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Cranberry Cupcakes

Cranberry Cupcakes - Build Me Up ButtercreamI work for Ocean Spray, so it’s no secret I have a soft spot for cranberries. So when it came time to bake something special for a team that helped me out BIGTIME at work (they helped make THIS happen – super cool!!) I thought I’d try my hand at a cranberry-inspired cupcake.

This cupcake is a deliciously moist vanilla cake, filled with fresh cranberry compote and topped with a cranberry buttercream frosting. When I imagined it I thought it sounded good, but wasn’t entirely sure how the taste would match up to my hopes and dreams. But once I took a bite, I knew I had done it. The PERFECT cranberry cupcake. Not overly cranberry but plenty to give you that flavor you love… just enough sweet but with the balance of tart… and just overall a really yummy treat that would be great in the fall or for Thanksgiving, but is also great any time of year (just remember to buy extra cranberries in the fall and freeze them to use year-round!)

Here is the recipe so you can try these at home. I guarantee they’ll be a big hit!

Cranberry Vanilla Cupcakes
A Build Me Up Buttercream exclusive recipe!

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Cranberry Compote Filling:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 12-ounce package Ocean Spray® Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have any, you can mix your own using about 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp cloves or allspice, to taste)
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch

Cranberry Buttercream Frosting: 

  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cranberry compote (left over from filling recipe)

Directions:

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with 24 paper liners.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed for about 20 seconds, or until well beaten but not foamy. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add vanilla and oil and beat on medium speed for about 20 seconds or until incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl.

Add about half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Add half of the buttermilk and continue to beat on low. Repeat with remaining flour mixture and buttermilk. Beat until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Batter should be smooth and thin.

Pour batter into lined muffin pan, filling each liner about halfway. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges slightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

To make the cranberry compote filling:

Add water and sugar to a medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Add cranberries and pumpkin pie spice and return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in cornstarch. Cover and cool completely at room temperature, or refrigerate until mixture is completely cool.

Cut a small round piece out of the tops of each cooled cupcake and spoon in cranberry filling until it is level with the top of each cupcake.  Reserve remaining compote.

To make cranberry buttercream frosting:

Add butter to the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip butter on medium-high speed until nearly white and very fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar and mix on medium-low speed just until incorporated.  Then add 1 tbsp milk. Repeat with remaining confectioners’ sugar and milk. Add vanilla and cranberry compote. Mix on low speed just until blended; then increase speed to high and whip until very light and fluffy, about 5-6 minutes.

NOTE: If frosting is too stiff, add milk one teaspoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. If too loose, add confectioners’ sugar.

Pipe cranberry buttercream frosting on top of cranberry-filled cupcakes to complete your masterpiece. Garnish with a sugared cranberry if you want to get fancy!

Makes 24 cupcakes.

If you’re successful they should look a little something like this:

Cranberry Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

How can anyone resist something with this beautiful cranberry filling?!

Cranberry Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

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Lego Cupcakes

Lego Cupcakes - Build Me Up ButtercreamAs a girl who grew up with no brothers or even young male cousins, Legos were never something I had the pleasure of playing with. Truly, I think I missed out. These days, now that I’ve seen the amazing things that people build with these tiny plastic building blocks, I definitely think this is a toy that both boys and girls alike can and should play with in order to both learn building concepts and to express creativity!

But I digress… I’m really here to talk about cupcakes (with Legos on top!)

I was recently asked if I could bake Lego cupcakes for a special little boy’s birthday party, and I could not have been more excited. After doing some research on Pinterest, I loved the idea of using a Silicone Candy Mold* to make different colored Lego bricks (if you want to hear my love-fest on silicone molds, see the end of this post). Accented with primary color Confetti Sprinkles and pure white vanilla buttercream, these would be the perfect addition to any Lego lover’s big day!

I made extra candy pieces to use as decoration around the cupcakes, and I could not have been happier with the result. From what I hear, both the birthday boy and all his friends and family agreed – which is my true measure of success, as always. I can’t wait to find more Lego lovers to get more use out of my new purchase!

Here are some more pictures of my Lego cupcakes for your viewing pleasure: 

Lego Cupcakes - Build Me Up ButtercreamLego Cupcakes - Build Me Up ButtercreamLego Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Lego Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

What was your favorite toy as a kid? Do you think you could bake it into a cupcake?? Or… do you want to challenge me to try?!

* For the record, silicone molds are THE way to go to make shapes out of candy melts. They were so easy to fill, and more importantly easy to remove the finished product since they are so flexible. They are definitely multi-use, as opposed to the plastic trays that tend to crack/break after 1-2 uses. I will be purchasing many more of these in the future for sure!

