Chocolate, caramel and coconut… these Samoa Cupcakes have all of my favorite flavors in one amazing cupcake!
Inspired by Girl Scout Samoa cookies, these cupcakes start with my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, then are topped with salted caramel frosting, toasted coconut and a finishing drizzle of caramel.
I shared these cupcakes a few families at (my girls) school and I’m pretty sure I’ve sealed our friendship for life! =)
These Samoa Cupcakes start with my favorite Chocolate Cupcake Recipe <– click for recipe
Top the cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting (recipe below), and then finish with toasted coconut.
To toast the coconut, spread about 1 and 1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut onto a baking sheet and bake in a 350* oven for 3-8 minutes. Check after 3 minutes and stir, then check (and stir if needed) about every minute after. The coconut can burn very quickly, watch it closely!
Garnish the finished cupcakes with a drizzle of salted caramel. I used Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Sauce (labeled Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce) in the recipe and for the drizzle and it’s my favorite store bought caramel ever! Feel free to make your own caramel sauce (I have a delicious recipe in my book), or choose a high quality brand of your choice. It’s important to chose a salted caramel sauce (or add a bit of good quality sea salt), or the recipe will be overpoweringly sweet.
Salted Caramel Buttercream
This amazing frosting is perfect for chocolate cupcakes... or simply by the spoonful!
Yield: Frosting for 24+ cupcakes or an 8"-9" (two layer) cake
1 cup (2 sticks) Challenge unsalted butter
4 oz. (1/2 block) Challenge cream cheese
1/2 cup good quality salted caramel sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1. Allow butter to set out at room temperature about 15 minutes (you can gather your other ingredients in the mean time).
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until smooth.
3. Add cream cheese and continue to beat until fully smooth and well incorporated.
4. While slowly mixing, pour in caramel sauce (should not be warm).
5. Add vanilla.
6. Continue slowly mixing and add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, allowing the sugar to blend a bit before adding each additional cup.
7. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and then blend the frosting an additional 30 seconds or so. The frosting should be fluffy, and all ingredients fully incorporated.
8. Frost cupcakes or cake.
Recipe source - Glorious Treats
Notes - I used Challenge brand butter and cream cheese, but feel free to use a quality brand of your choice.
I used Trader Joe's Salted Caramel sauce, feel free to use homemade salted caramel sauce, or a good quality brand of your choice.
In warm weather, you may need to put the frosting in the fridge for 15 minutes or more to firm up a bit before piping onto cupcakes.
These Samoa Cupcakes are simply amazing! My husband has already requested I make another batch of these for him to share at work. I’ll be happy to fulfill that request… and I’ll be sure to keep one (or two) aside for myself! =)
Here are a few more recipes for caramel lovers…
Salted Caramel & Chocolate Truffle Tart
Homemade Pecan Turtles
Banana Caramel Cream Dessert
Let’s see… Nutella, bananas, oreos and whipped cream… yep, it might be appropriate to call this Banana Nutella Trifle ”heaven in a glass”!
I’m guessing that by now (unless this is your first visit to my site) you’ve figured out that I have a “thing” for layered desserts and trifles! Maybe my book (Glorious Layered Desserts) gave me away?
After filling an entire book with them, I still can’t stop making layered desserts!
There are two things I love about these kinds of pretty treats…
First, I love having a perfect serving all to myself…no slicing, no sharing.
Second, I love a dessert that has several textures and flavors all working together… sweet, creamy, crunchy… I guess I’m just one of those “I’ll take one of everything” people! =)
This Banana Nutella Trifle is actually just a slight variation of a dessert from my book. The version in the book has a layer of sponge cake (instead of oreo crumble) between the Nutella cream. Both options are delicious! Feel free to play around with other variations as well… I’m sure a layer of brownie pieces would be delicious, or a layer of store-bought (or homemade) pound cake.
Banana Nutella Trifle
Nutella cream, bananas, oreo crumble and whipped cream... this layered dessert is heaven in a glass!
Yield: 4 moderate servings, or 6 mini servings
10 whole oreos
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
4 oz. (1/2 of a block) cream cheese
1/3 cup Nutella (hazelnut spread)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 ripe bananas
Prepare oreo crumble-
Place cookies (cookie and filling) in a large ziplock bag and use a rolling pin to crush the cookies. Place crumbs in a bowl and pour melted butter onto crumbs. Stir until crumbs are evenly moist. Spread crumbs onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350*F for 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Crumbs may appear soft and/or oily when still hot, but will become crisper as they cool).
