Spring Cupcakes

Spring!

Happy Spring!

I was inspired to make these cupcakes from others I had seen on Pinterest, but the nests usually consisted of dyed coconut (icky!) or sprinkles. I love sprinkles, but a mouth full of sprinkles doesn’t seem that appealing. So, I thought about other ways I could make a “nest” and realized shaved chocolate pieces would be perfect! Who doesn’t love a mouth full of more chocolate? 😀 I also got to use my FAVORITE chocolate sour cream frosting! (The sour cream adds a really rich flavor to the frosting!)

Spring Cupcakes: 

1 box yellow cake mix (get a moist type with pudding added)

(Vegetable oil & Eggs per the box directions)

Chocolate almond bark (for nest-only need a small amount)

Whopper’s Mini Robin Eggs (or another small egg shaped candy)

Make the cake mix according to the box directions. Tip: Follow the box directions that say to beat the mixture on medium speed for 2 minutes-this ensures all is well mixed and it incorporates air into the batter to make the cupcakes nice and fluffy. Bake per the package directions, use a toothpick to test the cupcakes to ensure they are done. The toothpick should come out “clean” with no wet batter or crumbs on it; if it is wet bake a little longer & test again. Let the cupcakes cool.

Use a vegetable peeler to grate the chocolate almond bark into little chocolate rolls/pieces. These will be the nest.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting: 

1-1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

3 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

3-1/2 cups powdered sugar

Melt the chocolate chips and butter together in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. Let it cool a couple minutes and transfer to a large mixing bowl & add the sour cream & vanilla. Mix together. Add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly with a whisk attachment to insure it is lump free. *This frosting recipe is from a cookbook entitled “Chocolate”on page 19.

Thin a third of the frosting with about 1/2 teaspoon of milk to make it easier to spread. Put the other two thirds of the frosting into a piping bag with a decorating tip. Once the cupcakes have cooled, frost the cupcakes with a thin layer of the chocolate frosting & pipe a circle onto each cupcakes. While the frosting is still moist, roll the edges of the frosting in the chocolate almond bark shavings. Finally, add three (different colored) Whopper Robin eggs (or other small egg shaped candy) into the center.

Follow the directions on the box. Tip: Set a timer for 2 minutes and mix on medium speed. This helps to really make sure all of the ingredients are mixed together and it incorporates air into the batter which makes it light and fluffy.

Follow the directions on the box. Tip: Per the directions on a box-Set a timer for 2 minutes and mix on medium speed. This helps to really make sure all of the ingredients are mixed together and it incorporates air into the batter which makes it light and fluffy.

See the nice air bubbles in there.

See the nice air bubbles in there. That will make the cupcakes nice and fluffy.

Fill the batter 3/4 full. I used my large Pampered Chef scoop to spoon in the batter.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full of batter. I used my large Pampered Chef scoop to spoon in the batter.

Bake per the directions on the box, using a toothpick to test for doneness. Note: Cupcakes can become dry very quickly, so try to catch them right at the point when they are done so they will stay moist. It can be difficult to tell when cupcakes are done because the bottom and sides of cupcakes can cook more quickly, and burn before the top shows much color. So, set the timer to the lowest cooking window and keep an eye on them, testing with a toothpick.

Grate the chocolate bar. I used chocolate almond bark as it has a bit more wax in it, ,so it will hold its shape better when on the cupcake.

Grate the chocolate almond bark. I used chocolate almond bark as it has a bit more wax in it than a regular chocolate bar, so it will hold its shape better when on the cupcake.

Chocolate shavings ready to be the nest.

Chocolate shavings ready to be the nest.

The cupcakes are cooling. Notice the awesome floral cupcake liners! ;)

The cupcakes are cooling. Notice the awesome floral cupcake liners! 😉

Let the cupcakes cool completely after baking. While they are chilling on a cooling rack, make the frosting!

The best part! Making the frosting! :) Melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds.

The best part! Making the frosting! 🙂 Melt the chocolate chips and butter in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds.

