Sunday, September 4, 2011

Chocolate cupcake with salted caramel buttercream

Yet another cupcake recipe to share (and for me to record for future use).  I adapted several different recipes into one decadent cupcake.   Just take a look...

This little beauty is a chocolate cupcake with caramel filling, salted caramel buttercream topped with a caramel drizzle and milk chocolate toffee bits.  Pretty much all of my favorite things wrapped up in one little treat.  Though the cupcake recipe makes 24 cakes, the frosting only covered 12.  So I made another batch of frosting but substituted 1/2 cup of fresh strawberry puree for the caramel and omitted the salt.  Fresh strawberry buttercream is definitely a winner too.  A bit lighter than its caramel cousin if that's possible considering the butter and sugar involved. 

I have no destination other than my belly in mind for these 2 dozen cupcakes.  Yikes!  Unless anyone wants to drop by for cupcakes tomorrow, my co-workers will get to polish these off on Tuesday.  If only I loved working out as much as I love baking.  *sigh*

Perfectly Chocolate Cupcakes
(makes 24-27 standard sized cupcakes)
From Glorious Treats

2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (best quality available)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (best quality available)
1 cup boiling water

Caramel Filling
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup caramel topping

Salted Caramel Frosting
Adapted from The Novice Chef

2 sticks unsalted butter; room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup caramel topping; plus more for drizzling
3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel
1 pound confectioners’ sugar


Line muffin tin with paper liners. Heat oven to 350*F.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed for two minutes.  Stir in boiling water (the batter will be thin).

Fill liners 2/3 full with batter.  Bake cupcakes for approximately 22-24 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

Stir sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping to make the filling.  Scoop out a hole in the cupcake and spoon in the filling.  Replace the scooped out portion of the cake.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter.  Add vanilla, caramel topping and fleur de sel and mix until well combined.   Add confectioners' sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Pipe icing onto cupcake, drizzle with caramel topping and sprinkle with Heath milk chocolate toffee bits (found in the baking aisle).  Or sprinkle with chopped Snickers bars.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ladybug birthday cupcakes

Our dear friends moved on Saturday and were brave enough to host a birthday party for their 4 year old on Sunday at their new home.  Impressive!  So I volunteered to make cupcakes for the birthday girl.  She requested ladybugs and I was happy to oblige.  I made perfectly chocolate cupcakes with my favorite vanilla buttercream grass and fondant ladybugs, funfetti cupcakes with vanilla buttercream and another fondant ladybug and fresh strawberry cupcakes with strawberry buttercream and m&m ladybugs.  I only sampled the strawberry which was good but perhaps a little dry.  Since I have said the same thing about other recipes, I should probably adjust my baking times.  The hubby tried the funfetti and gave his usual "it was fine" response.  Not much to go on there.  Oh well, just an excuse to try both the chocolate and funfetti recipes again!  Overall I was very happy with the decorations.  And I even made an extra batch of grass and roses for my sister's family to celebrate their move to the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  Win-win! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Candy Bar Cake recipe

For the anonymous commenter on my birthday post, here is the recipe for the Candy Bar Cake.  It's definitely my favorite!  But based on the size of my "Goodies" board on Pinterest, I have many new favorites waiting to be tried.

Candy Bar Cake
Liberally adapted from

1 package devil's food cake mix
1 1/2 cups milk
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix

1 1/2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 (12 oz) container Cool Whip, thawed
7 Heath bars, coarsely chopped (substitute any candy bar you'd like)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Prepare 3 8-inch cake pans (my sister introduced me to Baking Pam and I haven't looked back.  It's flour and oil in one quick spray!).

Combine cake ingredients in a mixing bowl.  Beat on low speed until combined.  Beat 4 minutes on medium speed.  Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Turn out cakes from pans and allow to cool completely.

For the filling, beat cream cheese, sugar and confectioner's sugar until smooth.  Fold in Cool Whip and candy bar pieces.  Spread between cake layers and on outside.  I then added a layer of chocolate buttercream to the outside for a cleaner finished look.  And because chocolate is fantastic.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

My birthday in pictures

Handmade by my kiddos with help from their Daddy.

Almost triple digits, woohoo!

Candy bar cake (chocolate cake, whipped cream/cream cheese icing with toffee and chocolate buttercream)

This is my idea of the proper cake to frosting ratio...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Relay For Life - Papa's Pizza Fundraiser 2011

Bring this flyer to Papa's Pizza on Tuesday, May 17th and Papa's will donate 50% of the value of the food you purchase to the American Cancer Society! (Click on the image to enlarge & print. You must bring the flyer for the donation!)  The fundraiser is all day but we will have desserts and reserved tables from 5-7pm.  See you there!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Party, party, party

We hosted an open house recently to celebrate Calla's arrival.  It was such a joy to see so many special people gather to pour out love on Calla and our family.  We are blessed!  Every baby should be cherished as much as Calla.

