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)

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)

Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Peach Cobbler

The Baltimore Cupcake Picnic was quickly approaching and I was all out of ideas for what kind of cupcake to bake. Thank goodness Stacy posted this peach cobbler photo to our Facebook page, because later that evening she suggested I bake them. On a side note: I love peaches and often pick them at Larriland Farm in the summer, so this was the perfect “filled” cupcake for me to try baking.

Of course I followed the recipe carefully (my golden rule of baking), but in the future there’s a couple of changes I would make:

• Chop the peaches smaller – I found that they were chopped a bit too big and made it harder to push into the batter. Next time I’ll make sure they are no larger than the very tip of my pinky, because that size seemed to work best.

• Add more cinnamon to the icing – There’s never enough cinnamon for my taste, and when I made the icing it seemed to lack flavor, so I very carefully added more and more until it tasted right. Overall I doubled the amount of cinnamon the recipe called for and beat the icing for 15 minutes so it would loose that gritty sugar taste and texture.

Though the picnic was canceled, my peach cobbler cupcakes were a huge hit with everyone that gathered at Stacy’s house. Mr. Ross, Jenn and Stacy’s dad and fellow cupcake lover, said it was his favorite cupcake of the day, and maybe ever! What a grand compliment for a humble, at-home-recipe-following-baker! My mom – who also loves peaches – really liked it too; she was also my icing tester, so that’s why the icing turned out so well. Thanks so much for your help mom. Crusader Stacy said it was the best cupcake of all my baking experiments – and I owe it to her for suggesting the recipe.

Overall this recipe was very easy to follow, easy to make, and tasted great! It is a cupcake I look forward to making again. Maybe next time, with a little more planning, I can make them with peaches I picked myself.

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

A Baking Adventure: Princess Cupcakes for Our Princess Niece

I’m not exaggerating when I say that Lylah, my 3-year-old niece, talked about her birthday party for 3 months. It started when her little sister, Lily, turned 1. “It’s my party? Those are my presents?” she would ask. Then when Leah turned a year old, we got the same questions, only to answer, “No Lylah, those are Leah’s. But your party is next!” As soon as items were purchased for her party, I was greeted with, “Auntie Jenny! Look at my princess party!” For the next few weeks, she talked about her princess party, which would have (of course) princess cupcakes.

We had all the fixings for a perfect 3-year-old princess party: My sister purchased a Wilton kit that had a Disney Princess cupcake stand, cupcake liners, and picks, and also bought the Disney princess frosting transfers. Crusader Stacy purchased purple metallic liners, which would be a complementing color, and I provided extra pink sugar crystals. Stacy came up with a plan of action for the frosting transfers, which included rolled fondant. After Leah’s party I’m now the fondant “expert” in the group, so I volunteered to help with the cupcakes.

I baked and frosted the funfetti and chocolate cupcakes the day before the party. We used Duncan Hines Strawberry Shortcake Flavor Creations for the pink frosting, which I had to add confectioner’s sugar to in order to pipe.

I did my best to pipe a flat swirl on the cupcakes that would be getting fondant circles placed on top.

I was really nervous about the transfers. I didn’t want to mess them up, because we didn’t have any extras, so I practiced with one a few days early and it worked great. The ink on the transfer didn’t get funky after a couple of days, so I was able to calm down a bit about preparing the cupcake decorations in advance.

The night before the party I prepped the fondant-transfer decorations, to place on the cupcakes the morning of the party. I rolled out the fondant, like I did for Leah’s birthday cupcakes, this time using the larger cutter to fit the whole top of the cupcakes. Then, following advice I found from Google searches, I used a damp cloth (AKA: a wet paper towel) to moisten the top of the fondant. The instructions for removing the transfer from the sheet worked perfectly and they peeled off easily.

I was really proud of trying something new again and it turning out well. The fondant with the transfers stayed perfect through the night (stored in an air-tight container), so the next morning I was able to finish up the decorating.

We rolled the edges of the frosting in sugar crystals, just to give it a finished look. Plus, a princess party needs a little extra bling!

