Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mini Pineapple Turn That Frown Upside Down Cakes!

These were made on a whim to cheer up my Mamy who was having a bad day. I'm actually the one having a bad day today, but unfortunately these little babies won't be able to cheer me up because 1) they contain milk products, and 2) they have already been finished off! Oh well, at least I know they tasted good!

As you can see, there's a box of pre-packaged cake mix. Cut me some slack, this was a last minute goody decision! There's also some mini pineapple-banana juices that I bought for myself, but ended up not liking. I decided to put them to good use, except I didn't. I had enough reserve pineapple juice in the cans of pineapple rings. There's also a bottle of water. That's not part of the recipe, I'm just always thirsty (no, I do not have diabetes! The 2 are not correlational!). Not pictured: cupcake tins. You'll need those! 

I began my sweet little creation by pressing the pineapple rings into the bottom of each cupcake tin. I could have easily baked the cupcakes and then topped them with a ring, but what's the fun in doing things the easy way?! Instead, I made a mixture of butter and brown sugar to act as a sort of "glue" and then cut the rings to fit each tin. Yes, this was a bit tedious at first, but it actually got fun! I turned it into a game of seeing whether I could estimate the right amount to cut off. Yes, I am a major dork. After that was nice and settled, I made the cake mix. Instead of using the designated water in the mix, I replaced it with reserved pineapple juice in order to enhance the taste of pineapple in the cupcakes. 

After they finished baking, these little darlings proved to be a bit of a hassle for me! I wanted to take them out of the tins immediately since they were based on pineapple rings. The stickiness of the materials at the bottom of the tins made it difficult for the cupcakes to come out properly when I overturned the tray. Eventually, I managed to get them to cooperate with me and was able to place them all on cooling racks. While they cooked, I placed a maraschino cherry in each center.

Voila! How cute are they? They look like little rays of sunshine :). They were a big hit at the shop too! I can't even tell you how many "Oh my God"'s I received! Just wait until they see next week's treat ;). Anyways, the moral of the story is, these are a quick and (fairly) easy recipe sure to brighten someone's day. Who doesn't like golden delicious treats?!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sweetheart Chocolate Cupcakes!

I hate Valentine's Day about as much as I love Christmas. It's pretty serious. You can call me bitter all you want, but I'm really not. I just haven't experienced a happy one yet. I've literally either had a lonely or outright BAD Valentine's Day for as long as I can remember. But I can still get in the spirit of things and, therefore, I present you with simply sweet chocolate Valentine's Day cupcakes! Okay, honestly, my mom just asked me to make cupcakes for the shop, but at least I put some effort and creativity into it! 

The Magnolia Bakery came to my aid once again, except this time I used their chocolate cupcake recipe (which can be found here: I then spread a generous amount of fluffy strawberry icing on the cupcakes, topped them with a mixture of red and purple sparkly "cupcake pixie dust", and a strawberry heart made by cutting a strawberry in half (lengthwise) and making a triangular indentation at the top. These were definitely sweet looking and tasting! 

Homemade Pizza!

Before I developed milk allergies, my favorite food in the whole world was pizza. I could literally eat half a pie myself. Granted, I don't believe anything but cheese and sauce should top a pizza, but still. Since I don't actually drink milk itself, pizza was the hardest thing I had to say good-bye to :(. But my brother makes one amazing homemade pizza that my parents are always gushing about and I couldn't let him have all the glory, so I decided to try making my own variation of pizza! It was actually really fun to make because you have to let the pizza dough configuration set and rise for quite a while until it's ready to be baked. It was cool to see how this ball of mush grew. I felt like I was watching my baby grow up! Not really, but it was still pretty cool. 

