Daisy’s Birthday Pupcakes

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Yes, it’s true…I am that girl.  What girl, you ask?  I am that girl who makes her puppy homemade baked goods of her birthday.  And YES, in case you don’t follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, TODAY IS DAISY’S FIRST BRITHDAY!  Obviously, this is very exciting to me and quite a big deal (I mean – come on – I named my blog after her)!  My little puppy is growing up so fast!  One year ago today she came into this world somewhere out in West Virginia, and, 8 weeks later, she found her way to the SPCA right down the street from us and Christian and took the plunge and adopted our wonderful little puppy.  From the moment I held her at the SPCA, I knew she was the one, and every day spent with her just reaffirms that decision.  Sometimes you just have to go with your gut.  When we took her home, it was slightly terrifying realizing this little ball of adorable fur was entirely our responsibility now.  Despite the added responsibility and work and financial burden and extra vacuuming that all come with this puppy, she is without a doubt the best decision Christian and I could have made.  She is a bundle of energy and love and joy and excitement and silliness and fur.  Oh my goodnessthere is so much fur!  Who knew one puppy could shed so much!  Sometimes I wonder how she is not entirely bald from all her shedding.  It seems unfathomable with the amount of hair I find on the floor, on me, and on all of my worldly possessions, that there is any hair left on Daisy.  But I digress…

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I never expected that I would be one of those people who obsessed over their puppy and make pupcakes for their puppy’s birthday.  But there I was, over the weekend, vacuuming my apartment thanks to all my puppy’s fur, about to burst with excitement, thinking about what I was going to do for my baby’s birthday.  Now, it is strange to think that she has absolutely no idea that today is not a day like any other.  She is just going on living her merry life of sleep, play, eat, per usual.  But, for me, it is a very special day, and I wanted to share my joy with her.  So, in honor of Daisy’s first birthday, I made Pup Cakes!  Yes – PUP cakes!  Also known as, cupcakes for puppies!  Or dogs…Or humans, I suppose; if you like that sort of thing (I suggest leaving off the bacon treat if you decide to have a taste, though).

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The recipe:  I shopped around the internet for various recipes, using Pinterest as my hub.  If you’re interested, you can check out some of the recipes that caught my eye on my It’s a Dog’s Life page.  Then, after gathering sufficient knowledge of typical ingredients in puppy snacks, I went to my kitchen and threw a bunch of ingredients I had on hand in a bowl and stirred.  (She is a silly puppy who will eat anything, after all – not Florian Bellanger or Candace Nelson, the oh-so-talented-and-critical judges on Cupcake Wars.  Daisy will eat almost anything…except bananas…she does not understand bananas.)  My two ingredient requirements were peanut butter and bacon.  I cannot think of a better puppy combination, can you?  Now, that being said, when I got home from the gym last night, I realized I did not have bacon.  I flirted with the idea of going back out to the grocery store for the sole purpose of buying bacon to put in my puppy’s birthday pup cakes, but even I have my limits when it comes to my baking and puppy obsessions.  Besides, I had an idea:  I had turkey sandwich meat, and oil.  I don’t know how much of a likeness this bares to bacon, but I chopped up and fried these slices and threw them in the batter at the end.  Daisy was all up in my business when I started frying that stuff, so I knew it would be a hit.  (I had to banish her from the kitchen!)  Once they were baked, I let them cool, mixed up the frosting, and threw on come chewy bacon dog treats for good measure.  Daisy was in puppy heaven.  And I was a very pleased puppy mommy.

daisy10As you can see, I need to invest in a camera with faster shutter speed in order to capture the quick moves of my crazy puppy!  (aka, something other than my iPhone!)

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These pupcakes are extremely simple and actually not half bad (yes, I tried them – how could I not try my own creation!?!? I was curious!).  Plus, I knew what every ingredient was, so I knew there was nothing sketchy or unappetizing in them, and they are pretty healthy, because there is no sugar or butter.  I was actually thinking I could pretty easily modify this recipe to make a very healthy very yummy human snack.  My mom has been hounding me to make her “healthy cupcakes” (oxymoron much?) for awhile now, so maybe I will finally experiment with that.

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There is plenty of wiggle room in this recipe, so go crazy and put in your pup’s favorite!  Blueberries?  Great, and full of antioxidants!  Parsley?  Help freshen their breath!  Cheese?  Let’s be real, what self-respecting dog doesn’t go wild for cheese?  What do you have in your pantry that your dog loves?!?!  Get creative!

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I hope your puppy enjoys this treat as much as mine did!

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Happy Daisy Cakes!!!

