Father’s Day AND Day of Birth Celebration! Strawberry and Chocolate Chip Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

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I know it has been a longgggg time, but I have been a very busy lady! I have been nannying for a lovely family during the day, and getting my butt kicked by P90x/Insanity at night. I have still managed to continue baking, but I just haven’t had the time for new posts.

But alas, I HAD to post today. Today has been a wonderful day. I woke up to some great news: the woman that I work for delivered a beautiful, healthy baby girl! That in itself is a reason to bake. On top of that, it is also Father’s Day! I have always been a daddy’s girl, and I decided to spend the day with him. We went to the driving range (my arms are ACHING), and on the way back we stopped at Wawa for some refreshing frozen iced teas.

Anyways, since I was in SUCH a good mood, I decided to bake some cupcakes. For those who do not know me well: I HATE baking cupcakes. Making the cupcake itself is a hassle; all of that pouring and mixing is a pain in the butt. And then on top of THAT you have to make frosting. Me and the piping bag are arch enemies. But since I had the time, I decided to give it a shot.

I wanted to make something that the family I work for would enjoy. I settled for a strawberry chocolate chip vanilla cupcake. The girls LOVE strawberries, and enjoy chocolate (what child doesn’t??). I topped them off with a vanilla buttercream frosting with some pink food coloring to celebrate the baby’s arrival.

Here’s the thing: I was feeling a little lazy. As stated above, my arms were aching from the driving range, and I didn’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen, away from my dad. So I did something unheard of: I used a BOX MIX for the cupcakes.

Before you exit out of this tab, give me a chance to explain! I didn’t prepare the cupcakes with the directions on the box. I did something much, MUCH better. I found a link a while back on good ol’ Pinterest that described a way to prepare cupcakes with a box mix that made them taste homemade. It caught my attention and I am glad that I saved the link, because you CAN NOT tell that these came from a box mix.

My dad said that these are “the most amazing cupcakes that he has ever had”.  They are moist, soft, and filled with flavor. Once the sweetness of the berries wears off, you start to taste the rich milk chocolate chips. The vanilla frosting is perfect. I am not a humongous fan of frosting. *Gasp* I know, it is pretty strange. But I find this frosting to have the perfect amount of sweetness; it satisfies your sweet tooth without making you diabetic.

For the Cupcakes:

Ingredients

  • Vanilla Cake Mix (you want a good quality one! Either Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted ( do not use margarine)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 large strawberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave.
  3. In a large bowl, add the cake mix, eggs, and water to the butter.
  4. Mix on low for a minute, and then on high for a minute. You will already see a difference: the batter is thick and creamy, as opposed to thin and watery when prepared with the box’s instructions.
  5. Add the strawberries and chocolate chips, mix them in throughout the batter.
  6. Fill 24 cupcake wells with paper liners. Evenly distribute the batter. I find that using an ice cream scoop uses the perfect amount of batter, and also makes the cupcakes look nice and equal. It also is SO much quicker, and less messy!
  7. Put them in the oven for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For The Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (Adapted Slightly From Food Network)

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk
  • Food coloring (optional)
  1. In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla and milk and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more milk if needed for spreading consistency.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies to Celebrate Spring!

 

Although there have been a few questionable days weather wise, I think it is safe to say that spring is here! As I type this, I hear birds chirping and a light breeze is blowing in through the window.

I personally love spring- it isn’t too hot, nor is it cold. I don’t last long in the summer; I sit outside for ten-ish minutes and I burn. During the spring I can enjoy the fresh air without the fear of developing melanoma. But what I like most about spring are the desserts! Specifically carrot cake. I LOVE carrot cake. So when my mother (who is a paraprofessional) told me that they were throwing a little bridal party for a teacher at her school, I took advantage of the occasion and decided to try this recipe.

If you read my last post, you would know that I am now a summer nanny! This is my second year nannying during the summer, and I absolutely adore the two (soon to be three!) girls that I watch. The job can be tiring, though; I have been working early hours (which is absolutely fine!) but now I don’t have as much energy, time, or desire to bake after work.

This recipe solves my problems! It is simple, quick and truly one of the BEST things that I have ever baked. I brought some in for the children that I watch, and both of them gobbled it up- even the picky two year old! My mom brought them in to school today and multiple people asked for the recipe (of course I just told her the URL for my blog…nothing like a little free PR 😛 ) The best part of this recipe? It is made with a box mix. But trust me, NO ONE can tell.

The cookie itself is light, soft and filled with flavor. The frosting is rich, sweet (but not overly so!), and is the perfect way to top off this delectable little creation.

Allergic to walnuts? They are totally unnecessary! Don’t want frosting? You can stir the walnuts right into the batter. If you want to change it up a little bit, you can also add in some raisins or chocolate chips. This recipe would be absolutely perfect for a mother’s day brunch or dessert.

