Espresso and Cookies

Not Espresso Cookies. Although…hey, that actually sounds pretty phenom. I need to get on that…

Anywho.

I have great friends. I told you that, right?

Like, I have the kind of friends that if I sat down and truly measured their meaning in my life, I would probably shed a tear (or 10).  And if I did that, I probably wouldn’t seem worthy of having the friendships that I do.

Friends are like cookies. No matter what the question is or no matter what you’re going through, the answer to any situation is always cookies.

Had a bad day? Had a good day? Need something to lift your spirits? Want to celebrate?

Have a cookie! They work in EVERY situation.

The same can be said about friends. Whenever there is something meaningful happening in my life (whether it be good or bad, happy or sad) I need my friends. They are who I want to share things with.

Now you mix the two and you have something that is just very, very special. So special that my heart might burst with all the love that comes from it.

I was able to have one of those special moments last weekend.

I made about 5 dozen cookies.

Yes, I did.

I made them because I was spending the weekend at my friends shore house with her family. Life lesson? Never go to somebody’s house (especially as a guest) empty handed. You just don’t. That’s a rule.

And what is better than homemade cookies? Honestly.

Like sit there and try and figure out anything better than a freshly made (still warm) homemade cookie……

………………

Still nothing? That’s ok…because there isn’t anything better!

So I was thinking about my friend and what she likes. Chocolate and peanut butter.

Enter: Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Swirl Fudgy Cookies.

It’s a mouthful. But such a wonderfully delicious mouthful.

Fudgy Peanut Butter Swirl. Ugh, just had to say it again. Unreal.

Imagine a chocolate peanut butter heaven. Imagine yourself jumping on clouds made out of these cookies.

Hey, it’s heaven. You want to jump on clouds made from chocolate peanut butter cookies? Why wouldn’t you?!

These cookies don’t have peanut butter chunks. They have peanut butter swirled beautifully throughout the cookie so the peanut butter flavor makes itself one with the cookie.

I knew Courtney (that’s my friend. Hi Courtie!!) would absolutely love them.

Now, are you sitting down? I need to tell you about this next cookie.

Sit. Please. Thank you.

Ok, ready? Deep breath.

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Now, while I will let that sink in, I will also tell you that this cookie deserves its own post. And they will have their own post. But I need to share this with you, and these cookies are just so darn good that yes, they are worth a double post.

Holy Everything That’s Good in this World.

Everyone is on the search for the elusive perfect chocolate chip cookie. Well, look no more.

By simply doing 2 small things, these cookies catapult themselves as the front runner for the best chocolate chip cookie ever. And maybe quite possibly the best cookie ever. Period.

Brown Butter.

How amazing is butter just in regular form? Pretty amazing.

Now put it in a saucepan, and brown it. Stop it. I can’t. Literally can’t handle how good this is.

Browning the butter gives the cookie such a depth of flavor and a hint of nuttiness that is just too good. Too too good.

Another trick? Use bread flour instead of regular all-purpose flour.

Why? Because it makes the cookies chewy.

Done deal. End of story.

I actually made these cookies before and gave them to my friends to try.

I was going through a hard time and Courtney, Jaclyn and Laura were there for me like they ALWAYS are. So I wanted to say thank you.

(That completes my trio of  best friends. I had to mention all their names because I knew if I only mentioned Courtney, I would TOTALLY be hearing it…)

Another life lesson? Make things for your friends. It’s just a nice thing to do.

So I made the cookies and Courtney brought them home and well…she never had any. See the thing is, her sister and brother ate them. And while Courtney wasn’t allowed to eat them because she did a very bad thing that night (story for another time..) her sister and brother LOVED them. So I knew since I was spending the weekend with them, I just had to make these for them again.

And thus concludes the reasoning why I made Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudgy Cookies and Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Amazing cookies for amazing people. Oh, and beach living for a weekend.

Truly nothing gets greater than that.

Brown butter doesn’t even stand a chance.

……

Speaking of amazing people, I need to make a little shout-out.

A shout-out to the most amazing person I have ever known. A person that without her in my life, would make my life dark and cold and meaningless. She’s the strongest, one of the funniest, most caring person in the entire world. A person that so many people love and adore and who honestly just makes the world a brighter place.

My mother.

It was her birthday 2 weekends ago and to celebrate we got her an espresso machine.

And as time is going by, I’m not sure who is loving the gift more. Me? My Mom? My Dad? It’s a toss-up. Although I think I’m winning by a hair.

