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Category Archives: Frosting

Feliz Navidad! Orange Cupcakes with Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttercream

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Since I’m still recovering from surgery and can’t chew anything yet, of course all I can think about is food.  It’s Christmas, and all I want to do is bake.  I haven’t been able to make anything new for the last few days, so I’m going to share one of my all-time favorites from last year. 

Last year I made an amazing assortment of festive cupcakes to pass out to our firm’s best clients. 

For about three days, our whole house and garage was FULL of cupcakes!  I think I made 16 dozen or something crazy.  Each client’s sampler box included four flavors:  peppermint stick, gingerbread with orange-cream cheese frosting, double hot chocolate with marshmallows, and “Feliz Navidad” ~ an orange-cinnamon butter cake topped with Mexican hot chocolate buttercream. 

Have you ever experienced Mexican hot chocolate?  If not, you MUST!  It is HOT in every sense of the word.  Not too sweet, rich, dark, warm and cozy, it’s spiced up with dark cocoa powder, a touch of coffee, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.  This is by far my favorite cupcake ever.  (Regardless of how many times I say that.)

It’s something a little different, but distinctly festive.  It begins with yellow cake and chocolate frosting – the makings of many a favorite birthday cake. 

Feliz Navidad Cupcakes

Cinnamon-Orange Butter Cake


One “Golden Butter Recipe” yellow cake mix

Zest of one orange

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup orange juice (or the juice of one orange, with enough water added to equal 2/3 cup)

3 large eggs

1/2 cup softened butter (1 Stick)


Blend all ingredients together in a large bowl according to the box directions.

Divide batter into 24 lined cupcakes and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out with a few crumbs, but no wet batter sticking to it. 

Mexican Hot Chocolate Buttercream (slightly adapted from cupcake rehab)


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (or 1 stick butter and 1/2 cup shortening, which is what I usually do)

4 -5 cups confectioner’s sugar

3 Tablespoons – 1/4 cup milk

1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s special dark)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper depending on how spicy you like it

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons strong brewed coffee (not coffee granules)


Cream butter in the bowl of a stand mixer for 1-2 minutes until light & fluffy.

Add 1 cup powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cayenne pepper, coffee and 1 tablespoon milk. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Add 2 cups sugar and vanilla. Mix. Add the rest of the sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix for 4-5 minutes, at least, until fluffy, gradually adding a tablespoon more milk at a time, up to 1/4 cup total, if too thick.  If too thin, add up to 1 cup more powdered sugar. Continue blending until consistency is satisfactory.*

Frost completely cooled cupcakes and top with cinnamon red hot candies – seriously, DO NOT omit the red hots!   

These are ridiculous.  Easy and phenom. 

I’m sharing these with a baking circle for the 12 Days of Christmas Goodies at Mom’s Crazy Cooking ~ hop on over there to see MANY more amazing ideas! 


German Chocolate Cake – Beautiful on the Inside

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This morning I polled my Facebook friends thusly:

How many times can I use the phrase, “best ___________ ever” before I start losing credibility.

See, that “perfect” chocolate frosting I made a couple weeks ago?  Yeah, that was previously the “best” chocolate buttercream ever.  This one is even better than that.   Same recipe, only I used a 1/2 cup more chocolate and 1/3 cup heavy cream instead of 1/4 cup skim milk.  (No brainer, right?  More chocolate, heavy cream?  Yeah, just call me Dr. Obvious.)

Here’s the other thing.  This cake, each element on its own AND all together fully assembled, rivals the best cake ever.  Personally I think The Wedding Cake was hands down the best cake I’ve ever made, but this one comes AWFULLY close, and I see it becoming a go-to for a lot of future birthdays, even though it’s not the easiest on the eyes.  Great personality, but no super model.

This is a new, different German Chocolate Cake recipe than the one I’ve used before.  Last time I made it I thought the cake was too dry.  So when this recipe by the famed David Lebovitz was the first to pop up on Google, I knew implicitly it had to be the best. 

I was not deterred by the multi-step-separated-eggs method.  It sounded excellent.  Buttermilk, melted semi-sweet chocolate…  Considerably different than my go-to chocolate cake from the Pioneer Woman, but that’s why I wanted to try it.  My usual chocolate cake is not what I think of for German Chocolate.  Too dark, too dense.  

