Monthly Archives: August 2013

Ready to Party: Cupcake in a Jar

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it’s a cupcake. In a jar. How freaking cute is that?!

Seriously, how do people come up with these things? I have no idea, but I’m glad they do, so that I can re-create them.  I got the idea here, while looking for ideas for cupcakes for a bachelorette party.  Not only are these adorable, but they are also GREAT for parties.  Since everything is stuffed (I mean, carefully arranged) into a jar, it makes for easy and mess-free travel. It’s also great for a party like the one I went to, where guests might want to eat the cupcake, but are too full (or hungover) to do so right then. The jar makes it much easier to take home with you and save for later. Also, free jar.

The bride-to-be basically gave me one guideline for the cupcakes: They could NOT be red velvet. So of course, the cupcake in a jar recipe I found was for red velvet cucpakes. Which I do think make for a beautiful looking jar cupcake.  I decided to go a different way, though, and took my inspiration from Curly Girl Kitchen.

I altered the recipe a little to make it more jar friendly – for instance, I skipped the ganache, and decided to pour the caramel into the jar instead of soaking it into the cupcake.

I started by baking the cupcakes and letting them cool completely.  I used cupcake liners because I didn’t want to risk them sticking to the pan, but if you don’t want to go through the hassle of removing all of those liners, you can just make sure to grease your cupcake pan well.

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After letting them cool completely, I removed the cupcakes from their liners and cut them in half (horizontally, so you have cupcake tops and bottoms).  Then, I made the caramel and icing, so that everything was ready before I started assembling.

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Start with putting the bottom of the cupcake into the jar. It should fit perfectly.

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Then add a dollop of icing:

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Pour in a little caramel:

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Add the cupcake top (broken into pieces), some more icing, some more caramel, some toffee pieces and BOOM. Cupcake. In. A. Jar.

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Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
4 eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 sour cream
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 t. pure vanilla extract

Toppings

Caramel – I cheated and melted caramel candies and added a little bit of water and sea salt, but if you have the time, making your own caramel is pretty easy and delicious

About 3/4 cup of toffee pieces

Vanilla Buttercream

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
2 T. milk
1 T. maple syrup
1 T. pure vanilla extract

Preperation:

Purchase and set out 20-24  8 oz mason jars.  Line 2 cupcake pans with cupcake liners, or grease them, or use baking spray.  Set out butter and eggs so that they are at room temperature when you use them.

Cupcakes:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk (with a regular whisk) together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  Add the eggs, milk, sour cream, oil, and vanilla and whisk together on low speed with the whisk attachment, slowly increasing to medium speed.  Divide the batter into the liners and bake for 17-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Caramel:

Melt caramel and sprinkle sea salt on top

Vanilla Buttercream:

Clean the bowl and whisk attachment of your mixer and beat butter on medium to high speed for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy.  Scrape the butter down the sides of the bowl and out of the whisk. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar, slowly, and beat on low. Increase speed to medium as everything combines.  Add milk, vanilla, and syrup. Beat on high for 1 minute.  Scrape the sides and the whisk again, and add 1 more cup of powdered sugar. You can add more or less depending on how thick you want the icing.

Assembly:

Place bottom half of cupcake in jar. Spoon caramel on top of the cake (just enough to cover it lightly). Then add a dollop of the icing. I used a cookie scooper to do this, but you can just use a spoon or pipe it in to the jar. Add a few toffee pieces. Place the top half of the cupcake on top of the icing. I broke it into 3 pieces to make it fit. Add more icing, more caramel and more toffee. Place lid on top.

Decoration:

I bought plastic spoons and tied them to the jars with hemp. (Bakers twine would be ideal, but if that isn’t available, hemp works just fine. I bought it in the craft aisle with the necklace making stuff.) You can also add some sort of label or sticker to the top of the jar if you so desire.

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Blueberry Oat Pancakes for One

Apparently, there is a waffle / pancake rivalry going on all around me that I didn’t even know about.

I have a friend who just moved into a new apartment and declared it a “Pancake Free Zone.”  No pancakes can be consumed or created in their kitchen. Waffles are allowed and encouraged.