Seriously in love.

It’s the cutest little thing and makes amazing espresso! It’s so creamy and tasty and I CAN’T GET ENOUGH.

But I mean, I hope you like your gift, Mom. You totally deserve it.

You guys want to see it? I totally know you do…

STOP IT!

So amazing. (Don’t mind the onions. Seriously. No big deal.)

And with that great stream of delicious, up-all-night espresso pouring out, I say: Cheers Mom.

Cheers to being the best mother a girl could ever have. Thank you for listening, for loving, and for laughing with me. Thanks for putting yourself second when you really should put yourself first. That never goes unnoticed.

Thanks for influencing my love of cooking and baking by always letting me in the kitchen with you. Thanks for the endless amounts of homemade meals even when you were dog tired from work.

I love you more than life.

Even more than cookies.

Happy Birthday. Cheers.

Just ignore my man hands. I do.

….

RECIPES

Chocolate Chunk Peanut Butter Swirl Fudgy Cookies.

I found this recipe from an amazing food blog Picky Palate. Ch-Check it out here! For the cookies, click here. (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE click.)

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I will forever be grateful for Recipe Girl for making these cookies a part of my life. To go right to the recipe you better click here, or I swear on all things Holy I will hunt you down if you don’t.

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Apple Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Oh, hey.

It’s summer.

No biggie.

It always takes forever and a day to get here, and when summer finally arrives, it’s gone quicker than anything chocolate in my house.

Oh, summer. How great you were to me when I was young and in school. How you would wrap your very hot arms around me and scoop me up as soon as my classes had finished for the year. We were the best of friends.

Oh, the adventures we would have. Vacations with my family. Days at the beach with friends. Everything went off without a hitch.

Except maybe that time in Wildwood. You remember, right? When me, Mom, Dad and Stephen (whaddup family?!) thought it would be the greatest idea in the entire world to feed all the seagulls graham crackers on the beach. Yeah, please guys. If you ever take any advice from me let it be this: DON’T DO THAT. Honestly, I’m pretty sure every seagull in North America transcended to the Wildwood beaches and cornered us until they got every cracker. I may have been scared for my life.

Hungry seagulls: I get it. Lesson learned.

And then something happened. The tides changed, if you will. (yes, pun was intended. Sorry).

I got a full-time job. Bye, bye summers off.

R.I.P.

Now, instead of happily embracing your warm breezes and sun-kissed skin, I sit at my desk and glare at you through my office window. Every time the sun peaks from the clouds, I take that as a person attack against me. How dare you mock me! Just leave me and my UV Rays from my florescent office lights alone. We don’t need you.

We totally need you.

Now, when I have my 2 days off for the weekend, I try and rush down the shore to be by your side and catch up.

I love to reminisce and visit our favorite spots and remember our favorite things. The beach, the boardwalk, sunsets on the beach, being around family, walking into stores in outfits that would surely be illegal during the winter. Having skin so shiny and oily from sunscreen, beautifully and painfully tanned skin, not fussing about my hair and just letting the weather take it where it may. Relax, laid-back. Love.

And boardwalk food. Oh, the boardwalk food.

Funnel cakes, butterfly chips, ice cream, waffle cones, pizza, zeppoles, salt water taffy, the list can go on and on.

I always love going into the candy stores on the boardwalk and seeing the endless amount of fudge, and chocolates, and candies. And there is always a special section for candied/caramel apples. Oh, yes.

I was never really into the traditional candied apples with the red candied coating. But caramel apples? Oh sweet heavens.

The tangy of the granny smith apples and the sweetness of the caramel are a match made in sweet, apple heaven.

Then one day I was sitting around thinking of a normal question. How can I make caramel apples into cupcake form? Totally normal.

After thinking and thinking, I figured it out. Apple cupcake with caramel butter cream. Oh, and for good measure, a caramel drizzle on top.

Wait, what was that? Oh my God, you fell off your chair. Are you OK?! It’s OK. Take a breather, everything will be fine.

I made these little devils and brought them into work for a luncheon we were having. I’m totally the best co-worker ever.

After we had lunch everyone took a cupcake. Do you know what it feels like to have 10 people stare you down with a crazed look on their face? I do.

It’s creepy.

To say these cupcakes were a hit would be an understatement. Everyone completely loved them. I’ve never had so many compliments on a single buttercream, ever. And the apple cupcake was the perfect accompaniment.  Apple and caramel = best friends for life.

