Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Plain Jane, or just Plain Delicious

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Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes

You know the reputation vanilla gets for being plain, well I'm not sure why because who doesn't like vanilla?! So why not double the delicious flavor and make it even better? I may be a bit biased because I always prefer vanilla but I guarantee you will too once you try these cupcakes.

I made these for a friend who order a batch for their office. They wanted a REALLY good vanilla cupcake. I was going to get creative with the icing but wanted to really show up how wonderful vanilla is. So I went with a basic vanilla buttercream. The cupcake however was a bit different. I wanted a cupcake that had a lighter texture but HUGE vanilla flavor.

I did my research for the best vanilla cupcake. I found that the ones with the best reviews all had a different method of how they add the butter. They don't cream the butter and sugars together instead they mix it into the flour to make little crumbles before adding in the wet ingredients. It is a very thin batter but rises a lot which makes it light but not too light. I am in love with this recipe and I think I am going to use this as my go to vanilla recipe. I found several I really likes but this one from The Cupcake Project is my favorite so far.

So these are my Not So Plain Jane Vanilla Cupcakes.


Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes
Adapted from The Cupcake Project

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean (I skipped this and doubled the vanilla extract later)
  • 1 3/4 cupcakes cake flour, not self rising
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup full fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract ( I used two because I did not have the vanilla bean)
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. If using vanilla bean:  combine sugar and seeds from the vanilla bean.Using the back of a spoon, move around the bowl and apply pressure to break up any clumps of seeds and to better infuse the vanilla flavor into the sugar. Set aside.
  3. If not skip this and just set 1 cup of sugar aside.
  4. With electric mixer, mix together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the vanilla bean sugar/sugar and mix until well combined.
  6. Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes.  (Because there is so little butter, you'll end up with a very fine crumb texture,)
  7. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth.
  8. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined.
  9. Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined.  The batter will be liquid. 
  10. Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full.
  11. Bake for 14 minutes and then test to see if they are done, with a toothpick.
  12. Remove them immediately from the tins and leave them on a cooling rack to cool.

Basic Vanilla Buttercream

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3-4 cups confectioners sugar ( I tend to only use 3)
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract ( sometimes I use the clear vanilla so it doesn't alter the color, but I don't get the vanilla flavor I'm looking for)
1/4 cup milk

  1. With an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. With mixer on low speed, gradually sugar, milk, and vanilla; mix until light and fluffy.
  3. Add more sugar and/or milk to your liking.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Holiday Cookie List

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Holiday Cookie Checklist

Hello, Hello!  I hope everyone had a lovely holiday!

I had been meaning to post a recipe for these white chocolate truffle cupcakes I recently made, however they were all eaten before I had a chance to snap a picture. So, although it may say something about how great they were I decided to wait and post it when I remake them as dark chocolate truffle cupcakes. However if you are aching to see the recipe you can check it out HERE.

Anyways, I have been doing dessert research like its nobodies business lately. I feel like I am on the computer and in my baking and cooking books and magazines all day everyday debating what to bake through out this holiday season.

It was getting CRAZY. I literally have like 300 new saved bookmarks, 1000 folded pages, and endless lists of what I want to make and bake. So I decided to make smaller lists and separate them into categories. My first list is the holiday cookie list.

This time of year just screams cookies, and I wanted to make a list of the cookies I would like to make this year. Not your normal chocolate chip, sugar, or spritz cookies though. As scrumptious as they are, I really wanted to get creative and make unique cookies that you don't see everyday.

So I have made a list of the top cookies I want to bake from now until New Years. This gives me a little more than a month to eat AS MANY COOKIES AS POSSIBLE! Then by next year I won't even be able to look at a cookie and start the year off healthy.

Oh, if only that were true. Well here is my cookie list. I linked them to the blog I found them off of so you can check them out before I make them. If you have any wonderful cookie suggestions please feel free to share!

P.S. Let's all say a prayer, make a wish, or send out some love to mother nature to keep this AMAZING November weather around! I will allow snow Christmas Eve, and New Years Day. But until nothing below 60 degree's will be acceptable. THANKS! :)

   Salted Mudslide Cookies        

Don't they look amazing!? Should keep me busy for a while, can't wait to try these!
Check back and see how they come out!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thank goodness for giving thanks!

