Whenever I bake cupcakes for the kids' birthday parties, my husband always stuffs the inside with extra frosting...well, this time, I was determined to make them so moist, he wouldn't need to do that, and I finally succeeded! Serendipitously, I also perfected my signature frosting :)
1 18oz Box Pillsbury Moist Supreme Strawberry Cake Mix
6oz Strawberry Jell-O (big box)
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup strawberry jam
8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz butter, softened
1-2 cups powdered sugar (to taste)
2 t vanilla
2 T half and half
2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a large bowl, combine all the cupcake ingredients with a mixer until smooth (2-5 minutes).
3. Fill cupcake liners in muffin tin about 3/4 full (I used a 1/4 cup scoop).
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until done.
5. Repeat. You may have batter leftover (I froze it).
6. To make the frosting: combine all ingredients with a mixer until smooth.
7. Just before serving, frost cupcakes.
Optional toppings: sprinkles, shredded coconut, blueberries, morello cherries
*Keep unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container on the counter - frosted ones should go in the fridge if they are being stored for overnight.
**Disclaimer: I'm not much for measuring, so amounts are approximates - adjust as needed.
I go grocery shopping every two weeks (going just twice a month helps me stick to our $500 food budget): once at Costco and once at Trader Joe's. TJs is always my favorite. Towards the end of the previous millenium, I worked at the first Trader Joe's in Northern California. It was across the street from my high school, so I answered the call when they came to my hometown (San Rafael), because the idea of being a "cheese girl" sounded glorious. Nor was I disappointed when I landed that position - cutting, wrapping, slicing, tasting, and giving out samples of cheeses from all over the world - that was just over 20 years ago, and if it weren't for the physical aspect (I mean that two ways: mopping floors and putting on pounds), I probably could have done that for forever, but it was actually the rigors of my junior year that forced me into an early retirement from my dream job - turns out working until 10pm isn't such a good fit with learning chemistry, advanced algebra, etc.
Alas, the cheese shop is no more, but thankfully the cheese hasn't moved, so every month is is a trip down memory lane...or should I say aisle (better yet, Ile, as in Ile de France). This past week's excursion was especially exciting because it's the start of the holiday season. Which means more selection of two of my favorite things: cheese and chocolate. My husband is reading Sugar Nation, which I reserved for him at the library after he started reading a copy of the much older Sugar Blues that we found at a thrift shop. I'm kinda wishing we had held off on the sugar research until after Christmas, because it's kind of a downer, what with all the seasonal coffees and baked goods closing in on us. On the other hand (can you hear the music from Fiddler on the Roof?), maybe it will help us to be a little more restrained. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, chocolate and cheese. So I passed on the former and went a little nuts with the latter...so without further ado, here are the new (or new to me) items I tried and have, of course, already tasted, and now will unsuccessfully attempt to make them last throughout the month (especially the cheese):
Tintern Creamy Cheddar with Chives & Shallots ($8.99/lb)
Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked in Syrah ($7.99/lb)
Port Salut Semi-Soft Cheese ($9.49/lb)
Decaf Candy Cane Green Tea ($1.99)
Dark Morello Cherries from Germany ($2.29)
I made my own "Cherry Garcia" with these sour cherries + other TJs ingredients: Midnight Moo (chocolate syrup), chocolate chips, vanilla ice cream and a splash of brandy (optional).
I confess to watching one reality show: Hell's Kitchen. Every summer my foodie husband and I eagerly await the next episode. Currently we are down to the final four chefs, so it seemed like the right time to share the recipe for Gordon Ramsay's Baked New York Cheesecake (it's all over the web, but that links to my favorite cooking site), which I recently made for a family gathering. It was devoured by everyone, ages 3 to 69, and I got compliments all around.
I tweaked it just slightly: I added cinnamon and sugar to the crust, omitted the sultanas and lemon juice that were supposed to be folded into the batter, made a topping (sour cream + whipped cream + sugar + vanilla) and covered it with blueberries, rather than just dusting it with powdered sugar.
Two techniques that worked beautifully: covering the bottom of the springform pan with foil (kept it from sticking) and keeping it in the oven for an hour after it was done (kept it from cracking).