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07 February 2011

A great shortcut!

If I don't have time to whip up a batch of royal icing, or I just don't want to take the time to make the icing and color it, I love using this:

You knead the package for one minute then snip off the top.  Outline your cookie first, then fill it in most of the way.  (I just kind of "scribble" or fill it in randomly.)  Do about five of these at a time to give each one a little time to fill in on it's own, then go back and use a toothpick to push the icing into the spots that didn't get filled in.  Easy-peasy and fast.  You can then put on sprinkles while it's still wet, if you'd like.  Or wait till it's dry to add more details.  OR just leave it how it is.  And the colors are so bright!  Here are some valentine cookies I did with this icing earlier today.  (I used a chocolate roll-out cookie recipe.)

{Ignore the little holes in some of the cookies.  A little "helper" used the tip of the frosting to poke some holes in the cookies.  I think she thought she was helping.  The frosting covered it up, at least!!}

{The red and white are the Betty Crocker brand.  Betty Crocker doesn't make pink, so this pink is a Wilton brand premade icing that you can buy.  I actually prefer the Betty Crocker one!}

21 November 2010

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

Recipe source:

Here at our house, we started celebrating half-birthdays.  Nothing big and fancy, just small and simple. Just enough to make the half-birthdayee feel special.  For half-birthdays we have cupcakes instead of a cake.  The half-birthday boy or girl gets a couple small gifts.  Today we had Keyan's celebration.  I spent a total of $2.50 on his little presents, but it was enough to put a ginormous smile on his face.  He loved being the center of attention and getting to open something, even if it was small.

For his cupcakes I tried out this recipe from Bake at 350.  They turned out great, and we all loved them.

For the Cupcakes
1 & 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

For the Filling
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla exrtact
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup marshmallow creme

For the Ganache
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the Icing (This makes a ton.  I ended up using less than half.)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 & 1/2 - 2 tablespoons milk 
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350. Place paper liners in muffin tin for about 20 cupcakes.

Prepare the cupcakes: Bring the sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Pour into a large bowl; add the chocolate and butter and let sit, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture has cooled slightly. Stir in the vanilla.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Using a mixer, beat the eggs into the chocolate, then mix in the dry ingredients.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans (about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pans for about 25 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a rack to cool completely.

(They will sink in the middle...they'll puff up when filled later)

For the filling: Using a mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Beat in 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar. Add the vanilla and 1 tablespoon heavy cream; beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar and 2 tablespoons heavy cream in batches, alternating after each addition. Beat in the marshmallow creme; set aside or refrigerate.

For the ganache: Place the chocolate in a stainless-steel bowl. Heat the cream and 1 tablespoon butter until just boiling, then pour over the chocolate; let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla; let stand until cool but still glossy and liquid.

Spoon the filling into a pastry bag with a medium star tip. Insert the tip into the center of each cupcake top; fill until the cupcake is heavier (do not overfill). (It's OK if some of the filling peeks out, it will be covered by the ganache.)

Spoon a little ganache on each cupcake and lightly spread with an offset spatula or a knife. Chill for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the icing: Using a mixer, beat the remaining 1 stick butter, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, the milk and confectioners’ sugar until smooth, adding more milk if needed. Spoon into a pastry bag with a small tip (I used a #2 plain tip);pipe onto the cupcakes to decorate.

Store in the refrigerator.

16 November 2010

The Ultimate Caramel Apples

Recipe source: adapted from

I last made these apples a couple years ago, and little Russell requested them for our Family Home Evening treat this week, so here they are!  (Oh, don't worry.  Our FHE treats are typically nothing this fancy...) These are pretty easy to do, and kiddos can help.  Trey was my buddy with this project. (Keyan helped a little, too.)  It's fun to choose what candies and cookies to use.

So sorry the pictures are awful.  We don't have a great camera, and my cell phone does the best job, sadly enough.

10 small apples
10 craft sticks
2  14 oz bags wrapped caramel candies
4 T water
1 t vanilla
2  12 oz bags milk, semi-sweet, or white chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet and white.)
2 t shortening
Crushed oreos, m&ms, or other candies and cookies (We did christmas Oreos, plain M&Ms, pretzel M&Ms, and Reese's. The Reese's and Pretzel M&Ms were my favorite ones.)

1. Wash your apples, and wash them well. Rub your fingers roughly all over the tops to get any of the waxy coating off.
2. Push your sticks into the center of your apples and put them in the freezer for 40 minutes. 
3. Unwrap your caramels. (Or have your kids unwrap them for you.  They love that they are helping and don't mind the grunt work!) :-) Put them in a medium sized sauce pan with the water and vanilla. Turn the heat to medium and let the caramels melt. Stir them often. You don't want them burning to the bottom of your pan.

4. Dip each apple into the caramel. It will begin to set up pretty quickly. Hold the apple over the caramel to let excess drip off.  Then turn it sideways and rotate it a few times as the caramel starts to harden.  Finally, turn them upside down for just a bit so the bottom part can start to set. Just 20 seconds or so will do fine. Place the apple on a piece of tin foil (not wax paper) that has been sprayed with cooking spray. 

