new year's eve - super (sweet) size edition

My father always said that as you get older the years go by faster – he was right! It’s hard to believe another year is coming to a close. Ups, downs, challenges and victories, it’s been a whirlwind. And as we’ve done for the past few years, a group of friends will get together with some yummy treats, a few alcoholic beverages and some memories to share (and laugh about).

So you can imagine my delight when the party’s theme – finger foods – was announced. What better finger food than a cupcake! And I knew just which two to whip up in celebration of the beginning of a new year and the many mysteries and hopes it holds.

Lasagna cupcakes
I’ve mentioned my nonna – and her impeccable kitchen skills – in a few blogs over the past year. And although her pasta was to die for, her lasagna reigned supreme. Served up for special occasions, like New Year’s, it was a melt-in-your mouth concoction of cheese, sauce and fresh pasta noodles. Knowing I could never duplicate this appetizing work of art, I did, however, want to pay homage to this much-missed tradition with Lasagna Cupcakes.

I started with the lasagna trifecta…Boiling the lasagna noodles…


Browning the ground beef, and…


Cooking the homemade sauce (i.e. adding the necessary oregano, pepper and salt, to taste).


Once the noodles were ready (very al dente) I cut each one into four pieces, lining each cupcake well with two. Then came a layer of beef, ricotta cheese tomato sauce and parmesan cheese.


I squeezed all the ingredients as snug as a bug in order to fit another layer on top, this time including mozzarella for the perfect melt.


The final outcome was a little messier than originally planned, but I’m pretty sure they’ll be a perfect addition to the main dish apps course offered at tonight’s New Year’s bash.



Peach Bellini cupcakes
There’s nothing like a little girl’s night. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a $10 cover charge for $7.50 drinks while creepers try to hit on you, despite the unveiling of that sparkler on your married finger. In fact, it’s even better to celebrate some time with the girls when there are a few apps – and a few beverages – present.

In honour of Girl's Nights everywhere, I thought this Peach Bellini cupcake would be the fitting end to one year – and a great way to welcome a new one.

The first part of this cupcake experiment was heading out to the liquor store to pick up the required champagne and peach schnapps. Now I admit, I’m not much of a drinker. In fact, I often end up wandering aimlessly through the aisles of wine, spirits and liquers to find exactly what I’m looking for – not to mention I usually end up feeling like a lush every time I walk out of the LCBO carrying those brown paper bags.


No matter… when the time came to put everything together it was a lot simpler than I thought it would be. Following this fabulous recipe, I mixed the dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, with the champagne and peach schnapps mixture as the alternator. 


The final ingredient was a fresh peach diced into little cubes.


The end result, according to my taste-testing husband, was that the champagne-peach schnapps mixture was flavourful, but not overpowering. Topping each one off with the peach bellini buttercream added that extra kick – and will be the perfect way to celebrate the big ball drop at midnight.


Here’s wishing you a new year filled with endless possibilities, the opportunity to make your dreams come true and, most important, health and happiness.

it's not the nog in your egg, it's the egg in your nog

“Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”
~ Clark Griswald, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation


With Christmas Eve just one sleep away, we all know what’s coming – way too much time with friends we like and family we’re kind of stuck with. What to do? Enjoy a glass of egg nog – or two – of course! Not only a tasty festive treat, the addition of a little rum somehow manages to numb any anxiety to ensure your Christmas celebrations are merry and bright.

With a weeklong celebration of all things Christmas on the horizon, I whipped up a batch of chocolate cupcakes and topped each one with egg nog icing. 




A delightful Christmas treat, there was no need to add a kick of rum to warm our insides. After all, we’re Italian – we have sambuca for that!

Here’s wishing you a warm and happy holiday!

cranberries for the construction crew

If there’s one thing you can find on most Christmas tables, it’s cranberry sauce. Whether whole berries or jelly, it’s a holiday staple… at least in my family. It started with my grandmother who, as legend has it, would eat a whole can by herself. My father proudly carries on the tradition every year, with that mound of red jelly sitting proudly by on the table to his right… or left… it really doesn’t matter, as long as it’s within reach.

I thought with Christmas a mere week away, it would be best to honour this tradition – and possibly create a new one – with a white-chocolate cranberry cupcake topped with white chocolate buttercream.

