Archive for June, 2011

PostHeaderIcon Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

This recipe is not new to my blog, but one that definitely deserved to be rescued from the archives. This recipe was one of my very first posts and since these cupcakes are a favorite around here I thought they deserved to be showcased again. They are so good that even my husband (who is not a chocolate fan) requested I make these for his birthday. I was hoping he would ask for a difficult dessert or a layered cake so I could try a new recipe but he wanted these, and for good reason, they are amazing! The base is a deliciously moist cupcake that tastes like a brownie on steroids. Soooo good! But what puts these over the edge is the frosting, it’s my favorite go-to vanilla buttercream frosting. I have spent hours perfecting the recipe and I couldn’t be happier with the results.

It’s best to make these cupcakes ahead of time, this enhances the flavor of both the cupcake and the frosting. It also allows the frosting to harden a bit, making it even more delicious. The recipe below is for regular size cupcakes. However, if you’re making mini cupcakes, which I did, the baking time decreases to about 11-13 minutes. Just keep a close eye on them after 10 minutes.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. espresso powder
1 cup boiling water
½ cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¾ cups sugar
2 large eggs


To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners (24 total).  Combine the cocoa powder and espresso powder in a small bowl.  Add the boiling water and whisk until the mixture is smooth.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  Once cool, whisk in the sour cream and vanilla extract.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.  Stir together with a fork to combine; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed.

With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients in three additions, alternately with the cocoa-sour cream mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Beat each addition just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes (or 11-13 minutes if making mini cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Source: Annie’s Eats

My Favorite Vanilla Buttercream Frosting!

Yield: enough frosting for 24 cupcakes


1 stick unsalted butter, softened

6 cups confectioners’ sugar

pinch of salt

2 Tablespoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream


In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.

Slowly add the rest of the ingredients a little at a time. I usually start by adding a cup of confectioners’ sugar along with the salt and vanilla extract. Then I add 1/4 cup heavy cream, slowly add in more confectioners’ sugar and heavy cream until all 6 cups (or so) of confectioners’ sugar and 1/2 cup of heavy cream are added. (Do not add all 6 cups of confectioners’ sugar at once or you’ll have a mess)

Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

Decorate cooled cupcakes as desired.

Source: Melissa Bakes Original


PostHeaderIcon Banana Bread

This awesome banana bread recipe comes from my lovely mother. I grew up eating loaves of this bread and I simply adore it. I have made this recipe countless times and it has never failed me. However, I was looking for a new go-to banana bread recipe simply because I love trying new recipes. So, over the past few weeks I have made a few different banana bread recipes (cinnamon swirl banana bread, almond vanilla banana bread, etc) hoping to find a new banana bread recipe to add to my collection. Well, each one was just a bigger disappointment than the last. They rose about two inches. Two. Inches. I guess that’s what I get for throwing a great recipe aside to try a new one.

My mom’s banana bread recipe is moist, flavorful, and rises like no other banana bread I have ever seen. This is my go-to banana bread recipe and I’m not looking back. I did tweak the recipe a touch just to give it a bit more flavor (gotta love vanilla extract). Also, chocolate chips or walnuts would make a great addition to this banana bread so throw those in if you like. I personally LOVE chocolate chips in my banana bread!

Everyone has their favorite banana bread recipe, this is mine……

Banana Bread

1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2.5 – 3 ripe bananas, mashed well
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cream butter and sugar together. Stir in bananas and vanilla extract . Beat in eggs, one at a time until well-incorporated. Stir in salt, baking soda, and flour.

Pour batter in a well buttered bread pan. Bake at 350°F 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Yield: 1 delicious loaf

Source: My Mom


PostHeaderIcon Snickerdoodle Muffins


We started construction on our master bathroom about five weeks ago. It’s been a long five weeks since we’ve been living in our second bedroom and the rest of our condo is cluttered with boxes……not fun. Thankfully, there’s an end in sight and hopefully (:::knocks on wood:::) everything will be finished this week and we can put our condo back in order and finally set up her nursery (yay!). To get the construction men working faster show my appreciation I decided to bake something for our construction men to snack on last week. After taking way too long to decide what to bake I finally chose these delicious snickerdoodle muffins.

These muffins should seriously be named “Crack Muffins” since they are so addicting. I’m not kidding, they are so good that my husband told me several times to put these on my blog after eating a couple. If you like to get your hands dirty while you bake, these are definitely the muffins for you. You scoop the batter out with an ice cream scoop, small measuring cup, or your hands and place it in a bowl filled with cinnamon sugar. The messy part is covering the batter entirely with cinnamon sugar and putting it in the cupcake liners. Your hands will get a little messy, but it’s so worth it!

