Two ingredients. One delicious (pumpkin) cupcake.

photo


So.

Sometimes I’m all about crazy ingredient combinations. I relish creating something delicious from scratch; I become utterly absorbed in the hours-long process of sifting, combining, stirring and frosting. I wait by the oven. I allow things to cool. I pace around, reading and watching the timer, peeking into illuminated ovens and waiting. Waiting.

And sometimes, I just want to eat a cupcake.

I found this recipe by accident on Monday (thanks, Pinterest!), and it turned out to be perfect timing. I’d just moved the day before, meaning most of what I owned was still in trash bags or boxes in the living room. I was tired, grumpy; I was still feeling all kinds of out of sorts. I wasn’t used to baking anywhere than in my parents’ kitchen, which is always well-stocked and overflowing.

And ours, well . . . we’re working on it.

But never fear! I only needed two ingredients — yes, seriously, two ingredients — for these chocolate pumpkin cupcakes.

You ready?

Okay.

A boxed chocolate cake mix. (I used devil’s food.)

And a can of pumpkin.

No oil. No eggs.

Just chocolate cake mix and a can of pumpkin.

Pre-heat oven to 350. Beat pumpkin and cake mix until very well combined; batter will be super-duper thick. Fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full (batter will rise significantly). Bake for 20-25 minutes (I only needed 20), until toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Allow to cool. Frost as desired (I used store-bought cream cheese frosting). Garnish with pumpkin spice or sprinkles or whatever your heart desires. Rake in the compliments, feel like a total rock star.


Cupcakes cooling


And if you want to get fancy, follow The Picky Palate’s additional recipe for pumpkin spice brown butter frosting, which sounds amazing.

Or don’t, because you’re busy frolicking in fall leaves and drinking apple cider and listening to praise for your chocolate pumpkin cupcakes — all without mentioning how insanely easy they are to make.

Totally your call.

Also, I wound up bringing these to a “work potluck” yesterday that actually turned out to be . . . a surprise bridal shower for yours truly! And I may or may not have received a KitchenAid stand mixer from my coworkers. Um. I’m still kind of in shock.

And they totally have ulterior motives with that present, as they pointed out themselves . . . like bringing in more cupcakes like these.

Done and done.


Pumpkin whoopie pies

Pumpkin whoopie pies


I’ve been stress baking.

Leading up to my sister’s wedding on Saturday, I had tons of nervous energy that I channeled rather successfully into baked goods. Keeping my hands — and head — busy, especially during transitional times, is always a good idea.

And now her wedding’s over, and I’ve been popped. Popped like a balloon.

But that’s another post. Perhaps a long, rambling post I’ll never publish. And anyway, you’re not really interested in my tasty batter of emotions, are you?! After seeing a photo like that at top?

I didn’t think so.


Whoopie pies


So, whoopie pies. I kind of felt like I was cheating on my beloved cupcakes the whole time I mixed this batter, scooping tablespoons of it onto cookie sheets rather than into muffin tins, but the whoopie pie is actually rather adorable. And delicious. I’ve seen it described as an “inside-out cupcake,” and I totally dig that description.

And since we’re officially in the thick of my favorite season, you know I had to kick autumn off with some delicious pumpkin treats. This recipe from The Baker Chick provided the perfect cake base, though I definitely cheated and did not make the suggested homemade salted caramel filling (though that sounds amazing).

Hey, c’mon — I was stress baking, not stress frosting. I totally used a store-bought buttercream and it was still outstanding. Like, this recipe made about 35 of these babies . . . and I had barely a half dozen left after a few days. Like hotcakes, I’m telling you.

So I got the satisfaction of making a dessert, and the two-bites-and-you’re-done delicious quality kept me from overindulging. Eating a single whoopie pie gave me that sweet taste I craved without going crazy.

Though you could totally go crazy eating these. It’s not a giant leap.


Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Recipe from The Baker Chick

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 12 minutes

Yield: Approximately 30 sandwich cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup canola oil
3 cups pumpkin puree
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a sil-pat and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk sugars and oil together. Add the pumpkin puree and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth and well-combined. Gradually mix the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture, stirring until just combined.

Use a small ice cream scoop to drop a heaping tablespoon of dough onto the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are just starting to crack on top and a toothpick inserted into the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the pan for 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

To assemble, pipe buttercream or cream cheese frosting onto the flat side of one of the cookies and place another cookie, flat side down, on top of the filling. Press down slightly so that the filling spreads to the edges. Repeat until all the cookies are used.


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A traditional ‘five day cake’

5 Day Cake


This cake.

I didn’t make it — I merely sampled its delicious, coconut-y awesomeness at a friend’s recent bridal shower. Her groom-to-be has an insanely sweet grandma from North Carolina (by way of England), and she brought this beauty with her from the south. (Along with the remnants of her British accent. Which was awesome.)

