Little Yummies

I love baking. Measuring, mixing, pouring, cooling, tasting. Every part of the process is just this awesome combination of relaxing and rewarding.

I’ve been a little fixated on cupcakes lately. OK, “a little fixated” is a bit of an understatement. “Completely obsessed” is likely more accurate. But they’re just the perfect little treat! Easy to make, fun to decorate, just the right size for a sweet, singular indulgence.

I was beyond excited when my new cookbook — Cupcakes: Luscious Bakeshop Favorites from Your Home Kitchen by Shelly Kaldunski — arrived last week. I thumbed through it, drooling over the beautiful pictures and appetizingly named recipes.

Luckily for me, I had a great reason to try out the new addition: My son’s 19th birthday was Thursday and we had a trip planned to see him at college. Of course, I had trouble narrowing down which recipe to try so I decided to make three different types of cupcakes to take with us. Each recipe only makes one dozen cupcakes, so it really wasn’t that big of a deal. And the kid does live in a dorm, with plenty of friends who likely would love to help him scarf down a cupcake or three.

After consulting with the other two kids, I narrowed down the choices to PB&J cupcakes, Salted Caramel cupcakes and Black & White cupcakes (which featured a yummy cheesecake center).

Here’s the part in the story where I go off on a little tangent and tell you that I learned three very important lessons while making these cupcakes:

1. A cooling rack full of cupcakes is apparently irresistible to my cat, who nibbled off the tops of two of them while I took Miss L to preschool that morning.

2. Our beautiful, sweet greyhound discovered that her snout is at the perfect height to snatch cupcakes off the butcher block while they are cooling. Another two gone, including cupcake papers.

3. The chickenese is not content to let her big little sister eat all the goodies and can, in fact, knock a cupcake off the butcher block and onto the floor by jumping up and down vigorously enough. No lie. (This is actually how we discovered the greyhound’s cupcake pilfering.)

*sigh*

The cupcakes were amazingly good. Like, so good that I can’t believe I handed over the boxes to my kid and let him have them all.

The Black & White cupcakes were the most challenging, mostly because the centers tried to fall out through the bottoms when I took the cupcakes out of the pan (they aren’t cooked in liners). The Salted Caramel required the most work, since the buttercream has caramel swirled into it and that had to be cooked from scratch. Well worth the effort, though, although we all though they didn’t really need the chocolated-dipped caramel on top of them. I used my favorite seedless raspberry jam with the PB&J cuppies, plus some organic peanut butter in the frosting. I’ll probably use regular peanut butter the next time I make them to see how it compares.

My only complaint is that the directions say to “distribute evenly” when filling the cupcake pan, even with the cheesecake filling of the Black & White cupcakes. It would have been a bit more helpful to give an amount for people like me who are a little challenged in the dividing-batter/filling department.

We ended up with leftover frosting and chocolate glaze, so I made a batch of Devil’s Food Cupcakes today. I topped them with the rest of the peanut butter frosting and then did three with the Gooey Chocolate Glaze. They were just as delicious as the others — only I get to enjoy them a little longer.

Cupcakes to Share

Hungry yet? LOL!

So much fun to make and package up these cupcakes for the bake sale. I found these cute individual cupcake boxes at Party City; they’re made by Wilton and I’m sure can be found other places, too. I tend to have tulle on hand (wonder why? ha ha ), so I used some to pretty up the boxes a bit. The labels I made on the computer and cut out with my favorite ginormous circle punch, then hole punched them and tied them on the tulle with some embroidery floss.

The recipes for the cupcakes and frosting came from the book Little Cakes From the Whimsical Bakehouse, one of my favorite, favorite books. I have the original Whimsical Bakehouse book, as well as the Christmas cookie book, and all three are much loved and used. They would get the Craft Addict Seal of Approval, if there were such a thing. LOL!

If you follow me on Twitter, then you already know about the calamity that struck in the whole cupcake-making process. For those who don’t … I baked the cupcakes and put each into a box, then put all the boxes in a larger cardboard box that I planned to use for transporting them Friday morning. I left the box on the kitchen counter and intended to decorate them before we left for school. While I was waiting to grab an Etsy Treasury on Thursday night, I heard a sound in the kitchen and made the brilliant decision to ignore it. After a few minutes, I decided to investigate.

One of our very helpful cats — and I do know who it is but will spare him the humiliation of being called out online (but his name rhymes with Froccoli) — knocked the big cardboard box of cupcakes off the kitchen counter. Our dog, always the opportunist, decided the perfect chaser to a meal of crunchy dog food was a cupcake. Or three.

Have you ever caught a dog in the the act of doing something s/he knows s/he’s not supposed to be doing? If my dog could talk, I’m pretty sure she would have said, “It wasn’t me!” Which is ridiculous because she had cupcake crumbs all over her face and evidence to the contrary strewn about her feet. I have a sneaking suspicion the cat may have had an ulterior motive in all of this, since he’s not a huge fan of the dog and would like the peace and quiet that goes with having a dog-free home.