Not even kidding, though, my right forearm was killing me yesterday.  See, I thought I’d be cheffy Wednesday night & beat the egg whites by hand.  Seven minutes later I realized that was really stupid.  Thought somehow it’d be easier than getting out the hand mixer & beaters.  Lazy baker…  

Anyway, this batter was freaking incredible.  I wanted to give myself a facial with it.  Drink it with a big fat straw like a milkshake.  Hoarde it.  I didn’t want to share the bowl after I dumped most of the batter into cake pans.  I didn’t want to share the spatula.  But I had to.  It was that good.  Luckily, the recipe yields enough batter for a HUGE 9″ layer cake.  My client didn’t really need a cake that large so I made 8″ layers for her and had enough batter for two little 4″ layers to keep.  The little cake is perfect for breakfast us to share for 2 nights of dessert. 

And while it didn’t turn out as the prettiest cake, it sure was amazing and definitely worth the time & extra effort.  And besides, everyone knows that people love ugly food generally even more than pretty food, it’s a well-documented phenomemon.

Moist, sweet, salty, a tad crunchy (the toasted pecans, of course) and rich.  VERY chocolatey!  I can’t wait to make one of these to share with my family.

Apple Pie Cupcakes & Brown Sugar Buttercream

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As I mentioned, these sweet things are for D’s 5th birthday.  I can’t wait to show you the full display, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise for the party tonight. 

This apple pie cupcake was a little bit of an experiment.  I didn’t technically use a straight recipe.  I used this banana cupcake recipe from the unbelievably beautiful and hilarious Jessica, my favorite blogging mentor (unbeknownst to Jessica) , and substituted my homemade apple pie filling for the bananas.  I did adjust the apple pie filling by reducing the cider to 1/2 cup and the sugar to 1/4 cup, although next time I would eliminate the sugar altogether. 

I did some major research before going to work on these.  Here’s how it went:

Me to Rick (my own personal math & physics Wikiperson), “what do you estimate the volume of one banana to be?”

Rick to me, “I don’t freaking know, why?” 

End of research.

I used one cup of apple pie filling and I think it was just about right.  Next time I may reserve some apple pie filling to fill the cupcakes with, though, just because it’s that good. 

I topped them with a super buttery brown sugar frosting that I totally made up and didn’t write down because it was kind of a little bit of a fail.  This one is the best, though:

Brown Sugar Buttercream

In a saucepan, bring to a boil 1 cup brown sugar, 3 tablespooons butter and 3 tablespoons water.  Sit to cool slightly.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat 3 sticks of cool softened butter (take out of the fridge about 20 minutes before using) for about 2 minutes until light & fluffy.

With the mixer running, pour in the brown sugar syrup & blend until fully combined.

Add 3 cups powdered sugar 1 cup at a time and 1/2 cup all purpose FLOUR (yes, raw white flour, I know, don’t worry about it) until  each addition is fully incorported.  If it’s a tad stiff, add 1 tablespoon of milk, fully blending, and up to 3 more tablespoons at a time.  Then add 1 tsp vanilla and a dash of salt & beat for 4-5 minutes until fluffy.  

This is divine…  Make these while apples are still in season!

Coffee Status Update

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Coffee Status Update

Do you know how your mom/dad/spouse/significant other/bestie/etc. takes their coffee? 

I do, and I take great pride in this:

                Dad:  sweet, foo-foo stuff out of a convenience store multi-flavor dispenser.  Giant. 

                Mom:  black.  (Blech, even the next day – same pot, warmed up.  Gag.)

                Spouse: as close to straight hot chocolate as possible, but he’s evolving.

                Oldest Bestie:  caramel latte.

                Newer Bestie:  Baileys please.  😉 

                Uncle T:  a little coffee with his sugar. 

                Spouse’s brothers, dad & niece:  black Starbucks.  Or Tim Horton’s.  All day, everyday, several times a day, to the point that I don’t know why we don’t own stock in those companies.  They are champion coffee drinkers. 

                Self:  ha – trick question.  Totally depends on the day of the week.  Generally, though, one Splenda & some plain low fat Coffeemate (which I can’t find in the store anymore, and no, fat free and low fat are not the same). 