So let me start from the beginning. I got to work with 2 ingredients I'd never used before: active dry yeast and bread flour. I read bread flour and was SO confused! I called my brother, "Tata, how in the world do I make bread flour?!" .. "Uhhh, dude, you buy it." .. "Ohhh!". I'm a spaz. A very smart spaz, but a spaz nonetheless. First I had to place the active dry yeast in a measuring cup and mix it with water. I let it sit in a warm enough area until it become frothy. In the meantime, I mixed the bread flour with salt and made a hole in the center (no, don't think doughnut this time, it was just a well). I added 1 olive oil, the reserved yeast mixture, and warm water, and then mixed it all together with a wooden spoon until it formed a smooth dough. I kneaded the dough on a floured surface - make sure it's floured or you're going to have sticky hands! I then returned the dough to the bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise until it doubled in size. 

What did I do while I waited? Who knows, I was so bored I forgot. 

After about 30-40 minutes, it finally grew. It's aliiiiiive! Anyways, I stretched the dough out with my hands and placed it on our pizza stone (yup, we have a pizza stone, how cool is that?!). It was kind of a mission to spread it because it's not exactly the most cooperative form of dough I've ever worked with, but highly satisfying once I won and it had to succumb to it's circular mold. Muahaha. 

For the topping, I placed a can of crushed tomatoes, garlic cloves, dried basil, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large skillet and let it simmer in order to allow the sauce to thicken. Then I stirred in the tomato paste and let it cool slightly. Once it was ready, I spread it evenly over the pizza base and topped it with a plethora of mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. My family are cheese fiends. 

I made half of it regular, the other half supreme cause I'm supremely awesome like that ;). I baked the pizza for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Actually, I probably left it a little longer because Mamy likes the crust to be real crispy. Not only was it real crispy, but it was real yummy too, from what I heard and saw .. more like, didn't see actually, because there was nothing left!

Buon Appetito! ;)

Easter Basket Cupcakes!

I remember this was one of the first treats I actually went out of my way to make. I had been telling my mom for about a month already that I was going to make the dessert for Easter (a carrot cake which I will post the recipe for later) and then I decided to include a group of special cupcakes. My mom had asked me to make a batch of basic cupcakes for the shop so I saved 6 (one for each of us here at home - this was before I developed my lactose intolerance) for me to decorate here. Naturally, I chose the 6 roundest, plumpest cupcakes. These cupcakes were also made from pre-packaged cake mix, so the main focus here is the decorating. 

I gathered my materials throughout the week leading up to Easter. I bought a pack of chocolate bunnies (wrapped in colorful foil depicting a bunny in detail), a bag of jellybeans (one of my 3 favorite kinds of candies!), a bag of Sweet Tart chicks, and a pack of strawberry Sour Patch straws. Those were nearly impossible to find! I knew I had seen them somewhere, but they weren't at Publix, CVS, WalMart, or Target. I had even succumbed to checking Winn-Dixie (I hate Winn-Dixie, it always smells funny). I finally checked Blockbuster and there they were! Yes, I went to Blockbuster with the sole purpose of buying a pack of Sour Patch straws. The guy at the checkout counter thought I was just as weird. Now I realize I could have easily used Twizzlers but, hey, you live you learn, right? 

This time I did dye the icing green. I slathered a generous amount of icing onto each cupcake and topped them with my sparkly green "cupcake pixie dust" (shh!). I then inserted each end of a Sour Patch straw into each side of the cupcake and proceeded to decorate them with the rest of the candy goodies. Like I've mentioned, I am a perfectionist. So each cupcake had 3 jellybeans - one pink, one orange, and one yellow - to represent Easter eggs and a blue Sweet Tart chick. The chocolate bunnies, still covered in their foil, were placed on the remaining area of the cupcake to make the finishing touch on my Easter bunny cupcakes! 

Since it was a special occasion, we ate at the dining room table and I placed a cupcake at each setting for decorative purposes. It was adorable :). PS - remove foil before eating chocolate bunny ;).

Peanut Butter Fudge Thumbprint Cookies!

