Archive | May, 2013

Blue Moon Cupcakes with Orange Frosting

30 May

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It’s the beginning of summer here in the Mid-Atlantic, and for those of us living between the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, that can only mean one thing – blue crab season is upon us. For those not familiar with the rite of picking crabs, take comfort that the requirements are few: plain brown paper to cover the table, a roll or two of paper towels, a small wooden mallet, a platter piled high with steaming hot Maryland Blue Crabs smothered in Old Bay, and non-stop pitchers of ice-cold beer.

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As the locals know, picking crabs is an art form, one that does NOT include bashing the crab to smithereens with the mallet. (This is often how out-of-towners and novices give themselves away.) A practiced crab picker, using only his/her hands, can have a nice fat crab de-legged, de-shelled, and de-lunged, and enjoying a nice juicy morsel of crab meat in a matter of seconds. The mallet, if used at all, is only for the claws.

The proper accompaniment for this feast is beer, pitchers and pitchers of ice-cold beer. This is not the time for a little summer sangria, minty mojito or a bright sauvignon blanc. With crabs, you need something that’s going to go down fast and easy and tame that Old Bay spice. And not just any beer either. As much as I love a good, dark, creamy craft ale, for this job you need something light, refreshing and summery – I recommend the classic Blue Moon Belgian White Ale – with a slice of orange, of course.

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It was only a few summers ago that I had my first Blue Moon. It was the perfect summer day, not too hot, plenty of sunshine, when a few of us decided to go out for a little lunch al fresco on the water. As we waited for our order to arrive, we noticed servers bustling back and forth with trays loaded with glasses of beer garnished with orange slices…..orange slices??? Intrigued, we ordered a round for ourselves, and so it was I was introduced to Blue Moon Belgian White Ale. To me, this was a perfect summer ale – not too light, not too strong, just the right amount of body and deliciously refreshing. It still is my go-to summer beer. Perfect for cook-outs, barbecues and of course, picking crabs.

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These cupcakes are an homage to my favorite summer ale – Blue Moon infused, orange-flecked yellow cupcakes topped with the perfect orange buttercream frosting. The ale makes the cupcakes nice and light and perfect for the warm days of summer, and best of all, you can eat them in hand, no mallet needed.

BLUE MOON CUPCAKES

These cupcakes start with a box mix. I recommend following the directions on the box, but substituting the amount of water called for with the same amount of beer. I used a Betty Crocker mix for these cupcakes and so I’ve listed the ingredients called for on the box. Other brands may differ slightly.

1 Box yellow cake mix

1 cup Blue Moon Ale

3 eggs

1/2 cup oil

grated peel from 1/2 orange

Combine all ingredients in large bowl of stand mixer. Mix on low for 30 seconds, then on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fill paper lined muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or as directed, until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

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ORANGE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING

1 stick butter, softened

4-5 cups confectioners sugar

juice and grated peel from 1 orange

Cream butter in large bowl of stand mixer. Add 4 cups confectioners sugar, orange peel and 1/3 of orange juice, on low speed until blended and then at high speed for 4-5 minutes, adding more sugar and/or juice until desired consistency is reached. Frost as desired.

Enjoy!

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Limoncello Cupcakes

23 May

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A couple of Christmases ago, my friend Nancy was kind enough to bring a bottle of limoncello to the office holiday party. This was no ordinary bottle of limoncello, however. This was homemade limoncello, loving crafted by her very talented father, who was well-known for his home recipe.

Nancy had been telling us for some time just how good her dad’s limoncello was, so we were all quite excited to finally have a chance to sample this wonderful liqueur. I for one had never had limoncello before, homemade or otherwise, so I was really looking forward to my first taste. A day or two before the party, Nancy popped by her dad’s house to pick up the limoncello. He wasn’t home at the time, but was kind enough to leave the bottle of pale yellow liqueur waiting on the porch for her.

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Fast forward to the evening of the party. Nancy proudly presented the bottle of yellow liqueur and very graciously offered it to anyone who wanted a sample. I read somewhere that limoncello and champagne made a nice cocktail, and so I had her pour a generous amount of the limoncello into my glass of champagne. So confident was I that this was going to be THE cocktail of the evening, I encouraged several of my other friends to do the same. As Nancy  strolled off to share the golden elixir with others, I took a nice big sip, my taste buds eagerly anticipating the delightful mix of syrupy, sweet lemon and effervescent champagne. Imagine then, the look of horror on my face as the liquid ravaged its way down my throat, annihilating anything in its path, burning a hole in my esophagus and quickly bringing tears to my eyes. A quick glance at my co-victims’ faces told me they were experiencing the same torture. I hurriedly composed myself, politely hid the unfinished “cocktail of the evening”, and attempted to cool my throat and soothe my soul with a new glass of pure, unadulterated champagne. Nancy, who is nobody’s fool, could tell something wasn’t right,  tried a bit of the liqueur herself and had a similar reaction.

It turns out that limoncello isn’t the only craft beverage Nancy’s dad likes to make. The bottle he left out on the porch that unfortunate day? Not  limoncello at all but rather a bottle of raw, homemade, un-aged gin. Yes, I had coerced my friends into drinking raw gin and champagne….not quite the cocktail I had in mind.