I’ve already written about how much I’m inspired by the people I love to make things they will love.  But I also take great joy in just knowing, inherently, what flavors people like the most.  Maybe it’s a nurturing thing.  It’s also something you don’t get to know about someone until you’ve been together a while, I think.  It’s kind of intimate, almost.  Something you have to pay close attention, or ask directly, to know.  And then why would anyone remember something like that about you unless they really cared or planned to make or buy you that special coffee, just the way you like it, someday? 

On a major sidebar:  don’t you hate it when you’re out somewhere for breakfast, sipping a delightfully-blended coffee with just the right amount of cream & sugar in it, conversing gaily with your tablemates while patiently awaiting your food, when all of a sudden BAM!  the server comes over with a fresh pot and fills up your cup.  *&^%$#@!#$%^&  THANKS A LOT!  (Thick with sarcasm.)  I had that coffee EXACTLY how I liked it!  Now I have to fuss with the cream & sugar again and it’s too hot to drink with my meal.  Grrr…

Life would be so much simpler if I took my coffee black. 

Anyway, those people whose coffee habits I know so well are the ones who always keep me in the loop on all the important stuff before it hits The Wall.  Like, I have no doubt that I’ll totally be one of the first to find out when their relationship status changes – and at the very latest – I know I’ll find out BEFORE it hits Facebook.  Right??? 

Um.  Or so I thought. 

Actually, I really can’t be offended that I’m out of the loop this time.  I don’t know how my Second Oldest Bestie takes her coffee.  So I have no right to expect to get a call, a text, or an email when the relationship status changes, do I?  Meh.  I’m WAY down on the list I guess.  Twenty years, schmears!

But HEY!  In my defense, I do know that she is a chocolate FREAK!  When we were kids I remember making brownies a few times and ate pretty much the entire bowl of batter.  Okay, so maybe we did that once or twice in college, too.  And so I made this cake for her birthday yesterday: 

Chocolate buttercream (a new recipe I will be sharing at the end here – which I actually wrote down AGAIN, so proud of myself) covering chocolate cake, chocolate-chip golden butter cake, and Oreo filling. 

And I used up my prettiest, favorite sprinkles just for her, adding a bit of glittery green chunky sugar because green is her favorite color. 

Don’t you think that at least deserves a call?  That could have been an engagement cake!  It’s okay, I know it’s not about me.  And she has a huge family.  BUT STILL!!!!  (I am not pouting.) 

No, really, it’s okay.  She’s probably too busy being blissed out with her man, her fiancé, and that I can totally understand.  We kept our own engagement under wraps for a while, too, so I get that.  She just better make sure the bridesmaid dresses are super cute 😉  And she better HAVE bridesmaids!  Okay, if she’s reading this I hope she’s laughing and realizes I’m not serious.  I love her and just need to know how she takes her coffee.  Then I can claim jurisdiction over the first-to-know stuff.  Til then, there’s the chocolate: 

(I can’t let that photo go without giving credit and a shout out to the blogger who gave me “permission” to decorate cakes this way, simple, adorable and just plain pretty – Rosie, my Sweetapolita, this one’s for you 😉

Super-smooth chocolate buttercream recipe:

Start by making a standard chocolate ganache –  

                1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips with

                1/4 cup milk

                1 tsp vegetable oil

                + dash salt 

all the above ingredients melted in the microwave for about 30 seconds & wisked till super smooth, cool in fridge for 5 minutes while blending the next ingredients in a mixer bowl:

                1 – 1/2 sticks of butter (blended for about 2-3 minutes til light & fluffy)

                1 – 1/2 cups powdered sugar (blended for another 2-3 minutes till even fluffier)

                1 tsp vanilla

                + dash salt

then add in the chocolate ganache & blend until there are no more streaks. 

This was perfect right out of the mixer bowl for spreading on the top & sides of the cake, but I chilled it in the fridge for another 5-10 minutes to make it a little stiffer & a better consistency for piping. 

Today I came home at lunch & snuck a spoonful of this and I’m in huge trouble.  This is FINALLY the best chocolate frosting EVER – which I may have said before but I didn’t know what I was talking about.  This is super creamy, very spreadable, and not too sweet (which is the best part).  I should have put a thicker coating on this cake. 

Congrats T – I love you!