Pretty in Pink

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

This Valentine’s Day, I wanted to use a recipe I’d found for a vibrantly pink raspberry buttercream frosting I came across last year while making a Rainbow Sherbet – inspired cupcake.  I know February is the season for all things chocolate, but I just couldn’t move past the lemon raspberry flavor combo I adore so much  (Lemon Raspberry cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory, anyone?) so I paired this with my Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes from years past, just made into minis.  The results are DIVINE.  This frosting is pretty darn amazing; tart-sweet with no food coloring added.  That shocking pink is au naturel! Topped with a conversation heart for some V-Day flair, these are a cute and yummy treat for friends and coworkers.

What you need:

Makes 48 cuppiecakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • zest of one lemon

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12 ounces of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature (if needed)

Lemon Buttermilk Cuppiecakes

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a mini muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Beat in egg until just incorporated.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Add vanilla, lemon zest and lemon extracts into the buttermilk and mix half into the sugar mixture. Mix in half of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk, then the rest of the flour. Stir only until just combined. Use a cookie dough scoop to portion out into liners.
Turn oven down to 325 just prior to placing pan in oven. Bake for 9 1/2-11 minutes, turning halfway though, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

 

Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Place raspberries in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat stirring with a spoon until they resemble a sauce.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Place seedless sauce back in the pan and simmer until it reduces to a 1/4 cup of very concentrated raspberry sauce. Set aside to cool.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

When the raspberry flavoring is room temperature, cream the butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Sift in 2 cups of powdered sugar, and combine.   Add the raspberry sauce, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and a pinch of kosher salt and process until smooth.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Sift in an additional 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar and mix until it is spreading consistency.  If it is too stiff, you can add a tablespoon or two of milk, but I didn’t need to. Isn’t it lovely? A bit labor-intensive but worth every delicious calorie.

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats

Pipe your cakes and top with a conversation heart. Spread the love!

lemon cupcakes buttermilk fresh raspberry buttercream frosting valentines day recipes treats


Bake Love

Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

When you think of Valentine’s Day, what comes to mind? Love, romance, Cupid…<snore>, let’s get a little more tangible, people.  How about roses? Chocolate covered strawberries? Champagne, maybe? What if you were to combine all of those elements into one perfect edible little package…in the form of a mini cupcake? A delicate champagne cake, topped with a rich, rose-scented buttercream, garnished with a white chocolate drizzled strawberry slice. One, maybe two bites if you’re being polite, the interplay between these subtle, yet distinct flavors delivers one lovely treat.

As always, I’m a scourer of recipes, so this is a combination/adaptation.  Many thanks to Gimme Some Oven (how great is that name?) for the cake recipe and the peeps at epicurious for the fabulously pipeable buttercream frosting base. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the Champagne Cupcakes:

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup champagne
  • 3 egg whites

For the Buttercream Frosting:

Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3.5 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon rose water (found at specialty food stores and your local middle eastern market)
  • 1 drop red food coloring (optional, though festive)

Directions:

To Make The Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Prepare a mini cupcake pan with liners.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  3. In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. You should be able to hold the bowl above your head and nothing should move.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  4. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 10 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

To make the frosting:

  1. In a large bowl, mix the butter, sifted powdered sugar, salt, milk, and rose water until smooth. Mix in food coloring if using.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

For your strawberries:

Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  1. Wash, hull, and slice your berries into ~4-5 slices per berry.  If making minicupcakes, smaller strawberries seem to make a more proportionate garnish.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  2. Lightly dry berries by using paper towel to remove excess moisture and place berry slices on a sheet of parchment paper.

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry

  3. Temper your melting chocolate and use a spoon to drizzle melted chocolate over berries (obviously, there is some room for improvement in my drizzling technique!).  Allow to dry.  Garnish your cupcakes and share the love!

    Valentine's Day treats cupcakes desserts rose buttercream frosting champagne chocolate covered strawberry


Cake Poppin’

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

When I first saw little cake balls on a stick at Starbucks, I honestly wasn’t very interested.  The idea of frosting and cake covered in more candy/chocolate sounded overly sweet for my preferably savory tastebuds. Then, along came Pinterest and all it’s pretty pictures…all of a sudden, just like that, I HAD to make them.

