5.02.2013

red velvet cupcakes

I heard a super funny story once.  It was about someone who had made a red velvet cake from a cake mix.  They said when they made the cake it looked an terribly odd color, like extra red.  Then, the next day when they made it they all thought they were dying because they had some really interesting, um, bathroom trips.  It took just a little bit, but when they all realized that it was due to the red velvet cake mix they swore they would never make it again. And after that story I have never once thought about making a red velvet cake mix.
I do, however, enjoy red velvet things when I get them at a bakery.  So for the party of endless cupcakes I decided I would try to find a good red velvet cake recipe.  I knew that every red velvet cupcake/cake I had ever seen was red-red and I figured that it came from food coloring - which is true.  BUT, I also found out that when red velvet became popular in the south many years ago, the red color came from a chemical reaction that took place between chocolate and vinegar in the recipe which turned the brown in the chocolate to a red-ish color.  Wow!  Such a cool thing.  This recipe I used still uses red food coloring, and a lot of it, but then it turns out nice and red like the ones you find at the bakeries.  




Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 24 large, or 30 medium cupcakes

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups all purpose
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk with 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
.5-1ounce red food coloring (add until desired color)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.
2.  Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full.
3.  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Gently remove from oven (these are super-moist, and will collapse if you aren’t careful). Cool in pans on wire rack at least 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.


Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, cold
1/4 cup butter, cold
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla
16 ounces powdered sugar (approximately 4 cups)

Directions
With a high powered mixer (stand up mixer if you have one) beat cold cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl, and beat again. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Once smooth, turn beaters to high and whip for 5 minutes, until very fluffy.

4.30.2013

white cupcakes

Next in my arsenal of cupcakes are these white cupcakes.
Don't let the simple title of this recipe fool you. These babies are DEADLY for your waistline, I tell you.  They are kind of like Lays chips, where you can't eat just one.  They are heavy enough to hold a sturdy frosting, moist and important for a mom of small children - not crumbly. 

Another side note:  I realize there is a cheesy Thomas the Train cupcake wrapper on these.  When we were at the Holy Grail of Kitchen Stores, Orson Gygi, Mr. Liam saw these and LOVED them.  As in kissing the packaging loved them.  And, well, it was his birthday so I gave in and bought them for him.  And would someone else join me in writing a petition to the world that just because our kids like a certain character doesn't mean that everything.single.thing they own doesn't need to be that character?  It would really help me in my idea that everything should, and deserves to have style and be pretty. Or manly since I have all boys.  




White Cupcakes
recipe from here by Recipe Girl

Makes approximately 36 cupcakes

Ingredients
1 (18.25 ounce) box white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
2 Tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
4 large egg whites

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pans (you'll need approx. 36).
2. In a large bowl, whisk together cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Add remaining ingredients and beat with hand mixer for 2 minutes, or until well blended.
3. Use ice cream scoop to fill prepared cupcake tins- fill about 3/4 full. Bake about 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
*Note* This recipe also works well in a regular cake pan for large cakes as well.


White Buttercream
recipe from here by Recipe Girl

Ingredients
3 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tablespoons whipping cream

Directions
1. In a large bowl, with a hand or stand mixer, cream together sugar and butter on low speed. Mix until well blended. Increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
2. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for desired spreading/piping consistency.
3. Scoop into a piping bag and pipe decoratively onto cupcakes, or spread onto cupcakes as desired.

4.23.2013

lemon cupcakes with lemon buttercream

I am not typically one of those people who love everything lemon.  I do like lemon bars, but they are definitely not the top of my dessert list.   I mean, a big brownie or piece of cheesecake would win any day.  But, these cupcakes are different.  They have the perfect amount of lemon - not so little that you wonder if it is lemon flavored and not so much that you pucker.  They are like a little piece of lemon fulffiness (yes, that is a word) and you even get frosting on top. 


Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream
Recipe here via Shugary Sweets
Ingredients
    For the Cupcakes:
  • 5 egg whites, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 lemons, zested
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • For the Frosting:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2 Tbsp heavy cream
Instructions
  1. In small bowl, mix egg whites, 1/4 cup buttermilk and lemon zest. Set aside.
  2. In mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar until creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add in dry ingredients and mix until combined. Slowly add in egg white mixture. Beat in remaining buttermilk.
  3. Prepare cupcake tins with paper cupcake liners. Fill liners half full and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Remove and cool in pan 5 minutes then transfer to cool completely on a wire rack.
  4. For the frosting, beat butter for 3-5 minutes until pale in color. Add powdered sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp from fresh lemon) and cream. Beat for 3-5 minutes until fluffy.
  5. Frost cupcakes by filling a pastry bag with tip and pipe on the frosting. ENJOY.

