Lemon Cupcakes & Silicone Baking Cups

La-la-la! LEMON! I’m feeling bright and cheery today, so a bright and cheery lemon cupcake fits in just perfectly. 
You probably remember me saying in the past how citrus-y desserts rarely catch my attention. Vanilla, chocolate, caramel, cinnamon, red velvet…all top picks above anything citrus like lemon or lime. But more often than not, I am pleasantly surprised by them. They’re refreshing and offer a balance of sweet and tart that you can’t get anywhere else. 

The kind people at The New York Baking Co. sent me these silicone cups (don’t worry – they’re BPA free!), giving me all the more reason to bake something special. The baked cupcakes pulled away ever so slightly from the cups while baking, making them pop right out without even hardly trying. No falling apart and no leaving half of the cupcake behind in the liner (not that I would ever let that happen anyway). 
Not only do reusable cups like this save on paper and waste, but they’re also dishwasher safe. Laundry and kitchen cleaning are the two household chores I dislike most, so anything to make kitchen clean-up easier gets an extra thumbs up in my book.

Enough about the baking cups. The cupcakes themselves did not disappoint. Although, it did take me a day to fully appreciate them. See, I have a problem where I never like what I bake right away. Whenever I try something right out of the oven, or even an hour later, I don’t think it tastes good. When I let some time pass and try it again later on, I will want to eat every last bite. So what changes in that time period?

One theory I have is that while I’m baking, I’m usually taking tastes of the batter here and tastes of the frosting there, which may be suppressing my appetite. By the time the real thing is ready to go, I’m not as into it.

Or, maybe it’s the idea that things simply taste better when other people make them for you. PB&J, Kraft Mac and Cheese…the simple childhood classics are always best when made by Mom or Dad, am I right? But I usually don’t have this problem when it comes to my own cooking. I’m almost always pleased with what I cook (as opposed to bake) straight off the bat.

Whatever the case may be, in the end I loved these little citrus treats and I know you will too.

I followed Jessica’s recipe for Fluffy Lemon Cupcakes, only subbed homemade sugar frosting for the whipped coconut cream (only because I didn’t have the right kind of coconut milk on hand, but I look forward to trying it next time). 
  

If you’re interested in the silicone baking cups, you can purchase a 12-pack on Amazon for $11.95*.

*I updated this post on 8/7/14 to reflect the increased price I was recently made aware of.

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Top 5 Vegetarian Super Bowl Party Foods

Although I don’t care about the football part of the Super Bowl this year, I’m always looking for an excuse to make party foods. I’ve got to have something to munch on while watching three or four hours of commercials…I mean…football.

Here’s a lineup of my menu ideas, all of which are vegetarian (or can easily be made vegetarian):

1. White Pizza with Spinach and Bacon. What’s a football party without pizza? I realize bacon doesn’t qualify as vegetarian, but you can simply leave that off.

2. Crispy Healthy Baked Zucchini Fries. I think a Jalapeno Yogurt Dip would be great with these.

3. Skillet Black Bean & Veggie Nachos. One of my personal game day favorites. Crunchy, cheesy, filling and down right delicious.

4. Spicy Corn and Potato Chowder. Nothing like a hot bowl of soup during these cold winter days.

5. Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream. I don’t know about you, but it’s been far too long since I’ve made cupcakes. These little gems are calling my name. Plus, after eating all these veggies, we deserve it!

What are you making for the Super Bowl?

Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

Soooo. I know I just told you the other day how I’m over pumpkin, and it’s really not all that great to begin with, yady yady yada…

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1. I may not quite be over pumpkin if it’s in the form of these cupcakes. But they hardly count, because like I also mentioned the other day you can’t hardly taste it in the cake anyway. Chocolate is the dominant flavor here. The pumpkin does add an amazing element of moistness and warmth, but overall not a standout flavor.
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2. I also neglected to mention there is one more pumpkin item I’m not over yet. Pumpkin pie!! I can easily get caught up in allllllllll of the other choices on Thanksgiving, but when it comes down to it, old trusty pumpkin pie always satisfies. As long as it has a giant dollop of whipped cream on top. I CAN’T WAIT! Two days, two days, two days, two days, two days!
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Moral of the story, I have to retract my previous statements about pumpkin just a little bit. I do in fact still enjoy it. Sorry for the confusion. 
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Oh, and one other thing. Shortly after publishing the last post, I realized I already have a baked pumpkin donut recipe – Baked Pumpkin Spice Donuts made with pumpkin Greek yogurt. My latest version are much prettier. Either that or my photography is getting better (thank goodness), but probably a combination of both. 
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These cupcakes though! Have I mentioned yet that I baked them specifically for a bake-off at work last week? Out of the four voting categories, I won two of them – “Yummiest” and “Martha Stewart Would Be Proud.” I came in second place for “Best Looking.”
Not to brag, but… 
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Maybe you should make these. They are that good. Award winning! 
I can’t take credit though, because Jenny is the genius behind the rich, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth concoction. 
This is actually another second-timer recipe for me. The reason I made these cupcakes in the first place was because of the rave reviews my family gave it when I made it in a whole cake form two years ago for Thanksgiving. It was just as good as I remembered, if not better, because what’s not better in cupcake form? As with the pumpkin donuts, these pictures give the cake much more credibility than the original post. I am also sharing the recipe below exactly how I made them, since there are differences from Jenny’s version. 
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Go make ya some!
Double Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

