A Baking Adventure: Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And I’ve had some REALLY good PB&J cupcakes from wonderful bakeries. So when I heard about Project PB&J, a blogger cooking contest celebrating National PB&J Day, I thought, “I can do that!” In retrospect, maybe I shouldn’t have been so confident…

After reading the contest guidelines, I knew I couldn’t come up with my own recipe for the cake, and I wasn’t sure that just adding a couple of ingredients would be changing someone else’s recipe enough. The longer I thought about it, the more I ran out of time. So in the end this is what my cake recipe turned out to be:

Cake Ingredients:
– 1 Box of Betty Crocker Yellow Cake mix
– 3 eggs (as per the box instructions)
– 1 ¼ cups of oil (as per the box instructions)
– ¼ cup of water (as per the box instructions)
– About 1 cup of chopped peanuts
– About 1 cup of diced strawberries (Fresh or frozen: If using frozen, thaw and drain as much water as possible)

(I always like to rally my ingredients to make sure I’m not missing anything.)

(Diced strawberries and chopped peanuts: I used the food processor to chop the peanuts. They came out  finer than I planned, but still worked to create a nice texture.)

I decided that my big modification was adding the chopped peanuts and strawberries to the batter. I really wanted that crunchy texture from the peanuts because I’m a big fan of crunchy peanut butter. I decided that the strawberries would help balance it (and fruit in cake usually works).

Cake Instructions:
Pre-heat your oven according to the instructions on the box. Mix the batter according to  the instructions on the box. Mix desired amount of peanuts and strawberries into the batter. Bake according to the instructions on the box. Easy enough, right?

(Batter with the chopped peanuts.)

(Batter with strawberries. Also my first time using silicone cupcake liners.)

(Baked cupcakes. The silicone liners have a “fill” line, however I think I could have gone above that to create a higher top on the cupcakes.)

Once the cupcakes cooled, it was time for the filling!

Filling Ingredients:
– Your favorite jam or preserves (in this recipe, that means strawberry preserves). If you want to get fancy, you can make your own!

Filling Instructions:
Take the cooled cupcakes and cut holes in the center, like a bowl, to hold the jam. Spoon the jam into the center.

(I decided to remove the cupcakes from the silicone liners prior to filling and topping. I don’t recommend doing this if there will be a filling!)

(Baby spoons work REALLY well for getting filling into those tiny holes!)

Now on to the frosting! A couple of years ago I created a peanut butter frosting on a whim, mixing together peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. I remember it turned out really well, but just in case, I also purchased Cool Whip for this experiment. And, I’m glad I did! The peanut butter and marshmallow fluff did not come together the way I had hoped, so the Cool Whip saved the day.

Frosting Ingredients:
– Creamy peanut butter
– Marshmallow fluff
– Cool Whip

Frosting Instructions:
Mix together a couple dollops of peanut butter with a couple dollops of marshmallow fluff. Then add in a couple dollops of Cool Whip. Don’t worry about folding the ingredients into the Cool Whip to maintain that airy texture. The marshmallow is too sticky, so just stir it all up until it’s mixed well. Then add in a couple more dollops of peanut butter and stir. I tried to keep it so it had a swirl texture. I failed. But it still tastes good! So if you fail too, don’t worry. As you can see, this is all experimental anyway!

Now time to top the cupcakes with the frosting! This is where I had more issues. I couldn’t decide what to do. I did a couple of cupcakes with the frosting piped on, but didn’t like the results. Then I just tried spreading the frosting on top, but also didn’t like that. I think it was because the frosting and cake looked monotone and I really wanted a pop of color from the jam, which would hint to what was inside. In the end I settled with swirling the frosting to expose the filling and bring some to the top.

(Luckily I made some of the cupcakes in these foil liners, which really helped keep them together!)

(Some of the options I worked on for the cupcakes taken out of the silicone liners.)

When it comes to this recipe, I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself. The cupcakes actually were tasty, especially since I’m not a baker by any means. The texture of the cake was great with the chopped peanuts. It was exactly what I’d hoped for! And the ratio of strawberry preserves, peanut butter flavor, and yellow cake are perfect. I still can’t help but to think that there’s nothing “special” about the results. No more so than if I’d just made a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s exactly like a traditional PB&J, but in cupcake form. However, sometimes that’s okay, right?! I’ll let you be the judge.