I. Love. Peanut. Butter! It's healthy, but probably not at the level I love it. I don't like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches - I like eating it straight from the jar, like ice cream. I mean, come on. Creamy deliciousness named after a Disney character?! That pretty much equals heaven to me. 

I had to get rid of it somehow, before I ate the whole freaken jar! So I decided to take a classic "thumbprint cookie" recipe and make it a little nutty :).  I basically used a package of refrigerated, pre-made sugar cookie dough (although making sugar cookies is super fun, but I needed something quick and easy), 1/2 cup of peanut butter (R.I.P. jar of heaven), and a bag of Hershey's milk chocolate kisses. I kneaded the sugar cookie dough and peanut butter until they swirled; this was an ooey gooey mess! Good stuff :). Instead of using a cookie sheet where it's so difficult to mold cookies to a desired shape, I used a cupcake pan. After buttering the pan, I ladled a rounded scoop of dough into each tin and baked the batch for about 10-15 minutes (basically until the cookies were light golden brown). While they were still warm, I pushed a Hershey's kiss into the middle of each cookie and then let the chocolate set in as they cooled. 

Needless to say, this was a very pleasant surprise for the shop! 

Strawberry Sundae Cupcakes!

Did I mention how much I love birthdays? Whenever there is a holiday or one of my dad's employees' birthdays, I make a batch of special somethings and bring it over. This past September I decided to do something pink-themed because everything is better in pink. I ended up cheating and using pre-packaged strawberry cake mix (although I did incorporate my Stefy-twist by adding pudding for moisture and flavor), but then I thought, "What would go with strawberry cake?" .. Sundaes! 

I bought a box of vanilla waffle cones and baked the strawberry cake mix in them. I still used a cupcake pan to keep everything in order and filled the waffle cones only about 3/4 so that the baked product wouldn't overflow. Once baked (and cooled), I spread pink strawberry frosting (pink!strawberry!overload!) evenly on the cupcakes and added multicolored sprinkles to each one. I topped each cupcake with a maraschino cherry in order to complete the old-fashioned sundae look. In retrospect, I should have added those cute little flexible drinking straws, but I'm going to attribute that slight to over-exhaustion instead of laziness this time ;).

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes!

Birthdays, aside from giving me a reason to celebrate someone I love, also give me an excuse to bake an obscene amount of treats. For example, 4 dozen mini cherry cheesecakes! September 21st marked my brother's first birthday in he and his new wife's (my amazing sister-in-law, Erica!) new home as well as the last birthday of his twenties. In other words - bittersweet. So, I had to make something bittersweet that would be appropriate for a BBQ. I found this idea in a magazine and tweaked it a little. It's super simple, super refreshing, and with it's mixture of creamy cheesecake and tart berries, it pretty much defines the word bittersweet!

The supplies needed are pretty basic: muffin tins (not cupcakes!), 2" aluminum mini baking cups (they can be found at Publix, but they're pretty hard to spot, especially for short girls like myself! :\), 2 packages of cream cheese (8 oz. each), a box of vanilla wafers (you'll need 48 - I think a box contains 50), eggs, lemon juice, vanilla extract, sugar, and cherry pie filling. Actually, you could use ANY kind of pie filling - cherry, blueberry, strawberry, anything ending in "erry" :). 

Now for the fun part :). First, I lined the muffin tin with the aluminum baking cups. Unfortunately I only have one muffin tin, so I had to make a couple of batches. After placing the baking cups in their tins, I placed a vanilla wafer in each one (flat-side down) and proceeded to make the cheesecake portion. Okay, seriously, cheesecake is food of the gods. Who doesn't like cheesecake?! It has a whole freaken restaurant named in it's honor! I, for one, LOVE cheesecake. As you can imagine, it was kind of torturous making these .. but they were worth it! Cheesecake is fairly easy to make. Let the cream cheese soften (couple of hours at least) and mix it with the appropriate amounts of eggs, sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Of course, there are different ways to make cheesecake, which I have personally explored many of, but this basic mixture was perfect for this particular project. 

