Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting

I made these cupcakes for our “final”/cookout in my Ethics and International Politics class. They weren’t too difficult to make, but I would air on the side of less apples so that there is more batter in the cupcakes. They aren’t the prettiest when they come out of the oven, but that is easily covered by the icing. Refrigerate them about an hour before you are going to serve them so the cupcake can come to room temperature. The recipe is a winning recipe from Cupcake Wars on Food Network.


  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 apples, cored, peeled, and chopped (recommended: 2 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji)
  • Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
  • Caramel syrup, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 regular size cupcake pans with cupcake liners.

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, combine the sugar, eggs, butter, and vanilla extract until blended. In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing on low until blended. Stir in the apples.

Fill the cupcake liners three-quarters full with batter and bake until the cupcakes spring back when touched with your finger, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, and then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Either pipe Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting onto the cupcakes using a pastry bag and your favorite tip, or spread each cupcake with the frosting. Drizzle each cupcake with caramel syrup.

  • This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (about 2 pounds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl using an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla bean paste until smooth and thoroughly blended. Slowly add the powdered sugar and salt. Mix until smooth.

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

A rhubarb crumble quickly turned into strawberry-rhubarb when I realized that I needed two pounds of rhubarb and only had one piece. It was very easy to make, and I put it into the oven right before we sat down to dinner so it would be ready when we had finished eating. Serve with ice cream. The recipe is from Food Network Magazine.


  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 cupchopped hazelnuts
  • 2 pounds chopped rhubarb [I used two pounds of a mixture of rhubarb and strawberries]
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


Combine 1 cup flour, 1/3 cup oats, 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Stir in 6 tablespoons melted butter and 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts; squeeze into large crumbles and place in the freezer. Toss 2 pounds chopped rhubarb, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon orange zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 8-by-8-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Scatter the crumble on top and bake in a preheated 375 degrees F oven until golden and bubbly, 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes; serve with whipped cream.

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4th of July Flag Cupcakes

I like to make a festive dessert every year, so this year I decided to make an American Flag out of cupcakes. I used the yellow cake recipe that I used to make the homemade funfetti cupcakes, minus the sprinkles. I used a Paula Deen recipe for the Red Velvet Cupcakes. After making sure that I had enough yellow cake cupcakes for the white stripes, I dyed the rest of the batter blue. I decorated the yellow cake with white icing and silver sugar sprinkles, and I used red icing and and red sugar sprinkles for the red velvet. I used blue icing and the silver sugar sprinkles as well as star candles for the blue part of the flag. I had looked for sparklers, but the small Kroger right by my house didn’t order sparklers this year (how unpatriotic!). In order to save time and make my life a lot easier, I used the Betty Crocker cake and cupcake icing.


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

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Homemade Funfetti Cupcakes Decorated for the 4th

After a smog alert nixed plans to go to the Cincinnati Zoo on Friday with the girls that I nanny, we decided to make some homemade funfetti cupcakes for them to decorate for a picnic they are going to on Sunday. They did a great job creating their own icing colors (although I admit to using store bought whipped icing) and putting the decorations on the cupcakes. We took a Bobby Flay recipe and added our own sprinkles. Be careful not to add too many, or else the batter starts to turn colors.

[This recipe works for mini and regular sized cupcakes. The times are for a mini cupcake, so adjust cooking time to 18-22 minutes if making the regular sized cupcakes]



  • Nonstick baking spray
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 3/4 cups pure cane sugar, divided
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 6 large egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • [2/3 to 3/4 cup sprinkles for the “funfetti”]
  • Sprinkles and jimmies, for decorating, if desired


Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fill mini muffin tins with liners and spray the liners with nonstick spray.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a large bowl. Whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, oil, vanilla, vanilla beans, and yolks in a medium bowl.

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat the egg whites at medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. With the machine running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue to beat until stiff peaks just form, 30 to 60 seconds Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside. Wash the bowl and dry.

Add the flour mixture to the now-empty mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. With the mixer running at low speed, gradually pour in the butter mixture and mix until almost incorporated (a few streaks of dry flour will remain), about 15 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape the whisk and sides of the bowl. Return the mixer to medium-low speed and beat until smooth and fully incorporated, 10 to 15 seconds.

