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Monster First Birthday Party

21 Apr

Even though our little guy has been toddling about for a couple of months now, we officially said goodbye to infant days when Levi turned one earlier this month {sniff sniff}. Adam and I both love that our kids were early walkers because it opens up so many new activities at the park, etc., but a little part of me was definitely sad to be done with the sweet baby phase! Here are my favorite things about Levi’s first birthday party.

  1. Theme/Invitation: I went with a monsters theme for this party after some Pinterest perusal. I was drawn to the bright colors and thought it would be easy enough to add googly eyes to everything in the house! I ordered a digital invitation from JCO Invitations and used Paperless Post for online tracking. I struggled to find an invitation that featured monsters that did not refer to the honoree as “our little monster.” For some reason, that seems like an extension of “boys will be boys” and just wasn’t the route I wanted to go.levifront2
  2. Decorations: I used the lime green, orange, and blue from the invitation as my general color palette {it really was just a happy coincidence that we had just painted an orange accent wall in our dining room}. Then I rounded up all of the monster toys we had around the house to use as table decorations and added googly eyes to anything that wasn’t moving :)20170408_160320.jpgimg_20170419_120339_723.jpgimg_20170419_121249_985.jpgimg_20170419_120645_615.jpg
  3. Fun for the kids: We were expecting quite a crowd, so I tried to set up a couple of activity stations around the house, in addition to the usual play areas. We had a Make Your Own Monster station and Pin the Eye on the Monster. We also had favor bags with monster face play dough, tattoos, stickers, and a bendable monster.img_20170419_120842_712.jpgimg_20170419_120603_280.jpgimg_20170331_170741_476.jpgimg_20170331_114651_472.jpg
  4. Sweet treats: I tried my hand at blue monster fur buttercream frosting atop chocolate cupcakes. I also made Jell-O Sugar Cookies {with the help of my favorite sous chef} and they were a surprise hit. I mostly thought they would be fun for the kids, but I saw several adults heading back for seconds as well :) Levi was a bit apprehensive when it came time to eat his first cupcake, but I think he finally finished it after 15 minutes or so!diptic-153613105.jpgimg_20170419_120446_634.jpgimg_20170419_121328_724.jpg20170408_111511.jpg
  5. Birthday boy photos: One of my favorite things that I did with both kiddos in their first year was to track growth each month using a Snuggly Swaddle doll from Designs by M Susan. It’s hard to believe how big the doll looks next to Levi in the one month photo now!1492634055969.jpg

As usual, the best part of the whole thing, was being surrounded by friends and family who came from as close as next door and as far as South Florida. Our little boy sure is well-loved {as is our whole family}.img_20170401_222551_217.jpg


It’s his party and he’ll cry if he wants to…


Countdown to Summer! {Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes}

22 May

It definitely feels like summer is on the way this week! The number of meals eaten outside is steadily increasing, summer hours were just announced at work {woo hoo!}, Memorial Day is just around the corner, and our neighbors gathered last weekend for the annual neighborhood block party! One of my favorite flavors of summer has to be fresh strawberries, so I decided on the occasion of the block party, I would try out a new recipe for strawberry cupcakes!

Based on my house number and the rules of the potluck, I was really supposed to be making a side dish {which I did – Beer Baked White Beans}; but, as you know, it’s pretty hard for me to resist an opportunity to do some baking! I went to one of the most reliable sources I know to find a new recipe – Martha Stewart. The recipe I found is for Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes, and I am so happy with how these came out. They are a perfect consistency and so delightfully fresh and summery. Here is the original recipe as I made it.

{Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcakes}

source: Martha Stewart – makes about 40 mini cupcakes

  • 2/3 cup whole fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature

Fresh strawberry puree … yum!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners; set aside. Place strawberries in a small food processor; process until pureed. You should have about 1/3 cup of puree, add a few more strawberries if necessary or save any extra puree for frosting; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a small bowl, mix together milk, vanilla, and strawberry puree; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and continue to beat until well combined and fluffy. Reduce the mixer speed to medium and slowly add egg and egg whites until just blended. With the mixer on low, slowly add half the flour mixture; mix until just blended. Add the milk mixture; mix until just blended. Slowly add remaining flour mixture, scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula, as necessary, until just blended.
Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. Transfer muffin tin to oven and bake until tops are just dry to the touch, 22 to 25 minutes {10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes}. Transfer muffin tin to a wire rack and let cupcakes cool completely in tin before icing.

 {Sprinkles’ Strawberry Frosting}
source: Martha Stewart – more than enough to frost 40 mini cupcakes
  • 3 tablespoons fresh strawberry puree {left over from cupcake batter}
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
  • Pinch of coarse salt
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and salt on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce mixer speed and slowly add confectioners’ sugar; beat until well combined. Add vanilla and 3 tablespoons strawberry puree; mix until just blended. Do not overmix or frosting will incorporate too much air. Frosting consistency should be dense and creamy, like ice cream.
If you’re using a pastry bag to frost your cupcakes, here’s a tip that may be common sense to everyone else, but that I found very helpful! Place the tip of your bag at the bottom of a tall glass and fold the excess over the sides, like so:
Now you have a stable base to scoop all of that delicious frosting into your bag using a spatula or spoon, like so:
I hope you will give this recipe a try and enjoy these little cupcakes as much as my neighbors and I did! Happy summer!

New Recipe! {Rose Petal Pound Cake}

17 Apr

The inspiration for this recipe came as I was planning our Storybook Baby Shower. I knew that I wanted to bake something sweet and, for some reason, that bottle of rose water in my kitchen was really speaking to me {hadn’t used it since the Pistachio Cupcakes with Rose Water Buttercream from last summer}.  I was even more determined to figure out some way to use the rose water when we settled on the storybook theme, and I started running through cute menu items that would fit with the theme {Ring around the Rosie. anyone?}. After a bit of googling {or is it google-ing?}, I decided that pound cake was the way to go. The recipe I ended up with was an adaptation of The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pound Cake. I simply substituted her lemony flavors with rose water and ginger ale.

I really love the consistency of this cake – it has that firm, yet moist consistency that is so delicious in a pound cake. I also really love the subtle rose flavor that comes through, especially when served with fresh whipped cream flavored with a hint of rose water. Just opening the bottle of rose water smells like summer romance!

I will say, this cake has been trickier to get out of the pan than most, and I would definitely recommend making sure your pan is well-greased. I would also really give it some time to cool in the pan before trying to get it out. Nothing is more defeating after all that time in the kitchen than a bundt cake that doesn’t cleanly come out of the pan {and that definitely happened to me on the first go-round with this one}!

Here is the recipe as I adapted it.  Enjoy!

All ready for the oven!

{Rose Petal Pound Cake}

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pound Cake ~ Makes one full-sized bundt

  • 3 sticks Butter
  • 3 cups Sugar
  • 5 whole Eggs
  • 1 tablespoon Rose Water
  • 3 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 cup Ginger Ale

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing after each addition. Add rose water and mix well. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add soft drink, then mix together until combined. Scrape sides of bowl, then mix briefly.

Pour into a greased Bundt pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until the cake is no longer jiggly and a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove cake from oven and let cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes. Gently shake the pan until the edges feel completely loosened from the sides of the pan.  Run a knife between the pan and the cake to free any stubborn spots. Invert on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Serve with rose water whipped cream {about 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped with a splash of rose water and sugar to taste}.

I wish I could make a whole cake of just these crunchy bits on the bottom ... yum!

