December 15 is "National Cupcake Day"! I try not to eat too many sweets, but I couldn't resist baking up a bunch of cupcakes to celebrate this foodie holiday. When I do indulge in a dessert, I want the good stuff: butter, cream, etc. However, whatever I bake has to be quick and easy. I found this short cut to making really delicious cupcakes from the TidyMom blog on a 2007 post. What I like about it is that any flavor cake mix can be used and then jazzed up with a few extras. Topped with rich buttercream frosting and decorated, these cupcakes definitely evoke a "Wow" from all! Below are the basic steps for any cake mix and plain butter cream frosting plus the variations I used to make Red Velvet Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting, Oreo Cookie Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, and Chocolate Carmel Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.
Basic Cupcake Ingredients
For about 18 cupcakes:
1 box good quality cake mix
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted
1 cup water
Basic Buttercream Frosting Ingredients
To frost 18 cupcakes:
3 cups confectioners sugar
2 sticks of butter (1 cup)
1/4 cup milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
Addition Ingredients for the "Wow!" Factor:
The variations are endless. The inspiration I got here came from bakery bought cupcakes I purchased for Allison's birthday back in September. They got me thinking of possibilities...
Put the cake mix, eggs, melted butter, and water in a bowl and mix for two minutes.
The batter will me nice and thick. (This one was a German Chocolate cake mix.)
Place a cupcake liner in the well of each muffin tin and spoon 1/4 cup batter into each one.
Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Directions for Basic Buttercream Frosting:
Place the confectioners sugar, butter, liquid, and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until combined. If it seems too thick to be spreadable add more liquid one tablespoon at a time.
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
Follow the basic directions for the cake batter above using a red velvet cake mix.
Stir in one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.
To the basic buttercream frosting recipe, add 1(8 oz.) package of cream cheese and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract. Reduce the amount of butter to 1/2 cup (1 stick). After frosting, top the cupcakes with crushed candy canes and coarse decorating sugar.
Oreo Cookie Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
Follow the basic directions for the cake batter above using a white cake mix.
Stir in 1 cup of crushed Oreo cookies (about 10 normal sized cookies).
Before you fill up the cupcake liners, drop 1/2 of an Oreo into the bottom of each one.
To the basic frosting mix, add 2 oz. (2 squares) of unsweetened baking chocolate, melted.
After frosting, top each cupcake with a mini Oreo and a bit of crushed Oreos crumbs.
Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Follow the basic directions for the cake batter above using a German chocolate cake mix.
Bake the cupcakes as directed.
Combine 1 cup sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup caramel topping (like Hershey's brand).
Immediately after taking cupcakes from the oven, poke holes in each one. Pour a healthy tablespoon full of the caramel mixture over each one. Let sit about 10 minutes before frosting.
Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the basic frosting mix. After frosting sprinkle with Health bar bits.
After eating all the rich Thanksgiving dishes last week, I found myself dreaming of a healthy but tasty salad Jenn and I had when she was relocating to California. So - here I go - I have to duplicate one more salad from our travels! While it has a lot of health benefits (One cup has these percentages of the following daily requirements: 130% vitamin A, 85% vitamin C, and 435% vitamin K), it also has enough rich flavor to be fall-festive holiday fare. The restaurant we ate this salad at overlooks the ocean and is right down the street from Jenn's apartment. We watched families enjoying a day on the beach as we munched on it! Enjoy!
For the salad:
5 oz. package of organic baby kale, about 4 cups
1 large Fuji apple, about 1 cup diced
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/3 cup golden raisins
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
Slice and core the apple, then dice enough of it to make 1 cup. Give the kale a good chopping; you should have about 4 cups worth from the 5 oz. package of organic baby kale.
Put the kale, apples, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and golden raisins in large bowl. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour 1/4 cup of it over the mixture in the bowl. Toss.