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Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #3 and Caramel Cupcakes

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So did you ever get to pick your flavor of birthday cake? You know, like a yellow cake with chocolate frosting or a red velvet cake or an Italian cream cake.

Long time ago when I was still little (“Were you always that tall?” they asked. “Not when I was little,” he replied.) I would ask for devil’s food cake with a whipped white frosting–nice and messy and very sweet. More recently, I’ve been asking for Boston Cream Pie, which is really a cake in case you were beginning to think I was weird for asking for pie on my birthday.

Well, here at Reading and Recipes we get to pick our cake on our birthday. And (drum roll, please) since it is our THIRD birthday this week, we polled all the staff at R&R and (surprise, surprise) came up with a unanimous choice: Caramel Cupcakes!

Caramel is all the rage right now, and these cupcakes are double caramel–in the cake and in the frosting. And if you feel like it, pop one of those salted caramel bits on top of those cupcakes, making it a triple caramel treat in honor of our third birthday!

Because it’s great to be able to pick your birthday cake and have someone nice enough to actually make it for you. To all those birthday cake bakers out there–thanks!

caramel cake and buttercream

Caramel Cupcakes

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup buttermilk

For the frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed

2-3 Tablespoons heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with 7 paper liners, and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy, or about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla. Slowly stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt until almost completely mixed into the batter. Continue to slowly stir in the buttermilk, until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Be careful not to OVER MIX the cake batter.

Divide the batter between the 7 liners, filling each about 1/2 full. Bake the cupcakes in the center of your preheated oven for 22-26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by melting the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of heavy cream to the butter, stirring constantly. Once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the salt. Allow the mixture to bubble for 2 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow to cool at room temperature for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, beat in powdered sugar, 1 /2 cup at a time, using a handheld mixer. If the frosting is too thick, beat in 1 more tablespoon of cream. Frost the cooled cupcakes.

Makes 7 cupcakes.

caramel cupcakes

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #3, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #3, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #49 and Monkey Muffins

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Ahh–I’ve been to the mountaintop. Valentine’s Day. President’s Day long weekend. 150th post. Hazelnut and chocolate. Makes me kind of dewy-eyed just thinking about last week.

But you can’t stay on the mountaintop forever. Sometimes you have to come down into the valley where the rest of the weekends live. So I’m coming back down to earth to . . .

Monkey Muffins!!!!! 

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Remember when you were a kid and your mom gave you a tube of store-bought biscuit dough and some brown sugar and butter and let you chop it all up and throw it into a bread pan and make monkey bread? (Yeah. Happened last week during the snow, didn’t it?)

Well,this is a grown-up version of that tried and true childhood recipe. First of all, you don’t use store-bought dough but make these biscuits from scratch (just like the little old lady on the fast-food joint’s TV ad). And then you make a brown sugar syrup to work its way into all the nooks and crannies of the biscuit dough. Then you top it all off with a sugar glaze–to give these Monkey Muffins a grown-up sweetness.

And there you have it. Life down in the valley ain’t so bad after all. Might have to stay here awhile.

monkey muffins

Monkey Muffins

For biscuits:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 Tablespoons plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

For brown sugar syrup:

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For glaze:

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 teaspoons milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 standard size muffin cups, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the milk and 3 tablespoons melted butter until ingredients are just combined. Do not over mix! The dough will be very wet.

Put 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a bowl. Using a spoon, scoop 1 teaspoon ball of biscuit dough at a time, and roll each in the granulated sugar. Place 4-5 balls in each greased muffin cup.

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and cinnamon together. Divide mixture between 6 muffin cups, pouring on top of dough balls.

Bake the muffins in your preheated oven for 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to continue cooling.

Meanwhile, make the glaze by combining the powdered sugar, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of milk. If you want the glaze to be thinner, mix in one more teaspoon of milk. Serve muffins warm with the glaze drizzled over top. Store any leftover muffins in an airtight container.

Makes 6 muffins.

monkey bread muffins

{Adapted from Cooking Classy}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #49, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #49, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #39 and Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

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A lot of good things have come out of Boston. The Red Sox and the Celtics are obvious candidates, Paul Revere and John Adams if you want to talk history, Aerosmith or The Cars if you want to talk rock and roll.

But this is a cooking blog and I’d better switch over to cuisine before I offend someone or get into a fight.

On the food side of the ledger, Boston boasts such specialties as Boston baked beans, corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty’s Day, and baked scrod (at least that was a regional specialty when I used to hang out in those parts). But my all time favorite Boston specialty (even better than Faneuil Hall Marketplace or the North End or the swan boats in the Public Garden) is Boston Cream Pie. For all I know, this isn’t even originally from Boston. But I don’t care! It’s the best dessert in the world and it has the name Boston in it, so it has to be the best thing to ever come out of Boston.

So there.

And to celebrate this marvelous mixture of cake, pudding, and chocolate, this week’s recipe is Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes. This recipe turns the large scale, fairly ambitious dessert into a more manageable quantity and undertaking, and makes it in single serving sizes.