Sort of like me and summer.

Just stop teasing me when I’m at work. Please. Thank you.

APPLE CUPCAKES

This is one of my favorite apple cupcake recipes around. And I thought it would be the perfect base for the Caramel Buttercream. But please, also try the Cinnamon-Marshmallow Frosting. It’s too legit to quit.

Recipe by Delish.com

Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cup(s) shredded peeled apples
  • 1/2 cup(s) diced dried apples
  • 3 tablespoon(s) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1/3 cup(s) canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup(s) whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cup(s) cake flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon(s) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) salt
  • 1/2 cup(s) nonfat buttermilk
DIRECTIONS
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 (1/2-cup) muffin cups with cupcake liners or coat with cooking spray.
2. Combine shredded and dried apples in a bowl with 3 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Set aside. Beat oil and the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until combined. Add vanilla, increase speed to high, and beat for 1 minute.
3. Whisk whole-wheat flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon in a medium bowl.
4. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk to the batter, starting and ending with dry ingredients and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Stir in the reserved apple mixture until just combined. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. (The cups will be full.)
5. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before frosting.
CARAMEL BUTTERCREAM
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter (2 sticks)
  • 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 or 1/3 caramel (NOTE: You DO NOT have to make your own caramel sauce. I got a bag of those individually wrapped caramel squares and melted them down in a saucepan over medium/low heat. Or if you can find it, just use caramel ice cream topping. No biggie at all.)
DIRECTIONS
1.  Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy.
2. Reduce speed to low and gradually add in the powdered sugar. Once it is all incorporated, turn the mixer to medium speed and add the vanilla.
3. Add the caramel sauce and beat on high until all the ingredients are mixed well. (To make sure the buttercream isn’t too soft, cool the caramel a little before adding. If the buttercream is not firm enough, add a little more powdered sugar until you reach your desired consistency)
ENJOY!!

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

I sing.

A lot.

And guys? I’m like a really good singer.

I’m like that singer you wish you could be. American Idol was invented for singers like me. They needed some kind of platform to showcase voices like mine.

I’m pitch perfect, harmony is spot on.

And then there is that moment, when the music ends and I continue singing without any music or other vocals to drown me out, that everything comes full circle.

I am an AWFUL singer.

But you know what? I still do it. There is no way I could possibly listen to music without singing along or without really getting into it. I don’t understand people who just causally listen to their iPods while reading a book, or talk to other people while their earphones are clearly still in their ear.

Like, no.

If I’m listening to music I tap along, rock my head, sing along (or if I want to be nice to people, I’ll lip-sync). Please, Britney Spears has NOTHING on me in terms of lip-syncing.

Do I sometimes look like an idiot? Absolutely. But you know what? I’m livin’, man.

I hear so many people make excuses for not doing certain things, or plan so far ahead that they are barely paying attention to the moment they are in now.

What’s the John Lennon quote? Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

That’s it, right? And that WAS John Lennon, right? I should totally probably Google that…

Well anyway, you get the point. I’ve had a crazy realization recently. You want in on this earth shattering news?

Ok, here it is.

People, life is short.

Whoa…I know.

But we can tackle this two ways. We can either sit here and just get through life making other plans, or we can just get out there and eff’ing LIVE!

You want to sing so loudly people will think you’re crazy? Go for it. And if you’re in your car and you’re worried that other drivers will think you’re nut-so, who cares?! When are you ever going to see them again in life?

Want to learn how to play an instrument? Do it. Learning new things is never a bad thing.

Want to travel the world? See new sights? Hell yeah!! Do it now while you can. No worries, man. Just GO!

Want to take golf lessons? Me too! I’m nervous as all get-out because I am CONVINCED hips should never twist like that. But you know what? I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I can, and I WANT to!

Heck, you want to go swimming in a pool of chocolate pudding? Why not?!

(OMG, I HAVE TO GO SWIMMING IN A POOL OF CHOCOLATE PUDDING)

The point is, no matter what you want to do, just do it.

Life is short, and you never know what’s going to happen. We (especially Americans) get so caught up in all the bad, that we forget about the good.

We constantly worry about money, work, money, and more work. Relax. Take a breather.

Go see your favorite band at a concert. Read that book that you’ve been putting off because you’ve had no time. Take a vacation day from work (that’s why they give you them) and spend the day for YOU and not someone else.

