A Baking Adventure: Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes

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When Crusader Stacy and I started brainstorming cupcakes ideas for our Passionately Pink Bake Sale, I knew I wanted a naturally pink frosting. That idea, paired with looking for an excuse to make Sprinkles Cupcakes’ strawberry cupcake recipe (featured on Oprah.com in June 2009), solidified my cupcake project.

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The recipe was easy to follow, although if I’d had my standing mixer at the time it would have been even easier! I wish I had noticed prior to getting started that the recipe only yields 12 cupcakes. Since I didn’t, I tried getting 24 cupcakes and ended up with 16-ish. For some reason the cake batter didn’t really rise either (I seem to have this problem with from-scratch recipes), so the cupcakes ended up being relatively small.

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The cake was dense and crumbly, and would have benefited from a strawberry filling. But, the frosting, oh the frosting! It was divine. It had the flavor of a strawberry milkshake and a perfectly smooth consistency. Although everyone seemed to like the cupcakes and said good things about them, I would recommend a different cake recipe. But definitely use Sprinkles’ frosting recipe!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

A Baking Adventure: Orange Campfire Cakes

A craving for sweets can hit at any moment, so it’s always best to be prepared, even when camping. S’mores are great, but what if what you really want is cake? You may remember we posted about spotting Betty Crockers’ Shake-N-Pour cupcake mix at our local grocery store on our Facebook page. This is the perfect item to take along for a camping trip. All you have to do is add water!

Every fall, a handful of my girlfriends, including Crusaders Stacy and Elisa, get together for a girls’ weekend. It started five years ago in tents, and although we no longer stay in tents—after spoiling ourselves on year three with a cabin—the gist of the trip is the same: Sit around a fire, have fun, eat food, and throw in some drinks. With Pinterest, my campfire ideas for the weekend bloomed and I found a recipe for Orange Campfire Cakes from ljcfyi.com. Oranges are simple to take along with you and, with the added bonus of cake mix that requires no bowls, utensils, eggs, or oil, it was a no brainier that we would have these “rugged cupcakes” during our weekend.

Easy steps:
1. Hollow out an orange. This was the most difficult of the steps and we used several methods among us girls including spoons and bare hands.
2. After adding water to the mix, shake it up! As you can see, I had a good time with this step because who doesn’t love shakin’ it? (We also have music playing anytime we are at in the cabin.)
3. Pour the batter into the orange peels, replace the top, and wrap in foil.
4. Bake in the coals of a fire for 20 minutes, then enjoy!

Since it was SO cold on the weekend we went away, instead of an outdoor campfire we stayed in and kept the wood stove burning. The coals of the wood stove worked perfectly!

We had Funfetti cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes, for variety. We may have overfilled them, so the cake stuck to the tops of the oranges and oozed out the sides a little. But, the results were the same: Delicious!

A couple of my friends added chocolate chips to their Funfetti, but I slathered my chocolate cake with chocolate frosting! It’s not pretty, but keep in mind, this is “camping.”

Some might be skeptical of a cake mix in a plastic container that only requires water to be added. I know we were. But, baking them in an orange peel adds moisture and seals it in. If you don’t like orange flavor, than these cakes aren’t for you, but we all loved the flavor it added to the cake. The leftover cake batter made great pancakes the next morning too!

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(Having fun in Williamsport, PA! From left to right: Crusader Elisa, Crusader Jenn, Guest Crusader Beth Lacey with Leah, Guest Crusader Alli with her daughter Freya, Crusader Stacy, and Amy – who needs to be a guest crusader!)

There were more than enough sweets for the weekend and the bar was set high this year, but I’m sure we’ll manage next year. Now that there are two little girls who join us (my “little” Leah and my friend’s girl Freya, who is only 4-5 days older than Leah), I can’t help but think of the memories they’ll have from our fall trips, sitting around a campfire (or wood stove) making treats, laughing, and having fun with some of the best ladies in my life.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

A Baking Adventure: Carrot Cake Cupcakes with a Brown Sugar, Caramel, and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I feel as though I should preface this post by letting you all know that this cupcake recipe has the potential to be AMAZING, however my final product? Eh. But, I do know ways it could have been better, which I’ll share with you.