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Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake
w/ cinnamon glaze

Well hello! Long time no blog! So much going on in life right now, but I am back today with a GREAT recipe just in time for tomorrow's day of thanks! One last Pumpkin recipe before we are all on pumpkin overload.

Since it is Thanksgiving I would just like make a list of just some of the things I am thankful for:

  • First and foremost, THE MOST AMAZING LITTLE BOOGER IN THE WORLD, my niece Kayleigh!
  • My AMAZING friends! 


  • Cupcakes!


  • The opportunities I've had to travel the world!
  • Art. Painting, like baking and cooking, is therapy to me.
  • & Wonderful organizations that truly do make a difference, whether big or small. It's good to know there are people out there whose passion is to better the life of someone else.

  • I could keep listing all the things I am thankful for but I don't want to get too carried away :). I have this great recipe to share with you. You will love it so much that you might add it to your list of what you are thankful for!

    Its the perfect change up from your typical Thanksgiving desserts. It is almost a blend of them all into one great cake. You have the flavors of the most popular Turkey Day Pies! Pumpkin, chocolate, and cinnamon & spice (from an apple pie). This is also a pretty big cake so there is PLENTY to share and leftover for getting all sugared up for BLACK FRIDAY SHOPPING!!!

    I haven't decided if I am going yet or not. My family and I decided to just get one gift for one other person this year since most of us children are battling student loan debt (blah!), so I really have no need to join crazies and go shopping, but wouldn't mind taking part in the madness. We'll see :).

    Anyway I hope you all have a WONDERFUL and sweet Thanksgiving with those you love and take a moment to realize how lucky you are and to focus on whats good (&great) in the world!

    *I am also SO VERY THANKFUL that you take time to read my blog, it means so much to me. Thank you!<3*

    MMMM SOOO GOOD! It's not too sweet or heavy, just perfect!
    Chocolate Pumpkin Bundt Cake
    with cinnamon glaze
    Adapted from Eating Well Magazine

    Ingredients for the Cake:
    • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
    • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
    • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
    • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup buttermilk (or you can sub in 1 cup of milk whisked with 1 tablespoon lemon juice, this is what I did)
    • 15-oz can of  pumpkin puree
    • ¾-cup light brown sugar, packed
    • 1 large egg, room temp
    • 1 egg white, room temp
    • ¼ cup canola oil, I used veg oil because it's what I had.
    • ¼ cup honey
    • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    Ingredients for the Glaze:
    • 2/3-cup confectioner’s sugar
    • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
    • 1½ tablespoons milk
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray.
    2. Sift the flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
    3. In separate bowl, whisk the buttermilk, pumpkin puree and brown sugar.
    4. Add in the eggs one at a time.
    5. Stir in the oil, honey and vanilla. Gradually add the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan.
    6. Bake the cake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached- about 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on the rack, about 1 hour.

    Glaze: Beat the confectioner’s sugar, milk and cinnamon with an electric mixer until completely smooth. Once the cake is cool, place it on a serving plate and drizzle the glaze over top. Slice and serve.

    Saturday, November 12, 2011

    Point, shoot, eat!

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    Paintball Themed Cupcakes
    Vanilla cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

    I could have used a little more practice decorating lol
    Hello, Hello! How is everyone doing this Monday?! I hope everyone had a much better week last week than myself.

     I  had quite the week, let me tell you...ughhhh. I won't drag ya down with the details but I will tell you how scary it is to hit a deer. Not just a little deer but a MASSIVE buck. I have lived in the woods my whole life and have never hit a deer. And I will be having nightmares forever because of this!
    Anyways, at least I'm safe and no serious injuries. The same cannot be said for my little car.
    But I had a much better weekend filled with family and fun! It was my great Aunt's 80th Surprise Birthday party, and boy was she surprised! I wish I had taken pictures because it was so lovely to see family I don't ever get to see and to see how surprised my aunt was. I blame the wine for making me miss the photo ops lol. And Sunday was just as wonderful! I spent the day with my sister in NYC strolling through beautiful Central Park and went ice skating at Bryant Park later that night.

