Saturday, December 3, 2011

Twenty Five Treats for the Holidays - Day 3

So, now you've gotten a whole cupboard's worth of cookie recipes to kick start your Holiday baking.  How about some cupcakes?
Start with a basic, but slightly tweaked, recipe:

1 box chocolate cake mix (I've used Betty Crocker Milk Chocolate for these, but I've also used Betty's GF chocolate cake mix with great results)
1/2 cup Hellmann's mayonnaise (yes, you read that correctly - and don't use any other brand or "salad dressing")
1/2 cup water
1 egg.

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a mixer, and mix until well combined and smooth.  Put cupcake liners in a muffin tin, and fill them about half-full with cake batter.  Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or til tester inserted in center comes out clean.  Allow to cool, then frost as desired.

This is the closest I've ever come to the recipe that my mom used to use for my birthday cake (stay tuned for that recipe!).  I almost cried the first time I tried it.  They are amazing and delicious!

Ok, so let's play with the basic cupcake!
  1. Add your choice of extracts to plain old white or yellow cake mix.  I make my own coconut extract (thanks, Alton Brown!), and it really puts that "sumthin sumthin" in a white cake, let me tell you!
  2. Want a tropical cake - add that same coconut extract and a little rum, and pineapple juice instead of water.
  3. Orange cake?  Orange juice instead of water, and a little orange food color.
  4. For our "sophisticated folks", use chocolate cake mix, orange juice and 1-2 teaspoons of cinnamon.
  5. Spice cake?  Add pumpkin pie spice to basic cake mix.
  6. Use #5 and pumpkin instead of water to make pumpkin cake.  Make it as cupcakes, or do a 9x13 pan and some cream cheese frosting for simple pumpkin bars.  No cream cheese frosting on hand?  Use a can of frosting and a 3 oz. block of cream cheese.  Beat them together.
  7. Add sprinkles to your batter.
  8. Or chocolate chips.  The pumpkin cake with chocolate chips is amazing, by the way.  No need to frost - just eat them as they are.
  9. Stick a bite-sized candy bar into chocolate cupcakes.  Peanut butter cups are my favorite, but Snickers and Milky Way are also delicious.  Top with ganache (fancy word, simple technique) for super indulgence.
  10. Do the chocolate mint thing - add 1 teaspoon of peppermint extract.  Make it a big bang by adding candy cane pieces, Ande's Candy's baking bits, or chocolate chips.
  11. Or do the chocolate cinnamon thing - 1 teaspoon of cinnamon to 1 recipe of chocolate cake mix.
  12. And, of course, for the "hippy at heart", take one batch of cake mix and divide it.  Color it how you want, and make tie-dye cupcakes.  A really good combo is taking a white cake mix, dividing it in half and doing red and green.  Drop 1 spoonful of red, 1 spoonful of green, and 1 spoonful of chocolate into each cupcake liner.  Festive, fun and SIMPLE!
So what to do with them when they've baked and cooled?  Start with a can of vanilla frosting:
  1. Add food color - and use the good stuff!  This is one area I don't skimp on.  I HIGHLY recommend the Wilton colors.  There's a very good reason these folks have been in the cake decorating business for so long.
  2. Speaking of Wilton, buy a bag of their chocolate wafers (they come in all kinds of colors) and melt 1 cup of them.  Beat the melted chocolate into the white frosting.  Sorry, need a private moment for this one.  Too good to be true.
  3. Add extract - orange, coconut, and peppermint all work well.  You can add these to canned chocolate frosting as well.  You can also use strawberry in a red frosting - kids will especially love that combo.
For the snowflake cupcakes above, I colored plain white frosting with a light blue color.  Then I used Wilton Bright White Cookie Icing.  It comes in a glue-like bottle, and works just as easily.  Be sure to follow the softening directions on the bottle.  This stuff is a miracle - it's the concrete-strength frosting used to hold gingerbread houses together, in a simple squeeze bottle.

Make circles and lines as desired to make a snowflake.  Or make concentric circles, and drag a toothpick or skewer back and forth from the center.  It's a snowflake - no 2 are alike - so make them unique!

You can also decorate the tops of cupcakes the way you would decorate the tops of cut out cookies, and don't be afraid of the everyday items like chocolate chips and just plain white sugar.

Grab your inner child and have a playdate!

1 comment:

Shiloh said...

So many good ideas! decorating is not my strong suite. This is very helpful for me.:) Thank you!