Sweet Treats: “Manly” Cupcakes and others inspired by Pie!

One of my dear friends turned 40 last night, and his awesome wife threw him a little “semi”-surprise party on a Tuesday night to celebrate. Although it ended up being a FANTASTIC gathering — it was a little bit, um … spur of the moment. So when she asked me to make cupcakes, I had to get things together pretty fast.

This crew is quite a group of beer aficionados, so right away I knew I wanted to make some sort of beer cupcake. And when I found out his favorite dessert was southern-style Banana Pudding with Vanilla Wafers, I knew I had to incorporate that in, too. So … drum roll please: these are the creations I came up with!

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These cupcakes were very manly — and freaking tasty, too. I’m not even a beer drinker, and I thought these were some of the most chocolatey, moist and delicious cupcakes I’ve ever eaten! The cake not only has a Chocolate Porter infused into the mix, but it has mini chocolate chips as well, which melted inside when baked and really kept the cake nice and gooey. As for toppings, I used crushed chocolate covered pretzels, ’cause really — what goes better with beer than pretzels?

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Want to make your own, but short on time like I was? It’s OK – you can use a box mix! I found this easy recipe from Duncan Hines and made some tweaks to it, and it was fantastic. I also used a Chocolate Porter instead of the Guinness Stout. And seriously – if you are in a time crunch, don’t feel guilty about using a box, just make sure if you are using one, its Duncan Hines.

Make your own!

Cake:

  • 1 (18.25 oz) box dark chocolate cake mix
  • 1 (12 oz) Guinness Extra Stout (or Chocolate Porter)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup mini-chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place cake mix, beer, oil and eggs into a large bowl and mix together. Fold the chocolate chips into the batter. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 full. Bake 18-22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed with finger. Cool on racks.

I also borrowed from this awesome post on the Bake at 350 blog when it came to styling them. Like she says, keep them manly – don’t use piping or swirls. And she topped them with the chocolate covered pretzels, which was pure genius.

You can use her recipe for beer frosting too on the post, or you can cheat like I did and use cream cheese frosting. It was a hit.

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The Banana Cream Cupcakes were also a cheat. I used Duncan Hines Yellow Cake mix, and made the cupcakes according to the package directions. Then, I used a cupcake corer to remove the middles and I filled them with Banana Pudding and Pie Filling. Use your favorite vanilla icing to frost them. Then, I smashed ‘Nilla Wafers to sprinkle the tops with and stuck a whole one right on top. Let me tell you, I can say with confidence these were the yummiest cupcakes I’ve ever made.

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Special Treats: Surprise for Mamas!

I sure am lucky to have a lot of mama friends in my life, and when new babies are born, I like to make “special” cookies, just for mamas. I found this special recipe after I had my daughter and they helped me, so I like to make them for moms who might want a little help, too.

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I made a batch yesterday and wanted to make a few surprise deliveries. My packaging supplies are a little tapped out lately, so I threw together these bags with stuff I already had. It’s super easy, and it’s not hard to do!

Here’s what you’ll need:

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1. Cardstock/Scrapbook Paper Stack; prices vary by brand and store / 2. Scalloped edge scissors; $3.95 / 3. X-Large Circle squeeze punch, $17.99 / 4. Plain brown paper lunch sacks, Prices vary by store

Simply choose whatever paper you’d like to use, cut the same width as the bag. Fold bag down, and fold paper over the bag fold. Punch holes through bag and paper and tie with ribbon or wraphia. Embellish using craft punches, scalloped scissors or whatever you have on hand!

If you’d like to make your own cookies for a nursing momma, check the recipe! Have fun surprising someone, too!

An epic birthday calls for an epic cake

Today is Mr. Four-Eyed Girlie’s 40th birthday. We had a party to celebrate his magnificent self last night (he really is the best) and I made a ginormous surprise birthday cake for him.