Thank goodness for Bakerella and her lovely YouTube video!  If you’re a first timer, be sure to check it out for helpful tips – you really can’t go wrong.

As Valentine’s is coming up, what better combo for a cake pop than my favorite, dreamy red velvet with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, doused in a white chocolate shell and adorned with some festive red sprinkles?  Simply, sinfully, scrumdeliumptious.

If you have a recipe for 12 cupcakes, it’ll make enough cake for about 48 cake pops.  I didn’t have enough frosting for that many, so I cut the baked cake in half.  I <gasp!> do not own a cake pan, so poured my prepared cupcake batter into a loaf pan and baked for ~45 minutes at 325, until a toothpick came out clean.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

I cut the loaf in half and crumbled it up,

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Added about 1/4 – 1/3 c of Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting (I made a batch of 24 mini cupcakes the same day and frosted them – this was the amount that was leftover)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Mix the cake and frosting together and, using a cookie scoop, roll them into uniform little balls that hold together.  Stick the balls in the freezer for 15 minutes to firm them up, then switch them to the fridge – you do not want frozen balls!

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Meanwhile, get your chocolate ready.  I used the narrowest and deepest microwavable vessel I had on hand, which turned out to be my trusty Pyrex liquid measurer. I filled up my Pyrex cup with my melting chocolate, put it in the microwave for two, 30 second intervals and used a spatula to stir from the inside out (just like you would if using a double boiler to melt your chocolate) to make sure everything is melted, incorporated and smooth. DO NOT OVERHEAT or your chocolate will not set properly.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Take a lollipop stick and dip 1/2 inch or so of the tip in melted chocolate.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Insert tip into firm cake ball, about halfway through (not all the way through!)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Using a straight, vertical motion, submerge your cake ball in chocolate.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Use the turn of your hand to make sure all cake is covered (do not twist the stick!)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Lift cake pop straight out of vessel, pausing to let excess drip off in a vertical fashion, THEN, turn cake pop 90 degrees and slowly spin stick in your hand.  Use your opposite hand to gently tap your palm to allow all excess to drip off as you spin (watch the video – it is easier than it sounds!)

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

Before chocolate has fully set, sprinkle your cake pop with your favorite adornment. Place finished cake pops in a thick styrofoam base to allow them to set and dry.

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert

To serve, I set mine in mini cupcake papers – helps contain the sprinkles!

red velvet cinnamon cream cheese frosting cake pop valentine's day treats dessert


Easter Treats: Carrot Cake Cupcakes



Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

When I think of springtime treats, lemon desserts and carrot cake are the first things that come to mind. So why not combine the two to give you the best of both worlds?  Since I prefer the individuality of cupcakes, especially when I am making treats for different groups of people, I used this delicious-looking and rave-reviewed recipe for carrot cake and adjusted the time down for cupcakes.  To top them off, I used the lemon cream cheese frosting recipe from my archives, adapting it so that is presentable and sufficiently stiff (cold cream cheese is the key!). The results were scrumptious!  The cake is incredibly moist and delicious and the lemon zest really ties it all together.  Just don’t make yourself sick licking the frosting off the beater!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (makes 24):

Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line muffin pans with your favorite springtime liners.
  2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and salt.

    Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  3. In another bowl, stir together the carrots (use a food processor for fast shredding!), chopped nuts, coconut and raisins.

    Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the sugar and oil together on medium speed until smooth. Add the eggs one by one, and continue to beat until the batter is even smoother. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture, mixing only until the dry ingredients disappear.

    Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  5. Gently mix in the chunky ingredients. Use ice cream scoop to portion into cupcake liners, filling until about 2/3 full (any more full and they will spill over!).
  6. Bake for 20-24 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes, then gently run a knife around the sides of the cupcakes to transfer them to cooling racks.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting (makes enough for 24 cupcakes):

Carrot Cake cupcake recipe easter springtime dessert ideas lemon cream cheese frosting

  • 16 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 10 TB unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4.5 c powdered sugar, sifted
  • zest of 2 lemons, grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  1. Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, lemon juice and zest until blended. Add sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat.
  2. To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes. If you want a garnish, a toasted walnut half would be cute.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day hummingbird bakery cinnamon cream cheese frosting

