Short Cut Vanilla Cupcakes – How to make a cake mix taste homemade

So I know it’s been a while since my last blog post, mostly because things here have been crazy busy, and partially because I haven’t had anyone to bake for, and living with just 1 other girl for the summer, baking means that no matter what I will end up eating at least half of whatever it is.

When my good friend Julie, who is spending her year volunteering in Equador (check out her blog here), invited me to her going away party, I of course volunteered to bring cupcakes, and I was super excited about it. I found a recipe for margarita cupcakes (which I will post tomorrow) and I have been dying to make them.

After learning that there would be kids at this party, I thought it would probably be a good idea to make some vanillia cupcakes too.

Earlier this week as I was perusing pinterest, aka my new obsession (if you don’t have it request an invite here) I found some tips for making a cake mix taste like a homemade cake. So instead of adding water add buttermilk, instead of oil add butter, and on top of that add a teaspoon of flavoring, since I was using a yellow cake mix I added vanilla extract.

So I mixed it all up, and it came out super thick, like the spoon is standing up on it’s own in the batter, almost like cookie dough.

But I thought, well maybe this is how it’s supposed to work, and I just went with it. After watching them for a while they seemed to be cooking like any other cake would, and then all of a sudden I checked them and I couldn’t believe it, all of a sudden the tops were golden brown, just like a cookie.

I was hesitant to try them, but they actually don’t taste too bad. The cake is VERY heavy, and although from now on I will probably always make my cupcakes from scratch, I think that these add-ins would be fine in a pinch. I would suggest though adding either the butter or the buttermilk supstitutes, not both. (Oh and side note, don’t ever try to drink buttermilk, it is disgusting…not that my roommate and I tried it or anything)

Oh and my last tip, if the cake is just okay, a good frosting goes a long way, and sprinkles help too! Has anyone else ever tried to “dress up” a cake mix?

Smore’s Cookie Bars

Today at work the “sunshine committee” planned a picnic for all of the employees who are working over the summer. So in my typical fashion, I volunteered to bring dessert. I found this awesome, amazing, delicious recipe on the Crepes of Wrath blog, and although her pictures were gorgeous, nothing could capture how good this smelled when it came out of the oven.

Don’t those look awesome? I’m basically drooling just looking at it, and I just had one at lunch!! The recipe was fairly simple. It’s basically a layer of graham cracker cookie dough:

Followed by a layer of chocolate bars:

And then some fluff! (I didn’t take a picture of the fluff layer, mostly because I was covered in it and I didn’t want to touch anything!)

And then another layer of graham cracker cookie dough delicious-ness:

Bake for about a half an hour and you are left with the most amazing pie-looking thing you’ve ever seen:

When this came out it literally took all of my self control, (and a reminder to myself that there are 5 chocolate bars inside), to keep from eating the whole thing.

My only suggestion would be to make it in an 8X8 square pan as the original recipe suggests. It would have been way easier to place the chocolate, and then spread the fluff, and much easier to cut and serve as bars. But for my first try at these I was pretty pleased with myself, and my boss even demanded that I make these for his birthday in October. We’re having another work picnic next month, so until then I will be on the hunt for an amazing dessert idea…Suggestions are more than welcome!

S’more Cookie Bars
Print this recipe
from Baking Bites

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (about 8 graham crackers)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars
1 1/2 cups marshmallow Fluff (not melted marshmallows because they harden when they cool)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and/or line an 8-inch square baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Don’t worry if it seems thin; the baking powder will allow it to rise.

4. Place chocolate bars over dough (don’t layer the bars, just break them to fit if you need to), then spread the marshmallow Fluff over the chocolate bars. Finally, top the Fluff with the remaining dough by forming the dough into sheets with the palm of your hands and laying it down (as shown above). Don’t worry if the dough isn’t covering everything! It’ll spread out as it bakes.

5. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. If the top is browning too quickly, you can always cover it with tin foil for the remaining baking time. Cool completely before cutting into bars. If you don’t allow them to cool completely, they will crumble when you try to cut them. Makes 16-20 bars.

Grown Up Cupcakes.