4.22.2013

oreo cupcakes

My youngest little cutie had a birthday recently.  And he talked about two things when I was asking him about a party.  His favorite meal, Cheesy Pasta and cupcakes.  And then, he didn't stop talking about cupcakes for days after we mentioned them.  He looooves cupcakes.  So, naturally, I began looking up recipes for some fun cupcakes for his birthday.  

And that's when the trouble started.  

See, if you haven't noticed, I don't do anything simple.  He's little, one kind of cupcake would have been plenty for him.  BUT, I had found lots of yummy recipes for cupcakes and I couldn't let go of any of them.  And, I knew that I wouldn't be able to let it go until I had made all of them.   So I did.  Cray-cray, yes.  But, it was so fun to have so many cupcakes.  There were Oreo, Lemon, White, Red Velvet & Chocolate Banana.  Since I believe in sharing the recipes I love, I will be posting one each day this week!

This recipe is the Oreo cupcakes.  These were possibly my favorite cupcakes I made.  They start with an Oreo on the bottom, a lovely white cake and then Oreo frosting on top.  Yumm-O!



Oreo Cupcakes
Makes approximately 36-40 cupcakes


Cake
Ingredients:
1 (18.25 ounce) box white cake mix
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups water
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream
4 egg whites
36-40 Oreo Cookies

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place cupcake liners in pan and add an Oreo to the bottom of each. 
2.  In a large bowl or stand mixer, whisk together cake mix, flour sugar and salt.  Add remaining ingredients and beat  for 2 minutes, or until well blended.
3.  Use ice cream scoop to fill cupcake tins until about 3/4 full.  Bake about 18 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 


Frosting
10 Oreos, finely ground up (I used my blender)
3/4 cup salted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 Tablespoons whipping cream

Directions:
1.  Beat Oreos, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla together.  Add whipping cream until desired consistency. 
Spread or pipe on top of cupcakes.  

4.18.2013

cabbage juice pH testing


One of the things we did for our mad science party was cabbage juice pH testing.  I heard about it from a friend and found that it was sooo fun.  This is a great science experiment to do for a group.  It is done with common stuff that is most likely sitting around your house, so it's pretty cheap as well.  Win-win.  

Red cabbage contains a pigment molecule called flavin.  When a solution is neutral, the color is a nice purple, while acidic solutions make it a red color and basic solutions make it a greenish-yellow color.  

First, you start off with a head of red cabbage.  Chop it up.  The pieces don't need to be too small, but you want them to be able to loosely float in the water to cook.  


Put the cabbage in a large stockpot and cover with water.  


Boil it on the stove for about 10 minutes or so, until the water starts to look dark and the cabbage looks pretty wilted.  The important part is that you want to have the color, which contains the flavin, to leech into the water.


Strain out the cabbage.  The resulting water will be a beautiful dark purple color.  


As the solution cools, gather up your reagents.  A reagent is just something that you mix together to make a chemical reaction.  I just used things that were found around my house.  The vinegar, orange juice, club soda and hydrogen peroxide are acids, you will see them turn the solution to varying shades of red.  The antacids, cream of tartar, baking soda and windex are bases, they will turn the solution to varying shades of green.


Once the cabbage solution is cooled, you are ready to start.


Now, this is the really complicated chemical part.
Ok, just kidding.
You just dump the reagents into the cabbage solution. 


Once they are all mixed together, you will get this nice rainbow spectrum based on the acidity of each of the reagents.  


This is where you get really excited that things worked so well.


Now, this is one of the fun things you can do for further testing.  Mix together the acid and base solutions to see if there are any reactions.  Since one solution contains vinegar and another contains baking soda, you could come up with fun stuff like this.

*Note*  Be very careful.  The acids and bases I used are pretty weak and will not react harshly.  If you use strong acids and bases, you could get hurt.  Just saying. 

As you mix the acids and bases together, they will neutralize and turn closer back to the neutral purple solution, like the one on the left below.


Another fun thing is that the hydrogen peroxide will eventually turn the solution clear, since it has bleaching properties. 



Ah, science.  


What can I say?  I am a complete nerd.

3.20.2013

mad science party: the experiments, part 2

For more details about the mad science party, click here to find out about decorations and here to find out about the first set of experiments. 

This next set of experiments were just as much of a load of fun as the first ones.  

We did cabbage juice pH testing.  I had no idea that cabbage juice works the same as litmus paper in testing for pH.  I had been told this and had a little bit of a hard time finding clear instructions, so I will do a post about this experiment by itself. But for now, know that it.was.awesome. 

The jars all started out with purple liquid inside them, the boiled cabbage leaves, to which I added common household items to make different colors in the jars.

 

The kids were enthralled as I did it and each new color came up.
  