If you’ve ever had this dessert, you know it’s a winner. If not, give it a try tonight. You’ll be glad you did!

(Go Sox! Oh yeah, baseball season is over. Well, there’s always next year.)

boston cream pie cupcakes

Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes

1 egg

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

3 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 vanilla pudding cups

2 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

2 Tablespoons milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease 6 muffin cups in your muffin pan, and set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a larger bowl, add the egg and granulated sugar and vigorously whisk until the mixture becomes a pale yellow and thick. Add the melted butter, milk, and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Whisk in the dry ingredients until the cake batter comes together and no lumps remain.

Divide the batter between the 6 greased muffin cups. Bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, or until they just start to turn golden brown. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, cut each in half horizontally. Divide the two pudding cups between 6 cupcakes halves, spooning and spreading the pudding evenly. Top the pudding with the remaining cupcake halves.

Make the chocolate topping by heating the chocolate chips and milk in a microwave safe bowl for about 30 seconds. Stir until chocolate melts. Drizzle this mixture over top of each cupcake.

Serve immediately. Store any leftovers covered in the refrigerator. Cupcakes are best eaten within 2-3 days.

Makes 6 cupcakes.

mini boston cream pie

{Adapted from Martha Stewart}

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #39, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #39, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #28 and Banana Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Bananas go with just about everything. (OK, I’ve never had them on hamburger; but this is a dessert blog–they go with just about every kind of dessert!) And bananas have found their way, in one form or another, into many of our recipes.

But there’s something about a banana cake that just smacks of moist decadent richness. Banana cake is so special you can’t ask for it any old time, for any ho-hum occasion. It has to be an important occasion–a holiday or a birthday or a family reunion. Those are the times for a banana cake–but don’t linger talking to another guest or a distant cousin, or that cake might be all gone by the time you get to its spot on the dessert table.

But here at Reading and Recipes we make the special available for everyday enjoyment and consumption, the rich and tasty here today (and, in most cases, gone tomorrow). That’s why we’ve downsized the banana cake into these small-batch Banana Cake Cupcakes. That way you don’t have to wait for a special occasion or fight off Cousin Bubba or Aunt Matilda (who has a shoulder like a battering-ram) for the last piece on the buffet. You can just bake them, frost them, and eat them all yourself, at your leisure.

Because at R&R, we make the special available for everyday enjoyment and consumption.

  banana cupcake

Banana Cake Cupcakes 

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk

1 Tablespoon sour cream or plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 small ripe banana, mashed

2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts, optional

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 ounce cream cheese, room temperature

1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1-2 teaspoons milk or cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

banana cupcakes w cream cheese frosting

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with 3 cupcake liners.

To make the cupcakes, beat together the butter and granulated sugar in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolk until fully incorporated. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Slowly stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until just mixed in, careful not to over mix. Fold in the mashed banana and walnuts until well mixed into the batter.

Divide the batter between the 3 cupcake liners. Bake in preheated oven for 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by beating together the cream cheese and butter. Once completely mixed together, slowly stir in half of the powdered sugar. Mix in the milk, vanilla, and salt, and then the remaining powdered sugar. Add a little more milk or powdered sugar until you reached a desired consistency. Refrigerate the frosting until cupcakes are cooled. Frost cooled cupcakes.

Makes 3 cupcakes.

banana cake cream cheese frosting

{Adapted from The Food Network}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #28 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #28, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #28, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #18 and Banana Pudding Cupcakes

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There are universal desserts and regional desserts. Some of the universal (or nearly so) desserts are vanilla ice cream, apple pie, chocolate-chip cookies, brownies. Some well-known regional specialties include New York cheesecake, key-lime pie, bourbon pecan pie, tiramisu.

But our all-time favorite regional dessert (that is hardly regional anymore as everyone everywhere has discovered it) is banana pudding!

Except there’s one problem. Well, two problems really. Banana pudding is messy to serve and hard to keep. You need bowls and spoons and a big wad of napkins to eat it. And a day after it’s made, those banana pieces start to turn black; and that is not all that appetizing (like time to toss the rest in the trash crying all the while).

But Reading and Recipes has the perfect solution to these two drawbacks: Banana Pudding Cupcakes! Gone is the messiness of serving and eating (unless that little smudge of frosting on your upper lip is messy, but I say it’s cute). And you don’t have to worry about these cupcakes going bad after a day or two, if any of them last that long.

So give this new spin on a regional specialty a try. Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too, or your pudding and eat it too, or your pudding-cake and eat it too, or your cake-pudding and eat it too.

(Guess I should give up trying to be witty and just stick to writing intros.)

banana pudding cupcake Banana Pudding Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons Nilla Wafer crumbs plus more for topping

1/2 Tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg white

1/2 of a small ripe banana, mashed (a scant 1/4 cup of mashed banana)

2 Tablespoons buttermilk

For the frosting:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 vanilla pudding cup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

banana pudding cupcakes

To make the cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 muffin cups or line with paper liners.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, Nilla Wafer crumbs, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

In another mixing bowl, beat together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg white and beat until well mixed. Stir in the mashed banana, mixing until fully incorporated. Add the dry ingredients, slowly mixing into the cake batter. Last, stir in the buttermilk until just mixed in.

