Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: Vanilla Butterfinger Cupcakes

This is the very last sugar rush recipe I'm going to post. I don't know about you, but that is probably enough sugar for me!

I've saved something pretty fantastic for the last sugar rush recipe, though. These cupcakes are deliciously  good. Seriously. Amazingly. Wonderfully. Yummy. They are also pretty easy. I made them up after a whirlwind all-day-long baking day. We were supposed to take a dessert to my husband's work Christmas party and we had to be there in two hours, plus still make sure our little one got dinner and put to bed before we left. I was able to pull it off because these cupcakes were so easy. And I believe they earned four stars from the reviews everyone sitting at our table gave me. Easy and delicious. That's good enough in my book.

Vanilla Butterfinger Cupcakes
Recipe from Your Cup of Cake
Makes: 24 cupcakes

1 box vanilla cake mix with pudding in the mix
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp oil
2 egg whites + 1 whole egg
1 cup buttermilk {see note below}
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 and line two cupcake pans with liners.
In a small bowl, sift the cake mix to remove any lumps. Add cinnamon and stir. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine egg whites, whole egg, and oil together. Mix just until combined - you don't want to over beat it.
Add buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla to egg mixture and stir to combine.
Slowly add cake mix to egg mixture and stir just until cake mix is entirely moistened.
Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 15-17 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan. 

Vanilla Butterfinger Buttercream:
3/4 cup {1 1/2 sticks} of salted butter, softened {you can use unsalted but I prefer the flavor of salted}
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 crushed Butterfinger bars

Beat butter and peanut butter on high for 3 minutes, scraping bowl as necessary. Add vanilla and add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition,  until it reaches desired consistency. Add sour cream and mix well. Add more powdered sugar if needed then stir in the crushed Butterfinger pieces.
Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and top with additional crushed Butterfinger pieces. Ta-da! Some delicious cake.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: Andes Mint Cookies

Our sister-in-law made them once for a family function and they were gone so quickly I never even got the chance to try them! My husband told me they were really good so I figured I'd better make some and see for myself. When I asked for the recipe, she told me I could find it on a back of Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips. When I finally found some chips and tried the recipe for myself, I found that everyone was right. These cookies are positively delicious! I have only ever found the baking chips during the holiday season so when I see them I stock up on a few bags to have throughout the year. Because let's be honest, Andes mints are the best. {No, they aren't paying me to say that. I just really really love their mints!} I always get excited when the holidays come around because I see the baking chips coming out again and I dream about making these delicious cookies. Well, okay, I get excited about the holidays for other reasons, too.

Andes Creme de Menthe Chunk Cookies
Recipe from Andes
Makes approx 4 dozen cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar {dark is best, though I have used regular before}
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 package {10 oz} Andes Creme de Menthe Baking Chips
2 2/3 cup flour, sifted

Blend butter, sugars, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla and eggs until mixed. Stir in Andes Baking Chips and then add flour. Chill approximately one hour in refrigerator before baking.
Once dough has been chilled, heat oven to 350 degrees. After chilling, form the cold dough into 1-inch balls and flatten slightly. Raise oven rack one level above middle and bake on non-stick baking pans or pans that have been lightly greased.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Cool on pans for two minutes before removing.

Holiday Sugar Rush: Ginger Cranberry Shortbread Wedges

Can you believe that this shortbread was my introductory foray into the world of ginger? I believe I am quite the fan. The combination of ginger and cranberries with the delicious flavor of shortbread makes these cookies perfect for the holidays.
Ginger-Cranberry Shortbread Wedges
Recipe from Betty Crocker Cookies
Makes approx. 16 cookies

2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/3 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp finely chopped crystallized ginger {I found mine in the bulk section of Winco though I'm sure you can find it near the spices in any grocery store}
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped {I used craisins and it worked out fine}
2 tsp granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, mix butter, powdered sugar and ginger until fully incorporated. Stir in the flour and cranberries.
Form the dough into a rough disk shape. On an ungreased cookie sheet, pat the dough down into a 9-inch circle. Shortbread doesn't really change much when it's baking so remember that the thickness of the dough is about what the thickness of your cookie will be. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Cut into 16 wedges.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: Caramel & Heath Bar Cupcakes

These cupcakes are deliciously moist and caramel-y. If you have an event you want to take cupcakes to, you can't go wrong with these. Yum!
Note: All cupcake flags and toppers were made using Stampin' Up stamping sets and ink colors.

