Happy Birthday Melinda!!!

September is a big month for birthdays, especially for me! My two favorite people in the world have their birthdays a mere two days apart, so I’ve been quite busy in the kitchen!

Today we’re celebrating the birthday of my sister, Melinda! Her birthday was yesterday, and tonight she’s hosting her “Second Annual Wine and Cheese Birthday Celebration.” Naturally, I had to make her a wine and cheese cupcake to go with the theme!

A Cupcake Vineyard!

A Red Wine and Chocolate Cupcake with Mascarpone Frosting has become my annual wine and cheese cupcake.  I used a port wine for this batch, and it really enhances the chocolatey-ness of the cake. The mascarpone icing is wonderful too. It’s not too sweet, and is a nice compliment to the chocolate-port cake.

Chocolate-Port Cupcakes with Mascarpone Icing

The second cupcake I made is a Riesling cake, topped with a white chocolate, Riesling buttercream. The cake itself is nice and light, as it’s made with egg whites. The frosting is very smooth and creamy, with a unique sweetness from the white chocolate.

Riesling Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Riesling Buttercream

And, for the occasion I created a card so her guests would know what their dessert options were!

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Happy Birthday Jer!!!

Happy Birthday Jer!

Today is Jer’s birthday, and to celebrate the big day I baked him a Hostess-style cupcake! He’s been hinting for a while that he’d like one, so I figured his birthday would be the best time to give it a whirl.

Jer is my biggest supporter when it comes to cupcakes, or really any wacky idea I come up with, so I was very excited to finally make a cupcake specifically for him, especially after all the cupcakes he’s sampled that would never have been his choice (namely one particular cream-cheese topped cupcake – he does not like cream cheese, but he tried it anyway!)

I spent the day cooking Sunday in honor of his coming birthday, and he helped too. The day started with a nice egg breakfast, followed by a shrimp and grits lunch. Next it was on to cupcakes and ribs! (I did the cupcakes, Jer did the ribs.) Dinner was the ribs with hush puppies, and a mess of collard greens!

The cupcakes almost took as long as Jer’s ribs!! They’re pretty labor intensive with four different components, which is why I made them over the weekend. I had to make sure the cupcakes were just right, as he is a Hostess expert – the creamy filling could certainly not be used for  the signature Hostess swirl, must be different!

The first component was the cake. I have several chocolate cake recipes in my arsenal, and I’m not totally sure the one I picked was the best for the job, but Jer liked the cake. Personally, I thought it should have been lighter and fluffier!

Next came the creamy filling from the other recipe. It’s a combo of marshmallow fluff (a VERY sticky, odd substance), confectioners sugar, butter, and heavy cream. It’s been YEARS since I’ve had a Hostess cupcake, so I didn’t remember what the filling tasted like, but Jer said it was a pretty good match!

Then came the ganache. Instead of the traditional bittersweet chocolate used for ganache, which I find too bitter, I use semi-sweet, and it was perfect! It had a nice glossy shine and color, and was neither too sweet, nor too bitter!

Lastly, the signature Hostess swirl… I planned on making the swirl with royal icing swirl, but instead made a buttercream. Honestly, I was more concerned about getting the look of the swirl right, as I don’t usually do fine lines, and the swirl is so distinct! But, I managed to get all seven swirls on each cupcake! (some were definitely better than others!)

All in all not too shabby for a first try, and most importantly my birthday guy enjoyed them!!!

It’s Not the End! Or is it?

Labor Day is upon us friends. For many, Labor Day means the end of Summer. Not for me! I refuse to go with that mentality. We still have 3 MORE WEEKS of my very favorite season!

And to celebrate, I’ve made a festive array of summery cupcakes, complete with beach umbrellas, sea shells, and surf boards!

Really the only thing about this weekend that will be “The End” is the destination for these treats! As fellow Long Islanders may have already guessed, we’re heading to Montauk!!

These vanilla, chocolate chip cupcakes topped with vanilla buttercream are for our annual company weekend out East. I stayed up late last night getting them done so we can get an early(ish) start on our roadtrip!

All packed and ready to go, we’ve got our Surfer Bears:

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Our Sea Shells for the Sea Shore:

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And last but not least, the Beach Bum Bears:

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Happy It’s Not Yet the End of Summer Weekend!! (it’s not even really the weekend yet!)

