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Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge #8

For February's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge, the mystery ingredient was chocolate cake - seems like a no brainer, right?  The twist was this: with the chocolate cupcake base, you had to incorporate an ingredient not normally paired with chocolate cake.  Now, I've had chocolate with many things: cheeses, chili, lime, ginger, all sorts of liquor and so on.  When trying to come up with a pairing for this challenge, I realized I'd never had chocolate and bacon together.  I know it's a combo that's pretty popular, but we never have REAL bacon in our house.  We like to pretend that turkey bacon tastes just like regular bacon because turkey bacon is not as evil as pork bacon.  Or something.  The first thing I had to do was purchase REAL bacon.  Mmmmmmmmbacon.

I knew it was a cupcake that had been done before, but I'd never done it...so to get the bacon flavor going right from the start, I replaced the oil in my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe with bacon grease.  Sounds kinda gross, eh?  Perhaps, but wow...that smoky bacon flavor really pops with the cocoa.  When I baked the cupcakes, I did everything I normally did...but I guess the change in the "oil" altered the balance just enough that the cupcakes domed over onto the pan.  I hate when that happens!  

While the cupcakes were cooling, I prepared the frosting - Pure Maple Buttercream.  I could eat this frosting by the spoonful if I didn't feel so guilty about doing so...my son on the other hand, doesn't share my guilt.  He's currently running around the house pretending he's The Flash whilst on a sugar high.  

Atop the frosting I placed a piece of chocolate covered bacon, hand dipped by yours truly.  And sugar sprinkles...I love sugar sprinkles.  If you combined bacon and French toast and then covered them in chocolate...yea, that's my cupcake.  

The winner of February’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

Thank you to all our prize sponsors!

 A month ago when I started asking my son what he wanted for his 4th birthday, he would reply with the same answer every time:

"I want to have a party at Chuck E. Cheeses and play games and have a strawberry cake."

Sounded simple enough, right? Well, his older sister is very much allergic to strawberries and I didn't want to make multiple cakes - cupcakes were definitely the way to go. When I found out that this month's challenge was to create a cupcake for a loved one, I knew I would be entering Keaton's birthday cupcakes into the running.

I have this very versitile cupcake recipe that I use for almost everything, and just alter certain ingredients as I go along. Someone once told me that baking is an exact science, you can't just wing it. Well, everytime I wing it, I have a new favorite cupcake!

I made a white cocoa cupcake and filled it with a mixture of strawberry Squeezie Fruit (ever try the stuff? It's amazing!) and white cocoa buttercream. Then I topped the cupcakes with more white cocoa buttercream. My son loves gummy treats - gummy bears, gummy worms, all of the above. So I took some Wonka squishy Sploshberries and placed them on top of the buttercream. After adding a little red sugar crystals, I was done!
Of course, I set some unfilled cupcakes aside for my daughter so she wouldn't have to endure the hives that strawberies give her.

The cupcakes were a hit at his party. Our party hostess even requested one! I'm glad I brought some to-go bakery boxes too, because some other parents wanted to take cupcakes home to their famlies.

The winner of December’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

Thank you to all our prize sponsors!

Cupcake Challenge - ORANGE -

 I wish I had a good backstory for my cupcake creation this month, but I don't!  The mystery ingredient over at The Sweetest Kitchen's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge this month is ORANGE.  

I took my favorite dark chocolate cupcake recipe and added fresh squeezed orange juice as well as grated orange peel. Chocolate+Orange=YUM!
I knew some orange vanilla buttercream would be amazing with the cupcakes and of course I had to add some orange sugar for decoration.

Something was missing...something to make the cupcake extra pretty.  Candied orange peel?  Sure!  I'd never made it before but I gave it a shot.  I had plenty of oranges and that meant I got to use my fun peeler tool to make curls and strips.

I'm incredibly happy with the way the cupcakes turned out and my co-workers really enjoyed them too.  I believe my boss said they were "orgasmic."

The winner of October’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

Thank you to all our prize sponsors!

Baileys Irish Cream Shortbread Cookies!

 These cookies fall somewhere between sugar cookie and shortbread...seriously good, wonderful with a cup of coffee.


1 C unsalted butter
1 1/2 C sugar
3/4 C Baileys
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
4 C all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder


Preheat oven to 350

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
Add Bailey's, vanilla, egg. egg yolk & continue to blend.
*Optional: add food coloring 
Add flour, salt & baking powder. Mix with hands and knead until well formed.
If you want cookies right then and there, roll into 1" balls, and press lightly onto parchment lined cookie sheets about 2" apart.
Sprinkle with sugar and bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden brown.

Or...for rolled sugar cookies.
Allow to refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight. Then roll out and cut into shapes.
Bake 6-8 minutes on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. 
Remove from cookie sheet and allow to cool. Frost at your leisure or leave plain.

Cupcake Challenge - Childhood Memories

My mother used to make all my clothes for me when I was little. Lots of pink, lots of purples, lots of frilly cuteness. I usually had a new dress for the first day of school, for picture day, and every holiday you could possibly imagine...all handmade by mom. I was always decked out in gorgeous dresses and wore ribbons in my long hair almost daily. At that same time, I was also quite a tomboy. I played baseball with my neighbor and climbed trees. I was always covered in mosquito bites and had dirt caked under my nails. I helped build skateboard ramps and I picked my scabs because I thought blood was super cool. To this day, I don't think I've figured out the balance, the yin and yang...but I DO enjoy some cute with my devilish side. I rarely wear pink now but when I do it's usually in a place most people would never see, like my toenails (or pink panties....cause those are fun, too).
That said, for this month's cupcake challenge over at The Sweetest Kitchen, I chose to make a gorgeous pink cupcake... cute, frilly, just like I was as a little girl. I had to incorporate my tomboyish side too, the rebel, something you might not expect in such a cutesy package. Champagne! Unsuspecting, but so very there once you look closely. The cupcake is sweet and bright flavored, the champagne buttercream is addicting. This cupcake is so very me, so very surprising. It's the 6 year old Christy all dressed up but hiding a baby garter snake behind her back.

