Blackberry Cabernet Cupcakes

My friends are hosting a Valenwine’s Party tonight to celebrate Valentine’s Day with wine tasting. Most people think of cheese and crackers and other charcuteries, but I go straight to the cupcakes. When I found this recipe for Blackberry Cabernet Cupcakes, I knew what I’d be taking to the party.

The first bottle of wine I picked up for this recipe was Cupcake Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. How appropriate, I thought. But then I saw this bottle of Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet that made me swap.

Cupcake Vineyards Red Velvet Red Wine 2012 CaliforniaAccording to the description on the label, “This wine shows a heady nose of chocolate, deep rich blackberries, red fruits, and a creamy mocha finish that is unmistakable in its intensity and length. It’s reminiscent of a blackberry chocolate cupcake with a mocha coulis.” Sounds perfect for making blackberry chocolate cupcakes, right?

Of course, we had to taste the wine first as a safety precaution. The cocoa and mocha flavors were unmistakable, with dark hints of berry. I had to pour a cup aside to save for the recipe to make sure we didn’t drink it all!

ingredients to make chocolate cabernet cupcakes from scratch

Chocolate Cabernet Cupcakes:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup cabernet sauvignon
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Cream butter and sugar till smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Combine flour and baking powder separately, and add to batter. Pour in red wine and mix well, being careful not to overmix. Add cocoa powder. Scoop batter into cupcake tins lined with papers, and bake 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When cupcakes are cool, brush tops with additional cabernet sauvignon (uses about 2 tablespoons.)

blackberry cabernet sauce for frosting

Blackberry Cabernet Frosting:

1 cup blackberries
½ cup cabernet sauvignon
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk

Bring blackberries and cabernet to a simmer in a small saucepan. Reduce until wine thickens to syrup and berries mash easily. Strain out seeds. Remaining liquid should total about ¼ cup.

Beat butter with mixer till creamy. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk (may need slightly more or less of each) to reach thick consistency. Add blackberry cabernet sauce and mix well. I added more powdered sugar at this point, but the frosting was still runny. It’s easier to spread with a knife than to try to pipe on.

Press a blackberry into the center of each frosted cupcake and serve. Happy Valenwine’s Day!

chocolate blackberry cabernet cupcakes for Valentine's Day

chocolate blackberry cabernet cupcakes for Valentine's Day


Oh, and this is what my recipe notebook looked like after baking (so you can imagine what the rest of my kitchen looked like):

messy recipe notebook after baking blackberry cabernet cupcakes

S’more Hot Chocolate Cupcakes with Marshmallow Filling for DIY Craft Party

Some friends of mine started a hot cocoa blog, Hot Cocoalicious, where they rate the best hot chocolates around Cleveland. To accompany their quest for great hot cocoa, they hosted a little Creating + Cocoa party last weekend, bringing together people to share chocolately drinks and sweets while getting crafty with paper, paints, pencils, tape, and glue.

Creating + Cocoa DIY painting event hot chocolate cupcakes art craft workspace

Before we start crafting, we each ladle homemade hot cocoa from the host’s crockpot into fancy mugs. The spread of toppings spans homemade whipped cream, strawberry and vanilla flavored heart-shaped marshmallows, Junior Mints, caramel Junior Mints, butterscotch chips, lavender and a kaleidoscope of sprinkles.

Looking for a hot cocoa inspired cupcake recipe, I found these S’more Cupcakes that I tweaked to fit the party theme. I doubled Rachel’s original recipe to make 18, and added some hot cocoa mix to the chocolate buttercream frosting to top off these cinnamon graham cracker cupcakes stuffed with gooey homemade marshmallow filling.

hot cocoa with hot chocolate smore cupcakes


The Cupcakes: S’more Cupcakes with Marshmallow Filling and Hot Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup graham cracker crumbs (about 4 graham crackers)
¾ cup milk

Marshmallow Filling:

2 egg whites
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract


1 stick unsalted butter, softened
4 ½ cups powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder (I had just less than ½ cup left, so I filled up the measuring cup the rest of the way with 2 packages of hot cocoa mix. I used a slotted spoon to “strain” out the mini marshmallows, which I saved for the topping.)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons milk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line cupcake tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mixing well. Slowly add in milk, mixing just until batter is smooth. Scoop batter into prepared cupcake liners with a cookie scoop, filling ¾ full. Bake for 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack.