(Adapted from the Picky Palate)

Makes about 28 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cake-
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup almond milk
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
15 ounce can pumpkin (save two tablespoons for the frosting)
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the frosting-
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons of canned pumpkin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons almond milk

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper or silicone liners and set aside.
2. In a stand mixer, combine all cake ingredients except chocolate chips. Beat on medium speed until well blended, stopping to scrape down sides as needed. Fold in chocolate chips and stir until evenly distributed. Pour batter into pan by the 1/4 cup. Bake 18-20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting.
3. For the frosting, add butter, cream cheese, pumpkin and cinnamon in a stand mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and creamy. Slowly add powdered sugar, about a cup at a time until you reach desired thickness. Add milk and mix until completely smooth. Frost and sprinkle as desired!

*Very important to wait until cupcakes are completely cooled to frost, otherwise the frosting will melt and slide right off.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

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Remember how I used to actually do this thing called baking? Then I would tell you all about the delicious creations and show you pretty pictures. I didn’t always leave this internet page of mine alone and occasionally stop by to only review what and where I ate. Those were the days. 
But wait! Those days are back. See…
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Cupcakes! Pretty little cupcakes! Just for you.
I know I sound like a broken record, but this wedding thing is getting so close. In less than three weeks I will be in Columbus just days away from walking down the aisle.

Besides just counting days and weeks, I am quantifying everything I do in terms of how many times I will do it before the wedding. For example, when leaving Trader Joe’s on Sunday, I told Greg, “We will only go grocery shopping three more times until we’re married!” (Side note – in our efforts to be more money-conscious, we’ve successfully cut back our frequent grocery shopping trips to just one streamlined trip per week. It’s been fabulous).

My energy has been pouring into planning and organizing, in addition to the usual working, puppy-raising, and running (which, by the way, has gradually increased to the point where I’m running about two times as much as I ever have before. I think that explains a lot of my extra tiredness too). 

Baking and cooking anything new or exciting has been put on the back burner, no pun intended. But all hope is not lost. These sweet cupcakes proved to me there is light at the end of the no-homemade-baked-goods-in-the-midst-of-an-upcoming-wedding tunnel. 
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When life is busy and you feel like you don’t have time or energy to bake, but just absolutely need a homemade sweet treat, these are the answer! Don’t even look at those packaged baked goods in the grocery store. Seriously. Stop it! They’re not worth it. 
These are worth it. 
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They take approximately 5-10 minutes to throw together (depending on your level of sugar deprivation), and can be made in one bowl. A dozen cupcakes and only one dirty bowl later and you’ll be onto your next busy life task in no time, wondering why you even gave those pre-packaged grocery store baked goods a second look. 
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Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
With Vanilla Buttercream
(Adapted from The Cupcake)

Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Chocolate Chip Cupcakes-
Ingredients:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cake flour
7 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 batch of vanilla buttercream (recipe below)
Sprinkles as desired

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line standard size cupcake tin with paper liners and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, add flours, butter, sugars and eggs. Use a hand mixer to beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Fold in the chocolate chips.
3. Pour batter into cupcake wells until about 2/3 full. Bake 20-22 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Vanilla Buttercream-
Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions:
In a medium bowl, cream butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add salt and vanilla extract. Slowly add milk while beating on low speed until frosting reaches desired consistency.

{Vegan} Whole Wheat Banana Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting

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Sometimes I bake things that I know are going to be good before I even start. If I’m following a tried and true recipe, or sticking with traditional flavors and ingredients, I don’t usually worry about the outcome. 
This was not one of those times. 
Yesterday I showed you my breakfast from the weekend – a bagel, spread with mashed avocado, and topped with sliced bananas. I was one bite into the bagel when I knew what I would bake later on that day. 
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In my head, it had potential. When I said it out loud, it just sounded weird. But I could not get the idea out of my head. I wanted to…needed to…combine the banana and avocado flavors into my most beloved dessert. I worked up the courage and decided to go for it. 
The only question was: banana cupcakes with avocado frosting? Or avocado cupcakes with banana frosting. Judging by the title of this post and the pictures, I think you know what the answer turned out to be. 
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Once I had the flavors figured out, I wanted to take these cupcakes one step further. I wanted to healthify them. 
Besides the fact they’re filled with all-natural fruits, I brought in whole wheat flour and cut back on the sugar. I even made them vegan by leaving out butter and eggs, instead only using vegetable oil. 
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The end result was better than I even imagined. I mean really, what’s better than a (somewhat) healthy cupcake? 
You want to make these soon. And because of the green frosting, I think you need to at least make them this week/weekend for St. Patrick’s Day, no?
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Yes.