The ingredients were mixed until dreamily creamy (can you feel my pain here??) and then about a tablespoon was scooped into each baking cup. After baking each batch at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes and letting them cool, I topped the mini cheesecakes with a little spoonful of cherry pie filling. The result was the cutest tray of sweet tarts ever!

Happy 29th Birthday, Tata! :)

Christmas Wreath Cupcakes!

I love Christmas. Like, love, love, LOVE Christmas. So much so, that my friends and family affectionately refer to me as "The Christmas Nazi". I decorate our tree and I create our monstrous Christmas village in the living room - not that my mom and sister don't want to, I just don't let them. It's that bad. So it's no surprise that I also love all the fun Christmas-themed goodies I can make! However, my favorite one this year was a cheery Christmas wreath I came up with after my dad asked me to bake some cupcakes for the guys at Scottrade. 

Since this was such a last-minute request, I could have just baked a batch of regular cupcakes, topped them off with some icing and sprinkles, and have been done with it. But I'm a natural born perfectionist and overachiever so that was definitely not an option. I decided to bake a batch of red velvet cupcakes. I personally love (or at least, used to love ..) red velvet cupcakes. Strange, coming from someone who does not like chocolate (which is the epitome of strange in itself). But my red velvet cupcakes, I have to admit, are delicious! I follow a basic red velvet recipe, but throw in some pudding to give them extra moistness and flavor. Maybe I'll share the details of that recipe, but not today! ;)

I dug out a circular, gold cardboard .. thing .. from one of our cabinets. I don't know what it was used for or why we kept it but, hey, sometimes being a pack-rat can come in handy! I arranged the cupcakes on the board in a circular pattern with an empty hole in the middle (think doughnut .. or, ya know, just wreath). When I had made my obligatory trip to Publix earlier, I already had the wreath vision in my mind. However, I was planning on dying the icing green and decorating it with randomly placed, different colored M&M's. Unfortunately, my brilliant self saw a bag of "Christmas M&M's!" and bought it. I don't know why I thought it would have different colors, as opposed to red & green (ya know, "Christmas M&M's!" colors), but when I opened it I was highly disappointed. Plus, I don't (and can't) even eat chocolate, so the candy fiend in me was disappointed as well. Then my creativity kicked in and I thought of a solution!

I pulled out my handy dandy cookie gun - who wants to spread icing when you can pipe?! Oh, everyone but me. Whatever! I filled the canister with white icing (nope, no green dying) and began to pipe each cupcake with individual peaks of white icing. Once the tops of all the cupcakes were covered and there were no discernible holes in the wreath, I sprinkled sparkly green "cupcake pixie dust" (I love Tinkerbell, just let me call it that!) all over them. I then used every single green M&M in my "Christmas M&M's!" bag to spread all over my cupcakes and create the impression of a green wreath. With a series of red M&M's, I created a bow at the bottom of the wreath and scattered a few more red ones throughout the wreath to represent Christmas ornament balls.

Voila! Christmas wreath spectacular! My dad said everyone at the office LOVED them! I personally would have loved to see these big-shot men in their suits and ties giddily fumbling over these cute cupcakes :).

Proud To Be An American Cupcakes!

Everybody who knows me knows that I'm very Republican (a non-liberal teacher, told you I was special! ;p), but whether you're right-winged or left-winged, I think we can all meet in the middle and agree that we are truly blessed to live in this beautiful country. So, in honor of our independence, I decided to create an American flag made of cupcakes! Now, just like all the struggles our country has had to overcome to get to where it is today - this was no easy feat! I literally spent ALL morning making and decorating these! I decided to take them to my parents' shop to distribute to all the customers and they were a hit. Here's my long and arduous journey to celebrating my country through baking!