Now tell me, what is your favorite spring recipe?

This recipe is from Betty Crocker.

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • One box or pouch of oatmeal cookie mix
  • 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots (about 2-4 carrots)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg

Frosting:

  • 4 oz (half of 8 oz package) cream cheese, softened*
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup walnuts

* I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese, and the cookies turned out delicious. It is a great way to cut out a few calories!

  1. Heat oven to 375°F. In large bowl (or standing mixer), stir cookie ingredients until stiff dough forms.
  2. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.
  4. In small bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 tablespoon butter, the vanilla and powdered sugar with spoon until smooth. Spread frosting over cookies. Sprinkle with nuts. Store tightly covered in refrigerator.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownies and Pure Joy

Am I the only one who is drooling?

There are few things in this world that go together as well as Peanut Butter and Jelly (or Nick and I :P).  One of these perfect pairings are (is??)  Cookie Dough and Chocolate Brownies.

I needed to bake something that would match how I am feeling: pure joy! I get to see Nicholas in THREE MORE DAYS! I could have made cookies, or I could have made brownies, but what makes these two separate desserts even better is when you combine them.

This is THE baked good for the sweet tooth in your life. The brownie layer is sweet, moist and full of flavor. The cookie dough is safe to eat (contains no eggs) and tastes exactly the same as your regular ol’ dough, without the risk of salmonella!

What makes this recipe especially dangerous is how easy it is to make!

This recipe is from Recipegirl!

Ingredients

BROWNIE:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

COOKIE DOUGH (EGG FREE!)
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 Tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup semisweet chips + 1 teaspoon shortening for drizzle, optional

1. Prepare the brownies: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick spray. In a medium glass bowl, melt chocolate in the microwave in short bursts of 30 seconds; stir after each burst and remove from microwave when melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a large mixing bowl, mix butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract. Mix in melted chocolate. Blend in flour and mix just until combined (don’t over-mix). Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Watch closely and remove from oven when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

2. Prepare the cookie dough: In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to combine butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Mix in milk and vanilla. Mix in flour just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. Spread cookie dough over the cooled brownies. Refrigerate until the dough is quite firm. It’s okay to speed up the process and place it in the freezer too. The firmer the dough, the easier it will be to cut into neat squares.

Cinnamon Scones and Procrastination

I love baking in my parent's purdy kitchen! 🙂

I am SO happy to be home and surrounded by the people (and canines) that I love.

There are other perks of being home, however. One is being able to get my eyebrows done for a reasonable price. Another  is having the opportunity to bake with a standard sized oven. Even though I am grateful to have a kitchen at school, it is SUCH a pain to attempt to make cookies (or scones in this case) on half sheets. So when I am home I try to take advantage of the appliances around me.

I brought home A TON of work to get done over the break, the major assignment being an 8-10 page paper. As of right now, I have three sentences written. It is so hard staying focused when being around family. And being able to relax. And the due date not being tomorrow. I will procrastinate for now, but I guarantee that later this week I will be freaking out and scrambling to get this work done!

How am I supposed to work when I can hang out with these cuties??

Today I decided to attempt to make a recipe from The Pioneer Woman’s website. I stumbled across this recipe a while back, but unfortunately stores were not carrying an ingredient: Cinnamon chips. Apparently they are only around through the holiday season. After making this recipe I am STOCKING UP so I can make these delicious scones all year long.

I have never made scone’s before, and I was extremely pleased with this recipe. It was simple, quick, and did  not require many ingredients. The results were great: they had the perfect amount of cinnamon and were not too sweet (but still satisfied my sweet tooth teeth).

Ingredients and Directions are from The Pioneer Woman.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1/3 cup Sugar
  • 5 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 sticks (1 Cup) Unsalted Butter
  • 3/4 cups Heavy Cream
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Cinnamon Chips
  • Topping
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Heavy Cream*
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and baking powder. Cut butter into pieces, then cut into dry ingredients with a pastry cutter** until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cinnamon chips.
  3. Mix together cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Pour into flour/butter mixture, stirring gently with a fork to combine.
  4. Turn onto work surface (mixture will be very crumbly and falling apart.) Gently press together on the sides as you flatten (or roll, with a rolling pin) the top. Form either into a large circle or a large rectangle. Mix together topping ingredients, stirring with a fork. Sprinkle over the top of the dough, lightly pressing.
  5. Cut into wedges (from a circle) or triangles (from a rectangle.) Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Serve with coffee.

* I did not have heavy cream on hand, but I found a great substitution here!

**I do not have a pastry cutter (I am a poor college student after all) so I used my hands. Although this was a bit messy, It got the job done!

