Warming Up This Winter with Hot Beverage Cupcakes

As a graphic designer, you would hope that I would be impervious to products marketed specifically for the winter season. I know the tactics used to get shoppers to buy these products, so theoretically, this should keep me from purchasing them. Well cupcake lovers, this is not the case. I too fall subject to the snowflakes, fun type, and bold colorful photos. Exhibit A:

BeverageCupcakes2

When I saw this Betty Crocker Hot Chocolate cupcake mix, I almost danced in the grocery aisle. I can’t help myself. Sure, I know that it’s really just a normal chocolate cake mix with some mini marshmallows tossed in and a sub-par frosting mixture added to the box, but while my head says “don’t succumb to the festive graphics,” everything else inside of me screams, “BUY IT!”

So that is exactly what I did.

It turned out to be a good thing that I purchased this box mix because I signed up to make 3 dozen cupcakes for a charity event and knew the kids would love these. To go along with the “hot beverage theme” I also decided to make two dozen Coffee and Doughnuts cupcakes, which have been on my list for quite some time.

BeverageCupcakes1
(Coffee and Doughnuts and Hot Chocolate cupcakes ready to be eaten.)

Aren’t they pretty? I wish they all had turned out this well…

I decided not to modify the Hot Chocolate cupcake mix in order to provide you all with a review of exactly what I thought of Betty Crocker’s winter product. The directions say to beat the frosting while it cooks on the stove and that it will fluff up in the process. Unfortunately, I have no electrical outlet near my stove, so this proved to be a challenge—which I lost. The frosting ended up super runny and there didn’t appear to be enough for twelve cupcakes, so I added confectioners sugar until the consistency thickened and there looked to be enough for the dozen cupcakes I had cooling. This, however, made the frosting lose its marshmallow-like flavor and instead, just taste like sugar. Despite this, it went on the cupcake nicely and I figured the kids probably wouldn’t mind the sugary flavor.

BeverageCupcakes3
(I only have a few of these fancy teacup cupcake cups, so the majority of the cupcakes were baked in Christmas paper liners.)

I was really happy with the end result and added little marshmallows and a cookie roll to the top for the finishing touches. Sadly, when I woke the next day, the cupcakes looked like this:

BeverageCupcakes4

The frosting on about half of them had oozed and melted off the cupcakes, while the other half remained in place. I have no idea what happened. The cupcakes had completely cooled and (ignoring my usual “no fridge rule”) I left them in the fridge overnight, just to make sure the house didn’t get too warm with all the baking I was doing. In the end, I decided that these could not be taken to the event so only delivered six of these and two dozen of the coffee and doughnuts cupcakes, instead of the three dozen I initially promised.

The Coffee and Doughnuts cupcakes actually ended up being much easier to make than the Betty Crocker Hot Chocolate cupcakes. I used my typical chocolate cake modification for box mix (one box of instant chocolate pudding and mini chocolate chips). For the frosting, I made a simple buttercream recipe (3 sticks of butter and about 5 cups of confectioners sugar to taste) and then mixed one to two tablespoons of cream with about a tablespoon of instant decaf coffee and added it to the frosting. I just did everything to taste, so if you like a sweeter frosting you can use more sugar and if you prefer a more buttery frosting, just use less sugar. It’s really as easy as that.

BeverageCupcakes5

To make these cupcakes even easier, I bought pre-made doughnut holes and placed them on top before delivering them to the party. These cupcakes were a huge hit, and I have to admit, the coffee buttercream was some of the best frosting I’ve ever made.

Since there was some frosting leftover, I decided to freeze it to make cakepops at a later time. I also had some frozen chocolate cake leftover from removing the center of cupcakes for fillings, so all I had to do was thaw the cake pieces and frosting, mix those together, roll into balls, and freeze. For the chocolate coating, I didn’t want it to be too thick, so I turned to one of my favorite blogs, Love from the Oven. From there, I navigated my way to Simply Designing, which recommended to add a bit of vegetable oil to the chocolate while melting it.

BeverageCupcakes6

The cakepops dipped well into the melted chocolate and, as I had hoped, there was only a thin layer of coating. I was worried that some of my family wouldn’t like them because of the coffee flavor (they aren’t all addicted coffee drinkers like my sisters and I), but the chocolate ended up overpowering the coffee, so everyone loved them. Next time I will add some instant coffee granules to the cake/frosting mixture to bump that flavor up more, but for this occasion, I think it was perfect and that the coffee undertones actually helped to enhance the chocolate flavor.

Even though not all of these hot beverage cupcakes turned out as I had hoped, I still have many “beverage themed” cupcakes I would like to explore, like tea-infused and Dr. Pepper cupcakes. My advice, however, is this: skip Betty Crocker’s Hot Chocolate cupcake mix, and make your own version of a Hot Chocolate cupcake instead. You’ll thank me later.

– Posted by Cupcake Crusader Stacy (Baltimore, MD)

Advertisements

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!

CampfireCakes_Girls
(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: 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)