Monday, October 29, 2012

Practically Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Today was one of those perfect fall days. You know, the kind where you have the patio door wide open.. the rich October sunlight pouring through, the sound of the wind rustling the leaves along the sidewalk.. The sweet smell of baked goods seeping out of my kitchen & probably taunting my neighbors.. & Two toddlers.. Screaming in eachother's faces. So endearing.

No, but really. It was an absolutely beautiful day. It was a little bittersweet, thinking of all the friends I have on the East Coast. I hope Sandy goes easy on them. After Jake got off work & picked up Gabe from school, we went to a little park way up on a hill, overlooking the river & surrounded by big, beautiful trees. I pushed the girls on the swings for a good hour & they still weren't sick of it when it was time to leave. I can't help but smile when I watch them each tilt their heads back & look up at the trees, leaves & the sky in wonder. & I could sit & listen to Gabe's imaginative play all day long. He was a pirate on this particular occasion. I probably mutter the words, "These kids are driving me crazy," more times than I care to admit every single day. But I can't tell you guys enough how amazing my kids are, how much they inspire me or the overwhelming joy I get just by watching them be themselves. It's just too much sometimes. This afternoon was, figuratively & literally, a breath of fresh air after my busy morning.

I'm an adult, I promise.
I was like a mad scientist all morning & into the early afternoon. Experimenting, baking, concocting (I think I've used that word two blog posts in a row.. Is that normal?)... & The fruits of my labors were completely & utterly amazing. It's no secret that I have a very real addiction to any food item that labels itself as "salted caramel." It's a real problem & I am pretty sure that I need to seek help immediately never (on a quick side-note, please tell me you guys have tried this?! IT IS SO GOOD). I feel like I am forever searching for the most amazing, most perfect, most moist & fluffy chocolate cake ever. I am pretty sure my search is over. I cannot believe how good this cake is. There are a lot of ingredients, but I swear to you, it's so worth it. & What better to pair a rich, decadent chocolate with other than a salted caramel buttercream? NOTHING, THAT'S WHAT. It has everything. Silky, homemade caramel sauce (don't be intimidated- it really was a piece of cake to make), a little bit of salt for that perfect flavor combination & it all comes together in a simple butter/sugar buttercream mixture. But this icing is anything but simple. Brace yourselves.

 Practically Sinful Chocolate Cupcakes

3oz semi-sweet baker's chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup Suisse Mocha mix
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (if you don't have any, make your own by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 1/2 cups of milk)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit & line cupcake tins with paper liners.

2. Finely chop up the baker's chocolate & place in a small bowl. Pour in the hot coffee & stir occasionally until the chocolate is melted & mixture is smooth.

3. In a large bowl & using a wire whisk, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa, Mocha mix, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Set aside.

4. In a larger bowl, beat eggs until slightly thickened & light-yellow in color (if you're using a hand mixer, it'll take about 5 minutes). Slowly add in oil, buttermilk, vanilla extract & chocolate/coffee mixture & beat until well-combined.

5. Slowly beat in sugar mixture until batter is smooth & without big lumps (but don't over-beat!).

6. Fill cupcake liners (I always find that using a 1/4c measuring cup distributes the perfect amount of batter) & bake for 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean.

7. Cool completely before frosting!

Salted Caramel Buttercream

(adapted from gimme some oven)

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups confectioner's sugar
Caramel sauce (recipe below)

1. Cream together butter & salt until light & fluffy.

2. Gradually add in powdered sugar & beat until mixed well (about 2-3 minutes)

3. Add in the caramel sauce & beat until well combined & the fluffiness factor is to your liking! I like super duper fluffy icing that I can pipe a mile high onto my cupcakes. Just sayin'.

IF you don't want to make your own caramel sauce-- do not fret. You can just as easily use any other caramel topping to add into your buttercream! Start with 1/2 cup & see where that gets you. ;)

Caramel Sauce

1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract (optional- if you don't have any, just use an extra teaspoon of vanilla extract! I like rum extract because it has a really rich, deep flavor that I love.)

1. In a large, heavy saucepan, swirl together the sugar & water. Heat on medium-high until boiling. DO NOT STIR! Let boil until it turns deep, amber brown. For me, it took about 7-8 minutes. As soon as the color turns that amber color, remove from heat immediately. It burns fast!

2. VERY slowly add in the heavy whipping cream & extracts while stirring with a wooden spoon. When you add in the whipping cream, it will bubble-- so be careful! Stir until smooth.

3. Let cool for about 25-30 minutes or until the caramel is cool to the touch.

Frost those babies any way you'd like. Drizzle some caramel sauce over them & sprinkle a little sea salt on top, too, if it so pleases you. I know it does me.