I never really understood the whole hype with Red Velvet cupcakes until I started baking a few years ago.  I always thought it was weird to eat something with such a strong artificial color to it, and was a bit averse to making them.  After some perusing, I found another baker with the same thought process, and discovered this recipe on Joy the Baker (a fabulous blog, if you haven’t yet stumbled upon it).  These Red Velvets have the delicious, lightly chocolate cake the type is known for, but are a subtle shade of rouge that won’t make you feel like you’ll be peeing red. :)

red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder

À la Martha, I tend to prefer Dutch processed cocoa for its milder flavor and use gel pastes for my food coloring, so those changes are reflected in the recipe below.  I finish it off with my trusty, pipeable Cream Cheese Frosting, adding a bit of cinnamon for a surprise and finally top it off with a cinnamon candy heart in honor of the holiday.  Enjoy and remember to share the love!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

makes 12 cupcakes

  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoons dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder (like Pernigotti)
  • 1/4 tsp red gel paste food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 5/8 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Turn mixer to high and add  the egg.  Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
  3. Add in cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring, mixing thoroughly until completely combined.  You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
    red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk.  Add half of the flour and all of the salt and mix until combined.  Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour.  Beat on high until smooth.
  5. Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar.  Turn to high and beat until well incorporated.
  6. Scoop batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.
    red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder
  7. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

(makes 2 cups, more than enough for 12 cupcakes, maybe closer to 16)

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure, then sift into bowl)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat. Stir in cinnamon to taste.
    red velvet cupcake recipe valentine's day cinnamon cream cheese frosting pernigotti unsweetened cocoa powder
  2. To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes. Garnish each with a cinnamon heart.

12 Day of Christmas Crafts and Recipes: peppermint brown sugar cupcakes

peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes

For years, my mom has made a sugar cookie with peppermint frosting as the holiday treat that is made for family functions or boxed and given away as gifts.  Nothing compares to the gently spiced sugar cookie topped with a refreshingly minty, yet rich, buttercream frosting.   So, since I love to make cupcakes, I decided I’d try to recreate the cookie in cupcake form just for fun.  The results were equally delicious! I used Billy’s Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes recipe (as seen in my March ’09 post) as a rough base and did some tweaking to get the right flavor.

Brown Sugar Cupcakes:

makes 24 cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine brown sugar and butter, mixing until pale and fluffy.

2. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla.

3. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat.

peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes

4. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full.

5. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cupcakes have cooled, pipe tops with peppermint frosting.

Peppermint Frosting:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • scant 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 peppermint candy canes, pulverized to a powder in a food processor

peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the sifted powdered sugar.
  2. Mix in vanilla, then add milk until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency (you often won’t use the entire amount).  Beat until smooth and creamy.
  3. Stir in crushed candy canes until well mixed, adding more milk if frosting becomes too stiff.  Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and enjoy with a tall glass of milk!
peppermint frosting vanilla brown sugar cupcake holiday desserts recipes

Thrifty Tip: The bright and shiny cupcake liners were found at Crate and Barrel in the after-Christmas clearance section last year.


A Match Made in Fall Flavor Heaven: Pumpkin & Gingerbread

chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's

Last Halloween, my husband and I hosted a themed dinner party, with a menu full of rich foods like aged french mimolette cheese, lemon-mascarpone stuffed dates wrapped in prociutto, and lacquered short ribs.  For dessert, I wanted to finish with something a bit lighter and more refreshing, and opted for gingerbread cookie ice cream sandwiches, filled with smooth and delectable Dreyer’s Pumpkin Ice Cream. This year, since the pumpkin-gingerbread combo was so delightful, I’ve scoured my cookbooks and favorite websites to put together this gingerbread cupcake with pumpkin cream cheese frosting.