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream until it begins to thicken. Add vanilla and powdered sugar (while mixing) and continue to beat until the cream has more than doubled in volume and when you stop the mixer and lift up the whisk, the cream stays in place. Be careful not to over beat, or the cream will become clumpy and too stiff. Scoop finished whipped cream into a bowl and keep in the fridge as you prepare the remaining layers.
Prepare Nutella cream-
In the bowl of an electric mixer (no need to wash if there are small remnants of whipped cream), beat cream cheese until smooth. Add Nutella and blend until fully incorporated. Continue mixing and slowly pour in heavy cream. Beat until the cream is fully incorporated and the mixture has thickened and increase in volume. Add vanilla and powdered sugar (while mixing). Mix until all ingredients are well blended and the mixture is light and fluffy. Place in the refrigerator until ready to assemble desserts (up to 2 hours).
Both the whipped cream and the Nutella cream can be placed (separately) in a large piping bag or large ziplock bag for easy (and prettier) layering. You may also simply spoon those elements into the dishes.
Begin assembly by adding a spoonful of oreo crumble to the bottom of each dish. Add a layer of Nutella cream, then a layer of sliced banana. Repeat layers... crumbs, Nutella, bananas. Add a layer of whipped cream and garnish with a slice or two of banana and a few oreo crumbs. Garnish just before serving. If making ahead, the desserts can be store in the refrigerator (without the garnish) for up to 2 hours. Save 1/2 of a banana (in the peel) and slice just before serving.
Feel free to use canned whipped cream in place of homemade (as listed).
If you are planning to make the desserts and eat them immediately, you could skip the butter and baking of the oreo crumble and simply crush the oreos and use as is.
Now grab a spoon and dig in! =)
These cute little pops have all of my favorites in one delicious treat… chocolate, caramel, rice kripies, nuts and marshmallow!
In fact, I had a hard time deciding what to name them, since I wanted to include all of the delicious ingredients in the title! I settled on Caramel Nut Marshmallow Pops, and we’ll just let the other delicious ingredients be a nice surprise! =)
These marshmallow pops would be perfect treats for most any occasion, and would be gorgeous little favors, wrapped in small cellophane bags and tied with some pretty ribbon, twine or a strip of fabric.
I’ve made marshmallow pops in the past… here are some cute Valentine’s Marshmallow Pops, Halloween Marshmallow Pops, Christmas Marshmallow Pops and some extra yummy S’mores Marshmallow Pops.
But these Caramel Nut Marshmallow Pops are quite possibly my favorite yet!
I didn’t come up with these delicious idea on my own… this past weekend I helped style and set up a dessert table for our school auction and one of the amazingly talented parents (Marina) provided the desserts. One of my favorite treats of the night were these gorgeous pops, and she graciously shared the recipe with me.
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already seen this pretty collaboration (and if you look closely, you can spot the marshmallow pops)…
I love sharing little sneak peeks of my “sweet” projects on Instagram, so be sure you’re following along!
Now, let’s make some delicious Caramel Nut Marshmallow Pops…
Caramel Nut Marshmallow Pops
Cover a marshmallow with chocolate, caramel, rice krispies and nuts to create a simple, yet impressive treat!
3/4 cup almonds, chopped and toasted
1 bag (11 oz) wrapped caramels (apx. 35 individual caramels)
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
30 large marshmallows
30 (7") cookie sticks
8 oz. semi-sweet or milk chocolate
1 cup rice krispies cereal
1.) Chop the almonds and bake in a 350*F oven for 2-5 minutes. Check after 2 minutes, and stir around if necessary. The nuts are done when they are fragrant and slightly golden. Set aside to cool.
2.) Unwrap caramels and place in a bowl. Add heavy cream and microwave at 50% power for 2-4 minutes until the caramels are mostly melted. Stir as necessary until the cream is fully incorporated and the caramel is smooth.
3.) Add marshmallows to cookie sticks by first dipping the stick in the (melted) caramel just a bit, then insert into the marshmallow. You could dip the stick in melted chocolate instead, either will help the marshmallow stay on the stick.
4.) Pour rice cereal into a bowl and set aside.
5.) Begin assembly by dipping the marshmallows into the caramel, using the side of the bowl to scrap off excess caramel from the marshmallow, then immediately dip the pop into the bowl of rice cereal. Lay pops on a plate and after you've made 4-6 pops, place the plate of pops in the freezer to help the caramel set quickly. Continue dipping, moving caramel and cereal coated pops to the freezer.
6.) Melt chocolate in the microwave at 50% power until partially melted, then stir gently until all of the chocolate is melted and smooth.
7.) Take caramel and cereal dipped pops and dip in the chocolate (using a spoon to help cover the entire pop) and use the side of the bowl to scrap off excess chocolate. Hold pop over a bowl and sprinkle with nuts (and you turn the pop around, so nuts cover all sides).