In preparation for the party, I had a great time sourcing handmade decorations and treats as well as making many of my own.  Instead of searching all over for recipes and resources again, I thought I'd recap anything here for my future reference.  Plus everything turned out so beautifully that I had to share pictures.  (Disclaimer - I was snapping pictures at the last second with the wrong lens so the quality is not great.) 

  • Chocolate Cupcakes -  Magnolia's Vanilla Buttercream will definitely be my go-to icing in the future.  It is DELICIOUS!  If buttercream is wrong, I don't want to be right.  Edible pearls and wafer rice paper butterflies from Sweet Deja Vu were beyond adorable.  I was very pleased with these cupcakes.
  • Chocolate Covered Oreo's - I used a candy mold which created a professional looking result.  Tutorial here.
  • Mini Strawberry Cheesecake - Used this recipe but made into individual cheesecakes using silicone muffin molds.  They definitely needed to be frozen for at least 2 hours before unmolding but I love the finished result of the individual servings.
  • Sugar Cookies - I tried a new recipe which was very good.  Traditionally I have used buttercream to ice cookies but I wanted to try royal icing for a clean finish.  The flavor wasn't as good as buttercream but the cookies were very pretty.  I think adding vanilla or almond extract would help.  I used buttercream to attach these custom fondant monogram toppers from Two Sugar Babies.  Some of the monograms were damaged beyond repair in shipping but I ended up with just the right amount for the plate.  And I think her other designs which aren't as intricate would travel better.
  • Petit Fours - I'm not usually a lemon dessert fan but these lemon petit fours from Dulce De Luna were delicious!  The almond raspberry flavor was also tasty.
  • Cake Pops - Red velvet, yum!  I met a woman who was selling cake pops as a fundraiser for Relay for Life and asked her to make 2 dozen for the party.  Win-win!
  • Chocolate and Vanilla Marshmallows - If you haven't tried handmade marshmallows from A Little Bit of Sweet, you are missing out!  They are light, fluffy and absolutely delicious.
  • Meringue Cookies - Huge mistake, most of them broke during shipping and no one ate those that made it in tact.  Oh well, you live and learn.
  • Hershey's Kisses - Found clever little stickers from Posh Pixels and had them customized with Calla's name and initial. 

Chocolate covered Oreo's
White chocolate covered Oreo's
Red Velvet Cake Balls
Sugar cookies with royal icing and fondant monogram toppers
Lemon and almond-raspberry petit fours
Meringue cookies, handmade marshmallows, kisses
Kisses with custom stickers
Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream
Wafer rice paper butterfly and edible pearl decorations
  • Tea sandwiches - I don't generally like tea sandwiches plus I tried new recipes so this was a gamble.  Both the chicken salad and cucumber sandwiches (used Best Cucumber Sandwich recipe) were completely gone and received many compliments. 
  • Fruit
  • Veggies and dip
  • Orzo pasta salad
  • Scones and homemade blackberry jelly (Jeff's contribution)
  • Water - I added cucumbers, limes, strawberries and raspberries to water to make it a little prettier
  • Raspberry lemonade with lemons brought from Arizona by my mom
  • Coffee and assorted teas
  • Champagne bar with pomegranate juice, orange juice and peach puree.  In a flash of frugal brilliance, I bought simple vases from the Dollar Store for the juices since I didn't have enough pitchers.

Food table

Fruit water and raspberry lemonade

Coffee and tea in my mom's silver tea service set (paper heart garland above)

Champagne bar (custom letter blocks in front)
  • Tissue paper pom poms came in a kit from Prost to the Host.  I just had to attach the monofilament, fluff and hang.  My mom had the clever idea of using a needle to hang them.  You can't even see the holes!
  • Paper heart garland from Paper Polaroid.  I am saving this to use for Valentine's decorations in the future.
  • I adore the name blocks from Countryside Sayings.  They were a great addition to the party decor and I ordered colors that will work in Calla's room afterward.
  • I made the food labels using frames from DreAm Loft.  It came in a set of 6 different designs but the shop owner sent each design separately as well which worked perfectly since I only used one.
  • Using this tutorial, I created a twin heart wreath for the door.  It was a ton of work (and a ton of glue sticks) but I will also keep this to reuse for Valentine's Day decorations so it was worth it.