Situate a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water so the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Whisk together egg white, sugar and cream of tartar until sugar dissolves. Continue whisking in your makeshift double boiler until the mixture is warm to the touch. Remove from heat and take a mixer to it, beating several minutes until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla in the last 30 seconds.

Hollow out the centers of the cooled cupcakes using a knife, or – much easier – using a nifty cupcake corer like this one my mom gave me. Note: cupcake balls can be used to appease hungry boyfriend so he doesn’t eat the real cupcakes before the party!

cupcake corer for filling cupcakes

hollow graham cracker cupcakes for filling with marshmallow cream

Transfer marshmallow cream to a large plastic Ziplock bag with the corner snipped off, and pipe into the hollow cupcakes.

cinnamon graham cracker cupcakes with homemade marshmallow cream filling

In a large bowl, cream the butter for frosting. Mix in powdered sugar and cocoa powder (which may have some hot cocoa mix added). Mix in vanilla and milk. I like to add milk and powdered sugar alternately to find the perfect consistency. I ended up using less than the 5 cups of powdered sugar the original doubled recipe called for, and I still had frosting left over.

Transfer frosting to another Ziplock bag with a snipped corner, and pipe onto cupcakes. The piped chocolate frosting started looking a little poopy to me, and I had plenty of marshmallow cream left over, so I piped an extra dollop on top of the buttercream. On top of that, I sprinkled the mini marshmallows I’d saved from the hot cocoa packets. You can also buy these mini marshmallow garnishes in bulk at some grocery stores. They’re the perfect finishing touch for these yummy s’more hot chocolate cupcakes with marshmallow filling.

cinnamon graham cracker cupcakes with homemade marshmallow cream filling and hot chocolate buttercream frosting

The Craft:

In between sips of sweet hot cocoa and nibbles of marshmallow-filled cupcakes, we each painted very different projects. Our hosts picked three crafts to inspire us for the day: tape painting geometric shapes, glue painting organic shapes, or modge podging any shapes onto painted wood blocks.

tape painting DIY craftglue painting DIY craftmodge podge diy painting craft

Intrigued by the stained glass appearance of the first project, I decided to create some geometric shapes with straight tape lines. I started with a 12×12 canvas board, and started cutting masking tape in half to make thinner lines. I experimented cutting various widths, but it became a tedious task. I’d recommend buying various widths of tape – but only if it’s cheap enough you don’t mind painting over it and then pitching it. Another crafter used decorative Washi tape that she left on the painting, so you could experiment with that, too.

In the spaces created by my tape lines, I painted blocks of acrylic paint in red, dark blue, light blue, green, and a purple I made by mixing red and dark blue. In the lower right corner, I toyed with the idea of incorporating a “b” stencil. Then, at the last minute, instead of painting in the “b,” I decided to use the negative space around the “b” instead to block out the shapes more subtley. This is what it looked like before I removed the tape – and before I decided how to handle the corner.

painting tape DIY craft idea project

After letting the paint dry, I carefully peeled off the tape to reveal white lines between my color blocks. The edges weren’t totally precise and there was some bleeding, but the lines are pretty consistent. (I didn’t leave the tape on my “b” corner as long, and I noticed the paint bled more noticeably here.) If you had more time, it would be fun to paint a base color, tape over that, paint darker colors around it, and then peel the tape to reveal colored lines.