Using a rubber spatula, stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten, and then add the remaining whites and gently fold into the batter until no white streaks remain. [Stir in sprinkles for funfetti.]

Fill the cupcake molds 3/4 full and bake until just firm, about 8 to 12 minutes. Let cool and frost. Decorate with sprinkles and jimmies, if desired.

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Lemon Angel Food Cake

I had attempted to make an Angel Food Cake back in California in May, but not really thinking and in a bit of a rush, I bought a carton of egg whites. Little did I know, they were pasteurized and not going to whip. I whipped them as much as I could and thought that maybe that’s how they would just turn out, but the cake came out gooey, not airy and light. I was talking to a friend about it and we realized my mistake - of course pasteurized egg whites won’t whip, they’re already cooked. So this past weekend I did it the long way, separating 11 eggs. The results were much better this time. And thanks to my new mixer, my arm wasn’t hurting from whipping up the egg whites. It’s Ina Garten’s recipe for the cake I made this time, but Alton Brown also has a great recipe. I made homemade whipped cream for the topping.



  • 2 cups sifted superfine sugar, divided [if your grocery store does not carry this, put the sugar into your food processor and run until it becomes superfine, checking every 10 seconds]
  • 1 1/3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 1/2 cups egg whites, at room temperature (10 to 12 eggs)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine 1/2 cup of sugar with the flour and sift together 4 times. Set aside.

Place the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on high speed until the eggs make medium-firm peaks, about 1 minute. With the mixer on medium speed, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of sugar by sprinkling it over the beaten egg whites. Whisk for a few minutes until thick and shiny. Whisk in the vanilla and lemon zest and continue to whisk until very thick, about 1 more minute. Sift about 1/4 of the flour mixture over the egg whites and fold it into the batter with a rubber spatula. Continue adding the flour by fourths by sifting and folding until it’s all incorporated.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan, smooth the top, and bake it for 35 to 40 minutes, until it springs back to the touch. Remove the cake from the oven and invert the pan on a cooling rack until cool.


Whipped Cream


  • 2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar


Beat heavy cream on high until soft peaks are formed. Add vanilla and sugar and beat until firm.

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"Brownies, as they should be"

I “stumbled upon” this recipe a few months ago, bookmarked it, and finally got the chance to make it. Normally I do not like to make brownies from scratch as they turn out too bitter, dry, and often a waste. But I decided to give these a try, you can see here why. I changed the recipe a little bit by using a cupcake pan and making individual brownies and putting a Dove chocolate caramel square in each one. The only problems I had were that they sank in the middle and I wouldn’t put the Dove pieces on the bottom but fill the cupcake molds 1/2-2/3 full then place the Dove piece in until it is just covered by the brownie filling. I omitted the second bag of chocolate chips.


Double Chocolate Brownies

This recipe is adapted from one printed on a scrap of an old chocolate chip bag in Mom’s kitchen. Possibly 1980′s Nestle? At any rate, neither Mom or I can take the credit for these delicious brownies. Makes one large batch (24 or more brownies) in a 9×13″ pan–see notes below on making a half batch. The temptation is always to cut them too soon, but if you do, they’ll completely fall apart and you’ll be left with a big brownie mess. Give it patience. The chocolate chips need a chance to solidify again.

  •     1 1/2 cups flour
  •     1/2 tsp baking soda
  •     1/2 tsp salt
  •     2/3 cup butter
  •     1 1/2 cups sugar
  •     4 tbsp water
  •     2 12 oz packages semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60% Cacao)
  •     2 tsp vanilla extract
  •     4 eggs
  •     1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl and mix to combine. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the sugar and water. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in one package of the chocolate chips and the vanilla extract. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Slowly blend in the flour mixture, and then add the remaining package of chocolate chips and the chopped nuts. Pour into a greased 9×13″ pan* and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be careful not to over-bake, and make sure that your toothpick is coated with uncooked batter and not melted chocolate chips if you’re going to continue baking longer. Let cool at least 2 hours before serving.