Its important to stir the melting mixture every 30 seconds because chocolate tends to hold its shape, so it doesn’t look like it is melting, when it actually is melting, usually on the bottom and the sides. Also, the butter will melt more quickly than the chocolate, so its good to stir to get that incorporated. The melted butter will tend to make the chocolate seize up a bit, this is normal. As long as you are stirring it every 30 seconds, and it doesn’t smell burnt it is fine. (The first time I ever made it, I thought I burned it, so I threw it out-turns out I didn’t, that’s just the way it looks)

It should look like this when it is ready.

It should look like this when it is ready. Transfer to the mixing bowl.

Add sour cream to the chocolate/butter mixture.

Add sour cream to the chocolate/butter mixture.

Add the vanilla.

Add the vanilla.

Mix together.

Mix together using a whisk attachment to thoroughly mix the ingredients.

Add the powdered sugar, mixing 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time.

Add the powdered sugar, mixing 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time. This helps ensure it has a creamy consistency that is lump free.

Almost ready. Add all of the powdered sugar required, it  mellows out the sour cream flavor and really adds a nice richness to the frosting.

Almost ready. Add all of the powdered sugar required, it mellows out the sour cream flavor and really adds a nice richness to the frosting.

Once the frosting is ready…

Prepare a piping bag with a decorating tip. I used Wilton 1M decorating tip. Then put the bag inside a tall cup, and fold down part of the bag around the cup to keep it propped open. Spoon in the frosting with the spatula.

Prepare a piping bag with a decorating tip. I used a Wilton 1M decorating tip. Then put the bag inside a tall cup, and fold down part of the bag around the cup to keep it propped open. Spoon in the frosting with the spatula.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of milk to the remaining frosting in the bowl to thin it a bit to make it easier to spread on the cupcakes. It doesn't have to be perfect because it is just the base and the eggs and nest will go on top of it.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of milk to the remaining frosting in the mixing bowl to thin it to make it a bit easier to spread on the cupcakes. It doesn’t have to be perfect because it is just the base and the eggs and nest will go on top of it.

Pipe a circle with the frosting in the decorating bag.

Pipe a circle  using a frosting “Shell border” technique with the frosting in the decorating bag.

After piping the nest, while the frosting is still moist roll the edges in the shaved chocolate.

After piping the nest, while the frosting is still moist, roll the edges in the shaved chocolate to create the nest.

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Cupcake decorating station.

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Cupcake prepared: 4 WW Points (20 cupcakes), Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting: 5 points per cupcake; Total=9 WW Points per cupcake

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Red Velvet Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes

Red velvet cake is my husband’s favorite cake! Growing up, his mother made him red velvet cake for his birthday. When I was growing up, my mom always made red velvet cake only for Valentine’s day & would use a coolwhip type frosting on top. As an adult, I have experienced the joy that is THE CHEESECAKE FACTORY!!! So, I wanted to make a red velvet cheesecake dessert and was all set on making a Red Velvet Cheesecake recipe from Willow Bird Baking blog. However, I wanted the dessert to be in a smaller, “shareable” form, so I wouldn’t be tempted with a giant cake around the house all week.

Therefore, I decided to combine a few different recipes and create these Red Velvet Cheesecake Filled Cupcakes. The cake recipe is from Willow Bird Baking, and the filling and frosting are family recipes. I was a little hesitant as I know that sometimes each element may taste fine on their own, but when paired they may need some tweaking. However, this was not the case and it all tasted amazing together! These are the Best Cupcakes I Have Ever Had!!!-says me and everyone else who tried one! (Now you can too!)

Bought a 1M Wilton decorating tip to make these beautiful roses like a pro! :)

Bought a 1M Wilton decorating tip to make these beautiful roses like a pro! 🙂

Red Velvet Cupcakes

A view of the cheesecake filling on the inside, complete with mini chocolate chips!

A view of the cheesecake filling on the inside, complete with mini chocolate chips!