Enjoy life’s simple pleasures. Stay up early and watch the sun rise. In the evening, stop what you’re doing and watch the sunset. Look for shooting stars. Eat dessert first.

Do you really want to just tear into a big, juicy bacon cheeseburger and fries but are worried it’s going to go straight to your hips? GO. FOR. IT. Dig right in with no shame and take that sucker down like it’s the last thing on earth left to eat. And stop worrying about your hips. You look great. More than great, actually. You’re amazing. Never change.

Just take a look around and experience life.

Laugh with your friends. It’s the best thing you can ever do.

Spend time with your family. If you love your family like I do, spending time with them is the greatest pleasure I can think of.

Tell the people that are special in your life that you love them.

I love you.

Oh, and make Homemade Peanut Butter Cups.

Why?

Because it’s peanut butter and chocolate.

And because they’re just so darn cute, and so darn easy. And because you can finally say you’ve made homemade candy.

Scratch that sucker off your bucket list. Look at you living life to the fullest already!

And because THEY ARE SO GOOD!!!!

And did I mention that it’s peanut butter and chocolate?

I did say that already?

Right.

I love you

HOMEMADE PEANUT BUTTER CUPS

Recipe by Brown Eyed Baker

1 cups creamy peanut butter
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
1¼ cups powdered sugar
4 cups milk chocolate chips (two 11.5-oz bags)
¼ cup vegetable shortening

1. Line a mini-muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. Line a baking with parchment paper; set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter, butter and brown sugar over medium heat. Heat until completely melted and starting to bubble a little, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar a ¼ cup at a time, stirring until completely combined with the peanut butter mixture after each addition. Set aside and let cool.

3. Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips and shortening together in the microwave on 50% power in 30-second increments, until completely melted, stirring after each burst.

4. Using a small cookie scoop or a couple of teaspoons, spoon melted chocolate into the bottom of each lined muffin cup.

5. Use a heaping teaspoon to scoop out the peanut butter mixture. Roll it into a ball, and then flatten it slightly into a disk. Place on the prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Once finished with all of the peanut butter mixture, refrigerate both the muffin tins and the peanut butter patties for about 30 minutes.

6. Place a peanut butter patty on top of each chocolate-lined muffin tin. Then use a scoop or spoon to add more melted chocolate on top and around each peanut butter patty. (If the melted chocolate firmed up, just pop it back into the microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds or so to re-melt.)

7. Refrigerate again for 30 minutes, then they’re ready to serve! Store in the refrigerator or freezer. You can keep at room temperature in an airtight container if you’re going to serve them the same day, but they’ll start to get soft if not at cool room temperature.

My pictures are awful because they were taken with my cell phone, but you know what? I’m sharing them with you anyway. Look at me not caring about the little things!! I am living life.


Baked Doughnuts

I’m going to share with you a little short story.

Sit back kiddies, this will be a good one.

I love doughnuts. I purchased a doughnut pan. I waited anxiously for 7-10 business days for it to be delivered. It finally came in. I am OBSESSED.

The End.

Pulitzer Prize material right there.

Have you ever looked at a doughnut and thought “Nah, that’s ok. I don’t want one.”

How could you say such a thing? It’s deep fried dough that can be stuffed with delicious things like jelly and creams. They can be topped with wonderful toppings like sugar, glazes, and sprinkles. Sprinkles! Is there anything more cheerful than sprinkles?! (Not Jimmies. Please, I’m from North Jersey, people. If you want Jimmies, head to a South Jersey/Philly baking blog.) And if you do, 2 things: 1. Ew, Philly. 2. Go Devils/Giants/Mets! (Yes, Mets fan here. No comments, thank you. It’s hard enough as it is…)

Oh, and did I mention that it’s DEEP. FRIED. DOUGH? What can be better? Like honestly, hand me a zeppole covered in powdered sugar and I am set. For life.

I guess the only thing better than deep fried doughnuts are baked doughnuts.

Wait, did I just say what I think I just said? Baked Doughnuts?

I know what you’re thinking. “Deanna! Baked doughnuts will NOT be as good as a full-fat, greasy, slathered-in-glaze doughnuts.”

Girl, please. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

One of the many great things about these doughnuts is that you can totally eat like 6 of them without feeling guilty. Why? Because they’re baked and not fried in all that (wonderful) oil. (Not that I ate 6 doughnuts or anything. I swear………)

Ok, moving on.