It’s been a while since I’ve baked with actual fresh fruit, so it was nice a change. With a combo of brown sugar, orange zest and peel in the batter, the smell was heavenly. Although I must admit I was worried about working with cranberries. 

As well, it took a few extra steps working with white chocolate, as it had to be melted for the buttercream and I decided on using white chocolate chips for the batter, to get the desired outcome. And since I don’t eat them myself, I had to rely on others to be my taste buds and give their honest opinion about whether it was a holiday hit – or a flaming flop.

I’m happy to report that, of all the cupcakes my husband brought to his Christmas party – and consisting mostly of construction workers – these ones were the first to go. 




Proving once again that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach - especially at Christmastime!

i want candy... canes!

For most people, even though it continues to be the wonderful time of the year, Christmas sure has changed from when I was a kid. Back in the day, you waited in a lineup wearing a heavy winter coat, wiping the sweat from your brow and going over your Christmas list twice so you’d be ready when it was your turn to come face-to-face with the big guy, the father of all things merry – Santa! Overcome with a nervous excitement when he called your name (i.e. “Next!”) you’d march over to where he sat – on his throne in all his glory – with purpose… or maybe it was just to get your hands on that little candy cane he’d offer at the end of your visit.


Did you have to make an appointment? No! Put your name on a waiting list? No! Did your visit consist of being read a story by Santa or being asked (horror upon horrors) to Skype him? No! Were your parents suspicious about an old, bearded man (stranger, if you will) holding out candy so you would sit on his knee? No! Although in retrospect, that last one does seem a bit dicey.

No matter… for this week’s cupcake I decided to pay homage to those wonderful holiday memories of divulging your Christmas wishes to a kind ear in exchange for a candy cane with chocolate candy cane cupcakes.

Starting with my chocolate cupcake as a base, I found a great recipe for a candy cane buttercream. I mean, how can you go wrong when you combine those two? The finishing touch, of course, was topping each one with crushed candy cane.


May I interest you in a walk down candy cane lane?
“Run, run as fast as you can,
You can’t catch me – I’m the gingerbread man!”

Ask anyone who knows – and loves – me and they’ll tell you I’m a picky eater. I consume very few veggies, almost no fish, lots of tomato sauce (but no actual tomatoes) and I love me some carbs. And although I sometimes divulge in a sweet treat here or there, I’m careful as to what I choose… it’s almost like the treat chooses me, instead of the other way around. Let me explain…

A few years ago I was at a friend’s Halloween Party and she served the cutest little chocolate mice. Everything on them was edible (chocolate for the body, black licorice for the tail, sprinkles for the eyes) and yet I couldn’t bring myself to eat one. I felt guilty about the prospect of either ripping off his tail or biting off his head.

Although I used to take pleasure in biting off an Easter bunny’s ears or picking out those sugary little eyes of his, I can’t bring myself to do it anymore. 




Blame it on the aging process or just a growing empathy for all sweet things alive (I blame those darn Pixar movies where birds can talk and lizards can play a guitar).

So for this week’s cupcake creation, I decided that my Martha Stewart-inspired gingerbread cupcakes would have to do without the little gingerbread men cutouts on top, as suggested in the recipe. All I could picture was The Gingerbread Man in Shrek lying on that cool baking sheet, his little legs bitten off <shudder>.


Instead, I decided to stick with the original recipe and hopefully come up with a decorating alternative. It was the first time I’ve baked with ginger and molasses, so I was curious. Upon opening the bag of ginger, which to me resembled ground almond, the strong smell hit my nose instantly. The only way to describe it was like having my nose hairs doing the quick step. 

As for the molasses, it was pretty gooey and darker than I pictured... and didn't help make the cupcake appetizing, to be honest. The batter smelled like a pumpkin cupcake recipe that was a bit off.

While stirring and scooping, I crossed my fingers (mentally, as they were busy stirring and scooping) that this wouldn't be my first epic fail baking experience. In fact, I couldn't help but try one of these little monsters as soon as the popped out of the oven, which I rarely do. But I didn't want to chance a raised eyebrow (or gag reflex) from my cupcake tasters. I'm happy to report, they were surprisingly delicious - and will definitely be an addition to my recipe stockpile.