*To make a half-batch, halve all amounts and use a greased 9×9″ square pan and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Savannah Cheesecake Cookies

I was looking for a simple dessert for Father’s Day that would not take too much prep or cook time. This Paula Deen recipe was just that. It hardly took ten minutes to make and just a little bit of time to set up with the mint leaves and blueberries before I served them.



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 stick butter, melted


  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla or almond extract
  • Fresh berries and mint leaves, for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine flour, brown sugar, pecans, and butter in bowl. Press dough into an ungreased 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

For filling, beat cream cheese and granulated sugar together in a bowl until smooth, using a handheld electric mixer; add eggs and extract; beat well. Pour over crust. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool completely. Cut into squares before serving. Decorate tops with berries and mint leaves.

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Easter Cupcakes

Inspired by Food Network, I decided to de-stress from all of the schoolwork I have had lately and bake some Easter cupcakes. The recipes for the cupcakes and buttercream are from the cookbook Rose’s Heavenly Cakesby Rose Levy Beranbaum. The cupcakes were very easy to make, but the buttercream was the most difficult frosting that I have ever made. I had the bright idea to make the frosting while cooking dinner at the same time, which almost turned into a disaster for the frosting, but with some help and constant reheating of the corn syrup/sugar mix, we were able to make the frosting work. For the Easter decorations on the cupcakes, I just went to the grocery store in the candy aisle to see what options they had and created the designs from there.

White Velvet Butter Cupcakes



  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sifted cake flour or bleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowel, whisk the eggs whites, 3 tablespoons of the milk, and the vanilla just until lightly combined.

In the bowel of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining milk and mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Use a number 30 ice cream scoop or a spoon to place the batter into the prepared cupcake liners, smoothing the surfaces evenly with a small metal spatula. The liners will be about three-quarters full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a wire cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean and the cupcakes spring back when pressed lightly in the centers.

Let the cupcakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove them from the pans and set them on a wire rack. Cool completely.

This a great buttercream recipe, but it is quite tricky to make when trying to keep the corn syrup and sugar from hardening. I would recommend finding a simpler recipe, or if you decide to take on the challenge to make it, be patient and expect to put the bowl in the microwave several times after the sugar hardens.

Golden Neoclassic Buttercream



  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup golden syrup or corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


In the bowl a a stand mixer fitted with the whisk beater, or in a medium bowl with a handheld mixer, beat the yolks on high speed until light in color.

Have ready a 1-cup heatproof glass measure, coated lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, preferably nonstick, combine the sugar, golden syrup or corn syrup, and lemon juice. Using a silicone spatula, stir until all the sugar is moistened. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup begins to bubble around the edges. Stop stirring completely and continue cooking for a few minutes until the syrup comes to a rolling boil. (The entire surface will be covered with large bubbles.) Immediately transfer the syrup to the glass measure to stop the cooking.

If using a stand mixer, with the mixer off to keep the syrup from spinning onto the sides of the bowl, add the syrup to the yolks. Begin by pouring in a small amount of syrup. Immediately beat on high speed for 5 seconds. Add the remaining syrup the same way in three parts. For the last addition, use a silicone scraper to remove the syrup clinging to the glass measure and scrape it against the beater. If the syrup has hardened before most of it has been poured, soften it to pouring consistency for a few seconds in the microwave.

If using a handheld mixer, beat the syrup into the yolks in a steady stream. Don’t Allow the syrup to fall on the beaters or they will spn it onto the sides of the bowl.

Continue beating on high speed for 5 minutes. Allow it to cool completely. To speed cooling, place the buttercream in an ice water bath or the refrigerator, stirring occasionally.

When the outside of the bowl feels cool, beat in the butter by the tablespoon on medium-high speed. The buttercream will not thicken until almost all of the butter has been added. Add the vanilla and beat on low speed until incorporated.

Place the buttercream in an airtight bowl. Use it at once or set it aside for up to 4 hours (it will have a slight crunch until it stands for several hours). If keeping it longer than 4 hours, refrigerate it. Bring to room temperature before using it to prevent curdling and rebeat it to restore the texture.

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