But for serious. As soon as I finished tearing my doughnut pan out of the box, I was mixing together a batter for Baked Vanilla Doughnuts.

These doughnuts are GOOD.They taste so similar to their fried counterparts, that your taste buds will think you’re tricking them. Such a jokster you are.

Doughnut-y. Is that a word? Because that’s what they totally taste like. I’m telling you. I swear on my dessert-loving heart that these are legit.

And will you just look at that top picture? Too lazy to scroll up? It’s totez fine. I got ya covered….

My god, that’s gorgeous.

Excuse me while I’m just wipe off the drool off my keyboard……….

OK, done. I purell’ed. It’s all good.

These doughnuts were such a great mix between a light, airy texture of a doughnut and the more dense texture of a cake. So what I’m really trying to say is that yes, your prayers have been answered. The dessert Gods have heard you preach, and there is a dessert (or breakfast, or snack) that combines both the textures and flavors of fried doughnuts and cake. This is one religion I could actually get behind.

Don’t believe there are dessert Gods? Just as I’m typing this, Champagne Supernova by Oasis just started playing on my Pandora. One of my favorite songs ever ever ever. Coincidence? I think not. Those dessert Gods know a good thing when they see it. Fate. Trust it. Believe it.

Plus, add a vanilla glaze and these are out of control. It’s the perfect amount of sugar without over-powering the taste of the doughnut. And really, it’s vanilla glaze. Is there ever anything wrong with that? Nah.

And as if Baked Vanilla Doughnuts weren’t enough, I also made Baked Chocolate Doughnuts.

Hell to the yes.

I don’t do things half-way. I go all the way, come back, and do it again.

Feast your eyes on these puppies:

These.

Oh my were they yummy.

These doughnuts are covered with a Buttermilk Glaze. The glaze didn’t form a hard shell like some glazes usually do. It seeped into the doughnut and made itself one with the doughnut. When biting into one (or 3..) you could taste how they just melted into each other.  That’s totally how a glaze and doughnuts should be. They should love each other and never let go.

The best love story around.

So yes. Doughnuts. Baked, fried, vanilla glaze, sprinkles. However you take them, it’s all amazing. It’s all good. It’s all heavenly.

Get on this train. The doughnut train is here, and it’s here to stay. And that’s just how I like it.

Oh wait. One more thing…

Fact: Doughnuts are sexy.

Don’t say I’ve never taught you anything.

BAKED VANILLA DOUGHNUTS

Recipe by Fake Ginger

1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons buttermilk
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 – 2 teaspoons heavy cream (or milk)
sprinkles

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a doughnut pan.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Stir in milk, eggs, vanilla and butter. Beat together until well blended.

Spoon the batter into a 6-doughnut pan. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until doughnuts spring back when touched. Allow to cool slightly before removing from pan.

To make glaze, blend confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream, starting with 1 teaspoon and adding more as needed. Dip each doughnut into the glaze and put sprinkles on top.

BAKED CHOCOLATE DOUGHNUTS

Recipe by Fake Ginger

1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg

Lightly grease a doughnut tin and preheat the oven to 350F.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda, and then whisk in the sugar, cinnamon and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the butter, buttermilk, vanilla and egg. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Do not overmix, or your doughnuts may be a bit rubbery.

Spoon the batter into the doughnut pan. Fill each cup 1/2 to 3/4 full.  It’s important not to overfill, or as the doughnuts rise, you’ll lose the hole.

Bake for 6 to 10 minutes (depending on the size of your doughnut pan), until the doughnuts spring back when touched. Let cool slightly on a wire rack before glazing.

Buttermilk Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
1 – 2 teaspoons buttermilk

In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon of buttermilk. Continue adding buttermilk a few drops at a time until it reaches a good dippable consistency. It should be thick enough to stick to the doughnuts but not so thick that it’s clumpy.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing

Red Velvet cupcakes are becoming the Little Black Dress of the dessert world. Everyone sells them. Everyone eats them. A bakery isn’t quite complete without them.

Now here’s where I get deep: What exactly IS red velvet? Whoa. That’s like “what’s beyond heaven?” deep. Don’t be scared. We can figure this out.

It’s not chocolate. It’s not vanilla. Can red be a flavor? “Oh my god. This is the best red tasting cupcake I have ever had!” uhh… Sure, why not? Red is now a flavor.

