. Bake 4-5 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when testing the cake pops.
  7. Allow to cool before adding a glaze or coat.
Here is the cinnamon buttercream recipe I found. The recipe was from a website, Fake Ginger. It is a perfectly sweet and light frosting that would be great for an extra special touch to the vanilla cupcake.

Cinnamon buttercream ingredients:
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Buttercream directions:
  1. Beat softened butter until it is fluffy.
  2. Beat in sugar, adding 1/2 cup at a time until all 4 cups are added.
  3. Mix in up to 4 tbs of milk, until the icing gets thick.
  4. Beat in vanilla and cinnamon until completely combined.

Elvis Muffins

It seems like quite frequently on Cupcake Wars I see someone attempt an "Elvis" cupcake.  This usually consists of a peanut butter frosting on a banana cake or some version of the two.  Not being a huge Elvis buff, I was not aware of the connection until I heard it explained.  Apparently Elvis is known for his peanut butter banana sandwiches.  Once you try the combination, especially in a dessert, it's hard to see why it isn't more common.

I decided to try a spin on a healthier cupcake, more of a muffin consistency.  I was looking for something to serve at a 5K.  I wanted something that would taste good, but be somewhat healthier and give the runner some extra protein.  I looked around online and finally found an amazing sounding banana bread.  I found it through Pinterest and it is from the Cooking Light magazine. It was different than other banana bread recipes as it was a peanut butter banana bread with a peanut butter drizzle. It sounded delicious! With ground flaxseed, chopped peanuts, AND peanut butter the muffin has a rich nutty taste.  Pair that with the banana flavor, and you have a tasty muffin!

I also added a light amount of the peanut butter drizzle to the top of the muffin.  This drizzle is very sweet, and so I figured just a little taste of sweet would elevate the muffins.  Once I tried this simple peanut butter drizzle, though, I knew it would be perfect in a larger quantity for a regular cupcake!  My husband and I both kept tasting the drizzle, it tastes like melted peanut butter fudge.  I would definitely plan on making extra drizzle.  If you are like me, I'm sure you will find some use for it.  Even if it's just to lick the spoon!

Along with the flaxseed protein source, the muffins are made healthier by using fat free yogurt and low fat milk. I also just used a very small amount of the sweet drizzle on the muffins.

My only concern when I started the recipe was if the recipe would translate as a muffin, rather than a loaf of bread.  I decided to go ahead and experiment since I had a few days before the race.  I had just received my new upright mixer, so I was looking for an excuse to bake anyway!

In the end, I think it turned out pretty well.  I had to adjust the baking time and try to determine how much they would rise, to figure out how full to fill the liners. I might tweak a couple things, but all in all I think they turned out well for a first attempt. I think they are a treat fitting for the King.  :)

Elvis Muffin Ingredients (yields 18 muffins):
  • 1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3  cup  plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1/3  cup  creamy peanut butter
  • 3  tablespoons  butter, melted
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 6.75  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4  cup  ground flaxseed
  • 3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped dry-roasted peanuts

 Peanut Butter Glaze Ingredients:
  • 1/3  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  1% low-fat milk
  • 1  tablespoon  creamy peanut butter

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Line muffin tin with 18 cupcake liners.
  3. Beat the bananas, yogurt, peanut butter, butter, and eggs at medium speed until combined.
  4. Add granulated and brown sugars and beat again until blended.
  5. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, flaxseed, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and allspice.  I didn't have any allspice but found a trick online to create some with more common spices.  I combined equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to create the spice.
  6. Fill cupcake liners with muffin batter, filling about 3/4 full.
  7. Bake muffins until top is golden and toothpick comes out clean. Oven temperatures can vary, but mine were finished at around 24 minutes.  I would start checking around 20 minutes.
  8. Cool completely.
  9. While cooling, create the peanut butter glaze by whisking together the powdered sugar, milk, and peanut butter.
  10. Once muffins are cooled, drizzle glaze over the top.

Black and White and Cute All Over!

What's black and white and cute all over? Panda cupcakes! As any frequent readers of my blog know, this is my third panda treat that I have made.  I think this one might be my favorite! As many of you may know from reading my blog, the inspiration behind my panda cupcakes is my adorable nephew!  A few months ago, my sister and her husband recently adopted a little boy from China.  He has been such a blessing and a wonderful addition to our family!  We never had a welcome home party or an event for a lot of people to meet him and hear about the trip.  Coming here as a two and a half year old, it would have been too overwhelming to do anything at first. But about 6 weeks ago, we had friends and family come together to hear about the adoption process, see pictures from the trip, and spend time with Jaxson.  I, of course, wanted to bake some treats even if it was just a week before the wedding!

I instantly thought of making panda cupcakes again.  I had created the Panda cupcakes from the Hello Cupcake! book series for an adoption event my sister and her family went to before going to China.  I had also made Oreo pandas to take to the airport when we met Jaxson, so I decided pandas would be fitting for this occasion as well!