This would be a great project for varied age groups. I could see a child making very simple lines and shapes, while a more experienced artist could get intricate with various line widths, curves and detail. You can always go back over it and add in finer details, too. Here’s what my finished project looked like:

stained glass geometric shape tape painting canvas acrylic

While I was waiting for my paint to dry, I quickly experimented with the second craft. I slapped some orange acrylic paint on a scrap of watercolor paper, then leafed through the host’s stash of paper collage pieces. I grabbed a cut-out rose cardstock, and two scraps of peachy-pink paper. I layered these on top of my orange background with a gluestick, and then traced the lines of the rose petals with clear-drying tacky glue.

orange rose collage glue DIY craft project idea

The project seems unfinished to me, so I might experiment with watercolor on top of it, although I’m not sure how receptive the cardstock will be to watercolors.  I also realized after it dried that I should have sprinkled some gold glitter onto the glue to really distinguish the lines.

But I’m just happy I didn’t drip marshmallow filling or hot cocoa spatters onto my artwork!

Soft Marble Cake with Chocolate Bourbon Glaze

It’s not that I need to have cake on my birthday. I’d already had ice cream, and that was key. Making this cake was more about trying out my new birthday presents.

You see, amidst a flurry of Christmas cookie baking, my trusty mixer that had blasted its way through who-knows-how-many pounds of flour, sugar, butter and eggs to make who-knows-how-many hundreds of cookies, cupcakes and cakes – finally died. I heard it dying slowly through several recipes, as the motor whirred loudly in a rumble that sounded like it belonged inside of my car, not my kitchen. At the most opportune time – just when the ingredients combined to form my final batch of frosting for the last batch of sugar cookies before Christmas Eve – the mixer started moaning at a dreadful new low as the beaters finally stopped beating. My mixer had mixed its last.

old messy hand mixer beaters baking

Farewell, fair mixer.

Somehow, I managed to save the birthday presents my family sent back with me at Christmas until the big day: Sunday, January 4, The Big 3-0. I needed something to look forward to when turning 30, after all, so I unwrapped gifts that morning. There were cute polka dot storage bins from one sister, filled with caramel sea salt hot cocoa, warm vanilla sugar and white lily hand soaps. A monogramed black-and-white chevron Thirty One bag from the other sister. And from my mother – who has heard me gripe about the strange noises coming from my mixer and the excessive, uneven heat coming from my crappy old stove: an oven thermometer and a fancy new beater.

birthday presents

showing off my birthday spoils

I had to try it out, right? So I heated up my oven with the thermometer hanging inside, and learned that I only have to set my oven to 225 to reach 350 actual degrees. Having an accurate temperature reading makes it so much easier to bake consistently!

I chose this recipe for Chocolate Cake with Jack Daniels Fudge Icing that I pinned from Pizzazzerie. As delicious as this recipe looks, I made a few changes. I’ve always preferred white cake to chocolate, and I didn’t have a chocolate cake mix anyway, so I used marble cake mix and omitted the chocolate chips. I didn’t have any Jack Daniels either, but I did have a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 (which I’ve had since a birthday quite a few years ago) so I used it instead, and reduced the amount because I didn’t want to overpower my cake with chocolate-flavored Turkey sauce.

Here’s the recipe I came up with (thanks to my new hand mixer).

Soft Marble Birthday Cake with Chocolate Bourbon Glaze

Soft Marble Cake with Chocolate Bourbon Glaze

For the cake:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Fudge Marble Cake Mix (or use chocolate, or yellow cake, or whatever you like)
  • 1 box (3.4-oz) instant pudding (I used cheesecake flavor)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup warm water
  • 4 eggs

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes, until batter is fluffy. Using new beaters with a slower lowest setting makes it easy to mix these quickly without splattering a cloud of wet dust over your countertop!

If you’re using a marble cake mix, scoop out 1 cup of batter and mix it with the provided cocoa pack to make your swirl. Pour the large bowl of white batter into your greased pan (I used a silicone Bundt pan). Then, dollop the chocolate batter over it and drag a knife through to marbleize. Bake at 350 for about 38-45 minutes in this type of pan – follow the times suggested on the box for others.