    Me in Central Park
    Central Park. How pretty are the trees?!
     Speaking of better things, whats better then a good old fashion vanilla cupcake? A friend of mine asked me to make cupcakes for her brothers birthday. I asked her what he liked and she said paintball, and all things boys. As soon as I heard paintball I knew what I wanted to do.

    I thought of paint splatters and targets. I looked online for some inspiration and found an awesome cupcake cake where you pull apart the cupcakes which are lined up and decorated as one big cake. It had this great white background with a giant red target and random paint splatters. I was planning on this, but then had too much to take care of being that I am working on getting my car fixed, finding a car to drive and all that jazz.

    So instead I just made some vanilla cream cheese frosting and saved some to color for the decorating.
    I had originally planned on getting really elaborated with some gum paste decorating and fondant targets but again, that deer took all my time.

    These ended up being quite simple. The longest part was mixing the icing into the colors and putting in the pastry bags. After frosting the cupcakes with the non-colored vanilla icing I used the colored icing to make the paint splatters and targets. Then places matching Gobstopper candies to put in the center of the paint splatter. The designs are easier than they look, you can practice on some paper or a plate first.

    Here is a simple yet delicious vanilla cupcake recipe and an even simpler vanilla cream cheese icing recipe.
    These will be perfect for any boy, or teen boy, or even just skip the the decorating and have some delicious vanilla vanilla cupcakes!
    In my lovely boxes from
    Vanilla Cupcakes
    adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
    • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
    • ½ teaspoon table salt
    • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
    • ½ cup sour cream
    • 1 large egg , room temperature
    • 2 large egg yolks , room temperature
    • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees & line cupcake pan with paper liners.
    2. Sift  together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in  mixing bowl.
    3. Beat together butter and sour cream for a few seconds, then egg, followed by the egg yolks and vanilla. B
    4. Add to flour mixture and beat at medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.
    5. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin (I use a 1/4 cup measuring cup).
    6. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
    7. Remove the cupcakes and let cool in pan 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. 

    Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing

    • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
    • 6oz cream cheese, room temp
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 2-3 cups powder sugar
    1. Beat butter and cream cheese together until blended and fluffy.
    2. Add vanilla.
    3. Sift in powder sugar 1 cup at a time mixing completely each time.
    4. Taste as you go and adjust amount of sugar to your liking. If it gets too think a drop or two of milk will help thin it out.
    To decorate:
    • Food coloring of your choice, I love these Wilton ones!
    • 1 package of Wonka Gobstoppers
    1. Spread a layer of the icing over each cupcake using a small flat spatula to create a nice smooth surface.
    2. With remaining icing separate into separate, smaller bowls.
    3. Add coloring of your choice to each bowl, If doing target's I recommend using red. For paint splatters, any colors are great!
    4. Once colors are mixed, scoop into small pastry bags with small rounded tip fitted. OR use small sand which baggies and cut a small snip in the bottom corner once the bag is filled.

    To make targets:
     Using red colored icing, simply make one large circle around the outer edge of the frosted cupcake, followed by a smaller one inside of that circle. Finish with a dot in the middle of the cupcake.

    To make paint splatters:
    Using color of your choice start in the center of the cupcake and going outwards from there make lines of varied lengths.
    Place a matching colored gobstopper in the middle of the lines.
    *The best way to do this is to just use a picture as a reference and try to recreate it*

    Monday, November 7, 2011

    Fancy Schmancy Oatmeal Cookies

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    Happy Monday everyone! Hope you all had a lovely weekend :). I had a pretty fantastic weekend. I enjoyed a girls night out with way too much alcohol and dancing, it was blast. Saturday was also pretty great. I went to Philadelphia to watch the Flyers, where we enjoyed the game from a suite. It was unusually FREEZING, but still a great time. And Sunday my newly engaged twin sister and a few friends went wedding dress shopping. It was crazy to see her in wedding dresses but very exciting at the same time! I think she found "the one"!!! We shall see though, its still pretty early to decide.

