Reese’s Brownie Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

DSC_0948 DSC_0958You know what’s better than brownies? Brownies with frosting. And what’s even better than that? Reese’s brownie cupcakes with peanut butter cupcakes melted in and peanut butter frosting on top! These are peanut butter heaven in a cupcake mold.

I’m still perfecting my from-scratch cake baking, so this one uses boxed brownie mix, which makes the process much simpler and just as delicious. For more on baking from scratch, stay tuned! I’m practicing to get them just right.

Your brownie cupcake ingredients:

  • 1 box of brownie mix (I used Duncan Hines)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cuvegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 bag Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped

Your frosting ingredients:

  • 1 cup of creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp milk (optional)

First, mix your brownies according to the package’s directions. Mix in your cut-up Reese’s and divide the batter into your lined cupcake pan until the cups are 2/3 full.DSC_0937Bake according to the package’s instruction. I baked mine on 350 degrees for about 25 minutes. Use a toothpick to determine if they’ve baked all the way through.

While the brownies bake, begin mixing your frosting. Mix together the softened butter and the packed creamy peanut butter until they are completely blended. Beat in the vanilla extract and slowly add in the sugar. Continue beating for several minutes until the frosting becomes smooth no longer grainy. Only add the milk if it needs a little more moisture to change the texture.DSC_0951 DSC_0949Once the Reese’s brownie cupcakes have completely cooled on the cooling rack, top them with this deliciously sweet and creamy peanut butter frosting and garnish with chopped Reese’s peanut butter cups. Enjoy!

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Homemade Cream Cheese Frosting

Homemade Cream Cheese FrostingHomemade Cream Cheese FrostingGuys, it’s finally getting cold around here. I can sleep with a blanket at night, which means life is GOOD. It also means I can bake more often without turning my entire apartment into an oven.

Tuesday was my manager’s birthday, so I brought in these cupcakes Monday to celebrate. We embarrassed her by singing her Happy Birthday, but that’s a birthday pain we all have to endure, right?

I brought in these red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for everyone to celebrate because, honestly, who wouldn’t love homemade cream cheese frosting? In my opinion, cream cheese frosting (or frosting in general) is always better when it’s homemade, but the red velvet cake is from a box (I took is easy this time around).

Cupcake ingredients (24 cupcakes):

  • 1 box of Red Velvet cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water

Frosting ingredients:

  • 2 packages of 8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

First, mix your cake according to the instructions on the box. (easy peezy, right?) Pop the batter into your cupcake tins (2/3 full) for about 15-18 mins, depending on your mix instructions.Homemade Cream Cheese FrostingWhile they bake, mix your frosting. Mix together your softened cream cheese and butter until well mixed. Add in vanilla and sift in the sugar as you continue to mix for several minutes. This will keep help you achieve the right texture. Pop the frosting in fridge until your cupcakes are cooled enough to pipe the frosting. You’ll want to use a wide frosting tip for these.Homemade Cream Cheese FrostingHomemade Cream Cheese FrostingTake it slow with your frosting and when you’re finished, keep the cupcakes in the fridge until they’re ready to eat. These combinations will make the perfect cupcake-to-frosting ratio. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cake Bites

DSC_0556DSC_0573The only thing better than cake is cake combined with frosting, amiright? You’re probably familiar with cake pops, but if you’re not, you’ve gotta get on board this delicious cake train. There are lots of ways to make cake pops and lots of fun ways to decorate them, whether you eat them off of a stick or by themselves. My version this time around is a little different than your normal chocolate cake bites because they’re flat. Truthfully, I found this way to be much easier to dip and store than your average balls. Plus, let’s be honest, they taste the same, no matter what shape they are.

Put these ingredients together:

  • Chocolate cake
  • Vanilla frosting (any is fine)
  • 1 bag (2 cups) of white chocolate chips

You’ll also need:

  • A large mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Cooling rack (or cookie sheet covered in foil)

The best way to start out is to, you know, bake a cake. I had leftover cake from a tiered chocolate cake I made a while back as well as some leftover homemade buttercream frosting. Here’s the fun part; combine your cake, crumbled up a bit, and some frosting in a bowl and mash it all together with your hands. The cake-to-frosting ratio isn’t a perfect one, so start with a little frosting and add more as you go. You want everything to stick together but not stick to your hands (or a rolling pin), making it easy to form into shapes. Once it is well-mixed, put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set. This will make it easier to roll out afterward.