Daisy’s Birthday Pupcakes

 Yield: 18 minis and 4 regular cupcakes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 8 minutes for minis, 15 minutes for regular

Ingredients

 1 cup rolled oats
1 -1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup chopped bacon
Treats of your choice for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
  2. Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix well.
  3. Fold in bacon pieces.
  4. Put batter into muffin pan and bake for 8 to 15 minutes, depending on size.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

 Yield:  Perfect amount to ice these cupcakes with no extra
Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

6 oz cream cheese
1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp vanilla yogurt (plain, Greek, any kind works too)
Food coloring – if you are crazy like me and want colorful frosting

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients until combined.
  2. Once cupcakes are cooled, ice with frosting.
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Valentine’s Day Bake-Off!

Hello friends!  This Tuesday at work, we had our annual Valentine’s Day Bake-Off.  (It was supposed to be on Valentine’s Day, but the giant snow storm delayed it.)  There were four categories: Pies, Cakes, Cupcakes/Cookies, and Other.  Now, while I am not sure I agree with the breakdown of the categories (Cupcakes with cookies!?!?!  What is up with that!?!?), the competition was great and all the participants had a great time.  Some really went all out with crazy things such as multi-tier displays and mood lighting!

Strawberry/Chocolate Cake Balls

These Strawberry/Chocolate Cake Balls had a two-tier pink cardboard display. Genius! I didn’t even know disposal displays like that existed!

Cheesecake

This Broken-Hearted Blues New York Cheesecake was the most intense display – It had blue mood lighting underneath the tray and a mini Empire State Building with King Kong coming out of the middle! It won the Pies category. (According to Food Network, cheesecakes are pies because they have a crust.) It didn’t need all that though, because it was a darn good cheesecake anyway!

The display for these Oreo Bars was less intense, but the pretty dish was still a huge step up from my cupcake carrier and square cake pan that I used as the vessels to distribute my treats!

The display for these Oreo Bars was less intense, but the pretty dish was still a huge step up from my cupcake carrier and square cake pan that I used as the vessels to distribute my treats!

This Italian Love Cake was the winner for the Cakes category.  It was so chocolaty and delicious!  I LOVED it!  It lacked the fancy display, like mine, but its chocolaty goodness was too much to resist.  Congratulations Diana!

This Italian Love Cake was the winner for the Cakes category. It was so chocolaty and delicious! I LOVED it! It lacked the fancy display, like mine, but its chocolaty goodness was too much to resist. Congratulations Diana!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes...A formidable competitor that also did not focus on the display aspect.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes…A formidable competitor that also did not focus on the display aspect, but was nice and pink for V-Day.

I’m not exactly sure what all the judging criteria was, but I know it consisted of taste, flavor (apparently there is a difference!), appearance, impression, presentation, creativity, and relevance to the theme.  I got a look at the score cards and they were intense – a full page for each submission with all the different criteria.  Each judge had a whole folder worth of material to fill out.  No wonder it took them almost an hour to get through the judging!

All the submissions...ready to be devoured!

All the submissions…ready to be devoured!

I decided to go big this year and enter two categories:  Other and Cupcakes/Cookies.  I made Red Velvet White Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Fudge and S’mores Cupcakes.  And…drumroll please…I won both categories!  Now, while I missed the memo that the way you display your treats affects your score, I guess my flavors were good enough to win anyways.  Plus, I did decorate my cupcakes Valentine’s Day themed, and the fudge was red and white swirls.

My winning submissions!

My winning submissions!

When they announced the winners, I had actually already left the Bake-Off to go our weekly R&D meeting.  My coworker Kale (who ditched the meeting entirely!) comes into the room about 10 minutes after it started and says, “Stephanie, you won for the Cupcakes AND the Fudge!”  I was like, “Really?!?!  No, really!?!?”  I continued this same ‘discussion’ several times as I followed him out of the room and back down the hall to the Bake-Off.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would win ONE, let alone BOTH categories!  Plus, Kale loves messing with me, so I wasn’t convinced I had really won.  I scolded him and was like, “If you are psyching me out, that is really mean and I am going to be so mad at you!”  He assured me he wasn’t, and, upon reentering the Bake-Off, I was handed not one, but TWO prize envelopes!  It made my day, of course!

Let the judging begin!

Let the judging begin!

