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The Batter Thickens: Chrimbo Cupcakes

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chrimbo Cupcakes

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You may be wondering why this post is called "Chrimbo Cupcakes." Apparently British people say "Happy Crimbo" instead of "Merry Christmas." I got this information from Molly, so I'm going to trust it, since she studied abroad in London for five months, but I'm still skeptical.

But these cupcakes truly are Christmas cupcakes. Chocolate and peppermint. Red, green, and white, and oh-so-festive looking:

The apparent theme for my Christmas this year was cupcakes; I got a poster that says "Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake" (A motto I fully intend to embrace), the Cake Mix Doctor's Cupcakes cookbook, a cupcake carrier for transporting them to friends and family to enjoy, and a KitchenAid Mixer (In my favorite color. It was perfect. Check out our Facebook page for a picture). And I used everything within 24 hours of opening it :)

These cupcakes were in the Cake Mix Doctor's Cupcakes cookbook, which is where we looked to find a dessert to bring to some family friends we were visiting. I used the KitchenAid mixer to make them, and my cupcake carrier to bring them to them. I imagine this is not going to be the only time that sequence of events happens ;).

I'd never made red velvet before, but I've always been intrigued by it because honestly I had no idea what it was. Does everyone else know? Because I was never able to place what flavor was in it, I didn't know if it was flavored by the food coloring, I didn't know if it even was food coloring making it red.

Spoiler alert: it's just chocolate. Or specifically, chocolate with vanilla mixed in. But still just chocolate. Not that I'm complaining, because chocolate is basically the best flavor ever. It just makes me wonder how I never found that out before.

So the recipe itself is incredibly simple, thanks to the Cake Mix Doctor, and it came together quickly. The tricky part was loading the cupcake holders, because we divided the batter into two halves and dyed half of it red and half of it green and wanted them to go side-by-side. Luckily, both Molly and I were there and we could each load one color at the same time. But if you are alone, you might have to work quickly. Or bribe someone to help you with the promise of a cupcake.

Look at that exact divide between the red and green. It's like yin and yang. "One alone is not enough. You need both together"- Mulan.
And the frosting. Wow. The frosting. You can almost identify all three major flavors at once, but none of them takes the lead and vies for all the attention. They cooperate in perfect harmony and their dance along your taste buds is one of perfect synchrony. They are like the members of a perfect group project of everyone's dream. That never happens in real life.

Molly decorated the tops of these cupcakes. I love the coordination of the colors between the white chocolate peppermint MM's and the crushed peppermint Andes mints. They are incredibly pretty and they make you almost not want to eat them. Almost. But not quite.


"Chrimbo Cupcakes": Red and Green Velvet cupcakes with White Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes: 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 package (18.25 ounces) plain German chocolate cake mix
1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
1/2 vegetable oil
1/2 bottle (more or less) red food coloring
1/2 bottle (more or less) green food coloring
3 large eggs
1 cup mini chocolate chips

For the frosting:
6 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped (or 3/4 cup white chocolate chips)
4 ounces (half an 8 ounce package) reduced-fat cream cheese at room temperature
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 to 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar. sifted

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two cupcake tins with cupcake liners

2. Make the cake: combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then increase the speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down sides again as needed. The batter should be thick and well combined.

3. Divide batter equally into two bowls and put red food coloring in one and green in the other. Stir them together, adding more food coloring to reach your desired color. There is a certain point were it does not get any more vibrant. Make sure to keep spoons and everything separate for each in order to not mix the colors.

4. Simultaneously spoon the two colors into the cupcake liners on different halves. Don't stir, and they will stay separate. (If needed, get someone to help spoon in one color while you do the other at the same time to ease the process.)

5. Place pans in the oven and bake until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove pan and place them on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edges of the cupcake liners, lift the cupcakes up from the bottoms of the cups using the end of the knife, and puck them out of the cups carefully with your fingertips. Place them on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes before frosting.

6. To make the frosting: Place white chocolate in a small glass bowl in the microwave oven on high power for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the oven and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until it is smooth. Set the chocolate aside to cool.

7. Place butter and cream cheese in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the melted white chocolate and blend on low speed until just combined, 30 seconds. Add the peppermint extract and 2 cups confectioners' sugar and blend on low speed until sugar is incorporated, 30 seconds more. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until frosting is fluffy, 1 minute more, adding up to 1/2 cup more sugar if needed to reach desired consistency.

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