{Vegan} Whole Wheat Banana Cupcakes with Avocado Frosting 

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes-
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3/4 cup almond milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 very ripe medium bananas, mashed

For the frosting-
3/4 medium avocado
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon almond milk

Sprinkles, if desired

Directions:
For the cupcakes-
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill cupcake tin with liners and place aside.
2. In a medium/large bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar. Whisk well and set aside. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, add vegetable oil, milk and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until well combined, about 2-3 minutes. Add mashed banana and continue to beat another 2-3 minutes. Turn speed to low and slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Beat until just combined, be careful not to overmix. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl and give the batter a couple stirs.
3. Fill cupcake wells with batter, about 3/4 full. Bake 15-18 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting-
1. Add the meat of the avocado to the bowl of a stand-alone mixer. Beat on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes.
2. Add remaining ingredients to the bowl. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 3-4 minutes.

Weekend Eats 2-18-13

Hello, hello! It’s been a little while and a lot has happened in the past few days so let’s catch up.

I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day. I did. It was amazing, maybe even the best ever. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen I was surprised on my lunchbreak on Thursday when I came home to box of a dozen Cupcake cupcakes from Greg.

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I could not have been more excited. Thankfully I had some family in town this weekend to help me eat them all. I loved every bite, but I am also glad they are gone now. I had plenty. My favorite flavor always seems to change with these, but this time around I was loving the Cookies and Cream. 
Another thing that made my Valentine’s Day so great was the Rascal Flatts concert! Greg got me tickets for my birthday, which conveniently served dual purpose for Valentine’s too. Rascal Flatts put on an amazing show. Our seats were about four rows back from the stage, which didn’t hurt either 😉
The weekend brought lunch at Black Bean Co. on Friday. 
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And a dinner date with Greg on Friday night at Sesame. We started with the pimento cheese appetizer. 
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I had the Napa Valley Black Bean Burger (in a bowl) – fig and bacon jam, bleu cheese, and a red wine reduction. 
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Yes, it was as delicious as it sounds. And the patty was enormous, making for great leftovers the next day. 
On Sunday, I took my family to Triangle for brunch after church. It was PACKED. Greg and I go here often for Sunday brunch, and I haven’t seen in that crowded in a longggg time. It was worth the extra wait for our table and our food. Sipping on $1 mimosas helps pass the time waiting. 
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I had blueberry pancakes that I scarfed down before getting a picture. You can say they were mighty delicious. 
My weekend ended after saying goodbye to my family and making a simple meal at home consisting of a vegetable medley (chopped portabella mushroom cap, broccoli, onion, sun-dried tomato, chipotle sauce, shredded cheese), and a couple slices of a garlic herb baguette. 
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What was the tastiest thing you ate this weekend?

I {Heart} Vanilla Cupcakes

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It’s true. I’m in love. It’s like the candy heart just magically knew what I was thinking as these cupcakes were coming together. 
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I think it’s what you call love at first sight. I might even go as far to say it was love at first thought. Pink. Heart-shaped. Vanilla. Frosting. Sprinkles. Candy. 
All rolled into one precious cupcake. 
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Yes, that is love. 
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Oh yeah, there’s also this guy in my life that I’m going to marry in about 3 1/2 months (!!!!!). You could say I’m pretty in love with him too. But you don’t need to hear about all that right now. 
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These little cake-of-the-cups have the most perfect, simple vanilla flavor. Some people may associate vanilla with ‘plain’ or ‘boring.’ But not here. Not now. 
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Make these cupcakes for the one YOU love this Valentine’s Day and I promise they will love you even more. Make them for yourself and well, if you don’t love yourself after that, then all hope is lost.
In all seriousness, I hope you love yourself anyway. Eating cupcakes or not, just love yourself.

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I {Heart} Vanilla Cupcakes 
Makes 12 cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cupcakes-
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 + 1/3 cup granulated sugar 
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
Red food coloring
12 candy hearts
Sprinkles

For the frosting-
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk

Directions:
For the cupcakes-
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with liners of choice, heart-shaped if you have them!
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk and set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand-alone mixer, add butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and creamy. Add egg white, followed by vanilla extract and beat until well incorporated. Turn to low speed and add half of the flour. Slowly add milk, followed by the remaining flour mixture. Beat until well combined.
4. Pour half of the cupcake batter into a separate bowl. Add 2-3 drops of red food coloring to one of the bowls of batter. Mix thoroughly, adding more food coloring as needed to reach your desired shade of pink/red.
5. Drop pink/red batter by the tablespoon into the cupcake wells. Then drop a tablespoon of the white batter into the wells. Use a toothpick to gently swirl the batter together in each of the wells.
6. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
7. Frost as desired. Top each cupcake with a candy heart for the full Valentine’s Day effect 🙂

For the frosting-
1. Add butter and powdered sugar to the bowl of a stand-alone mixer. Beat on medium speed for about one minute. Add the vanilla and milk while continuing to beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Be sure to scrap down the sides of the bowl as needed.