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Limey!

I’m back!!

Sorta. As you’ll notice from the lack of activity on this blog, there’s been a lack of baking in my kitchen as well. I’ve been busy with a big deck build over at Titus Road, plus it’s been too hot to bake! But an impromptu BBQ invite from Melinda & Courtney inspired me to fire up the oven in the middle of the summer!

I’ve been coming up with a bunch of fun ideas for different cupcake flavors during my baking hiatus, and the BBQ seemed like a great time to try out my idea for a Key Lime cupcake! The cupcake was made with key lime juice, and then topped with a Cactus Pear Cream Cheese frosting.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have attempted a cream cheese frosting in an 83 degree kitchen, but the cupcakes had a nice tartness from the key lime juice and buttermilk. A traditional buttercream wouldn’t have been a good pairing. I also have had issues with cream cheese-based frostings in a hot kitchen in the past, so I made sure to keep the frosting cold. After every three cupcakes frosted, I put frosting back into the refrigerator for a few minutes to keep it cool. The cupcakes also went into the ‘fridge once frosted so they’d have a chance to set.

As for the Cactus Pear aspect, flavored the buttercream with Cactus Pear syrup. It’s a very subtle taste, but a nice addition. Plus it has a fun color, (enhanced with neon pink food coloring), a nice complement to the chartreuse color of the cupcakes. I finished them off with pink sprinkles and some festive drink umbrellas!

Countdown to the 4th!

Here’s a quick look at last year’s 4th of July cupcakes I made for a BBQ at my sister’s BF’s place! (which has a great vantage point for viewing NYC fireworks!)

The cakes were vanilla, and topped with vanilla buttercream. Last year’s 4th was a scorcher, and frosting these guys was a real challenge, if you look close you can see these guys were already a bit melty!  But, they were quite a hit at the BBQ. They actually never got officially served. I was keeping them cool in a corner in the kitchen, and people kept grabbing them as they passed through!

Frosting & heat don’t get along at all, which is why you let cupcakes fully cool before frosting. This is one of my excuses for the lack of activity here at The Cupcake Files. It’s really been too hot to bake cupcakes as of late, however I have had a VERY successful cheesecake and blueberry pie emerge from my kitchen. Hopefully one day we’ll have central air and I can continue my cupcake baking in all kinds of weather.

Heat aside though, if you’ve been following my other blog, Titus Road, you’ll know I’ve been quite busy with home improvements, and haven’t had much time for cupcake making.

Excuses aside, I do have grand plans for some cupcakes for this holiday weekend.. If I can bring myself to make my plan less grand, there’s a chance they may actually happen, but we are in the middle of installing a sliding door in our dining room, and building rather sizable deck, not sure if I’ll be able to squeeze baking into this holiday weekend!

Easter 2011

Happy Day After Easter! Hope your holiday was as enjoyable as ours was!! This year we celebrated with both family and friends, so we were a nice-sized group of 11!

As previously mentioned, in creation of the day’s cupcakes, I had a few requests to fulfill. Most of them came from my sister:

    1. She wanted a bunny cake (I obliged with bunny cupcakes)
    2. She wanted my mom’s chocolate frosted layer cake (I again obliged by using my mom’s recipes)
    3. Her BF has a coconut allergy, so I wanted to provide another option for him since the bunnies have coconut faces!

To start, I made all the cupcakes with the Betty Crocker New Starlight Cake recipe. The recipe dates back to at least the 1960s, and this has been my mom’s go-to yellow cake recipe for as long as I can remember. You can’t even find this on the Betty Crocker website anymore. The closest thing they have is a Yellow Cake recipe, and even that’s a bit different. The only change I made to the original recipe was using butter instead of the shortening, and of course I made cupcakes, rather than cake.

Then there’s the frosting. My mom’s chocolate frosting is the best around, and a closely guarded secret, and also dates back to the 60s!  To emulate the layer-cake that my sister loves, I filled all the cupcakes with the chocolate frosting. Then half got frosted with vanilla buttercream, while the rest got frosted with the chocolate frosting.

I then proceed to decorate all the cupcakes with a variety of peeps, lambs, sprinkles, and colored sugar for a festive Easter display!