Roll out your cake mixture with a rolling pin until it is only about a half inch thick. Use a cookie cutter or, in my case, the top of a sprinkles bottle, to cut out shapes in the dough mixture and place them on a cookie sheet. Once all your shapes are cut out, move the tray to the fridge. DSC_0543Next, melt the white chocolate chips in bowl by microwaving them on defrost mode for about one minute. Then stir the chocolate and continue to melt on defrost mode in 15 second intervals until completely melted. I have tried melting chocolate a hundred different ways over the past year and, trust me, this way works. Follow these directions and you’ll be fine as long as you stir well.

Once your chocolate is completely melted, drop your cut cake pieces into the chocolate and use a fork to turn it over, covering it completely, and pull it out with the cake bite sitting on the fork. Gently tap excess chocolate off and carefully place the cake bite on a wire cooling rack to drip and harden. You can also place them on a cookie sheet, but the cooling rack works well for letting excess chocolate drip off instead of pool around it. Once they’ve cooled and hardened, they are complete!DSC_0559You can easily add embellishments to these chocolate cake bites, like sprinkles or colored stripes, but I decided to keep it simple this time around. Take these bite-sized pieces of heaven anywhere you go and you’re sure to make friends.

Enjoy!

Pink Ombre Cake

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My sister makes THE BEST frosting. You don’t know good frosting until you’ve tried it, and lucky for me,  she gave it to me to make a cake for my coworker’s going away celebration. With it, I made chocolate cake with pink ombre vanilla buttercream. I thought this technique seemed intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite easy to do if you take your time.

First off, here’s the recipe I used (keep in mind that this makes a TON of frosting – you might want to half it):

  • 4 sticks of butter (2 cups)
  • Approx 2 pounds of powdered sugar (6-7 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Gel coloring

Leave the butter out until it is soft at room temperature – don’t microwave it. Beat together with vanilla and water. Then slowly add powdered sugar until you reach desired sweetness, and add another tablespoon of water if you feel it is too thick. It should be really smooth because that will make it easier to frosting, as opposed to if you are piping cupcakes, you would want it to be stiffer.

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This made more than enough frosting for the cake. Because it uses butter, you’ll want to keep it in the fridge once the cake is frosted. When using the Crisco version of this recipe, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

For an ombre cake, you’ll need to make a taller cake that is several tiers high in order to show off the design. Use the frosting to stack your tiers – three in my case. Then frost a thin crumb layer all over your cake and put it into the fridge for 10-20 minutes. A crumb layer like this will set your cake, allowing you to add frosting without picking up crumbs.

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Separate the remaining frosting into three bowls. Add a small drop of gel food coloring to the first so that it remains very light colored. You should use gel coloring for frosting to keep it from thinning like it would with regular coloring. Mix well with a spoon until you reach your desired shade. In the second bowl, try two drops or coloring, and in the third, try three drops. You should see a clear difference in color between each bowl of frosting.

Using a spatula, spread the darkest color on the bottom. It doesn’t need to look pretty because you are going to clean it up later, but you’ll want it a little thick because some of it will come off during the clean up. Add the medium shade to the middle and the lightest color to the top, spreading evenly.

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When frosting is applied everywhere, clean off your spatula and grab a small bowl. You’re going to use this to wipe off excess frosting. Use your spatula, starting at the very bottom with light pressure, to smooth the frosting, turning your base as you go and move the spatula up as you go around. This is much easier if you have a spinning cake stand, but you can certainly do without it (I did). As you build up frosting on the spatula, scrape it off on the side of the bowl. By smoothing it out as the cake turns, you are blending the colors into a gradual ombre look.

When you reach the top, you can use your spatula to make somewhat of a spiral pattern on the top of the cake, leaving the frosting smoothed out and matching the look of the frosting. You will probably want to make one more round to smooth out the frosting, but you shouldn’t scrape off much in this round.

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At this point, you’re done and should see a gradual lightening of color in your frosting from bottom to top! I promise it’s the most delicious frosting you’ve ever had. Just ask my coworkers – they devoured it. For an extra pop, sprinkle some colored sugar sprinkles all over the cake. Have fun with it!