Before I’d taken a bite, Colleen promised I would adore this cake. I hemmed and hawed about eating sweets because, you know, weight loss and such, and dessert — any dessert — is a gateway drug. But in the end . . . I just couldn’t resist. And after she finished telling me about this cake’s prominent role in their family, to push a piece away felt like an insult.

And this cake got me thinking about traditions. Food plays such a prominent role in my own family memories — and is integral to our holidays. While one grandmother is famous for her amazing cookies and homemade peanut butter cups, the other is well-known for her pies and birthday cakes. I can close my eyes and taste them all.

While we favor certain dishes, Bethany and Mike’s families have their own coveted, longed-for dishes. Called “Five Day Cake” because it actually sits in your fridge for five days (!), I found a similar recipe online . . . but I had the foresight to ask Colleen about hers before we left. Her lovely daughter-in-law hosted the shower, and she pulled her treasured recipe collection off a shelf. A copy of this one was right on top — which means it was fate.

So if you’d like to start your own family tradition (or just make a delicious dessert), this one’s for you. Just hope you can wait five days before sampling it.


Five Day Cake

Recipe from Colleen G.

Cake

Ingredients for frosting:
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 8 oz. sour cream
• 2 9 oz. frozen coconut

Ingredients for cake:
• 1 Duncan Hines Butter Golden cake mix
• 4 eggs
• 1/8 cup sugar
• 1 cup water

Mix sugar, sour cream and frozen coconut together for frosting. Put in airtight container. Refrigerate overnight.

Combine dry cake mix with 4 eggs, 1/8 cup sugar and 1 cup water, mixing until well blended. Pour into two 9-inch baking pans and bake according to package instructions. (Cake should be lightly browned, and toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.)

When cool, slice each layer in half. Frost the four individual layers with refrigerated coconut mixture, then stack and frost with remaining coconut mixture. Keep in fridge for five days, using toothpicks to support layers, if necessary. Serve and enjoy!


Cinnamon buns: now in convenient cupcake form

Cinnamon roll cupcakes


Have y’all missed my cupcake posts?

I’ve sure missed writing them.

Mostly because when I was writing them, I was baking them — and eating them.

And I really do miss eating them.

As I continue on my healthy-eating journey, sweets aren’t banned . . . but they’re certainly not encouraged. Like all things, I’ve learned that moderation is key — and I’m proud of the success I’ve already had by limiting my snacking, introducing more fruits in my diet and majorly monitoring my portion sizes. I’ve cut out most carbs and started eating a healthy breakfast every morning, and the results? Well, I fit in my favorite jeans again. And though it’s not about what I’m seeing on a scale, it feels good to just . . . feel better.

But sometimes a girl needs a cupcake.

I spotted this recipe on Cupcakes For Breakfast before Christmas, and guys? You can totally eat this cupcake for breakfast. Because it tastes exactly like a cinnamon bun, and everyone knows those are perfectly acceptable, sweet and amazingly delicious ways to start the day.

With a cream cheese topping, you’re going to fight friends and family off with a batter-covered stick. I made 24 of these on Tuesday night — and had six remaining by Wednesday evening. When word got around that I’d dragged myself into the office in the snow with dessert, my cupcake carrier was empty faster than I could shout, “Don’t count the calories!”

Don’t count them. This one is worth it.


Brown sugar and pecans

From above

Muffin cups


Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes

From Cupcakes for Breakfast and Better Homes and Gardens

Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk


Directions:

Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Pre-heat oven to 350° F.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, pecans, and cinnamon. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy (about two minutes), scraping down the sides occasionally. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Beat in vanilla. Alternately add flour and milk to butter mixture, beating on low speed just until combined.

Spoon about a tablespoon of the batter into each cup. Sprinkle the cinnamon mix on top of the batter, then spoon remaining batter on top until each cup is 3/4 full. Garnish tops with additional sugar mixture, if desired.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when stuck inside. Cool cupcakes on a wire baking rack. Frost with cream cheese icing (recipe here), or eat and enjoy as-is!


They are risen

Cooling

Finished product


P.S. With the day o’ St. Patrick nearly upon us, don’t miss the dark chocolate Guinness cupcakes I whipped up last year. They’re delicious — and very seasonally appropriate! Plus, you can drink the leftover Guinness. So . . . you’re welcome.


Book review: ‘Paris, My Sweet’ by Amy Thomas

Writer and foodie Amy Thomas has a longstanding love affair with Paris. The macarons, the handsome men, the atmosphere . . . si belle. After she embarks on a week of sweets for fun, an opportunity to return — full-time — sets her on a new path. As an advertising writer for Louis Vuitton, Thomas trades her busy life in New York City for a walk-up in the City of Light. And that’s only the beginning.

Amy Thomas’ Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) is a sweet-as-candy, fun and hunger-inducing look at one woman’s journey through France’s capital city. Thomas is my kind of friend: someone with a talent for words and an insatiable hunger. I mean, her sweet tooth is epic — and after cautioning not to read some books on an empty stomach, this would absolutely fall into that category.