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Valentine’s Birthday Cake

As you already know if you’re a reader, my birthday is on Valentine’s Day. And as you obviously know just by being here, I love baking treats of all shapes and sizes. So I guess it should come as no surprise to anyone that this year, I got the pleasure of baking my own birthday cake!

This cake was actually supposed to be for celebrations of a few other birthdays in the family as well, but unfortunately due to illnesses I was the sole candle-blower-outer on my own cake (at least someone else put the candles in  and lit them!). Anyway, I was very happy with the end result.

It was a marble cake with strawberry buttercream (Neapolitan, anyone?) that I decorated with icing and heart-shaped confetti sprinkles. And not only did it look great, but it tasted great too! (Guess you’re just gonna have to take my word for that one.)

Valentine's Birthday Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Valentine's Birthday Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Valentine's Birthday Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream

Valentine's Birthday Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream

Mmm mmm yummy! It was a crowd-pleaser for sure, and most importantly, a me-pleaser (not to be selfish, but it was my birthday, after all!)

Have you ever baked yourself something for a special occasion, or do you have a favorite treat that someone else makes for you? Tell me about it in the comments!

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Perfect Cake Pops

There was a time in my life when I struggled with cake pops. I wanted to so badly to make them (and actually have them look and taste good!), but I just couldn’t figure out how. First, I tried buying one of these.  To make cake pops, you need a pan the right shape to bake those little round cakes in, right?? WRONG. The cake pops disintegrated as soon as melted chocolate touched their delicate outsides. Then I did some research and decided to try the cake + frosting recipe (1:1 ratio). #FAIL. Too wet, sticky and gross. These things don’t even stay on a stick. There must be a delicate balance??

I finally experimented enough that I think I’ve got it. And now, dear readers, I will share the secret to my success with all of you, so you don’t have to go through the nerve-wracking process that I did to achieve success with cake pops. And they actually look and taste better than the ones at Starbucks (in my humble opinion).

Valentine's Day Cake Pops - Build Me Up Buttercream

Here’s how it’s done.

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED: You will need:

  • 9×13 cake, cut in half (either homemade from scratch or boxed cake mix – I find that in cake pops you can barely tell the difference)
  • 1 batch frosting (again, either homemade or canned – I personally also don’t notice a difference in the cake pops)
  • 18-24 lollipop sticks
  • 16 ounces candy melts or Bakers’ chocolate/white chocolate (you can also use chocolate chips, but the Bakers chocolate is more high-quality)
  • Floral foam. This is important unless you want your cake pops to be upside-down with flat bottoms. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but they won’t look as nice as the ones at Starbucks. (Alternatively, you could invest in one of these which is a more long-term solution if you think you’ll be making a lot of cake pops)
  • Decorations (sprinkles, sanding sugar, fondant, etc.)

STEP 1: Bake a 9×13 cake and let it cool completely. Cut it in half and reserve the other half for another time (I suggest freezing it) as you only need 1/2 cake unless you plan to double this recipe.

STEP 2: Crumble cake into a large bowl. Add frosting a little at a time and mix well with your hands until the mixture is not too dry or crumbly but also not sticky. I find that I use about 2 heaping tablespoons of frosting (about 1/2 can of premade frosting).

STEP 3: Use a cookie/mini ice cream scoop to scoop out a portion of the cake/frosting mixture. Roll into a ball with your hands. Repeat with remainder of mixture.

STEP 4: Melt chocolate in a deep bowl. You want to make sure you have enough space to dip the cake pop and submerge it fully in the chocolate.

STEP 5: Take a lollipop stick and dip one end into the chocolate. Then spear one of your cake pops with the dipped end of the stick. Wait a few seconds, then flip it over so it’s right-side up and place the cake pop in the floral foam. Repeat until you fill up the foam with cake pops, and then place it right into your freezer. Let the cake pops set for about 10-20 minutes before you take the next step.

STEP 6: Remove pops from freezer and reheat chocolate/add more as necessary. Dunk pops one-by-one into melted chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip off; tap very lightly on the edge of the bowl to assist the dripping if necessary. Flip pop right-side up and immediately apply decorations (chocolate will harden quickly!)

STEP 7: Place in refrigerator to allow chocolate to harden and set completely. If you’re in a rush, throw them back in the freezer to speed up this process.

STEP 8: ENJOY!!!

Valentine's Day Cake Pops - Build Me Up Buttercream

Does anyone out there use a similar method, or is there another successful one that I just haven’t learned yet?? Please share in the comments!

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Train Cupcakes

Train Cupcakes - Build Me Up ButtercreamI love birthdays. Mostly because they allow me an opportunity to explore new cupcakes. Whether that be flavor, format or design exploration, I love it all. So when my co-worker asked if I’d like to help her celebrate her son’s first birthday, I could not have been more excited. The last time I baked for a kids’ birthday party, the end result was one of my best performing cupcakes of all-time (my Hello Kitty cupcakes).