I actually baked the cupcakes the night before. I don't know where this spark of genius came from (as my brain is usually fried from studying), but I am grateful to it. I baked 24 cupcakes from scratch, following the Magnolia Bakery recipe for vanilla cupcakes (can be found here: Yup, THE famous Magnolia Bakery in New York! Feel free to indulge yourselves :). Anyways, I thought it would be smooth sailing the next morning in terms of decorating. Boy, was I mistaken! I had everything all prepped and ready to go. 

I tried not to fill the cupcake liners all the way to the top so that they could come out as flat as possible; this made frosting them easier and ensured that the "flag" would be evenly frosted. As you can see, I used red food coloring, blue food coloring, white spice drops (my least favorite flavor - awesome, considering they were the only ones I didn't eat myself! I may not be able to consume dairy, but I am a candy FIEND!), and a cookie gun. I don't know if that's the right term for it, but my mom calls it a cookie gun and she's my inspiration so there! Anyways, it's the pink thing. It's made by Wilton; you fill the plastic canister with either cookie dough or, in this case, icing, and can adjust the tip for whatever design you want. Contrary to a lot of people, I actually enjoy piping frosting, so this was fun for me! Until I realized 2 containers of icing was not nearly enough. I had to run over to Publix and buy another 5 - yes, 5! The girl at the register (she thinks we're BFF, I guess since I always run over for baking supplies and she's usually the express checkout girl) even asked me, "What do you need 5 cans of icing for?!". To knit a sweater, duh. 

Okay, back to the actual creating a sweet stuff. I mixed the food coloring with the icings right in their containers. No specific reason, other than it made my life easier (and less messy!). The coloring is a little tricky, especially the red. You want to put enough so that you get the right color, but if you put too much your icing will have a strange taste to it. My red came out just a tad neon-y, so I guess I'll need to experiment with coloring a little more :(. I mixed the white icing with the food colorings using a toothpick and scooped as much as would fit into my handy dandy cookie gun. I arranged the 24 cupcakes onto a foiled cookie sheet in 4 rows of 6 cupcakes each. I began with the blue frosting because it was pretty integral to do so. I piped blue frosting onto the first 3 cupcakes of the top 2 rows and then filled in any empty space between the cupcakes with more piping (hence, the foil lining). I then piped the red stripes and finished with the white ones. I did all of the red before adding the white in order to measure it out evenly and since I had no need to mix the already white icing with any food coloring. Lastly, I arranged the white spice drops in the blue section to represent stars. I was actually going to roll them flat and cut them into little stars but, honestly, I just got lazy. 

About 3 hours later I was finished! Everyone loved them, no one wanted to be the first to grab a cupcake. As a matter of fact, I think my sister did the honors (figures!). 

God bless you America, you're beautiful.


Hi, I'm Stefy! :)

I'm a 27 year-old (yes, 27! ::gasp::) graduate student. I'm currently quickly driving myself insane in my simultaneous pursuit of a Master's Degree in Education and my Florida teaching certification. As you have probably been able to figure out, I want to be a teacher! Specifically, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd graders. No, I have not lost my mind just yet - I simply adore kids! Basically, I'm a child at heart, I'm size-equivalent to them, and I have an eternal fairy-tale complex - we understand each other. This dedication to my education (and near-future career!) has led to the demise of my once crazy social life. Instead, I now spend my free time baking, cooking, and drawing. I always knew I had talent when it came to art, but the kitchen was a completely different story. I would roll my eyes at my mom and tell her that I'd have a maid when I got married. Almost as soon as I started grad school last Spring, I also started trying my hand in the kitchen and guess what?! I'm great at it! I love to cook new things, but baking is what really makes me happy. My family is always complaining that I'm trying to get them fat because I'm known to make up to 3 different types of treats each weekend! How am I soooo skinny, you ask? Well, I'm allergic to dairy :(. But it's okay, because as long as I can create things that will make other people smile, that tastes just as sweet to me! So enjoy my adventures and thanks for looking! :)