This recipe is not for the faint of heart – the flavors in this cupcake are strong and decadent.  If you prefer something a bit more mild in terms of molasses, or maybe you’re a busy mom and want something a little easier, try Trader Joe’s boxed Gingerbread Mix and top with the same pumpkin cream cheese frosting.  Most of these ingredients were purchased at Trader Joe’s, which makes for nice, one-stop shopping! Enjoy!

chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's

Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes (a combination recipe adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts and Martha Stewart’s Cookies):

makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsulphured molasses
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 TB freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 c unbleached flour
  • 1 TB unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 c boiling water
  • about 6 oz dark chocolate, cut into 1/4 inch chunks

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin pan with paper liners.
  2. In a bowl, combine flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cocoa powder.
    chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's
  3. In an electric mixer, beat pumpkin puree, sugar and fresh ginger until well incorporated.  Add molasses and egg and beat until smooth.
  4. In a separate cup, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water.
  5. Add half of flour mixture to mixer, mixing just until combined. Beat in baking soda mixture, then finish with the other half of the flour mixture. Stir in chocolate pieces.
    chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's
  6. Use scoop to portion batter into cupcake liners.  Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating once, until the cupcakes are slightly springy to the touch.  Cool for 3 minutes in the muffin pan, then transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack.

Note: the original Moosewood recipe calls for 1/4 c of butter, which I completely omitted and substituted canned pumpkin for in an attempt at a slightly healthier version.  You don’t miss the butter at all, and the canned pumpkin really keeps things moist.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 5 TB Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Butter
  • 1 TB softened butter
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure, then sift into bowl)

Directions:

  1. Have the cream cheese cold. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, pumpkin butter, and regular butter until blended. Add sugar 1/2 cup at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat.
    chocolate gingerbread cupcake pumpkin cream cheese frosting fall flavors cupcake recipe Trader Joe's
  2. To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes.

Hosting a Book Club

daughter of fortune by isabel allende host your own book club entertaining ideas

My recent book club read, Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende, inspired me to host a themed book club last month.  Set in the mid 19th century, it is the story of a young Chilean girl, Eliza Sommers, who is raised by a well-to-do British family in Valparaiso, Chile.  At 16, Eliza finds her first love in Joaquin Andieta, a young man who, like many Chileans at the time, takes off to California to seek his fortune in the gold rush.  Months later, Eliza follows him, and in an elusive search for her lover, embarks upon a journey of self-discovery.

This novel is full of inspiration when it comes to hosting a themed book club evening.  There are many images and elements from the story to draw upon: Chile itself, the Victorian clothing of the period which incorporated lace, gold to symbolize the Gold Rush, luxuries to Chileans at the time, including chocolate, and the fact that our heroine is an incredible chef and baker and resourcefully makes empanadas while in California as a means to a living.

hosting a themed book club entertaining ideas cupcake recipes appetizers wine charms

For our meeting, I served Chilean wine, empanadas, and an olive and spanish cheese plate with marcona almonds and black grapes.  We finished the evening with Martha’s devil’s food chocolate cupcakes with a velvety smooth dark chocolate ganache frosting. While the idea of topping my cupcakes with a sprinkle of edible gold leaf was divine, the $28 price tag from Sur la Table didn’t make it thriftycrafter friendly, so I had to omit it!

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining

Gold chargers, crisp white plates and black lace adornments decorated the table and super easy to make hand-fashioned wine charms (this is, after all, a wine, er, book club!), marked our glasses. Finally, I made a simple garland out of leftover gold Christmas ribbon and white paper doilies from the Dollar Tree.  Thanks to apartmenttherapy.com for the inspiration!

host your own themed book club entertaining ideas recipes llace table runner

First, the crafts!

Wine Charms

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper wine charms


Here’s what you need:

host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  • cardstock
  • eyelet stickers (alternatively, you could use a stamp or these great rub-ons from Paper Source)
  • compass with pencil
  • scissors
  • hammer, nail and wooden block
  • jewelry ear wires
  • gel pen or other marker for writing

Here’s what you do:

  1. Use your compass to create circles on cardstock.  I made mine with a radius of 5/8 of an inch.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  2. Cut out circles and adhere lace stickers to cover just more than half of the circle.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  3. Cut excess edge of sticker and write your characters’ names below the arc.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  4. Use hammer, nail and wooden block to pierce tag where you want your ring to go.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

  5. Use wire bending tool to bend end portion of your hoop up to create lock and feed through hole in tag.

    host a themed book club crafts recipes cupcake appetizers wine charms doily garland

Cost: less than $5!

