#36 Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

I’ve been baking for a few years pretty consistently now. If we’re going to count box mixes and pre-made frosting as “baking” then add a few more years to that, but I think we wont count that since its pretty shameful. With that being said, I realized this week that I have never made vanilla cupcakes from scratch. I’ve made Betty Crocker’s AMAZING Funfetti Cake Box Mix about a million times, but never have I even thought about making it from scratch. I guess my theory is why would you make something without chocolate when there is chocolate? Right? Mmm chocolate…

As much as I love chocolate, I really do love vanilla too! Especially since I have all of these vanilla beans that my sister-in-law gave me. Incase you were not aware, vanilla beans are crazy expensive! I had no idea because I have a bag of about 50 of them in my fridge, but if you go to the store you’ll probably end up spending about 8 dollars for one or two vanilla beans. Eek! There are alternatives such as vanilla bean paste, but I have never used it personally so I wouldn’t be able to tell you how that translates. Stick with the good stuff 😉


This buttercream frosting really made the cake.


These cupcakes turned out really light and not too sweet really. The frosting is a simple buttercream that I tinted pink with food gel (gel is 100x better than liquid). At first, I ate one and wasn’t very impressed. Then I had another one in the morning and I decided my first impression was wrong. Maybe my problem is that you can eat one, and then instantly forget you ate it because it is light and I am use to my heavy duty chocolate ganache cupcakes.

One of my favorite things about this cake is the little specks of vanilla bean in it. There is something so yummy about seeing those specks.

The vanilla bean seeds through out the cupcake are beautiful


Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
From Annie’s Eats

Yields aprox 30 cupcakes


3 cups cake flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1Âź cups buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.  Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl of the mixer with the butter and discard the pod.  Beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light and creamy in color.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for one more minute.

Add the sugar to the butter mixture, Ÿ cup at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition.  Mix in the eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl after each addition.  Combine the buttermilk and the vanilla extract in a liquid measuring cup.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for 15 seconds longer.

Divide the batter between the prepared paper liners, filling each about 2/3 of the way full (you will likely have batter left over after filling 24 wells.)  Bake 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream

2 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbsp. heavy cream  

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

These cupcakes have a lot of room for creativity with decorating so have fun with it 🙂



#35 Tiramisu

I love Italian food. All of the garlic, herbes, olive oil….ahh its just so good. Not only is the “real” food amazing, but the desserts are to die for as well. Whenever I go out to an Italian restaurant I always look for two things on the menu: bruschetta and tiramisu. I have attempted Tiramisu once before, except it wasn’t a traditional Tiramisu…It was more like a frozen Tiramisu and I may have gone over board with the rum. Lets just say one bite burned your esophagus on the way down.

This time, I made sure I found a great recipe and didn’t over do it on the alcohol, especially since I was bringing it into my coworkers at the Aquarium right before playing with a bunch of 3-5 year olds.

I think since I had such a random mishap with the last time I made Tiramisu, I assumed that it was hard to make for some reason. Wrong, very wrong. One of the easiest things to whip up and be done with AND one of the best parts is you don’t need to use the oven. Thats a serious +1 in my book because it has been way too hot in my kitchen to be wanting to stay in there for long periods of time unless its 530 AM or 10 PM.

Two layers of cookies in a small square dish

I knew I wanted to take some of the Tiramisu to different places so I made two into small square dishes, and then the last one was in a glass loaf pan. The two small ones had two layers of cookies in-between all of the lovely cream and mascarpone and the loaf pan had three layers of cookies.

Still working on my chocolate curls. They're a little pathetic.

For the recipe, I combined Giada’s recipe with another one I found because the thought of eating 6 egg yolks without being cooked at all messed with my head a little bit. Finding ladyfingers can be confusing for some people because your first reaction would be to go check the cookie isle. With most grocery stores that I have found them at, they’re usually in the bakery section or over by the produce near the raspberries and strawberries because they know people are using these cookies with fresh fruits.

Another side note: when spooning the rum/espresso mixture on to the lady fingers try not to over-soak them because that will lead to a runny and mushy Tiramisu.

Tiramisu Recipe


  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 (12 ounce) packages ladyfingers
  • 1 cup espresso, cooled
  • 2 tbs dark rum
  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler, over boiling water. Reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and whip yolks until thick and lemon colored.
  2. Add mascarpone to whipped yolks. Beat until combined. In a separate bowl, whip cream to stiff peaks. Gently fold into yolk mixture and set aside.
  3. Split the lady fingers in half, and line the bottom and sides of a large glass bowl. Combine the espresso and rum in a bowl. Brush or lightly spoon espresso mixture on lady fingers. Spoon the cream filling over the lady fingers. Repeat ladyfingers, espresso mixture and filling layers. Garnish with cocoa and chocolate curls. To make the chocolate curls, use a vegetable peeler and run it down the edge of the chocolate bar.
    Refrigerate several hours or overnight.
I hope you give this a try!

Post from Minnesota

Hi Everyone!

