Adventures of a Cake Diva

A Blog About Adventures in Baking and Cake Decorating

Are You Ready?: S’mores Hi-Hat Cupcakes 09/27/2012

I was delighted by autumn’s arrival this past weekend.  I’m ready for a change.  I’m ready to breathe crisp, clear air.  I’m ready to be amazed by varying shades of reds and yellows bursting from the trees.

I’m ready to be so awestruck by the morning sky that I can’t help but pull over to take a picture.  Even if it makes me late for work.

I’m ready to traipse through a pumpkin patch and to get lost in an apple orchard.  I’m more than ready to huddle around a bonfire and to roast many, many marshmallows.  Oh, yes.  And I’m majorly ready to stuff my face with S’mores.

And, while I wait until my first bonfire of the season, I shall eat these S’mores Hi-Hat Cupcakes. Grahamy-graham cupcakes topped with marshmallow frosting that is piped super tall and then dipped in chocolate.  Oh, yes.  I’m ready for Fall, delicious cupcakes, and everything this season has to offer.  How about you?  Are you ready?


Graham Cupcakes

An Original Cakediva Recipe

Yields: 18 cupcakes

2 sticks (1/2 cup) of butter, room temperature

5.25 ounces (3/4 cup) of ultrafine granulated sugar

2 ounces (1/3 cup) of light brown sugar

3 large eggs – separate the eggs (you’ll use both the yolks and the whites)

2 tablespoons of pure honey

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

5 ounces (1 cup) of graham cracker crumbs (use food processor)

7 ounces (1 cup) of cake flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/8 teaspoon of salt

3/4 cup of milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  First, cream together the butter and both of the sugars until light and fluffy.  Then, beat in the egg yolks, honey, and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Next, alternate adding the dry ingredient mixture and the milk into the butter mixture, stirring well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites (room temperature) into soft peaks. Then, gently fold the egg whites into the batter until well combined.  Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake tins.  Bake 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

For the Marshmallow Frosting and Chocolate Coating, I love, love, love Elinor Klivans’s recipes, which I found HERE.

I was so focused on dipping the cupcakes into the chocolate that I totally forgot to snap any pictures.  If you need a little guidance, Bakerella has a great photo tutorial, which you can find HERE. (She’s so fabulous!)

For the Marshmallow Garnish/Topper:

Turn on the broiler to your oven.  While it’s warming up, line a baking/cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Pour about two dozen (24) mini-marshmallows onto the sheet.  Sort of spread them out.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with one big pile of goo.

Place the baking sheet with marshmallows into your oven for no more than 8 seconds.  Seriously, if you do much longer than that, they will be charred.  Let them slightly cool before you garnish your cupcakes.  Otherwise, the marshmallow will melt the chocolate coating.  No joke.



Skip the (Bad) Necktie for Dad: Lemon Cupcakes 06/16/2012

Filed under: General,Recipes — acakediva @ 2:43 PM
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   I’ll admit it.  Over the years, I’ve given my father a few bad neckties.  I’ve also made him a few gifts that, as an adult, make me laugh and cringe at the same time. (Yes, that’s possible.)  When I was about eight years old, I used my hand-cranked knitting machine to make him a “scarf” for Father’s Day.  It was an ugly brown, and it wasn’t long enough to fit around his neck.  Never mind the fact that the temperature outside was a sweltering 90 degrees in the shade. 

   If you’re struggling to find a Father’s Day gift, or if you’d like to make him something with your own two hands, here’s an idea.  This year, bake him something.  Bake him these lemon cupcakes.  They have a subtle lemon flavor that is well-balanced by the buttercream.  This frosting is not one-dimensional.  It’s sweet and buttery with just a pop of tartness.  In a word?  De-lish.   

   What if you’ve never baked anything from scratch?  No worries.  Take a deep breath.  Crank up your favorite tunes for a little inspiration.  Then, just follow these directions, step-by-step.  You can totally make these little darlings, and your father will love that you took the time to bake him something special.  And, I’d hazard to bet that he just might breathe a sigh of relief that, at least this year, you didn’t get him another bad necktie.   


