Tag Archive for cupcakes

Vanilla Cupcakes with Bourbon Buttercream

It was my friend Dan Clapson’s birthday the other day.

As part of what turned out to be a long weekend’s worth of celebrating (for him, not me), on the Monday evening we had Monday Night Supper Club (head here for some play-by-plays of these weekly events) at Stanley Park. Dan laid out some ground rules for the potluck. OK, one rule: everything had to be shaped like a cake.

Since Dan seemed to be a very lucky birthday boy who got everything he hoped for over the weekend, who was I to deny this particular wish? So, leading up to the big day I was pondering ideas. And I was drawing blanks. I really just wanted to make cupcakes. What? I know my strengths.

Vanilla Cupcake with Bourbon Buttercream

And for some reason, I kept thinking about creating with some sort of bourbon-flavoured icing.

I thought it was pretty original, but a quick Google search showed recipes are out there. And that is a good thing because it gave me a great jumping off point.

It’s tasty stuff, I can’t lie. But it’s also incredibly boozy despite the fact there is very little booze in it. Three tablespoons, about 1 1/2 shots. And only half of that made it onto the cupcakes (it’s enough icing for 24 cupcakes, not 12; the remainder is sitting in my fridge and I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it. Make more cupcakes seems the most logical answer.), so, really, it was 3/4 of a shot for the entire batch. You’re certainly not going to get drunk on them, that’s for sure.

People got pretty creative with the picnic potluck, including Chelsea who brought a sushi cake, complete with sweet potato “candles.”

Sushi "Cake"

Adria Britton with the very popular pizza pull-apart bread bundt.

Pull-Apart Pizza Bundt

Jamie Penno brought a savoury bacon-and-cheese cake.
Savoury Bacon and Cheese Cake

And Dan brought a potato salad “cake,” which was an intriguing take if not completely successful. Points for creativity!
Potato Salad "Cake"

I felt a bit non-creative for bringing straight up cupcakes, but I’m pretty sure the bourbon icing made up for that.

Vanilla Cupcakes with Bourbon Buttercream I

Vanilla Cupcakes with Bourbon Buttercream II

Dan and his Birthday Cupcake

And it was a lovely night to be in the park. Perfect way to end a lazy long weekend.

Stanley Park

Vanilla Cupcakes
This is straight from Martha Stewart’s recipe for yellow cupcakes (though I rewrote the instructions a bit). They are yellow, but I prefer to focus on their flavour.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350F.

Line a muffin tin with liners.

In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In measuring cup or bowl, mix milk and vanilla.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well each time. Turn mixer down to low, then add half of the dry ingredients, followed by the milk and vanilla and then the rest of the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Divide evenly among muffin cups.

Place tin on rimmed cookie sheet and bake until a toothpick comes out clean. (Martha suggests 20 to 25 minutes; mine were done by 18, so don’t be afraid to check early.) Cool cupcakes in the tin for 5 minutes and then remove to a rack and cool completely before frosting.

Top with bourbon buttercream.

Bourbon Buttercream
And I adapted this one from My Recipes.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 pound icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat butter until creamy. Add half of the icing sugar and beat, followed by the milk and bourbon and vanilla. Mix until blended. Add the remaining sugar and beat until thick and smooth.

Coca-cola Cupcakes with Glaze

I’m not going to tell you how exactly how long this has been sitting in the vault. But I’ll give you a hint; I made these for someone who had given up drinking coca-cola for Lent. Yeah, I should probably join some sort of 12-step program for procrastinators.

But I digress . . . .

So, I thought it would be hilarious to make Coca-cola Cupcakes with Glaze for a friend. Only after I brought them to her did I realize that maybe her giving up Coke for Lent probably meant any consumption of the cola and that in my effort to be funny I might actually be undoing her commitment. She assured me that she had only given up drinking Coke and that she saw the humour in the cupcakes. I continued to feel guilt through much of Lent.

Coca-cola

Glazed Cupcakes II

I can’t actually remember how or when I stumbled on this recipe in Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, but I had marked it with a Post-it note at some point and then I think I just connected the dots later. It’s only one of about 12 recipes that have little tags marking them as “to-make,” so I guess I should get going on that.