This time, the party theme was trains!

I enjoyed making these kid-friendly cupcakes (vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream) and topping them with brightly colored little fondant trains. I heard they were a hit with party guests, and most importantly the birthday boy, so I’d say they were a success!

I can’t wait to get the opportunity to do even more birthday parties – kids or adults – as they really allow me the opportunity to be creative but still work within a theme and a client’s expectations. It’s a challenge for sure, but one I’ll accept any day!

Train Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream Train Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Train Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

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Valentine’s Day Cupcake Bouquet

Valentines Day Cupcake Roses - Build Me Up Buttercream

I’m a Valentine’s Day baby, so I’ve always had a soft spot for things like hearts, roses, and of course, chocolate. I grew up with an annual showering of hearts, the colors red and pink, and a spectacular heart-shaped birthday cake (alternating between marble and Funfetti, my two favorite flavors). It’s through these heart-shaped cakes that my love of baking first blossomed. These cakes are one of my favorite childhood memories, and somehow to even my own surprise, I’ve yet to bake one of my own.

This year, I decided to put my own spin on my childhood birthday cake. But rather than borrowing the heart-shaped cake pan from my mom, I took a different route. I was inspired not only by fond memories, but also by one of my favorite Valentine’s Day treats: chocolate-covered strawberries. As much as I love a big, beautiful bouquet of flowers, there’s no faster way to my heart than a box of chocolate-covered strawberries.

I was very excited to find out that one of my favorite mail-order sweet treat companies, Shari’s Berries, sells a “Full Dozen Strawberry Roses” to give a more-than-subtle hint to all the lovers out there that sometimes chocolate treats are simply sweeter than flowers. And when I was contacted by Shari’s Berries asking me to share my favorite Valentine’s Day dessert, I was inspired by this concept. If you can have a bouquet of strawberries covered in chocolate, why not a bouquet of strawberry cupcakes with delectable chocolate goodness hidden inside?

Thus, the idea for my chocolate-covered strawberry cupcakes was born. By using my favorite white cupcake recipe and adding strawberry Jello and frozen strawberries, I made a yummy (and pink!) cupcake. I then filled each cupcake with a rich chocolate ganache and topped it with my favorite vanilla buttercream (pink again, of course!), piped into a rose shape.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Filling - Build Me Up Buttercream

To make the “bouquet”, I put a 5″ Styrofoam ball into a pail and used toothpicks, inserted at a 45 degree angle, to attach the cupcakes to the ball.  To fill in the areas where you could still see the white Styrofoam, I placed sparkly ribbon. You could also use green tissue paper or ribbon to make it look like leaves. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you ever want to make a cupcake bouquet: make sure as you add a cupcake to one side, you add one to the other side at the same time. It is, after all, a ball. And balls tend to roll if weight is placed on one side and not the other. And then cupcakes fall. I learned my lesson so hopefully no one else has to suffer the same fate!

Valentines Day Cupcake Roses - Build Me Up Buttercream

I guess the only bad thing about these cupcakes is that I had to do all the work to make them instead of getting them as a gift (hint, hint Kevin!). At least I enjoyed the process, although now I’m craving some good chocolate-covered strawberries!

Valentines Day Cupcake Roses - Build Me Up ButtercreamStrawberry Cupcake Roses with Chocolate Ganache Filling - Build Me Up Buttercream

Have you ever gotten a special surprise other than roses for Valentine’s Day? Share some ideas here (and then share this blog post with that special someone in your life!)

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Boy or Girl?

Baby Shower Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Last week, I had the pleasure of baking cupcakes for a colleague who will be welcoming a new baby later this month. She is brave enough that she is going to be surprised by the gender, so I was challenged to come up with a creative way to decorate the cupcakes that was gender-neutral. I decided to try out swirling, which is not something I had done before, and topping with pink and blue sanding sugar. 

I think this decoration technique would work really well for gender reveal cupcakes, too. Pink and blue swirl on top and one or the other in the middle!

These cupcakes are a mix of my favorite vanilla and chocolate cupcake recipes, topped with a swirled vanilla buttercream. They were definitely crowd-pleasers, and I had almost as much fun making this photo setting as I did making the cupcakes! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures with my camera so these are just from my iPhone, but they do the trick.

Here are some photos of the finished product. Now it’s time to start the baby pool and anxiously await his or her arrival!

Baby Shower Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Baby Shower Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Baby Shower Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

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Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. While I don’t love the fact that winter is on the way, there’s just something about the cool, crisp feeling in the air, the leaves turning, and of course the flavors of the season that always gets me excited. But mostly the flavors. Cranberry, apple, and of course… pumpkin.

I’ve always been a sucker for pumpkin – pumpkin pie, pumpkin beer, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin muffins… I am that person the news is talking about more and more each year. And now that I make cupcakes for just about every occasion, it was only right that I tried my hand at a pumpkin variety.