Doily Garland

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

Here’s what you need:

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

  • paper doily pack
  • stitch witchery
  • iron and ironing board
  • 1/2 inch width ribbon or thicker
  • scissors or Fiskars paper trimmer

Here’s what you do:

  1. Use scissors or paper trimmer to cut doilies in half.

    hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

  2. Rip stitch witchery in pieces that measure the diameter of your doily, place between the ribbon and doily, and use iron on low setting to adhere.

    hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining paper doily garland

  3. Repeat until desired length of garland is achieved!

Cost: less than $3!

Adorned Cake Plate

host your own themed book club entertaining ideas recipes lace adorned cake plate

Here’s what you need:

hosting a themed book club craft decorating ideas recipes entertaining lace adorned cake plate

  • cake plate
  • strip of lace, in the measured circumference of your cake platter
  • Zots

Here’s what you do:

  1. Adhere Zots to cake plate rim every 1.5-2 inches.

    host your own themed book club entertaining ideas recipes lace adorned cake plate

  2. Starting with one end of your strip of lace, press lace against zots, keeping correct amount of slack, until lace band encircles your platter.

Cost: less than $5!

Now, onto the food!

I used an empanada dough recipe found on Epicurious.com for my mini empanaditas, a beef filling recipe from Susan Feniger (of Border Grill and Ciudad fame) and a pork filling recipe from Food & Wine Magazine.

Empanada Dough:

Doubling the recipe made just under 4 dozen 3.5 inch empanaditas

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  1. Sift flour with salt into a large bowl and blend in butter with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal with some (roughly pea-size) butter lumps.
  2. Beat together egg, water, and vinegar in a small bowl with a fork. Add to flour mixture, stirring with fork until just incorporated. (Mixture will look shaggy.)
  3. Turn out mixture onto a lightly floured surface and gather together, then knead gently with heel of your hand once or twice, just enough to bring dough together. Form dough into a flat rectangle and chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour.
  4. On lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and use 3.5″ cookie cutter to make discos.

Beef Filling:

host your own themed book club empanada filling recipe entertaining ideas

Makes enough for 4 dozen mini empanadas (I halved the recipe to make two dozen)

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup dark raisins
  • 8 Italian Roma tomatoes
  • 3 serrano chilies
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. In a large heavy skillet, over a medium high heat, saute the ground beef until the meat is browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain off the excess fat.
  2. Add the onion and saute 2 minutes. Then add the garlic, almonds, and raisins, and saute 1 minute.
  3. Place the tomatoes, chilies, lime juice, salt, and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Add the puree, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and salt and pepper to the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes to get rid of any excess liquid. Cool.
  5. Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle of pastry. Fold over the pastry and seal the edges. Let the empanadas rest in the refrigerator 1/2 hour or freeze immediately. (Bake the frozen empanadas without defrosting.)
  6. Empanadas may be glazed (1 egg and 2 tablespoons milk, well beaten) and baked until golden in a 400 degree oven, for about 15 minutes.

Pork Filling:

host your own themed book club empanada filling recipe entertaining ideas

Makes enough for 4 dozen mini empanadas (I halved the recipe to make two dozen)

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large white onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 pounds pork tenderloin, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup amber beer
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese chile-garlic paste or sambal oelek
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and very finely chopped
  • 3 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped
  • 6 pitted kalamata olives, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon golden raisins
  1. In a medium skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is browned, about 8 minutes longer.
  2. Meanwhile in a large skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the chopped pork, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat until the pork is golden brown on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Stir and cook until no pink remains, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the browned onions, beer, soy sauce, paprika, chile paste, cumin and jalapeño and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the filling to a large bowl. Stir in the hard-cooked eggs, olives and raisins and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  4. Brush the empanadas with the egg wash. Bake them for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the empanadas are golden brown, then serve.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes:

host your own themed book club devils food cupcake recipe entertaining ideas

Makes 32 cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three- quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
Chocolate Ganache Frosting:
Makes 4 cups
  • 1 pound good-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  1. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring cream and corn syrup just to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour mixture over chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until chocolate begins to melt.
  2. Beginning near the center and working outward, stir melted chocolate into cream until mixture is combined and smooth (do not overstir).
  3. Refrigerate, stirring every 5 minutes, until frosting just barely begins to hold its shape and is slightly lighter in color. Use immediately (ganache will continue to thicken after you stop stirring).
  4. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and garnish just before serving.