Family and fall baking {Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting}

26 Oct

Last Friday morning was a flurry of baking.  We were hitting the road for my mother-in-law’s house around midday, and I was supposed to bring cupcakes for her party.  I knew bringing something chocolate was a must, but I also wanted to bring something kind of fall-ish.  After carefully narrowing down my choices to the final four, I intended to only bake two, but ended up deciding on three: spicy chocolate cupcakes with cardamom buttercream, pumpkin cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting from My Baking Addiction, and chocolate espresso fudge cookies from Love & Olive Oil.  Then shortly before I started baking, I got a request from the hubby for the chocolate and peanut butter chip pretzel cookies I had made earlier this summer.

Anyway … four hours later, I was throwing random clothes in a bag while approximately 30 full-sized cupcakes, 50 mini cupcakes, and 60 cookies were cooling.  Here is my basic summary of all of this baking: the spicy chocolate cupcakes are always interesting and full of flavor; the pumpkin cupcakes were all I was hoping for in a fall cupcake and I’ll elaborate below; the chocolate espresso fudge cookies were basically brownies in cookie form {so, YUM!}; and the salty sweet pretzel cookies were once again the first to get gone!  So while each was tasty in its own way, I’m going to focus on the pumpkin cupcakes since we are in the midst of fall and a cold front is apparently on the way.

Quite the dessert spread with some delicious chocolate mousse in the center courtesy of my mother-in-law!

I was really happy with the way these pumpkin cupcakes turned out – moist and full of warm fall flavors – but most of all, it was so much fun enjoying them with so many of our dear friends and family.  It was amazing being in the house where my husband grew up with not only his mother and many of her friends, but also my parents {thanks for making the trip, Mom & Dad!} and Adam and his brother’s friends and their growing families. There was a lot of reminiscing about the Polonpaloozas of the old days and amazement at seeing the offspring of Polonpalooza attendees running around that very same house. This weekend was such a great reminder of how important it is to always come back to the people and places that matter most!  May you be lucky enough to enjoy as much good company {and FOOD!} as we did this past weekend.

Pumpkin deliciousness!

{Pumpkin Cupcakes}

makes about 25-30 full-sized cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

Almost done!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin pie spice; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin puree. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely before frosting.

Just about ready for the drive home!

{Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting}

  • 2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 2 lbs. confectioners’ sugar {I only used 2 1/2 cups or so, and had frosting to spare}
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Using a mixer, blend the butter and cream cheese together until well combined. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar until fully incorporated. Finally mix in vanilla and cinnamon.

Ready for the party {or for breakfast}!

A family visit and some baking {Salty Sweet Cookies and Red Wine Chocolate Cake}

23 Sep

Last weekend was special for so many reasons.  Most importantly, my dear sister and her precious children were here for a visit.  My niece is four and my nephew is two, and they change so much between each visit at this point.  I am always so excited to see what fun new things they’re learning and doing!

We also thought it would be fun to have a little cook-out while they were in town – a way for family and friends to get to know each other as well as a kind of farewell to summer {although hopefully not our last cook-out of the year!}. With all of this going on, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try out some new recipes.  I knew I’d be cutting it close, but after taking the Metro and two buses, I got from work to the grocery store to home with just enough time to bake a Red Wine Chocolate Cake on Friday before the family arrived. The recipe from Smitten Kitchen was super easy and so delicious.  It was rich and moist when I ate some with my sister that night, but a little crumbly the next day {I think that may have been because I had to cover it too quickly before it had really cooled}.  Whipped cream is a perfect way to top this yummy cake! Here’s a picture and the original recipe.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake - just as rich and delicious as it sounds!

{Red Wine Chocolate Cake}

  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (179 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray {I just buttered the dish with no parchment paper, and it was fine}.  In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla.  Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven.  Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together, right over your wet ingredients.  Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula.  Spread batter in prepared pan.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.  The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate.  Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack.  This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. It looks pretty dusted with powdered sugar.