To be honest, I don’t really care either way. When it comes to breakfast, I’m more of a bacon, egg, and toast kind of girl.  I rarely make pancakes or waffles, and when I do, it’s usually for other people’s enjoyment, not mine.

But Joy the Baker’s Single Lady Pancakes have changed my world.

When I’m making myself a big, Saturday morning breakfast, or more often, if I’m having breakfast for supper, I turn to these perfec-for-eating-alone-pancakes.  The recipe makes about two medium size pancakes, which is the perfect serving for me. Also, the oats make this a thick, hearty pancake, and it’s a pretty adaptable recipe.  Pancakes, I think, are best with buttermilk, but you can substitute regular milk without any problems. Or if you’re me, and never have milk or buttermilk in the fridge, turns out almond milk also does the trick.

Last week, I made a version of these pancakes with almond milk and blueberries.  They were sweet without being too sweet, and nice and hearty.  Oh, and of course I ate them for dinner. With bacon.

 

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Blueberry Oat Pancakes for One

(Adapted from Joy the Baker)

1/3 c. flour
2 T. old-fashioned oats
2 t. light brown sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
5 t. vegetable oil (plus more for you griddle or skillet)
dash of vanilla extract
1/4 c. almond milk
1/4 c. blueberries (frozen or fresh)

Stir together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small  bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vanilla, and almond milk.  Add the wet ingredients to your dry ingredients, all at the same time. Fold in blueberries.

Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet with 1-2 teaspoons of oil.  Pour batter into skillet – you can make one giant pancake, two medium pancakes, or 3 baby pancakes – totally up to you! Cook on medium heat until the batter starts to bubble and pop. Flip the best you can and cook until cooked through and golden-ish brown. Top with whatever sounds good! I usually go with just butter, since there is so much goodness packed into the pancakes, but you do what you want!

 

So, What about you? Any strong feelings regarding the great pancake vs waffle debate?  Have a go-to recipe you can’t live without?

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Fridays are for Laundry, right?

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It is Saturday morning, and I was up at 7:58 am. This sort of goes against everything I believe in. I like my weekend mornings to start sometime after ten, have a long leisurely breakfast around noon, maybe get dressed sometime in the afternoon.  But this morning I’m up, so I might as well make the most of it. The reason I am up so early on a Saturday is that I went to bed at 10 pm last night. Yep, 10 pm on a Friday.

I worked a little later than usual, and was looking forward to my big Friday night plans of doing laundry and watching Netflix.  I’m not even being sarcastic — I really was looking forward to it.  I got a load started, changed into some comfy clothes, and decided to take the dog for a long walk.  It was a beautiful night. Not too hot, not too cold, the sun was setting, and I knew the lake would look all sun-kissed and sparkling.  As we were walking home, along a busy street, I heard the song “22” by Taylor Swift blasting from one of the cars stopped at the light. I wouldn’t call myself Taylor Swift’s biggest fan, but it did strike me that that was a pretty good song to get your Friday night started with if you were young – around 22- and actually had plans. I followed the music to a red convertible with 4 teenagers.  I noticed the girls first, two very young, very pretty girls in tiny clothing.  They both had long hair that they were dramatically flipping over their shoulders and you could tell they were doing their best to look cool and bored.  I knew those looks. I’d been there once. But it was the boys that I couldn’t handle.  First of all, there was no way these guys were 22. The whole car had to be just barely 16, and the boys in front…  They were wearing these hats — I’m not even sure what you call them these days, they were sort of like trucker hats – with the broad brim and these weird bright patterns all over them. The hats of course, were not actually on their heads. Instead, they were just sort of placed there, a little bit to the side, so we could see their luscious locks of Beiber hair, perfectly placed and unmoving despite being in a convertible.  Then they were also wearing neon colored large sunglasses. I guess because they matched their hats. I couldn’t see their pants, but I can pretty much guarantee you that they were tighter than the ones I was wearing. I couldn’t help myself, I started laughing out loud. The boys noticed me blatantly staring at them, and probably thinking that I thought they were cute or cool or something, tipped their sunglasses and smiled at me before driving away with the still bored looking girls.  I’m not entirely sure why the whole thing struck me as so hilarious, I just all of a sudden felt so old and out of touch. This is how guys dress nowadays? This is cool? Where have I been? The best part, what made me feel even older, is that I didn’t care! I felt bad that they had to spend so much time with hair gel and neon skinny jeans while I got to go home and eat popcorn on the couch with my dog and watch funny movies and wash my normal colored clothes.