Sugar & Spice

cinco de mayo cupcakes mexican hot chocolate cinnamon buttercream frosting

Hope everyone had a fun and festive Cinco De Mayo! I wanted to get these up before the actual holiday, but entertaining mid-week can be quite taxing with food/house prep in the days leading up to your get together.  In any case, should you be celebrating over the weekend, or simply are looking for a delicious spin on your favorite chocolate cupcake, here’s a recipe to bring out the delicious flavors of Mexican Hot Chocolate. With a silky smooth and delectable cinnamon buttercream frosting, these cupcakes are sure to please.  Serve with coffee to really bring out the chocolate flavor!

Ingredients:

Cupcakes (adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home)

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Icing (adapted from this cool little blog written by a dental student, Sweet Tooth)

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanila
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Good quality chocolate bar (optional)

cinco de mayo cupcakes mexican hot chocolate cinnamon buttercream frosting

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, light sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the icing, beat butter in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until fluffy.  Sift 1/2 cup of powdered sugar at a time into bowl and mix completely before next additions. Add the milk 1 tbsp at a time to achieved desired thickness. Mix in vanilla and cinnamon until well combined.  Pipe onto your cooled cupcakes and garnish with chocolate curls (use a vegetable peeler to shave chocolate bar).

mexican hot chocolate cupcake recipe cinco de mayo dessert idea


Everyone Loves an Irish Chocolate Cupcake

dark chocolate cupcake recipe bailey's irish cream cheese frosting like sprinkles st. partick's day ideas

I always make some kind of treat for my staff members around the various holidays of the year. This St. Patty’s Day, I was inspired by the Sprinkles Irish Chocolate seasonal cupcake and decided to try to create something similar at home.  I found a recipe for delectable, rich dark chocolate cupcakes from Cooks Illustrated and topped the cupcake with a basic cream cheese frosting, infused with Bailey’s Irish Cream.

I’ve had difficulty in the past with getting my cream cheese frostings to be stiff enough to be pretty for cupcakes – while they always taste delicious, they never look fabulous by the time they get to their recipients!  So, I did some research for tips on how to keep my frosting nice and presentable – and boy was I happy with what I found!

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

(makes 12 cupcakes; per the original recipe, do not double…make two separate batches if you need more)

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt 70% cacao)
  • 1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream

Frosting:

(makes 2 cups)

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, cold
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted (measure, then sift into bowl)
  • 2.5 tsp Bailey’s Irish Cream, to taste

dark chocolate cupcake recipe bailey's irish cream cheese frosting like sprinkles st. partick's day ideas

Directions:

  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  2. Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.
  3. Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl to combine
  4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined; then sift in remaining flour mixture and whisk batter until it is homogenous and thick.
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.
  6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.
  7. Have the cream cheese cold and the butter at room temperature. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until blended. Add sugar one-third at a time and beat just until smooth and the desired consistency. If frosting is too stiff, beat for few seconds longer. Do not overbeat. If desired, stir in additional flavoring to taste.
  8. To finish, use a piping bag to frost cupcakes. Garnish each with a candy shamrock.

Tips: While the simple green fondant shamrocks of Sprinkles are super cute (below), I couldn’t find any and certainly didn’t want to make my own on a weeknight.  So, I picked up Wilton Candy Shamrocks at Michael’s (on a 40% off sale, of course!) for just over $1.

sprinkles irish chocolate cupcake


Lovely Lemons

lemon botanical print

No Easter brunch would be complete without a luscious, lemon dessert.  There is something about the tart citrus fruit that calls to your taste buds and leaves you yearning.  Here, I’ve scoured the internet and made some adaptations to a couple of recipes for lemon lovers and made crisp and absolutely delicious Lavender and Lemon Shortbread Cookies and light and creamy Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting, topped with candied ginger.  Two recipes that will, without a doubt, satisfy that lemon craving.  Enjoy!

Lavender and Lemon Shortbread Cookies

for the Shortbread

  • 1 c butter
  • 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
  • Lemon zest grated from 2 lemons
  • 2 c flour
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t baking powder
Lemon and Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe

Cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the lemon zest and the dry ingredients. Mold dough into 2 flat discs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Roll out dough on lightly floured surface and use cookie cutter to shape cookies.  Bake cookies at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes – in my oven, I found 20 minutes was plenty of time.   Allow to cool completely before icing.