Pom Poms, glass trays and food table

Pom Poms close up
DIY heart wreath

Monday, February 28, 2011

Couponing experiment

I stumbled upon a tv show about extreme couponers and was about to change the channel when this lady bought $600 worth of groceries and after coupons only paid $2.  My jaw hit the floor and I was mesmerized.  And so began my wild hair to try using coupons.  (This is what daytime television has turned me into!)  Now I didn't plan to go dumpster diving for coupons like one lady does.  Or walk 7 miles each day picking up coupons from my neighbors.  My goal was simply to use one coupon.  I've never bothered with coupons because I figured I wouldn't remember to use them.  So I figured it would be wise to start small. 

Except...I'm never one to start small.

One coupon turned into an envelope full of them.  My rule was to only clip a coupon for things we would have already planned to purchase.  But I'll be darned if Proctor & Gamble wasn't sending out their coupon circular this week.  I have no idea how often this happens but the timing was perfect.  And many retailers were running sales and additional coupons for P&G products to coincide with their circular.  That meant that I would have a sale price, retailer coupon and manufacturer coupon for some items.  That's like the Holy Grail of couponing!  Or so I'm guessing.

Long story short, I went to the store today with my detailed list and my envelope of coupons.  The result?  (Drum roll please...)  I saved over $75 between manufacturer coupons ($20) and retailer coupons/club discounts ($55).  That was 23% of the total.  Not too shabby!  My big learning is to indicate the coupon details on my shopping list - size of package, item limit, etc.  The list is really the key, then all you have to do is hand the pile of coupons to the cashier and watch the total chip away.

It wasn't really that difficult but if I'm honest, I'm not sure if I'll keep this up once I go back to work.  That's the way my wild hairs have historically worked.  In the meanwhile, I'm looking forward to receiving the coupons in the Food Day tomorrow.  And hopefully the bigger lesson of stocking up on sale items sticks. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Kid's First Concert

Rachel from Signing Time is a star in our house so we are jumping at the chance to see her live in Portland!  Jeff was shocked when I told him VIP tickets were only $20 for adults.  Clearly Rachel's fame is not as widespread as it should be.  A VIP ticket earns us early entrance for better seats and the chance to actually meet Rachel.  I only hope Ian will be as excited as I am.  And that the risk of skipping a nap does not impact our fun...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Practice makes perfect

I've always like to bake but haven't really had the time.  With a back-to-back sabbatical and paternity leave, I've had the luxury of baking lots of cakes.  And by lots, I mean 4.  Considering I do the baking and decorating while Ian is sleeping, I think 4 is a lot.  I could bake while he is awake but then I have to listen to him say "whatcha making mommy" and "want some" about a billion times.  It's just not worth it.  What I've ultimately discovered is that I enjoy trying new recipes and am pretty darn good at baking.  But on the decorating side, I'm just ok.  I need to spend more time smoothing the icing and such to ensure a better outcome.  And I probably need some tools.  I love the process though and I think with practice I will be much better.  I'm looking forward to more excuses to practice! 

Ian's birthday cake:  dark chocolate cake with cream cheese icing and fondant dessert decorations (cake and icing are my go-to recipes)

Ian's other birthday cake:  chocolate cake with candy bar filling and chocolate buttercream icing (DELICIOUS!!!)

Our friend Bethany's first birthday cake:  cookies and cream cake with buttercream Oreo filling and vanilla buttercream icing and cake ball bee

Valentine's cake (per Jeff's request):  chocolate cake with fleur de sel caramel filling and ganache icing (the ganache wasn't sweet enough for me so I would leave it in the filling and sub chocolate buttercream for the icing)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Changing my mind

As is my prerogative, I've changed my mind.  I decided the family blog was better for pictures and I'd keep this site for the random update about well, anything I want (although I've been terrible at that). 

We've been home for a little over 2 weeks and this is the first week that we have nothing on the calendar.  Visiting friends have been wonderful but we were at the doctor's office every other day for a while there not to mention the lawyer and adoption agency.  So it's nice to have some quiet time.  (Any friends who want to come visit are always welcome!  Ian loves the entertainment, I think we're becoming quite boring.)  And we're slowly but surely starting to get more sleep as Calla begins to settle into some semblance of a routine.  If you call sleeping all the time and eating every 3 hours a routine.  So the next goal will be to start potty training Ian.  Wish us luck!

My life is all about bottles and books and naps and playing right now.  And I've got to say, I'm enjoying it.  I don't miss work much...yet.  Hopefully I'm starting to miss it right around the time I return. 

Sunday, January 16, 2011


I would apologize again for the lack of updates but I have a feeling this is the new norm so what's the point.  As we anticipate the birth of the newest member of our family (fingers crossed!), all of these blogs are feeling a bit fragmented.  So I've combined them all into one family site: I've moved all posts from this blog as well as Lillian's and Ian's over to the new site and created a link at the top so you can sort for updates by person if you choose. Hopefully this will inspire me to post more regularly but I won't hold my breath!  Regardless, you can now go to one spot for all the latest news from our family.  See you over there!

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