8.) Place nut covered pops on a plate and after you've coated a few pops, move the plate to the freezer to allow the chocolate to set up quickly. The pops only need to be in the freezer a couple minutes, then they can be stored at room temperature (in a sealed container, or individually wrapped).
Recipe source - Glorious Treats (shared by a friend, as mentioned in the post)
Notes- The ingredient quantities listed are approximate, and may be adjusted depending on how many pops you want to make.
I used "cookie sticks" for these pops because they are thicker than "pop" sticks and more appropriate for holding these heavily coated marshmallows. Cookie sticks can be found in the cake decorating section of most large craft stores.
Use good quality caramels. I usually use Kraft or Brach's, both with good results.
I almost always use Ghirardelli chocolate (4 oz. baking bars) for consistently delicious results.
When I say "large" marshmallows I mean standard sized, not mini and not extra large.
Happy pop making!
There is something so special about visiting the ocean! Although I live in California, we are about 3 hours from the ocean, so we don’t get to visit quite as often as I would like. Recently, we packed up the family and headed to Santa Cruz! I’ve visited the Santa Cruz area about half a dozen times in my life, and it’s always such a treat!
The Santa Cruz area has so much to offer… redwood forests, unique shopping, a wide array of dinning options, the historic (and fun!) Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and my personal favorite… lots of beautiful beaches! Santa Cruz sits along the California coast, about 2 hours south of San Francisco, the climate is cool and mild and even in the winter it’s likely you can enjoy sitting on the beach, albeit in jeans and a sweatshirt… not necessarily a bikini (which is fine with me, since I don’t own one!).
Of course whenever I travel I always seek out the “sweet” shops in town! As I was planning our visit, I contacted the Santa Cruz Visitors Council, and with their help, created a list of sweet places to visit in Santa Cruz.
Pull up a seat and join my family and I for a little (virtual) trip around Santa Cruz…
We chose the Capitola Venetian Hotel as our home away from home. Capitola is one of the beautiful little beach towns in the Santa Cruz area. The Capitola Venetian was a perfect fit for our family! The location was SO amazing… we could see and hear the beach (oh how I love that sound!) and the sand was just steps away! It was such a luxury to be able to take the girls to the beach, and then easily come back to our room to rest, or shower, or head out to our next activity.
Our room was clean, tastefully decorated and the perfect amount of space for our family. The room we stayed in was basically a small 2 bedroom apartment. My husband and I had a bedroom with a queen bed, there was a tiny (but cute!) little bedroom with a twin bed that my oldest daughter loved staying in, and then there was a second queen sized bed in the living room area. Off the living area was a small, but complete kitchen with a full sized fridge, dishes in the cupboards, and a everything we needed for our stay.
My favorite feature of the hotel room was the view…
This was the view from the living room window (and balcony). There was one row of rental houses between us and the beach, but since the hotel is set on a hill, we had a great view over the neighboring building. It was just the perfect mix of privacy and proximity to the beach!
After we got settled in at the hotel, we head out for a treat… ice cream!
We headed to The Penny Ice Creamery to enjoy some delicious, made from scratch ice cream! It was hard to chose from their tempting selection of unique flavors! The menu changes seasonally to highlight local, fresh ingredients. Flavors range from an utterly perfect Tahitian Vanilla Bean, to more exotic flavors like Cardamom Pistachio and 5 Spice Mascarpone Prune. After a few samples (all delicious!) I chose dark chocolate and then made the really smart decision to have it topped with their homemade marshmallow cream! The marshmallow cream is torched just a bit, for the perfect toasted flavor! Matched with a freshly made waffle cone, this was truly one of the best ice cream cones I’ve ever had!
Later that evening we headed out to dinner at the Shadowbrook Restaurant. The Shadowbrook is a gorgeous and unique restaurant located on the banks of Soquel Creek. The only way to reach the restaurant is via their own quaint little cable car (pictured below), or by way of a meandering set of stairs nestled among an incredibly lush and beautiful landscape.
We had a reservation, and I assume that would be necessary most evenings, as even with a reservation there was a bit of a wait. The restaurant is quite large, and there are several different dinning areas, each with their own character. It’s really a one-of-a-kind location!
I’ve been trying to think of how I could possibly describe to you the meal we had… but I’ll just jump right to the end and tell you it was easily one of the top 5 meals I’ve ever had IN MY LIFE! My husband fully agreed (I think he said top 3).