I try not to brag too much – 1, because it is annoying, and, 2, because I am so not over-confident in my baking skills, or life skills for that matter! – but I have to share this very exciting news because I am really proud of myself.  Last Valentine’s Day, my pink macarons fell short of expectations and did not win anything in the Valentine’s Day Bake-Off, to my slight disappointment (they are very hard to make!).  I understood though, because I took one bite of the lime cupcakes that beat me and I knew I was defeated.  Last spring, this blog was born and I promised myself to bake regularly to practice and improve my baking skills.  The goal of improving my skills was not to win the Bake-Off this year, but to improve on my new love for baking and get better at something that really makes me happy.  I may have peaked years ago in my super-soccer skills – which is something else I love – but baking is something with which I am pretty sure I have yet to reach my prime.  Winning both categories I entered for the Bake-Off this year is really just the icing on top of the cupcake for me (hehe), and more of a validation and confirmation of my year of baking and practicing and improving.  The prize was $75 per catergory, so that is $150 more in my pocket!  My year of baking has paid off – literally!

The proud winners!

The proud winners!

Down to the baking:

Now, I am going to write a post this weekend with the fudge recipe, so be on the lookout for that one!  I’ve been wanting to make fudge for awhile now though, and it turned out splendidly!  The red and white swirl effect gave it that Valentine’s Day theme I was hoping for and the judges agreed!

The S’mores Cupcakes were the same recipe I made last fall that my whole family cheated on their diets for.  I changed up the colors, making the marshmallow cream cheese filling pink, and the graham cracker buttercream red.  I even went on a hunt for pink heart marshmallows and was ecstatic when I actually found them!  They were a nice little touch, I thought.  And it even kept with the s’mores theme, too!  And then, for fun, I added some V-Day sprinkles of various kinds.  All in all, it made a delicious Valentine’s treat, also suitable for a campfire, or a random Tuesday night.  🙂  Let’s finish up with a picture or two, so I can get to writing the fudge post!

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smores cupcake

Happy Belated Valentine’s Day everyone!  Much love!  ❤ ❤ ❤

Funfetti Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

Well, the Super Bowl has come and gone, and many felt it was quite the disappointment.  (Peyton Manning is at the top of this list, I’m sure.)  I have to agree, considering I only watched until halftime because my boyfriend got bored.  Now, if HE turned off the Super Bowl, you know it had to be bad!  For those of us who were not emotionally invested in either team, we were watching the game for the commercials, the halftime show, or, at the very least, for a good game.  There were a few pretty good commercials, from what I saw, and I’d be lying if I said more than a couple didn’t pull extra hard on my heart-strings…but then, I’m a sucker for sappy.  And from my perspective, Bruno Mars killed it.  Spot on, my man.  The game though (aka, the MAIN event)?  Well, the score says it all.

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As such, what better way to celebrate the Super Bowl than by making a football cake?  Ok, maybe there are many better ways to celebrate the Super Bowl, but for an avid baker and lover of all things decorating, this way takes the cake! (ha!  Pun intended…)  So, my Super Bowl party involved me making and decorating a cake.  What kind of cake, you ask?  A Funfetti Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream.  Covered in fondant.  To look like a football!  Woo!

I really want to practice and improve my fondant skills, so, the only way to do that is by making a cake and decorating it.

This cake is delicious.  It is moist and dense, soft and fluffy, and overall wonderful.  It is the perfect amount of sweetness, and paired with the frosting, it is irresistible.  And in case the flavor alone is not enough to put a smile on your face, the little morsels of funfetti delight will.

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To start, I used a different method of mixing than most of my recipes.  I usually cream the butter and sugar together first, then add the rest of the wet ingredients, then add the dry ingredients in three parts to that.  This recipe, however, uses a method known as high-ratio mixing.  In this method, you mix all the dry ingredients with all the butter and some of the liquid first.  The mixing times are important, as is careful scraping down the side of the bowl for an evenly blended batter.  I used this technique and created this recipe based off of the method used by a yellow butter cake found in one of my trusty cookbooks.  I am quite proud of the result.

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This batter was so thick before adding the remainder of the liquid and the egg mixture that I am pretty sure I almost burned out my mixer motor!  Granted, I only have a hand mixer, and a stand mixer could definitely handle the thickness much better, but still – my trusty hand mixer has been with me through many a baking adventure.

To shape this cake, I made two 8” round layers and torted them once to give me four approximately 1” layers.

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I then took an 8” round cake board and cut it roughly to the shape of a football (sorry, I only have an “after” picture!).

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I stacked the layers on the board, filling each layer with a generous helping of chocolate buttercream (can’t get enough of that stuff!).  I then began shaping my cake, slicing off the sides of my round cake and shaving down the top.  Tip:  Always cut less first because once you chop it off, it is very difficult to “glue” pieces back on!

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Once the cake was my desired football shape, I slathered on more buttercream!  You don’t have to be too particular or smooth with the buttercream, and can fill in any needed crevices with it, because the fondant cover is very forgiving, thank goodness!

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For the fondant decorations, I attempted employing my skills acquired in my Wilton course 3 cake decorating class.  I succeeded mostly, but my fondant work is still not perfect.