All told, I ended up losing three cupcakes and boxes (out of 12) to the furry fiasco. It isn’t that bad but still a bit of a bummer. And I relocated the remainder lest any of the furry troublemakers decide to make my blood pressure rise even higher.

No idea how much the preschool sold them for because they were all gone by the time I got there (not surprising since it started at 9 a.m., I taught until 4 and didn’t get to the Oktoberfest until almost 6 p.m.). But some of my friends bought them and said they were fabulous.

I’m ‘That Mom’

It’s Oct. 1 and already I have elaborate plans for homemade costumes for all three kids. I know what candy I’ll give out for Halloween, and I’m planning the annual goodie bags the boys and I make for their friends every year.

The church where my daughter attends preschool is having its annual Oktoberfest celebration this weekend an I’m making cupcakes for the bake sale (funds support the preschool). Today, I bought a dozen individual cupcake boxes and mentally designed the tags I plan to attach to each.

I’ve finally settled on a date for my daughter’s birthday party so now I can take the pictures and create her custom birthday party invitations. We’re scaling down a bit this year, but there are still gift bags to make for her guests. And since there are so few, I’m thinking of making them little purses and embroidering their names on them.

Yes, I am “that mom.”

I did not realize this until someone else — a total stranger — pointed it out to me. I was picking up my oldest from a Sweet Sixteen party last year and the guest of honor’s mother brought up the wrapped candy bars I’d made for the previous Halloween. “You just do everything, don’t you?” she commented. And I immediately felt like the most over-the-top, overachieving wannabe on the planet.

I’m crafty; I like making things. But I sometimes worry that my addiction to paper, fabric and glitter makes it seem like some kind of competition for craftiest mom. Or is that Craftiest Mom? It’s so not the point, yet I don’t know how to make it clear that it’s just fun for me. I get the same kind of endorphin release from crafting that I used to from running, back before my knee mutinied.

I think I need a T-shirt: “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Crafty.” I’ll make it, of course.

Working Through

After two days of not sewing, I was starting to go a bit stir crazy. I did a bunch of pattern tracing Saturday night (including a jacket for me and about a dozen things for Miss L), which made me eager to sew even more.

I finally caved Sunday afternoon. Honey was still playing golf. There was nothing on TV worth watching. And I really needed to take a break from the computer. I grabbed Butterick 4910, a yard of flannel and got to work.

I’d wanted to make this gown with long sleeves but only had a yard — and had already ironed it — so I chopped off the sleeves. I think they turned out fine.

The pattern sewed up quickly and I’m happy with the results. Boy, I really wondered when I’d get to say that again! LOL! In all honesty, I could have skipped buying this pattern. I have a couple of peasant dresses/tops already in my pattern collection, as well as the ability to draft my own. But I do like the pattern. Since it’s a Big Three, I opted to size down and that was a good call. I have a good bit more flannel in my stash and can see making a few of these, as well as some of the two-piece sets, for my girl to wear in the cooler months to come.

Party Sweets

Here’s the little cupcake dress I finished the other night. OK, mostly finished — it still needs buttons and buttonholes (any suggestions for button color?) but otherwise is done. Oh, wait. I need to rip out the hem and redo it. See how wonky it looks? It’s not just the picture. The hem really is that wonky. That’s what I get for sewing so late.

The dress is a pattern I picked up at the Expo (I can look it up if someone is that interested). Cupcakes are again from Sublime Stitching; I’m really enjoying that book and just embroidery in general. I have lots of ideas for other projects. For the record, I’m still plugging away on my crocheted scarf. I’m determined to have one wearable object, even if it takes a while. The experience has convinced me that I’ll need to sign up for knitting and smocking classes if I want to actually make something I’m willing to show off.

I think this dress will be perfect for all those special events and parties we’ll be hitting when the weather warms up. For now, it’ll be virtual party wear for …

Ultimate Blog Party 2008The Ultimate Blog Party! I’m joining the fun at 5 Minutes for Mom and taking part in this year’s global blog event. I even put up a nice glittery banner just for the party! The Blog Party is a great way to find other cool blogs and also win some pretty nifty prizes. I’ve already found quite a few great reads to add to my Bloglines, plus “run into” a couple of friends whose blogs I already read.

For those who are stopping by for the first time, I’m Mary, the self-professed craft addict. My blog is about a year old and documents my many adventures in crafting — some more successful than others. When I’m not crafting, I’m hanging out with my three kids or spending time with my very cute and tolerant husband (aka Honey).

What’s a party without food? Gotta feed my guests so I’m going to share one of my favorite recipes. It’s actually what I made for dinner last night! I found the recipe for Spicy Chicken Cakes with Horseradish Aioli in Cooking Light magazine last year and it was an instant hit with the fam. That’s no small feat around here, since there are five very picky eaters in this house. I have made a few modifications to the recipe, namely using Ian’s wheat panko breadcrumbs instead of making my own. I also use packaged ground turkey breast instead of grinding my own chicken. Martha Stewart can do everything from scratch if she wants. I have three kids, a husband who works too much and no interest in doing every little thing. We also like our aioli a little hotter, so I add a lot more horseradish. Enjoy!