My husband, daughters and I each ordered something different so we could share a bit, and really get a full sense of all they had to offer. We enjoyed an appetizer of Salmon Cakes, then moved to entrées of Filet Mignon, Blackened Lamb and Roasted Chicken. It was very clear that each dish we were served had been made with the utmost care! Despite being truly satisfied by our main meal… we just had to try some dessert! We shared crème brule, chocolate lava cake and a trio of homemade ice cream… oh we were so full and happy!
Sadly, I do not have any photos of the our meal to share, as the restaurant was quite dark and I knew there was no way I could do justice to the gorgeous dishes we were served! I came back to the restaurant the day following our meal to take photos of the inside and outside of the Shadowbrook (pictured above and below).
If you are ever in the Santa Cruz or Capitola area, I cannot recommend the Shadowbrook Restaurant enough! I still find myself dreaming of our amazing meal!
Miraculously, the next morning I was ready to eat again and I headed out to Gayle’s Bakery.
I had an appointment (oh so early) to meet with the manager before the bakery was open for the day. I’ll have to say, it’s pretty rare for me to see 5:45 in the morning…. but this appointment was totally worth it!
I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Gayle’s Bakery a few times in the past, so I already knew it was a really special place. But after touring the bakery and learning more about this business, I love it even more!
Gayle’s is really a dream to visit for any baker, and sweets-lover like me! Every item in the bakery (and deli) is made fully from scratch, using high quality ingredients. Gayle’s Bakery makes an amazing (and delicious!) array of breads, pastries, cakes, pies, cookies and tarts.
In addition to the huge selection of (gorgeous!) baked goods, Gayle’s also has a full deli that serves everything from beautiful salads, to gourmet sandwiches and roasted meats. You could easily eat at Gayle’s for breakfast, lunch and dinner… and what an amazing day that would be!
I might suggest stopping by Gayle’s in the morning and starting your day with coffee and a few of their amazing pastries, then you could chose some salads or sandwiches to go and enjoy a perfect picnic on the beach later in the day.
If you are not able to stop by Gayle’s Bakery in person, you can enjoy many of their famous recipes by making them at home thanks to their cookbook, The Village Baker’s Wife. I have this cookbook in my personal collection and have read it cover to cover. It’s filled with amazingly detailed recipes, and each recipe also has a story as to how it came to be a favorite in the bakery, or the history of that recipe at Gayle’s.
Later that day, I headed down to Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz. Pacific Avenue is a great little “main street” filled with all kinds of shopping and dining options.
My first stop was Nut Kreations. Nut Kreations is a snack lovers dream! They have a huge variety of nuts and snacks… from raw nuts, to candied nuts, dried fruit, flavored corn nuts, and chocolate dipped treats of all kinds! They will happily give you a sample of anything you desire, and everything can be bought by the pound (or 1/4 or 1/2 pound) so you can mix and match your favorites.
Nut Kreations is a great little shop to visit in person, but you can also visit their website and order their treats for yourself or as gifts, any time of year!
My next stop was just up the street, at Chefworks. This is a shop I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a few times before and always make a point to visit when I’m in the area. Chefworks is a beautiful store filled with every tool, gadget and supply you’d ever need for a well-stocked kitchen! From gorgeous pottery and dishes from around the world, to high quality table linens, to a beautiful selection of bakeware, cookie cutters, sprinkles, cookbooks… the list goes on! I always find a few things that “need” to come home with me!
My family knows when I stop in Chefworks…. they may as well continue on down the block without me, because I’m going to be in the store a while! =)
While still exploring Pacific Avenue, I stopped in Pacific Cookie Company. If you love a good, classic cookie, this is the shop for you! From Snickerdoodle, to Mint Chocolate, this “sweet” shop has a nice selection of cookies (including some delicious gluten-free varieties!). Be sure to grab a little carton of milk while you’re there!
I chose a Ginger Spice, Snickerdoodle and Mint Chocolate (“Mint Condition”) and shared them with my family. They were fresh and delicious!
After exploring Pacific Avenue, my family and I headed to the famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk! We have taken the girls to the boardwalk just once before, and they were very excited to visit again! The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is right along the sand of the Pacific ocean, and is a year round amusement park. There is no cost to walk along the boardwalk, and you can buy individual ride tickets, or all day wristbands. Although the boardwalk is open year, check the website for hours and attractions.
A visit to the boardwalk would not be complete without a stop at Marini’s Candies. Marini’s candy shop has been a part of the beach boardwalk since 1915! This family run business is famous for their delicious salt water taffy, caramel popcorn and homemade fudge! All of their treats are made in their open-air shop, facing the Pacific ocean. Throughout the day, visitors to the boardwalk can stop by and watch the salt-water taffy being made. It’s memorizing to watch the taffy being pulled! Here’s a little peek of the gorgeous taffy via my Instagram page.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little tour of Santa Cruz! My family and I had such a great visit and we look forward to visiting again soon!