Until next time! ;)


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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

There's just something about fall. The colors, the sky, the air, the colors, the smells-- don't even get me STARTED on the magical smell of burning leaves. I can't be the only one who loves that smell.

 Everything about autumn inspires me & makes me feel alive. I am an October-baby, you know. & Bless my sweet 5yr old Gabe's heart.. He tells me every single day how beautiful the leaves are & how much he loves the colors & how much he loves when it's "like fall" outside. He is his mother's son, after all. :)

Anyway! What better way to re-introduce myself into blog-dom than with something a little unconventional? I was staring at the bagels in my fridge & mourning the depletion of the cream cheese when I suddenly wished that I had heaping gobs of Nutella to cover my bagels in. Of course, we didn't have any. My husband didn't even know what Nutella was until last night. But the thought of cupcakes popped into my head & I wondered if anybody had ever tried to make a Nutella cupcake. A Nutella buttercream, more specifically.

For those of you who might not know (which you really should), Nutella is the magical concoction of creamy chocolate & rich hazelnut. It is TRULY lucious & amazing. Have you ever eaten those Ferrero Rocher candies? If not, then I don't think we can be friends anymore. Just kidding. Sort of. But anyway. That is basically what Nutella tastes like. & It's one of the best things ever.

After settling on skipping the bagel & just downing a whole pot of coffee instead, I decided to do a little research. Lo & behold! I found that someone had, indeed, done a Nutella buttercream.

I got a hold of my sister Kayla right away. I absolutely HAD to make this frosting. It wasn't even a question. It was going to happen one way or another.

I was extremely indecisive about what kind of cupcake to pair with it. I played around with lots of ideas. Should I do a basic chocolate cake? A coffee flavored cake? I ultimately decided on doing a vanilla almond cupcake. It's pretty much just a basic white cake, with just a little bit of a deeper flavor with the almond in it. SO good. I wanted to keep it simple since Nutella is such a rich, unique flavor all on it's own.

Guys. Really. This is one of my favorite things I've ever baked. & If you know me personally, you know I bake a lot. Like... a lot a lot.

They are rich, flavorful, fluffy.. Everything I could ever want in a cupcake.

Without further adieu..

Vanilla Almond Cupcakes

1 1/4c all-purpose flour
1 1/4t baking powder
1/2t baking soda
1/2t salt
2 eggs
3/4c sugar
1t vanilla extract
1t almond extract (you could leave this out if you don't have any & just use more vanilla extract)
1/2c vegetable oil
1/2c buttermilk (you can make your own by adding 1/2t lemon juice or vinegar to your 1/2c of milk)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt to a mixing bowl. Whisk together & set aside.

3. In a separate, larger bowl, beat the eggs for 10-20 seconds. Add the sugar & continue to beat for an additional 30 seconds. Finally, add the vanilla extract, almond extract & oil, then beat until combined.

4. While beating on low, add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, the remaining half of the flour mixture & then the rest of the buttermilk. Beat until just combined, scraping the sides of the bowl.

5. Line a cupcake tin with liners & fill 2/3 of the way full.

6. Bake for 12-14min or until the tops are just barely golden brown & a wooden toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool completely before frosting!

Nutella Buttercream Icing

(recipe from KitchenTreaty)

1c (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2/3c Nutella
1t vanilla extract
2T heavy whipping cream
Pinch of kosher salt

If you have a stand mixer, use your paddle attachment. I am not yet blessed with a stand mixer, so I just my electric hand mixer.

1. Cream butter & sugar together until smooth.

2. Add Nutella & beat for 2 minutes.

3. Add vanilla extract & salt, mix well.

4. Add heavy whipping cream & beat until light & fluffy!

That's it! Such an easy icing to make.

Both recipes make enough for 12 cupcakes. You might be able to get 14 cupcakes out of it.

You might have some leftover icing-- it is amazing on just about anything. Put it on your bagel, in your coffee, dip Nilla Wafter or graham crackers in it.. Hide in the kitchen away from your kids & eat it with a spoon like I've been doing......

Don't judge me. You know you'll be doing the same thing.

Until next time! ;)
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Here we go again!

Alright. I know I've tried this blogging thing before. I gave up on it. I had way too much on my plate at the time. But, things have calmed down considerably.

The wedding is over & my oldest started kindergarten in August. There is suddenly so much less stress in my life! I don't know what to do with my free time now that I'm not obsessing over wedding stuff.

So, here we go. I plan on using this blog as an outlet for my incessant urge to BAKE ALL THE THINGS!!!!

But, it won't all be sweets. I'll post savory recipes, too! Because, let's face it. I'm an awesome housewife & my husband & kids are damn lucky that I love to cook as much as I do. :)

Follow & share! 'Cause I like people. Most people. Okay, not most people. But I probably like you.

- Kristina
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