I started with a carrot cake box mix. I know, I know. That was my first mistake. Carrot cake in a box…maybe the worst boxed option ever, after red velvet (see our thoughts in a previous review).  Had I used a real recipe for carrot cake or modified the box mix (because you all know how much I love a good carrot cake with walnuts and fresh carrot) then that would have made about 80% of the difference in the quality of these cupcakes.

Next, the frosting…I used a canned frosting. I’m sure you’ve realized by now that this concoction was all about using up pantry items and putting something together on a whim. The modifications I made to the frosting helped with the “canned” flavor, however had I started with a homemade cream cheese frosting it would have been so much better. I added in caramel syrup, cinnamon, and brown sugar, all just to taste. The cinnamon and caramel were a huge win. The flavor of the brown sugar was good, but I expected it to soften and dissolve. It didn’t, which left a grainy texture.

One good thing that came out of this experiment was a recipe for baked peaches. I found an easy recipe on The Kitchen is My Playground. The peaches turned out amazing and were a perfect complement to the sub-par cupcakes. The next time I attempt brown sugar in a frosting, I’ll have to do my research first. If you have a tried and true recipe, please share it with us!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Passionately Pink Bake Sale Success!


(Crusader Stacy and myself at our bake sale table. Look at all that pink!)

For Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Cupcake Crusaders wanted to do something to help the cause. You may have noticed that we decided to “Go Pink” on our Facebook and Twitter pages, but that’s not all we wanted to do. On October 28th, we held a bake sale at Horizon Church in Reisterstown, MD, to raise money for Susan G. Komen’s Passionately Pink, which encourages fun ways to get the community involved.


(Full view of our table with all our baked goodies.)

After our last bake sale to raise money for No Kid Hungry, there was a lot of excitement to have the Crusaders back, which made us feel really good. There was a nice variety of treats, including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and Rice Krispie treats.


(Some of our bake sale items included: brownies – some with M&Ms, pecans, and peanut butter chips; mini chocolate cupcakes with pink vanilla buttercream frosting; and pumpkin spice cookies with white chocolate chips.)

Jackie from La Casa de Sweets was kind enough to donate 2 dozen chewy chocolate chip cookies, and they were some of the best cookies I’ve ever had! Our mom also made 4 dozen brownies!


(Cookies from La Casa de Sweets, which sold out!)

Crusader Stacy made her (now famous) Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes, and dressed them up with pink wrappers and sugar crystals for the occasion.


(Crusader Stacy’s Chocolate Raspberry cupcakes.)

I tested out a new recipe, Sprinkle’s Strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream, which we’ll be posting a full review of soon.


(My Strawberry cupcakes with naturally pink cake and frosting.)

The bake sale was a huge success and we nearly sold out of everything. We raised much more then we anticipated: $132 in sales and $65 in donations, for a total of $197.00! We would like to give a big thanks to our Horizon friends and family who were so generous in their support. In total, we raised $254 dollars thanks to donations to our Passionately Pink page! If you’d like to help out, it’s still not too late to donate. Check out our Passionately Pink fundraising page…every little bit helps.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

CLICK HERE TO DONATE!

A Baking Adventure: Savory Chicken Pot Pie Cupcakes

There’s a lot of controversy in the cupcake world surrounding savory cupcakes. Some try to balance a savory-sweet combination, while others really are just dinner in a fun cupcake format. You may even remember Starry Night’s Corn Beef and Cabbage cupcake that we tried. We Crusaders appreciate all cupcakes, and different takes on savory versions are no different.

Recently for dinner I wanted to make something new that my almost-toddler would also enjoy. I scanned my Pinterest page for options and was reminded of Chicken Pot Pie cupcakes. The recipe I used was Quick Dish’s modified version of Between 3 Sisters’ recipe (and then further modified by yours truly).