Lemon and Lavender Shortbread Cookie Recipe

for the Icing

  • 1 c confectioner’s sugar
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh lavender (Original recipe used dried culinary lavender, I used fresh because I love the organic look of the purple flowers)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1-2 TB lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together, starting with one tablespoon of lemon juice and adding more as needed to create a smooth, pourable icing.   Pipe outline on cookies with white royal icing and allow to dry, about 5 minutes.  (I only made a fourth of the royal icing recipe for these cookies – you don’t need much) Flood the cooled shortbread cookies with lavender icing and allow to dry.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), soft
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (Original recipe did not include this – I added for extra lemon flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in egg. Add vanilla, lemon zest and lemon extracts into the buttermilk and pour half into the sugar mixture. Mix in half of the flour mixture, followed by the remaining buttermilk and the rest of the flour. Stir only until just combined. Divide evenly into the prepared cups.

Bake at 350F for 18-23 minutes, or until a toothpick tester comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1  cup confectioners’ sugar (Original recipe had 1 1/2 c – I cut it down by 1/2 c)
  • zest of 1 lemon, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

With an electric mixer on medium, beat the cream cheese until softened. Slowly add the sugar, zest, and juice and beat until creamy, about 3 minutes.  Pipe onto cupcakes and top with candied ginger pieces.


Sweet Greens

Baking makes me very happy, if only because I get to use my fabulous Kitchen Aid mixer. Around the different holidays of the year, I like to bake cookies and cupcakes for my family, friends and staff at work. What a great way to show your appreciation without spending a bunch of money!

shamrock pot

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day this year, I made Martha Stewart ‘s Perfect Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing and tried out the recipe for Vanilla, Vanilla cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream frosting from Billy’s Bakery in New York. Needless to say, they were a hit!

The cupcake recipe was found at a great little blog, 52 cupcakes. I have to agree with the cupcake queen, these are fabulous! I made the cupcakes in gold foil baking cups and decorated them with little shamrock picks I found at Michael’s and green sprinkles. Delicious AND adorable!

billy's bakery vanilla cupcakes


Billy’s Vanilla, Vanilla Cupcakes

Makes about 30 cupcakes
1 3/4 cups cake flour, not self-rising
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 325°. Line cupcake pans with paper liners; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.

2. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts, scraping down sides of bowl before each addition; beat until ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat.

3. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling about two-thirds full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 17 to 20 minutes.

4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat process with remaining batter. Once cupcakes have cooled, use a small offset spatula to frost tops of each cupcake. Decorate with sprinkles, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Billy’s Vanilla Buttercream

vanilla cupcake recipe

Makes enough for 30 cupcakes

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 to 8 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add 6 cups sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy. If necessary, gradually add remaining 2 cups sugar to reach desired consistency.

Martha Stewart’s Perfect Sugar Cookies

sugar cookie recipe

Makes 2 dozen

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; add dry ingredients, and mix until incorporated. With mixer running, add egg, brandy (or milk), and vanilla; mix until incorporated.
  2. Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
  4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
  5. Decorate with Royal Icing, optional.

Martha Stewart’s Royal Icing

Makes 2 1/3 cups

  • 1 box confectioners’ sugar (1 pound)
  • 5 tablespoons meringue powder
sugar cookie favor
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar and meringue powder. Mixing on low speed, add a scant 1/2 cup water. For a thinner consistency, usually used for flooding, add more water. A thicker consistency is generally used for outlining and adding details. Mix until icing holds a ribbonlike trail on the surface of the mixture for 5 seconds when you raise the paddle.

Remarks: As for Martha’s cookies, I still need to master my flooding technique. Otherwise, people seem to like the flavor of the cookie (even though royal icing pretty much tastes like powdered sugar).  I’ve made them with brandy and with milk.  It seemed to me that the ones with brandy were easier to roll out and less sticky.

To finish, place two cookies in decorative clear bags. I wrote “You’re my Lucky Charm” on the bags – a neat treat for staff to show your appreciation.