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Sadly, one of my long time taste testers has taking advantage of a wonderful job offer and is leaving the sultry humidity of Florida in favor of North Carolina. Since he was one of my first testers and without a doubt one of my most appreciative, I did what any baker would do. I offered to make him any farewell cupcakes he wanted. The prompt response was “anything with peanut butter or booze”, and me being me, I said “let’s do both!”
Once I made that decision, I took to Pinterest for some fresh inspiration. I already have a kick-ass chocolate cake and peanut butter frosting recipe so I wanted to find something that would elevate the two. Within fifteen minutes, I found “Manly Cupcakes” by The Baker in the Rye and had the perfect accompaniment to my peanut butter and chocolate profile, bourbon and bacon. With a few minor tweaks, I was in business and ready to go.
Ingredients for the Maple Candied Bacon
- 4 slices of Bacon
- 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- dash nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 400 degreed Fahrenheit.
- Place a silicone baking mat or foil on a cookie sheet and top with a baking rack.
- Pour maple syrup in one bowl and in another bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper.
- Dip the bacon in the syrup so it is fully coated. Then rub the brown sugar mixture into the bacon until it is completely coated in the sugar. Do this for all 4 pieces of bacon. Place each piece on baking rack, making sure it isn’t touching the mat underneath.
- Then, bake for 20-25 minutes until it is dark brown in color. *If it is undercooked, it will not candy and become a hard salty treat.
Ingredients for the Bourbon Syrup
- 1 cup Bourbon
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- In a small pan, bring bourbon to a rolling boil.
- Turn to low and add in maple syrup, butter, and dark brown sugar.
- Then cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it thickens up and reduces to about 1/3 cup. Let cool before using toppings.
- Even before I stopped drinking, I wasn’t a huge fan of bourbon, so I knew this was something I’d need a little help with. My first helper was the cashier at the liquor store. We talked about what I needed and what I needed it for and he showed me a few different options that would work best for what I had in mind. He also helped me find the best sized bottle since I wouldn’t be drinking the left overs. Andy stepped up for the tasting portion of this adventure since, to me, the syrup tasted only like sweet bourbon. We did several tastings during the process, and he helped me determine when the alcohol had burned off and when the subtle maple and molasses had fully blended. Did I like it when I was done? Nope. Did everyone else? Yep.
- I’ve tried to make candied bacon once before and hadn’t really had good luck with it, but I wanted to give it another shot. This recipe was pretty different from the first one, and it is hands down my winner. You do have to keep a close eye on your bacon since the difference between candy and charcoal is maybe a minute / minute and a half, but if you pull it off I guarantee it’ll be a crowd pleaser.
My recipes are adaptation of this recipe found on The Baker in the Rye.
After a very intense week, I was looking forward to this past weekend quite a bit. I was ready to disconnect for a bit and indulge in something creative. I decided to work on an idea I had a while back, which is coming up with interesting ways to spruce up gluten free cake mixes (there are some really good ones out there these days), sort of like the Cake Mix Doctor recipes, but a bit more pretentious sounding. I also wanted to include fresh rosemary because I’ve tried in a few sweet applications, and I think it brings something unexpected to the flavor party.
Just for funsies, I came up with two variations: a Rosemary Olive Oil Cupcake with Blackberry Frosting and a Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cupcake with Whipped Ganache Frosting. I used the King Arthurs Yellow and Chocolate Cake Mixes as my bases, respectively. The Results:
Rosemary Olive Oil Cupcake with Blackberry Frosting – Pretty good. I was a little worried when I tried the cake without the frosting that it was going to be to herbaceous, but the sweet and fruity from the blackberry frosting went a long way to even things out. I think it needed a tart element to really give things some depth. I’d made a blackberry filling for these, but I forgot to fill the cupcakes before I frosted them (Oops). I think it would have done the trick, though.
Chocolate Orange Olive Oil Cupcake with Whipped Ganache Frosting – A bit disappointing. The cake alone was almost perfect, but when paired with the whipped ganache, the subtle flavors of orange and rosemary were very much overshadowed by CHOCOLATE. I am still rolling this one around in my head; keep the cake and change the frosting? Or Keep the frosting and change up the cake? The frosting was a new 2 ingredient recipe I found online: equal parts chocolate and butter, melt together, allow to set up in the fridge and whip until light and airy. Rich, light and a little prone to melting, but as long as the weather is cool, I will be using it again.
Progress made, but no finished recipes quite yet. I’ll have to get back into the kitchen and give things another go. Although, considering how long it took to clean up the kitchen when I was done, it might be later rather than sooner 🙂
This is the second recipe I have tried from Baked Occasions, an early birthday gift from Andy (you can find the first here), and I have to say that this book is definitively helping me push my baking skills a little farther. Of course I had to tweak the recipe just a tiny bit so I could make cupcakes instead of the recommended layer cake, but I think the integrity of the recipe is still intact.