The only thing left is a message for you, little gingerbread man. As someone once said about another famous fictional character: "That boy's a runnin' fool!" Be free!

the mo-rning after

Well it’s that time of year, when bro’s everywhere try to answer that difficult question – to shave or not to shave. What might have seemed like a ridiculous endeavour at first for some, many bro's (from what I’ve heard) actually grow quite fond of their bushy upper lip look.

As you know, this year we decided to donate a percentage of all proceeds raised from these exclusive Movember cupcakes to Movember Canada.


I’m pleased to share that, thanks to the support of some mo-tastic supporters, we raised $102 in support of this very worthy cause. That’s just over 125 cupcakes! 


have yourself a mini little christmas

A few weeks ago I made a deal with my husband, I wouldn’t decorate our first Christmas tree until the end of the month. We had made the trek to find a pre-lit one, along with all the decorations, a few weeks ago and arrived home to determine where the best place for it would be.

I managed to convince him to leave it up in our front hallway (because, really, are we really going to get it to fit back in the box?) and promised I wouldn’t touch it – or one single decoration. I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult passing that tree each day, along with the bags of decorations in the family room, without satisfying my urge to decorate. But I’m proud to say I did it.

And so, now that the Christmas tree decorating restrictions have been lifted and our first tree in our new home sits proudly in the hallway, I can officially say I’m reveling in the Christmas spirit… along with one of my favourite things of the season – food! For those of us who are trying to watch our waistline, there’s nothing better to satisfy a sweet tooth than a cupcake… mini.

And so, I created my Mini Christmas Cupcake Collection. Featuring a red velvet cupcake base (but also available in chocolate and vanilla), each one features its own Christmas theme – Christmas wreaths, snowflakes, Santa’s hats, snowmen, reindeers and mini Christmas trees.


Cute enough to eat, I’m hoping Santa is okay with cupcakes instead of cookies this year. After all, the last place you want to find yourself is on his naughty list!

Santa! Oh my God! Santa’s Coming! I know him! I know him!

Okay, so I might now know the big guy personally, but I do know that he’s coming to town this weekend during the 106th annual Toronto Santa Claus parade. Started with a single float on December 2, 1905, the parade now has over 25 floats, 24 bands, and 1,700 participants and stretches 6 kilometres long, according to Wikipedia.
As a kid, I remember looking forward to getting all my winter gear on and waiting along the parade route for the big guy to appear, looking all jolly. But a big part of this Christmastime ritual was my dad buying me a hot chocolate to sip on while we waited. Served in a non-environmentally friendly styrofoam cup, it was a little shot of heaven.
So in honour of that childhood memory, there was no more fitting a cupcake for Santa’s arrival than a hot chocolate cupcake.
I started with my tried and true chocolate cupcake recipe, then added a teaspoon and a half of cinnamon for an extra kick. Next, I found this delightful icing recipe that, when whipped, came out nice and fluffy – just like the foam on top of a hot chocolate should be.




A sweet little treat for those people on my “nice” list, I’m hoping it will get them in the spirit of the season.

So, what's your favourite memory of the Santa Claus parade?

who (rolled) the cheese

If there are two words for my baking style, it would be “organized chaos”. I’m a habitual rule-follower… except in the kitchen. Sure, I do what the experts suggest by making sure I have all my ingredients and tools at hand before beginning, but that’s where it ends. I get messy - flour flies, icing sugar ends up on my clothes and cake batter has been known to land on my face or in my hair. But this lack of organization allows me to get into the baking zone.

This week, I decided to get my hands dirty by giving cake pops another go, with two slight variations. Cheesecake balls. Without the stick. I would love to report that I was as fluent in my cakeball making skills as in the videos available online, but I think we all know how it went.

Step 1: Making the cheesecake.
I started with making your standard cheesecake, then freezing it overnight. Then, thawing it out for an hour, I got to work rolling two 9” cheesecakes into little balls. It was sticky, messy crumbly and, as you can see, the cheesecake balls...




... ended up being cheesecake meatballs.


Step 2: Dipping in chocolate.
I melted some milk chocolate and white chocolate, with a teaspoon of shortening to ensure it hardened properly, in separate bowls. I wish I could say I tenderly rolled each ball in the chocolate then, using a fork, gently placed each ball on parchment paper to dry. In reality, it was more like a frustrating fishing expedition, forcing me to work quickly to cover each one with the appropriate sprinkles, nuts or shredded coconut.