I figured we would have enough time to sprinkle sugar on the pink frosted cupcakes when I got to the party location. Well, I’m glad I waited because as soon as I got in the car, on the way to the party, I noticed that the pink frosting had slide right off the tops of the cupcakes. It was a disaster. I’ve decided that moisture is a big issue with the Duncan Hines frosting and they are better off being left out to “set-up” (which is a problem when you want moist cake). Luckily I was going to be early anyway, so Stacy and I went into cupcake-rescue mode. We scrapped frosting and reapplied it to the cupcakes, sprinkled, and double-lined the wrappers, to hide some of the mess. The results? Not too bad.

Although it’s not exactly what I had envisioned, no one noticed. We did have a few pink survivors, which stayed at the forefront of the display.

The cupcakes with the fondant and transfers still stole the show and the birthday girl was giddy with delight over her princess cupcakes.

There was one casualty of this experience: my batter dispenser. A fallen hero, really. Cupcake baking hasn’t been the same without it, but it put up a good fight. So long, kitchen accessory. You shall be missed (until I’m able to get a new one)…

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

Guest Post | Red, White, and Blueberry

While I was making Rice Krispy Treats topped with a red, white, and blue frosting for this past 4th of July, Guest Crusader Kim was also experimenting with her own red, white, and blue cupcakes. She shared her adventure with us and we hope it inspires you to create something festive for Labor Day. Enjoy!

For the 4th of July my husband’s family invited us to a cookout and asked if we could bring a dish. I promptly replied that I could bring (what else?) cupcakes.

I decided to visit Pinterest, as everyone was pinning cute red, white, and blue dessert ideas for the upcoming holiday. I did not find any one specific recipe that I wanted to try, but rather was inspired to create my own.

After checking what flavor cake batters I had, I settled on a Duncan Hines French Vanilla. Then decided to make a homemade (read: no measuring) raspberry buttercream, and a blueberry compote filling. I found simple instructions for the compote on NaturallyElla.com.

While the cakes were baking, I made the compote using frozen blueberries. Then I made the icing with butter, powered sugar, vanilla extract, pureed (in my brand new food processor) frozen raspberries, and milk. Using the raspberries meant no need for food coloring or fake flavoring.

Once the cakes cooled, the compote set, and the icing finished, I assembled. I topped each cupcake with a fresh blueberry and some white candy pearls. They were quite a hit at the cook-out, and pretty good if I do say so myself!

– Review by Guest Crusader, Kim (Maryland)

For more ideas on fun Red, White, and Blue themed sweet treats, visit our Pinterest board.

Quick, Easy, and Seriously Delicious: Chocolate Rasberry Chambord Cupcakes

A couple weeks ago I was tasked with baking cupcakes at home, with only a few days notice, for the Baltimore Eats Food Bloggers’ Happy Hour. Initially I thought I would buy cupcakes and bring them, but after discovering that Tiffany, from Baltimore Eats, was going to make her cupcakes I thought, “I can do that too!” (and save some money in the process…).

With only a few days until the event I decided I was going to use what I had on hand instead of making an unnecessary trip to the grocery store. The only cake mix I had was something I picked up on a whim at a dollar store a month or so ago.

I had never seen Mrs. Fields cake mix, so I was instantly intrigued and figured I’d use it eventually, and I was right. I also had a handy can of pre-made chocolate frosting that I had picked up during a sale at the grocery store at some point. Normally after finding those two items one would think I was all set to go, but I’m a Cupcake Crusader, I can’t bring cupcakes that are from a box and tub to a happy hour that would be filled with food bloggers! So, I continued looking for inspiration and came across some Dove Dark Chocolate Raspberry candies and a recent gift of Raspberry Chambord Jam from my friend and Guest Crusader, Beth Lacey (AKA: Jam Making Goddess for Sweetness Follows and all around awesome person).

I knew that the jam would blow everyone away and really take these simple cupcakes to the next level, but I wasn’t quite convinced that the canned pre-made frosting was going to go over quite as well. I also knew it would not hold up to being piped out on top of the cupcakes, so I turned to Google to help me modify that and make it better. Luckily I came across this article from Bukisa.com. It said to make canned frosting taste a little more homemade, and to make it stretch even further, just add some powdered sugar to it. For the chocolate frosting it also mentioned adding in some cocoa powder if you wanted to keep it tasting rich and dark. After reading this, I got super excited becuase I realized I had the perfect thing waiting to be used:

After our bake sale for No Kid Hungry, I received a huge package of goodies from Scharffen Berger which Jackie from La Casa de Sweets had set up as a thank you gift for the teammate that raise the most money (other than herself). Now I finally had a reason to use it.

