cupcakes

Apple Streusel Cupcakes

I’ve been a bad blogger the last three weeks. I’d like to say it’s been an especially busy month, but that just isn’t true.

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The truth is, I’m no busier than usual, maybe even less busy. And I did continue baking and cooking while on hiatus. But for the last month or so, my focus has been on mind and body restoration.

My life has always been, Go, go, go. I’m a hard-wired, type-A girl. And then a couple months ago, I fell in love.

Or more precisely, I fell back in love. With BODYFLOW, that is.

I should back up a bit. For the better part of the last year, I’ve been in and out of pain in my hip and one side of my lower back. I finally broke down and went to see my ortho, which in turn led to about six weeks with a physical therapist. I discovered that my lower body was out of alignment, and some muscles were out of balance. I spent half the summer trying to realign, rebalance, and most importantly, relearn  — how to sit, how to sleep, how to get in a car…

As part of my journey, I started taking Les Mills BODYFLOW, a mind-body class that draws from the disciplines of Tai Chi, yoga, and Pilates, about twice per week. I used to be a regular BODYFLOW participant before becoming a group fitness instructor. As instructors, we’re taught to be member-centric. While I don’t speak for every instructor, I do know that the busier I am, the less time I take for myself.

Anyway, I quickly remembered what the class meant to me as a member — recovery for my body, calm for my mind. We work on strength, but also flexibility, balance, grace, and calm. Aside from strength, none of these comes naturally to me, and that’s exactly why I need it in my life. In other countries, BODYFLOW is called BODYBALANCE, and balance is exactly what it provides.

When I found myself with the opportunity to attend an instructor training for BODYFLOW, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and continue my journey.  I spent the last two weeks preparing for the training, which I attended this weekend, and for the next couple of months I’ll work toward finishing my certification.

This has absolutely nothing to do with apple cupcakes, except to say that I just haven’t had time in the last two weeks to post. I promise — there are more recipes in the queue!

Anyway, you are going to love these cupcakes. It’s almost like coffee cake, and I’d venture to say it would make an awesome breakfast or brunch cupcake, perhaps without the galze. If you’re going for true cupcake, keep the glaze — just know that it’s going to make the cupcakes a lot sweeter.

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Apple Streusel Cupcakes

Adapted from Cooking Light

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

6.75 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons amaretto, or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
3/4 cup finely chopped apple

Streusel:
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, chilled
2 tablespoons sliced almonds

Optional Glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons (or more) 2% reduced-fat milk
1 teaspoon almond liqueur

Preheat oven to 350°. Place muffin cup liners in 12 muffin cups.

Reserve one tablespoon of flour. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a large bowl beat together sugar, cream cheese, and butter with an electric mixer until well-blended. Add liqueur, vanilla, and egg; beat at medium speed until well-blended. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and milk, stirring until well-blended. In a measuring cup or bowl, toss together apple and remaining 1 tablespoon flour.

Add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat just until blended. Fold in apple mixture. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. (Note: you’ll think you have too much batter, but these don’t really rise like regular cupcakes or muffins.)

For streusel: Combine 2 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in a small bowl. Cut in 2 tablespoons butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal; stir in almonds. Sprinkle streusel evenly over cupcakes. Bake at 350° for 27 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes on a wire rack, and remove the cupcakes from pan.

For glaze: Combine powdered sugar, milk, and liqueur in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in additional milk if necessary. Drizzle glaze over cupcakes.

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Confetti Cupcakes

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When you work at a larger company, there is always a birthday, promotion, wedding, or baby to celebrate. And once you’ve shown off your baking skills, well…  let’s just say there’s an expectation.

I really don’t mind. I like to play in the kitchen, and it gives me a vehicle for experimenting and sharing. Plus, I work with a lot of genuinely nice people, and it’s fun to be part of whatever they’re celebrating.

Last week, a friend from work celebrated the big 3-0, and I had offered to bring in anything he wanted. At first, he had just one requirement: no carrots, coconut or nuts. “They form my Axis of Evil when it comes to baked goods,” he explained.

Okay, fair enough.

But a few days later, he mentioned how much he loved Funfetti. And really, who doesn’t?

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White cake from a box is one taste and texture I’ve never quite been able to replicate. This recipe doesn’t change that, but it does have a great flavor and texture of its own.

And it turns out the confetti color is easier to duplicate than I thought: 1/3 to 1/2 cup of sprinkles per dozen cupcakes, gently folded in. As a topping, I prefer nonpareils (the tiny little balls), but in batter, the regular sprinkles won’t bleed as much.

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I also loved how quickly this recipe came together, and the fact that it was a small batch. I was on the road for work a couple days, and this was a cinch to pull together after work.

I cut the frosting recipe in half and still had more than I needed, while allowing the cake to take center stage.

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I dropped off 10 cupcakes in my friend’s office around 11. At 1pm, he brought back the container. “I ate 3 for lunch. And then I had to give away the rest so I wouldn’t eat them all.”

Definitely a keeper.

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Confetti Cupcakes

Adapted slightly from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Cake:
1 and 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg or 2 egg whites
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (use clear vanilla for a whiter cake)
1/3 to 1/2 cup sprinkles

Frosting:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2-2 cups powdered sugar
1/8 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt
Food coloring and sprinkles, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.In a large bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Chill to room temperature. Stir in egg, sour cream, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. Batter will be thick. Fold in sprinkles, being careful not to overmix.

Divide batter among 12 cupcake liners and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and salt with the mixer running. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more powdered sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if mixture is too thick. Stir in food coloring if desired. Frost cooled cupcakes and top with sprinkles. Make ahead: store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Carrot Cake

Last month, we had three birthdays within a week, and someone asked me for carrot cake.

Now, there are a few of universal truths about carrot cake. First, it’s not carrot cake they’re asking for, it’s cream cheese frosting. Second, it’s about the CREAM CHEESE FROSTING. And third, you either love carrot cake or you don’t; there’s rarely a middle ground on this one.

Realizing I didn’t have a carrot cake recipe in my files, I went hunting. I like Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a few reasons: it doesn’t feel or taste heavy, and you can really taste the spices.

Use the fine side of a box grater to grate the carrots. (You can use a food processor, but you can’t grate the carrots as finely that way.) If you want to pipe your frosting, use chilled cream cheese and, if you have it, clear vanilla extract.

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Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Caked recipe based on Smitten Kitchen

Makes 24

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups canola oil
4 large eggs
3 cups grated peeled carrots (1 pound)
8 oz. cream cheese
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake molds with papers, or butter and flour them.

Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, walnuts and raisins, if using them. Divide batter among cupcake molds, filling 3/4 of each.

Bake cupcakes 16-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of one comes out clean. Let cool in pans for five minutes. Transfer cakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.

In a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, and vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar. Frost cupcakes.