Saturday, December 24, 2011

Aunt Donna's ... I mean ... Julia's Rum Cake

Every year right before Christmas my Aunt Donna makes rum cake. I'm not sure how many she makes, but she gives them away to friends and relatives. My mother is the recipient of one of these cakes. It only makes sense ... they are sisters after all. On rare occasions, I've been lucky enough to get a piece of my mother's rum cake. She loves it, so she keeps it for herself. I think my Aunt Donna has even sent her rum cake to my sister and brother at different times. I, however, have never been the recipient of one of her delicious cakes. :(

Two years ago, I set out to figure out Aunt Donna's rum cake recipe. It was really a trial and error process. There was one that we still refer to as the "egg cake." The family was nice and all tried a piece, but I think I ended up throwing it away. My mother then let me in on a little secret. She told me that she thought Aunt Donna put pudding in the cake. That's all I needed to know.


Now I don't need to wait for the rum cake that never I make my own.

Craig says it's delicious ... and perfect ... and not for sharing. I wanted to put a rum drizzle on top, but the boys cut into it before I got that far ... And do you know what? ... It didn't need the drizzle.

This recipe I'm not sharing ... you're all on your own. All I'm going to say is that it's delicious and I'm no longer calling it Aunt Donna's Rum Cake. It is now going to be known as Julia's Rum Cake. Maybe next year I'll make some as gifts for friends ... maybe ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Santa Hat Cupcakes

My cupcakes are all dressed up and ready for Christmas.

My friend Angie likes to send me pictures of cool cupcakes. A couple of weeks ago she sent me a picture of a cupcake that looked like it was wearing a Santa hat. I LOVED it. So I set to work trying to figure out how to copy it.

This past weekend I had some extra purple frosting, so I tried to make the Santa hat. I texted the picture to my sister-in-law with the message,"If this was red would it look like a Santa hat?" Her response was, "Sure. Or a boob." Not the answer I was looking for.

I decided to move ahead with the project anyway. I do think it looks much better in red. I decorated 21 cupcakes with the red Santa hat for my boys to give to their teachers. I even bought individual boxes for them. My 7th grade son loved the idea and happily deliver each box to each of his teachers before school. One of his teachers was absent, which was a good thing because the hat slid right off the cupcake. Jared ate that one himself. He told me that it was a delicious cake wreck. My 9th grade son, however, hurt my feelings by not wanting to take part in the fun after I'd gone to so much work. I ended up delivering them to each of his teachers myself ... which is really easy to do since I work with all of them.

My older son's history teacher e-mailed me later on to tell me how mad she was. While she was in the hall between classes, somebody took her cupcake. Can you believe it?!?!? I felt really bad about it, so I came home, baked 2 dozen more cupcakes, and decorated about 12 more with Santa hats. Tomorrow I'm going to tell the history teacher to take better care of her gifts.

I will definitely make these cupcakes again.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chili Chocolate Cupcakes

These last few weeks leading up to Christmas have been INSANE! There doesn't seem to be enough time to do anything. I've been teaching all day and then playing mom every night. With son #1 in high school and son #2 in junior high, I've attended two choir concerts and two band concerts. I also just finished up a grant writing class ... all I've been doing in my spare time is writing and editing. It's been nuts.

So a couple of weeks ago I got a Facebook message from a friend (I actually know her through my husband ... she's an amazing singer and teaches at the local university). She had heard about my Lavender Cupcakes and my Rose Water Cupcakes, and wanted to know if I'd make some Chili Chocolate Cupcakes.  One of her students is doing a recital for an independent study project and they wanted refreshments. I asked all the important questions, like .... How many? When the answer came back as 60, I knew that there was no way I was going to have time to make these, but I was really intrigued by chili and chocolate together. So, against my better judgement, I said yes. I decided that sleep was for losers and I got to work.