One of the things I love about Nigella’s recipes are some of them call for simply melting the butter instead of waiting it to come to room temperature. For someone like me, who sometimes wants to make things relatively on impulse (read: impatient), this means I still can. No waiting.

And it was kind of fun to make these. Not only because of the odd mix of ingredients but also because the reaction between the cocoa and Coke was a bit hypnotic. Giant bubbles, that pretty much sums it up.

Cocoa bubbles

I was a little freaked out by how thin the batter was, but they bake up beautifully. They’re so . . . light. I don’t know how else to describe them. They certainly don’t taste like Coke, but it’s still charming to say that’s the not-so-secret ingredient.

The original recipe is for a full cake and, although Nigella suggests you can make cupcakes, she doesn’t give a baking time. I guessed at 15 minutes and when I checked them they were perfectly done. However, she says it will make 12 cupcakes and it made 16 for me (An ongoing problem for me is I always end up with more cupcakes than the recipe specifies. Unsure if I make them smaller or if my muffin tin is smaller? Ok, “problem” isn’t really the right word.)

So, if your batter fits perfectly in 12, I’d bank on it taking a few more minutes.

Coca-cola cupcake batter

Coca-cola Cupcakes

Coca-cola Glaze

Glazed cupcakes

Coca-cola Cupcakes with Glaze

  • 200 g plain flour
  • 250 g sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 125 mL buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 125 g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 175 mL Coca-cola

Preheat the oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Beat the egg, buttermilk and vanilla in in a measuring jug. In a heavy-based saucepan, melt the butter, cocoa and Coca-cola, heating it gently. Pour into the dry ingredients, stir well with a wooden spoon, and then add the liquid ingredients from the jug, beating until it is well blended.

Pour into a muffin tin that has been greased or lined with papers and bake for 15 minutes (or more, see above) until a tester comes out clean.

Glaze

  • 225 g icing sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons Coca-cola
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Sieve the icing sugar and set aside. In a heavy-based saucepan, combine the butter, Coca-Cola and cocoa and stir over a low heat until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla, and spoon in the sieved icing sugar, beating as you do, until you’ve got a good, spreadable, but still runny, icing.

Pour over the cupcakes while they are still warm, and leave to cool.

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

I felt like making cupcakes. That’s pretty much the reason for the post.

Iced Cupcake

So, I was flipping through my cupcake cookbook (impulse buy, of course. Sigh.) and found this recipe for Applesauce Spice Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting. (Aren’t you glad I didn’t make all of that the title of the post?) The only reason I paused was because I noticed that it called for unsweetened applesauce and I just happened to have some in my cupboard. Not something I’d normally have hanging around but when I made my Applesauce Cake a few weeks ago, I didn’t look closely at the recipe before going shopping. When looking at the choice between unsweetened and sweetened applesauce, I figured it was only logical that the applesauce cake would call for unsweetened because there was sugar in the recipe.

Duh.

This is why I need to be more explicit with my lists.

I came home to find I bought the wrong kind and had to go back to the grocery store for the right kind of applesauce. I would have returned the unsweetened but was too lazy to go all the way back to the store where I bought it (there are none of that chain close to me; I had picked it up while running other errands). Plus, I guess I figured at some point I would find a way to use it up.

And, lo, I did.

Like every other time I’ve made a Martha Stewart cupcake recipe, I ended up with way more than she predicted. I don’t know if my muffin tin is much smaller than hers or if I’m underfilling the cups, but I ended up with 21 or 22 cupcakes, where she said I would end up with 18. And, people, this was after consuming some batter. (*Hangs head in shame.*)

Spiced batter

But having extras was no big deal, really, because they were good and they all got eaten anyway.

The cupcakes are not overly sweet, which is nice against the cream cheese icing. But I think I actually preferred my mum’s recipe for Applesauce Cake. It just seemed . . . I don’t know. Lighter? Better? And it could be just as easily converted into a cupcake recipe by putting the batter into muffin tins and decreasing the baking time. (Start checking at about 15 minutes. They should probably take about 20.)

