Archive | February, 2014

White Russian Cupcakes

26 Feb

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Back when I was in college, I’m pretty sure I worked as many different part-time jobs as I earned college credits. You name a profession, I’ve probably tried my hand at it. But in those days, it was all fun. It didn’t matter if I was flipping burgers and blending milkshakes, swinging my whistle on the lifeguard stand, or cleaning summer cottages at the beach. I was in college and I was having a good time. One job that stands out, and to this day was probably one of my favorite jobs, was serving up cocktails at the local club. Maybe not the most prestigious job, but it helped pay the tuition and I had a blast. It was hard to believe that someone was willing to pay me to listen to great live music all night long while plying my new-found friends with drinks. The tips didn’t hurt either. But the best part of the job was at the end of the night, after the patrons had gone home and the band was breaking down. That’s when the staff was allowed one drink each, on the house. Anything we wanted.

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And that’s when the addiction began. Every night, around 1:15 a.m.,  what I wanted was a tall, creamy, coffee-flavored White Russian. And not one of those little on-the-rocks size ones either. I got mine served up in a long, tall glass, full of the best vodka, cloyingly sweet Kahlua and artery-clogging cream, poured over just enough ice to keep it nice and cold. I simply loved them. Of course, my love affair with the White Russian lasted about as long as that job, and I don’t think I’ve had one since.

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I don’t know if it’s the recent Winter Olympics in Sochi or the fact that February 27 is National Kahlua Day, but the memories of those late night cocktails have recently made their way back into my consciousness. And while I still have no desire to ever drink another White Russian, it did occur to me it might make a phenomenal cupcake. And I was right. This recipe adapted from Baked Perfection turns out one rich, delicious, Kahlua spiked cupcake. Give them a try, you may score a perfect 10!

White Russian Cupcakes

Makes one dozen cupcakes

1 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons butter, room temperature

1 whole egg

1 egg white

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 cup vodka

1/8 cup Kahlua

1/2 cup 1/2 & 1/2

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time, until combined.

Stir in vanilla, vodka and Kahlua.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.

Fill cupcake tins about 2/3 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for approximately 5 minutes, then remove to rack to cool completely before frosting.

Kahlua Buttercream Frosting

4 tablespoons Kahlua

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

3 cups confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

1 – 2 tablespoons 1/2 & 1/2

chocolate covered espresso beans (optional)

While cupcakes are still warm, brush the tops with 1 – 2 tablespoons of Kahlua.

Cream butter in bowl of stand mixer. Add confectioners sugar and salt at low-speed until combined, and then at high-speed, adding remainder of Kahlua and enough 1/2 & 1/2 until desired consistency is reached.

Frost as desired. Sprinkle with ground espresso beans.

Enjoy!

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Amaretto Sour Cupcakes

16 Feb

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Girlie drinks. Back in the day, long before I knew there was a difference between Malbec and Merlot, way before I was aware of craft brews and microbrews, I and my friends were first initiated into the wonderful world of potent potables through girlie drinks. You know the ones –  those tropically colored, super sweet cocktails designed to taste as much like Hawaiian Punch as possible, with all kinds of fruit slices hanging off the side. I’m talking old school classics: Whiskey Sours, Tom Collins, Screwdrivers and Daiquiris. Of course the young gentlemen in our group would go for something more hard core….like a 7 & 7.

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I personally cut my boozy teeth on that fabulous concoction known as a Sloe Gin Fizz. So, so sweet, it makes my teeth hurt now to even think of it. But in those days, I thought they were the bomb. A ruby-red cocktail consisting of sloe gin, regular gin, sugar syrup and soda, topped off with a bright maraschino cherry. I absolutely loved them.

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Of course, every group has that one special friend, the one with just a tad more style and flair than the rest. In our group, that girl was Nancy (not the limoncello-making dad Nancy, this is another Nancy.) Nancy knew how to party – she was the one who introduced us to pre-gaming way before it was called pre-gaming. While the rest of us were ordering our Screwdrivers and 7 & 7s, it was Nancy, on one particular night, who had the audacity to order….an Amaretto Sour. Oooooooh! So exotic, so European, what was it really? How did she even know about it? Needless to say, we were all appropriately impressed. But that was Nancy, cutting edge, all the way.

February 16 is National Almond Day. Nowadays of course, almonds make me think of Amaretto and even to this day, Amaretto reminds me of Nancy and her Amaretto Sours. The following light, refreshing cupcakes are easy to pull together – they start with a mix – and make a cheery break from the winter doldrums.What better way to toast both the day and old friends than to whip up a batch of Amaretto Sour cupcakes.

