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)


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)

Review for Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe Cupcakes: Raising the Bar for Store Bought Cupcakes

Well, I did it again. I bought cupcakes from Walmart. As I was browsing the aisles, I walked past and said, “I haven’t seen those before!” Typically my local store only has the mini cupcakes we reviewed for you before. The minis were decent enough, but these new ones are full-size (actually maybe even a little larger than the average cupcake) and look good. My husband had just commented the night before that he wished we had some cupcakes, so when I saw these I had to get some (I choose the Lemon Ice). It’s a great price, at $3.98 for four.

The new cupcakes are under a different label than the minis. I did some research on Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe and it seems like only Walmart carries them. There are four flavors, three of which we’ve tried (if I see the Red Velvet, I’ll have to pick that one up for Crusader Elisa). All of the cupcakes have light moist cake, smooth frosting, and a complementing filling and really are surprisingly tasty.

(Lemon Ice: Lemon cake filled with lemon crème and topped with lemon frosting and lemon crumbs. This cupcake is tangy and not too sweet.)

After tasting the Lemon Ice at home, I bought that plus the Triple Chocolate and Vanilla Bean for the Westminster Cupcake Picnic. I decided to take them out of the store packaging and perform a taste test before divulging where they came from.

(Triple Chocolate cupcakes: Chocolate cake filled with chocolate fudge and topped with chocolate frosting and Belgian chocolate pieces. Very rich and chocolaty!)

Everyone confirmed my thoughts and they were shocked by the price and where the cupcakes came from. There were even volunteers to take some home, so I didn’t have any leftover!

(Vanilla Bean: Vanilla cake with a sweet vanilla cream filling and topped with a Madagascar vanilla bean frosting. Great vanilla bean flavor!)

So if you are in your local Walmart, take a detour to the baked goods aisle and check out the Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe cupcakes. We are curious to see if others are also pleasingly surprised with these store-bought cupcakes.

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

UPDATE: We edited the title of this entry after hearing about all the other locations, besides Walmart, that readers have been finding Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe cupcakes. We still have not found a website that lists the locations where these can be purchased, but see the comments below for some locations and please let us know if you found them somewhere not listed. Thank you!

***We are not affiliated with Kimberley’s Bakeshoppe. They are a product of the Give and Go Foods Corporation. For more information on the Give and Go Foods Corporation, please visit their website here.***

Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Grapefruit & Honey Cupcakes

After last month’s successful Strawberry Basil Cupcake, I was very nervous about finding an interesting recipe to try baking for our Westminster Cupcake Picnic.

After asking Jenn and Stacy what to bake, sending them recipe ideas, and scouring the internet for a couple of days, I stumbled upon this Grapefruit and Honey Cupcake recipe. Not only did this recipe sound amazing, it also gave me the opportunity to make curd for the filling, with my usual buttercream frosting. After making lemon and lime curd from this trusty recipe for previous fillings, I felt confident in my ability to make grapefruit curd – little did I know just how much you can screw up curd. But back to step one: the cake.

I followed the cake recipe, which included oil (a first for my baking experiments), and by the end of whisking my arm was exhausted but the batter smelled amazing. I put the pans in the oven and set the timer.

Oh the curd… I swear I followed the recipe and everything was going well, but when cooking it on the stove, it just didn’t thicken the way the lemon and lime curd had. There wasn’t too much heat or extra ingredients, and it didn’t curdle, it just didn’t smooth out. After letting it cool, it tasted fine but had an odd, grainy texture. Since it tasted fine, I decided that perhaps the cake and frosting would mask the weird texture of the filling. Just in case it didn’t, I filled half of the cupcakes with honey instead of the curd.

I then made the buttercream frosting, but substituted the vanilla extract for honey so that there would be a hint of honey in the frosting as well. Using a piping tip, I frosted the cupcakes. Jenn and Stacy are amazing decorators, I mean, have you seen Jenn’s hummingbird cupcake decorations or Stacy’s beach decorations?! It’s something I would like to get better at, but maybe I will save that challenge for next year.

