Birthday Baseball Cupcakes

General consensus: the cupcakes I made for my CEO’s birthday/Indians home opener party came out delicious and adorable. And I didn’t even have to slave in the kitchen all night like I feared I would.

I started with these Chocolate Chip Cupcakes from Taste of Home, but left out the chocolate chips and replaced the chocolate frosting with homemade vanilla buttercream, as my co-workers had requested a chocolate alternative. Thus, they became…
Home Run Vanilla Pudding Cupcakes with Baseball Buttercream Frosting

Home Run Vanilla Pudding Cupcakes with Baseball Buttercream
1 package yellow cake mix (I used a Golden Butter Recipe Cake Mix)
1 package (3.4 ounces) instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter (substituted for the canola oil called for in the original recipe)
4 eggs

Combine all these ingredients and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then beat on medium for 2 minutes. You can stir in 1 cup of mini chocolate chips at this point, or skip them like I did. Pour this batter into paper-lined muffin tins, filling two-thirds full. These only took about 12 minutes to brown and set in a 375° oven, even though the original recipe stated 18-22 minutes. 
Between my butter substitution and the vanilla pudding mix, this recipe made a buttery melt-in-your-mouth cake. I made a few mini cupcakes for practicing my decorating techniques, and I don’t want to admit how many I ate — even before they were frosted at all. One of my co-workers said she could detect an extra creaminess, but couldn’t decide what it was. Pudding makes softer chocolate chip cookies and now, I know, softer cake.
I probably got more feedback about the decorations, though. On top of the vanilla buttercream icing, I piped baseball laces. I also made a Birthday Plate with some cupcakes topped with blue and red stars. The little baseball laces were not nearly as meticulous or time-consuming to pipe as I imagined. But I should have remembered how impossible it is to make red frosting; it just turns darker and darker pink. When you’re making cupcakes for a boy, that may not be the best choice. Maybe buying red icing is the way to go – I was just really excited to make my own frosting so I could use my new Pampered Chef decorating kit.
Home Run Vanilla Pudding Cupcakes with Baseball Buttercream frosting

You can see the coloration difference between the creamy homemade buttercream frosting (on the star cupcakes) and the unnaturally white vanilla frosting (on the Happy Bday cupcake) – I turned to pre-made frosting after I ran out.

The second batch, Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cupcakes from Taste of Home, were also delicious — this coming from a girl who only eats chocolate cake when it’s the only option; in other words, it’s not my preference. While the result was good, the recipe was a holy mess and needs a few modifications. Here’s how I adapted…

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cupcakes
For the filling:
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips

Beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Then beat in egg and salt until combined. Mix in chocolate chips and set aside.

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine these dry ingredients in one bowl. Then, in another bowl, whisk together:

1 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Stir this into the dry ingredients until just moistened.
Fill paper-lined muffin tins half full with this batter. Drop a heaping tablespoonful of cream cheese filling in the center of each one. Bake at 350° – mine were done in 20 minutes, but the original recipe called for 24-26. You’ll know they’re done when a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean.
Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Cupcake Recipe
The original recipe also included a chocolate frosting to top these off, but it was disastrous so I’m not even going to waste your time with it. Use your favorite chocolate frosting recipe or frosting from a can instead. Or skip it altogether, like I did – the chocolate chip specked cream cheese dressed up the cupcakes enough to forgo frosting.
My first sign of frosting failure should have been that the recipe involved dumping certain ingredients into a bowl in specified amountsand blending. This is a red flag for me, because frosting is a fickle sweet; that’s why I usually follow my mom’s approach: starting with some some soft, maybe melty butter (not melted), lots of powdered sugar, and enough milk to make the right consistency of frosting – adding vanilla or other extract. If you were still waiting for my Buttercream Frosting Recipe, that’s it. For the chocolate version, just cocoa powder.
Unfortunately, the proportions in this recipe were way off, and quickly swung past the delicious balance frosting requires. It was very runny, even after adding additional powdered sugar, and the vanilla was so overpowering it tasted like alcohol – and not in a good way. I followed the recipe precisely, which I rarely do for frostings. Apparently, the eyeballing method serves me well, because this recipe was just nasty.
There were other issues with this recipe, too. The cream cheese filling could easily be cut in half if not third, because I had two or three times as much filling as I had cupcakes to fill. The leftovers are in the fridge, waiting to be refashioned into something else – perhaps a chocolate cake with chocolate chip cream cheese swirl, or maybe mini chocolate chip cheesecakes on Oreo crusts. In fact, the wreck of an attempt at frosting is in there too, hoping to be salvaged. (Edit: The chocolate frosting was later sacrificed instead.)
So the lesson here, kids, is to never take a recipe’s word for anything. Play around, substitute, experiment. And the best part is: you can (usually) eat your mistakes.

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