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Amaretto Sour Cupcakes

Makes approx. 18-20 cupcakes

1 box white cake mix

3 ounces amaretto

3 ounces orange juice

4 ounces sour mix

1/3 cup vegetable oil

3 egg whites

1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.

Combine Amaretto, orange juice and sour mix in a large measuring cup.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine cake mix, liquids, egg whites and oil, at low speed for 30 seconds, and then at medium speed for two minutes, scraping sides of bowl as needed.

Fill each cupcake tin about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in pans for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Amaretto Buttercream Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3-4 cups confectioners sugar

pinch salt

3 – 4 tablespoons Amaretto

orange zest

maraschino cherries

Cream butter in bowl of stand mixer. Add 3 cups of confectioners sugar, salt and 3 tablespoons of Amaretto and mix at low speed until combined, then at high speed, adding more sugar and Amaretto until desired consistency is reached.

Frost and decorate as desired.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Neapolitan Cupcakes with Chambord Raspberry Buttercream

9 Feb

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St. Valentine’s Day is soon upon us and I can’t believe it’s mid-February already. Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone and Tom Brady still reigns supreme – sorry, Peyton, it’s all in the bling of the rings.

Usually February drags on and on for me….Patriots football is over and Red Sox baseball hasn’t started yet. Sure, there’s the Bruins (No. 1!) and the Celtics (not so much this year), but it’s not quite the same. February is usually spent counting the days ’til pitchers and catchers, then spring training and then jut a few more weeks until Opening Day!!!

This year, we have the Winter Olympics, which helps. And the Westminster dog show, which I always watch, but don’t know why. Without a doubt, it’s always some little micro ball of fur that wins the cup. And every year, my German Shepherd and I just look at each other and shrug, never understanding what the judges see in those little things.

But I do enjoy the Olympics, watching the athletes from all over the world giving it their all and putting out some pretty spectacular performances. And I always get sucked into the back stories and the come-from-behind athlete who wins the gold, despite all odds. It’s kind of corny, but it does inspire.

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It’s this same international competition that was the inspiration for my Valentine’s Day cupcakes this year. Both Paris and Rome are thought to be the most romantic cities on earth.  Why not include some of that “romance” in a cupcake? How about a little French Chambord and Italian Amaretto sharing the love in rich chocolate cupcake, looking oh so chic in a tres Neapolitan design.

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The recipe looks long, but it really isn’t very difficult at all, and everything comes together nicely in the end. After all, baking for that someone special, especially on Valentine’s Day, is always a labor of love. And these cupcakes are so worth it…how do you say, ooh-la-la!!!

Chocolate Amaretto Cupcakes

This cupcake recipe is actually vegan, but don’t let that deter you. These turn out perfectly every time, and they’re not too sweet, a perfect base for the rich filling and frostings.

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup almond milk

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons amaretto

1 cup flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together almond milk and vinegar. Set aside to curdle.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Add sugar, oil, and amaretto to almond milk mixture and beat until foamy.

Add flour mixture to wet ingredients in 2 batches and beat until no large lumps remain.

Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes and cool completely before filling and frosting.

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Chambord Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

4 cups confectioners sugar

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons Chambord

1-2 tablespoons milk

In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter until soft. Add half of the powdered sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Add remaining sugar, salt, and Chambord. Mix until combined, then beat at high speed 5 – 6 minutes, adding enough milk until desired consistency is reached.  Set aside 1/3 cup of frosting in a small bowl and immediately fill pastry bag with the remaining frosting. Set aside.

Chambord Filling

1/4 cup raspberry preserves

2 teaspoons Chambord

1/3 cup Chambord frosting

In a small bowl, stir together all ingredients until combined. Set aside.

Amaretto Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

4 cups confectioners sugar

2 tablespoons Amaretto

1-2 tablespoons milk

pinch of salt

In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter until soft. Add half of the powdered sugar and mix at low speed until combined. Add remaining sugar, salt, and Amaretto. Mix until combined, then beat at high speed 5 – 6 minutes, adding enough milk until desired consistency is reached.  Fill pastry bag with the remaining.

While the frosting is beating, use a small melon-baller to scoop out center of each cupcake. Fill each hole with about 1 teaspoon of the filling.

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Using the Amaretto frosting, pipe a circle of frosting on the outside edge of each cupcake. Fill in, using the Chambord frosting. Sprinkle with chocolate jimmies.

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Enjoy!

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