For the glaze:

  • ¼ cup bourbon whiskey (the original recipe called for Jack Daniels whiskey; I used about 2/3 this amount of Wild Turkey 101. Just experiment with what you have – you can’t really go wrong with whiskey and chocolate.)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • ½ cup milk chocolate chips

I waited until the cake had baked and started to cool before I started to make the glaze, because you have to pour it on immediately before it sets – and I wanted to let my cake cool so I could pop it out of the pan before glazing.

When you’re ready (maybe after a few shots of whiskey for yourself), combine the butter, sugar and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan. Heat slowly, stirring regularly, until it comes to a rolling boil. Stir constantly at this stage for one minute, then remove from heat. Pour over cooled cake immediately.

Soft Marble Birthday Cake with Chocolate Bourbon Glaze

This is a great glaze for Bundt cakes – whether they’re chocolate or not – because it drips down the sides beautifully. So there you have it, a slightly improvised late-night birthday cake concoction I call Soft Marble Cake with Chocolate Bourbon Glaze.

The cake gets an A, as do the oven thermometer and mixer. (Thanks, mom.) Here’s to new baking experiences in 2015!


old hand mixers replaced with new Hamilton Beach hand mixer

Messy old mixer, meet your shiny new replacement.


Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cupcakes in Cleveland Browns colors

Wanna taste 2 of the 100 Best Cupcake Recipes? At least, according to this cupcake cookbook called “100 Best Cupcake Recipes,” these two easy cupcake recipes are “sensational,” paired in chocolate and peanut butter. But are they good enough for a Cleveland Browns victory?

The challenge: 
Bake some cute football-themed cupcakes for a Cleveland Browns pre-season tailgate party. Look for inspiration in chocolate-frosted footballs, makeshift goalposts, and tedious turf icing topped with mini almond footballs, and decide that Pinterest bakers must have much more time on their hands than I do.

Back to basics: 
Brown and orange. Simplicity will let the flavor speak for itself, right? So I abandon Pinterest and turn to my cookbook shelf for guidance. Dreaming of Reese’s, I land on these two in the cupcake cookbook: Celebration Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Cupcakes. (See recipes below)

Game time:
Teams quickly took sides with the cupcake choices in the field. The Celebration Chocolate Cupcakes were easily the crowd favorite at the tailgate…but when I shared some with friends a couple nights later, everyone there preferred Peanut Butter.

Final score:
Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cupcakes are both winners.
Go Browns.

Celebration Chocolate Cupcakes
(Originally for mini cupcakes, but I doubled it 
to make this recipe for a dozen jumbo cupcakes)
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake tins with paper or foil liners.
2. Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl, then add wet ingredients and beat with whisk or mixer on medium speed until well blended. Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full with batter.
3. Bake 12 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and frost with…chocolate frosting from a can, if you’re lazy like me.

Chocolate Celebration Cupcakes
from “100 Best Cupcake Recipes”
Publications International Ltd.
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
(Originally frosted with chocolate peanut butter frosting, but I needed orange 
frosting for Browns colors, so I used  vanilla icing with red and yellow dye.)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake tins with paper or foil liners.
2. Mix first three ingredients in medium bowl. Then, beat butter and peanut butter in another large bowl with mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in sugars until mixed, and then beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Fill cupcake tins 3/4 full with batter – these do not round off like the chocolate ones do so you can fill them a little fuller.
3. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and frost.

Lifehack for Shipping Cookies in the Mail

After I posted my S’mores Cookies on Facebook, an old high school friend of mine commented about how yummy they looked. When I found out Nicole was having a rough week, I decided to ship some cookies her way. After all, I can’t be expected to eat everything I bake all by myself, and chocolate makes other people happy, so it’s a win-win.

I decided to be resourceful with the packaging materials I already had on hand, and I ended up stumbling onto an easy, cheap life-hack for shipping cookies: the pint berry container. I had just finished a pint of strawberries, and the plastic, lidded berry container was the perfect size to fit a dozen small cookies.

