Category: Cupcakes

3 Cupcakes for $11

September 20, 2011

Now that the school year has started, we have a new weekly schedule in place.  Graham is in first grade so, obviously, he is in school five days a week.  Spencer goes to preschool four days a week and spends Wednesdays with me.  As much as I try to keep those days fun and Spencer-centered, they are often days full of errands.  He is a great sport and happily accompanies me as I drive around town getting the necessary ingredients for cooking classes or catering jobs.  I like to make sure those trips aren’t pure drudgery for him so there is often some kind of treat incentive.

Last week, we were near a cupcake shop and I suggested we stop in for cupcakes for the “boys” in our family.  (Me?  If I am going to eat cake, I am going to eat cake.  My cake.  Not store-bought cupcakes.)  I asked for three, the nice lady behind the counter boxed them up, rang me up, and told me I owed her $11.

$11.  For three cupcakes.  Really?  In my brain a little switch went off.  That “I will never buy into this crazy-ness again” switch.  As much joy as those cupcakes bring my children – it’s over.  Cupcakes in the Dana Treat household are homemade from now on.

But here is the thing.  I get it.  If I make cupcakes, it’s about 1 million times cheaper.  I can probably make 50 cupcakes for $11.  They will taste much better and be made with love.  But what am I going to do with 50 cupcakes?  Or even 12?  There are three people in my family who eat them.  Even if we have cupcake loving friends with cupcake loving kids over, we will only get through just over half a dozen.  What do I do with the rest of them?  They only keep for a day or so.  I can’t exactly put them in the cookie jar, right?  (Note to self:  Invent a cupcake jar!)

Once in a while my addled brain comes up with something surprisingly clear.  Post store-bought cupcake horror, I was extremely motivated to make my own.  I also realized that I needed a dessert for a special class I was teaching.  Mexican Chocolate Cake actually.  What if I made the cake smaller and used the rest of the batter for cupcakes?  It could have been a disaster but it worked great.  From one recipe, originally intended for a bundt pan, I made a 9×5-inch loaf cake and six cupcakes.  The boys were pleased, the babysitter was pleased, my students were pleased, Randy was pleased, and I was pleased.  Success!

One Year Ago:  Double Chocolate Layer Cake
Two Years Ago:  Grits Frittata
Three Years Ago:  Frittata with Feta, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Basil (apparently this is the time of year I make a lot of eggs)

Mexican Chocolate Cake

To make things simpler, I’m giving you the cake as originally written, for a 12-cup bundt pan.  (This is the standard size for a bundt pan in the US.)  You can play around with what pans you want or if you just want to make all cupcakes.  A site I find very useful when trying to figure out what pans to use is Joy of Baking.  You can look up your pan size, find out how many cups it holds by volume, and then reconfigure.  Sound complicated?  It’s actually really easy.

For cake
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
½ cup Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt

For glaze
2 cups chopped pecans (7½ ounces)
½ stick (¼ cup) unsalted butter
½ cup half-and-half
½ cup confectioners sugar
5 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), finely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt

Make cake:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter cake pan well and dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Melt butter (2 sticks) in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth, then remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl, then sift again into cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (don’t worry if there are lumps).

Pour batter into cake pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs adhering, 45 to 55 minutes. (Leave oven on.)

Cool cake in pan on a rack 20 minutes, then loosen edges with a thin knife and invert onto a plate.

Make glaze:
Spread pecans in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan (1 inch deep) and bake until fragrant and a shade darker, 6 to 8 minutes. Cool pecans slightly in pan on a rack, about 5 minutes.

Melt butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, then stir in half-and-half and confectioners sugar. Add chocolate and cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in pecans and salt. Cool glaze until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Spoon glaze over top and sides of cake (cake will still be warm) and spread with a small offset spatula or knife to cover completely.

(Cake (with glaze) can be made 2 days ahead and kept at room temperature in a cake keeper or covered with an inverted bowl.)

Cupcakes and an Announcement

December 3, 2010

First, before I tell you about these cupcakes and how my feelings got hurt by a bunch of 5 and 6 year-olds, I must share some exciting news.  No, I am not coming out with a cookbook and no I’m not pregnant.  Hopefully someday on the first and never again on the second.

Starting next month, January 13th to be exact, I am going to be teaching regular cooking classes in my home kitchen.  This has been in the works for months and I finally have my tofu ducks in a row.  If you live near Seattle, or plan to be visiting some time soon, I’d love to have you!  Classes will be filled with food, wine, and lively conversation.  And no shortage of Dana Treats!  The classes scheduled for this winter are:

Vegetarian Basics – Beyond Pasta and Salad
Winter Seasonal Feast
Vegetarian (and Mostly Healthy) Mexican Food

More details, including dates, specific menus, and prices can be found under the “Classes” tab or you can just click here.