If you plan to visit the Santa Cruz area, be sure to visit SantaCruzCA.org. You’ll find everything you need to know to plan an amazing trip!
Here’s a quick review of the stops we made on this trip…
Capitola Venetian Hotel - 1500 Wharf Road, Capitola, CA.
The Penny Ice Creamery – 820 41st. Av., Santa Cruz, CA (see website for additional locations).
Shadowbrook Restaurant – 1750 Wharf Road, Capitola, CA
Gayle’s Bakery & Roticceria – 504 Bay Avenue, Capitola, CA
Nut Kreations – 104 Lincoln Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Chefworks – 1527 Pacific Av., Santa Cruz, CA
Pacific Cookie Company – 1203 Pacific Av., Santa Cruz, CA
Marini’s at the Beach – Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, 400 Beach Street, Santa Cruz, CA
Do you love Santa Cruz too? Are there any stops we should be sure to add to our next visit?
Do you have a favorite bakery, ice cream shop, or kitchen store in your area? I’d love to hear about it, and I’ll add it to my travel “wish list” =)
I love cute cookies…. I also love cookies that don’t take 10 hours to decorate! These Cute & Simple Valentine’s Cookie Sticks are a perfect little treat to share with the people you love!
I love decorating cookies, but don’t always have the time for complex designs. For most of my cookies, I love using fun colors and simple designs to create something that is cute, delicious and simply makes a “sweet” little gift for family and friends.
I’ve seen a few cookie friends making fun things with simple, thin rectangle shapes and wanted to play along. My sweet friend Meaghan of The Decorated Cookie has made several fun ones, and the talented artists behind Melissa Joy Cookies, The Cookie Corner, and Munchkin Munchies have each done some beautiful designs on skinny rectangles.
I have a large rectangle cookie cutter that I’ve used in the past to cut smaller shapes from, but I realized it would be so nice to be able to cut several long rectangles at once. I contacted my friends over at Truly Mad Plastics and told them what I had in mind… a few days later I had these awesome cutters delivered!
For these Simple Valentine’s Cookie Sticks I used the cutter that makes 1″x4″ cookies. Feel free to adjust the dimensions to your liking, and you can certainly cut them out individually using a knife (and ruler) on well chilled dough.
Let’s get started!
For these cookies you’ll need…
A batch of cookie dough using my Rolled Sugar Cookie Recipe.
A batch of Royal Icing.
I prepared thick/outline consistency icing in white, red, pink and blue, and fitted them with 1.5PME tips. I also prepared a medium/flood consistency icing in the same colors, and fitted those bags with a #2 tip.
Note- The thick/outline icing should be about the thickness of toothpaste. Thick enough that it stays in place when piped onto a cookie, but not so thick that it hurts your hand to squeeze out the bag.
Medium/flood consistency icing should be about the thickness of shampoo, or corn syrup. Just thin enough that when you are stirring the icing in a bowl and you pick up the spoon and allow icing from the spoon to fall into the bowl, the line of icing should disappear into the rest of the icing in about 12-15 seconds.
Step 1- Outline one or two cookies at a time, using thick/outline icing and a #1.5 or #2 tip.
Step 2- Immediately fill in the cookie using medium/flood consistency icing and a #2 tip.
Step 3- As soon as you’ve flooded the cookie, and the icing (on the cookie) has leveled out, drop dots of medium/flood consistency icing in your choice of colors.
Step 4- (see photo above and below) Use a toothpick to drag a line from the top of each dot, down through the dot. After running through one dot (and just before you touch the next dot), pick up the toothpick and wipe the end onto a paper towel or cloth. Immediately continue with each additional dot. If you run a toothpick down through all of the dots at once, the colors will run from one dot to the next. This works fine if all of your dots are the same color, as I did with these Simple Heart Cookies, but I would not recommend it for multi color dots.
Step 5 – You’re done! Set aside and move to the next cookie. Allow icing to dry 8 hours before packaging cookies.
For the other designs pictured above, I just played around with a combination of hearts and lines. For the striped cookies, I outlined and flooded the cookies, then used the thicker/outline consistency icing for the stripes.
Play around with any combination of dots, hearts and stripes. If you want to outline the cookie in one color (such as blue, pink or red) and then flood in another color (such as white), allow the outline to dry just a bit (15 minutes or more) before filling in with white.
Looking for more sweet Valentine’s Day ideas? Find more cute cookies, delicious cupcakes, and pretty cakes by browsing my past Valentine’s Day posts.