Thursday, April 2, 2015

Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail!

I don't know about you but I am BEYOND ready for spring!  Being a born and bred NC girl, I've always been wimpy about winters.  Still, the last two winters have been no picnic.  This year came filled with ice storms with my new little peanut arriving just in the middle of the worst two.  My oldest little one told me on the way home from school the other day that she was over the cold and ready for summer.  Me too, honey.  Me too.

Thankfully the past few weeks have brought some welcome signs of spring.  The warmer weather has done wonders for our winter cabin fever.  The pollen hasn't done wonders for my allergies, but since I know it's a sign of nicer days ahead, I'll take it!

This week was my little one's Easter party at her preschool.  Our little peanut is a month old now, so I thought it would be nice to get back in the kitchen and contribute some cupcakes to the party.  The hubs suggested that I just go buy some...the nerve!  I must admit it was challenging juggling a hungry baby and frosting cupcakes, but I was so happy with the outcome, I would do it again in a heartbeat!

The request was for chocolate cupcakes, so I took my no fail, ever popular chocolate cake recipe and made cupcakes instead.  The recipe yielded about 20 cupcakes, though I could have gotten a few more out of the batter.  I typically fill my cupcake liners 3/4 of the way full, but these rose so much, I could have filled them 1/2 way and been more than fine.  Note taken and moving on.  After all, no preschoolers I've ever met is going to complain about a little extra goodie on the sides of their cupcakes. 

I also decided to try something a little different with my classic buttercream recipe this time.  I use the recipe below when I need a quick buttercream that is very good for piping and doesn't need to be kept for a long time.  Its not my favorite, taste wise, but serves a purpose when your short on time. I've always added a little heavy cream at the end to help smooth things out and wanted to know what would happen if you whipped the cream first.  I whipped the cream to a nice soft peak thinking it would hold after adding the butter.
It doesn't.  After you add the butter the cream goes right back to liquid form and makes a bit of a sloshy mess.  However, after you add the powdered sugar and mix it well, it comes back together.  Another lesson learned.
I had showed my little one some pictures of cupcakes to let her pick a design.  She picked a cute little egg nest which gave me a use for some of the mini Cadbury chocolate eggs I had bought that wasn't eating them all in one sitting like has happened in the judging!  The end result is super cute and (best of all) really easy to do.  I died most of the icing green for the grass and added a few tablespoons of coca powder to the rest to make it brown. 

First I just put a smear of green down on the cupcakes to cover the top.
Then I took this three holed pointed tip and used zigzag motions around the edges to the center to make the grass.

I used a small star tip to make a circle in the middle with the chocolate frosting for the nest.
Lastly, I added two eggs to each nest to finish the look.
Adorable and delicious!  Who can beat that!!

No Fail Chocolate Cake (adapted from My Baking Addiction)
Note:  If you are making this recipe for a cake, it makes enough for a two layer 9 inch cake

2 c sugar
1 3/4 c AP flour
1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 c buttermilk (or 1 c milk with 2 T vinegar)
1/2 c coffee; brewed and cooled
1/2 c water
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

1 - Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line or grease cupcake pans.  I would guess that if you fill them halfway you should get around 24.
2 - In the bowl of a mixer with whisk attachment, add sugar through salt.  Mix to combine. 
3 - Add eggs through vanilla.  Mix on low for 3-5 minutes until the batter is well incorporated, scrapping the bowl halfway through.  The batter will be extremely loose, pourable even.  This is perfectly fine!
4 - Fill cupcake liners half full and bake for 20-25 minutes.  I started checking mine at 15 minutes and they needed about 23 total.  The cakes will go for more like 30-35 minutes.
5 - Cool and frost as desired.

Quick and Easy Buttercream (adapted from The Bold Abode)
This gave me enough buttercream to frost all the cupcakes, with a little over a cup left over.

2 sticks butter; room temperature
8-10 c powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 c heavy cream

1 - In the bowl of a mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter until very soft and fluffy.
2 - Add the powdered sugar a few cup fulls at a time until it reaches your desired stiffness.
3 - Add in vanilla and heavy cream.  Adjust consistency with additional powdered sugar (thicker) or cream (thinner) as needed.

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