Thomas’ memoir is, in many ways, an exploration of what makes a place “home.” Coming from New York, where Amy is a successful singleton who doesn’t have much time or inclination to date, journeying to Paris means bidding adieu to her many friends and family — and discovering what it means to truly be on your own. Especially without a common language to bond them, Amy’s work environment is challenging — and interacting with the French can be difficult and confusing. She becomes more self-assured with time, eventually branching out to make new friends and puzzle out French behavior, but it takes a while. As all good things to do.

Though I adored the many mentions of Paris’ insanely awesome desserts (and New York’s, too), I ultimately finished this story wanting a little more. Amy is very likeable and kind, but the story lacked a certain je ne sais quoi. I suppose I was naively waiting for her to fall in love, get a big promotion, stumble into ownership of a bakery. Something. I read too much fiction, I guess. Because I’ll say this for Paris, My Sweet: Amy feels very authentic, and her tale is realistic. For most, a handsome foreigner doesn’t lock eyes with us across a vanilla cupcake and bed us within the hour. A snooty widow doesn’t take a shine to us, leaving her beloved bistro to the adorable American upon her death. If we stumble, no one is there to catch us. We just figure it out.

Yes — for most of us? We’re just taking chances. Putting one foot in front of another. Looking for opportunities with the knowledge they may not come. And as Amy cavorts through Paris — sometimes muddling through as an expat; sometimes having the croissant-eating time of her life — I was right there with her. Paris comes alive through Thomas’ tales, and I loved visiting as she pedals the winding streets, slogs up to her apartment and plunks down to watch the city come alive from her window.

It all felt very intoxicating. And though I wish the plot itself was a little more exciting, I state that knowing life is often that way: sometimes a sweet frosted thing, perfect and knowable — but more often a gamble, a few stolen chances. Thomas does a great job of drawing you into her tale . . . and getting you hungry for those lovely macarons. Francophiles, foodies and armchair travelers will find Amy a willing and lovely narrator, and her memoir a sweet adventure.


3.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 1402264119 • GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor website
Review copy provided by LibraryThing Early Reviewers in exchange for my honest review


Healthy apple ‘pie’: Half a recipe


We’re in Apple-topia over here.

After last weekend’s trip to the orchard, we drove home with sore feet and bags of apples. My boyfriend is quite the winemaker these days (and even won “best in show” at the county fair this year — woo!); apple brew is one of the concoctions on his to-be-made list. So much of the fruit will be broken down for that.

But the rest? That’s for us. For desserts and snacks and dinners. We’ve been chopping up chicken and apple sausage for dinner, sauteed with slices of apples. I’ve been cutting them up as “dessert,” which isn’t nearly as appealing as, you know, chocolate — but in an effort to cut down on calories, I’m learning to live with it.

And then I found this recipe, which is really just half a recipe. There’s no cooking or real preparation involved. It’s succinct — but tasty. Here we go:


Cut an apple in half, removing seeds, and bake until soft. Top with 2 tablespoons of low-fat or fat-free vanilla Greek yogurt, a dash of cinnamon and one crumbled reduced-fat cinnamon graham cracker.


That’s it.

And it. was. delicious. No butter, no oil, no sugar (except from that solitary graham cracker, but that barely counts). For someone who craves a little sweetness after dinner, this was a treat. Okay, it’s not really pie, but the graham crackers allow me to pretend. I like pretending.

Since we have about 47 more apples to use before they spoil, I have a feeling it’ll be showing up in a kitchen near me quite soon.



Semi-homemade with … Meg: another pumpkin cupcake


Who knew there were so many pumpkin recipes?

Well, I guess I did — and it’s reaching a critical point over here. But since our photography club is having a picnic this Saturday, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to try out another autumnal recipe before everyone (myself included) gets completely sick of all pumpkin-flavored foods. I realize I’m stretching the boundaries here at write meg!, what with punching you over the head with so many mentions of my favorite gourd, but humor me just once more.

I adapted this version from Betty Crocker, though I didn’t have pecans and was too tired and stressed to make frosting from scratch (don’t stone me!). Good thing Betty is around — her vanilla buttercream is quite tasty. So I nixed the pecans in the original recipe, though they sound delicious, and the end result? Darn good! Just enough pumpkin spice flavor to satisfy this fall-obsessed baker’s heart, and next time I might even top with candied pecans or walnuts.

And since you haven’t whipped these up yet, you can add candied pecans or walnuts. Go forth and prosper, friends.


Pumpkin spice cupcakes

Adapted from BettyCrocker.com

Ingredients:
1 box Betty Crocker yellow cake mix
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 container cream cheese or vanilla frosting (or make your own!)

Directions:
In large bowl, beat cake mix, pumpkin, water, oil, eggs and pumpkin pie spice with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds, then on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (about two-thirds full). Bake 19 to 24 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes, then frost and decorate as desired.