I have a summer birthday.  That means that all through grade school, my mom never came to my classroom to bring treats to share.  No classroom of 25 kids ever sang me happy birthday.  I am realizing, just now, that this may be one of the reasons that I am such a freak about my birthday.  The scars go deep.

So what is a mother with a November child and a February child to do?  Make extra special treats to bring to school every single birthday.  Just like I buy my kids whatever Halloween costume they want because my mom would never buy me a Halloween costume.  (I actually had a very nice childhood and my mom baked and bought me lots of things.)

Kids love cupcakes so I pulled down my Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook and decided to make these beauties.  I thought the pillowy topping, reminiscent of marshmallows, would be a huge hit and the almost universally loved flavor of Snickerdoodles would make these a slam dunk.

Alas, it was not to be.  I got some sneers and several kids actually came up to me and said, “I don’t want it.”  To that I said, “I don’t want it either so take it back to your seat.”  The teacher was mortified and I found that my feelings were really hurt – by kindergartners.  Do they know who I am?  That my treats are coveted by many?  My Graham, who made sure each child had their cupcake, ate his enthusiastically and yelled across the room, “It’s really good Mommy!”  Whether he really thought so or he was just trying to make me feel better – who knows.  But he ate his whole cupcake and incidentally, so did all the other kids, even the ones who said they didn’t want it.  Stinkers.

Two Years Ago:  Potato-Fennel Gratin

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
Makes 24

1½ cups flour
1½ cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon, plus ½ tsp. for dusting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1¾ cups sugar, plus 2 tbsp. for dusting
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1¼ cups whole milk
Seven-Minute Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Sift together both the flours, baking powder, salt and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as  needed.  Beat in vanilla.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each.

Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.  Cupcakes can be stored up to 2 days at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

To finish, combine ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 2 tablespoons sugar.  Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip (Ateco #809 or Wilton #1A), pipe frosting on each cupcake.  Use a small, fine sieve to dust peaks with cinnamon-sugar.  Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are frosted; keep at room temperature until ready to serve.

Seven-Minute Frosting
Makes about 8 cups

This is way more frosting than you will need for the cupcakes but I am reluctant to cut it in half in case it does not work for you.  Baking can be funny that way.

1½ cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar
2/3 cup water
2 tbsp. light corn syrup
6  large egg whites, room temperature

Combine 1½ cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.  Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230°F.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  With mixer running add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.

As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230ºF, remove from heat.  With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream.  Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes.  Use immediately.  (DT: It took much longer than 7 minutes for my frosting to cool, more like 15.)

Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes

September 2, 2009


It’s been two weeks since our big summer party, but I have one more recipe I wanted to share with you all.  By the time we got to dessert that night, it was almost completely dark so I wasn’t able to take pictures of what I served.  Even though I love making summer desserts, I wanted to keep with the theme of finger food so cupcakes seemed like the perfect solution.

I have shared my lack of enthusiasm for cupcakes here before.  I’m just kind of over it.  But the rest of the country doesn’t seem to be and I know they are always a popular dessert choice.  I recently bought Martha Stewart’s cupcake book and one of the things I really like about it is that there are some very non-cupcake-y things in there.  For the party, I made Cookies and Cream Cheesecakes and these Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes.


The cheesecakes were good but the Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes were better.  You know when you make something and it just disappears before you can even get your bearings?  That happened with these.  I didn’t get to taste them but heard from guest after guest that they were amazing.  I couldn’t get that photo so what’s a food blogger to do?  Make them again.

Here’s the thing.  When I went to make them the first time, I realized I was out of cupcake liners.  In desperation, I texted my neighbor Julie who (love her!) brought over some liners within minutes after my text.  Her liners were large, about 1 1/2 times the size of a typical cupcake, so I tripled them up and baked the cakes, just in their liners, on a baking sheet.  They turned out beautifully.  Big, solid, and definitely more like brownies than cupcakes.  Because they were so large, I cut them in half to serve them.

This time, I made them as described and had some problems with York Peppermint Pattie leakage.


Disaster?  Of course not.  It didn’t really affect the flavor just the looks, but next time I will pay more careful attention to how much batter I put below and above the peppermint.


One Year Ago:  Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Mint Filled Brownie Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes
Makes 12

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa, sifted
12 small chocolate covered peppermint patties, such as mini York Peppermint Patties

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water.  Stir occasionally just until melted, 4 to 5 minutes.

2.  Remove bowl from heat.  Whisk in sugar and salt until mixture is smooth; whisk in eggs to combine.  Gently whisk in flour and cocoa just until smooth (do not overmix).

3.  Spoon 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into each lined cup.  Place 1 peppermint patty on top., gently pressing into batter.  Top with 2 tablespoons batter, covering patty completely.  Bake, rotating tin halfway though, until a cake tester inserted halfway in centers (above mint patty) comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.  (DT: I checked at 25 minutes and mine were done.)  Transfer tin to a wire rack to cool completely before removing cupcakes.  Cupcakes can be stored up to 3 days at room temperature in airtight container.

