Crafty Me. And Cupcakes.

Triple Chocolate, Browned Butter Yellow Cake, and Champagne Cherry Chip

I had a very crafty childhood.  Perhaps it was because those were the dark days before internet, Wii games, and DVRs with on-demand kiddie shows.  The days when a stay at home mom had to do more than push a button to keep two active kids entertained.  Don’t read that as judgement, please – I’m about to become a button pushing mom myself.  But something about being pregnant has made me increasingly nostalgic about my own childhood, and my memories of the fun and crazy things my brother and I did, all in the name of daytime entertainment.  A lot of what I remember was food related.  Or at least kitchen related.  I specifically recall getting to do “experiments” – which involved a dish tub and a large number of random ingredients, some edible (flour, spices, etc) and some not so much (dirt, bugs), all mixed up with water into something that can only be described as nasty.  I’m sure it was a great way to keep a little one distracted and out of the way – but wow!  I can’t believe my mom supported that kind of craziness.  And cleaned up after it.

Some of the later years involved mind-blowing afternoon snacking sessions where the bro and I might down batches of chocolate chip cookie dough (mom probably wished she hadn’t taught me to bake quite so early in life!), or hotdogs cold straight out of the package, or, you know, entire sticks of butter.  In all fairness to mom, those things happened after she became a single working mom, and we became latchkey kids.  Oh, and I remember getting to fry things.  In oil!  Hot oil!  With parental guidance, in that case.  My favorite was cubes of cheese, dipped in a Bisquick batter, fried until they were golden and crispy and gooey inside.

It wasn’t all food stuff – I also remember making a maze of tents out of bed sheets and one of those big box fans.  We’d lay the sheets on the ground, anchor the sides with books and heavy stuff, then crank up the fan until we had an inflated tent to play in.  And there were paper tube marble chutes, I remember those too.  Rolls of paper taped to a wall in a series, so you could drop a marble into the top and send it all the way down through the maze of tubes, going back and forth across the wall.

There was cross stitch and crochet and latch hook.  there were things made in miniature for my dollhouse. Oh, my dollhouse – that deserves an entire post of its own!  Huge, wood, and handmade by my grandparents, the hubster and I just recently rescued it from a box in the basement, and it is now in the baby’s room – needing some cleaning and repair, but ready to be loved all over again.

cute baby stuff crocheted by my mom

my dollhouse, now 30+ years old!

I even got to do great “crafty” things in school – oddly enough, by being in the gifted and talented education program (don’t get excited, I was put in the program because my older brother is stupid smart, if you know what I mean).  For me, GATE meant that I got to take a photography class in third grade, learning how to use the camera and develop the photos.  Toxic chemicals for a 9 year old!  And calligraphy in fourth grade.  Sigh, a little boring.  But I do have nice penmanship.

So this is a long intro and more than I have likely ever written on this blog.  Bear with me, I recently got some nice compliments about the blog and my writing, and I’m obviously feeling oh-so-confident as a result – but I will, I will get to the point.  And the cupcakes.

Where was I going with all of this?  Oh, yes, crafting.  The tiny thread of thought that I’m following is that I grew up with crafty influences, and I continued to do crafty things well into my adulthood – cross stitch was actually one of my great loves well into my 20’s, and photography is a long time hobby and something that I studied in college and later as well.  And then I started my business, and kind of gave up everything else.  There is a lot about my business that fills my creative needs – I do all the recipe development, design all the packaging, take all the photos, edit the website, etc. – but now that I’m in year 6 it feels more like work and less like fun.  I miss the fun!

Pay attention, this is where I actually start to make sense.  Just in the last few weeks, I finally got a decent breather from the constant crunch of work, and at the same time, had a friend’s 40th birthday party to help plan and execute.  Out popped my crafty gene, and I got to work.

photo album scrapbook

Wow, this really feels like a let down after that long build up. So I made a photo album.  And a birthday card.  And three kinds of cupcakes.  It felt a lot more awesome before I wrote all this other stuff.  But I’ll go with it, I’ve come this far.  The photo album was the most fun – it was a surprise for the birthday girl.  I sent an email out to the people invited to the party, asking them to send me photos or bring them to the party, to put into the scrapbook with their own notes and birthday wishes.  Since the invite list covered a broad spectrum of her life (family, friends, coworkers, the other ladies from our soccer team, etc.), the responses also made for a great overall view of her as a person, and all the amazing things she’s done.  I didn’t get to stay at the party long enough (see previous posts re: I’m pregnant.  And old.) to see how it was coming together, I’m betting that the finished project will turn out just how I hoped.  I used a black paper spiral bound scrapbook for the album, custom made a front label for it (and a coordinating birthday card), and then used adhesive photo corners for adding the pictures and a silver gel pen for writing inscriptions.  Pretty much like this similar album:

album detail

Now, let’s cupcake. As usual I took my lazy persons approach to these, and started with boxed cake mix.  It is what it is, people.  To the triple chocolate cake mix, I swapped out some of the water for some chocolate liqueur.  Then I topped the cupcakes with chocolate ganache.  For the yellow cake version, I used browned butter in place of some of the oil and topped them with chocolate buttercream.  And for the cherry chip, I subbed in champagne for some of the water and topped them with pink vanilla buttercream.  Decorations included silver disco dust on the chocolate ganache, a piped chocolate “R” on the cherry chip, and a flower made from Dots candy and a marshmallow cut into pieces for the yellow cake.  All listed out step by step, below.

