7 Feb

The cupcake trend has hit Idaho. Since early 2010, there has been a cupcake craze across the nation – major experimentation with the look, taste, and overall fanciness of these single serving sweets. It’s all said to have started with Magnolia Bakery in New York City, and from there it’s bounced from the coasts inward, just like every other trend. Idaho might be last, but we won’t be least. Here’s a peek into the methods behind some recent cupcake creations I’ve made recently, and a few links to interesting cupcake websites. I used box mixes for all of the cupcakes this time, since I was making almost 100 of them.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting

The first cupcake I made was a devil’s food cake mix with a simple buttercream on top. The trick to making the buttercream with that little pink swirl in it is to drip a line of gel food coloring down the side of the bag you’re piping the icing from. The other part of the look I achieved was in using an extra-large pastry tip, like this one. My buttercream frosting recipe is as follows: Cream three sticks of butter, slowly add in two pounds of powdered sugar, and ad vanilla extract until you are satisfied with the deliciousness… I’d say a healthy tablespoon at least. Experimentation with the flavors of the buttercream is a lot of fun too.

Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

This one used a strawberry boxed cake mix, and I baked them in white snack cups. This resulted in a little bit smaller of a cupcake, which many guests appreciated. For the frosting, I used 2 bricks of cream cheese, a half stick of butter, 1 1/2 pounds of powdered sugar, and vanilla bean paste. Om nom nom.

Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Vanilla Royal Icing

After I started frosting these cupcakes, I remembered that I actually wanted them to have almond icing. Oh well. The cupcake part, again, was a box mix – the easiest way to do something like cherry chip! The royal icing is made up of three egg whites beat into a meringue, four cups of powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. I put three or four drops of red food coloring in as well. Once the frosting dried, which is only about a minute with royal icing, I brushed edible shimmer powder on the tops of the icing to create a silvery effect. You can get all of the baking cups and other special tools I’m mentioning at most craft stores, or at

And last but not least, the belle of the cupcake ball…

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I used a butter yellow cake mix for the base of the cupcake. Once cooled, I cut out the middle of the cupcake. If you wanted to get really fancy, you could use one of these. I used a paring knife. I made a simple lemon syrup ( a cup of lemon juice and a half cup of sugar, dissolved together and boiled for a couple of minutes), and drizzled this into the cupcake’s hollow center, trying to soak the cake a bit. Then, I made lemon curd (recipe to come in a later post; there’s plenty of good ones out there) and filled the centers until flush with the top of the cupcake. Last, I topped the cupcakes with meringue and popped them in the oven for 10 minutes under 35o°F heat.

By far, the best cupcake that party saw.

I hope this inspires you to have your own cupcake adventures – check out these blogs to see where I got some of my inspiration!

Cupcake Blog




Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Sugar & Gluten Free)

4 Feb

Discovering swiss meringue buttercream was a liberating experience. Not only does it have a super-indulgent mouthfeel, but it can be made sugar free so much more easily than your traditional buttercream – you’re sacrificing nothing.

The method behind swiss meringue buttercream is basically that you take perfect meringue and beat an ungodly amount of butter into your sweetened egg whites. The result is a fluffy and creamy cake topper that hardens just a little bit when refrigerated. You’ll want to make sure your pastries are fully cooled before frosting them, since this will melt more easily than traditional buttercream – and you’ll want plenty of time as well.

Martha Stewart’s website probably has the best recipe for buttercream, but be warned – it calls for two pounds of butter. I only made a quarter of that recipe, and it was enough to frost my Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake from yesterday’s post.

I’ll be making some cupcakes for the Superbowl this Sunday, and I’m going to try making a 1/2 recipe to frost the cupcakes – I’ll also be trying to do a chocolate/vanilla swirl with it.

Here’s my recipe, adapted from Martha Stewart’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe:

1 cup of xylitol or erythritol
5 egg whites at room temperature
1 lb (4 sticks) of butter, at room temperature, cut into 1 tbsp chunks
1/2 tbsp natural vanilla extract, add any other extracts or flavorings in limited quantities (remember, you can’t take it out once it’s in!)

A note about the butter: since it’s a main player in this recipe, get good quality butter! Get the best you can afford – Tillamook butter is my standard but if I’m feeling spiffy I use Kerrygold’s Irish Butter. It’s expensive, but its worth the two dollars more when you’re going for a buttercream that isn’t going to be waxy. Check for manufacturer’s coupons online or in the store if you can, and it will help offset those finer food costs.

Simmer some water in a medium sized saucepan. In a non-reactive bowl, constantly whisk the egg whites and sweetener together over the simmering water. As the bowl heats up, the sweetener will dissolve into the eggs. This should take about five minutes, and while you don’t want to cook the eggs, you will want them to be hot to the touch.