If you really want to go all out, serve the muffins warm with a side of ice cream. :)

Snickerdoodle Muffins

Yields: 18 – 24 muffins


1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 whole eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 ¼ cups flour
¾ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoons cream of tartar
½ teaspoons salt
1 cup sour cream
¼ cups buttermilk

For the topping:
⅔ cups sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners (they are too fragile for just cooking spray). Set pan aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the butter and sugar and cream until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add half of the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the sour cream and buttermilk and mix to combine. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix until you have a smooth batter.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon for the topping.

Use an ice cream scooper and plop a scoop of batter into the bowl with the sugar and cinnamon. Gently roll the batter in the sugar and cinnamon. Place the ball into the paper liner.

When you have completed all of the muffins, sprinkle the leftover cinnamon sugar onto the tops of all of the muffins.

Bake the muffins at 350ºF for about 16-18 minutes or until they are golden on top and just baked through.


Source: The Tasty Kitchen, adapted from Culinary Concoctions of Peabody


PostHeaderIcon Sugar Cookie Bars

Since I recently posted my favorite sugar cookie recipe I thought it was only fair to share this awesome recipe for sugar cookie bars with you. When I say these are awesome, I mean they are unbelievably awesome! Even though I love the process of making sugar cookies, sometimes I just want a short cut to satisfy my sweet tooth. These are definitely that short cut since they are quick to whip up and sweet enough to satisfy my pregnancy sweet tooth (which at this point, is very sweet). :)

This is the perfect dessert to bring to an upcoming cookout or graduation party. Trust me, everyone will love it….and love you in return. I split this recipe in half and used an 8 x 8″ baking pan (which made about 16 bars). However, the directions call for a large 13 x 18″ (or similar size) baking sheet. If you use a baking pan like I did, the baking time will increase dramatically since the bars are thicker. I’m pretty sure I took them out of the oven after 25-30 minutes of baking but make sure to keep a close eye on them. Bake until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make sure you have plenty of help eating these because they are very addicting!

Sugar Cookie Bars

Yield: about 4 dozen bars (depending on which size pan/sheet you use)

For the cookie bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise (or 1 Tablespoon vanilla paste)
1 teaspoon almond extract
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda

For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
5 Tablespoons milk
Food coloring (optional)

To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.   Grease a 13 x 18″ rimmed baking sheet . Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla extract, seeds from the vanilla bean, and almond extract.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda.  Whisk together to blend.  Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on low speed just until incorporated.

Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer.  Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners’ sugar until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.  Mix in the milk.  Tint as desired with food coloring.  Spread over the bars in the pan (add sprinkles if desired), cut into bars, and serve.

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from The Repressed Pastry Chef


PostHeaderIcon Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

My baby shower was this past weekend and, of course, I made sugar cookies for the event. I was very excited to make these sugar cookies. I have made sugar cookies for several other baby showers in the past but these were extra special since they were for my shower. I decided to make little onesie and feet sugar cookies. I love how they both turned out and they were a big hit with my friends and family! My mom and mother-in-law (along with my wonderful sister-in-law) hosted my baby shower and it turned out lovely. The weather was a little chilly but the shower was perfect. I felt so much love for my little girl!

I was very glad I made these for my shower since they were all devoured very quickly! If you’ve never made sugar cookies with royal icing you should give it a try. I love decorating with royal icing but it definitely took some time to get used to decorating with it, so don’t give up hope if you aren’t satisfied with the results at first. Working with royal icing can be a tedious and time-consuming process but I’m always in love with the results. Just be patient while decorating them and you’ll enjoy the process as much as I do!

Here are just a few tips about royal icing to get you started:

  1. Use a stand mixer to make the royal icing, I do not recommend using a hand mixer.
  2. When you color the icing, use a gel based color. I use Wilton gel colors but I’ve heard great things about AmeriColor.
  3. I usually use a #3 Wilton tip with a pastry bag to outline the cookies and then add the details using a #2 or #1 Wilton tip.
  4. I first outline the cookie with the #3 tip, then flood the cookie with a squeeze bottle filled with royal icing.
  5. Toothpicks are your best friend when working with royal icing! I use them after I flood the cookie to spread the icing to the edge of the cookie. They are also used to pop the little bubbles that may appear on the icing after you flood the cookie.
  6. Allow a few days to make the cookies. I usually make the dough and bake them one day, and then I allow two days to decorate the cookies. Let them sit overnight to dry when you are finished decorating.
  7. Keep trying! You’ll get better the more you practice, trust me!
  8. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.

