I love chocolate…
So naturally, when I started experimenting with baking cupcakes from scratch (several years ago) I began a quest for the perfect chocolate cupcakes. I worked through several dozen recipes and of course, didn’t have too much trouble finding people willing to eat my “experiments.”
I finally found a recipe titled Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake, hmm, “…Perfectly Chocolate”, sounds about right to me! The first time I made it, I used Hershey’s unsweeted cocoa (as the recipe calls for). They turned out pretty good. The next time I made them, I used Ghirardelli brand unsweetened cocoa, and… perfect! The Ghirardelli brand gave a much deeper chocolate flavor. So I’d highly recomend using either Ghirardelli brand unsweetened cocoa, or the best quality brand you can find. You can really taste the difference. Since discovering this recipe, I’ve made it dozens and dozens of times. And every time, it’s delicious! The cake has a nice light and fluffy texture and a rich chocolate flavor.
Perfectly Chocolate Cupcakes
(makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes)
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (best quality available)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (best quality available)
1 cup boiling water
Line muffin tin with paper liners. Heat oven to 350*F.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for one minute.
Stir in boiling water (the batter will be thin, don’t worry, this is right).
Fill liners 2/3 full with batter. (I usually put the batter into a large measuring cup with a pour spout, and then pour the batter into the liners.)
Bake cupcakes for aproximately 18-22 minutes.
Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.
Recipe source- Hershey’s
Try the recipe HERE for either vanilla or chocolate (my favorite!) cream cheese frosting.
Last month, when I made some fun lollipop cookies as cupcake toppers for my daughter’s candy party I started thinking of all the other cute mini cookies I could make for cupcake toppers all year round. Since we’re right in the middle of spring here in California, I thought some little flowers would be the perfect way to celebrate the season.
I’ve had lots of questions as to how I made the little lollipop toppers, so I’ll start with a little how-to.
First, prepare the cookie dough then chill and roll out the dough (recipe and instructions HERE).
It is important that the dough is nice and cool and firm.
For the lollipop cookies I used a 1 1/2 inch circle (from this set). For the flower shapes, I used cutters from the Wilton Easter 12pc Mini Metal Cookie Cutter Set.
When I’m making mini cookies to use as cupcake toppers, I use Wilton(R) 4 Inch Lollipop Sticks (also available at Michael’s and Hobby Lobby).
Once you have your dough chilled, rolled out and have cut your shapes…
Turn the cookies back over, and bake right side up at 350*F until the are just beginning to take on a golden tone. These smaller cookies usually take about 8-9 minutes.
Transfer to a cooling rack, and as soon as they are cool they are ready to decorate.
These cookies also keep very well, so you can bake them one day, then keep them covered (on a plate covered with plastic wrap, or in a large Ziplock type bag) for a couple days before you decorate them.
Anatomy of a cookie decorating table
Once you’re ready to decorate, prepare Royal Icing (recipe below).
Royal Icing Recipe
4 Tablespoons Meringue Powder (I use Wilton Brand)
4 cups (about 1 pound) powdered sugar
6 Tablespoons warm water (to start, see additional notes below)
Beat all ingredients until stiff peaks form.
*Make sure all bowls and utensils are totally grease-free or your icing will never reach proper consistency.
Spoon some of the thick white icing into individual bowls and add coloring (I use Americolor.)
Add additional water, about 1 teaspoon at a time until you’ve reached the consistency you need.
For these cookies you can used one consistency of icing for the whole design. Thin the icing with warm water until the icing is about the consistency of corn sryup, or slighly thicker. It should be thick enough that it does not run off the edge of the cookie, but thin enough that it will flow and fill in as you pipe.
Gather supplies and prepare a work area (as pictured above).
Using a #2 or #3 size tip, outline your cookie with icing. If you’re outlining a very detailed shape, you may need to use a thicker consistency of icing (so the icing doesn’t just run off the cookie, or lose the shape you want). But if you’re doing a simple shape, you can use the same icing to outline and flood (a medium-thin consistency).
After outlining, (immediately) go back and “flood” the cookie with a medium-thin consistency icing. Pipe the flood icing back and forth inside the shape of your outline. As you can see (below) it doesn’t have to be perfect. The icing will begin to fill in on it’s own, and then you can use a toothpick to guide the icing to any unfilled areas.
For these cookies, I wanted to create a two toned effect, like some varieties of real-life tulips. You could skip this step and have single color cookies.
For other cookie designs, this would be the time to use of another color of flood consistency icing and add little drops onto the cookie, creating perfect polka-dots.
This technique is call “wet on wet”.
Set the cookie on a tray to dry. Depending on the temperature and humidity level in your home, the icing will take 2-12 hours to dry. Do not attempt to wrap up the cookies until the icing is completely dry. To speed up drying time a bit, set up a fan to gently blow on the cookies.
Once the icing is dry, add a ribbon around the stick (if you like), and insert into frosted cupcakes.
It’s a cookie and a cupcake… what more could you want in life? Well, what more could you want in a treat at least?
For the centers of the daisy shapes I added a mini M&M; when the icing was still wet (and before I sprinkled on the the sanding sugar).
