Squirt Sea Turtle Cupcakes (with instructions!)

I do not often make “cutsie” cupcakes. They tend to be a lot of work and not as tasty. But a coworker requested these for her son’s first birthday, and since it’s summer, I agreed. [And sea turtles are also my favorittte animal.  We went to see the Sea Turtle Lady in SPI many many times.  Family vacations at SPI for spring break… that’s a story for another day.]

And a BIG shoutout to my self-designated “cupcake engineer” – she figured out how to solve many of the problems I came across.  And did a lot of the cutting of the candy.  I’m just not careful enough for that…  Thanks Olivia!

2013-06-14 P1070983

The cake: I made 2 flavors of cupcakes at her request – my favorite chocolate and my now favorite vanilla recipes I even used my new surprise cupcake pan (isn’t my boyfriend sweet? Happy birthday to me!) to have Reese’s in the middle. Mmmmm. (I even had blue wavy cupcakes – water!)

The candy:

You will need…

  • Peach gummi ring candies – 1 per cupcake
    • make sure they’re not hard when you buy them!  The first few bags I bought were and it made them difficult to manuever.
    • try to find some that are mostly red on the top portion of the ring.  It just looks better!
  • Gumdrop candies (green for the head and red/orange to match the gummi rings) – 1 of each per cupcake
    • See if you can find them in where you can buy just one color.  I couldn’t, so I had to buy lots of bags to get enough.
    • You can also use small spice drops for the center of the shell (then, no cutting is necessary) – but since I had to buy lots of packages of gumdrops anyways AND I didn’t want any frosting poking out of my shells, I went with red gumdrops.
  • Spearmint Leaves candies – 2 per cupcake
  • Mini chocolate chips – 2 per cupcake
    • If you live in Texas, and it’s June, therefore a gazillion degrees outside, don’t leave in your trunk for 2 days.  Unless you want a long and slow method of melting chocolate and you’d like to pipe the eyes.  I may or may not have experienced this…
  • Wooden kitchen skewer or toothpick

Red GumdropGumdrop shell: (I did this ahead of time. Make sure to seal them somehow – I used Saran wrap.) Slice the red gumdrop in half, eat or discard the bottom half (warning: may taste slightly like cough syrup.  According to my cupcake engineer.  I was perfectly happy eating the leftover peach rings.)  You will place the red gumdrop top on the center of the gummi ring to create the turtle shell.

Fins: Slice a Spearmint Leaves candy in half. Then use an oval or heart fondant/cookie cutter to cut each half into two pieces, as shown.  Use the outer pieces for the front fins and the inner pieces for the hind fins.

Gumdrop head: If using chocolate chips, use a kitchen skewer or toothpick to poke eyeholes in the sides of a green gumdrop. Then press a mini chocolate chip into each hole, using a dab of white icing to help hold it in place. If you’re going to pipe the chocolate, you better be more cautious and careful than I am.  Luckily, I had my trusty “cupcake engineer” friend Olivia to help me do the tricky parts for me and be the brains of the operation.

The frosting: Once the cupcakes have cooked and when the candy is prepared, frost them with the frosting of your choice.  I love me some vanilla buttercream! I scooped it onto the cupcake using a small or medium cookie scoop and then spread it using a small icing spatula.

Assemble the turtle:  (see picture below) I put the head first, then the shell with the top-half-red-gumdrop in the center, then the legs.  Press down slightly to stick in place.  I refrigerated my cupcakes until serving.  I live in Texas. It’s hot.  Frosting melts…

Turtle method adapted from Spoonful: Courtesy of Disney.  Here are some other versions (with varied candy types): Zimbio, these made with chocolate shells, Thrifty and Chic mom

Pumpkin Cake (Dairy-Free and AMAZING) & Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

I’ve been told this is my best cake recipe YET!  Enjoy!  This pumpkin cake recipe was not made to be dairy-free, but it just happens to be!  IT is AMAZING with the cinnamon cream cheese frosting – THAT is definitely not dairy-free though.

Image

Pumpkin Cake (Dairy-Free)

  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 c. white sugar
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • ¾ c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. canned pumpkin
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 c. chopped walnuts (optional: do NOT use for pumpkin cakes – want smooth batter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour pan or muffin tins. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, and applesauce. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in nuts. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Baking times:

  • 12×18 inch pan: 30 minutes
  • 8×8 inch pan: 25 minutes
  • Bundt cupcake tins (filled halfway): 14 minutes,
  • Regular cupcakes: 18-22 minutes
  • Mini cupcakes: 12-15 minutes

Allow to cool.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 cup confectioners’ / powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (pure is best)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Beat until smooth.  Frost cupcakes.  Refrigerate leftovers.  Makes enough for 2+ dozen standard cupcakes.