Caramel and Heath Bar Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes:
Recipe from Your Cup of Cake
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup oil
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
1 box Devil’s Food Cake Mix
2 Heath Bars, crushed 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 muffin tins with 24 cupcake liners.
Combine buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.
Sift in (for easy mixing) cake mix and add sour cream. Stir in the heath bars.
Fill liners ¾ full and bake for 18-22 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean. Cool in the pan.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Caramel Sauce

You'll also need Heath Bars, broken into bits or a bag of broken toffee bits

Once cupcakes have cooled and frosting and caramel sauce have been prepared, put the caramel sauce into a squeeze bottle. Poke the tip of the squeeze bottle into the cupcakes and squeeze in caramel sauce until the cupcake begins to expand. Go ahead and poke and fill each cupcake a couple times until all the caramel sauce has been used.
Once you've filled all the cupcakes with caramel sauce, pipe the buttercream frosting onto them. Top with crushed Heath bars.

Holiday Sugar Rush: Caramel Corn Balls

This caramel corn is perhaps the most delicious I've ever tasted. I know, that's kind of a bold statement. But this is really delicious. The last time I made this, I told myself I would only take a bite out of one of the balls. But once I started I couldn't stop! I have to be very careful when I make this because it is just so good I'm quite certain I could eat a whole batch. I got the recipe from the ever reliable AllRecipes and with just a couple tweaks I think it's perfect. I'm feeling pretty bold today. :)

For this recipe, I recommend using a candy thermometer just because it makes really easy. You can get them pretty inexpensively at WalMart. My thermometer is pretty nifty and even has "soft ball" printed right on the exact temperature that makes it perfect. However, if you don't have a candy thermometer, you can still make this without it. Just see the note below about cooking candy to soft ball stage.

This recipe can be cut in half pretty well. If you want to cut it in half, I recommend using about three bags of popcorn. The other ingredients easily divide in half. 

Soft Caramel Corn
 Recipe adapted from AllRecipes
 Makes: approx 40 popcorn balls, about the size of my fist or slightly larger

5 bag microwave popcorn, popped {or the equivalent in home popped}
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla


Spread the popcorn onto a clean surface and carefully pick up the popped kernels, putting them in a bowl, until all that is left is the unpopped kernels; discard.
In a sauce pan over medium-high heat, cook the brown sugar, corn syrup, and butter, stirring constantly. Heat to 235-245 degrees, soft ball stage {see note below}. In my experience this takes between 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully pour in the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla; stir until smooth.
Slowly pour about 1/4 of the caramel sauce at a time over the popcorn, stirring the popcorn after each addition until all the popcorn is equally covered. Cool about ten minutes before forming into balls.
Store in an airtight container and it will stay nice and soft. :) 

*Note: Soft Ball Stage refers to syrups being cooked to between 235-245 degrees F. If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can test the syrup to see if it has reached the right stage by placing a small spoonful of the hot syrup into really cold water. You'll know the stage is right if the syrup balls up easily with your fingers in the water but flattens out when you remove it from the water.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies

My hubby is a pretty big fan of cherry. These cookies were a little too chocolatey for me, but I think they were a hit with my hubby and his littlest fan, our daughter.

Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Recipe adapted slightly from Betty Crocker Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup margarine, softened
1/4 milk, room temperature
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 egg
1 3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried, chopped cherries

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, beat sugar, butter, milk, almond extract and egg with an electric mixer or spoon until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, soda and coca. Add to the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the remaining ingredients until incorporated. On an ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 8-10 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched lightly in the center and surface is no longer shiny. Immediately remove to a cooling rack. Store in an airtight container.

Holiday Sugar Rush: Lemon Bars

I've mentioned before that I've been looking for the perfect lemon bar. I was having a hard time finding it. So I finally just started combining and tweaking recipes until I came up with what made me happy. These bars make me happy. I like them slightly chilled, though not completely cold.

