Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Special announcement from the Little Bit Sweet baker.

….wait for it…..

I’m engaged!!!! I don’t typically talk about my personal life on this blog, but this deserves a special announcement and shout-out to my wonderful (now) fiancee. 🙂_MG_5440-3220567144-O

Funny thing is, the first question that almost every person has asked me is “are you going to make your own wedding cake??”

They laughed, but I’m considering it. Though it would be nice to eat a cake I had no part in baking. And the stress may not be worth it.

 

Anyways, now that that big news is out it’s time for today’s post.

It’s spring time and I’m getting tired of the same old cupcakes.  Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, plain, plain, plain…..

Time to switch it up! Or, rather, flip it upside down.  Introducing pineapple upside down cupcakes!PineappleUpsideDownCupcakes

Pineapple upside down cake was my grandpa Bart’s favorite dessert. I used to watch as my mom made it for him for his birthdays.  It always seemed like such a tedious process and quite the gamble because you never knew if it would come out of the pan.  Gooey mess stuck to the cake pan and then slopped onto the cake just wasn’t as appealing.  And yet, she made it perfectly every time.

Yes, it’s even more of a gamble trying to get these little guys out of the cupcake pan. But it’s so worth it! A crowd pleaser AND I didn’t have to make buttercream frosting. (A process that, honestly, I hate doing.)

PineappleUpsideDownCupcakePineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

  • Cooking Spray
  • 1/2 butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, not packed
  • 24 maraschino cheeries
  • 1 (20 oz) can pineapple slices in juice
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1  3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • Juice from pineapple can + enough cold water to equal 2 cups
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray cupcake tins with nonstick spray.
  2. Spoon 1 scant teaspoon melted butter into the bottom of each cupcake cup.IMG_2193
  3. Spoon 1 scant, unpacked tablespoon brown sugar into each cupcake cup.
  4. Place a maraschino cherry in the middle of the brown sugar mix in each cupcake cup.
  5. Drain pineapple juice into a measuring cup. Set aside.  Place pineapple slices onto cutting board and cut each slice into 6 pieces. Place 3-4 pieces of pineapple around the cherry in each cupcake cup.IMG_2194
  6. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.
  7. Grab your measuring cup with pineapple juice and add cold water to equal a total of 2 cups liquid.
  8. In a large mixing bowl, pour juice/water mix, oil, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Whisk to combine.
  9. Add flour mix to liquid ingredients, whisking until combined.
  10. Pour cake batter into the cupcake cups, filling just to the top.  Do not overfill!IMG_2195
  11. Bake at 375 F for approximately 20 minutes, or until toothpick stuck into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.IMG_2196
  12. Let cupcakes cool at least 5 minutes. Lay out a piece of wax paper on the counter and carefully flip cupcake pan onto wax paper to release the cupcakes.  Tap on the bottom of the pan to help the process.  For really stubborn cupcakes, may have to loosen a bit with a knife before inverting.

I haven’t calculated nutrition info for this recipe.  It’s a “sometimes” food.  😉

These are definitely best (in my opinion) served warm.  So yummy!!

 

 

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

There have been a lot of changes in my life lately.  Sadly, that includes a few of my great work friends moving to far off places.  This week, my fellow dietitians and I bid farewell to one of them.  (Hey Katherine! We will miss you bunches.)

And just like we always do, we said goodbye with a lunch potluck at work.  Why? Because dietitians love food.  And when we have potlucks, there is great food to share.  Katherine is vegan, so we had lots of yummy vegan-friendly dishes.  Including…ta-da!!….vegan cupcakes!! (That are also Gluten Free!)

And what are cupcakes without frosting, really?  But regular vegan “butter”cream has been done in my kitchen before.  I needed something new.  As I searched the aisles of Central Market for some inspiration, I stumbled upon Tofutti.

I’d never tried this before.  I know of some vegan cheesecake recipes that call for Tofutti, but never really knew what it would taste like or how else it could be used.  The package said “better than cream cheese”, to which I thought “good, because cream cheese is yucky.”  (Unless in cheesecake form.) And I’ll admit I was a bit turned off by the taste of Tofutti, too.

But I gave it a whirl in my mixer. The creation was a hit!

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or frost an 8″ cake

  • 8oz Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening, coconut oil, or softened vegan buttery sticks
  • 5 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

Directions:

  1. With an electric mixer, cream together Tofutti and shortening (or other fat of choice). I use my stand mixer for this process.
  2. Slowly add sugar, one cup at a time. Scrape sides of the bowl often.
  3. Beat in almond extract.
  4. Frost your favorite vegan cupcakes! I used my vegan chocolate cupcakes for this batch.

 

And because Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, here’s a V-day dressed version. 🙂

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

I never want to grow up. (Apparently no one has told Father Time this information)

Thankfully, I can make some of my favorite childhood treats.  Like these!

Last post, we talked about making the soft meringue filling for Hostess cupcakes.  Now, I’ll teach you how to make your own!

Homemade Hostess Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, ~20-24 prepared cupcakes total
  • Homemade soft meringue filling (follow the link to get the recipe)
  • 12oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 Tbsp trans fat free vegetable shortening
  • White drizzle of some sort (either melted white chocolate or white frosting)

Make your favorite chocolate cupcakes.

