Baking Days: Disappearing Cupcakes and the Recipe Jackpot

I did resolve to update my blog once a week, right? It’s technically the next week after my last post so this counts.

It feels like forever ago, but last Thursday I made another recipe from my cupcake book – Chocolate Candy Cupcakes. I picked them because again, Mom wanted me to use up what we had left in the fridge. This time we had buttermilk. (My stepfather needed it for some crazy sandwich recipe he wanted to try…to paraphrase Alton Brown of “Good Eats” fame, that’s another blog post.) We also had leftover chocolate from the holidays.

This marked my first venture into cupcake filling. It consisted of cream cheese and chocolate bars, which I broke up with my trusty meat mallet given my non-existent knife skills. I never realized how useful meat mallets are in baking.

Anyway, these turned out…delicious. I dare say they’re the tastiest cupcakes I’ve made so far. My mom even said so without any prompting. They disappeared literally overnight – all eighteen were gone by Friday. This recipe also marks the first time my sister asked, “Can I bring some over my friend’s house?” Given how picky teenagers can be, I was extremely flattered.

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The only thing I would change is the amount of candy bars in the filling. I used less than the recipe called for due to a moment of confusion, so I think using the right amount would cut down the (subtle) tang from the cream cheese and buttermilk.

On Friday I baked again, this time whipping up another Cream Cake to bring with me to my aunt and cousin’s house. So far it’s the most relaxed and confident I’ve been when making anything. The recipe really is so simple, plus it’s one of few times I’ve made a recipe more than once. My relatives loved it. At my other aunt’s house for Sunday dinner, we asked again about my grandmother’s elusive Orange Chiffon Cake recipe.

That’s when my aunt brought out her recipe boxes. Dozens of ancient index cards and newspaper clippings, separated into categories with frayed rubber bands. My cousin and I spent an hour going through each one. Not only did I find the cake, I also found the Italian anisette cookies we used to make for Christmas. I pulled some more that looked interesting and took pictures with my phone.

At first I wanted to make them right away, but I might save some of these for special occasions. I’ll probably leave the Italian Cookies for the holidays. Then again my cousin wants me to make the Orange Chiffon for her birthday in July, so maybe I should start practicing now.

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Baking Days: Oreo Crumb Cookies and Sour Cream Cupcakes

Happy belated New Year everyone! Once again I spent the holidays with my relatives in Staten Island. And once again, I stayed a few days longer than planned. Seriously, my older cousin never wants me to leave. We have a running joke that I can move into their third floor loft any time I want.

Maybe it’s not a joke. We’ll see what the future brings.

Anyway, I’ve been telling everyone about my new hobby. I received a couple of dessert recipe books for Christmas, plus a bag of baking stuff from my mom – cupcake carriers, NEW measuring cups, etc. My aunt gave me the piping bag set I picked out. Let’s not forget my wonderful grandmother who wants me to relieve her of her stand mixer because it’s taking up too much space in her condo’s kitchen. Santa Claus was very good to me this year and I couldn’t wait to get started.

While staying at my aunt’s house, I whipped up these “Cookies and Cream Cookies” from my new copy of The Cookies & Cups Cookbook. I didn’t even realize it was a companion to a blog, I saw it at Barnes & Noble and thought the recipes looked fun. Making these cookies at someone else’s house freaked me out a bit because my aunt and cousin hung out with me while I mixed up ingredients. I’m very close with them, but you still don’t want to make a mess in someone else’s dining room. When I’m home I bake and clean up after myself before my mom gets home from work.

Putting on my own little cooking show caused nerves, which I guess caused my cousin to ask how much I’ve actually baked. At least the cookies came out delicious so I didn’t have to hear about that. Plus we all had a good laugh when my aunt (who has Parkinson’s, meaning she has no strength in her hands anymore) crushed the Oreos with a gigantic meat mallet that had to weigh a couple pounds. This was after she stubbornly refused our suggestion that she use a rolling pin instead.

…I’ve learned if you don’t laugh at some situations, you just end up crying way too often.

Here’s the end result. They looked like blobs but they were addictive. My cousin even mentioned that you could probably throw anything into this batter and it would turn out delicious.