One more thing. The recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened applesauce. That’s 375 mL. A can or jar of applesauce here in Canada is 398 mL, so I just dumped the whole thing in. And it was totally fine, so if you’re worried about that last little bit, just chuck it in.

Cooling

Frosting

Cupcake trio

Applesauce Spice Cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (I didn’t have any and the recipe was just as tasty)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped (I didn’t put these in because my friend is allergic and I really wanted her to eat one)

Preheat the oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add applesauce and then flour mixture, beating until just combined after each. Stir in pecans by hand.

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 completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to two months, in airtight containers.

To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated up to three days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.

Brown-Sugar Cream-Cheese Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar

With an elecrtic mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to three days in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth.

Glazed Lemon Cakes

While winter seems to beg for rich, warm or comforting desserts — sticky toffee pudding, brownies and apple pie — I crave lemon.

Of course, I’ve always been a go-against-the-grain kind of girl.

I like all those desserts, too; they have their place. But lemon tang on a dark, wintry day takes me away from the snow and cold. It can brighten a dreary afternoon, send me a shot of virtual sunshine.

Glazed Lemon Cakes II

Sure, we’ve been enjoying a lengthy bout of relatively warm weather, but I’m not easily fooled. Real spring is still weeks away and if I can trick myself into feeling like winter has already snapped and the fresh green and blossoms are quickly nearing, then I have to take advantage of that.

But which lemon dessert?

Conservatively, I have about 40 lemon-based tarts, bars, cupcakes and other concoctions saved on the online bookmarking site, Delicious. (All right, I checked. There are 41. But probably not for much longer.) All of these things have caught my eye at one time or another and I’ve saved them for just such wintry occasions when I need a taste of bright and tart.

The lemon bars had their appeal. The pull-apart lemon loaf looked tempting, but a bit time-consuming for me in this fit of citrus craving. But glazed lemon cakes? Oh yes, those I could handle.

The hardest part of this recipe was remembering to pull the butter out of the fridge so it could come to room temperature. Almost all of the ingredients are standard in most fridges, except, perhaps, the plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk. In this case I went with the yogurt because it seemed like something I could more easily use up. Buttermilk is great for baking, but it’s not something I tend to go through quickly.

These little cakes were light, tender and full of tang. With the addition of the thick glaze that dripped down the edges, they reached lemon perfection. Not puckeringly tart, but deliciously citrus: a little injection of sunshine on an overcast day.

I can’t lie. I ate two before I even mixed the glaze.

And if that isn’t enough motivation to whip up a batch, I’m not sure what is.

One last note, the original recipe calls for a “6-cup jumbo muffin tin.” Since I try to avoid buying new bakeware for just one recipe, I decided to make do with what I had lying around.

My advice? Bake them in a regular muffin tin for 15 minutes (though consider starting to check them at the 10-minute mark, just in case) and eat two!

Lemon Cakes

Glazed Lemon Cakes I

Glazed Lemon Cakes III

This recipe is from Everyday Food.

Glazed Lemon Cakes

  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for muffin tin
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) all-purpose flour, plus more for muffin tin
  • 2 tsp (10 mL) baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) low-fat buttermilk, or plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated, plus juice, plus 2 tbsp (25 mL) more lemon juice for the glaze
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups (375 mL) confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F (EDIT, this should be 180°C). Butter and flour a 6-cup jumbo muffin tin or 12-cup regular muffin tin. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla and lemon zest and juice of 1 lemon. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk mixture.

Divide evenly among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centre of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. (Or about 15 minutes for a 12-cup muffin tin. Start checking at the 10-minute mark.) Cool 10 minutes in tin, then cool completely on a rack.

Set rack over wax or parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir confectioners’ sugar with remaining lemon juice until smooth. Pour over cakes, spreading to edges with a small knife. Let set 30 minutes.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes

I don’t like beer.

I was absent the night in university when my friends went to the grungy student pub, bought a pitcher and sat down, determined to acquire a taste for the stuff.

No idea where I was–I like to think I was responsibly studying somewhere–but it seems my decision means I will never really love beer the way I might have if I had sat in that smoky room with them.

Around St. Patrick’s Day, food bloggers were raving about cupcakes that included a rather unexpected ingredient: Guinness. Given my distaste for beer, I passed those entries by.