The recipe calls for packaged biscuits, but (in the absence of those) I decided to make Bisquick biscuits. The dough may have been a little more difficult to work with, but it still wasn’t too bad. I used a spoon to push the dough down into the cupcake pan and created a bowl shape.


(Center of the Chicken Pot Pie. I didn’t even need the fork in the end, because the biscuit held the filling in perfectly.)

The recipe on Quick Dish also called for Herbs De Provence. Not being a seasoned cook, I had no idea what that was. Luckily I know how to use Google well and found out that I had most of the spices that make up Herbs De Provence in my pantry. Following the instructions, I whipped up the chicken filling and baked according to Bisquick’s recommended time. Out popped these perfect little pot pies, which were a huge hit. Many of you may know how hard it can be to feed a toddler, but Leah devoured hers!

I’ve gotten some great meal ideas from Pinterest, and this is one that I plan on adding into our regular rotation of meals. What do you think about savory cupcakes? Have you ever made a cupcake meal? If so, do you think savory can still count as a cupcake?

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Halloween Oreo Cupcakes

Ghosts. Witches. Orange. Black. Pumpkins. Hayrides. Candy Corn. Costumes. What’s not to love about Halloween? I’m really a sucker for any holiday, but one based around eating all the candy you want is certainly high on my list of favorites.

My first glimpse of spookified treats had me practicing as much self control as possible, but when I spotted Oreos with an orange colored cream, I just couldn’t resist. I have a soft spot for anything cookies and cream flavored, so already had a box of Oreo Jello Pudding and Oreo Original Créme Ultimate Icing sitting in my pantry, just waiting to be used in a creative way.

Using my always reliable chocolate cake mix modification (1 box of chocolate instant jello pudding + chocolate chips) and my recently learned pre-made chocolate frosting modifications, these cupcakes were super simple.

I did change it up a little bit this time, but only because I had a huge block of Scharffen Berger unsweetened dark chocolate, which I decided to use instead of mini chocolate chips. Next time I’ll have to include more chocolate because, in my opinion, it just wasn’t rich enough.

I also was able to use my new Cake Plunger, instead of a grapefruit knife, to create the indent for the filling. It worked really well, was so easy, and saved a lot of time. It takes out more cake than I normally would have for a filling, so I will probably only use it sometimes, depending on what I’m putting inside a cupcake.

Even with Halloween just a couple days away, these cupcakes are so simple to make that you can easily grab what you need and whip up a quick batch in no time. Or, just switch out the Halloween Oreos with regular ones and make them for any occasion!

Here’s what you’ll need:

Cake
– 1 box of your favorite chocolate cake mix
– Ingredients on back of chocolate cake mix box
– 1 box of chocolate Jello Instant Pudding mix
– Mini chocolate chips or shaved chocolate to desired amount

Filling
– 1 box of Oreo Jello Instant Pudding Mix
– Ingredients of back of Instant Pudding Mix
(Yep, that’s all)

Chocolate Frosting
– 1 can of pre-made dark chocolate frosting
– 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Scharffen Berger unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder)
– 1 cup of confectioners sugar

Oreo Frosting
– 1 package of Oreo Original Créme Ultimate Icing (You could also make your favorite buttercream recipe and add in munched up Oreo cookie bits… I think that would taste just as good)

Garnish
– 12 Oreos
– Sprinkles of your choosing

For the cake, all you have to do is add the box of Instant Jello Pudding and chocolate chips to the dry cake mix, and then include the ingredients from the back of the box and bake according to the direction listed there. It is really that easy. Then, while the cupcakes are baking, prepare the Jello Pudding according to the directions and place in the refrigerator to set up. While the cupcakes are cooling and the pudding is setting up, take the can of pre-made frosting and blend in the cocoa powder and powdered sugar. This will give it a more homemade taste, and allow you to pipe the frosting on. After the cupcakes and pudding are cooled and ready, it’s time to assemble! First, scoop out a bit of the cake center, fill with pudding, pipe on the chocolate frosting, add the sprinkles, pipe on the Oreo frosting, and top with half of an Oreo cookie. Done!