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When I finally got home I made “Chocolate-Sour Cream Cupcakes” from The Big Book of Cupcakes, which my other cousin gave me. Light, fluffy, also addictive – the lightest cupcakes I’ve made so far. After a couple days they’re even gooier and remind me of your typical Hostess snack cake. They’d probably be amazing with a little marshmallow cream in the center.

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Holiday Baking Fest 2016: Pumpkin Pie Angel Food, Gluten-Free Pudding Cookies, Eggnog Cupcakes and Nutella Frosting!

I keep baking things and not updating here, so I’m combining everything together in one dessert-filled post! It works this time since there’s not as much to say. While I’ve tried to bake “from scratch” so far, I confess to using box mix for two of the treats in the post title. In my defense it wasn’t my idea!

My family has been very supportive of my new hobby. My mom in particular will pick up ingredients from the store and make suggestions for future baking endeavors. One week she put two box mixes sitting on the kitchen counter since both were about to expire. First there was the “Gluten-Free Sugar Cookie Mix.” I guess she bought it with the intention of giving it to my grandmother or aunt, who have different levels of Celiac/wheat sensitivity. Then my other aunt got in on it and “donated” a box of angel food cake mix she had for years.

I knew I had to doctor these up. The gluten-free cookies would undoubtedly have that “gritty” texture when baked. As for the angel food cake, it was so old I worried it wouldn’t taste right. I even Google’d it to make sure it was safe to eat.

We also had canned pumpkin, so I tried this super-easy Pumpkin Pie Angel Food Cake. Literally all you do is mix together canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and the mix. I wasn’t sure how it would work since the canned pumpkin isn’t really “liquid,” but the batter still got this weird meringue type of consistency (which I suppose is typical for angel food). After baking from scratch this seemed almost too fast and easy – I wanted to bake more!

The cake came out awesome. The box mix still tasted great and none of the pumpkin flavors overpowered. Highly recommend for an easy Thanksgiving dessert.

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I improvised a bit for the “Gluten-Free Pudding Cookies.” My mom also wanted me to use instant vanilla pudding, so I combined it with the gluten-free sugar cookie mix. (I really don’t mind suggestions. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m in the mood to make.) I figured the pudding would add moisture since gluten-free baked goods can be dry. A search for pudding cookies gave me this simple Perfect Plain Cookie recipe. Not as simple as the cake, but all you do is add both mixes, two eggs and melted butter.

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They are very plain, and I did taste the gluten-free texture, but they’re still delicious. The pudding made them light and fluffy. My sister got the idea to break out the Nutella to go with them. Only advice here is to make the cookies the exact size you want when placing on the tray since they don’t expand. If I do try these again with different box mixes, I’d add sprinkles or maybe a chocolate chip in the middle for some more flavor.

Speaking of Nutella…I finally made frosting! And it tasted delicious! Sinful would be a better descriptor though, because the Nutella made it super rich. I didn’t have quite enough powdered sugar but it came out fine anyway. You’ll want to eat it by the spoonful.

I made cupcakes to go with it anyway. Again I turned to leftovers since we had eggnog from my sister’s “friendsgiving” party. Making these Eggnog Cupcakes with almost a dozen ingredients satisfied my desire for a more involved recipe. I’ve also wanted to bake with alcohol so I was happy to see it used rum (or bourbon, but I picked rum). Plus the recipe calls for oil so I didn’t have to worry about leaving the butter out long enough.

These and the frosting have been my most successful baking attempt so far. You actually taste the eggnog and they’re not too dense. The Nutella frosting might be a little strong for them, so I’ll go with vanilla the next time I make them. I’m thinking they’ll be perfect for Christmas Eve at my aunt’s house.

A normal person would post a beauty shot of perfect cupcakes with amazing frosting designs. I haven’t attempted this yet so the best I can do is post the cupcakes and frosting separately. On the topis a boring post-oven shot of the cupcakes, on the bottom, the frosting left in the bowl:

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Piping bags and tips are officially on my Christmas list. I considered asking for a stand mixer, but I might just borrow my grandmother’s KitchenAid when necessary.