Frankly, the only thing that intrigues me about Guinness is the hypnotic rolling where the head meets the dark liquid in the pint glass just after it’s been poured. But I kept thinking about the recipes.

Cupcakes in profile

I think I was intrigued because they were so boldly unusual. Beer and chocolate? Really? Would the taste of stout be overpowering?Would it mellow into the background to add a perhaps unidentifiable richness? Or would it just be a chocolate cupcake with a good storyline?

It should come as no surprise this recipe comes from a British chef — Nigella Lawson — considering the other culinary oddities that have sprung from the United Kingdom. I mean, consider the blood sausage.

Her version makes an entire cake, though, and I prefer the idea of cupcakes, I suppose, for their portability. It is also much easier to pass them along to friends than a slice of cake. Leaving an entire cake in my fridge is not an option.

And she has paired it with a cream cheese icing, which creates a sort of play on the stout itself, with its creamy white head balancing atop the velvet dark drink.

Three whole cupcakes

I don’t believe in skimping on the icing. The original cream cheese icing recipe suggested adding more whipping cream to thin it out, but I reined in the extra liquid to ensure I had a nicely thick, spreadable topping. As a result, I also didn’t have enough. Given that I ate two cupcakes before even making the icing (quality control–OK, that’s a lie, I was dying of curiosity) and I still had four cupcakes left at the end that went unadorned, I suggest doubling the icing recipe. That way, there will be more than enough to coat all of the cupcakes.

The original recipe called for a half cup of whipping cream. I only used two tablespoons. If you’d like a thinner icing, feel free to add more cream.

My first bite made me realize –again–that Nigella certainly knows her stuff. These cupcakes are rich and dark with only a hint of their secret ingredient –certainly not enough to turn me off the idea of eating several more. Combined with the icing, the Chocolate Guinness cupcakes were heavenly. The icing, perhaps ironically, cuts some of the darkly chocolate flavour.

Bitten

A friend graciously offered to buy the remaining five bottles of Guinness from me, knowing full well they would simply gather dust next to my wine rack. But, having given these a shot, I think I will hang on to them. After all, I think I’d like to make the cake version next. Apparently, all it took for me to like beer was to add chocolate.

Bitten and whole

Bitten profile

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Excerpted from Feast by Nigella Lawson (Hyperion Books, $39.95, 2006)

  • 1 cup (250 mL) Guinness
  • 4 oz (1/2 cup or 125 mL) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups (500 mL) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tbsp (15 mL) vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 2½tsp (12 mL) baking soda

Icing

  • 8 oz (250 g) cream cheese
  • 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp (25 mL) whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Pour the Guinness into a large saucepan, add butter and heat at medium-low until melted. Whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar, then remove from heat. In a small bowl, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour into the slightly cooled Guinness-butter mixture. Whisk in the flour and baking soda.

Spoon batter into cupcake pan, so each liner is about three-quarters full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in the pan, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Once completely cooled, make the icing.

Beat cream cheese and icing sugar until smooth. Add the whipping cream and beat again until it is thoroughly mixed and spreadable. Add more cream if you want a thinner icing. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

This story first appeared in the Real Life section in the Calgary Herald. For more delicious recipes, visit CalgaryHerald.com/life.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Hello fall!

Um, actually, that would have been more accurate about a month ago during the exactly two-day period that it was autumnal here.

Fall here leaves me wanting. One day the leaves are amber, gold, red; the next, they are brown, scattered, shredded on the ground. I want more time when there is only a slight nip in the air, when watery sunlight filters through the increasingly bare trees, when there is a crunch underfoot from those already fallen.

But, at least I can taste fall.

Lone cupcake

Pumpkin and squash and warm spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger. Roasting and baking, soups and stews and pots simmering on the stove.

I went a little crazy at the grocery store, inspired by a host of pumpkin recipes I wanted to try out: pumpkin cinnamon rolls, chicken enchiladas with pumpkin sauce, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pies. I walked out of there with six cans of pumpkin. Why do I always buy things like I am part of a family of six instead of a single girl in a tiny apartment with no discernable cupboard space?