Lemon Cupcakes

Yield: 24 cupcakes

Adapted from: My Baking Addiction

2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
large egg whites
1 ½ cups fine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

   Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare your muffin tin either by using cupcake liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg whites.  Set aside. 

   Place the sugar and lemon zest into a large mixing bowl, and use your fingers to rub them together until the sugar is moist and fragrant.  Next, add the butter to the sugar/lemon zest mixture.  Beat them at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.  Then, beat in the vanilla extract and lemon juice until incorporated.  Next, while continuing to beat on medium speed, add one-third (1/3) of the flour mixture.  Beat in one-half (1/2) of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in one-half (1/2) of the remaining dry ingredients until they are well incorporated.  Add the rest of the milk and eggs, beating until the batter is smooth, and then add the last of the dry ingredients.  Then, continue to beat the batter on medium speed for another 2 minutes to make sure it is thoroughly mixed.   

   Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake tins.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cupcakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire cake rack. 

Lemon Buttercream

2 sticks unsalted butter, chilled but not straight from the fridge

4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest

Dash of salt

1-2 drops yellow food coloring (optional) 

   Place both sticks of butter into a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and continue to beat until mixture is smooth.  Next, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and salt until well combined.  If you’d like yellow frosting, add food coloring and mix until the color is well incorporated.


Spread A Little Happiness: Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes 02/08/2012


   I recently re-pinned on one of my Pinterest boards a pin that says, “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy cupcakes.  And that’s kind of the same thing.”  I think that’s true—except, I wouldn’t buy cupcakes.  I’d make them.  But, this saying isn’t too far off from hitting the mark.  Everyone’s idea of happiness is not the same.  I get that.  But, a lot of people, myself included, find a great deal of happiness by relishing the “little things” in life.  Like driving in the car with the windows down and music up, without a care in the world.  Wearing a favorite pair of blue jeans.  Being surrounded by the people I love.

  Or when I take a zillion shots with my camera while I’m baking, and one of them turns out kind of cool.  I took this picture of the cherries on my cutting board while I was experimenting with this recipe.  I like how it turned out, which made me pretty happy.  Then, I realized that my photography has gotten a lot better in a short amount of time.  (If you take a look at some of my earlier posts, you’ll see that I knew nothing about lighting or food styling.)  That made me really happy.


  Another “little thing” that I treasure is seeing other people smile.  Ever notice that most children smile when they look at a cupcake?  It’s true.  Lots of grown-ups do, too.  Cupcakes make (most) people happy.  So, it is in this spirit that I share with you my recipe for Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes.  Why not make these yummy treats, share them, and spread a little happiness of your own?

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:  I used my “go to” Chocolate Cake recipe.  It has never failed me, and it’s delicious.  Why reinvent the wheel?

Cherry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

5 egg whites

1 cup and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 cups unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla

dash of salt

1/2 cup maraschino cherries

2-3 tablespoons maraschino cherries syrup

   Before you start making the buttercream, take the maraschino cherries and maraschino cherries syrup and puree them in your food processor.  Set them aside.

   Place the egg whites and the granulated sugar in a heat-proof bowl to your stand mixer.  Hand whisk the eggs and sugar until combined.  Then, place the bowl over a pot of boiling water on your stove.  Whisk continuously until this mixture reaches 160 degrees (use a candy thermometer) and the granulated sugar has dissolved.  (If you need a visual of this process, take a look at my post for Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes.  The process for making that buttercream is the same for this recipe.)

   Remove from heat and place the bowl under your stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place.  Beat the mixture on high speed until it holds stiff peaks.  Continue beating the mixture for about 5 minutes, until it is fluffy.  Then, remove the whisk attachment and place the paddle attachment onto your mixer.  Start your mixer on medium-low speed (4 on your Kitchen Aid), and add several butter tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. 

   After all of the butter has been added, the frosting will appear to separate.  Bump up the speed on your mixer to a medium high speed (6 on your Kitchen Aid), and keep beating for about 3-4 minutes.  It will come together beautifully. 

   Add the maraschino cherries puree, salt, and vanilla.  Then, reduce your mixer speed to the lowest setting (2 on your Kitchen Aid) to eliminate any air bubbles.  Finally, stir with a spatula until the frosting is smooth.  Frost your cupcakes and add your desired garnish.