5. Place the caramel apples in the refrigerator to continue setting up, while you work on melting the chocolate.
6. Put each bag of chocolate in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Melt the chips in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time stirring after each cooking interval. Add 1 t shortening to each of your chocolate mixtures and stir to incorporate.
7.  Grab your apples out of the fridge. Take each apple and mold the bottom of it with your hand to get rid of the flat bottom. Dip the apples into the chocolate. Hold the apple above the chocolate container to allow excess chocolate to drip off.  I liked to hold it over the bowl and do kind of a spinning motion to get excess chocolate off.
8. Roll the chocolate covered apple in the crushed candy or cookie of your choice.  The way I do it is more of a pressing than a rolling motion. Since the chocolate is still pretty runny, it seems to work better.  Press first onto the bottom, then press a side, turn and press, etc.  I found I had to rotate it several times around to get the whole thing covered.

9. Set the dipped apple back on the sprayed tin foil to set up.
10. Place them back in the fridge to finish setting up. It should only take about 20 minutes for the chocolate to be totally set up. 
11. To cut for serving, place an apple on your cutting board.  Slice the apple in half, putting your knife right next to the stick.  Once you cut it, the stick should come free.  Put the apple flat side down on the board, and cut in half again.  Place the quarter apple on the board on one of the flat sides and slice off the core diagonally.  Cut this piece in half, and you will have two slices (two eighths) of the apple.  Enjoy!!

02 November 2010

Pumpkin cupcakes w/ cinnamon cream cheese frosting

Recipe source:

These cupcakes are so delicious.  Every time I make them someone asks for the recipe.  They are so fun because they are perfect for the season and make your house smell delicious while they are baking.

I did a few things differently than the recipe states.  First, I halved the cupcake part.  I was still able to get 23 cupcakes out of half of the recipe.  Second, I only used 8 ounces of cream cheese in the frosting and added 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon to the frosting.  And third, I skipped the sifting.  

For the Cupcakes:
4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2½ cups packed light-brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1½ cups canned pumpkin (not pie filling)

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (I used 8 ounces.)
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
To Make the Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until just combined. Add pumpkin; beat until just combined.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 3 days in airtight containers.
4. To finish, use an offset spatula or a pastry bag fitted with a decorated tip to top the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.
To Make the Frosting:
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, ½ cup at a time, and then vanilla, and mix until smooth and combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.
If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 3 days in an airtight container; before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.

17 August 2010

Banana Walnut Toffee Cinnamon Pancakes

That title is a mouthful, but I assure you these pancakes are so delicious.  They are more like eating a dessert disguised as a pancake.  I personally like strawberry yogurt on top of mine, but some others in my fam stayed traditional with syrup.  So yummy!!

1 1/4 cups pancake mix (I used Krusteaz brand.)
3/4 cup to 1 cup water (Depending on your consistency preference.  I used 3/4 cup plus a couple tbsp.)
2 bananas, 1 mashed and 1 chopped
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chocolate toffee pieces (from the baking aisle)
Cinnamon (I didn't measure.  Maybe 1-2 tsp)

Mix water and pancake mix until the mixture is the consistency you would like.  Add in bananas, walnuts, toffee, and cinnamon.  Cook as usual.  I made ours on the small-medium side and got probably 12-13 out of this mix. (Actually, I doubled this and got 26 or so pancakes.  There were no leftovers.  The kids and Russell all loved these.)

09 August 2010

Chocolate cobbler

Recipe source:

I made this yummy dessert for Russell's Father's day dinner.  It was gooey, warm, chocolatey, and so yummy.  We ate it with ice cream, but the next day I had some with some whipped cream on top, and I may have liked that better.  The warm cobbler melted the whipped cream....MMMMM!  You can try both, why not??

•1 cup All-purpose Flour
•2 teaspoons Baking Powder
•¼ teaspoons Salt
•7 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder, Divided
•1-¼ cup Sugar, Divided
•½ cups Milk
•⅓ cups Melted Butter
•1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
•½ cups Light Brown Sugar, Packed
•1-½ cup Hot Tap Water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

First stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, 3 tablespoons of the cocoa, and 3/4 cup of the white sugar. Reserve the remaining cocoa and sugar.

Stir in the milk, melted butter, and vanilla to the flour mixture. Mix until smooth.

Pour the mixture into an ungreased 8-inch baking dish.

In a separate small bowl, mix the remaining white sugar (it should be 1/2 cup), the brown sugar, and remaining 4 tablespoons of cocoa. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the batter.

Pour the hot tap water over all. DO NOT STIR!

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the center is set.

Let stand for a few minutes if you can hold yourself back. Serve with ice cream using the gooey sauce to spoon over all.

04 August 2010

Breakfast Pancake Cake

Recipe source:
Photo credit:

Yeah, so this isn't the one I made, but let's just pretend that mine looked as pretty as Alice's from 

This recipe is a great one to use when you have company or if there is a special occasion.  I made this for part of Russell's Father's day breakfast.  It was fun and really yummy.  When you do the strawberries on top, be sure to do a complete layer of strawberries and then put the whipped cream on top of the strawberries.  I made the mistake of putting whipped topping on top with strawberries around the outside, and it melted off of the warm pancake and fell off the sides.  Ooops!

4– 8″ pancakes

1 cup of whipped cream
1 cup of sliced strawberries
1.5 cups of roasted potatoes
1.5 cups of scrambled eggs
1 lb. of cooked bacon

Lay the first pancake down on a plate or serving platter. Add a layer of roasted potatoes all the way to the edge. Add another pancake and add the scrambled eggs. Add the third pancake and add your bacon. Add the final pancake. At this point if everything is cold, you will want to microwave everything for 3 minutes right before serving. Top off with strawberries and whipped cream and serve immediately. Cut carefully just like a slice of cake.