Snickerdoodle Cupcakes: Butter, cinnamon and everything nice

Snickerdoodle cookies first pranced deliciously into my life when I started my college job at Borders. Being a 20-something who walked five miles around campus daily, I could do all kinds of crazy stuff — like eat cookies for dinner. Washed down with a full-fat latte to keep my caffeine intake steady, I wasn’t exactly rocking healthy eating habits. But those cookies were so good.

Years later, I still salivate at the idea of a buttery, cinnamon-rich cookie warm from the oven. Snickerdoodles are my weakness. When I stumbled across a recipe mixing my favorite flavors into acupcake, I was digging up the ingredients lickety-split.

And these didn’t disappoint. With melted butter right in the batter, all the snickerdoodle flavors I crave were wrapped into one moist cupcake. I’ll give you one caution, though: the cinnamon buttercream is intense. Maybe a little too intense, depending on how sweet and copious you like your frosting . . . so go lighter with it if you’re worried about getting overpowered.

But I don’t think you will be. They’re pretty awesome.


Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes:
1 package vanilla cake mix
1 cup milk (2 percent or whole)
1 stick butter, melted
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Ingredients for frosting:
1 stick butter
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
3-4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and place cupcake liners in pans.

2. Place cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla and cinnamon in large mixing bowl. Blend for three minutes, scraping occasionally.

3. Pour batter into pans and bake for 22-25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes.

4. For frosting, beat butter until fluffy (at least three minutes). Add confectioner’s sugar, vanilla extract and ground cinnamon, mixing in milk one tablespoon at a time until frosting reaches desired consistency. For thinner frosting, add more milk; for thicker frosting, less. After cupcakes have cooled, frost as desired. Yield: approximately 20 cupcakes. Enjoy!


{Recipe adapted from DuncanHines.com}


Cupcake liner organization — a Pinterest challenge

Oh, Pinterest. That epic timesuck furthering a misconception I’m craftier and artsier than I really am. I can’t log in without wanting to bake, create or wear everything in sight, and I’ve found some fabulous decorating ideas and saved tons of cupcake recipes for future use. As if I’ll ever run out of those.

And speaking of my cupcake obsession, I’ve amassed quite a few decorative cupcake liners over the years. So many that they’re literally spilling out of my kitchen cabinet, their colorful wrappers winding up on the floor. I’ve been thinking about ways to get organized and keep them clean and accessible, and that’s when I saw this:



Perfect.

The lovely Trish issued a challenge for all the Pinterest addicts out there: actually do some of the things you pin in the month of May. Never one to shy away from adventure, I joined up — and completing my cupcake organization was my first task.

After a few weeks of searching for a comparable glass container, I eventually found one I liked from HomeGoods. Though not as lovely or large as this baby at Such Pretty Things, I’m really happy with how it turned out! And by “turned out,” I mean how it looked when I stacked all my cupcake liners inside. It took less than five minutes.

Here’s mine:



Pretty enough to leave out year-round!

For $4, I have a way to store my cupcake liners and, best of all, actually keep track of everything I own. Do you know how many packages of Christmas cupcake cases I have? (Answer: at least four. That I can find.) Though I might eventually invest in either a second or larger jar (this is already full, as you can see!), I’m hoping my organized storage system will encourage me to use up what I already have. And that will save me money. Win-win!


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Many thanks to Trish for much-needed nudge to get crafty! Join the fun this May by completing a few Pinterest-inspired projects, recipes, etc. For more information, visit Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity.


Pucker up: Red velvet cheesecake cupcakes

So I know Valentine’s Day was a week ago — but in typical Meg fashion, I came down with a terrible cold the day on Feb. 15. Getting sick this time of year is sort of my M.O., though I’m thankful I was sick the day after and not the day of. I would have shared this recipe last week if I hadn’t been coughing loud enough for all of Southern Maryland to hear.

I don’t know anyone who isn’t crazy about red velvet cake — and as we recently celebrated a day of love and all things pink and red, making up a batch was a no-brainer. But I wanted something a little different, which is how I wound up adding one simple (but delicious) ingredient: cheesecake-flavored Jell-o pudding mix.

If you’re looking to spice up your next red velvet concoction, adding dry pudding mix is an easy way to introduce new flavors. Though it’s probably like sipping a Diet Coke while eating an entire bucket of buttery popcorn, These were a moist, creamy hit. I decorated them for V-Day, of course, but they would be a nice addition to any table.