Packed in air-tight tupperware, I was ready to present my cupcakes to the picnic crew. I tried one of each grapefruit cupcake, curd filled and honey filled, and my cupcake friends did too. Everyone’s reactions were very positive, and even Joel the “Cupcake King” liked them! While both cupcakes had grapefruit flavor, the honey filled cupcake really packed a honey punch. It was my favorite of the two. The cake was really moist and baked up beautifully, the fillings turned out to be fine, and the frosting was smooth and sweet.

The curd might not have turned out exactly as I wanted, but over all this baking experiment was a success, and is something I would make again.

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

Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Margarita Cupcakes

Happy almost Cinco de Mayo! In honor of tomorrow’s holiday, I decided to take on the challenge of making a margarita cupcake for my next “from scratch” baking experiment.

After running the idea by the other Crusaders, they loved it and really helped plan out the cupcake, including a lime curd filling, tequila cake, and a salted buttercream frosting. Finding recipes for these pieces to the puzzle was not easy, in fact I took recipes and changed them to suit my needs – which is very scary and breaks my first rule of baking: follow the recipe.

For example the cake recipe is actually for Grand Marnier cupcakes – I just figured I could substitute the GM with tequila and leave out the orange zest. Then came the frosting. I settled on a vanilla buttercream, all the while knowing I would not be adding vanilla, but tequila and lime juice in its place. The lime curd was the only thing I knew I wouldn’t need to look up as I had much success with this lemon curd recipe and knew substituting lime for lemon wouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Once I had all the ingredients I was ready to start! This time around making the curd was first on the list, as it needs time to cool before it can be used as filling. Just as last time, there was a moment of panic when the mixture hit the stove and created an odd consistency – luckily I knew to just keep stirring. Presto, the lime curd was complete and tasted great!

Then came the cake… While I did follow the recipe, I changed the Grand Marnier to tequila… both being clear, but brown alcoholic liquids, I didn’t think it would make a difference. While the recipe was very easy to follow I didn’t realize that the recipe was for 24 cupcakes, luckily my friend Sami at work recently gave me a cupcake pan/case, so I could cook all 24 at the same time! Following the recipe I cooked them for exactly 18 minutes and then set them to cool. I’ll admit, right off the bat they seemed to have large bubble holes in them, unlike most cakes I have made, but I trekked on…

The frosting was a very standard recipe, except when it called to add the milk, I added tequila and lime juice instead, and added an extra pinch of salt. I also only used 3.5 cups of confectioners sugar instead of 4 cups, as it was stiff enough and I didn’t want the frosting too sweet.

Once I began cutting the “plugs” to fill the cupcakes with lime curd, I knew something was wrong with the cake. Sadly, it seemed oily and oddly textured. There isn’t any oil in the cake ingredients, so I am not sure why it would seem oily. I tried one of the plugs – ok, I ate about half of them – and didn’t think the cake tasted bad, just not great, and didn’t give me as much of the tequila flavor as I was hoping for. I filled all 24 with the lime curd and after tasting it I thought, “That curd might just save this cupcake cake disaster.”

I whipped out my fancy pipping tools – thank you again Stacy – and loaded the pipping bag with the very yummy frosting… I cut straws and lime wedges to really add some character to the cupcakes: one of my other goals is to keep trying new ways to decorate, and I also added some pink sea salt for taste. (Side note: In fact, I was going to make candied lime peels to decorate these cupcakes with, but I was afraid the sugar would over power the salt in the frosting, so after buying 4 limes I didn’t need, I decided against it.)

While these cupcakes may look great and very festive, they only taste so-so. The lime curd is fantastic, even the icing is finger licking good… but the cake failed. Oddly oily and weirdly textured, I am not sure what went wrong. It isn’t a matter of too much time in the oven, or disregard for following instructions, it just didn’t turn out quite right. Together they really do taste a bit like a margarita… it’s just a shame the cake is so odd, otherwise these cupcakes would be a huge hit on May 5th!

Not everything can be perfect, and I knew it was only a matter of time before something wouldn’t go the way I wanted it to during one of these baking experiments. What’s most important is that I tried something new, made a new curd and frosting that I would eat again and again, and got one more baking experience under my belt!

Now I just have to decide what to try baking next month! Any suggestions or requests?

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