Step 3: The Verdict.
Even though the outcome was a yummy one, unless I receive that mini cake pop maker I have on my Christmas list (hint, hint hun!), it won’t be happening again soon.

Proving once again that cutting the cheese is a heck of a lot easier than rolling it.

this triangle beats the bermuda one by miles

Robert Burns once said: “'the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”. Well Mr. Burns, you called it perfectly for this week’s cupcake creation. The original plan was to use all of the Halloween candy I just knew we’d have leftover to make a Snickers or Mars bar cupcake. But after countless kids – and a little indulging of my own (does it really count when they’re that small?) – I was forced to come up with a Plan B.

Originally planned as a full out cheesecake, this week I decided to convert a trusted Caramel Toblerone cheesecake recipe into cupcake form. I started by pressing a mixture of oreo baking crumbs and butter into the bottom of each cupcake liner. Then, I followed with the cream cheese-iest cheesecake mixture I know, courtesy of Kraft Canada. Finally, I topped each one off with some good, old fashioned caramel ice cream topping and chopped Toblerone chocolate bar pieces.

Not only was it welcomed with open arms – and mouths – by my Friday night dinner guests, it was yet another way of enjoying a sinfully sweet treat and not feeling that guilty about the calories.




Proving once again that sometimes having a Plan B isn’t all that bad. In fact, it just might end up being an A-1 idea!



cupcakes for the cause - let's hear it for the boys!

Burt Reynolds. Tom Selleck. Isaac from the Love Boat. Those are just a few of the famous faces who’ve rocked a mustache... and a pretty impressive one at that.

And for almost a decade, guys everywhere pay homage to these trendsetters by registering to participate in Movember. During the month of November, these men – known as Mo Bros – groom, trim and wax their upper lip to raise vital funds and awareness for men's health, specifically prostate cancer.

And the statistics are staggering:
·          25,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year alone (2011).
·          4,100 men will die of the disease this year.
·          During his lifetime, 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with the disease. 
·          Prostate cancer is the most common cancer to afflict Canadian men. 
·          Rates of prostate cancer in men are comparable to rates of breast cancer in women.

And so, in support of Movember, I created these cute cupcakes featuring the father of all facial hair – the mustache. 

In fact, from November 1st – 30th, we’ll be selling these cupcakes with half of all proceeds being donated to Movember Canada, which sees 88% of donations raised donated to Prostate Cancer Canada programs and Men’s Health Awareness & Education.

Details*
Cupcakes (your choice of chocolate, vanilla or red velvet)
6 cupcakes – $12 ($6 to charity)
12 cupcakes - $22 ($11 to charity)

To place your order, e-mail me at: simplysweetcupcakes@hotmail.ca and be sure to include your name and contact information**.

So make this the month you put your money where your mustache is – or would be – by purchasing your Movember cupcakes today!

*Please allow 3 days advance notice for orders. Cash only.
**We offer free delivery to Brampton and Mississauga – additional delivery charges apply to outside of these areas.


i vant to suck your blood!

I don’t know if it was the exotic accent or the fact that he was really good at math (I’m a sucker for smarties), but the Count (also known as Count von Count) has always been one of my favourite muppets.

Under that bad boy exterior lied a gentle soul who’s simple Christmas wish was to receive his two front teeth. Talk about vulnerability!

So this week, and to kick off my Halloween cupcake collection, I created a vampire cupcake. Starting with a chocolate cupcake as the base, I iced each one with purple icing. Using a Wilton tip #4, I piped his jet black hair into that unmistakable V-shape, then used a smaller tip to make his cute little eyes, smile and, using white icing, his fangs.


Move over Edward Cullen, this Count just might take (cup) cake!

now this is the pumpkin, charlie brown

Jumping in piles of leaves. Apple pie fresh from the oven. Trick or treating. All definite signs of fall. And with them comes one of the more popular symbols of the season – the pumpkin.

So in celebration of the time of year when summer slowly transitions to winter, I give you the pumpkin cupcake. With a pumpkin cupcake as the base, I dyed a batch of cream cheese icing to a bright orange and spread it over each cupcake, topping each one with orange sprinkles and a stubby pretzel treat for the stem.