See, wasn’t that easy? This is a perfect quick treat that will surely impress everyone.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

A Baking Adventure: Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles

The title is a little deceiving, since I didn’t actually have to bake anything for this recipe… But it did use baked goods, and it was definitely a kitchen adventure!

I had some frozen chocolate cake that I’d been wanting to use for cake balls, so as autumn hit the air and I was sitting at home one day wishing I had a seasonal treat, I came up with this recipe for Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cake Truffles:

Ingredients:
– Baked chocolate cake
– Canned pumpkin
– Pumpkin Pie Spice
– Cream cheese frosting (I used canned)
– Chocolate of choice (I used semi-sweet chips)
– Crushed walnuts (Optional)

I just happened to have all this laying around, so my on-a-whim experiment commenced. I crumbled up the cake in a large mixing bowl, added in a dollop of canned pumpkin and a dollop of frosting, and then sprinkled in some pumpkin pie spice to taste. I found the best way to mix it was with my hands, so get in there and get messy. The key to cake balls is the texture. I failed, hence the title “truffle” instead of “cake ball.” I added in a bit too much wet ingredients so they were a little too moist for a cake ball.

Once everything was mixed up well, I rolled the cake balls and set them aside in the refrigerator. A couple of hours later I returned, with my chocolate melted and ready to dip the truffles. I read that it’s best to freeze these for about 15-20 minutes before dipping in chocolate; however, thinking that they’d been in the fridge for so long anyway, I didn’t do that. Listen to the cake ball experts people! Freeze them first. It helps keep the cake together when you dip, making less of a mess.

The chocolate came out thicker than I wanted and not as “pretty.” I’m not sure if this is an experience thing or because of the chocolate I used. I tried a couple of different techniques, including one recommendation to break off the center prongs of a plastic fork, just leaving the outer prongs to create a tool that helps excess chocolate drip off. Thick chocolate aside, I topped my truffles two different ways: crushed walnuts and pumpkin pie spice. Another tip I learned: when you are sprinkling chocolate with spice, wait until after the chocolate has hardened. Otherwise, it just melts and you can’t see it.

All in all, I’m happy with how these turned out. The taste was great, but the texture was a little weird when eaten at room temperature. Since I was worried about the pumpkin filling, I kept them refrigerated anyways, so it wasn’t much of a problem. In retrospect, I probably could have eliminated the canned pumpkin and just relied on the pumpkin pie spice for the flavor I was looking for. As with most of my adventures, I learned a lot and can see myself making cake balls/truffles again!

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)

Healthy Cupcakes: Pumpkin Cider

Continuing with her healthy crusade, Rebecca has another recipe for cupcakes with fewer calories and less guilt then their original recipe.

I love pumpkin everything in the Fall! This season, I was thrilled to try the new Pumpkin Hard Cider from Woodchuck. (Also try Harpoon Pumpkin Cider!) This 6.9% cider is not too sweet, nicely spiced, and has turned into one of my favorites of the season. I could go on about Pumpkin Cider/Beer for paragraphs on end, so I will cut to the baking.

I wanted to try and bake with the cider, so I decided to try mixing it into my basic “healthy” cupcake recipe. The recipe is simple: 1 box spice cake, 1 can pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling), and 1 bottle Woodchuck Pumpkin Hard Cider. I used Guinness in a recipe like this around St. Patty’s day, so I was hopeful for success!

The batter smelled delicious, with notes of apple and spice, and distributed evenly into 24 cupcake wrappers. As those were baking, I got to work on the cinnamon spice cream cheese frosting.

I also made this portion of the recipe “semi-homemade” and mixed an 8oz tub of light whipped cream cheese with 1/2 tub of whipped cream cheese frosting. Since tub frosting tends to be extremely sweet, I wanted to cut it with a rich creamy flavor. After I whipped those together in the mixer, I added a TON of pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. The texture was thick, rich, and full of spice.