Here’s how you can easily pack your cookies with (nearly) free materials to keep them fresh and whole in the mail.
1. Once the cookies are completely cool, stack them in stacks of 3 or 4 and wrap each stack in plastic wrap.
2. Seal the stacks of cookies inside a quart-sized Ziploc bag,
3. Cushion the inside of a clean, dry plastic pint container with bubble wrap (or more plastic wrap), then nestle the bag of cookies inside. Wrap the bubble wrap around the cookies and snap the lid shut.
4. These containers are even the right size to stick a recipe card on top!

The result? My S’mores Cookies survived the trip through the postal service, and made it out whole across the state line in Indiana. Nicole posted this beautiful picture of the cookies she received (and devoured).

Want to make someone’s day? Send cookies their way!

S’mores Cookies Recipes

If summer had a flavor, it wouldn’t be lemonade or BBQ or even ice cream. Believe me, I eat ice cream all year long. Summer tastes distinctively like a s’more – melted chocolate and gooey toasted marshmallow sandwiched between a crumbly crunch of graham cracker, eaten as you stand over a cracking fire, turning away from the glow just enough that the dribbles of chocolate and marshmallow on your chin are hidden in the shadows.

I enjoy the whole experience of camping – the dirt, the making-do, the campfire cooking, the sunshine and breeze, the stars and the trees – but I love s’mores. So much that I have a whole board on Pinterest devoted to the s’mores trio of ingredients. Though I already kicked off camping season over Memorial Day weekend, devouring more s’mores than I probably should have, I was craving that gooey comfort food again last week.
After digging through the best s’mores recipes Pinterest had to tempt me with, I landed on these S’mores Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod. I needed to use up some graham crackers left open from the camping trip, as well as some mini marshmallows that were starting to stick together. I even had an open bag of mini chocolate chips for Maria’s cute mini approach to this recipe.
Who needs the whole campfire? Bake the goodness of summer inside with these nostalgic S’mores Cookies.
Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Graham Cracker Smores Cookies Recipe
S’mores Cookies Recipe:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup Jet Puffed Mallow Bits
extra graham cracker crumbs
Substitutions/Ingredient Notes:
  • Graham cracker crumbs: Even though I had a box of ground graham cracker crumbs, I hand crushed crackers that were left open from a camping trip and needed to be enjoyed before they went stale. I left some courser chunks but most of it ended up finely ground. It took less than one sleeve of graham crackers crushed to make one cup of crumbs.
  • Whole wheat flour: As always, I subbed in a little whole wheat flour for all white flour. In this recipe, I used one cup of regular flour and 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour. Keep in mind that a lot of graham cracker dust becomes more dry ingredient, so the dough will be crumbly.
  • Eggless: With only enough eggs left for one more breakfast tomorrow morning, I wanted to substitute eggs with an alternative in my cookie recipe. Instead of an egg, I mashed a little more than 1/2 a banana into a 1/4 cup measure. The dough still seemed really crumbly after adding the banana and vanilla so I added a couple scoops of peanut butter made with honey. Because what’s even better than the trinity of chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker? Throwing peanut butter in the mix – like by swapping out Hershey’s for Reese’s in a traditional s’more. Or add a peanut buttery binder to a crumbly s’more cookie dough.
  • Mini marshmallows: Not sure what exactly Mallow Bits are, but I used good ol’ mini marshmallows that needed to be used up.
  • In the original recipe, she presses Hershey chocolate bars, graham cracker pieces and Mallow Bits onto the balls of cookie dough before baking. I skipped this step. Actually, I tried stuffing a few cookies by forming balls of dough around extra marshmallows, but most of them popped open in the oven and made a sticky, carmelized mess.

Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Graham Cracker Smores Cookies Recipe

Directions to Make S’mores Cookies:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper, or use a baking stone like I did. Also, because my ancient oven runs so hot, I turned the temp down to about 325.
  2. In one bowl, whisk together graham cracker crumbs, flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars about 3 minutes till creamy and smooth. This is where you would mix in egg and vanilla, but I substituted mashed banana and a bit of peanut butter to get the consistency without the eggs.
  4. Slowly add the dry ingredients from Step 2 into the mixing bowl from Step 3. Mix until just combined.
  5. Stir in the marshmallow bits and mini chocolate chips.
  6. Roll teaspoonfuls of cookie dough into a ball, and try not to eat more than you put on the pan. I rolled each ball in a dish of extra graham cracker crumbs for a little dusting.
  7. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet about an inch apart. I baked these about 5 minutes then pressed them down a bit with the bottom of a small glass dipped in graham cracker crumbs before baking a final minute or two. Let them cool and set on the baking sheet for a couple minutes before transferring. These cookies were so gooey they fell apart on a wire wrack, so I had to coat it with wax paper.
Warning: These cookies are very hot out of the oven and the melted marshmallows will burn your mouth. You may be able to eat real s’mores immediately, and I know we all love fresh cookies right out of the oven, but please learn from my mistakes, and give these a few minutes to cool before you try to touch or eat them! They’ll be just as gooey after cooling, and they’ll still taste just as much like the classic s’more you’re craving.

Chocolate Yogurt Cupcakes

OK, so I probably should have gone grocery shopping instead of baking cupcakes. But, to be fair, I was doing my part to use up old ingredients so I could make room for new.

See, I haven’t been eating any of this Greek yogurt I stocked up on, and it’s set to expire this week. The cans of frosting in the pantry, however, have no danger of expiring in my kitchen. So I need to use up that frosting before I’m tempted to eat it without the excuse of a cupcake underneath. And, since I don’t have any eggs (remember, it’s time to buy groceries), it was time for an experiment.

The original recipe was called Red Devil’s Food Cake. But in this version, we’ll call them:
Chocolate Yogurt Cupcakes

1 cup Greek yogurt (replacing 1 cup mayonnaise in the original recipe. I used yogurt that had Strawberry-Banana Fruit on the Bottom – and honestly, you’d never know.)
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water
4 tsp cocoa
2 tsp soda

Mix it all up. Pour into cupcake liners and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes.

I remember reading before that Devil’s Food Cake doesn’t make good cupcakes. Well, I’ve also never made Devil’s Food Cake with strawberry Greek yogurt.

The cupcakes came out of the oven with plump perfect cupcake tops…

chocolate yogurt cupcakes baking substitution

…which deflated and dimpled in minutes as the dense cake settled:
chocolate yogurt cupcakes baking substitution
Oh well; that’s what frosting is for. So I topped them off with Whipped Vanilla frosting from a can, and no one would ever be the wiser. In fact, no one who tasted them could guess the secret ingredient – which made them very moist and delicious.
Chcocolate yogurt cupcake recipe with whipped vanilla frosting
The bottom of the cakes do stick in the liner a bit, but other than that, I didn’t notice any Devil’s Food disasters in cupcake form. Besides, if you’re too proper to suck all the good crumbs off the wrapper, you’re not welcome in my kitchen, anyway.

“Double Treat” Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t need bookmarks in my cookbooks. They naturally fall open to the most oft-used pages, guided by oil stains and batter splatters and clouds of flour.
The page where this Double Treat Cookie recipe is located is one of these.
These come from the one and only Church Cookbook: the blue-covered “Brethren Favorites From Yellow Creek” compiled by members of Yellow Creek Church of the Brethren in Goshen, Indiana. I received my own copy of it (at last!) on my 23rd birthday by my mom.
It didn’t happen right away, but over the years, page 85 has become stained with grease and splotches of dough from various stages of mixing.  (You’re probably beginning to understand, now, why my sister doesn’t like me baking in her kitchen – or, at least, leaving behind the aftermath of my baking.)
I think my go-to chocolate chip cookies are still the chocolate chip pudding cookies (four pages before this recipe in the same cookbook), but I think the pudding mix starts to bring back bad memories of overabundant Amish Friendship Bread starters….More recently, my common chocolate chip cookie craving is accompanied by a peanut butter hunger. And those times call for these cookies.