A note on meringue: start the whisking out slowly if you want a creamy meringue. What you’re doing is unraveling the proteins so that once you start mixing on high speed, the eggs will have smaller air bubbles and you’ll have a good texture at the end. Throw this mixture right in to your mixer and let it go for 7-10 minutes, or until stiff peaks form and it’s completely cooled. You can add 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar if the eggs aren’t stiffening well – but be sure not to over-beat, or you’ll have a dry, grainy meringue. And we’re making buttercream… you need soft & silky meringue.

And now is the fun part. You can switch the mixer attachment to the paddle now. While beating on medium speed, throw in one chunk of butter at a time. Wait about 20 seconds in between butter chunks. As you add the butter, you’ll probably see your mixture start to curdle – all is not lost! I actually got to this point and threw out a batch, which is not advised. That’s a lot of butter to throw away. Just wait for it to come together – it will eventually.

Troubleshooting: If your butter is too warm it will be harder for it to come together – sticking the bowl in an ice bath may be necessary. On the converse, if your butter was too cold to start you’ll just have to wait until it softens in the beating process.

Once you’ve reached the point where your butter and eggs have harmonized into one delicious whole, you can experiment with colors and flavors until you’ve hit your limit.

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

4 Feb

This cake is a stanchion of truth for all those people that think healthy cooking can’t taste as good or better than conventional methods.

I adapted the recipe from Healthy Indulgences. She’s great, if you haven’t been over to her blog – I highly recommend her recipes and her way of thinking!

My cake didn’t fluff up enough to cut in half like hers did, but it did turn out super moist and with absolutely no bean flavor.

If you hadn’t guessed it… black beans are the secret ingredient.

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

1 15oz can of organic black beans, drained
5 organic eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract – if you want variations, add an additional teaspoon of mint, almond, orange, or raspberry extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
6 tbsp butter
3/4 c. erythritol or xylitol (I used a mixture)
1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, the best you can afford
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour or cocoa powder a 9 inch round pan and cut some parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan. Make sure the parchment paper is greased well if you are using it.

Put the drained beans, 3 eggs, vanilla, stevia, and salt into a blender. Blend on high speed until it is completely pureed, with no chunks. This took about 3 minutes for me, and I went a little longer to be safe… the ultimate failure point in this cake would be for someone to get a bean chunk in their slice of cake. Whisk your cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda all together in another bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and erythritol together until light & fluffy, and add the remaining eggs in one at a time, mixing until fully incorporated between each one. Add the bean mixture to the butter and egg mixture, and beat it until its well mixed. Finally, add your cocoa mixture and make sure its all mixed together well. Pour into your pan, tap the pan on the counter a few times, and stick it in your preheated oven for 40 minutes. Let the cake cool for a while after cooking, at least 10 minutes. You’ll want to let it set overnight to get rid of the bean flavor, so don’t be in too much of a hurry to do anything with it.

We’ll talk about icing tomorrow!

Allaina’s Surprise 18th Birthday/Graduation Party

2 Feb

This past weekend, we had a great surprise party for my sister, Allaina. About 50 family and friends gathered to celebrate her 18th birthday and early graduation, which called for lots and lots of cupcakes. The colors were pink, white and silver – convenient that Valentines day is right around the corner!

The dessert table was full – I spent most of the day Saturday sneakily baking about 100 cupcakes, and one “alternative” cake – Ally is into her healthy eating, so I figured I’d make a cake with secret ingredients that she wouldn’t have to feel guilty eating.

I’ll be posting the recipes for the cupcakes & cake soon – here’s a sneak preview!

A giant marshmallow & cake pop tree.

I tried to set up a Smilebooth… Jon & I were the only people that took pictures.

Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing

Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

Strawberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cherry Chip Cupcakes with Royal Icing

“Alternative” Secret Ingredient Chocolate Cake

"Alternative" Cake

Good times were had by all. Thanks to everyone for coming out to celebrate with us!

New Classic Tiramisu (Gluten & Sugar Free)

1 Feb

About a week ago, Jon re-discovered his old espresso maker just in time for the maintenance phase of our diet. I had never made tiramisu before, but it seemed like something we could do low-carb pretty easily without sacrificing flavor. Even as a low carb dessert this is probably one of the most decadent tiramisu dishes I have ever had – we were really impressed with the results!

New Classic Tiramisu

Makes 4 large ramekins, should probably be 6-8 servings…

Ladyfinger Crusts:

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 large eggs
1/2 c. xylitol or erythritol
1/2 c. almond flour
1/4 c. carbalose flour (or coconut flour if you eat gluten-free)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375°F and coat a 9×13 in non-stick cooking spray. In a small pan, melt the butter and mix it with the cream until it steams. In a large bowl, beat the eggs on high speed until they pale in color, being careful not to under-beat. Right now you are ensuring that your crust will be light, springy, and spongy to soak up the espresso. While the eggs are being fluffed, go ahead and get your dry ingredients together in a bowl – your almond flour, carbalose or coconut flour, and baking powder. Once the eggs are ready, gradually beat in the sweetener until combined with the eggs. Slowly add the dry ingredients until just mixed, then add in your cream, butter, and vanilla. Pour it all into a pan and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the cake is springy to the touch. Let this cool while you mix up the cream filling & pull your espresso shots.