I'm still sneaky.

This month, I'll even post my recipe:


Champagne Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup of sweet champagne...the sweeter the better
  • 6 egg whites

Champagne Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature


To Make The Cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Prepare a cupcake pan with liners. 

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne.  I used a few drops of red food coloring in some batter I had set aside, so I could swirl the two in the cupcake liners. 

In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.

This recipe made 28 cupcakes for me.


With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes.  Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute.  I always use a Ziploc bag when frosting my cupcakes, not dealing with any tips or whatnot.  I had a good amount of frosting leftover to....eat. What a shame :)


The winner of September’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:

Thank you to all our prize sponsors!
I can't tell you exactly when my love affair with tea began, but I know it was when I was working as a manager for Caribou Coffee in Chicago.  Not being a real tea drinker at the time, I would doctor up my hot tea (and coffee) with loads of sugar or honey.  After all was said and done, my tea didn't taste much like tea anymore!  My palate changed as I grew more comfortable in my job.  I could tell you what region a specific coffee came from just by tasting it, sometimes just by smelling it.  My taste for teas changed, too.  I began to enjoy these beverages for the experiences they often created.  I found my coffee preferences quickly, and within the last few years I found my tea preference:

Irish Breakfast Tea, or if we were in Ireland...just tea.
It's a strong black tea, goes well with small amounts of milk and sugar, and something about the flavor just soothes me.  When I discovered that the mystery ingredient for July was tea, I immediately thought of the leaves in my pantry and went down the list of what might make an amazing cupcake.  I bounced a few ideas off my family, and I decided that I would use the coconut rum tea I'd gotten in the Bahamas a few months ago.  I smelled it, tasted it, even played with the leaves on my fingers to understand the texture...

...but when it became time to actually MAKE these cupcakes, I suddenly had a change of heart.  That tea seemed too easy, and I was afraid that the cupcake would not possess notes of tea.  I placed the coconut tea back in the pantry and went with my instincts.  Irish Breakfast Tea Cupcakes.  I couldn't think of a better cupcake for ME.  It was time to break out my favorite vanilla cupcake recipe...and tweak it a bit!

I decided to steep the tea leaves in whole milk, and to give the cupcakes a really great tea flavor, I steeped more leaves in melted butter.  I cooled down the butter and milk to room temperature before I started the actual baking process.  My kitchen was already smelling delicious just from the tea! 

The first batch of cupcakes finished their baking and I was anxious to try one!  I patiently waited until they were cool enough to taste... and my family was hovering over me in the kitchen, waiting for the green light to dig in, as well.  We agreed, they tasted excellent.  They weren't too sweet and the tea flavor was instantly comforting. 

I've been playing around with different fillings for cakes and cupcakes lately, so I figured I'd try something out on these cupcakes.  As I said before, the cupcakes had a definite comforting and soothing quality to them already...so why not add honey and make them extra comforting?  I whipped up some heavy cream, added honey, and piped the mixture into the cupcakes.  I decided to top the cupcakes with a simple buttercream frosting, but I used some of the leftover tea infused milk instead of plain milk.  I love buttercream, it should be a food group...

I am very pleased with the results.

This post was written for The Sweetest Kitchen's Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge.

Oh, I make messes...

Holy cupcake fail yesterday...it's a recipe I've used before that I tweaked to my own specifications and it's turned out every time.  Yesterday?  Not so much.  The cupcakes tasted really good, but had more of a spongecake like texture and a crustier top.  Weird.  Oh well...I set them aside to figure out what to do with them.  What did I end up making?  Well, they were mango margarita cupcakes...so I made mini mango margarita trifles with pastry cream and a blueberry and mango tequila reduction.

Holy omg goodness.  I did a layer of the cake, then tequila infused mango puree, then a layer of the pastry cream (which I made with orange liquor), then more cake and mango puree.  It needed more color...too yellow and orangeish.  So I put a cup of mango tequila in a saucepan along with about 4 tablespoons of sugar, threw in a cup of fresh blueberries and let that cook down.  I drizzled it on the trifle and it suddenly became GORGEOUS.  I figure tomorrow, I'll finish the mini cups off with a dollop of whipped cream along with a drink umbrella and they'll be perfect for the 4th of July festivities. 
Drew tried one, said it was AMAZING.  He called me a savant.  HA!

The Sweetest Kitchen Challenge - JULY

The mystery ingredient has been announced - TEA!  This challenge is super exciting for me, because I've already made tea themed cupcakes before.  I've gotten more confident in my cupcake making skills in the past few months...I'm not all that great at decorating, but hey, the cupcakes taste GOOD. 

More cupcakes? OK!

I created this community mainly for The Sweetest Kitchen's Mystery Box Competition.  The challenge starts tomorrow, July 1st - I'm curious to see what the mystery ingredient will be!

Stay tuned for the fun stuff...and hopefully yummy stuff.