Armed with new knowledge, fancy cocoa powder, sublime jam, left over candies, dollar store box mix, and on sale frosting, I was all set.

As always, I added a box of instant pudding to my cake mix and threw in a bunch of semi sweet chocolate chips for extra measure, then baked the cupcakes as directed. I followed the instructions from Bukisa.com for the frosting and was really happy with the results. Once the cupcakes cooled, I carved out the center with a grapefruit knife (after I did this my husband gave me my new cake plunger gadget which I still haven’t used) and then filled the cupcakes with Beth’s amazing Raspberry Chambord Jam. After adding a swirl of chocolate frosting in my favorite rose-like fashion, I topped each cupcake with half of a Dove Dark Chocolate candy. I may or may not have eaten some of the candies sans cupcakes too…


(I think I should make this my life’s motto…)

The final results? Dark, rich, tart delightfulness. These cupcakes that were thought up in a pinch might be some of the best cupcakes EVER (well, at least the best cupcakes I’ve ever made). Of course I have to give all the credit to Ms. Beth Lacey because her jam really paired perfectly with the luscious chocolate. It’s amazing what you can create with ingredients you have sitting on the shelves.

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

Blueberry Lemon Cupcakes: A Baking and Decorating Adventure

Words can’t describe how infatuated I’ve been with this flavor combination this summer. Since large cartons of blueberries have been on sale at the grocery store, I found myself with a freezer full of them needing to be turned into something delicious. What could be better than a lemon blueberry cupcake, with blueberry filling and lemon frosting? Nothing. That’s what.

In my typical half box/half homemade fashion I searched for a recipe that would be easy but tasty. I settled on a modified box mix recipe on Better Crocker‘s website for the cake and frosting, and a filling recipe from Mother Thyme‘s blog.

The box mix recipe intrigued me because it called for the addition of cream cheese in the batter, which isn’t something I’ve done yet. This made the cake really moist and a little more dense which worked well with the addition of the fresh blueberries.

Putting a filling inside of a cupcake was a first for me, so I proceeded with Crusader Jenn’s and Crusader Elisa’s method of using a grapefruit knife to cut out the un-needed cake, which ended up working really well. Recently, my sweet husband gave me a new baking gadget specifically for filling cupcakes, called a cake plunger. I’m really curious to see how it works and if it saves on time and/or gives just as good (or better) results than the grapefruit knife.

When it came time to add the blueberry filling to the cupcakes, I decided that the scrumptious mixture needed to be a bit smoother than the recipe produced, so I pureed it to get the texture I was looking for. After pureeing it, the filling was perfect.

Unlike Jenn and Elisa’s technique of using a small spoon to add the filling to the cupcakes, I decided to use a piping bag. The spoon seemed like it would be way too time consuming and messy, and I’ve seen bakers all over the internet use a piping bag, so I decided that was the way to go.

I’m so glad I decided to go that route. The cupcakes were filled in no time, and it was a totally mess-free and fuss-free process.

For the lemon frosting, I added cream cheese to the recipe I found on Betty Crocker’s website. The cream cheese helped to cut the tartness of the lemon and add another dimension that complemented both the lemon and blueberry flavors well.

After the cupcakes were baked and frosted, I split the batch of 24 in half and decorated some with just a simple single blueberry and the other half with a fun beach theme inspired by Party Pinching‘s Pez Flip Flops. I knew that I would be using the beachy ones for the Westminster Cupcake Picnic and wanted them to be extra awesome.

Simple decor:

Super fabulous (or at least pretty cool…) summer beach decoration:

For these cupcakes I started by dipping the frosted cupcake in blue sugar crystals to act as the water. The flips flops were as easy as adhering flower shaped sprinkles to a Pez candy with melted white chocolate. Then, for the beach balls, I used large candy buttons which I had randomly purchased a couple weeks prior at my local dollar store and applied white chocolate and red candy melts to create the alternating colors.

Unfortunately the cream cheese frosting was having a little bit of trouble holding up in the warm weather, so some items shifted around a little bit, but overall I achieved the look I was going for and everyone at the picnic seemed to enjoy both the decorations and the flavor. I would definitely say these were a big hit!

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