A couple months ago, a good friend (Amy) called to ask if I would help her with a baby shower she was hosting, for a mutual friend. I quickly agreed, until I heard the shower date. The baby shower was going to be the day after my daughter’s candy party and I realized I couldn’t really guarantee if I was still going to be walking after that day! So I asked what the theme and colors were going to be and started thinking of things I could help with ahead of time. She said the party theme was “She’s about to POP”. I instantly thought of an amazingly original party I had recently seen with that theme… just by chance the same place Amy had seen the idea. Here is the original, She’s about to POP baby shower from My Insanity.
The colors of the shower were going to come from the colors of some cute tin buckets Amy had bought for the shower; bright pink, bright green, bright blue and purple. Although the shower was for a baby girl to come, the mommy is not really a baby pink kind of girl (she’s more fun), so the colors were chosen to reflect her style a bit.
With the theme and colors in mind, I got to crafting!
I designed custom water bottle labels (I’ll be sharing the how-to’s in an upcoming post), soda POP labels, cupcake toppers (which read, “She’s about to POP), and tags for the favors (which read, “Thanks for POPPING by!”).
In addition, I made a sign to welcome guests as they entered the home which read, “Stephenie’s about to POP”. I made the sign on a 12″ x 12″ scrapbooking page and I left plenty of open space, so guests could sign their names and it could be used as a keepsake for the shower.
I also got to work on some labels for the food. Amy and I had decided on a fun and simple snack menu of POPcorn (in three flavors- caramel, cheese and chocolate/caramel), cupcakes, and some fresh fruit and veggies (with labels that read “POP something healthy”).
Amy also put together some fun games that included a couple POP quizes, and tested our knowledge of POP music.
Here’s the yummy POPcorn (and on the left you can see the tin buckets guests filled with the popcorn).
Pretty drinks- water and soda POP (above), and the food table set up (below).
How-to’s for making your own custom water (or soda) bottle labels HERE.
Marshmallow POPS as favors (marshmallows on a lollipop stick, dipped in white chocolate then dipped in sprinkles). Amy tied groups of three pops together and added the tags that read “Thanks for POPPING by!”
All in all, it was a fun day to shower the mommy-to-be with love and gifts, and a good excuse to spend the afternoon with friends.
Do any of you feel a sudden craving for popcorn?
At the end of 2009 I was thinking back to all the baking I’d done that year and trying to figure out about how many decorated sugar cookies I had made. I came up with an estimate of around 500. That’s 500 cookies cutout, baked, and decorated by hand, by me (in a relatively small kitchen). I bake cookies as gifts, as birthday favors, baby shower favors, party treats, for church pot-lucks, holidays, or just because. There is just an endless number of cute cookie cutters, pretty icing colors, and decorating techniques that keep me inspired and always ready to make another batch of cookies.
I love my husband and children VERY much, but I sometimes see them simply as the obstacles preventing me from having a whole day to decorate cookies!
If you’d like to make some pretty cookies, here are all the link you’ll need to get started…
(includes how to make cookies on a stick)
(includes creating custom cookie shapes using common cutters)
(includes royal icing recipe and lots of decorating techniques)
In addition, I would highly recomend the book Cookie Craft
. This is the most complete book I’ve found on decorating cookies. The book is loaded with all the recipes, and step by step instructions you will possibly need, as well as lots of gorgeous photos. Despite the number of cookies I’ve made, I still come back to this book for inspiration or to remind myself the details of a particular technique.
Once you’ve made your cookies, check out THIS
post I did on packaging cookies.
For now, I’ll share with you a few of the cookies I’ve made in the last year.
I love ribbon.
I also love cupcakes…
Put the two together and what do you have? Ribbon cupcake toppers!
I’ve made lots of variations of cupcake toppers over the years, mostly with paper and my various scrapbooking supplies. One of the things I really like about cupcake toppers is they can be made far in advance, and then take no time at all to add to the cupcakes.
I knew I was going to make some Easter cupcakes for a little party my daughter’s are going to this week, so I looked through my ribbon, pulled out a few fun colors and made these cute and very simple toppers. These ribbon cupcake toppers are an easy way to add color, and dress up the cupcakes, for very little cost or effort.
Here’s how to make cute ribbon cupcake toppers…
All you need is some ribbon (I found that ribbon about 7/8 inch to 1 inch wide worked nicely).
You also need some kind of stick, this could be white lollipop sticks (available at most craft stores), or a coffee stir stick (available for free at any coffee shop… maybe buy a coffee too, so it doesn’t feel so much like stealing), or this time I just used some little bamboo forks (from Target, sold near toothpicks).
Then cut your ribbon about 4 inches long, trim the ribbon at an angle, or into the little ”v” shape like I did, add some glue (from a glue stick, or some double sided tape). Lay down your stick in the middle, and fold the ribbon over.
Then, when your cupcakes are baked and frosted, just pop the toppers in and voila! Instant cuteness! I won’t even tell if you want to add ribbon toppers to store-bought cupcakes.
Anyway, go look through your ribbon, or head to the craft store, and look at ribbon in a new way! I can see them now… red, white and blue for Independance Day… pretty pinks and florals for Mother’s day or a tea party… the possibilities are endless!