A photo album, birthday card, and cupcakes were about as much craftiness as I could handle at this point in my life (falling-over-pregnant and still running my business), but I have high hopes for increased crafting in the future – especially when I can take inspiration from my new little truffle baby.

But no, I’m not going to let her do any kitchen experiments involving flour, water, dirt and bugs.  In case you were wondering.

One year ago on C&T:  409 Mai Tai

Two years ago on C&T: Butter, Buttermilk Biscuits, and S’mores Brownies

cupcake trio

Champagne Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Pink Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 box cherry chip cake mix
  • eggs, oil, etc., needed to make the cake mix
  • 1/3 cup champagne (tip: most stores stock small bottles of champagne, enough for the mix and a small glass for you)

Mix up the cake mix according to directions EXCEPT leave out 1/3 cup of the water, using 1/3 cup champagne instead.  Portion into 24 cupcake tins and bake as directed.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Pink Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp boiling water
  • red food coloring

Cream softened butter in a large mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add vanilla and salt and mix well.  Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  After all the powdered sugar is incorporated, start adding boiling water, one tablespoon at a time.  To add the water start the mixer on low speed, then slowly drizzle in the tablespoon of water.  Turn the mixer up to medium high and whip until the water is completely incorporated.  Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency that you prefer.  Add red food coloring, one drop at a time, until you reach the shade of pink that you desire.  Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large star or flower tip and frost cupcakes.

For chocolate letter decorations: create a template for the letter you want to pipe – pick a font on your computer, get the letter to the size you want, and repeat it as many times as you can fit on a standard size piece of paper (leaving at least two inches between each letter).  Print out the paper and place it under a piece of parchment paper.  Melt chocolate or candy melts in the microwave (be careful not to burn if using real chocolate!), spoon into a seal top plastic bag and cut off a TINY piece of one corner.  Pipe the chocolate onto the parchment, tracing the shape of the letters below.  Place into the refrigerator or freezer to set.  You can also gussie up your chocolate letters by brushing on some lustre dust after they set (I used a rose color).

Browned Butter Yellow Cake Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • eggs, oil, etc. needed to make the cake mix
  • 1/3 cup browned butter (click for instructions on browning butter)

Mix up the cake mix according to directions EXCEPT leave out 1/3 cup of the oil, using 1/3 cup browned butter instead.  Portion into 24 cupcake tins and bake as directed.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 to 4 Tbsp boiling water

Cream softened butter in a large mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add vanilla and salt and mix well.  Add cooled, melted chocolate and mix until completely combined.  Add powdered sugar one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.  After all the powdered sugar is incorporated, start adding boiling water, one tablespoon at a time.  To add the water start the mixer on low speed, then slowly drizzle in the tablespoon of water.  Turn the mixer up to medium high and whip until the water is completely incorporated.  Continue adding water a tablespoon at a time until you reach the consistency that you prefer.  Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip and frost cupcakes.

For flower decorations: using kitchen shears cut a large marshmallow into five pieces.  Place one piece of Dots candy (or an m&m, or other candy of your choice) in the center of the frosted cupcake, then surround it with the five marshmallow pieces to form the petals of the flower.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

  • 1 chocolate cake mix with chocolate chunks included
  • eggs, oil, etc., needed to make the cake mix
  • 1/3 cup chocolate liqueur such as Godiva

Mix up the cake mix according to directions EXCEPT leave out 1/3 cup of the water, using 1/3 cup chocolate liqueur instead.  Portion into 24 cupcake tins and bake as directed.  Allow to cool completely before topping with the ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Combine chocolate, cream, and butter in the top of a double boiler set over barely simmering water.  Stir often.  Remove from heat when about 3/4 of the chocolate is melted, stir vigorously until the ganache is smooth.   Allow to cool, stirring every few minutes, until mixture starts to thicken and hold its shape.  Carefully dip the top of each baked and cooled cupcake into the ganache, twirling slightly.  Allow to set completely before adding disco dust or other decoration.

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One thought on “Crafty Me. And Cupcakes.

  1. Oh, she WILL be doing cooking experiments. Emily will be sure to teach her. I learned the hard way…Kids: “Mom, can we do some experiments?” Me: “Sure”. (that sounds educational). Next thing I know, the kids are rumaging through the pantry and pulling out every staple there is, mixing in different concoctions and tasting. Ewww. BTW, those cupcakes look delicious. Do you do baby showers? 😉

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