Tutorial: Easy Peasy Whimsical Fondant Roses 02/03/2012

   I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”   While I certainly don’t think that anyone should ever actually skin a cat, I really do embrace the heart of this saying.  After all, there’s more than one way to do almost anything.  I’ve come to accept the fact that I am not good at doing a lot of things.  Whenever I’m faced with one of these things, I try to figure out a different approach that plays to my strengths.  

   A prime example of this is that I cannot, for the life of me, pipe a buttercream rose.  I’ve tried umpteen different methods, and the results are all the same.  My rose always looks like a cabbage.  It’s true.  So, about a year ago, I started learning how to make various gumpaste flowers, including the dreaded rose.  After a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned that I enjoy this aspect of cake art.  I’m starting to get pretty good at it, too.  I’ve found another way to “skin the cat,” at least when it comes to making roses for my cakes. 

   However, for some of my cakes, a realistic gumpaste rose does not fit the design, style, or theme.  It would be like me wearing a pair of heels with sweatpants.  It simply does not work.  For these cakes, a great alternative is this adorable, whimsical fondant rose.  You won’t believe how easy it is to make.

    After you have kneaded the fondant to warm it up, roll it out to about 1/4″ thick.  You’ll have problems if your fondant is thicker or thinner than this, so don’t be afraid to measure the depth with a ruler, if you need to do so. 

    Using a circular cutter, cut out five (5) circles for each rose that you wish to make.  The size of the cutter is entirely up to you. Don’t sweat it.  If you want a bigger rose, use a bigger cutter.  If you want a smaller rose, then use a smaller cutter.

   Place all five (5) of your circles in a straight line, with the top edge of each circle overlapping the bottom edge of the next circle.

   Here’s where it all starts to come together.  Start at one of the ends, and begin rolling up the fondant. 

   Keep on rolling!  (See how it’s starting to look like a rose?)

   Here’s what it will look like after you’ve rolled up all of the fondant circles.

   Find the mid-point of your rolled-up fondant and pinch the center to create a base for your rose.  (I know, I know.  I desperately need a manicure…)

   Using a pair of scissors, cut the fondant at the base of the rose.  I have a pair of scissors that I only use for cake decorating, as a safe food handling practice.  


   Using your fingers, open up some of the petals.

   And there you have it, folks.  You’ve just made one heck of an adorable whimsical rose.  

      You can use these roses as cupcake toppers.  I made these Bailey’s Irish Cream cupcakes for a good friend’s wedding.  (You’ll have to wait until closer to St. Patrick’s Day for the recipe!)  

   You can also cluster several of these roses to create a cake topper.  Really, there are countless ways that you can use these little cuties in your caking.  So, let your creative juices flow, and have fun!


Enjoy a Cup of Joe and a Glazed Apple Donut Cupcake 09/30/2011

Filed under: Recipes — acakediva @ 9:27 PM
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   Have you ever eaten a piece of cake or a cupcake for breakfast?  I have.  I don’t make it a habit, especially since my metabolism came to an abrupt halt around the time I turned 35.  But, nonetheless, I relish the fact that, as an adult, I can have a cupcake for breakfast, if I want to do so.  If you never have had the urge to eat a cupcake for breakfast, maybe this recipe will change your mind.  It tastes just like a yummy glazed apple donut.

   Originally, I was aiming to create a cupcake that tasted like an apple fritter, since I had been craving an apple fritter all day long.  But, as I was toying with the recipe, it occurred to me that the best thing about an apple fritter is its texture—a bit of crispness gained from deep frying the dough.  I did not want to deep fry a cupcake.  I’ll let the food trucks at the county fair tackle that one.  So, I became fixed on creating a cupcake that tasted like a glazed apple donut. 

    This cupcake has a slightly dense but tender crumb, just like a cake donut.  There are tiny bits of grated apple in every bite.  It has just the right amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg to give it a mellow spice flavor, without being a spice cake.  The orange juice seems to enhance the flavors of the spices, as the cake does not have a distinct citrus flavor.  The result is a pretty darn-good apple spice cupcake.     

   But, for me, it is the glaze that completes this tiny treasure.  It is a traditional sugary glaze with a tad of vanilla bean that really rounds out the flavors of this cupcake.  I strongly recommend that you double dip the glaze, just after the first coat has hardened, to create a truly addictive “glazed donut” experience.    