To be fair, this was my second pumpkin-themed cupcake of the year… but the first one was done in such haste that I didn’t take photos. I will, however, tell you that pumpkin spice Hershey’s Kisses are to die for – on their own OR inside of a delicious chocolate cupcake! More to come on that when I make those again with more time on my hands!

For now, I will share these. They are inspired in part by the fall season, and in part by Pinterest. However, I was too in love with the idea of a pumpkin cream cheese frosting that mine don’t look quite as good as their Pinterest counterpart. So while this wasn’t quite a Pinterest fail, it certainly didn’t live up to the dreams that Pinterest gives people like myself, that making pretty cupcakes like these are easy as (pumpkin) pie! (And in case you’re wondering… yes, I hand-picked the green sprinkles out of my rainbow sprinkles for the “stems” as I didn’t quite have time to be piping stems and leaves – creativity counts, kids!)

Pumpkin Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe adapted from Chow

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin purée (not pie filling; about 1 3/4 cups)

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)

Directions

Heat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin pans with 24 paper liners.

Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, baking soda and salt in a large bowl and whisk together; set aside.

Place the sugar and oil in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until the sugar is incorporated, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and scrape down mixer bowl with a rubber spatula.

Return the mixer to medium speed and add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to medium low, add the pumpkin, and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the mixer bowl.

Add about half of the flour mixture to the mixer bowl. Turn mixer to low speed, and beat until almost completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Add remaining flour mixture and repeat. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in any unincorporated flour at the edges with a rubber spatula, making sure to scrape to the bottom of the bowl.

Fill the muffin wells about 2/3 full. Place the muffin pans side by side in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pans and return to oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean – about 10 minutes more.

Place the pans on wire racks and let them cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and cool completely on the racks.

While cupcakes are baking, prepare your frosting. First, place the softened cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until fully combined and smooth, about 1 minute. Add cinnamon and nutmeg, and beat until just combined. Then, add powdered sugar one cup at a time, beating on low speed until fully incorporated and scraping down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula in between each addition. Once sugar is incorporated, add the pumpkin and turn the mixer to medium speed. Mix until fully incorporated and smooth, about 1 minute. Use immediately (and be aware that cream cheese frosting is heavier than buttercream and won’t really stand upright when you pipe it!)

And voila…

Pumpkin Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

 

Pumpkin Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

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Red Sox Cake and Other Recent Fondant Work

I’ve been pretty busy lately and unfortunately have neglected the blog a bit. So while I spend some time getting back into writing, here is a compilation of some of my recent fondant work on a variety of cakes and cupcakes. Individual cake recipe either have been or will be posted separately. And really, I’m just excited to share the groom’s cake I did for my brother-in-law’s wedding last weekend. I hope you enjoy!

Boston Red Sox – Groom’s Cake:

Boston Red Sox Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Boston Red Sox Cake - Build Me Up ButtercreamBoston Red Sox Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Boston Red Sox Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream

Baby Shower Cupcakes:

Baby Shower Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream Baby Shower Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

Graduation Cupcakes:

Graduation Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream Graduation Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream Graduation Cupcakes - Build Me Up Buttercream

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Orange Ombre Cake

Like I mentioned in my Creamsicle Cupcakes post, I had the honor of baking and decorating desserts for my lovely future sister-in-law’s bridal shower. Along with the fun mini cupcakes, I of course had to make a fun orange-themed cake for her to cut.

I decided that since I had incorporated a unique flavor in the cupcakes, I’d keep the cake simple with a white cake and vanilla buttercream, topped with orange and white fondant and buttercream decorations. But I added some flare to my simple recipe by coloring the layers in an ombre style, taking advantage of my favorite latest Pinterest sensation! So while everyone “oohed” and “aahed” at the cake before it was cut, you should’ve seen their reaction after! It was well worth the extra work and time to bake the cake this way just based on the reactions!

A side note on making ombre cakes: I made a recipe for a 4-layer cake, but just split the batter into thirds before dying each a different shade of orange. You can really decide how much batter you need and how to split it up into bowls to dye it, depending on how big you want your layers to be or how big you want the whole cake to be. I could have easily made the recipe for a standard 2-layer cake and split it into 3 smaller batches to bake this same cake, but just a smaller version with thinner layers. The world is really your oyster! Just don’t forget to cut the tops off of each cake before putting them together so they’re all the same size!

I still have yet to find the perfect white cake recipe {sigh} but when I do, dear readers, I will be sure to share it. In the meantime, please enjoy the photos of my orange ombre bridal shower cake!

Orange Ombre Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Orange Ombre Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Orange Ombre Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Orange Ombre Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Orange Ombre Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream Orange Ombre Cake - Build Me Up Buttercream

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