Oreo Stuffed Chocolate and Mint Chip Cookies AND Homebound!

I LOVE the Holiday Edition Oreos!!

I have been waiting so long for this day to come! I’ve been patiently counting down the days, the number of classes, and the number of large assignments until I could finally go home. I have only been home once (unfortunately for a sad reason) this semester and I have been looking forward to a mental break.

I miss my family and my puppies (I affectionately call them my babies) and I can not wait to spend an entire week with them, although I will miss my Nicky-Poo terribly!

Anyone who follows baking blogs has probably heard of the AMAZING Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. They are absolutely epic. Nicholas LOVES those things. They have even received several requests for birthdays. Since Christmas is a little more than a month away, I decided to get a head start on my holiday cookie baking, and make these bad boys. They are AMAZING: chocolatey, soft, gooey, and with the refreshing (but not overwhelming) taste of mint. It is a wonderful mixture of  rich chocolate and mint.

I brought a TON of them to the lab with me and all I had was one left! I decided to be a “Teacher’s Pet” and I gave it away to my teacher :P.

ANYWAYS, here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon mint extract
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup andes mint chips
  • Oreos
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a cookie sheet.
  2. Cream until light and fluffy: margarine, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and mint extract.
  3. Combine in separate bowl: flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.3
  4. Gradually beat the dry mixture into the creamed mixture.
  5. Stir in semi sweet and mint chips. At this point I would recommend refridgerating the batter for AT LEAST a few hours…the longer the better. The dough by itself is really hard to manipulate.
  6. Scoop the dough with a tablespoon and roll into a ball. Place one ball on top of an oreo, and another one below the oreo. Press down on the dough, making it completely surround the oreo. Make sure none of the oreo shows and that it is completely enclosed.
  7. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

 

Triple Layer Brownies (With a funny inappropriate name)

Triple Layer Brownies AKA Orgasm Brownies

I know this post is coming a bit late, I will try to avoid this as much as possible in the future. The last couple of days have been very hectic: Yesterday Nicholas was sick (still is), and I babysat all night. Today was Penn State’s final home game of the season! We lost, but we put up an amazing fight.

However, I promise you, with the quality of today’s post it was worth the minor delay. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is my absolute favorite baked good of all time. If you have a sweet tooth (or sweet teeth like me) this will definitely become one of your favorite go-to recipes. Because of its overwhelmingly satisfying taste, it has been dubbed (rather inappropriately) the “orgasm brownie”.

It’s technical name is the triple layer brownie: three distinct layers loaded with unique flavors that all come together to form a rich, sweet, and decadent creation.

The first layer is the brownie; you can use whichever recipe you desire! Don’t have a lot of time? Use a box mix (I won’t tell anyone!). Personally when I have the time, I prefer to make my creations from scratch. I have listed my (current) favorite brownie recipe below with the ingredients.

The second layer is the vanilla frosting. I have a somewhat shocking confession to make: I am not a fan of frosting. I know that this is a direct contradiction to prior claims that I have a set of sweet teeth, but I find that store bought icings are WAY too sweet. However, I have found the perfect solution: homemade vanilla icing. It is quick and easy to make. Most importantly, it is not overly sweet. It would also be great for other recipes such as cupcakes.

The final layer (and my favorite layer) is the chocolate covered rice krispies. This adds a nice crunch and decadence to the brownies. It also adds an amazing quality to the overall texture.

Brownie Ingredients (The one I used is from Allrecipes) I made a few alterations:

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish.
  2. Combine the melted butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each, until thoroughly blended.
  3. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Gradually stir the flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until blended. Stir in the chocolate morsels. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove, and cool pan on wire rack.
Next is the hardest part; waiting for the brownies to fully cool. I waited approximately one hour. You then need to make the frosting, which is also a recipe from Allrecipes. I made an alteration with these ingredients as well:
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 4 cups confectioners sugar
  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, shortening, water and vanilla. Beat on low speed to combine, then beat on medium speed for a full five minutes. It won’t look like Icing at first, but keep the mixer going for a full five minutes, and then you’re done!
  2. Spread the icing evenly over the COOLED brownies
Last comes the chocolate rice krispies layer.
Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips (I’m sure you could use semi sweet chips, but I prefer milk chocolate)
  • 3 cups rice krispies cereal (for my fellow college students, the cheaper brands work fine as well)
  1. In a small saucepan melt the chocolate chips over low heat stirring constantly as to avoid burning. Once chocolate is smooth, shut off the heat and mix in the rice krispies until they are totally coated.
  2. Spread the chocolate covered rice krispies evenly overtop the frosting.
  3. Put into the refrigerator for at least an hour before cutting. I find that this makes their overall final appearance nicer, and it helps make the cutting easier.