Red Velvet Cake: 

1/4 cup vegetable shortening

1 egg

1 Tablespoon cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk (using powdered is fine)

1 & 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 ounce red food coloring (liquid)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Add the cocoa (Next time I might try adding 1 or 2 Tbsp. more cocoa powder to give it a bit more chocolate flavor-but it was fabulous anyway) and food coloring to the mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with the flour. *If using dry buttermilk, follow the directions on the package and mix the powdered buttermilk with the dry ingredients and then use the 1/2 cup of water as the liquid buttermilk (wet ingredient).

My mom taught me a trick to maximize every drop of food coloring in the bottle. After dumping in the food coloring, carefully, so as not to splash yourself. 🙂  Save the bottle, and then measure out the 1/2 cup of wet ingredients (water if using powder) in a measuring cup, then pour some of the liquid into the red food coloring bottle & then into the cake to wash out any remaining dye to help give your cake a nice vibrant red color.

Then mix the vinegar and soda together in a little bowl before adding to the cake mixture (this will cause the soda to foam). Thoroughly mix into the batter and begin to partially fill your lined cupcake tins. Then make the filling below and spoon that in the lined tins next, then top with a bit of remaining red velvet batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-25 minutes (know your oven, if it cooks hot-set it for less time). Use a toothpick inserted into the center to test the doneness of the cake-should come out clean.

Cheesecake Filling: 

1-8 oz. cream cheese (softened)

1/3 c. sugar

1 egg

1/4 c. Canola oil

1-6 oz. pkg chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips in this case)

Cream the sugar and cream cheese until smooth (very important so you don’t get a lumpy cream cheese filling). Then combine the egg and canola oil and mix thoroughly. Then stir in the chocolate chips. This filling is great with a German chocolate cake! Typically you fill your cupcake tins with the cupcake batter, then drop in a rounded tsp. of filling in each cupcake tin- it sinks to the middle of the cupcake as it bakes. However, for this recipe, I wasn’t sure if the batter would sink to the middle, so I spooned a bit of the red velvet cake batter in all the cupcake liners, then a rounded tsp of filling in all the liners, then more red velvet cake batter on top. The cake did not rise much during baking, so filling the liners about 3/4 full worked well.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1-8 oz. cream cheese (1/3 less fat Philadelphia cream cheese) (room temp)

1 stick butter (room temp)

1 lb powdered sugar (This would be half a 2lb bag)

1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth (using the whisk attachment to your stand mixer), then add vanilla and powdered sugar & mix some more, adding a little powdered sugar at a time using low speed so as not to create a mess! Taste the frosting as you go, if you think it is sweet enough without the full 1 lb of powdered sugar, stop there, just make sure it is the right consistency for piping/spreading. If you accidentally put in too much powdered sugar (which has happened to me on occasion) feel free to thin it with a splash of milk.

Traditionally, this frosting is for my family’s carrot cake recipe (I’ll have to do a post on that another time), but it pairs amazingly with this red velvet cake! I found an amazing tutorial from Glory over at “Glorious Treats” on how to frost cupcakes like a pro. Her tutorial helped me “up my game” immensely! Link to her quick video tutorial on frosting cupcakes: http://www.glorioustreats.com/2011/08/cupcake-basics-how-to-frost-cupcakes.html

I used a Wilton 1M tip ($3 at Walmart) and a plastic frosting bag. I also used her “cup method” to fill the bag, by placing the tip inside a large cup and putting the frosting bag ends over the top of the cup to create an open pocket to spoon in your frosting. I frosted the cupcakes in a spiral motion beginning in the center of each cupcake and piping the frosting from directly over the top of the cupcake (not from the side, or anything difficult) to create the beautiful rose. Then I topped with some pretty pearl white ball sprinkles (from Walmart). I think they turned out beautiful.

I figured each of these cupcakes to be 11 WW points, so I found it best to stick with my plan by cutting a cupcake in half and only taking half of it to work for my dessert at lunch, then I would eat the other half at lunch the next day. This gave me something great to look forward to and gave me more of an opportunity to burn it off throughout the day. I hope you love them as much as I do!