    Did I mention that I sometimes have cupcakes for breakfast?  I had two of these bad boys this morning with a steaming cup of Joe.  And I didn’t feel the least bit guilty.     


For the Cupcakes:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (pure vanilla extract will do, too)

3/4 cup of peeled, grated apples (I like Granny Smith)

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup milk

   Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Add to the bowl of your stand mixer the butter, vegetable oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar.  Using the paddle attachment to your mixer, beat these ingredients until they are smooth. Next, beat in the eggs, one at a time.  With the mixer on low speed, add the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla until they are just combined.  Next, add the grated apples and the orange juice until they are just combined.  Then, beginning and ending with the flour, stir in the flour, alternating with the milk, until combined.  Spoon the batter into your cupcake tins, filling each cup.  Bake 14 to 17 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool cupcakes in tins for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack.  Let the cupcakes cool for 10 minutes before glazing them.

For the Glaze:

3 tablespoons butter; melted

1 cup confectioners’ sugar; sifted

3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (pure vanilla extract will work, too)

2 tablespoons hot water

   In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and water until smooth.  Once the cupcakes have cooled slightly, dip the cupcake crown into the glaze.  Allow the glaze to harden, and dip each cupcake into the glaze a second time.  Allow the glaze to harden, and serve.  In my opinion, these cupcakes taste best the day they are made.  This recipe makes 12 cupcakes.

Recipe adapted from: My Baking Addiction, who adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour


Curl Up with a Carmel Macchiato Cupcake 09/26/2011

A Caramel Macchiato cupcake is a perfect sweet treat for Fall.

   Fall is officially here, and it has turned quite chilly outside, at least where I live.  It’s definitely the kind of weather where I seek out toasty beverages to warm my bones.  Normally, I am a straight coffee kind of gal, but this past week, I decided to try a caramel macchiato.  Man, was it good!  For those of you who are unfamiliar, a caramel macchiato is a coffee drink with milk and vanilla topped with foam that has espresso poured through the foam and a caramel drizzle on top.  I love how each of these flavors are delicious in their own right, and yet, when they come together, something magical happens to my taste buds.   

   I was inspired.  My wheels started turning immediately, trying to figure out how to transform this tasty beverage into a cupcake.  I love taking a favorite food treat and turning it into an unexpected cake or cupcake flavor.  For me, it is very much a creative process, starting with decisions of the flavors and textures that I want to highlight.  I knew that coffee had to be the “star” of the cupcake, with a hint of vanilla, and I wanted the frosting to have a creamy, light caramel flavor with a bit of a “frothy” texture. 

   Mission accomplished.  This golden brown cupcake is moist and has a vibrant coffee flavor with just a whisper of vanilla.  It is frosted with a creamy, light Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  The flavors complement one another beautifully, yet each flavor has real depth,  just like the coffee beverage.  I decided to garnish my cupcakes with coffee beans, but you could drizzle some caramel sauce on top, if you prefer. Enjoy!             

Caramel Macchiato Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

dash of salt

1/2 cup boiling water

5 teaspoons instant coffee

1/4 cup whole milk

1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar

2 large eggs

   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, pour the boiling water over the instant coffee, stir the mixture, and let it cool. Combine the coffee with milk.  In separate bowl, beat butter and granulated and brown sugars with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Then, beat in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with coffee-milk mixture, beginning and ending with flour. 

Your batter should be smooth but somewhat thick. Before you scoop your batter into the cupcake tins, you may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. After doing so, just run your mixer for a quick bit to combine this flour with the batter.

   Fill the cupcake tins three-quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centers of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Brush each cupcake with simple syrup (recipe and directions below). 

For the coffee simple syrup:

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon instant coffee

1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (vanilla extract will work, too)

What is vanilla bean paste? It is made by scraping vanilla beans into a sweet, thick syrup. See all those lovely little vanilla beans? It has a stronger and richer vanilla flavor than vanilla extract. While you can use vanilla extract in this recipe, why not try something new? You can buy vanilla paste at Williams Sonoma or online. It is a bit more expensive than pure vanilla extract, but not that much more. I pinky-swear that it will be totally worth the few extra bucks. A little jar will last you a while, too.