Double Treat Cookies

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup shortening (2 sticks butter)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
1 package (12 oz) chocolate chips
1 cup chopped peanuts, optional (I’ll pass, thanks.)
Beat together shortening, sugars, eggs and vanilla until fluffy.
Blend in peanut butter. Add dry ingredients.
Add chocolate chips (and peanuts, if you wish.)
Shape dough into small balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet (of course, I always use a silicone baking mat.) Flatten with the bottom of a glass that’s been dipped in sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for 8 minutes.
Makes about 4 dozen.

AFB Chocolate Coconut Cream Cake

If you don’t know what Amish Friendship Bread is, then you didn’t grow up in the Midwest. If you’ve never had the daily task of “squishing” the bag, I’m not going to try to explain it to you. Just read this description from Friendship Bread Kitchen.
FBK is the ultimate site when it comes to AFB – even though the public posting of the supposed-to-be-secret original starter recipe probably tore a whole somewhere in the universe. But after one loaf of the original recipe loaf of AFB, you’ll get sick of the same ol’. Discovering this site – with hundreds of recipes to turn that gooey goop into the fanciest of cupcakes, muffins, scones, pancakes and other carbalicious delights – turns a tiresome pattern into a master chef experiment. 
So during my AFB starter possession, every time I saw a sale on Jell-O (one of the required ingredients in any AFB variation), I’d grab a few. And once I was stocked up on vanilla and chocolate, I’d go more exotic – or, in this case, tropical.
I give you:
Amish Friendship Bread Chocolate Coconut Cream Cake


1 cup of Amish Friendship Bread starter
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 small boxes of coconut cream instant pudding
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 cup chocolate chips, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 325° F. I don’t know why this always is always the first step in a recipe, because it’s never the first thing I do.

In a large mixing bowl – for the sake of reminiscing, I recommend using vintage Pyrex – add the ingredients above. Yeah, directions aren’t really necessary for this recipe.

Grease two 8 x 8 pans, or line cupcake tins with liners like I did. Pour the batter evenly into whatever pans you’re using.

Bake for one hour – or, like, half that – until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

While it’s cooling, mix the glaze. I made mine thicker, like a frosting. Once the cake cools, frost it up and top it off with coconut.

Marching Miles Bake Sale

A bake sale, at its core, is not about the cookies or the cupcakes or the pies or the sweets. Let’s face it – there are easier ways to raise money, ways that don’t involve “slaving over a hot oven.” A community only works when people contribute their talents, so it makes sense that when you give back to your community, you should give your talents. It’s easy to throw $5 in a donation jar, but it takes intention to donate the baked result of your time & creativity.
It’s not that I didn’t want to march in the 5-mile walk-a-thon instead…but if we’re talking talents, I’ll take my oven mitt over your running shoes any day!
So, it’s May 2012, which means the 6th annual “Marching Miles for Miracle Kids” fundraiser is back at credit unions. In statewide support of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, credit unions across Ohio aim to raise $135,000 this week through a statewide walk-a-thon and other donations. 
The Cleveland-area march leaves from my credit union’s downtown office tomorrow morning, and walkers who have been raising money for their feat (hehe, get it?) will walk the 5 miles to Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital to present a check for the money we’ve raised – one of those giant checks, I hope.
Before then, we need to sell some cookies in this Bake Sale, and raise some money for those adorable little kiddos who can’t afford all their medical bills. You ask me to bake something for a local cause like that…get outta the kitchen and look out! 
Disclaimer: I’ll admit, part of the fuel behind my baking fervor comes from an overabundance of Amish Friendship Bread starter. In my limited circle, it doesn’t take long for my few fellow baking acquaintances to tire of my persistent yeast peddling. I end up with dozens of bags of this goo needing to be baked – and then, I end up baking dozens of goodies. At least it’s for a good cause. 🙂
Don’t worry – I didn’t make all of that; that’s actually our entire spread. Now, mouth, get ready to water, and I’ll show you what I contributed to my first Bake Sale.
 AFB Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Almond Frosting

Peanut Butter Walnut Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

Amish Friendship Bread
And, yes, I’m trying to pawn off my extra starters, too. But I wouldn’t let anyone pay for it, because AFB starter is a gift – the gift that keeps on giving.