I went with a quicker, simpler method than in Hello Cupcake! since I didn't have a lot of free time.  I just used chocolate and vanilla icing to create the panda faces on the regular sized cupcakes, along with mini Oreo ears.  I also created some mini cupcake pandas.  For these, I just used mini chocolate chips to create the eyes, nose, and ears!

Here's how to make the regular size pandas:

Ingredients for 24 cupcakes:
  • Piping bag
  • Round piping tip (I actually forgot my tip and had to just cut a hole in the bag!)
  • Chocolate icing
  • White icing
  • 48 mini Oreos
  • 24 mini chocolate chips
  1. Bake your favorite vanilla or chocolate cupcake.  I really like the vanilla cupcake that is the base for the cannoli cupcakes I wrote about in an earlier blog.  I have been using that recipe just leaving out the cannoli cream in the center.
  2.  Ice the cupcakes with white icing.
  3. Fill the piping bag with chocolate icing and create patches for the eyes. This is done best with a medium size round tip.
  4. Place the mini chocolate chip on its side into the icing.  You want to have the tip of the chocolate chip pointing down to create the nose shape. 
  5. Use the piping bag again to create the mouth with the chocolate icing.  Start piping a straight line down from the chocolate chip point.  Then create lines going out on either side of the straight line to create the smiling mouth.
  6. Dab a small amount of white icing onto the bottom of the mini Oreos and gently push down into the cupcake.  I found that some went into the cupcake easily at an angle and stayed in place. For others that did not seem to want to stay, I took a nice and sliced a small slit in the cupcake at the location of the ears.  I then dabbed icing on the bottom of the Oreos and slid them into the slits.
  7. Finish the panda with dots for the eyes with the white icing.  This is best in a piping bag with a small round tip.  Since I forgot my tips, I just cut a small hole in a Ziploc and used that.
Here's how to make the mini pandas:

Ingredients for 24 cupcakes:
  • Piping bag
  • Round piping tip (I actually forgot my tip and had to just cut a hole in the bag!)
  • Chocolate icing
  • White icing
  • 120 mini chocolate chips
  1. Bake your favorite vanilla or chocolate mini cupcakes.  Usually I start checking on them after about 12 minutes.  It may vary depending on your oven and recipe though.
  2. Generously ice the cupcakes with white icing. You want to have a thick enough layer for the chocolate chips to easily rest in.
  3. Place three chocolate chips near the center of the cupcake in a triangle shape, two on top for the eyes and one below and centered for the nose. Place the chocolate chips tip down.
  4. Place two chocolate chips at the top for the ears.  Place the chocolate chips tip down.  If the chips do not stick, add some more icing in the area.
  5. Place the mini chocolate chip on its side into the icing.  You want to have the tip of the chocolate chip pointing down to create the nose shape. 
  6. Fill a piping bag with a small amount of chocolate icing and with a small, round tip.
  7. Use the piping bag to create the mouth with the chocolate icing.  Start piping a straight line down from the chocolate chip point.  Then create lines going out on either side of the straight line to create the smiling mouth.
  8. Finish the panda with dots for the eyes with the white icing.  This is best in a piping bag with a small round tip. 
Hope you enjoy these panda treats!

If you are interested, make sure and sign up to follow by email to get updates on new blog entries.  I am already planning several new posts in the next week or two.

I'll be updating soon on the healthy banana bread cupcakes (I'm testing them out tomorrow). I also have updates on my cake pop experiments as well as cake baking/decorating.  Besides my personal experimenting and Daring Baker membership, I have now started the Wilton cake decorating courses.  I have only taken one class, but already learned so much. Can't wait to share all the tips and ideas from my new adventures!

Daring Baker

A few weeks ago I found The Daring Kitchen website when I was looking around for online baking groups.  I was intrigued by the premise of the group, getting home cooks to try various monthly culinary challenges to expand their repertoire and experiment in the kitchen.  The group is comprised of mainly food bloggers who try the monthly challenges and then blog about them.  There are two groups, the Daring Bakers and the Daring Cooks.  The schedule of the two groups is offset so someone could potentially do both challenges each month.

I thought this seemed like a great idea, and so I applied to be a Daring Baker.  My goal is to eventually become a Daring Cook as well, but for now I'm sticking with the baking.  I got my email this past week that I was an official Daring Baker!  Today I received my first challenge and I am very excited to begin working on it.

Part of the rules of the group are to blog about the monthly challenge, but not until a specific time.  New challenges are given at the 1st of the month and participants have to wait until the 27th of each month to publicly post about their challenge.  Once I post the challenge, I will include the recipe and detailed instruction for any readers who would like to try it out!

If you are interested in learning more about The Daring Kitchen, you can click on the logo at the top of the blog and it will take you to their site.  Their page also includes a blog roll with all the members blogs.  There are blogs on anything culinary related. You can find blogs that specialize in certain types of food, various styles of cooking, and some that are about any and all types of food! 

I can't wait to work on my challenge and share it on here.  But before then, I have some other sweet treats that I will be trying.  I have been experimenting with a new cake pop/donut hole maker.  I am still learning, but have made a few treats.  I am also working on a protein packed healthy cupcake recipe that I will be baking for a 5K coming up! Check back soon for an update on these and other treats!