I could go into all the details of how I brainstormed with my parents after I was inspired by this cake. Or, I could elaborate on my dad’s brilliant idea to use petit fours icing to coat the “40” shaped cake, rather than try to frost it (and my mom found this delicious recipe for petit fours icing using white chocolate – yum!). Or, I could talk even more about how we spent the whole day putting it together and how my dad, AKA Mr. Precision, cut all those fondant Star Trek emblems for my cupcakes. But, sometimes you have to stop trying to document every moment — sometimes it hits the spot to just focus on having fun with it and do the best you can.

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I really wanted to surprise my husband. Never in a million years did he think I’d indulge his love for Star Trek with a cake. My parents have enjoyed being a cake making team for years and their enthusiasm has definitely rubbed off on me. Having them work with me and teach me was so fun, and the experience is what really ended up being the biggest gift.  Oh, and my husband got a surprise made with love from not just me, but my parents as well. 🙂

So while I may not be the next Cake Boss, this came from the heart! Happy Birthday to the best husband ever – and a big thanks to my amazing mom and dad!

Crafty: Baby Shower Cupcakes + Favor Boxes

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I had the privilege of making cupcakes and favor boxes for a baby shower yesterday —one of my very favorite kind of projects! The hosts chose a “little man”/necktie theme, and wanted cupcakes for both the party and to take home as favors. When they told me baby-to-be’s name was going to be Lincoln and they wanted to incorporate an Abraham Lincoln quote into the favors, I was inspired!

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The boxes were pretty simple. I bought individual kraft brown cupcake boxes and inserts from a local cake supply store, designed the artwork for the quote for on the back, the two circles on the sides and the tie for the front, and printed on kraft brown cardstock. I was able to tuck the top of the tie into the closure tab of the cupcake box on the front.

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I just used the various scrapbook papers I had available for the cupcake toppers — the hosts requested blue, lime green, yellow and orange — and cut little neckties. I used my 1-in. scalloped circle punch to use as a backing and tape to a toothpick.

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All in all, pretty simple stuff — I do love a baby party!

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Crafty: Make a Diaper Cake

RedTricycle_Badge_FNL 1This weekend was filled with celebrations, two of which were baby showers for second-time mommas. And because I’m a momma myself who appreciates practical things now more than ever, I really enjoy gifting diaper cakes. Because seriously — you always need diapers. So. Many. Diapers.

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There are lots of variations on the diaper cake out there, but most are … pretty cheesy. I worked with a woman years ago who taught me how to make gorgeous diaper cakes, and they always turn out cool and pretty darn impressive. It’s fun to play with different ribbons and colors to create a different look for each one. I also like to add a pair of shoes to it as the “cake topper”. Want to make your own? Of course you do! It’s not hard, I promise. Here’s a little “how-to” for you:

What you’ll need:

  • 60 diapers (I use Pampers Swaddlers, size 2. These diapers seems to have the least printed designs on them)
  • Rubber bands
  • Paper clips (2)
  • Ribbon
  • Artificial Flowers
  • 1- 14″ round cardboard cake board
  • 1-yd. white tulle
  • Hot glue gun and/or double-sided tape

Instructions:
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1. Begin with rolling one diaper (printed design facing inward) and wrap a rubber band around it. (This diaper will be the “core” that all of the diapers are stacked and layered around)

2. Make stacks of about 5 diapers, spaced out equally, one on top of the other.

3. Take these stacks one at a time, and fit and form around the core you created. Keep building, approx. 5 diapers at a time. Keep rubber banding after each stack or so to keep all the diapers together.

4. After stacking and building, create two layers for the “cake”, one larger than the other. I usually use about 30-35 diapers for the larger bottom layer, and about 20-25 diapers for the top layer. (Diaper count will vary, depending on how much spacing there is between diapers)

IMG_012455. After the two layers of the cake reach the desired size, wrap ribbon around the center of each (you want to hide the rubber bands). Cut ribbon to appropriate length.