Create a hole in middle of cupcakes (click here to learn how to fill cupcakes)

Fill middle with homemade soft meringue filling.  Click here for the recipe.  You will have a LOT of filling left.
You could use store bought marshmallow fluff instead…but that’s not as fun!

Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips with vegetable shortening.  Microwave 15 seconds at a time, stirring after each heating. Heat about 45-60 seconds total, stirring to melt remaining chocolate chips.  Do NOT over heat or the chocolate will seize and clump.

Dip cupcakes into chocolate topping OR spoon some on top of cupcake and work to edges of cupcake.

Decorate with a little melted white chocolate or squiggles of canned frosting.  To do this, I just placed a little slightly melted, canned frosting in a Ziploc baggie, snip the corner, and make little circles across the tops of the cupcakes.

Voila!  You have your own homemade Hostess cupcakes!  And they’re not filled with a bunch of preservatives.  It also awesome to see the reaction you get when people see the cupcakes and say “you MADE those?!?!”

I love that reaction 😉

What was your favorite childhood snack food or dessert?

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff: Take 1

Think back to your childhood.  Did you ever have a favorite treat?

When I was a kid, I was a connoisseur of snack cakes.  All kinds.

But, I definitely had a few favorites.  Swiss rolls, Oatmeal pies, Cosmic brownies, Snowballs….

 

What was I saying?

 

Oh yes, I decided to recreate one of my (apparently many) favorite snack cakes from when I was a kid:  Hostess Cupcakes!

The “how-to” for that is coming to your computer screen soon.  But we’ll take it in parts.

First, we have to talk about how to make the marshmallow fluff filling in the cupcake.  Now yes, you can buy marshmallow fluff.  As a matter of fact, when I told my mom I was going to make fluff, she said “you do know you can buy that right?? And it’s not expensive”   But I wanted to make it myself.  I rather enjoy creating things from scratch that I could buy in the store.  It just feels good to know exactly what is going into it (or what isn’t…)

Plus, I’d already changed into my comfy lounge pants for the night and I really really didn’t feel like going to the grocery store.

So I set out to make marshmallow fluff.  But I also didn’t feel like cooking the sugar and corn syrup.  I found a recipe that didn’t require cooking and looked simple enough.  I’ve altered the recipe a bit based on a few different “no cook” recipes I’d found.

The result?  It was delicious!! But it just wasn’t….right.  It turned out to be a wonderful filling for the cupcakes.  However, it’s not exactly marshmallow fluff.  The honey separated from the whipped egg whites as it sat in the fridge.  This led to very moist cupcakes and everyone loved them, but I wasn’t able to use the leftover “fluff” for anything because it deflated a little upon separating.  Back to the drawing board I go for homemade marshmallow fluff.

But I still want to share this recipe.  It’s NOT marshmallow fluff, so I’m changing the name to “soft meringue filling” because that’s essentially what this is.  Yummy and a great filling, but not something that lives up to the “marshmallow fluff” name.

Soft Meringue Filling

Makes ~3 cups soft meringue

  • 6 Tbsp pasteurized liquid egg whites (You can find these in a box by the Egg Beaters)
  • 4oz honey
  • 3oz light corn syrup
  • pinch salt
  • 1-1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Place egg whites, honey, corn syrup, and salt in mixing bowl.  Whip at high speed for 10 minutes.

What would I do without my KitchenAid??

Add vanilla and whip additional 30 seconds.  Stir.

Refrigerate after making. But it’s best if you use it right away.  It WILL separate after hours of refrigeration and you’ll have “not so fluffy” filling.

Note:  Use pasteurized liquid egg whites because the mixture will not be cooked. This ensures you will not get contamination of salmonella or other bacteria.  (Meaning this won’t make you sick… you don’t want to take that chance)

Click here to see how to use this to make homemade Hostess cupcakes!!

Use this filling to make these yummy cupcakes!

Beautiful Bridal Showers

Who says cake is only for the wedding?  If we’re celebrating the bride, let’s also celebrate the fact that she’ll have a yummy wedding cake. 🙂

Take these cakes for example.  The dress also included a string of pearls and a crystal broach that isn’t shown in the picture…but you get the idea.  Cute and decorative cupcakes and a small teapot cake to make the bride feel extra special before her special day.

Now for tips:  (you didn’t think I was just going to show you pictures, did you??)

  • To make a cupcake cake:  make your shape prior to frosting your cupcakes.  That way, you can use the frosting to make sure there are no holes in the final cake design.
  • To make a teapot:  Make the handle and the spout out of fondant and allow to dry before attaching to the cake.  This way, the fondant will be hard and will keep its shape.  You can put lollipop sticks in the spout and toothpicks in the handle prior to the fondant drying.  This way, you just stick the decorations into the cake!
  • As always, chill the cake before you try to sculpt it!!  It helps the cake stay together…trust me.  (Yes, this was learned from a cake catastrophe)

Anyways, here are the pretty cakes!

