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Vanilla and peppermint are two flavors that I love, and I love them together–especially around the holidays! I modified a recipe from the owner of Sprinkles Cupcakes (found here on Oprah’s web site), adding my own twist to make them EXTRA vanilla-tastic. They turned out adorable, and were a huge hit at the holiday party!

Vanilla Bean Peppermint Cupcakes
(Adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes)

Cooking Time: 22 Minutes
Servings: 18 Cupcakes, or 12 Cupcakes + 16 Mini Cupcakes

  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350. Line your cupcake pans with liners and set aside.

Prepare your vanilla bean by splitting it lengthwise down the center. Using the side of your knife, scrape out the vanilla beans.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the vanilla beans, the shell of the vanilla beans, the milk, and both flavoring extracts. Stir well until the milk is warm, about 5 minutes – don’t let the mixture boil. Remove from heat and remove the vanilla bean shell. (This can be washed, dried, and then inserted into a container of sugar to create vanilla sugar – yum!)

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream together. Next add the egg and egg whites. Beat well until fully mixed.

Add half the flour mixture and mix well.

Add in the vanilla milk mixture and beat until combined. Do not wash the saucepan! (You will use it again for the frosting.)

Add the remaining flour and mix again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that the mixture is fully incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup, fill your cupcake liners until about 2/3 full.

(Look how nice the vanilla beans look in the batter!)

Bake for 22-25 minutes (15-16 minutes for mini cupcakes), or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in cupcake pan for 2-3 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Vanilla Bean Peppermint Frosting
(Adapted from Sprinkles Cupcakes)

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon milk

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and salt until light and fluffy.

Sift in 1 cup of the powdered sugar and beat well.

Grab the saucepan used for the vanilla milk mixture for the cupcakes. Add the vanilla and peppermint extracts and the milk. Swirl them around the saucepan, using a spoon to help pick up some of the remaining vanilla beans. Alternatively, you could just save some of the original vanilla beans, but I found that this method gave just enough vanilla beans to the frosting mix. Add this to the bowl and beat well.

Add the remaining powdered sugar until you reach the desired consistency. If you accidentally add too much sugar, you can add a little bit more milk.

Now you have frosting ready to pipe onto your cupcakes! If you don’t have a nice piping bag set, you can use a great little trick: scoop your frosting into a ziploc baggie and then cut off a tiny bit of one corner.

Add sprinkles (in this case I used peppermint flavored mini candy cane sprinkles) or any other decorations.



What’s more American than apple pie? (Other than baseball of course, Go Giants!)

Nothing! That’s why, for our all-American themed book club meeting to discuss Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, I had to find a way to make an apple pie cupcake. Some quick googling turned up these adorable creations from Annie’s Eats and I was inspired. I had to take them one stop further, so I combined them with this tasty sounding apple spice cupcake recipe. Together, they were nothing short of apple pie overload and 100% patriotic deliciousness.

Apple Pie Overload Finished Product

American Apple Pie Overload Cupcakes with Light Vanilla Buttercream

Cooking Time: 20 Minutes
Servings: About 24 Regular Cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon apple pie spice*
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups applesauce, unsweetened (exactly 2 individual servings cups)

Apple Pie Filling

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2-3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced (Note: The original recipe called for 3 apples. I found 2 was PLENTY, but it’s your call.)

*Homemade Apple Pie Spice
Who needs to pay for ANOTHER spice that is made up of the ones you already have? Found this recipe over at

In a ziploc baggie or other small container, combine:

  • 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 with the rack in the middle.  Line a standard cupcake pan with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, apple pie spice, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside.

The Dry Ingredients

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the room temperature butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and splash in the applesauce. Whatever you do, don’t think about how gross this looks right now.

The Wet Ingredients

Add the flour mixture in thirds and beat until just combined. Adding the dry ingredients in small batches prevents flour from flying all over your kitchen, and frankly I’m a messy enough baker as it is.

The Batter

Divide the batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarter full (as always, I recommend an ice scream scoop here). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool for 2-3 minutes in the cupcake pan and then remove them to wire racks to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, it is time to make the filling. If you were short on time you could use store-bought apple pie filling, but I encourage you to try making your own – it’s so easy!

Heat the butter in a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Once melted, add the cinnamon and sugar and cook for a minute, until the mixture begins to bubble and look like a paste.  Lower the heat to medium and stir in the apples.

The Apples

Mix well. Cook until the apples are somewhat tender, about 10-15 minutes depending on how small your apple chunks are. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Once the cupcakes and the filling are cool, use a small knife to hollow out the cupcakes. Start around the edge of the cupcakes, angling the knife in towards the middle and cut out a small cone shape. Reserve the cones for making cake pops (if you don’t eat them first). Spoon in a generous amount of apple filling.