Red Velvet Cheesecake Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 package red velvet cake mix
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 box (3.4 oz) Jell-o instant pudding, cheesecake flavored
Frosting of your choice

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F and place 24 cupcake liners in pans. In a large bowl, add cake mix and instant pudding; lightly stir. Add wet ingredients and mix until well-blended. Spoon into pans. Bake for 19-22 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool, then frost with frosting of your choice (I’d go for cheesecake-flavored!). Decorate as desired.


Orange angel food cupcakes

When the going gets tough, the tough get . . . baking.

I’m a stress baker. (And stress shopper, but that’s an entirely different post.) Last Sunday I was wandering around with my head in a fog, anxious and upset and struggling to make sense of things that make no sense. In one of my circuits around the kitchen, I spotted my trusty cupcake carrier. And for a half hour, the chorus of worry in my head was quiet.

There’s something so Zen about baking. As I get more adventurous, I feel comfortable crafting unusual recipes and sliding away from always using recipes. In fact, I didn’t use a recipe for this one at all . . . which, as you’ll see, was no big deal. Because it’s not really a recipe. More of a culinary suggestion, if you will.

Everyone likes angel food cake, right? It’s light, fluffy — and for all you New Year’s resolutioners, fat-free. (Yes!) When I raided the cabinets for something to bake last weekend, I came across a box of angel food cake mix and tried to think of how I could use it.

Angel food is delicious, yes, but not very . . . sexy. Or interesting. It’s just sort of, “Hi, I’m here — your regular old angel food cake.” At the suggestion of my sister, I jazzed it up. And since I’m obsessed with extracts (rum! coconut! almond!), I fumbled around until I found my orange bottle. And I added some.

Combined with a tub of orange frosting left over from last Halloween (it was fresh and unopened, I swear!), we crafted a batch of fluffy, chewy and delicious orange angel food cupcakes that were consumed with a day or two. I might have had two (or three . . .) as soon as they cooled.

Here’s what I did — but remember, it’s simple. Like, really simple. Almost as simple as this “recipe” I created.

But sometimes the easiest things are the most delicious.


Orange Angel Food Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 box angel food cake mix
Water, as called for on box
2 tsp orange extract
Colored frosting, as desired
Sprinkles, as desired

Directions:
Prepare angel food cupcakes as directed on package, adding 2 tsp orange extract to batter. Bake as directed, or until tops of cupcakes are brown and dry. Cool in pan, then move to cooling rack. Frost and decorate as desired, or enjoy as-is! Yields 24-28 cupcakes.



Pumpkin ginger cupcakes — a zing and a pow

At a family gathering last week, there was no way I could show up empty-handed — and I can’t come to a fall party without something pumpkin, of course. But I wanted something different. Something a little technically challenging, because I’m apparently a sadistic baker.

I found this recipe for pumpkin ginger cupcakes and knew I’d found my calling. My attention was captured with the mention of crystallized ginger, though I was worried I wouldn’t be able to find it . . . but alas, that anxiety — like most in my life — was for nothing. Target had a decent-sized bottle, made by Archer Farms, for around $6. I mashed that baby up and was ready to roll.

The only thing I didn’t notice about this recipe? It’s strictly for the cupcakes. And I’m proud to say that, for the first time, I created my own concoction for frosting! A tasty buttercream with a hint of cinnamon, which complemented these cupcakes perfectly.

Am I bragging? A little, yes. But I’m pretty proud of these — and they disappeared as quickly as I could pull them from the oven. I topped some of mine with walnuts and others with sprinkles. What wasn’t eaten by my family was taken to work, and I’m currently continuing my reign as Office Cupcake Queen.

It’s a title I’m proud to have.


Pumpkin ginger cupcakes

Recipe from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 (3.4 ounce) package instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree

Directions:
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 24 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners. Whisk together the flour, pudding mix, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ground ginger, allspice, cloves, and crystallized ginger in a bowl; set aside.

2. Beat the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until light and fluffy. The mixture should be noticeably lighter in color. Add the room-temperature eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to blend into the butter mixture before adding the next. Beat in the vanilla and pumpkin puree with the last egg. Stir in the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups.

3. Bake in the preheated oven until golden and the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.


Cinnamon buttercream

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons cinnamon, or more to taste

In a medium bowl, cream butter with electric mixer. Beat in vanilla and gradually add powdered sugar until well blended. Add milk until frosting reaches desired consistency.