I still haven’t tried Nancy’s dad’s limoncello, but I do look forward to it. In the meantime, I’ve had to satisfy myself with the commercial stuff, which is mighty fine too.

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Life has thrown Nancy a couple of curve balls lately, both good and bad, including a move to a different part of the office. So, to celebrate the move and wish her all the best, I dedicate these delightful limoncello cupcakes to my friend Nancy….and her dad.

Limoncello Cupcakes

This recipe is the quick, easy, but no less delicious version. These cupcakes received some high praise.  But for a total from-scratch experience, check out Brown Eyed Baker  (my favorite blog) for her Lemon-Limoncello Cupcakes – even the curd is homemade and looks fabulous.

Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

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1 box white cake mix (I used 18.25 ounce size)

1 cup water

1/4 cup limoncello

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 egg whites

Juice and zest of one lemon

1 jar lemon curd

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put liners in cupcake tins and set aside.

Combine the cake mix, water, limoncello, oil, egg whites, lemon juice and zest in large mixing bowl. Combine ingredients on low until just mixed, then at medium speed for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake tins about half full. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then move to racks to cool completely.

When cool, use small melon baller, corer or frosting tip to cut a small hole in each cupcake. Fill each hole with a small amount of lemon curd and then frost as desired.

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Limoncello Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 stick butter, softened

2 tablespoons limoncello

4-5 cups confectioners sugar

zest of one lemon

Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add limoncello, lemon zest and 3 cups powdered sugar. Mix together at low until blended, then at high speed for several minutes, adding additional powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frost as desired and sprinkle lightly with additional zest.

Enjoy!

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Bärenjäger Honey Lemon Cupcakes

2 May

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I am a honey addict. Which is why, in just a few hours I will be heading out to pick up a few thousand honeybees to start another season of “honey farming”. Yes, it’s true….my name is Linda and I am a Beek (beekeeping geek).

It started out innocently enough a few years ago, when I saw an article offering a free seminar for would-be beekeepers. Interesting, I thought – a great way to fight against colony collapse, pollinate my garden and maybe get a jar or two of honey on the side. Flash forward 3 years and I now have 2 full hives in my little center city backyard that, in a good year, will supply me with 30-50 pounds of the best all-natural, organic honey I’ve ever tasted. Those busy little bees have hooked me up with enough honey to supply me with a year’s worth of Christmas, birthday and hostess gifts with plenty left over to sweeten my tea, stir into my yogurt or even straight to soothe a sore throat. As I write this, I see a two gallon bucket of honey on top of the fridge, leftover from last summer’s harvest.

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Honey truly is nectar from the gods – sweet, golden, sticky, syrupy perfection, truly there can be no way to improve on this gift from nature…..or can there? Since becoming a beek (and I admit, even using the term “Beek” is probably the epitome of geekiness), I find myself tuning into all things bee and honey related. And it was in this frame of mind that I stumbled upon the only thing in the world that could be better than pure honey –  Bärenjäger honey liqueur. Oh.My.Goodness.  There is nothing I don’t like about this liqueur. From the cute little beehive shaped cap, to the braided straw-covered bottle, to the way it smells, the way it tastes, to the 35% A.B.V., this German gem of golden liqueur has become by far my favorite of all liqueurs. Front and center in the liquor cupboard, a potent potable so perfect, it doesn’t need much else. Mix it with a little fresh lemon juice over ice, served in a sugar-rimmed glass – heaven!

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So of course I had to combine these loves of mine into a cupcake – a lemony, honey kissed cupcake, brushed with Bärenjäger and topped with light, fluffy Bärenjäger-infused lemon honey buttercream frosting. Sprinkle lightly with golden sanding sugar or a drizzle of pure honey and you’ve got some baked perfection.

And so, in honor of my 10,000 or so backyard guests, I offer you Bärenjäger Honey Lemon Cupcakes

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Lemon Honey Cupcakes

Adapted from a Woman’s Day recipe

2 3/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 tablespoons grated lemon zest

4 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup honey

1/4 cup sugar

3 large eggs

2 tablespoons Bärenjäger

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line 24 muffin cups with liners

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl

In a separate bowl, whisk together sour cream, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice

In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter, honey and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each. Mixture will look curdled, don’t worry.

With mixer on low speed, add half of flour mixture, then the sour cream mixture, and then the remaining flour until just combined.

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Spoon about 1/4 cup batter into each cupcake tin. Bake 18 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Remove to rack to cool completely.

Poke each cupcake with several small holes using toothpick. Brush Bärenjäger  on tops of each cupcake.

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Bärenjäger Honey Lemon Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup honey

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest

4 cups confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons Bärenjäger

2 – 3 tablespoons lemon juice

gold sanding sugar (optional)

2 tablespoons honey (optional)

Beat butter, honey and zest in bowl of stand mixer until creamed. On low speed, add confectioners sugar until blended. Add Bärenjäger and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Beat at high speed for several minutes until light and fluffy, adding more lemon juice if needed or to taste. Frost as desired. Decorate with sugar or honey drizzle, if desired.

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Enjoy!

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