Wedding Dress Cupcake Cake  Bridal Shower Cupcake Cake

Teapot Cake  Teapot Cake

What special dessert would you like to have at your next party or shower?

Insider Training: Part 1

While baking my last cake order, I realized something.  There are a LOT of little tips and tricks I’ve picked up through the years that not every baker knows.  Whether little shortcuts or new techniques, each of these tips has made baking a lot easier.  And a LOT less stressful.

Let’s not beat around the bush.  I’ll get right to a few of the main tips I thought about while decorating.  Not all of the tips, just some for now.  Always leave them wanting more, right?? 🙂

1.   Preparing baking pans:

No matter what you’re baking, you don’t want it sticking to the baking pan.  Most recipes will tell you to grease and flour the bottom of a cake pan.  A couple of things here.  If you DO go that route, grease the pan and use flour for white or other flavored cakes; use cocoa powder in place of flour for chocolate cakes so the outside of the cake isn’t dusty white.

I highly recommend using parchment paper to line the pan instead.  Why?  It helps the cake come out easier, it’s faster, and serves as a great way to hold the cake together when you take it out of the pan and transfer to a cooling rack.  To do this, cut parchment paper in the shape of the pan, using just enough to cover the bottom of the pan.  If you’d like, you can still grease the sides of the pan but not flour them.  Totally up to you.

2.   Softening butter:

Recipe call for softened butter?  No problem.  Place the unwrapped butter on a plate, pop it in the microwave on medium power, and watch it like a hawk.  To test if it’s soft enough:  press on it.  If your fingerprint is left behind, it’s soft.  If you see melted butter anywhere on the plate or the butter collapses when you touch it, it’s too soft.  Just FYI, butter that’s too soft will cause cookies to spread too much.

3.   Only the best!

Good ingredients make a good final product.  Using quality ingredients will lead to a better overall flavor and texture.  Well, usually.  I don’t mind getting store brand sugar, flour, butter, etc.  But when it comes to extracts and cocoa powder, go for the good stuff!  Especially cocoa powder.  After all, it IS the part of the recipe that makes a chocolate something-or-other, well, chocolate.  You want it to taste good and not be chalky.  Also pay attention to the expiration dates on things!!  Spices that are old will not yield the same amount of flavor.  And flour or baking powder that is old will not provide the right leavening for your baked goods.

Mounds Cake

4.   Make even cupcakes:

Using a standard ice cream scoop will get even, correctly-sized cupcakes or muffins every time.  Your products look more professional when there is size consistency, and this tip will help make that happen.  Using an ice cream scoop also helps make filling a cupcake pan less messy and faster.

5.   Cool down:

Before you take a cake out of its pan to cool completely, be sure you can handle the cake pan without using pot holders. Why?  This ensures that your cake has cooled enough to take it out of the pan. If you try to take it out too soon, the cake will crack.

6.   Level with me:

When making layered cakes, don’t forget to even out each layer.  To do this, cut off the domed top (if there is one) before stacking the cakes.  Best tool for this is a long, serrated knife.  Trust me, someone in the house will usually be more than happy to eat the discarded cake tops. (This was my roommates’ favorite part of me baking in college!)

7.   Sculpting:

Sculpting is an advanced art, so expect it to take a little while to get the hang of it.  But there are a few tips that will help.  Biggest one:  CHILL YOUR CAKE!  Stack the layers and pop the cake in the fridge to chill out for a while (usually a few hours).  This firms up the cake a bit so it will not crack, crumble, or be destroyed while you’re sculpting. Another important tip:  take off a little bit at a time to get your favorite shape.  You can always take more off, but you can’t put it back on.  Slow and steady is the best way to carve.

That’s all the tips for now.  Have something you’ve wondered about?  Ask!  Others are probably wondering too.

Homebaked & Homefaked

Don’t call it a shortcut.  Call it….using available resources.

Hey, I’m all for a homemade, from scratch product.  But sometimes there just isn’t time (or ingredients) to make everything completely from scratch.  In these instances, I turn to trusted products that help me fake a homemade product.  No one will be any the wiser.

Perfect example?  These gluten-free chocolate cupcakes.  (Btw, these are NOT “healthy” and are a “sometimes” food for sure) 🙂

I baked the cupcakes completely from scratch using this recipe.  BUT to make it gluten-free, I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose flour with the appropriate amount of Xanthan gum (see ‘flour’ package).

Estimated nutrition information (1 cupcake, WITHOUT frosting):  203 Calories, 10g Fat, 0.8g Saturated fat, 29g Carbohydrates, 2.4g Fiber, 1.4g Sugar, 2g Protein

Now comes the “homefaked” part of things:  canned frosting.

I know! <gasp>  But I didn’t have the patience that day to make chocolate buttercream.

But in keeping with the gluten-free cupcakes, I got gluten free frosting.  Expensive?  No!!  Turns out, Pillsbury brand canned frosting is gluten-free.  Look for this on the can:

So there you have it, homemade cupcakes and homefaked frosting.  All gluten-free to accomodate the birthday girl and other coworkers that received them.

And no one suspected a thing.       ….ok so I admitted to using canned frosting.  But no one cared 😉