   Place all of the ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat on the stove.  Stir continuously until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Use a toothpick to poke several small holes into the top of each cupcake. 

Take a toothpick and poke several holes into the top of each cupcake. This will allow the brushed simple syrup to soak into the cupcakes.

Take a pastry brush and generously brush the simple syrup over each cupcake. 

Dip your pastry brush into the simple syrup and then brush each cupcake. You want to cover each cupcake completely, but don't over-do it. Please do not skip this step! The simple syrup will keep your cupcakes moist and will add further flavor.

Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Adapted from Flour Child

For the Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

4 large egg whites

1 cup of lightly packed brown sugar

3 sticks of unsalted butter, cold and cut into tablespoons

1/2 tablespoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)

1 tablespoon half and half

   At first blush, this frosting may seem a bit complicated to make.  I promise you that it is really quite simple, and the results are divine!  First, place the egg whites and the brown sugar in a heat-proof bowl to your stand mixer and place the bowl over a pot of boiling water on your stove.  Stir continuously until this mixture reaches 160 degrees (use a candy thermometer) and the brown sugar has dissolved. 

I simply placed my Kitchen Aid mixing bowl on top of a sauce pan that was half filled with water. The stove heat was set on medium-high. This technique actually has a name—bain marie, which means to gradually and gently heat your ingredients to a fixed temperature in a water bath. It’s French. Now, don’t you feel kind of fancy?

Remove from heat and place the bowl under your stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place.  Beat the mixture on high speed until it holds stiff peaks.  Continue beating the mixture for about 5 minutes, until it is fluffy.  Then, remove the whisk attachment and place the paddle attachment onto your mixer.  Start your mixer on medium-low speed (4 on your Kitchen Aid), and add several butter tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. 

After all of the butter has been added, the frosting will appear to separate.  Bump up the speed on your mixer to a medium high speed (6 on your Kitchen Aid), and keep beating for about 3-4 minutes.  It will come together beautifully. 

After you have added all of your butter, your buttercream will begin to separate and will look like this picture. Hang in there, and keep the mixer going for another 3-4 minutes. It is about to come together to make a beautiful, smooth frosting.

Then, reduce your mixer speed to the lowest setting (2 on your Kitchen Aid) to eliminate any air bubbles.  Finally, stir with a spatula until the frosting is smooth.  Frost your cupcakes and add your desired garnish.         

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook


A Taste of Autumn — Apple Walnut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting 09/18/2011

Filed under: Recipes — acakediva @ 2:35 AM
Tags: , , , , , ,

I topped my cupcakes off with chopped walnuts. I think that an apple chip would make a lovely garnish, too.

   This time of year always brings to mind memories of my childhood—back to school shopping, football games, and picking apples in an orchard.  Every time that we would pick apples, we would pick far too many, and my mother would have to figure out what to do with the abundance.  If you are finding yourself in this situation (and even if you aren’t), I invite you to try this Apple Walnut Cupcake with Cream Cheese Frosting.  You can actually taste a bit of autumn in every bite.   

    This cupcake is not for the faint-hearted nor is it for a dainty-sort of cupcake eater.  It’s a hearty cupcake that almost reminds me of a muffin.  It is loaded with chopped apples and walnuts.  With lots of cream cheese frosting on top.  Amazing cream cheese frosting.  It’s seriously good, and quite easy to make.      

Apple Walnut Cupcakes

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 1/4 cups chopped apples (I like Granny Smith apples with this recipe)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

    Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Beat eggs with milk, butter, and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture and stir until the mixtures are just barely combined.  Then, stir in the apples and walnuts.  Scoop batter into the cupcake tins.  Bake for 18-20 minutes.  Cool for about 5 minutes and then remove cupcakes from tins and place on cooling rack.   Makes 12 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting  – Recipe from Edna de la Cruz

1 stick of butter

8 ounces cream cheese

4 cups powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

   Beat butter and cream cheese until well combined.  Add powdered sugar, one cup at a time.  Finally, add milk.  Beat until smooth.  Yields about 2 1/2 cups of frosting, which is enough to ice one dozen cupcakes.  Store frosting in the fridge.


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