So this week I am in good ole Minnesota where it is 95 degrees, 86% humidity, and the mosquitos are biting me like crazy. Since I am out of town I cant really make anything, BUT I am working on trying to find a substitute. In the meantime, I’ll share this.


Leaving my mark.

Hope you are all staying home and avoiding the 405 shut down! Although I really want to see that thing being blown up…someone take a video for me 🙂



#34 Chocolate Macaroons with Espresso Ganache (Again)

A few months back, I attempted to make French Macaroons for my friend Debby. No one told me that they were such a pain to deal with! They didn’t cook right, the ganache didn’t ever set…it was just a straight disaster.

For some reason, I was feeling adventurous and attempted these little suckers again. To my surprise, they turned out! Although macaroons are very tastey, they just are not really worth all of the effort in my opinion.

First thing about macaroons is that a lot of the stuff is measured out using a scale


Waiting for the oven

Just like many other cookie recipes, this one needs some type of sheet down when you’re cooking. If you don’t cook a lot, the easiest approach is parchment paper. If you do cook a good amount, and honestly if you dont cook a lot I wouldnt suggest making this for your first kitchen adventure. The best thing to use for these, and pretty much all other cookies, is the Silpat. Everything comes out evenly cooked and the bottoms look gorgeous.

These were cooked with the Silpat:

How gorgeous is the bottom of this?


All of them came off the pan without any problem at all

These were cooked with parchment paper:

Not such a pretty bottom!

So sad


Moral of the story: Buy a Silpat. Seriously.



Chocolate French Macaroons with Espresso Ganache

110 g blanched almonds
200 g minus 2 tbsps powdered sugar
2 tbsps cocoa powder
3 egg whites (about 100 g), room temperature
50 g sugar

Pulse the almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and pulse until well-blended. Whip the egg whites until foamy and gradually add the granulated sugar while whipping until a shiny meringue forms (but not too dry). Add the almond mixture to the meringue and quickly incorporate the mixture into the meringue while taking care not to overbeat. You want to achieve a batter that flows and “ribbons” for at least 5 seconds. Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large plain piping tip (Ateco 809 or 807) and pipe small rounds onto a baking sheet lined with silpat (or parchment paper). The rounds should be about 1 1/2 inches in diameter and at least an inch apart.

Let the macarons sit out for an hour to develop a hard shell. Preheat oven to 300°F. Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size.

Espresso Ganache:

1 cup heavy cream
2 tbs unsalted butter
2 tbs granulated sugar
8 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp instant espresso powder

Heat the heavy cream, 2 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a 2 1/2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Place 8 ounces semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder in a stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and espresso. Let sit for 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. Keep at room temperature until ready to use.

(Recipe from userealbutter.com)



#33 Fourth of July Sugar Cookies

When you love baking/decorating, holidays are something you look forward to no matter which one it is. If there is an excuse to decorate something in a theme, I’m there in a second. The 4th of July is no exception. I spent a decent amount of time looking through my cookbooks/magazines/online/etc for something red white and blue themed. I wanted something cute but not exceptionally challenging because its about 95 degrees still at about 7pm here and that is not something you want to be elaborately baking in.

Sidenote: Danielle got me this lovely Martha Stewart Pies and Tarts cook book for my birthday that I am OH so excited to start cooking out of 🙂


There are really two ways you can go with when making a dessert for the 4th. You can make something with blueberries, strawberries and cream to get that red/white/blue theme going OR you can use your magnificent decorating skills to transform whatever you bake into a themed treat.

I went with the decorating side, just because I’ve got an addiction to these sugar cookies and I havent made them since last time I posted them on here…or here. So technically this isnt anything new, but I’ll show you anyways 🙂


I love this icing 🙂

Simple, consistent and lots of frosting 🙂

These were gone in a few minutes


The Royal Icing that I always use to use was with raw egg whites which never really bothered me. I have now found this recipe that uses meringue powder and it is 10x better and easier, plus you don’t have to worry about the raw egg whites in it. You can pick it up at any food store or at Michael’s in the baking section.


Ella’s White Sugar Cookies – from Annie’s Eats

1 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
2 ½ c. sifted flour

Cream butter. Add powdered sugar. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla, salt and flour. Chill dough until firm. Roll to ¼” thickness on well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. Place on greased cookie sheets. Bake at 375° for 8-10 min. Cookies should not brown. Frost and decorate when cool. Yields about 40 cookies.

I’ve tried a bunch of different frostings for sugar cookies and the most traditional way is Royal Icing which uses egg whites, but I find that this recipe with Meringue powder is a million times easier, and tastes better in my opinion.

Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Mix on low speed until the sheen has disappeared and the icing has a matte appearance (about 7-10 minutes).  Transfer the contents of the mixing bowl to an air-tight container.  This will be the stiffest consistency of the icing, and at this point it is still too stiff to use for decorating.  Add water a very small amount at a time and stir by hand until fully incorporated.  Continue until the icing has reached a consistency appropriate for piping.  If you would like to add color, I suggest using gel and not liquid because it changes the consistency of the icing.





This entry was posted in cookies.