Banana Cream Pie Cupcakes

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I don’t have much practice with homemade cakes, so I was a little nervous about trying my hand at these vanilla cupcakes, completely from scratch. Luckily, they turned out wonderfully! No reason to be nervous. This recipe is a take on a classic favorite – banana cream pie, featuring pure vanilla cupcakes and smooth banana buttercream frosting.

This recipe makes about 20 cupcakes.

For the cupcakes, you’ll need:

  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons PURE vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Foil cupcake liners

For the frosting, you’ll need:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 stick of butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start off by sifting together the flour, baking powder and salt in one bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and egg whites until well-mixed. In a separate, larger bowl, mix together the butter (softened), sugar and vanilla on high for about 2 minutes. Then add in a third of the dry mix, followed by a third of the egg and cream mixture, mixing as you go. Repeat until everything is well-mixed.

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Fill each cupcake liner in your tin about 3/4 full. I prefer the foil cupcake liners because I feel like they hold moisture much better than paper liners. Pop them in the oven for 20-22 minutes, until lightly golden. I always check if they’re ready using toothpicks.

Start making your frosting by mixing together softened butter, vanilla and lemon juice. Mash up a banana – rip but not brown – and add to the mix. Slowly add powdered sugar as you go, scraping the sides with a spatula. Then pop it in the fridge to help it set.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, they are ready to be frosted. Because of the lemon juice, your banana buttercream should last for a couple days in the fridge without browning. I do recommend keeping them in the fridge because the frosting is somewhat thin, and I noticed that my frosting began to lose its shape quickly when left outside.

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For special occasions, top these babies with little washi tape toothpick flags. I made these banana cream pie cupcakes for Andrew’s uncle’s birthday party, and I think (hope) they were a success. I was also really excited to try out my new double-decker cupcake carrier. Enjoy!

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S’more Brownie Bars

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I love s’mores and I love brownies, so I thought it was about time I put them together into one delicious treat – thus s’more brownie bars were born!

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For this dish, you’ll need:

  • Graham crackers, approx. 10-12
  • Granulated Sugar
  • Melted butter, 6 tbs
  • Fudge brownie mix (Ghirardelli Triple Fudge Brownie Mix is my first choice)
  • Eggs
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Cooking spray
  • Food processor
  • Medium-large baking pan.

First, preheat the oven according to your brownie packaging instructions. 350 degrees should be the average.

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While the oven heats, make the graham cracker crust by breaking up 10-12 graham crackers, and adding approximately 2 tbs of sugar into a food processor. Grind until the mixture is very fine. I did this a few crackers at a time to ensure they were as fine as possible. Place the crumbs into a large bowl while you melt 6 tbs of butter. Pour this into the bowl and stir together with a spoon or spatula. I find that it’s easier to add a little bit at a time as you try to stir it all together. The mixture should be able to stick together when pressed. If necessary, add a small amount of water to get the right texture.

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Spray the bottom and sides of the pan with cooking spray. Then press the graham cracker mixture to the bottom of the pan, covering it completely and assuring that it is pressed together firmly. Set the pan aside and begin mixing the actual brownies.

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Mix the brownies according to the directions on the package – eggs, oil, water, etc. I prefer the Ghirardelli Triple Fudge Brownie Mix because it has a fudge packet that not only makes the brownies more rich, it adds necessary moisture to the finished dessert.

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When completely mixed, carefully spread over the graham cracker crust. Do this carefully because the crust is quite fragile when not cooked and will fall apart easily by sticking to the brownie mix. Then pop the brownies in the oven according to the directions on the package, which should be anywhere from 30-40 minutes, depending on your choice of bakeware.

Halfway through baking, pull the pan out and lay the mini marshmallows on top, covering the surface without overlapping too much. Pop the dish back in the oven for the remaining time. You want to add the marshmallows after the brownies have been baking for a while to ensure that the marshmallow topping does not overcook but browns slightly. You’ll also notice that the marshmallows swell up in size in the oven, which can be alarming, but have no fear – when they cool, the topping flattens.

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When you take the brownies out of the oven, let them cool for at least several minutes before attempting to cut them. You may also have to scrape the sides of the marshmallow down because it is extremely sticky. But they are done and ready for eating!

Note that because the marshmallow top is SO sticky, layering the brownies on top of each other makes them difficult to get apart. Good luck getting all of the marshmallow off of your hands and enjoy!