Cake recipe found and adapted from All Recipes.  Frosting recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes [frosting recipe included!]

What is the likelihood of 3 out of my 6 co-workers have birthdays within a week of each other?  Good thing they all LOVE chocolate, because it was easy for them to agree on chocolate cupcakes.

So, of course, I went to my ABSOLUTE favorite chocolate cake recipe.  It has never failed me before, and it definitely didn’t fail me this time!  It’s been a while since I made it, AND I rarely make JUST chocolate.  But it was DIVINE.  A number of people said it was one of the best they’d had.  If you’ve never tried to make cupcakes from scratch use this recipe!

I also discovered this amazing frosting recipe.  [sidenote… food.com, previously recipezaar, is one of my favorite things] Oh. Muh. Wurd… I’m not really a frosting person.  Especially chocolate.  But MAN was this frosting AMAZING.  And pretty easy too!  Do yourself a favor and try it.

I got a new piping tip and had fun (and made some ridiculously awful looking cupcakes) trying out new stuff!  I kinda tried to make a rose.  I was pretty excited about the possibilities!

Here’s the recipe I used for frosting.  Just in case you don’t know how to click a link.

Kittencal’s Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened (don’t you dare use margarine)
2 2/3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/3 cup half-and-half cream OR 1/3 cup milk (can use unwhipped whipping cream in place of half and half)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
CHOOSE ONE OF THE FOLLOWING  **use less confectioners’ sugar when you use more cocoa powder
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for light)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for medium)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (for dark rich)

1.  Cream the butter in a small bowl.
2.  Blend in the cocoa powder (the amount desired for a light, medium or dark flavor), vanilla, confectioners sugar, alternately with the cream.
3.  Beat with an electric mixer, until the desired texture is achieved. (I used the whisk attachment and beat it … maybe about 5 minutes?

I added a little bit of vegetable oil to make it shiny and pretty!

Adapted from kittencal on food.com.

Baby Shower Cupcakes

It all started with an e-mail from my co-worker… “So, I just volunteered us, and by us I really mean you to bring cupcakes for [insert Preggo’s name here] baby shower.  Please let me know what we (you) will need and I will get it to you.”  HA – I love her.

So, of course, I went to Pinterest.  I found these baby-face cupcakes and these adorable cupcake toppers.

I started off by making the Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Filling.

Then, I decorated!

For the baby-face cupcakes: I made Vanilla Buttercream, and colored it with a TINY bit of Wilton copper icing color (found at Joann’s) to make it Caucasian colored.

Then, I used a medium cookie scoop to put a dollop on top of the cupcakes.  I have a small offset spatula that I used to spread the frosting across the top.  Once the frosting is evenly distributed, use the spatula edge to smooth it over the top and around the sides.

I stuck the pacifier in the cupcake and frosting first, and then took mini-chocolate chips and carefully stuck them (upside-down) as eyes!

Now for the Cupcake Toppers!

Here is the Sure Cuts A Lot (SCUT2) file that I used to make these!  (It’s a file that I just uploaded to Dropbox.  I’ve never had ANY problems sharing files with Dropbox.  I use it all the time.)

I used my Cricut to cut these out, glued them together, hot glued toothpicks to the back, and voila!

Here’s the recipe!

Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 20 to 24 minutes

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature
4 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.

2. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain. DO NOT OVERMIX.

3. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and toothpick or skewer inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes. [I preheated to 350; I lowered it to 325 when I put the cupcakes in to get a rounder top. I baked for 23 min.]  Remove the cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack; cool cupcakes to room temperature before frosting.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Yield: Enough to frost 24 cupcakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

2 cups (16 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

1. Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.

2. Reduce the speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once all of the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla, mixing until incorporated. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed. [I whipped WAY longer than 2 minutes]

You can store any unused buttercream on the counter in an airtight container; if you store in the refrigerator: let it come to room temperature and then give it a quick whip in the mixer before using.

(Cupcake recipe doubled from Brown Eyed Baker – originally adapted from Cook’s Illustrated; Frosting recipe is from Brown Eyed Baker)

Strawberry or Raspberry Filling

Here’s my secret… I use Junket Danish Dessert as a filling.  You can mix it up following the pie filling microwave directions, with about 1/2-1 cup of extra water, depending on how thin you want the filling.  Then, I use your favorite method to fill the cupcakes (You can use a pastry bag with a thin straight tip and inject the cupcakes if desired.)