(And, as an aside, why do all American recipes call for 15-ounce cans of pumpkin? They don’t appear to exist on this side of the border. I can only find 14 ounces or 28 ounces. Are we Canadians stingy with our pumpkin supplies?)

And which of all these recipes would have me cracking open the first can? It wasn’t much of a struggle to decide. I am increasingly drawn to cupcake recipes. I like individual desserts (perhaps I have sharing issues?) and cupcakes are so darn cute. So, when a friend invited me over for dinner, I shamelessly offered to make dessert. (One does not willingly make cupcakes when one lives alone. It is, literally, a recipe for disaster.)

So, Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing it was.

These were lovely and moist, full of flavour and ridiculously easy. I give two thumbs up to any recipe that doesn’t require me to soften the butter first. Sometimes I just can’t quite plan that far ahead. Since this one calls for melted butter, you can impulse bake these puppies. A dangerous thought indeed. And the icing was a breeze, even if you do need to pull out the butter and cream cheese early to make it whippably soft.

When I arrived at my friend’s house, she put the cupcakes up on the counter, but not far enough out of reach from her young son, who managed to swipe a finger over the icing of one cupcake. I agree, Erik, the icing is irresistible!

Cupcake from the top

I used the same recipe from my Red Velvet Cake (hot pink velvet cake?) for the icing. It’s foolproof and ridiculously good.

The batter was a little too delicious, though. This recipe, according to Martha Stewart, will give you 18 cupcakes. (Find hers here.) I don’t know what size of pan Ms. Stewart is using, but this easily made two batches in my 12-cupcake pan. Or, more accurately, it made 23 cupcakes. It would have made 24 had I not eaten so much batter. Good lord.

Mmmm spices

Mixing it up

Pumpkin Cupcake Batter

Pumpkin Cupcake Batter

Cream Cheese Icing

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (I doubled this because I love nutmeg.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree (I used a 14-ounce can and it was still lovely and pumpkin-y)

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and the spices. In another bowl, whisk together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and eggs. Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Then whisk in pumpkin puree.

Line the cupcake pan with liners and fill each about halfway with batter. Bake until tops spring back when touched and a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate the pans if needed. (I have one pan, so did not bother with that step.) Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar.

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

I don’t drink coffee.

I know, I know. Take a minute to digest that fact. It is a bit strange.

Solo cupcake

But I grew up in a household where there was always a pot of tea sitting around. And it was always Earl Grey. And it still is.

I’m sure it’s partly that because I grew up with it, but it’s still my favourite flavour of tea. But I also love the taste of perfume-y Bergamot — an essence from the skin of a sour fruit. While my family likes Twinings for it’s faint Bergamot taste, I prefer Tazo, which has a bit more of the essence in its mix. Even better? Stash Tea’s Double Bergamot.

And, full disclosure, I like the smell of Earl Grey tea so much, I even bought the Demeter fragrance of it.

While here at home I drink it with milk, at my parents’ house I always have my Earl Grey tea with lemon and sugar. So when I came across a recipe for Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Icing, I immediately bookmarked it. And then, like about a thousand other recipes, I forgot about it for some indeterminate amount of time until I got bored and began going through the aforementioned bookmarks looking for something to surf to.

The stars of the show

Earl Grey tea

I had some extra lemons lying around after making Whiskey Sours on the weekend, was bored and basically wanted to hang out in my kitchen baking and listening to good music. So, I whipped up these babies, ate two and then realized I was going to have to take the rest to work the next day lest I eat them all.

These will be made again. I might add more tea next time. Also, it was a particularly juicy lemon I used in the buttercream and, in hindsight, I should have measured instead of squeezing through a sieve and right into the bowl. So, it wasn’t all that surprising the icing was quite sloppy. Another cup or so of icing sugar did the trick, but next time I’ll be more careful.

Then again, when I took some into work (I think my colleagues were more excited about me launching a food blog for the inevitable leftovers), almost every comment revolved around the icing. It seems I’m not the only one that loves a lemon dessert.

This recipe originally comes from Desert Candy. Here is her post on it.