The other recipe I tried for the first time last weekend was for pretzel cookies with chocolate and peanut butter chips.  I found it on a blog called Sugar Cooking.  These cookies were such a tasty mixture of salty and sweet, and seemed to be a hit with kids and adults alike.  The only thing I would change next time would be to use a smaller kind of pretzel so that I could leave them in bigger chunks {I accidentally asked for pretzel rods when I meant sticks, so I ended up crushing them more than I would have like – doh!}.  Here’s the original recipe from Sugar Cooking along with a couple of changes I made!

{Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies}

Makes about 24 cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup of tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/2 cup broken up pretzel pieces
  • Pretzel Salt or Sea Salt
Preheat the over to 350.  In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt – set aside.  In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy {about 2-3 minutes}.  On low speed, slowly add the beaten egg and vanilla extract.  Beat to combine and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the flour mixture and beat just until there are no more streaks of flour.  Stir in the chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and pretzels.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour {I skipped this step, and it seemed to work out okay}.  Scoop out well rounded tablespoonfuls of the dough and place them about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt and bake for about 10 minutes and let cool for a few minutes.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Pretzel Cookies - salty, sweet & delicious!

These recipes were perfect for enjoying with dear friends and family!  Happy baking!

Back to baking {Pistachio Cupcakes with Rose Water Buttercream}

23 Jul

Ever since Valentine’s Day two years ago when I had rose water ice cream at Cashion’s Eat Place in Adams Morgan, I have been wishing there were more opportunities to have desserts with this delightfully romantic scent/flavor. Then, while thumbing through an Indian cookbook last weekend, I decided that I should just find a recipe and try it myself.  And, while I’m not opposed to other types of dessert, I decided to turn to cupcakes yet again.

After a little searching, I found a recipe online for pistachio-cardamom cake with rose water frosting from food52, and it sounded like a delicious bite of so many of my favorite things.  From grade school days of instant pudding to hot summer nights at Boccato Gelato, pistachio has always been one of my favorites!


The only change I made to the original recipe was to double it, as 8 cupcakes didn’t seem like nearly enough, and to add a little more cardamom {shocking, I know!}.  The following is the original recipe with just a few changes and in the proportions I used.

{Pistachio-Cardamom Cupcakes with Rose Water Frosting}


(makes about 24 full-sized or 48 mini cupcakes)

  • 1/2 cup shelled, unsalted pistachios
  • 1  1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom {I added about another 1/4 tsp after tasting the batter}
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup milk, room temperture
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Grinding the pistachios ...

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and place cupcake liners in your muffin tin of choice.  Put the pistachios in a food processor and pulse until very finely ground, but be careful not to turn it into a paste!  Transfer the ground nuts into a small bowl and set aside 3-4 tablespoons for topping the cupcakes. 

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cardamom into a medium bowl and set aside.

Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the eggs, and beat on medium speed until the mixture is uniformly smooth, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half of the flour mixture.  Mix on low speed until just combined.  Add the milk, vanilla extract, and almond extract and mix on medium-low speed until the mixture is uniformly smooth, about 15 seconds.  Add the remaining flour mixture and mix on low speed until barely combined.

Almost done!

Add the ground pistachios {except for the amount reserved for topping} and gently mix to combine.  Divide the batter evenly among the lined muffin cups {about 2/3 full}.  Bake until the tops spring back lightly when pressed and a toothpick comes out clean, about 16 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool a few minutes in the pan, and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

Rose Water Buttercream Frosting:

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, slightly cooler than room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon rose water {I found it in the baking aisle at Whole Foods}
  • A few drops food coloring of your choice {I used green}

Egg whites and sugar over simmering water.

Bring 1-2″ of water to a simmer in a saucepan that is wide enough for the bowl of your mixer to sit on top of it without falling in.  Add the egg whites and sugar to the mixer bowl and whisk well to combine.  Place the bowl over the pot of simmering water, whisking constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is opaque and thick, about 3 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to the mixer and attach the whisk attachment.  Start mixing on low and gradually bring up to high speed over the course of 30 seconds.  Whip on high speed until the whites are thick and glossy and the bowl is cool to the touch, about 7 minutes.