    Anyways I have a bunch of cupcake orders this week (yay!), but I still felt like baking. I wanted something easy and classic so I went with the good old oatmeal cookie.  However I decided to amp it up a bit. I toasted the oats to give them a deeper, almost nutty flavor. I also browned the butter, which ALWAYS impresses me. I skipped the raisins and added a little extra sugar to up the sweetness because  of the sea salt I sprinkled on top.

    Sweet and salty is an under statement for this extremely flavorful cookie. Its more than just sweet and salty. It's rich, toasty, nutty, and warm. Yes i used warm to describe the flavor. But it really is a "warm" cookie. Between the toasted oats, browned butter, and brown sugar it really has layer on layer of flavor that make you feel warm....and happy of course!

    This cookie is literally a step above any other, and extremely addicting. You cannot just have one. You have been warned. 

    These would also be a great cookie for the holiday season coming up (it's November already, how did that happen?!!). Perfect for holiday dinners, parties, or cookie exchanges. Or hey who are we kidding, they are perfect for yourself and just because! I hope you try these, they are well worth the few extra steps.

    Fancy Schmancy Oatmeal Cookies

    • 1 3/4 sticks (14 tbsp) butter-I used salted
    • 1 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
    • 1 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • 1 1/2 cups flour- i used bread flour for a chewier texture
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tablespoon sea salt
    1. Preheat the oven to 350.
    2. Spread the oats on a parchment lined cookie sheet and toast until lightly browned, stirring every few minutes to prevent from burning. 
    3. Remove and set aside.
    4. Sift (or whisk) the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
    5. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until light brown. (It will bubble and foam first then clear up a bit before turning brown very quickly.) Remove from heat and let cool before pouring into a large mixing bowl.
    6. Beat in the vanilla and egg, then add the oats.
    7. Then the flour mixture, until well combined.
    8. Drop spoonfuls of dough on to parchment lined cookie sheets (you can spray with non stick but it may burn the bottoms slightly).
    9. Sprinkle sea salt on top of each cookie.
    10. Bake for 8-10 minutes, cool for 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet before moving to a cooling/wire rack. 

    Enjoy with a nice big cup of coffee, or cold glass of milk. 
    You can try to resist the urge to not eat another one, but you will fail miserably. Like I said before, you have been warned on how addicting these are :). 


    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    An Elephant Never Forgets....

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    An amazing act of kindness and passion from an amazing and passionate person.

    So, I have this pretty awesome friend. Her name is Halley Martinez and her and I both have a huge passion for making a positive impact and doing our part in making a difference in this world. She naturally has a giving and kind heart with a taste for experiencing the world all the while doing what she can to make change possible.

    releasing a rescued seal!
    She has quite the list of accomplishments, such as moving to the Dominican Republic to teach English, help build homes, donate clothes and food, and she even raised money to purchase a cow (which she got to pick up and deliver herself!) for a family who really needed support in building a stable income and being able to supply food to themselves and their community. She also works hard on doing the little things that count too. She will only eat sustainable fish and chooses not to eat out at restaurants which do not support this. She has also given up red meat due to the harmful effects on the animals and humans alike from mass production. She even works for The Marine Mammal Stranding Center, a non-profit organization focused on rescuing and rehabilitating marine mammals for the entire state of New Jersey. I could keep going on about the amazing things she does but the reason I am writing this post is to share the project she is working on right now.

    She has just arrived in beautiful Chiang Mai, Thailand to work at The Elephant Nature Park with The Elephant Nature Foundation.. This park is focused on rescuing Elephants from their commercial and tourism use through out the country, as well orphaned and injured elephants. Anyone who knows me knows my passion for elephants so I am SUPER excited for Halley and what she gets to take part in at the park. You can visit their website (both linked above) to get more information on the work the park does as well as information for visiting and volunteering at the park.

    Due to the massive flooding through out Thailand right now Halley will also be traveling out of the park to help rescue other animals stranded and in need of help. How awesome is that?!  I cannot wait to hear from her and have an update on the progress of how it is going. For now I will continue to keep my fingers crossed for her safe travels!
    I am sharing this with you because I hope to insipre you to find what you are passionate about and to go and do it! I  also help this causes you to pay ir forward as they say and do something positive! Get out there and change the world! <3