Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter Wonderland Cupcakes

So this weekend my nephew turned 5! Where has the time gone!?!

It's one of my favorite things to make a pretty exciting cupcake creation for the birthdays of my niece and nephew. I don't usually do fancy things, but my niece and nephew are worth some sprinkles and fondant frustration anytime!

My nephew requested vanilla cupcakes, so that's what he got, plain and simple. I made 36 cupcakes and then squished them all onto a 16 inch cake round that I had. They BARELY fit, it was a close one. 

After that I frosted them with a buttery cream cheese frosting. To do this I went around the edge with my piping bag and then squeezed the rest of the frosting over the middle. Then I took my spatula and spread it all out. The beauty of making a winter wonderland is that it doesn't have to be perfectly smooth! (I was a little short on frosting, I was worried but it ended up working out just fine!

I then used some white sugar sprinkles and COVERED the frosting (I'm serious here, I COVERED the top of that cake). My nephew got the special birthday honor of helping me put the trees on. He did a great job! He did keep putting them into lines, but we had plenty of trees and I would just fill in around his to make it look more natural. Then we placed a snowmobile toy (his grandparents own several snowmobiles and mountain property where we ride them, my nephew loves his snowmobile!) and the masterpiece was complete! It's always really fun to push the boundaries of my decorating skills and see what I can come up with. This one is my favorite so far.

Vanilla Cupcakes
makes 24
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two cupcake pans.

In a large bowl whip together the room temperature butter with the sugar until they get nice and fluffy, it's best if you let it beat for 2-3 minutes.  Add the 2 eggs, one at a time and beat for another minute. The mixture should be a light yellow color. While the eggs are mixing in, add the vanilla and the salt.

Next, measure out your baking soda, baking powder and flour in a medium bowl.  Add about 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined.  Add half of the sour cream.  Follow that with another 1/3 of the flour, the remaining sour cream and the last of the flour, beating well after each addition.

Scrape the bowl, give the batter one last power mix to get everything well incorporated (about 10 seconds on medium-high).

Scoop into the cupcake pans using a 2 oz ice cream scoop, or filling about 2/3 of the way full.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool.

Buttery Cream Cheese Frosting
2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 8 oz block cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
3-4 cups powdered sugar

In a medium bowl combine the butter and the cream cheese with a mixer until it gets a little fluffy, this will take about 3-4 minutes.

While the cream cheese and butter are mixing add in the vanilla and heavy cream (make sure to turn your mixer on to low!).

Now slowly add the powdered sugar, about 1/2 cup at a time, keeping the mixer on low to let it mix in.  Once you have the right sweetness, scrape the sides and mix on medium for about 20 seconds to make sure everything is smooth.  Don't be afraid of over-beating this.

Once the cupcakes are cooled, pipe or frost the frosting onto the cupcakes.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Baking for love

So I bake a lot (in case you haven't been paying attention), and most of the time I love it, but there are days where it's not my favorite thing to be doing. Days when I would rather just lay around and watch TV, days when I wish I wasn't "the baker."

Friday was one of those days. I left work, went to dinner with a friend and then headed to the grocery store to gather ingredients. I wanted some festive Christmas cupcake liners but the grocery store didn't have any (side note: WHY NOT!?!). It was quite a situation that was happening. I needed sprinkles and festive liners, so I headed to Target.

At Target I learned that they didn't have the sprinkles that I have bought for my entire life! My variety pack of Christmas sprinkles now came with blue and white sugar instead of red and green. I was getting grumpy about the whole situation, and I hadn't even started baking yet!

When I finally get home I'm dreading the baking, I don't want to have to deal with it, I just want to curl up in a ball and watch TV. In the end it only takes me 45 minutes to bake off 36 cupcakes and make three colors of frosting. At this point my begrudging attitude seemed a little silly. I wrapped everything up and called it a night.

The next morning I got up and gathered all of my baking from the night before and loaded everything in my car. I went to my church office and started setting up. I put the frosting in several bowls, shook my blue and white sprinkles into bowls and then everything changed. My favorite little girl showed up, and she decorated a cupcake with a huge smile on her face.

My church puts on a camp with an organization called Royal Family. Every year we take 24 kids from the foster care system to the mountains and give them a week of camp, plain and simple. They're some of the greatest kids you will meet. Then, around Christmas time we throw them a Christmas party, and I bring cupcakes and frosting and sprinkles for them to decorate, and it's always worth it.

My heart was overwhelmed on Saturday, these kids are so joyful, so deserving of love. Sometimes I get grumpy about baking, but when the result is like this, it's always worth it.

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