Here I am at my baby shower (34 weeks pregnant)….. :)

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups flour

Cream butter. Add powdered sugar. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and flour.

Chill dough until firm (at least 30 minutes).

Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets.

Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. Frost and decorate when cool.


Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons meringue powder
5-6 Tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container (or many air-tight containers – one container for each color).  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping. Color the icing as desired.  (If you are having any difficulty piping, it is still too thick.  Add a little more liquid and try again.)  Using a pastry bag, pipe around the edges of each cookie.  Let stand for at least an hour for the icing to harden.  Make sure to keep the leftover icing covered at all times when not in use so that it does not begin to harden.

Once all the cookies have been edged, thin out the icing by incorporating a small amount of water at a time, until the icing drips off the spoon easily when lifted and then smooths in with that still in the bowl (it should dissolve together after about 5 seconds).  If you go too far and the icing is too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar to thicken it again.  Once the icing has reached the desired consistency, transfer it to a squeeze bottle and flood the area surrounded by the piping on each cookie.  If it does not completely spread to the edges, use a toothpick to help it along.  Allow to set for at least a couple hours before adding the details.

Use the remaining thicker icing (that you used for piping around the edges of the cookie, which are already in the pastry bags) for piping decoration as desired.

Source: Annie’s Eats


PostHeaderIcon Baked Chicken Fingers

I’m still very much a kid at heart. I love meals that most children order at restaurants, including chicken fingers. I try to be mature and order something like salmon, chicken breast, a salad, etc. However, I still cave every now and then and order a cheeseburger or chicken fingers and french fries. I would probably order these dishes more often, but it’s the guilt factor that prevents me from doing so. That’s what I love about this recipe, since these chicken fingers are baked I can eat them for dinner without feeling guilty. How great is that?

Since these chicken fingers are baked they are so much healthier than the fried version at restaurants. Honestly, they are just as good as the fried version, if not better. It’s perfect that all of the ingredients are pantry staples so you can throw this meal together last minute if you have to. It’s also super easy to prepare; just toast the panko crumbs, cut the chicken in strips, coat them as directed, and bake on a wire rack for 10-12 minutes. I was a little hesitant thinking they might come out raw but since they are baked at such a high temperature they do not need to cook very long. Needless to say, I will definitely be making this dish again.

Baked Chicken Fingers

2 cups panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large egg whites
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or ¼ teaspoon dried
1½ lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ¾-inch wide strips
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 475˚ F.  In a large skillet, combine the panko and the oil.  Toast over medium-high heat, stirring often, until golden, about 8-10 minutes.  Transfer the toasted crumbs to a shallow dish and let cool slightly.

In another shallow dish, combine the flour, garlic powder, and cayenne. In a bowl, whisk together the egg whites, water, mustard, and thyme.

Lightly spray a wire rack with cooking spray and place over a rimmed baking sheet (I lined my baking sheet with tin foil for easier clean up). Lightly season the chicken with salt and pepper. Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge each in the flour, then dip into the egg whites, and finally, coat with the toasted panko crumbs, pressing on them to adhere. Lay the breaded chicken on the prepared wire rack and repeat with the remaining chicken.

Lightly spray the tops of the chicken with cooking spray. Bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes.


Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook


PostHeaderIcon Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate chip muffins have always been my favorite muffin, even while growing up. However, when I was young, I was not a baker. Thankfully, I love to bake now. Even though I wasn’t a baker growing up, I still made chocolate chip muffins when I was craving them…..from a box. I know, a box. Shame on me! I would never use a box mix these days but back then I didn’t know what a difference baking from scratch makes. The muffins I used to make wouldn’t stand a chance against these homemade chocolate chip muffins. If only I could turn back time and set myself straight. At least I’ll be able to bake “the correct way” for my daughter. :)

As I’ve said, these are soooo much better than boxed muffin mixes. These muffins are so delicious and very easy to whip up, so throw those boxed mixes out. The addition of buttermilk gives these muffins a rich, tangy flavor which I absolutely love. Since my husband isn’t a fan of chocolate chip muffins (I know, that baffles me as well!) I halved the recipe, which made 6 perfectly delicious muffins. I saved two for myself and gave the rest to our doormen.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Yield: 12 muffins


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners. Set pan aside.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl stir together the melted butter, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla extract until well blended. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid mixture into the well and gently stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into muffins cups. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove muffins from the oven and allow to cool before serving.


Source: Two Peas and their Pod