This past weekend one of my best friends from home was having a housewarming party, so I of course volunteered to bring a dessert. I knew that I would make some sort of cupcake, and since my parents gave me a mini cupcake maker for my birthday, it was pretty obvious that they were going to be minis.

So I searched online for cute summer cupcakes and I couldn’t find any that I loved, and then I remembered the guiness cupcakes that I had made for one of my friend’s birthdays and thought that they would be fun for the party, but a little too heavy for a summer party. So I continumed my search now looking for recipes in the “alcoholic cupcakes” genre, and I found this recipe for DC Cupcakes New Year’s Eve Strawberry Champagne Sparkler Cupcakes.

They have their own show, DC  Cupcakes show on TLC , and a store in Georgetown, and I am obsessed with their cupcakes. (You can order them online here!) The last time I was in Washington DC I just had to have them, and my friends and I waited an hour and a half in the pouring rain for these cupcakes, but they were totally worth it!

Don’t they look awesome? They were, and this recipe was from Oprah.com, so I knew it had to be good. I made the batter, sans strawberries, mostly because we didn’t have any in the house, but it was still absolutely delicious and pretty simple.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup fresh strawberries , diced
  • 1/2 cup good Champagne (sweet rose Champagne suggested)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour , sifted
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder , sifted
  • 1/4 Tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbsp. (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs , at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk , at room temperature

Basically you just mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, the vanilla and milk in another bowl, and then beat the sugar and butter together, add the eggs one at a time, and then slowly add the dry and wet mixtures to the batter.

Also, if you do decide to use the strawberries you are supposed to soak them in the champagne and then fold them into the mix. I realized just now that since I didn’t use the strawberries, I didn’t have anything to soak in the champagne so I probably should have just left it out, but I added the whole 1/2 a cup to the batter at the end, and the cupcakes turned out awesome. They were really moist, and the champagne added a sweetness but it wasn’t too overpowering.

I loaded them into the mini cupcake maker, and made myself a lemonade mimosa because my mom couldn’t believe that I would open a whole bottle of champagne just for cupcakes, and we didn’t have any orange juice (or champagne glasses)  but mixing champagne and pink lemonade turned out to be one of the best ideas I’ve ever had.

So while I waited for my cupcakes to bake, I made the frosting, also without strawberries, and I left half of it just plain vanilla and mixed the rest with 1/4 cup of champagne. I loved the vanilla but the champagne flavor was delicious. I frosted them with a large star tip, starting in the middle and swirling to the outside to give it a rose effect.

So far my track record of mixing alcohol and cupcakes has been really delicious, and in my search I found a recipe for red wine and maragita cupcakes, both of which I will be trying very soon! So until next time, champagne cupcakes and caviar dreams! (see how that worked there?)

June Celebrations and Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

 So far, June has been a pretty big month for me. I started a new job, moved into a new house, and now started a new blog!

 I’ve been wanting to blog for a while, but I could never find one topic that interested me enough. So at the suggestion of one of my good friends, I will blog about all of my favorite things. Generally, I am obsessed with all things related to weddings, Disney, polka-dots and Glee, and I love social media, baking and crafting, so this blog will be dedicated to all of the above, and anything else that I find interesting (and I hope that you’ll find them interesting too!)

 So for this first official post, I am combinging baking with one of my other favorite things, birthdays. My birthday is at the end of this month, and when I was home last weekend my dad’s family had a party to celebrate all of the May and June birthdays. Over dessert (which was awesome), one of my cousins brought up ice cream cone cupcakes, and ever since she mentioned them I’ve been dying to make them. So when my co-worker asked if her neices and nephews could come in and eat lunch in our office today, I decided that this was the perfect occasion to bake these!

I searched online for directions, and I found a video of the girls from the TLC show DC Cupcakes, and they suggested baking them in a pan set up like this:

 

It’s a 9×13 cake pan, coverd in foil, with holes cut to hold the cones. So I made the cake batter, filled the cones about 3/4 of the way full, and baked them at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. When they were done I let them cool and then frosted them with a large star tip and piping bag, and my roommate helped with the sprinkles.

 

Not too bad for my first try at these, and they even tasted pretty good too (I may or may not have had one for breakfast today)