Divide the batter between the three muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full. Bake in preheated oven for 20-24 minutes, or until tops begin to turn golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow to cool completely before frosting.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by combining the butter and 3/4 cup powdered sugar. Beat in the pudding cup, vanilla extract, and salt. Stir in 1/4 cup or more of powdered sugar, until your desired consistency and flavor is met. Store the frosting in the refrigerator until cupcakes are cooled. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, frost and sprinkle with Nilla Wafer crumbs. Store cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Makes 3 cupcakes.

banan pudding cupcake bite

{Cupcakes adapted from Cooking Classy}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #18 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #18, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #18, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #5 and Angel Food Cupcakes

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O.K., confession time–Reading and Recipes is not known for its low-cal desserts.

Sweet indulgence is in our DNA, you might say, as this website was founded on the idea of giving visitors a little pampering at the end of a long day or a busy week with a recipe for an easy treat for one or two and a story to kick back and relax with. And let’s face it–pampering when it comes to dessert usually means calories.

But this week we’re going to do a little penance for our culinary excesses and put on our halos and offer Angel Food Cupcakes as our recipe. This recipe is actually a great idea, perhaps even divinely inspired, as it is easy, healthy, and almost infinitely versatile. The cupcake shape makes both serving and storage a snap, and angel food matches up with just about anything, from any kind of fresh or frozen fruit (the healthy way to go) to flavored whipped cream (a little less healthy) to rich and decadent sauces (chocolate, caramel, butterscotch, peanut butter–yikes! all my good and healthy intentions are beginning to falter).

But the toppings are on you (or, more precisely, on the Angel Food Cupcakes). We just want credit for putting a healthy dessert on our website, before heading back to sweet and sinful ways next week.

(Do you really think angels eat this kind of cake? Do you have to watch your waistline in Heaven?)

angel food cupcake  Angel Food Cupcakes

2 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

3 Tablespoons powdered sugar

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

angel food cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a clean mixing bowl, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla, and salt with a handheld mixer. Slowly add the granulated sugar while continuing to beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

In a separate bowl, sift together the powdered sugar and flour. Fold the sifted mixture into the stiff egg whites until combined. Divide batter between four or five cupcake molds, filling each to the top. I got five cupcakes, but you might only get four depending on the size of your muffin tin.

Bake cakes for 13-16 minutes, or until the cakes are baked through and spring back when touched. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around cakes and remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

When ready to serve, plate the cakes and top with fruit, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and/or ice cream.

Makes 4-5 cupcakes.

angel food

{Adapted from Slender Kitchen}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #5 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #5, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #5, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!

Two Sisters, Serial #31 and Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes

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Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Oops–sorry! I saw the recipe and the pictures and got so excited I put the end of my intro at the beginning.

What I really meant to say at the beginning is that we’re coming up on a certain holiday that seems to grow in importance every year (as in: if you don’t know what I’m talking about and don’t have a super hot date all lined up for this certain holiday that’s going descend on us this weekend, then you must be a Double-L Loser).

Well, the heck with that!

At R&R we’ve got you covered rain or shine, snow or ice, date or no date, deal or no deal (how’d that get on the list?). This Molten Chocolate Lava Cake recipe is the stuff–I mean, take me for a ride over the moon and back delicious!

And here’s the best part (whisper, whisper)–it makes two servings.

That means if you by choice, alignment of the stars, religious observance, or your dog’s birthday don’t have a “friend” who has agreed to keep you company on a certain holiday this weekend that will go unnamed to protect the innocent, then you get to eat both Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes yourself. Personally, this is the option I would choose.

But if by some freaky chance you are expecting company for a certain still unnamed holiday this weekend, make sure you skip the expensive and really not all that good dessert at the fancy restaurant and save yourselves a little room for Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes at the homeplace, to be followed by–well, you get the idea. Your “friend” will be so bedazzled that all the other fun stuff will naturally follow.

Either way–alone or in company–you’ll win with these cakes.

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

molten chocolate lava cakeMolten Chocolate Lava Cakes

1 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate*

1 egg

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional)

molten chocolate cakes

Preheat you oven to 400 degrees. Generously grease 2 ramekins or oven proof cups, and set aside.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate over low heat. Once completely melted, whisk in the egg until fully incorporated. Whisk in the sugar and vanilla extract. Slowly stir in the flour and instant coffee until just mixed into the batter.

Divide the chocolate batter between the two prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake the cakes for 9-12 minutes, or until the cakes look somewhat set on the outside. Remember you want the cakes to be gooey in the center, so be careful not to over bake! Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Gently invert the ramekins onto a serving plate, leaving them as so for about a minute. Slowly remove the ramekin, careful not to tear the cake. Serve cakes warm, a la mode or drizzled with your favorite sauce.

Makes 2 cakes.

*Semi-sweet chocolate works fine too. molten chocolate lava cakes

{Adapted from NYU Spoon University}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #31 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #31, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #31, text © Jeffrey Anderson

Enjoy!