The finished product tasted of pumpkin, apple, and cinnamon; I also added a sugar-free caramel drizzle to finish 1/2 the batch. They come in at 5 WW points, for those of you tracking. Give this easy recipe a try if you want to indulge in the season, without all the indulgence of extra fat and calories!

– Recipe by our Healthy Guest Crusader, Rebecca (Baltimore, MD)

Fun-a-licious Nerds Cupcakes!

When I saw a recipe (and amazing photos) of  Nerds cupcakes from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen, I knew I had to make them. Fast forward to a year or so later, and I FINALLY got around to it. I knew they would be a huge hit at one of the cupcake picnics and was hoping they would be different than anything anyone else brought. Also, who wouldn’t love this super sweet and tart cupcake with its vibrant colors and crunchy bits? No one. That’s who. At least that’s what I was hoping for.

I pretty much followed the recipe step by step, but I was worried that 4 sticks of butter and 7 cups of confectioners’ sugar would produce WAY too much frosting, so I reduced it to about 3 sticks of butter and 5 to 6 cups of confectioners’ sugar (I just added the sugar in until I was happy with the consistency and sweetness, so unfortunately can’t provide an exact measurement).


(These are the best ingredients I’ve ever worked with.)

Not only are these cupcakes super awesome, but they were so easy to make. Since you start with a box mix and just add the Nerds candy to the batter, it is a completely no fuss recipe. I was worried that piping three different flavors of frosting on top would be difficult, but I lined all the cooled cupcakes up and piped one color at at a time.

I don’t think my frosting looks as nice as Confessions of a Cookbook Queen’s, but it sure did taste amazing! The Kool Aid that you add to the buttercream takes on a Pixie Stick like flavor, which takes these candy themed cupcakes to the ultimate yummy level.

I have a ton of recipes on my “must bake” list, but I hope one day to have another reason to make these, because they were unique, fun, and very tasty.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

A Baking Adventure: Mini Salted Chocolate Caramel FUN da-Middles Cupcakes

I don’t know if I’ve told you all this before, but I’m an avid coupon clipper. Crusader Stacy is responsible for getting me started after she subscribed to the weekend newspaper a couple of years ago. Now I’m a subscriber myself and enjoy sitting down on the weekends to browse through the circulars. It’s always an exciting clipping day when I come across baking coupons. I found myself on a trip to the grocery store with two, one for Betty Crocker FUN da-Middles and another for Duncan Hines Frosting Creations.

Since the Baltimore Cupcake Picnic was fast approaching, I decided I would put these two things together in mini cupcake form (please don’t think less of me for mixing brands).

Betty Crocker FUN da-Middles have a chocolate (or vanilla) center that you bake in the cupcake, which saves you time later having to fill them. It still amazes me how the chocolate center stays smooth and creamy. I may have overstuffed my mini cupcakes, but the frosting hid most of the bursts.

I decided to pair the vanilla-chocolate FUN da-Middles with Duncan Hines Caramel Frosting Creations. You can never go wrong with chocolate and caramel, right? I had to add confectioners’ sugar to the frosting because it was too runny to pipe.

I lined all my minis up to frost and add caramel and chocolate ganache drizzles.

I made my own chocolate ganache and used Smucker’s Caramel Sundae Syrup. I put each into a small bag and cut a tiny opening for more control over the drizzle.

Just to take the flavor to the next level, I sprinkled half of the cupcakes with course sea salt. The Crusaders all agreed that the salted cupcakes were our favorite of the two. The difference was mild, but it really rounded out the sweetness and gave it that little something extra to make the cupcakes special.

My overall thought on working with Betty Crocker FUN da-Middles is that they are pretty neat. My grocery store is no longer carrying the product line and it seems like a few other places I shop at occasionally don’t have them either. I guess it hasn’t been a popular item, but I’ve seen recipes I would like to try where I could modify the filling flavor, so I’ll have to be on the lookout for more. If you’ve tried FUN da-Middles before, let us know what you thought and if you changed up the mix.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader, Jenn (Westminster, MD)