To prepare the fondant, I started out with a hunk of fondant about the size of my fist.  Again though, it’s always preferable to overshoot and have a little extra than to run out and have a fondant-less corner on your cake!  (I use Satin Ice fondant – far tastier than Wilton! Duff brand is good too though and can be found in your local craft store.  I’ve only found Satin Ice in specialty stores or online.)  After adding several drops of brown Americolor Soft Gel Paste food coloring (this kind is my favorite), I kneaded the color into my fondant.  I did this I think three times before reaching the desired darkness.  Guess and check, my friends. 

For an 8” round cake, you want  at least a 10” round piece of fondant.  (You can find all these recommended measurements online.  Just Google it and you will be overwhelmed by the wealth of information on covering cakes with fondant!  Since my original cake was 8”, I figured this was a good starting point.    When I rolled out the fondant, I made sure to give it a little extra size since this cake was a little on the tall side.  I used 1/16” thick rolling bands on the ends of my roller for an even fondant thickness.

The first time I rolled the fondant out, it was too sticky and stuck to itself when I rolled it onto my fondant roller to transfer it to the cake.  The second time, I put a little more cornstarch/powdered sugar mixture to keep it from sticking, and didn’t wrap it so tightly around the roller.  It worked!

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To make the white stripes, I used this nifty little fondant cutter.  It comes with all these different “blades” that come in different shapes (zigzag, squiggly, etc.) and it has different spacers so you can make ribbons whatever width you like.  It is great.

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Tip:  Work quickly when working with fondant so it doesn’t dry out and start cracking.  Put unused fondant in a sealed bag or rolled flat between a plastic mat to prevent it from drying while you work on another piece. 

Once I cut the white strips, I put them in between plastic to keep them from drying out at all while I was laying everything out on my cake.  I used gum paste glue (a mixture of gum paste dissolved in water) to stick the white stripes to the brown base.

I am happy with the result.  It looks quite lovely from this angle.

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As you can see, I think my problem here was I did not pull quickly enough for the fondant to fall flat, so it bunched like a table cloth here.  It may have also been a little on the thin side…Or I am not sure.  Hopefully my next try will give me some insight into why this happened.

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Now, if I had been making this cake for the purpose of presenting it at an actual party, I would have put a little grass border around the bottom of it to hide the seams of the fondant.  Since it was just for practice and I was taking it to work, I really didn’t feel like making another small batch of green icing for the sole purpose of grass.  I got what I wanted out of this cake, which was fondant practice.  And my boyfriend and coworkers got what they wanted out of it, which was delicious cake.  Everyone was happy and wanted seconds…win-win!

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I’d also like to add that you better save those scraps!  A significant portion of this cake went to the chopping block to give it its football shape.  You can simply slather on some more icing and eat them, or turn them into cake pops!  I should do a cake pops post in the near future…It’s been a while since I’ve made those little guys…

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I hope you try this truly scrumptious recipe!  Enjoy!

Funfetti Yellow Butter Cake

Yield: One 8″ x 4″ round layer cake (two 2″ layers)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole or low-fat milk (divided use)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Coat two 8″ round cake pans lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. 
  3. Add the butter and half a cup of milk to the dry ingredients, mixing on medium speed until smooth (about 4 minutes).  Scrap down sides of bowl as needed to ensure even mixing.
  4. In a separate smaller bowl, blend the eggs, egg whites, the remaining 1/2 cup milk, and vanilla extract.  Add this mixture to the batter in three additions, mixing for 2 minutes on medium speed between additions.  (Mixture will look close to curdled by the end.)
  5. Divide batter evenly into 2 pans and bake until layers spring back when touched lightly in the center, or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Allow layers to cool completely in the pan on wire rack.

*Make sure to be precise with mixing times, as this ensures the batter is well-blended and the resulting cake is the desired consistency!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Prep time:  2 mins
Cook time:  3 mins
Total time:  5 mins
Serves: 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened (but not melted!)
  • 3 1/2 cups, confectioners (powdered) sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or 1 teaspoon almond extract)
  • 4 tablespoons milk (or heavy cream)

Directions

  1. Cream butter for a few minutes in a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.
  2. Sift powdered sugar and cocoa into the mixing bowl. With your mixer on the lowest speed (so the dry ingredients do not blow everywhere), mix until the sugar and cocoa are absorbed by the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes.
  3. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add a little more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add additional milk a little at a time.

*Note:  I use vanilla extract and milk in mine.

See my Fudge Brownie Tartlets post for another way to use this absolutely mouth-watering recipe!  (Seriously – I can eat this stuff with a spoon…it is THAT good!)