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.

Gobble Gobble

Our Thanksgiving this year will be one unlike any other my daughter has experienced in her short life.

I’m cooking.

Now, for most of my adult life, I’ve cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner for our family. There were a few years pre-kids and after the boys were born that we had dinner at this or that grandparent’s home but those mostly ended after we moved to Florida 12-plus years ago.

I love making big dinners, even if it’s just for the four (now five) of us. During our law school years, we’d invite other students who wouldn’t be traveling for the holiday. It was so much fun and we have a lot of great memories from those occasions.

That all changed when Miss L arrived on the scene a month before Thanksgiving 2004. Honey knew I’d have my hands full with caring for a newborn and he didn’t want me to overdo it just weeks after having my third C-section. He insisted we eat Thanksgiving dinner out. At a restaurant.

And it was wonderful. A full buffet of goodies, no dishes to clean, no hot pans to juggle, no leftovers to tempt me into overeating for days after. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we decided it would be a new family tradition — which would be continuing this year had the restaurant we’d agreed was perfect not turned into a special events facility. sigh

Not that it would have mattered this year, since we made plans to spend Thanksgiving with my folks at their home in South Carolina. Only … their plans changed because of my stepmom’s health and we found ourselves struggling to find a replacement dinner spot. It took a little work, but I convinced Honey that it would be no big deal for me to cook dinner this year. I had to promise that I wouldn’t go overboard, so no appetizers and only two desserts (and one of those is — gasp! — Sara Lee). Oh, and I have to make his favorite green bean casserole (I won’t tell you what I call it but it includes the word ‘slimy’).

Best of all, I have an excuse to make Aunt Marlene’s famous Sweet Potato Casserole. I’m not exaggerating when I say that my family cookbook opens to that page. It’s as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and dressing (and I make it every year around this time, along with a pan of Granny’s dressing because it’s just not November without them both). Try it; you’ll be just as addicted as the five of us.

Aunt Marlene’s Sweet Potato Casserole
1/3 cup milk
1 cup sugar
3 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup margarine
2 eggs, beaten
Mix all ingredients and pour into a 9″x12″ baking dish. Then mix ingredients for topping and put on top of casserole. Bake 25 minutes at 350 degrees.
Topping
1 cup brown sugar, packed (I like dark brown sugar but that’s my personal preference)
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 stick butter or margarine, melted
1/2 cup flour
Mix flour and sugar. Spread over potato mixture. Sprinkle pecans over flour and sugar mixture. Pour melted butter or margarine over all.

Thankful: My seam ripper. Grrrr.

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.