Cream Filling:

2 8oz packages of cream or Neufchatel cheese, softened
1/3 c. erythritol or xylitol
1/4 c. rum, or 1/2 tsp rum extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream, whipped until very stiff

In a large bowl beat the cream cheese until its… creamy. Add in the sweetener until well combined, then do the same with the rum and vanilla. In a separate bowl beat the heavy whipping cream until stiff, then fold it into the cream cheese mixture. Taste, and add liquid stevia extract if needed. In a separate bowl, take about 3/4 c. espresso and mix it with 1-2 tbsp of erythritol.


You can essentially put this together however you want; we happen to have a round cookie cutter that cuts rounds that fit perfectly in our ramekins. So I’ll just tell you how we do it. Cut out 8 rounds from your ladyfinger crust. Put one round in the bottom of each ramekin, then soak the crusts in espresso. Put about 1/8 of the cream mixture into each ramekin, smoothing the top out. Put another ladyfinger crust on top of that, and soak it in the espresso mixture. Divide the rest of the cream mixture out between your ramekins, and smooth it on top. Lightly dust with cocoa powder, and if you have the willpower, chill for at least 4 hours! The longer it chills, the longer the flavors will develop. I’ll tag this as guiltless, but it’s really not at all guiltless if you are watching your saturated fat intake. In fact, I’m not going to even try to figure out the nutritional information. The best you can do is use Neufchatel cheese, organic or raw heavy cream, and organic cage-free eggs.

A note about carbalose flour: I’ve decided to give carbalose flour a try. Its essentially modified wheat that leaves you with almost all insoluble fiber and proteins, with just a few starch carbs leftover that your body will react to as carbohydrates. I think in limited quantities, this isn’t the most dangerous thing in the world. It should be treated like any other processed food!

Almond Poppy Seed Muffins (Gluten & Sugar Free)

31 Jan

Resolution #1 this year was to get to a healthy weight. Thanks to a few weeks of the HCG diet (haters, take your case elsewhere), I am 23 lbs. lighter in under a month. I’ll be doing two more rounds of the diet, for three weeks at a time, but in between the weeks of strict dieting I’ll be trying to maintain my weight. In order to maintain the weight I ended with, the protocol says that I shouldn’t eat any sugars or starches – when I hear that, I hear “BAKING CHALLENGE.” Enter these delicious almond poppyseed muffins. I was at my Nana’s house and she had some of the giant ones from Costco and, oh baby, did I want one. This body wanted some buttery giant deliciousness. But I held off, so I could make these… and the wait was so worth it. I don’t think I’ll be going back to the originals!



Guiltless Almond Poppyseed Muffins

10 normal-sized muffins

1 cup finely-ground almond flour
3/4 cup xylitol or erythritol
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 tsp baking powder
dash of salt
1 tbsp poppy seeds
2 tbsp melted butter or coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp water
2 eggs
a few drops of non-bitter liquid stevia extract if needed

Preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, mix together the almond flour, sweetener, flaxseed meal, baking powder, salt, and poppy seeds. In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, extracts, whipping cream, water, and eggs. Once combined, add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. If you’re not squeamish about a little raw egg, taste the extract to see if you need to add a little more liquid stevia. My recipe made enough to fill 10 silicone muffin cups, and although the end result was about 1/8 the size of a Costco muffin, these muffins filled me up pretty quick. I think the higher protein, healthy fat, and fiber content contributed to that. Anyways, lightly grease a muffin pan if you’re not using liners or silicon baking cups, fill them 3/4 of the way full, and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on your muffin size. Allow the muffins to cool for a few minutes before removing them from the pan or cups, then for maximum enjoyment serve while warm, with butter slathered all over.

If you want a good variation on this recipe, try it with lemon instead of almond extract.

Nutritional Analysis (based on a 10-muffin yield): These muffins are about 2 carbs each after subtracting fiber and depending on how you count sugar alcohols. I tend to take all I can get in terms of “free” carbohydrates. Per muffin, you’re looking at about 12 grams of fat – but most of that is incredible omega 3’s from the flaxseed, and if you’re using coconut oil instead of butter you’ll get some great MUFA’s (mono-unsaturated fatty acids, your tummy will love you). The almond flour and egg contribute to 4 grams of protein per muffin, and you’re also getting 3 grams of fiber with the flaxseed meal and almond flour. And one more plus – using xylitol will help your teeth to stay clean since it is a plaque-fighting agent! Wow… after typing that, it seems like you can’t afford NOT to make these muffins. Enjoy!