Blue velvet cupcakes — a twist on a crowd-pleasing favorite

She’s having a boy!

When we learned my dear friend Erin was expecting (congrats, Erin and Matt!), I was happy to don my apron to create baby shower treats. A request came in for blue velvet cupcakes, a variety of that red-colored favorite, but I got a little nervous peering at the directions . . . mostly because the recipe calls for buttermilk, white vinegar and a variety of other things I’ve never baked with before.

My fears were unfounded, however; though a bit time-consuming, these weren’t tricky. And while I liked the cake and dug the dark-blue hue (a bottle of food coloring will do that), the highlight was the homemade cream cheese frosting. I’m typically the type to shuck the top of my cupcake off and pass the frosting to someone else . . . but none of that was going on last weekend. I wanted the cake and the frosting, and you’d have had to pry them out of my greedy little paws.

If you’re a fan of red velvet but want something a little different, allow me to recommend this fab recipe from genius baker Heather at Sprinkle Bakes. And with the Fourth of July just days away, you could give these a patriotic makeover with red and blue sprinkles.

My notes: Though I prepared these mostly as instructed, I made two separate batches to get the 36 I needed for the baby shower and found that the batter into which I’d spilled extra vanilla extract were tastier than the other set — so I upped the vanilla and cocoa powder (could have used a little extra varoom!) in the version below. Also, I lowered the recommended baking time; at the 25-minute mark, mine were very browned and, um, “well done.” Just keep an eye on ’em.


Blue Velvet Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from Sprinkle Bakes

Ingredients for cake:
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter, room temperature
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons liquid blue food coloring
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 drop violet gel food coloring (optional)
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Ingredients for frosting:
1 pound (four 8 oz. packages) cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place cupcake liners in pans.
2. In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix well after each addition.
3. Mix cocoa and food coloring together to form a paste, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well.
4. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla.
5. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.
6. Pour batter into cupcake papers. (Batter will be thick!) Bake for 23-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beating until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost cupcakes and embellish as desired.


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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.

———–

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!

Grab a glass of milk and one delicious hot chocolate cupcake

So Thanksgiving was a big success. We ate, we baked — and we were merry. The fridge now overfloweth with leftovers the likes of which I’ve never seen, and if I may be so bold? I’d say it isn’t because the food wasn’t tasty. The sheer quantity of delicious eats overwhelmed all of us, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be eating stuffed ham for the next week. (It’s very tasty on white bread with mustard.)

Among the many desserts prepared for Thanksgiving — including Grandma’s coconut pie; cranberry and apple cheesecake from Alex, Spencer’s mom; and a pumpkin crumb pie I’ll tell y’all about later — were these Hot Chocolate Cupcakes from Betty Crocker, my No. 1 girl. I thought they would be a fun addition to the table, and they definitely were! And among the creamy pumpkin treats, the chocolate stood out especially well.

Cute and tasty, these hot chocolate cupcakes call for a devil’s food cake base with a sweet marshmallow-and-vanilla frosting piped on to mimic the look of marshmallows — just like a mug of hot chocolate. A halved pretzel creates the “handle” for the cake and definitely finishes the look!

I followed the recipe closely, but I made a few additions — like a teaspoon of cinnamon to the batter, per another user’s suggestion, plus a pinch of cinnamon on top of the marshmallow frosting (along with the chocolate powder). In hindsight, I should have been way more generous with the marshmallow topping — though thick and delicious, the cupcakes were very dense. They needed that sweet frosting to mellow out the weight of the cake. I dig the stars I piped on, but next time? I won’t skimp on the frosting. And I’ll throw caution to the wind and add more chocolate powder and cinnamon.

Also, this recipe calls for roughly half a box of devil’s food cake mix — and yields approximately 12 cupcakes. I made the first dozen according to directions, then just went ahead and made a second batch with the remaining cake mix. I had about 20 cupcakes when all was said and done — perfect!

If you’re hankering for a chocolate treat but don’t want a hot beverage, these may cure what ails you. Just be sure to have a cold glass of milk to wash them all down — you’ll need it.

Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Recipe from BettyCrocker.com

Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups Betty Crocker SuperMoist devil’s food cake mix (from 18.25-oz box)
1/2 cup water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg
1 cup Betty Crocker Whipped vanilla frosting (from 12-oz container)
1/2 cup marshmallow creme
1/4 teaspoon unsweetened baking cocoa
6 miniature pretzel twists, broken in half

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F for shiny metal pan (or 325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Place paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups.

2. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, oil and egg with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.

3. Bake 17 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

4. In small bowl, mix frosting and marshmallow creme. Spoon into small resealable food-storage plastic bag; seal bag. Cut 3/8-inch tip off 1 corner of bag. (Or spoon mixture onto cupcakes instead of piping.)