Chocolate Frosting, Yellow Cake, Chocolate Filling

Then, to fulfill her bunny cake request, I frosted a bunch of cupcakes with vanilla buttercream, dipped them in shredded coconut, and added some marshmallow ears, and a goofy face!

Cute or creepy? I can't tell...

Only half the vanilla-frosted ones got bunny faces because I wasn’t sure how they’d come out… The rest got peeped!

Vanilla Buttercream, Yellow Cake, Peeps & Bunnies

Countdown to Easter – Pt. 2

Three days left until Easter, and I’ve finally come up with a plan for Sunday’s cupcakes! I usually come up with an idea pretty quickly, but for this coming holiday I had a few specific requests to fill (more on that later!), so I was a little delayed.

In the meantime, here’s a quick look at last year’s cupcakes. These were made for an Easter brunch hosted by my sister Melinda and my friend/her roomie Courtney at their apartment. The cupcakes were great, but paled in comparison to the great food those two whipped up! Still thinking about their cheese grits…

Anywho, to change things up a bit, I made Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. They were decorated with shredded wheat to resemble nests, candy-covered chocolate eggs, and festive Easter picks!

Countdown to Easter – Pt. 1

With Easter rapidly approaching, and me not yet quite sure what kind of cupcake I’ll be making for the holiday, I thought I’d revisit a few I have made in the past.

Vanilla with Green-tinted Buttercream

I made the cupcakes pictured above for Easter 2009. These were vanilla cake with vanilla buttercream. I tinted the frosting a light green and topped it with green-tinted shredded coconut. The “basket” handles were rainbow-colored twizzlers, and they were filled with bunny & chick peeps, and I believe speckled egg M&Ms. (They’re definitely not the Cadbury Mini Eggs… but I do love those!!)

I’m not quite sure where I went with all those cupcakes! Usually our Easter is pretty small- just me and my sister at our parents’ house! Maybe I brought some into work the next day? Could have been what prompted my Secret Santa to get me a cupcake carrier for Xmas that year!!

Lights, camera, CUPCAKE!


We’re just starting a 4-day stretch of filming at our studio which means we’ll be relying on catering for breakfast & lunch. This tends to get a bit monotonous, especially when it comes to lunchtime dessert! There’s only so many cookies you can eat (or is there??)

Either way, to mix things up a bit, I baked cupcakes last night for dessert today. Not wanting to stray too far from the expected cookies (they really are among the best around!), I opted for cookie-inspired cupcakes.

The first, chocolate chip! I started with a Vanilla cake and added chocolate chips. They came out looking quite nice! Didn’t try them though. We have a good-sized crew and I didn’t want to be short. They were topped with a vanilla buttercream, mini chips, and a mini chocolate chip cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cupcake with Vanilla Buttercream

I also made an Oreo cupcake.  The cake itself is chocolate, it’s the frosting that’s full of Oreo bits. The standard frosting for the Oreo cupcake is a whipped cream with ground Oreos.

It’s a great frosting, but a whipped cream topping will not hold up well not being refrigerated! So I went with my trusty buttercream. I ground some more Oreos, mixed them into the cream, piped that onto the cupcakes, and topped them with chocolate sprinkles & half an Oreo.

Chocolate Cupcake with Oreo Buttercream

Since these were my first officially commissioned cupcakes, I felt I needed an official sign or card to promote my services! So with my last remaining bit of energy and patience last night, I created these cards to display with the cupcakes!

My unofficial baking card!

A fun dessert for a fun dinner party!

Last night we had the pleasure of hosting a little dinner party for Jer’s brothers and sister-in-law. We had steamed clams and mussels to start, then followed that up with homemade pizza. And naturally, no dinner is complete without dessert, so I fired up the oven (these were baked before our guests arrived) and whipped up a quick batch of cupcakes!

I kept it simple with one of my favorites, almond cupcakes! I topped them with a peach-tinted, almond-flavored buttercream. The decorations? Simple- just a little orange-colored sugar and white nonpareils. I baked them in very cute wrappers that say “Eat more cake!” They were part of a very fun cupcake-themed bday gift from my friend Courtney!

Our dinner party was a lot of fun, and the cupcakes were a great way to end the night!

I had some extra frosting, so I made the last cupcake look kinda like a soft-serve ice cream!

Buttercream with a side of cupcake!