6. Use a paperclip to attach one end of the ribbon to the rubber band — the goal is not to damage the diapers in any way, you want all diapers to be be fully intact and useable. Attach double-sided tape to the other end of the ribbon and wrap around to close.

7. Once ribbon is centered and secured, cut the flowers off their stems, and use the stem to feed through the center of each diaper cake layer (This will keep the layers from slipping off and will secure them to each other). Cut excess stem from the top so you can’t see it.

8. Use a hot glue gun to attach flowers to the ribbon. Be sure that you don’t get glue on the diapers by gluing on the plastic backing of the artificial flower. When attaching the flower, place your hand behind the ribbon to keep glue from leaking through to the diapers. Attach the flowers to cover the cut in the ribbon.
IMG_012429. Once your cake is assembled, set it on the cake board and place your shoes on top. If you don’t want to use shoes, you can add more flowers, a baby toy, or whatever else you think might look cool. I love Chucks, and because this particular baby has a daddy who lives in his Converse, I knew this cake had to have a tiny pair!
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10. Once you’re ready to wrap, place the diaper cake on top of the tulle, and gather towards the top. Use a rubber band to secure the tulle once you’ve got it wrapped perfectly. I like to cover the rubber band by tying thin ribbon at the top, and for this particular cake, I included a round rattle for the top that went perfectly with my black + white theme.

Hooray for Happy Mamas!
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The second one I made this weekend was for a baby girl — and had some moolah to go along with it! It looks so different!
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Another happy mama!
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What will yours look like?

Sweet Treats: Carrot Cake Fudge

Truth be told, one of the things I love most about this time of year are all those adorable, pastel-colored Easter candies that float around alongside smiling bunny rabbits and super-cute baby chicks. The candy is totally my downfall … I love Cadbury Creme Eggs, Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs, and of course the old-school Easter favorite: Peeps.

It only seemed right to make candy for Easter this year, but because there’s usually such chocolate overload, I wanted to find a chocolate alternative. Then I came across this recipe for Carrot Cake Fudge and I knew I had to make it.

If you’re a fan of Carrot Cake, you’re definitely a fan of this Carrot Cake Fudge. It’s got a thick bottom layer of Carrot Cake flavor, and it’s even topped with a thin layer of Cream Cheese fudge. Yep — that means very rich and decadent. The original recipe called for Carrot Cake M&M’s, but since I never found any, I settled on Reese’s Pieces. I like the way the small bit of peanut butter pairs with the fudge.

Because I was feeling very confectionery, I decided to go old-school and wrap up the fudge in wax paper. I couldn’t seem to stop there, so I made a little “belt” for the wrapper out of various scrapbook papers I had available, and tied it up with a simple tag and wraphia.

Want to make your own? Follow the link for the recipe. Happy Easter!

Sweet Treats: Happy Cupcakes

Today, a sweet little girl turned one, and I was lucky enough to watch her celebrate. Of course, I was even happier that I got asked if I’d make the cupcakes for the event. My answer was an emphatic and anxious YES!

I kept things pretty simple (it was a toddler party, after all) and went with white cake + white frosting. I’m kind of obsessed with the red/aqua/lime color combo as it’s bright, cheery, modern and youthful all at the same time. So, when I found adorable polka dotted cupcake liners these three key colors, I knew they’d be a sweet match when paired with my usual arsenal of striped and polka dotted scrapbook papers.

Wanna make some too? All you need are a few simple items:
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1. Set of 100 Spring Cupcake PapersCrate & Barrel, $6.95 / 2. Jumbo Confetti Sprinkles in Aqua, Green and Red (not shown)Wilton, $4.49 / 3. 1″ Scalloped Circle Craft PunchMartha Stewart, $9.99 / 4. 2″ Round Circle Squeeze PunchFiskars, $16.99 / 5. Contrasting and Coordinating scrapbook paper and number stickers