Delicious Lemon Bars

1 cup butter, cold and cut into small squares
1 3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add the butter and cut into the other dry ingredients until well combined and crumbly in appearance. Press mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan and up the sides slightly.
Bake for 17-20 minutes or until slightly golden.

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 tsp lemon zest
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice {you can use the stuff that comes in a bottle but fresh is better}

Whisk together all dry ingredients and lemon zest. Add the eggs and lemon juice and mix well.
Pour on top of the warm crust and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the topping has set and browned. Cool.
Once cooled, sprinkle the top with additional powdered sugar.
Store tightly closed in the refrigerator.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: White Chocolate Popcorn Bark

This popcorn treat is perhaps the easiest treat you'll make all winter. Because you will make it. I'm just sure of it. :)

White Chocolate Popcorn Bark

2 bags microwave popcorn {I like it with extra butter to give the bark a nice sweet & salty flavor} or equivalent of home popped popcorn
3 large squares white chocolate almond bark
1 1/2 cups pretzels, lightly broken into pieces
Any add-ins you desire {see below}

Pop your popcorn according to package directions. Spread the popcorn out on some waxed or parchment paper and remove the unpopped kernels. Melt the white chocolate almond bark according to package directions and drizzle over the popcorn. Sprinkle the pretzels and any desired add-ins over popcorn/chocolate mixture. Allow chocolate to harden, break into pieces, and enjoy!

Possible add-ins:
Chocolate chips
Smooth & Melty Mints {as seen in the photos}
Candy Corn
Reece's Pieces

Note: you can also substitute the white chocolate almond bark for milk or semi-sweet for a chocolatey flavor. 

Holiday Sugar Rush: White Chocolate and Craisin Cookies

These cookies are so soft. Somewhat surprising based on how they always look when they are finished, but they really do stay so soft. They also keep well in the freezer so bake up a batch and hide em where no one will see so you can snitch a cookie whenever you feel like it put them in the freezer to save for later.

White Chocolate and Craisin Cookies
Recipe adapted from Jacobs, Powell and Harris

1 cup shortening {butter flavor is best}
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup craisins

Preheat oven to 375.
Cream shortening and sugars together for 2-3 minutes or until it is light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition; add vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
Add the white chocolate chips and craisins to the wet mixture. Stir in the dry ingredients just until fully incorporated. Be careful not to over mix. If the dough is still really wet, add a couple more tablespoons  of flour.
Drop by teaspoon full onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Take out when the cookies still look just a little raw. Leave on the cookie sheet for 2-3 minutes to finish baking. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: Homemade Oreos

Since we're already on a cake mix cookie kick, we'll just keep up the trend, at least for another recipe. Everyone probably has a recipe for these. Or at least everyone has tasted them before. Nothing can compare to a soft, homemade Oreo cookie. This is the way I've been making these for years. They always turn out so chewy and delicious. I love making them small to get some tasty little bites of Oreo. It's the way to do it. :)

Soft Homemade Oreos

1 chocolate cake mix {I like German chocolate, but devil's food is pretty good, too}
3/4 cup {1 1/2 sticks} melted butter
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix all ingredients together until cake mix is completely moistened. Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes or until firm. Form the dough into walnut size {or smaller if you are like me and like small little Oreos} balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet two inches apart and bake for 6-8 minutes. They may not look quite done when you take them out - they'll still be just a little raw. Leave them on the sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. This helps make sure you get soft, chewy cookies.

Oreo Frosting:

4 oz cream cheese {half 8oz package}, softened
1/4 cup {1/2 stick} butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 lb {between 3-4 cups} powdered sugar

Place the cream cheese, butter, vanilla, and two cups powdered sugar in a bowl. Mix together until smooth. Continue adding powdered sugar 1/2 at a time until you get the consistency you want.

And then comes the tricky part:
Assemble Oreos by spreading frosting on one cookie and topping with another. Delicious!

If you want to make these even more festive, you could add some peppermint or mint extract to the frosting. Add it with the vanilla - put between 1/2 and 1 tsp, depending on your preference.
You could also add some finely crushed peppermint before spreading onto the cookies.
Another yummy option would be adding a few teaspoons of orange zest & freshly squeezed juice to the frosting before spreading. Yum!

