Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks - Cupcake Style

I used to HATE Thanksgiving.  I was always thankful - don't get me wrong.  I just didn't enjoy the holiday.  Most of my family wasn't in the area, so we never had a big family gathering around the table.  It was me, sissy and mom.  A great group of ladies, but not really what I really had in mind for Thanksgiving.

Then, we had the idea to host Thanksgiving at our house - and all of my negative Nancy feelings about the holiday went right out the window.  Husbo's family are all in the area, and my family - without any super strong Thanksgiving traditions - were willing to travel.  So four years ago, we had our first Thanksgiving and have had it at our house ever since.  I'm not sure why I had a change of heart, but I don't question it, since it was a change for good.  Each year the group has been just a little different, but it's always family.  I love laying the table out, trying to figure out how everyone will fit the night before; making name cards and seating arrangements; helping husbo manage cooking times of all of his yummy dishes; and making cranberry sauce that I never eat because I prefer the stuff in the can.

Last year's Thanksgiving was especially special as we announced to our family that we were expecting our little cupcake, Amaya.  We had gift bags for everyone on the table, with sonogram pictures and t-shirts.  And this year, our little cupcake was stuffing her face with yams.  It was a very cool full circle moment.  Life is full of those, huh?

So, in the spirit of giving thanks and of the month of pumpkins, squash and all things quintessentially fall - I did a twist on last month's pumpkin cupcakes.  Same recipe, but with these sweet additions...

For the cake - toss about 2 cups of chocolate chips (dark, milk, bittersweet - pick your poison) in some flour.  The batter isn't thick enough to hold them up, and so if you don't coat 'em in flour they will all sink to be bottom - still good, but not really what you're going for!  Remove the excess flour (I put them through a sieve) and stir them in.  Be careful not to over stir our your cakes will be flat!

Then, for the frosting - add a dollop of pumpkin puree to it (or to taste).  It's got just enough pumpkin in there to amp it up a bit and really put you in the holiday spirit.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mummies and Ghouls and Spiders, Oh My!

Don't you just love the fall?  The colors, the clothes (man do I love me some boots and a cozy sweater!), the holidays and traditions...I love it all.  I also like the next couple of months because when I bake cupcakes for my class, it is easy to make themed decorations, starting with Halloween.

It was my daughter's very first Halloween, and one of my students got her the most appropriate and perfect costume (in addition to the owl her dad and I had already gotten)...a cupcake!  Now is this not the cutest little cupcake you have ever seen? >>  Next year I"m thinking round 2 with this costume...

I had two things to bake cupcakes for this month - one was my daughter's Halloween play date and the other was my normal baking for my class' birthdays.  I had big dreams of using fondant because of a cool idea I saw on Pinterest...but then the reality of mommyhood and lack of free time kicked me in the butt, and I "just" did frosting.  I'm still super pleased with the results, though, and based on the "no cupcake left behind" - my students thought they were pretty good, too!

For this, I turned to my trusty (and crusty) Martha Stewart book for this tried and true recipe...

Pumpkin - Brown Butter Cupcakes

3/4 cup butter (@ room temperature)
1 2/3 cup all purpose flower
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg  (I use more than this - I LOVE nutmeg, especially fresh)
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated shugar
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325.

In medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Swirl occasionally, until butter turns golden brown.  Skim foam from top and remove from heat.  Pour into bowl to stop the cooking - leave the crusty sediment in the saucepan.  Let it cool.

Whisk together flour, powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves.  In the bowl of your electric mixer, whisk puree, both sugars, eggs and brown butter mixture (after it's cooled).  Mix until just combined - don't overdo it or you're headed for flat top cupcakes!

Divide batter evenly and bake - rotating 1/2 way through.  Bake for 20 minutes or until a test stick comes out cleanly!

Top with cream cheese frosting and enjoy!!!  So, so good, my friends!


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