- These cupcakes almost didn’t make it to the oven; I had a brain fart and used the wrong kind of flour (all purpose instead of cake). I got lucky and it didn’t seem to make much of a difference in this case, but there was that moment of “do I go ahead and bake it or do I throw it out?” Andy’s vote is always to bake anyway; he is more than happy to take care of any reject recipes that I don’t feel comfortable sending to my testers.
- I was a little concerned about how the flavors would blend (chocolate, cream cheese, sour cream, cinnamon), but it all came together wonderfully. So much so, that one of the testers said it was one of the best cupcakes he’d ever had.
- I chopped up the left over dark chocolate to sprinkle over the cupcakes; they were looking a little sad and unfinished even after they were frosted.
- My two biggest take-aways from the recipe are 1 – I need to bake with sour cream more, and 2 – chocolate cream cheese frosting is awesome 🙂
I have to tell you guys, I am embarrassingly proud of how well these cupcakes turned out. The frosting was sweet and very berry-y, the filling was fruity and tart, and the cake was so good I’d have eaten it without the frosting. Very rarely do I bake something and not want to tweak the recipe, but this was exactly what I wanted. Originally, I’d planned on making blackberry cupcakes for my birthday, but between office cake, desserts from friends, and special treats from my husband, there was no way I needed any additional baked goods. Now that birthday week is officially over, our kitchen is no longer stocked with an over abundance of sweets. Plus Easter. You have to have something special for Easter. The lime flavor addition was very last minute, but it completely made the cupcakes.
Ingredients and Directions:
- 1 box of Plisbury Classic White Cake
- 3 eggs
- 1 stick of melted butter
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1 tbsp lime zest
- Preheat oven to 350 and line cupcake tins.
- Combine ingredients in large mixing bowl, mix until thoroughly incorporated.
- Fill cupcake liners 2/3rds full and bake 19-23 minutes.
- Allow cupcakes to completely cool before filling and frosting.
- 24 oz frozen blackberries
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- the juice from half a lime
- Combine sugar, blackberries and lime juice in a medium sauces pan and place over medium heat.
- As the berries start to release juice, reserve one cup of the juice (for the frosting), then continue to let the berries simmer and reduce until they reach a thin syrupy consistency (approximately 20-25 minutes).
- Allow the filling to cool before piping into cupcakes.
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 all purpose flour
- 1 cup blackberry juice
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- the juice of half of a lime
- zest from one lime
- 3 sticks up butter cut into cubes
- Combine sugar, flour, cream and both juices in a sauce pan and place over medium heat. Whisk ingredients and allow them to cook, stirring occasionally, until it reaches the consistency of a soft pudding (roughly 10-15 minutes).
- Transfer mixture to a stand mixer and beat on high until cooled (6-8 minutes).
- Once mixture has cooled, reduce mixer speed to medium and start adding the butter a couple of cubes at a time until all the butter has been incorporated.
- Switch mixer back to high and whip frosting for 1-2 minutes.
To Build the Cupcakes
- Use a cupcake corer or a knife to cut a hole in the middle of each cooled cupcake.
- Fill the cavity with blackberry filling.
- Frost each cupcake and decorate however you like.
I went a little crazy at Publix the other day. You see Pillsbury released a special holiday Cinnamon Bun Cake Mix, and I may have bought 3 boxes without even thinking about it. Okay, there was a little thought, but it went something like “Look! Special cinnamon cake! Andy likes cinnamon and cake. I should buy a couple just in case they’re awesome.” Fast forward to me trying to shove the boxes into my all ready jam-packed pantry and realizing that they would be in there forever if we didn’t like them. So, I decided to whip up a batch the week before Thanksgiving, knowing that if they weren’t our cup of tea, I could unload the extra mixes on unsuspecting family members. Plus, it gave me an excuse to try out a frosting recipe from Little City Adventures that I had my eye on.
- 12oz cream cheese, room temperature
- 3/4 cup butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 6 cups confectioner’s sugar
- 2-4 Tbsp milk
- 1 Tbsp orange zest
- 2oz can jellied cranberry sauce
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Beat the cream cheese and butter until combined and creamy.
- Add the vanilla and half of the confectioner’s sugar. Beat until combined and creamy.
- Add the remaining confectioner’s sugar and the milk. Beat until combined.
- Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.
- Once combined, continue mixing for at least 3 more minutes to create a light and fluffy frosting.
- I was a tiny bit disappointed that this frosting never got fluffy. I tend to like a “lighter” frosting, but if thick and sinfully rich is your thing, this is the recipe for you.
- While not my ideal texture, flavor-wise this was spot on. The cranberry and orange cut some of the richness, and I found myself eating far more than I should.
- Also, the cake mix was really good. It was very cinnamon-y, and I could even see eating it without frosting. The house smelled amazing while it was baking.