This week's cupcake might not have been on the difficult side, but this simple, sweet treat is a true homage to the season – and one more thing for which to be thankful.

cupcakes for the cause

Growing up is hard to do. Emotions run high, you undergo some major physical changes and there’s that constant feeling that no one understands you. Unfortunately for kids these days, what used to be thought of as a “phase” has taken a deadly turn.

This week, I had my cupcake creation all planned out… that was until I came across this story, which just broke my heart.

So for this week, and in memory of all those kids who feel like there’s only one way out, I’ve created cupcakes featuring a teal ribbon – the official ribbon colour of anti-bullying.


In fact, from October 1st – 31st, we’ll be selling these cupcakes with half of all proceeds being donated to Kids Help Phone, a service that enables kids to reach a professional counsellor from any community in Canada, online or on the phone, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Details*
Cupcakes (your choice of chocolate, vanilla or red velvet)
Icing (your choice of vanilla or chocolate)

6 cupcakes – $12 ($6 to charity)
12 cupcakes - $22 ($11 to charity)

To place your order, e-mail me at: simplysweetcupcakes@hotmail.ca and be sure to include your name and contact information**. Although these donations won’t bring back any of these kids, hopefully it will help increase awareness and educate people on the effects of bullying – reaffirming that it’s definitely not okay.

*Please allow 3 days advance notice for orders. Cash only.
**We offer free delivery to Brampton and Mississauga – additional delivery charge applies to outside of these areas.

a spoonful of (cinnamon?) helps the medicine go down

After putting my cupcake skills to the test during Cupcake Week, I wanted to go in a totally different direction for this week’s selection. After all, when I started this blog in January I wanted it to be about creating yummy treats that could be enjoyed by all, as well as experimenting with unique recipes I came across.

And this week I did just that with this Cinnamon Roll Cupcake recipe, courtesy of La Fuji Mama. Unlike other cupcakes I’ve tried, this one required covering, rolling and forming by hand. I have to be honest, I made a gosh darn mess on the counter – but I love cinnamon rolls so I figured it was worth it.


So what was the end result? The hubby tried one without the cream cheese icing and said they were really good, if not for being left in just a smidge too long. In the end it was a fun experiment – and props for fuji mama for having the patience – but for a baker who likes to whip things together, the covering and waiting to rise took up a lot of time, most of which I kept thinking about how many other cupcakes I would have been able to make.


But as the saying goes, you don’t know unless you try. And so, the next time I have a craving for cinnamon rolls, I'll take the easier route and visit Cinnabon for one of their sinfully sweet treats. 

Day Seven: oh my...apple pie

The only thing I love more than the change of season (sorry summer) is the sweet smell of cinnamon and baked apples. So for the last day of my National Cupcake Week challenge (tear), I searched for the perfect apple pie cupcake recipe and I’m happy to say I found it right here.

The cupcakes themselves were simple to make – the whole mixing of the dry ingredients in one bowl and the butter/sugar/eggs in another, the combining the two. The fun part was that it was the first time I gave caramelizing apples a go. Really it’s just a matter of melting butter and sugar in a saucepan then adding the apples, but I felt like a professional baking with my wooden spoon in hand. Then, after they cooled, I added them to the top of the batter so they would actually bake into the cupcake. 


After topping them off with the called-for cinnamon frosting, I decided instead of turning to others for their feedback, I’d have to take one for the simple sweet team on this one.


All I can say is… oh my gosh awesome! Although I don’t think I’ll be making them again anytime soon – only because I think that eating two dozen cupcakes by yourself means you actually have to admit you have a problem!

Day Six: on the road again

Willy Nelson sang about it, Jack was told to hit it, and although it might be rocky some days, people rarely mention how sweet it is… until now!

For Day Six of the cupcake challenge, I whipped up a batch of rocky road cupcakes. I started with my chocolate cupcake as a base, then topped each one with chocolate buttercream and a mish mash of chocolate chips, mini marshmallows and chopped peanuts.


My only regret is that I didn’t actually bake the marshmallows into the cupcake batter and then top each one with peanuts and chocolate chips. But you know what that means – an excuse to make them again?!

Day Four: mocha-licious

Café mocha, mochaccino, café macchiato… just when you thought coffee couldn’t get any better, they add chocolate into the mix. By definition, a café mocha (its longer name being mochaccino) is similar to a café latte in that it’s one third espresso and two thirds steamed milk. The delicious difference is that a portion of chocolate is added, typically in the form of sweet coca powder.