The Filling

Light Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
This is a basic buttercream frosting that I use for a lot of different purposes. The basic ingredients stay the same, just add flavorings or modify to your tastes. And when I say light, I mean in texture, not in fat content. Cupcakes are no place to be counting calories!

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar, sifted to remove lumps

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until it is fluffy. Add the milk and vanilla and then slowly beat in the powdered sugar until it reaches your desired consistency. I wanted the frosting for the Apple Pie Overload Cupcakes to resemble Cool Whip, so I kept mine slightly thinner than normal.

This frosting is also great for taking on the go: take a sturdy ziploc baggie (the freezer ones work nicely) and fill it with the frosting. Store it in the fridge and bring it with you when you take the cupcakes. When you are ready to frost, just cut a small slice of the corner of the ziploc baggie with some scissors and – voila! – an instant piping bag.

The Frosting

And there you have it – delicious American Apple Pie Overload Cupcakes with Light Vanilla Buttercream Frosting. They’re sure to be a hit at your next Americana event or anytime you need a recipe to get rid of surplus apples.

Little Bayley called me up this week and asked if I would make cupcakes for her boyfriend’s birthday… silly question of course.  I thought about their relationship for a bit and one thing stuck out: their mutual love of whiskey. As a fan of alcoholic baked goods in general, I figured this could be a very fun adventure.

A few searches led me to this recipe, which sounded absolutely amazing – I mean, coffee AND whiskey? Yum! Clearly I had to modify it to make it my own though, so as I was whisking the chocolate mixture I was inspired to add a bit of cinnamon and cayenne pepper (similar to Mexican Hot Chocolate). Now that’s a wicked cupcake.

Wicked Whiskey Cupcakes Final

These turned out heavenly – just a hint of the spices in the moist cake, plus a nice Jack Daniel’s flavor in both the frosting and the cupcake to bring the whole thing together. They aren’t too spicy nor are they overwhelmingly chocolatey, but you could adjust amounts based on your preferences.

Chocolate Wicked Whiskey Cupcakes
(Adapted from Piratecupcake on

Cooking Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: About 32 Regular Cupcakes

The most important ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (get the good stuff, it’s worth it)
  • 1 cup brewed coffee
  • 1 cup of American whiskey (I used Jack Daniel’s, but you can pick your own poison)
  • 2 Sticks of unsalted butter cut in to one inch pieces.
  • 2 Cups of sugar
  • 2 Cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (to taste)

Put oven rack(s) in middle position and preheat oven to 325F.

Melt the butter

Heat coffee, whiskey, butter, and cup of cocoa powder in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, whisking until butter is melted. Remove from heat, then add sugar and whisk until dissolved, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool 5 minutes.

All 3 components ready to be whiskedy

While chocolate mixture cools, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together eggs and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into cooled chocolate mixture until combined well. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Add flour mixture in thirds, whisking after each addition, and whisk until just combined (the batter will be a bit thin and bubbly).

Thin and bubbly batter

Scoop cupcakes into lined cupcake pans, filling from 1/2 to 2/3 full. I like to use my ice cream scoop for this, just be careful of drips with this batter.

Two pans and an ice cream scoop

Side Note: As you can see, I have two cupcake pans, but one is darker than the other. I know that this darker one tends to cook faster, so I filled the light one first, put it in the oven with a 30 minute timer, then filled the dark one and put it on the rack above. That way both batches were ready at the same time!

Bake Cupcakes for 30 to 40 minutes. They are ready to go when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place them on a rack to cool and then ice with my JD Fudge Frosting or just dust with powdered sugar.

JD Fudge Frosting

I’ll be honest, this frosting stemmed from a pure desire to use up my leftovers. I had extra fudge leftover from making Peanut Butter and Fudge Oatmeal Cookies, and I was certain I could make it into a great frosting. This recipe will act like you are starting from scratch in case you’re not a hoarder like me.

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 14oz can of fat free sweetened condensed milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons of Jack Daniel’s (or any other whiskey)
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar

In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the chocolate chips and the condensed milk. Stir regularly until you have a creamy, homogeneous fudge mixture. Remove from heat and transfer the fudge to a medium bowl.

Jack Daniel's Fudge Frosting

Add the half of the Jack Daniel’s and half of the powdered sugar and mix with an electric mixer. Add more whiskey to taste and more powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency. I found that this frosting did not pipe well, but did smooth out into a beautiful frosting shell.

Finished, decorated cupcakes!

Decorate the cupcakes as desired – I used red sugar to keep the wicked, spicy theme going. Enjoy!

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