But, their favorite part was when I mixed the jars together and they turned colors - or when certain jars were mixed together and some of them fizzed.  They LOVED that part.  I would say that I started mixing the jars for their entertainment, but honestly, I just wanted to see what would happen. 


As I said, I will do a whole post on that experiment.  It deserves a full show of awesomeness.



For the next experiment, we used this stuff to make the snow.  
It starts out with just all small amount, just a teaspoon full.


Then, when you add water it begins to grow and grow and grow.  
 

To the point that just that small teaspoon of the snow powder fills up this whole plate.  


I started off giving the kids 2 teaspoons, but they all wanted more, so they each wound up with about 4 teaspoons of snow, which was more than enough for them to play with.


The kids squished it through their hands, drew pictures in it and just plain old played with it. 




The real genius of  the party was something I didn't even realize until it happened.  After we were done with the snow, the next experiment was outside.  Which meant the kids left and I had a chance to vacuum up all the snow powder mess before the kids came back inside and drug it around my house.  I wish I could say it was intentional, but I was so glad for my genius. 

The only problem with that much genius is that I had to miss this.


The grande finale - Diet Coke and Mentos!


Tate watched an episode of Mythbusters a while back where they made fountains like this out of Diet Coke & Mentos and has been begging to do it since then, so I knew it was a must at the party.  We followed this tutorial and it worked great. 


That tree behind my house is tall - I would guess at least a couple hundred feet tall- and you can see that some of the fountains went up that high. 


And, of course all the kids thought that was the best part.  They were screaming as each one went off.  



All in all, this was by far my favorite party I have ever thrown for my kids.  It was educational and interesting and the time just flew by for all of us.  And since, I have had several of the parents tell me that this was their kids favorite party they have ever been to, which means all the kids loved it as well.  

And my favorite part:
  Tate's outfit.  
His dad's old lab coat, with a polo shirt and a tie - which didn't match at all.  Picked out all by himself.
You can't plan that kind of greatness.

I'll be back with the cabbage juice pH testing experiment.

Photo credits for this post to myself and Janet Bostrom.

3.13.2013

mad science party: the experiments, part 1

As I said before, the best part of the science party was all the fun experiments we did.  The kids absolutely loved doing all the fun things.  For me, the best part of all of it was seeing the kids faces as we did some of the fun experiments.  They were blown away by some, loved doing the hands on stuff and were just so excited to see everything.

We started the party with piles of marshmallows and toothpicks,  to make 'Marshmellow Molecules.'
 


The kids all had fun putting together different 'molecules' or structures.  They all came up with such different stuff, it was fun to see all their different personalities come through.  
This one was a drawbridge.
 


Several kids made necklaces. 



 
And ALL of the kids ate a few!  
(Some even more than a few.....)


They all had a blast putting together marshmallows and it was a good activity for while kids were trickling into the party.




Once they were all done with the marshmallows, I brought out the next experiment.
This was the cleanest version of a baking soda/vinegar experiment that I could come across on Pinterest.  We blew up balloons using baking soda and vinegar.  Because, really, you can't have a science party without baking soda and vinegar!


The bottles were filled with 3/4 cup vinegar and with a balloon on top filled with 2 Tbsp. of vinegar.  I tried several ratios and this was the one that blew up the balloon without overdoing it.  The bottle was a regular 16.5 ounce water bottle.



Needless to say, the kids were SO excited when the balloons blew up.  And, we only had one kid that pulled their balloon off, which for the 17 kids that were there was pretty good.  



The next experiment we did was a Tornado Tube.
 First I showed them how when you simply turn the tube over, the water doesn't go down too fast.  But, when you swirl it and make a 'tornado' it goes down really fast.


The kids loved turning it over and watching the water swirl down to the other one. 
 


 The next thing we did was make Elephant Toothpaste.
I found the idea here.  I didn't buy the 6% peroxide, since I couldn't find it anywhere easily.  I used regular 3%, like is found at the grocery store, and it worked okay.  

I mixed 2 Tbsp. warm water and 1 teaspoon yeast in a measuring cup and 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide, a few drops of green food color and a squirt of dish soap in a water bottle.  The measuring cup mixture was poured into the water bottle mixture.

Here is where I kind of failed.
I didn't have everything premixed and I also didn't have the exact measurements on hand.  So, when I mixed everything together, it didn't come out like toothpaste - which it had done when I tested it a few days before.  It looked more like a volcano.  So, maybe instead of looking like a big tube of toothpaste and calling it Elephant Toothpaste, we should have called it teeny, tiny volcano.  



But, really, a name doesn't matter when you have a fascinated face like that one.  

I'll be posting part 2 of experiments soon, so come back!

Photo credits to Janet Bostrom and myself
 
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