For Day Four, and for a little pick-me-up to get through the week and into the blessed two days we call weekend, I whipped up a batch of mocha cupcakes with espresso buttercream, courtesy of browneyedbaker.com.

Upon sharing the cupcake love at the office today, I received more than a few thumbs up from the tasters who had enjoyed these caffiene-infused treats before the clock struck 9. If that doesn't get you through the day, I don't know what will!



Day Five: mmmmmmmmmm-mango

One of the best parts of travelling to the tropics (which would be a welcome change as we experience an inevitable descent into fall) is the cuisine, more specifically the fresh array of fruit. Kiwis, pineapples, mangoes… they never taste as fresh as when you’re lying on a lounge chair under a straw hut with the warm breeze carrying the smell of the ocean across the sand.

For today’s cupcake entry, I wanted to recreate that fabulous feeling of being on vacation. And so, I topped my basic vanilla cupcake with mango buttercream. Cutting a fresh mango in half, I pureed it enough to garner the six tablespoons called for in this recipe. Unfortunately, I might have added too much mango (like there's such a thing!) so I had to thicken up the consistency with more icing sugar.

Once again I called in my husband to taste test the cupcake combo. He did say the mango could have been a bit stronger, so I'm thinking I might have to travel to the tropics to pick up some authentic ones. 

Which leads to my question... when are we leaving?!


Day Three: when the moon hits your eye...

If you’re Italian, you know that every pasta holds a different property. Penne differs from rigatoni that differs from ravioli that differs from fusilli. But I’m sure we can agree there’s nothing as yummy as spaghetti with meatballs – especially when it’s nonna’s.

And so, for Day Three’s cupcake creation, I decided to combine a little decorating fun with an Italian classic. With a lemon cake base, I used a #4 Wilton tip to create the spaghetti-like icing, plopped a Ferroro Roche chocolate in the middle and then topped each one with raspberry jam.

Now that’s amore!

Day Two: orangina dreama

I’m sure you’ve seen the commercials around Christmastime time – the gift receiver takes the round ball and smashes it against the wall so he/she can enjoy the delightful combination of a Terry’s Milk Chocolate Orange Ball.

And so, for today’s cupcake, I wanted to recreate the delicious combo. I started with my standard chocolate cupcake base and topped it with orange buttercream (the same one used for my creamsicle cupcakes a few months ago).

Since I’m not a huge fan of orange (the fruit, not the juice – go figure) I turned to my husband for his taste-testing expertise. As he bit into the mini sweet treat, I got nervous – usually his praise comes fast and furious. But when he said, “Meh, I don’t know hun… I think you need to make another batch so I can try them again”, I knew they were a winner.


Day One: can i offer you a spot of tea?

When I sat down to plan my homage to National Cupcake Week, it was pretty obvious how to kick off the festivities – with a spot of tea! And so, I searched for a unique recipe for Earl Grey cupcakes topped with lemon buttercream – and found just the right one.

Being a diehard cupcake batter taster, I was worried that the mixture had somewhat of a strong taste. But once baked and topped with the Wilton lemon buttercream, this cupcake captured the same essence as the centuries old tea. 

Pardon the pun, but it hit the spot!


let the (cupcake) games begin!

The British have given us a lot of things – Shakespeare, The Beatles, bangers and mash. But perhaps the most delicious contribution is British Baker magazine’s National Cupcake Week. This year’s competition has attracted more than 100 professional bakers who will vie for some sweet titles, like Best Decorated Cupcake, Most Innovative Cupcake and, of course, National Cupcake Champion.

In honour of this 3rd annual event, I have challenged myself to bake a different cupcake recipe (are you ready?!) every day of the competition. That’s right, from September 12th – 18th, I’ll be creating a different cupcake and posting the results on my blog. 

So buckle up, enjoy the ride and be sure to check back for the latest cupcake update. 
It's going to be brilliant!

espresso yourself

A few months ago I tried my first Starbucks iced drink thingy – a Caramel Frappuccino Light. While enjoying this tasty beverage I thought, why not capture the rich flavour in a cupcake. So once again I relied on my old friend google to find a decadent espresso cupcake recipe. I found something even better - a recipe for chocolate espresso cupcakes!