Cupcake Scrooge

April 21, 2009


I’m going to sound like a huge party pooper here, but I’m over the whole cupcake thing.  I subscribe to many a blog and when they post about cupcakes, I just hit delete.  I’m over the multitudes of new cupcake shops opening all over this and every other town.  I’m just over it.  About the only place I like to see cupcakes is in these illustrations.

But I have children and children love cupcakes.  I hit up the local shops and I bake them for my boys.  My boys love sweets but nothing makes them happier than a cupcake.  Just seeing their faces makes me feel over my “over it” attitude.

This week, I need several desserts.  We had a high school friend of Randy’s over for dinner last night, I am teaching a cooking class on Thursday, and we need to celebrate the birthday of our incredible babysitter.  I made one big batch to satisfy all needs.

A word about Erika, our babysitter.  She watches the boys two mornings a week and has babysat for us over two separate weekends.  She is amazing for many reasons.  First of all, I like her.  I feel comfortable around her and enjoy her company.  She cleans up around the house, does laundry, takes the boys outside to the park and to the local doughnut shop, and she plays all kinds of crazy games with them.  Most importantly, she loves them.  She really truly does and tells them so.  I have informed her that she can never move and she can never get married because I can’t imagine our life without her.

This Friday is her birthday and I know the boys will want to celebrate with her, seeing as “Happy Birthday” is one of their favorite songs.  I know they will enjoy sharing these!

The cupcakes come from a book my husband (who will never be over the cupcake thing) bought me a couple of years ago.  It is entitled, imaginatively, Cupcakes! and it has become my go-to for this type of dessert.  There are lots of good recipes, from the basic to the fancy.  If you have cupcake lovers in your house, I highly recommend it.


Mississippi Mud Cupcakes
Adapted from Cupcakes!
Makes 18-24 regular cupcakes

I used Newman’s Own for the cookies.  The recipe says the yield is 18, but I got 24 – never a bad thing!

2 1/4 cups crushed chocolate sandwich cookies , in 1/2 inch to 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup (6oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcake Batter (recipe follows)
3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 18 muffin tin cups with paper cupcake liners.

Spoon 1 tbsp. of the cookie pieces into the bottom of each paper liner, then spoon about 8 chocolate chips over the cookie pieces in each liner.  Spoon a scant 1/4 cup of batter over the chocolate chips.  Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips and cookie pieces over the  tops, pressing them gently into the batter.

Bake just until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 22 minutes.  Cool the cupcakes for 20 minutes in the pans on a wire rack.

Carefully lift the cupcakes from the pan and place them on a wire rack to cool completely.  Put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

Use a small spoon to drizzle thin lines of melted chocolate over the top of each cooled cupcake.  The cupcakes can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcake Batter

This is a great basic cupcake to have in your repetoire.  All kinds of frosting taste great on top.

3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water

Put the chocolate ina heatproof bowl and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water.  Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing.  On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate.  On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well until each is blended into the batter.  Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute.  Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain.  On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it.  Mix in the water.  Mix in the remaining flour mixture unil it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.  Proceed with above recipe.

This is Not a Muffin

March 24, 2009

Individual Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake

I know it looks like a muffin, but it’s actually an Individual Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake. In my book, that’s much better than a muffin which, in all my baking adventures, I have never made. I would blame my lack of muffin baking on my lack of interest in breakfast, but that hasn’t stopped me from making coffee cake, scones, or granola. Sometimes I just can’t explain myself.

Anyway, this is one of those recipes where it just makes so much sense to double it. It takes no extra effort and all you need is two muffin tins. Or even 1 regular size and one mini-size. Take the ones you aren’t going to eat right away, wrap them well in foil, and put them in the freezer. Then you have a homemade dessert for the next time people drop by unexpectedly. Or for the next time you just need to pull one or two out just for you.

Individual Blueberry-Coconut Pound Cake
Makes 9

This is the original recipe, i.e. not doubled.

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
cup sugar
2 tsp. freshly grated lime zest

2 large eggs

5 tbsp. heavy cream

1 cup flour

tsp. salt
cup plus 3 tbsp. sweetened flaked coconut
cup blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour 9 (1/2 cup) muffin cups. (DN: I sprayed mine with Pam.)

Beat together butter, sugar, and zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in cream, then flour and salt, on low speed until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut and gently stir in blueberries.

Spoon batter into cups and smooth tops. Sprinkle tops with remaining 3 tbsp. coconut. Bake in middle of oven until a tester comes out clean and edges are golden brown, about 25 minutes. Invert onto a rack and cool.

(DN: If you plan to freeze some, wrap them well in foil, then place in a plastic bag – like those you find in the produce department at the grocery store.)

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