A mint chocolate cupcake recipe that’s too simple to resist

Though I’m not usually much of a “mint” fan, sometimes you just get a craving. On a random Saturday, apropos of nothing, I thought, “I want to make mint chocolate chip cupcakes.”

This “recipe” is just total cheating on my part, I’ll admit that now. I had a box of devil’s food cake mix hanging out in the pantry and thought, What would happen if I just added some mint extract to this?

So I did. I prepared the cupcakes according to the package directions (vegetable oil, eggs, water — all the usual stuff) and then added a teaspoon of mint extract to the batter before baking.

That’s it.

I’m sort of embarrassed to even be posting about this, it’s so simple.

The frosting was where I got a little more creative, using my go-to recipe for the homemade sweet stuff — the same one from my famed key lime cupcakes, as a matter of fact! But key lime and mint aren’t exactly a winning combination, so I replaced the juice with mint extract again.

The result? Pure goodness — but not overwhelmingly so. And the sweet, cream cheese-based frosting was a wonderful kicker to balance out the dense, heavy chocolate of the cake. Here’s the frosting recipe, because that makes me feel slightly better sharing my “recipe” with you! And you can add as little or as much green food coloring as you like, of course. I’m a green fan and don’t mind eating strangely-hued foods, but you might feel differently about that. And it’s quite all right.

We’re all cupcake lovers — and friends — here.


Homemade mint frosting

Ingredients:
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon mint extract
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Green food coloring, if desired

Instructions:
In large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. On low speed, beat in mint extract, three drops of green food coloring and 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar until mixed; beat on medium speed until fluffy. Frost cupcakes as desired. Store frosted cupcakes and any leftover frosting in refrigerator.



Mexican chocolate cupcakes: Can you handle the heat?

Cayenne pepper.

Just typing that made a little bonfire ignite in my mouth.

I’ve never been one to dive into spicy foods, though I do fancy myself an eclectic, open-minded omnivore. There aren’t too many things — especially desserts — I won’t try, and I find myself getting more and more adventurous with my culinary habits as I get older. And braver.

So when I stumbled across this recipe for Mexican chocolate cupcakes months ago, the instructions immediately went in my “to be baked” file — and Tuesday night seemed as good a time as any to indulge in a little baking experiment.

I had no idea how these would turn out, honestly. I mean, we’re talking cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cocoa . . . and all in a cupcake. But life is nothing if we can’t be daring, so I started gathering my ingredients and went in for the kill.

And these? These are delicious. My sister proudly pronounced them “the best thing I’ve ever baked,” which made my little cupcake-loving heart burst with pride. Her boyfriend, a serious spicy-food eater, also loved them, and I brought a dozen into work on Wednesday to share with my dessert-hungry coworkers. They were gobbled up quickly.

“They’re so good,” said Josh, “but the spice makes me feel like a man.”

I’ll take that ringing endorsement, friends. Definitely.

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A note on the recipe: Strawberry Pepper is a vegan cooking blog so, by proxy, this recipe is vegan, too. If that doesn’t suit your fancy, no worries — it’s easily adapted. For the frosting, I used regular ol’ butter in place of the vegan butter sticks and skim milk for the soy. It all came out delicious!

Also, I didn’t want to go too bold for my first attempt at these — I used one heaping teaspoon of cayenne pepper instead of the two called for here. Heed my warning: these do have a kick. If you don’t like things too spicy but these still appeal to you, go easy on the cayenne. A little does go a long way.


Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes

Recipe from Strawberry Pepper

Ingredients:
3 cups all-purpose white flour (or 1/2 whole wheat pastry, 1/2 white)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cayenne pepper (or less if you’re very sensitive to spice)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups water
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp apple cider or white vinegar

Directions:
preheat oven to 350 ºF and place liners into a muffin pan
1. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, cinnamon and cayenne pepper together.
2. Add the vegetable oil, water, vanilla, and vinegar to the dry ingredients and stir. Do not over mix; a few clumps are okay.
3. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 of the way, bake for 15-20 minutes or until a knife pulls out clean. Yields 24 cupcakes.


Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 to 2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vegan butter sticks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup soy milk

Directions:
1. In a medium bowl, mix the cinnamon into the powdered sugar.
2. Add the shortening, butter sticks, vanilla, and soy milk and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes.
3. Spread over cupcakes (once they are fully cooled) and enjoy!