Chocolate Cupcakes with a Vanilla Swirl Icing

I am a sucker when it comes to a good chocolate cupcake, I find there is something nostalgic about them, and this recipe does the trick! It really brings me back to my childhood when there would be a birthday party to go to every other weekend. I love this recipe for its simplicity, and since the cupcakes are not overly sweet, the fluffy vanilla icing on top ends up becoming the perfect sugary balance. I found the recipe on Sweetapolita, a baking blog that I can look at for days! Check out this amazing cake! Inspiring right?
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This weekend was a big one for us. We hosted a Super Bowl party at our place and went all out with the food. I think there will be leftovers for weeks! It was really the first time we entertained for that many people and it definitely won’t be the last.  I was going to get all creative with the dessert, seeing so many great ideas on Pinterest that blew me away, but I decided to stick to simplicity with a swirled blue frosting to go with the team colours. The blue should have been darker, but nobody complained. I also added some red sprinkles on top at the last minute for the Patriot fans in the room.
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This is no healthy dessert like my last delicious recipe I posted here, I won’t lie, but I don’t mess around when it comes to nostalgia. And lets be honest, it was the Super Bowl and I wasn’t about to introduce some healthy dessert to a room full of hungry men.

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I decided to do a swirled icing on top so it was a little more interesting and I think it turned out pretty nicely despite my lack of piping skills, don’t you think?  It’s definitely something I want to practice. There are so many amazing things you can do with a piping bag! Next time I make these, i’ll use a wider tip so the three colours can be better defined and maybe add more icing per cupcake for height and drama. All in all I was really happy with the flavour and look of these little guys and I think everyone at the party was too.

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If you’ve been looking for a classic chocolate cupcake/frosting combo, this is one to bookmark. Whether you know someone with a birthday coming up or you are hosting a party like I did, or even just looking for an excuse to bake cupcakes (you can always find an excuse to bake cupcakes), you have to give this one a try!

The Nostalgic Chocolate Cupcake Adapted from Sweetapolita

(makes 12)

  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract

Fluffy Vanilla Swirl Frosting adapted from Sweetapolita

  • 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups (375 grams) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tablespoons (45 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • Few drops of food colouring in colours of your choice

Heres what you need to do: 

For the Cupcakes

1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/cupcake pan with cupcake liners
2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift in the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt
3. In a medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
4. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and mix them for 2 minutes on medium speed carefully because it tends to splash. Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it’s hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.

For the Frosting 

1. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 6 minutes. Try not to eat too much of it in the process.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla, and salt, and beat on low speed until well combined, then increase the speed to medium and beat until very light and fluffy once again, about 6 more minutes.

To decorate the cupcakes
1. Divide the frosting into 3 parts. Tint 2 of them in shades of your choice and leave the last one white.
2. Into a medium or large pastry bag fitted with a large closed star tip, add a spatula-full of each frosting colour I used this tutorial to help me out. Twist the top of the bag and pipe a generous swirl on each cupcake, working in a circular motion from the outside in.
Note: The cupcakes will keep at room temperature in a container with some airflow for up to 3 days.
Enjoy!

Festive Cranberry Cocktails for the Holidays

This weekend, I had some friends over for a holiday gift exchange and thought it would be nice to serve up a festive drink for everyone to enjoy. What better festive flavour combination than cranberries and rosemary? The result is a sweet and savoury drink with a bubbly finish! Perfect for a night with the girls. The best part was that all the hard work was done the night before so all I had to do was put it together, serve and enjoy it with my guests!

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Adapted from Martha Stewart:

Cranberry Cocktails (Serves 8 short glasses and 4 tall glasses)

2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 cups dry red wine, I chose a Pinot Noir
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
Thin strips of zest from 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, crushed
Pinch of coarse salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups seltzer

What you need to do:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the cranberries into a large skillet that is oven safe and set aside. In a medium saucepan combine the wine, maple syrup, brown sugar, lemon zest, whole vanilla bean and seeds, pink peppercorns, and salt and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.

2. Once the liquid has come to a boil, pour it over the cranberries. Cover the mixture tightly with foil, and bake until the cranberries are soft about 10-15 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer cranberries to a bowl; cover with 1 cup cooking liquid. Let cool completely.

3. Bring 1/2 cup cooking liquid and the 2/3 cup of granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, whisking until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat to low and simmer until the liquid has reduced and barely coats the back of a spoon. This should take about 6 minutes. Then, pour the liquid through a fine sieve into a medium bowl; let cool completely. Syrup can be refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use, up to 3 days.

4. Puree remaining cranberries and liquid in a blender then pour through a sieve to end up with a smooth red liquid.

5. To serve, fill 1/4 of the glass with syrup and another 1/4 with puree, stir together, top with seltzer and finish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.

Enjoy!

Bon Appétit! Summer Spread

The best part of entertaining in my opinion is the opportunity to be creative and share it with others. I recently moved into a new place that has a backyard (something I have never had while living on my own). Since moving, I have been eager to use the outdoor space for entertaining.  A couple of nights ago I had some friends over and decided to set the table in the backyard for a nice summery dinner.

I used simple white plates to give full attention to the food that was being served, a white and blue tablecloth with matching napkins. Some freshly picked  peonies from the garden, a light blue serving bowl for the salad  and an assortment of candles. I also served a delicious watermelon Iced tea in chilled mason jars with frozen watermelon pieces inside for extra flavour.

I kept the menu light for the warm summery night. The main dish was grilled salmon with citrus salsa verde  and a delicious watermelon arugala feta salad with a dash of mint. For dessert I served ripe strawberries from the market with freshly whipped cream that had a touch of orange zest in it for zing.