She made 24 cupcakes, but I halved it to make 12. This is the version I used. Double if you wish. Also, the original recipe called for self-rising flour. I didn’t have any, wasn’t going to go out and get some (is it even available in Canada?), so some googling led me to several versions of how to make “self-rising” flour (which basically just has leaveners and salt added already). The recipe below uses all-purpose flour.

I also “lemoned up” the icing by using the zest of an entire lemon and more than the required amount of lemon juice. Feel free to tone it down, if you wish.

Earl Grey Cupcake Batter

Just before the oven

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. Earl Grey tea (I used 1 bag and didn’t measure. I might add more next time.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, making sure they are thoroughly combined before adding the next one. Mix together the dry ingredients, including the tea. Beat in half of the dry mixture with the wet, then add the milk and the rest of the dry mixture, stirring until just combined. Line the cupcake pan with 12 cups and fill them about two-thirds full. Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Cool thoroughly before frosting.
Lemon Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice

Cream butter, then add the icing sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the lemon zest, juice and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

Most smart bakers know to make sure everything is ready to go in advance of getting started. I am, apparently, not a smart baker.

Chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing

We were celebrating a (much belated) birthday for a good friend. Some wiggling around with the schedule had the celebration moved from brunch to Sunday night dinner and I volunteered (most willingly — any excuse to bake) to bring the birthday dessert. All week I Googled for moist, rich chocolate cake recipes and then sat there trying to decide which would be better: mayo-based or buttermilk; white icing or chocolate; cupcakes or layer cake. Finally, when I shared my dilemma with a friend, she queried why I wasn’t using a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Indeed! Why wasn’t I?

She has two recipes in her books and one online at Food & Wine. Since I already bought the books, I figured I may as well try one of those and, at last, settled on the Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing. My love of this combination knows no bounds, so I’m kind of surprised I didn’t think of this recipe immediately.

Initially, it was all going very well. I ran out to the store to buy sour cream, buttermilk and coffee, along with whipping cream for the icing, then returned to begin. There was butter to soften and dry ingredients to sift (and, boy did I sift those. I learned my lesson from the Red Velvet cake when not sifting the cocoa with the flour led to brown swirls through the cake.) and, of course, photos to take to document my progress.

Cakes still make me a bit nervous. I’m worried I’ll overmix and make a tough cake and that is not eased by the fact most recipes have this whole “mix in thirds” step. What if it’s not exactly thirds? Also, I think a lot of recipes these days assume people have stand mixers, which makes this step (among others) much easier, then when trying to hold the mixer while pouring in a third of the dry mixture and not end up covered in cocoa and flour dust.

Butter and sugar and eggs, oh my!

The batter trifecta

Chocolate cupcake better

Chocolate cupcakes ready to bake.

But, for the most part, it all went really well. The batter seemed incredibly light at the end (Okay, and, yes, it did taste good.) and I was all ready to put the batter into the tins. I pulled out my cupcake liners and found I only had five left. Gah! Thankfully, there’s a grocery store a little over a block away, so I turned off the oven and bolted down there where I bought some liners and then raced back. I was really worried that extra time would ruin the batter somehow.

In the end, it was only a 15-minute delay and I don’t think it affected the cupcakes. They baked up perfectly, though for less time than the recipe suggested owing, I suspect, to the fact that my muffin tins are more shallow and took less batter to fill. (I used a 1/8 cup scoop, which worked perfectly. No spillage.)

Chocolate Cupcakes

Solo chocolate cupcake

The cupcakes are not overly sweet, which was a nice counterpoint to the rich peanut butter icing.

Peanut butter icing

Row of cupcakes

This recipe is from Barefoot Contessa at Home.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature (that’s 3/4 cup for those of us that don’t use sticks of butter)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. brewed coffee (Full disclosure: I don’t drink coffee. I made a cup of instant and it tasted awful to me, so I only threw in less than a tablespoon. I suspect good coffee may be a great addition.)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

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

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and two sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately five minutes. (For those of us without a stand mixer, a handheld is just fine. It just makes it a bit trickier when mixing in the wet and dry ingredients.) Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, 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 (one rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frost each cupcake with peanut butter icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing

  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream (I used whipping cream)

Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.