At the same time, though, I did feel a little nostalgic.  The clothes have changed (this post makes me sounds like I’m 80), and I never rode around in a convertible at that age, but the driving around on a Friday night – hoping the boys in the front seat like you, worrying about how your tiny shirt makes you look, those things never change.  So then I started thinking about the 90s and high school boyfriends and fragile egos and short-lived friendships, and by the time I made it back to my apartment and switched over my laundry I was not only happy for my “lame” Friday night, but thankful for it.  And after watching some bad tv and eating a whole bowl of popcorn, I found myself in bed at 10 pm, and it was perfect.

Just feelings this morning – no recipe, but if you’re good, you might get a recipe for “whatever I have in my pantry blueberry pancakes for one” in the near future…

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Espresso Bourbon Brownies: Because I Can

I’d like to share with you a few recent conversations regarding the deep, thoughtful reasons and the meticulous planning behind my (and my friends’) baking:

Co-worker: Wow! A cake and cookies? What’s the occasion?
Me: It’s Tuesday

My friend, Sarah*: I’ve got to get home, I have a cake to make
Co-worker: Why do you need to bake a cake?
Sarah: Because I’m out of cake.

Co-worker (in the elevator): Oh, those look great (I’m holding a cake carrier and a plate of cookies). Is there a potluck today?
Me: Oh, no. There isn’t.
(awkward pause)
Me: Sometimes I just… feel like baking things,

Friend 1 (at the bar): I’m glad you made it out!
Me: Me too! I can’t stay too long though, I have to make coffee bourbon brownies
Friend 2: What do you have to make those for?
Me: Because why wouldn’t I make coffee bourbon brownies? Coffee. Bourbon.
Friend 1: Makes sense to me.

Sarah: I’m gonna make a Peach Upside Down cake today
Her friend: That sounds good. What’s the recipe?
Sarah: Recipe? What recipe?
Her friend: For the cake…
Sarah: I’m going to slice peaches and pour cake on top of it.  That’s my recipe.

* Sarah is also a fun, single girl who likes to bake her feelings. If any handsome, eligible men want to set up a double date… just saying…

Coffee. Bourbon. Brownies.

Obviously.

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Espresso Bourbon Brownies

(adapted from Savory Simple)

Ingredients

For the Brownies:
1/2 c. plus 3 T. unsalted butter
4 1/2 oz semi-sweet chocolate
3 eggs
1 1/4 c. sugar
2 T espresso powder
1 c. all purpose flower
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 – 1/4  c. bourbon (depends on how much you like bourbon)

For the Frosting:
1/4 c unsalted butter
1 t. espresso powder
1-2 tablespoons black coffee  (cooled)
1 T bourbon (to taste)
1 c. powdered sugar

 

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter and chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

In a small bowl, combine cocoa powder, flour, and espresso powder.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the eggs and sugar and mix on low speed. Increase to medium until the egg mixture thickens. Stir in the chocolate and bourbon.

Slowly add in flour mixture.

Pour the batter into pan and bake for 40 minutes.

To make the frosting, cream the butter, espresso powder, coffee and bourbon. Slowly add in the powdered sugar. Add more bourbon, coffee, or sugar as needed to taste.

Now, I made these brownies after coming home from the bar, so I was in a hurry to go to bed. In my haste, I frosted these before they had cooled completely, so obviously the frosting melted. I actually like how it turned out though, it was more a glaze than a frosting. If you have the time, you can wait until they cool completely and frost them like normal.

Notes:

In my years of baking, I’ve wasted a lot of time looking for espresso powder in the coffee aisle at my local grocery store. Check out this helpful post about what it is and where to find it: http://www.thekitchn.com/pantry-basics-what-is-espresso-41586 . I bought mine at Whole Foods.

I used Buffalo Trace Bourbon and very strong coffee, but I would suggest using whatever you have on hand.

I really meant to take a picture of these brownies… but all I have to offer is the empty pan after they were devoured by my co-workers:

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