While the whites are whipping, cut the butter into tablespoon-sized chunks. It’s important that the butter is not too warm, so if it’s squishy, put it in the fridge for a while so that it’s somewhat firm but still pliant. 

That's a lot of butter!

When the whites are cool, scrape down the sides of the bowl and lower the speed medium-high. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter and whip until combined, about 10 seconds. Continue with the remaining butter, waiting 10 seconds between each addition.

When all the butter has been added, turn the speed to high and whip until the mixture comes together to form a thick frosting, a few minutes.  Continue to mix on medium-high speed for another minute.

Rose Water

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the rose water and food coloring and whip on high speed for 10 seconds to combine.

Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes once they are completely cooled and top each one with a sprinkling of ground pistachios.

The frosting for these was a little more involved than I’m used to, but it was worth it in the end!  It was so light and airy, and had just the right amount of subtle rose flavor.  The cupcakes were quite good as well, and had a nice moist texture.  The cardamom didn’t really come through for me the way I would have liked, but the pistachios did, and were a nice balance to the airy sweetness of the frosting.  Here are the finished cupcakes … they are minis, so they’re going quickly!  Enjoy!

It's hard to have just one of these little treats!

Yes, more cupcakes {Spicy Dark Chocolate Cupcakes}

8 Jul

As promised, here is another cupcake recipe – Spicy Dark Chocolate with Cardamom Buttercream!  This is the second time I’ve used this recipe, and it’s one of my favorites!  I know spicy chocolate can be very divisive; but *IF* you are in the pro-spicy-chocolate camp, I think you will really enjoy these cupcakes!

Finished product!

I found this recipe while I was on a quest to find a good cupcake recipe that uses cardamom.  My husband and I took an Indian cooking class months ago, and I totally fell in love with cardamom.  I love the way it makes our whole spice cabinet smell warm and inviting every time I open it!  I love the way its soothing flavor compliments sweet and savory dishes alike.  Love it.  {Side note – please go try the cardamom gelato at Pitango if you live in the DC/Baltimore area!}

It is worth mentioning, just in case you’ve never cooked with cardamom, a little goes a long way.  It’s pretty strong, and can definitely overpower a dish; but in moderation, it can be such a comforting flavor that kind of subtly plays in the background.  I digress …

This recipe comes from Sugar Crafter, and was apparently developed for a contest in which contestants had to pair chocolate with “adventure ingredients”.  The only slight changes I made to the original recipe, which follows, were to use instant espresso instead of ground coffee beans and to use just a little more cardamom in the frosting (maybe 1/2 teaspoon).

{Spicy Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Cardamom Buttercream}


(makes about 12 cupcakes, or 24 mini-cupcakes)

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 ounces 99% cacao dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp crushed chili pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp ground coffee beans
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream {I used fat free}

Cardamom buttercream frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp ground cardamom {2 1/2 tsp}

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a non-stick muffin pan with cupcake liners.  Combine the butter and chocolate in double boiler and melt, or place in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 50% power for 30 second increments until melted.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, pepper flakes, and coffee grounds {instant espresso}.  In another small bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar.  Stir in the vanilla extract and sour cream.  Add the chocolate mixture, stir until combined, and then add in the flour mixture half at a time until well-combined.  Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Move to a wire rack to cool before frosting.  

Red pepper flakes in cupcakes??

To make the frosting, beat the butter, vanilla extract, and cardamom until smooth.  Add in the powdered sugar gradually until all of it has been incorporated.  Beat until fluffy and then decorate the cupcakes as desired.

One more side note: thanks to my new mini-muffin tins provided by my mother-in-law {thanks, Mom!}, I made mini-cupcakes for the first time!  I will definitely be doing this more, as you can tell people are much more inclined to take a cupcake {or two, or three…} if it’s miniature.

If you are feeling a little adventurous yourself, definitely give this recipe a try!  We only took a handful home from the July 4th party, and they had mysteriously disappeared by the time I got home from work the next day!