After doing some on-line research, I came up with a plan. I ended up doubling my normal chocolate cake recipe and then added 3 tsp cayenne pepper, 4 tsp chili powder, and 5 tsp cinnamon. This made 78 cupcakes. For the frosting, I made my regular chocolate fudge icing and then added some cinnamon until it tasted right ... real scientific.

The cupcakes were really spicy and my throat was burning after just one bite. The frosting actually helped to subdue the spicy a bit. It's a good thing I had and iced coffee nearby.

To decorate, I found a chili pepper mold on-line, so a bought it. I then used red and green candy melts. I think they turned out pretty cool.

I had my husband go with me tonight to deliver the cupcakes to the theater. Michelle, the student, was there and she told me how excited she was when Kitty told her that she had asked me to make the cupcakes. She told me that she had had the lavender and rose water cupcakes and thought she was going to "fart flowers." It sounds gross, but it made me laugh. I told her that I hope she liked spicy. Her response to me was, "Oh yeah! I'm Mexican!" She also told me, with a smile, that others were coming to her show because of the cupcakes. I feel all warm inside now ... but that could also be because I had a Chili Chocolate Cupcake for dessert.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cookies and Cream Cupcakes

My favorite Blizzard at Dairy Queen is Cookies and Cream. It doesn't matter what the new flavors are, I always seem to order the Cookies and Cream. If Oreo cookies are that good when mixed with ice cream, they've got to taste great in a cupcake ... right? It turns out ... the answer is yes!

I first made these a couple of months ago. I was sitting in class on a Saturday afternoon (I take weekend classes ... 8-5 Saturday and 8-1:30 Sunday), when my professor says, "We need snacks. Julia and Mike, you're in charge of bringing snacks tomorrow." So of course Mike looks at me and says, "What kind of cupcakes are you going to bring." I went home that night and came up with these little babies.

Now, I love sweets. But ... the first one I ate made my head spin like I'd never had sugar before. These were so rich and dense that I couldn't eat more than one.

I took a dozen of them to class the next day (I don't remember what Mike brought). My professor liked them a lot. I think I became her favorite that day. She brought me magazines with cupcake recipes the next weekend we had class. Others in the program told me that she was still talking about the cupcakes at a seminar they had to attend with her. I got an "A".

So ... last week my friend Melanie asked me to make some Cookies and Cream cupcakes for a party that she was having for her mother's birthday. Because she actually asked me to make 6 different kinds of cupcakes, she only needed 8 of these. My boys were not upset that my recipe made 24.

Here's how you make them ...

Start by opening 12 Oreos ... making sure that each cookie part has some cream filling on it ... and put one in the bottom of each baking cup. Then crush about 12 more Oreos and save for later. I went ahead at this point and cut 6 Oreos into 4ths for garnishing later. I won't lie, crushing and cutting Oreos makes a huge mess. I even crushed them in a Ziploc baggie.

Next, it's time to make the cupcakes. I like this recipe because it starts with a white cake mix. I like when I can doctor a box.

Mix a white cake mix, a cup of sour cream, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 3 large eggs, and a teaspoon of vanilla for about  2 minutes. Then fold in about 1 1/2 cups of crushed Oreos. The batter will be really thick. I use an ice cream scoop to fill each of the baking cups about 3/4 full. Then put them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 19 minutes. Cool on a wire wrack.

To decorate, I just made my favorite vanilla buttercream recipe and piped a swirl on top. I then sprinkled some crumbs over the top and stuck one of the Oreo pieces I cut earlier in the top. I found that a half Oreo was too big, so that's why I cut fourths. I wonder how a Mini Oreo would look on top? I've seen others where they have mixed the crumbs right into the buttercream before piping, but I think the sprinkle gives it a cleaner look.

Here's what it looks like on the inside.

I really don't know how anyone could eat more than 1 of these ... they are just so rich ... so the 24 that this recipe makes is quite enough.

My only complaint is that the cookie on top get real soft real fast. I guess that's a reason to eat them right away.