Using this as the base, I topped each one with my caramel buttercream (check out the
Turtles cupcakes I whipped up in May) and a caramel swirl. While you can taste the espresso in the cupcake, the chocolate adds a richness while the caramel adds a sweetness. Another option - and possibly to try at a later date - is topping each cupcake with vanilla buttercream and cocoa powder.


But for right now, it's a decadent explosion of flavour that I'm looking forward to sharing. I think it will be the perfect pick-me-up for that 3 o'clock craving for something sweet.

double the (cupcake) fun

Chocolate or vanilla? It’s the age old question pondered for centuries (well, maybe not that long – but it is a source of debate for some). But don’t despair, there is a solution… wait for it… marble! That’s right, the marble cupcake features both the subtlety of vanilla and the decadence of chocolate.

So in my quest to find the perfect recipe, I got to googling. Thanks to bakingbites.com, I decided to give it a whirl. Although some cupcakes were less marbled than others, the end result turned out better than I thought.


These marble cupcakes were the first time I also gave two-toned swirled buttercream a go. After splitting a simple vanilla buttercream recipe in half and adding cocoa powder to the latter, filling the bags – although a somewhat messy endeavor – turned out to be simpler than I thought. 


After all, it’s no fun unless you get a little dirty, right?

everything's coming up roses

A bouquet can say so many things – “I love you”, “I missed you”, “I’m so glad we’re friends”. They put a smile of the face of the recipient and make the giver just plain old feel good. 

For this week's cupcake bouquet, I started with chocolate mini cupcakes, hit Michael’s to find a Styrofoam cube (the one’s florists use) and the dollar store for a cute summery planting pot and wooden skewers.

Since the Styrofoam was a cube, I had to trim it down to fit in the pot opening. Next up was strategically inserting the skewers (cut in half) into the block. But before piping the yellow icing (to bring out the flowers on the pot, of course) and sticking each one its waiting skewer, I weaved green tissue paper in between each one to simulate stems.

The result? Well, after Styrofoam shavings everywhere, one heck of a splinter and the reorganization of a few skewers, I’d like to think it’s not too bad for a first timer.


One thing’s for sure, a real bouquet might look better – but this one is definitely more delicious!

let's go to the Ex!

For most Torontonians, nothing signals the end of summer more than The Canadian National Exhibition. The rickety rides, the carnies and, of course, the latest food craze (this year’s offerings include deep fried PB & J sandwiches, a donut burger and deep friend cola).

So with the opening of the Ex today, I thought what better way to honour a Toronto institution than with a cotton candy cupcake. That sugary sweet carnie treat is something devoured by kids with a passion. Although as an adult, eating more than a handful of cotton candy on any given day can cause a case of serious case of gut rot for some (i.e. me!).

But thanks to cakepsy.com, I found a yellow cupcake recipe and a delightful cotton candy buttercream recipe that also calls for a cotton candy topping for each cupcake. 

Next time I make these super sweet confections, I'll be sure to add some red food colouring to the batter to really make them pop and a little less milk for a thicker consistency. 

Other than that, I think one bite of this sweet treat will have you singing… “Let’s go to the Ex – oh baby!”

i scream, you scream... yay, ice cream!

There’s no better way to beat a heat wave – and we’ve had a few this summer – than with a cone, cup or even bowl of ice cream. Vanilla, chocolate, heavenly hash, cookies and cream… any way you scoop it, there’s something for everyone.

And so, for this week’s cupcake selection, I decided to go with a vanilla cupcake baked in an ice cream cone (oh yeah, I said it!), topped with chocolate frosting and sprinkles.


Sure, it’s been done before, but it’s still fun to see the reaction on people’s faces when they see them for the first time. I guess we really do all scream for ice cream!

quit monkeying around... you nut!

If it’s one thing I couldn’t get enough of as a kid, it was nutella. On white bread. Toasted. It was the only way to go – that or dipping an espresso spoon in the jar for more than a few solo helpings of this tasty treat. So I thought what better way to satisfy that childhood craving, which I’ve carried forward into adulthood, than with a cupcake!

The finished product… a banana chocolate chip cupcake topped with nutella buttercream. Now if you're looking for a jolt of chocolate, this cupcake is definitely it - although the hazlenutty buttercream would probably suit a vanilla cupcake a bit better.




But still, a word of caution to banana and peanut butter – there might be a new cupcake in town!