Holiday Sugar Rush: Three Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies

The holidays always need a little spice with all the sugar, right? These three ingredient pumpkin are a big hit. I made this for my sister's baby shower and everyone loved them. My cousin even said they were just as good as her mom's more involved and difficult-to-make pumpkin cookies. 

Three Ingredient Pumpkin Cookies
Recipe from Nina Wilkins

1 spice cake mix, sifted
1 14 oz can pumpkin pie filling
1 12 oz bag chocolate or cinnamon chips

Mix pumpkin filling and cake mix together until cake mix is completely mixed in. Add the chocolate chips. Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 6-9 minutes, or until set and slightly browned. Cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to wire racks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Sugar Rush: Fudge Crinkle Cookies

Fudge Crinkle Cookies
Recipe from Betty Crocker Cookies

Makes: approx 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 box devil's food cake mix {a mix with pudding is the best}
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix cake mix, oil, eggs and vanilla with a spoon until a dough forms.
This next step is easier if you refrigerate your dough for about 15 minutes, but it isn't absolutely necessary.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in the powdered sugar. Place balls about 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 10-12 minutes, or until set. Allow to finish setting up on the cookie sheet for one minute, then remove to a cooling rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store tightly covered.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

 This is a basic buttercream recipe, good for cupcakes, sugar cookies and cakes.

Buttercream Frosting
1 cup {2 sticks} real butter, at room temperature {I don't recommend using margarine; it alters the taste and texture too much}
3 1/2 - 4 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla

Put the softened butter into a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add one cup of powdered sugar. Using a hand mixer or the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, beat all the powdered sugar into the butter. Add the second cup of sugar; beat until sugar is incorporated. Add another cup of sugar and incorporate. Add the final 1/2-1 cup sugar and beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes. Trust me on this. Don't try to cut back on the time. Beating it for this long will make it fluffy and creamy and beautiful. The color will also change and you'll end up with a snow white frosting. It's lovely. Don't forget to scrape the bowl a time or two. Add the vanilla {after you've beat it for 4-5 minutes} and mix just until incorporated. If the flavor is still a little too buttery just add a little more sugar until you get the flavor you want. When you're finished beating the frosting, it should be stiff and hold it's shape {as in the photos} but still be wet enough that it will stick to your surface when you use it.

You can store this frosting in the refrigerator. Just be sure to pull it out about an hour before you need it and once it's softened up again, beat it for a minute or two to fluff it back up.

This frosting colors really well. You can also do a chocolate version by cutting out 1/4 cup of the powdered sugar and adding 1/4 cup cocoa powder at the same time you add the vanilla. If you need a stronger chocolate flavor, just add more cocoa and adjust the powdered sugar measurement accordingly.

If you find that you want a buttercream frosting that isn't quite as sweet, add a 1/4 cup or so of sour cream with the butter. You may have to add a little sugar to get the right consistency but not too much.

Holiday Sugar Rush: Peanut Butter Cookies

This is a little series I'm going to call Holiday Sugar Rush. Christmas is always the time for some extra goodies, right? So I hope you're all ready for some whirlwind goodie posting! I've got lots of recipes to share {and I'm a little behind getting started}. Enjoy the sugar rush! 

This is quite possibly one of the best peanut butter cookie recipes I've ever made. They cook up nice and soft and stay that way for several days {which is amazing for peanut butter cookies}. The flavor is fantastic. I've been making these for years and haven't found any other peanut butter cookie to take it's place.

I know the photos aren't the greatest. Please don't judge me. Things were pretty crazy so I did what I could.
Peanut Butter Cookies

1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. soda
2-1/2 cup flour
½ tsp. salt
Extra granulated sugar

Cream together butter, peanut butter, eggs and vanilla. Add the sugars and mix well. In a separate bowl, mix together the flower, baking soda and salt {this helps make sure your baking soda and salt are fully mixed}; add to the rest and mix until incorporated. Roll into balls and roll into the extra white sugar. Press down with a fork in a crisscross manner. Bake at 375oF for 6 minutes, or until slightly browned on the bottoms. Do not over bake!


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