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.

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.