I guess the only way to describe red velvet is DELICIOUSMOSTAMAZINGTASTINGCAKEEVER. Now THAT’S totally a flavor.

When I first heard of red velvet cake, I remember being in love with it before even tasting it. I mean, it was easy to fall in love with something that people were so passionate about. People were freaking out about this cake. I remember sitting back thinking “Well, I like cake.” So of course me and red velvet would get along. The only thing left to really do was try it. Kind of important, no?

So I did. And I figured if I’m going to try it for the first time, I might as well go somewhere special. I wasn’t going to Shop-Rite for my first red velvet cupcake tasting. No. I needed to have an “experience” with the cupcake flavor that I already loved, yet never tasted before.

Magnolia Bakery.

Oh Mags. How wonderful you were to me on that fateful day. After stepping into your store, I had completely forgotten how mortified Map Quest made me and my Aunt Nan when we punched in your address only to find we were 47 SECONDS away from your store. No kidding. So we stepped out of the car, and walked those 47 seconds.

Determined. Mortified. Hysterical.

And there you were. Open arms, inviting us in with your windows filled and filled with cupcakes, and cookies and cakes. Map Quest what? I could barely keep my eyes in one place for longer than 2 seconds. So many choices. But I needed to focus. I knew why I was here. Red velvet. So I composed myself and ordered that red velvet cupcake (and a chocolate…and a vanilla…and another chocolate). NO. SHAME.

Oh my heavens. Mystical. That’s how I would describe it. Mystical because you can’t quite put your finger on exactly what you’re eating. It’s light, vanilla-y with a hint of chocolate from the cocoa powder. Basically think of every great aspect of all different cupcakes. Now combine them. That’s what a red velvet cake is like. Plus, it’s red. How can you hate any food that is colored? (Except those creepy colored ketchup that Heinz created a couple years ago. Remember those?! Yeah….)

And thus became my love affair with a cake that I finally tried.

But there was a deep dark secret that I kept. One that I’m not too proud to share. But I will share it with you. Why? Because I like you. Yes, you. Sitting there..eyes wide with anticipation waiting for my deepest, darkest secret to be revealed. You. Ok, relax with the eyes. You’re becoming colored ketchup creepy.

Ok here it is: As much as I love red velvet cake, I don’t like cream cheese icing.

Oh my God. I said it. It’s done. I feel strangely liberated.

Yes, it’s true. I’m not a huge cream cheese lover. And I thought adding tons of powdered sugar to it would turn this girl into a cream cheese lover, but alas, it hasn’t.

Until…

Until I tried this Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing. I’m just going to allow that to sink in.

Brown.

Sugar.

Cream.

Cheese.

Icing.

Sweet baby Jesus.

Remember that “I Love Lucy” episode where she is stomping on grapes making her own wine? Well, that’s what I feel like doing with this icing. Except, instead of wine barrels, it’s a bath tub. And instead of grapes, it’s this icing. And instead of stomping my feet in it, I’m bathing in it. Bathing in this wonderfully sweet icing. It’s totally the same thing.

It’s amazing what a little brown sugar can do. It’s the little super hero of baking ingredients. By simply adding this to cream cheese icing, it created an icing I might die for. And when it’s paired with red velvet cake, that extra sweetness that the brown sugar creates just works wonderfully.

So please, if you have never tried a red velvet cupcake before, DO IT. And please, please, please make this brown sugar cream cheese icing. It will change your life.

I’ve searched and searched and searched for a great red velvet cupcake recipe, and after some failed attempts (I once made cupcakes that came out flat. Flat. I have yet to find anything on this earth more depressing than a flat red velvet cupcake.), I finally found a great recipe.

Oh, you want to see it? Ok, ok, fine.

RED VELVET CUPCAKES

Recipe from: Brown Eyed Baker

Yields 12 Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons red food coloring
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with liners.

2. Using an electric mixer, on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

3. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

5. Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.

6. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.

7. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

BROWN SUGAR CREAM CHEESE ICING:

Recipe from Joy The Baker

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar

DIRECTIONS:.

Cream the butter and cream cheese together in an electric mixer.  (Be sure that the two are at room temperature.  Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.)  Add the brown sugar and vanilla extract, and beat for about 2 minutes.  Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl.  Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.

And yes, that is my dining room table. Get familiar with it. Love it. Imagine yourself seated at it. You will be seeing it a lot.