Let us know if you decide to try this recipe or have your own PB&J Cupcake recipe! And visit Once Upon a Loaf for more information on Project PB&J!

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


Elisa’s “From Scratch” Baking Experiment: Car Bomb Cupcake

Who doesn’t love St. Patrick’s day? Wearing green, drinking beer, eating cupcakes? St. Patrick’s Day happens to be one of my favorite holidays, so in honor of it, this month I decided to create a Car Bomb cupcake. As I said in my previous post, all of the cupcakes I bake from scratch will include a filling, and this cupcake is no exception.

First I had to find a Guinness cake recipe; trusty Foodnetwork.com comes through again with this Chocolate Stout Cupcake recipe. Then came the icing – of course this had to be a Bailey’s liquor icing, and after searching a bit I settled on this Bailey’s Buttercream recipe. In my experience, Jameson Irish Whiskey is sometimes the ingredient that people forget is in a traditional car bomb, thus, I found my filling! But wait, how do I fill a cupcake with a liquor liquid? Jelly of course! While searching for a recipe, I stumbled upon this site and found everything I needed to know about making jelly! I decided I’d try it out (and figured if all else failed, I could make a Jameson ganache filling instead).

After gathering my ingredients, which included a $9.99 box of 24 packs of gelatin powder – ouch! – I was ready to bake!

The cake recipe was very tricky and seemed in the wrong order to me. I had to melt the stick of butter (what?!), add it to the stout, then mix in the eggs… only later did the dry ingredients come into play, and even then the batter seemed very runny. I followed it religiously though, as time and again, following the recipe has served me well. However, being so flustered, I completely forgot to take a picture of the batter! (Photo FAIL.)

While the cupcakes were baking I worked on the “Jameson Jelly.” Following the gelatin directions carefully, I realized that I would have to fill the cupcakes the next day because the jelly would need time to set. Urgh. I should really have read ahead and figured out the best order in which to do things. I did, however, figure out how to keep the alcohol in the jelly, which was exciting for me because I believe you lose some of the flavor when you boil out the alcohol. (The trick is to use the Jameson as the “cold” factor in the recipe, then use something else as the hot element. I cut the recipe in half, using only 2 packets of gelatin, 1/2 cup of cold Jameson and 1.5 cups of boiling water.) None of this was very exciting or pretty, so I decided to skip taking pictures of brown liquid in a bowl, thus no photo.

Even though I wouldn’t be able to ice the cupcakes, I decided to go ahead and make the icing that night as well. Easy and simple, this icing might be the best icing I have ever tasted! I licked the beater clean and even snuck a spoonful before I put it all in a ziplock bag, and put the cupcakes into tupperware, to wait for assembly the next day.

Sure enough the Jameson jelly set up… but was much more like Jell-o than Jell-y, but tasted perfectly like Jameson. Hum… I paused for a moment, thinking, “Well, this is where I am going to fail this cupcake test.” But then again, why couldn’t I just fill the cupcakes with bits of the Jameson Jell-o? It dawned on me: I was adding a Jell-o Shot to my car bomb cupcake! Ha!

After filling and icing the cupcakes I used my fancy icing knife/tool that Stacy gave me to flatten out the icing to make it look more like beer foam. Then I mixed up some of the leftover icing and green food coloring to create some St. Patty’s day themed decorations. This might be the failure of this cupcake. While I have a fantastic ability to draw just about anything (thank you creative ability), icing does not act like a pencil or even a paint brush. They weren’t all total disasters, but none of them were very pretty either. It just goes to show I need more practice, and maybe even a decorating class! (Stacy has been talking about going to one, and I now I am really set on joining her!)

Then was the taste test. WOW. I was afraid the jelly would cause a weird texture issue, but non of my co-workers or myself minded it! Each flavor stands out on their own and works together to create the perfect Car Bomb Jell-y filled cupcake! Another baking success! (I’m starting to feel as though I am on a roll!) And I think the cupcakes were so good that no one minded the bad piping job either! 🙂

Happy St. Patrick’s day everyone! I hope you all have the pleasure of toasting to the day and perhaps having a car bomb of your own!

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