March 19, 2010

On themed parties and cupcakes.

Posted in Baking, Cake, Recipe tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 1:02 am by Dani

This past weekend, a good friend of mine celebrated her 26th birthday with a little blast-from-the-past party: kindergarten themed! Of course, little ol’ me volunteered, well actually insisted on making the deserts. My original plan was a layer cake: plain yellow cake with chocolate ganache and strawberries. I made 1/3 of a batch of yellow cake to see how it would taste, and was heading out to the market to purchase chocolate, when I saw the cutest little girls in green vests outside my market. That’s right, it’s GIRL SCOUT COOKIE SEASON.

Girl Scouts


What a better way to celebrate childhood than with some girl scout cookie themed cupcakes! So here was the plan:

4 types of cupcakes, each in the theme of a girl scout cookie:

  • Tag Along: Chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting
  • Thin Mint: Chocolate cake with mint frosting
  • Lemon Chalet Creme: Yellow cake with lemon frosting
  • Shortbread Trefoils: Yellow cake with sugar vanilla frosting

Completed Cupcakes

First, the cake. For the yellow I used Paula Deen’s basic 1-2-3-4 cake recipe. This cake recipe is a standard, crowd pleasing southern cake that every Louisiana grandmother makes for her grandchildren’s birthday.

I love Paula Deen’s desserts, even if they are a little butter heavy. This, however, I do not endorse:

But, I digress.

Lets talk cake first:

This is Paula’s recipe. Just a few notes: I made this cake twice, and it seems the key to a moist and fluffy texture is to (1) sift the flour once before you measure it (make sure you sift directly into the measuring cup) and then once you’ve got your 3 cups, sift it again. Also, (2) 6-8 minutes is a minimum creaming time in my opinion. I creamed the butter alone for a good 5 or so minutes with my hand mixer, then for at least 10 more minutes once I added the sugar. THIS REALLY MAKES A DIFFERENCE. Don’t be lazy. My shoulder was only burning a little by the time I finished, but it was worth it (if anyone wants to buy me a stand mixer for my birthday, I’d basically love you forever). Also, I added a little almond extract. I couldn’t taste almond, per se, but it gave it a little indiscernible kick. I poured the batter into a cupcake pan, filling each hole about 2/3 of the way. Cupcakes always cook faster than cakes, so I checked on the cupcakes at 10 minutes, and every few minutes afterwards. Check by inserting and removing a toothpick from the center of a cupcake. When it comes out clean you know it’s done (about 15 minutes cooking time total) and you can remove the cupcakes and let them cool.

Trefoil Cupcake

Trefoil Cupcake = White cake + sugar vanilla frosting

For the chocolate cake I used the recipe on the Kroger Baking Cocoa can. I am personally a big fan of recipes that are found directly on the products. There is an exception: recipes that refer to each ingredient according to brand. It irritates me on principle, and I try to steer clear of these. But the recipes where the only brand is the product on which the recipe is found tend to be great. The makers want to really highlight their ingredient, which means the recipe will taste great, and since the recipes are meant for the average every day grocery shopper they tend to be really simple. So here it goes:

Chocolate Lover’s Cake:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

2 cups sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 sticks margarine (I used butter, also 2 sticks usually means 1 cup, in case your sticks are differently sized)

1/4 cup Kroger Baking Cocoa

1 cup water

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp baking soda

Blend sugar and flour in a large bowl (I sifted them together). Combine 2

sticks margarine (I used butter), Kroger Baking Cocoa and water in a saucepan: bring quickly to a boil. Pour over flour mixture and mix well. Add buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and baking soda, mix well. Next pour into the cupcake pan, filling each about 3/4 of the way, and baked for about 15 minutes. Do the same process with the toothpick, and be careful not to over cook any of these cakes.

Thin Mint Cupcake

Thin Mint Cupcake = Chocolate cake + mint frosting

Frosting is simple. It’s basically confectioner’s sugar plus liquid plus an electric mixer on high. Beat for quite a few minutes, patiently, adding the liquid a little at a time until you reach an ideal texture. If it gets too watery or sticky, stop adding liquid and add more confectioner’s sugar. Once you’ve hit the correct stiffness (not too watery and not to dry), beat for a few more minutes to make fluffier.

I’m going to be honest with you guys and tell you that I did not measure anything regarding my frosting. The best I can do for you is explain what I did and approximate from memory.

This is worth repeating:


I won’t give you any exact amounts. Feel out the proportions, since they vary according to how much and what texture the flavor ingredient is.

The first one I made was peanut butter. I decided that this frosting didn’t need any butter since the peanut butter would add a nice texture to it already. I was right. I poured 2 boxes of Ralph’s market brand confectioner’s sugar into a large bowl (smaller bowls = deeper mixture = tired mixer that starts to overheat and smell = bad times) and added a couple splashes of nonfat milk. I added a small jar of peanut butter and, while mixing on high, kept adding milk until the texture was just right.

Tag Along Cupcake

Tag Along Cupcake = Chocolate cake + peanut butter frosting

Next I tried the mint. This was more of a challenge. When I was at the market I was on the phone with a friend of mine who also loves to bake, bouncing ideas off of him. I was reaching for the mint extract when he told me, “Don’t use the extract. It tastes too extracty. Use York Peppermint Patties instead.” I am not a big mint fan (I believe that mint should be sucked on, brushed with or chewed, but never swallowed) so I pretty much took his word for it. I headed to the candy section and made my York purchase and went home to make this frosting. Well, it was a big failure. No matter what I did, it came out gooey and doughy. It was not at all fluffy the way frosting should be. I was frustrated, to say the least. A few boxes of sugar and half a stick of butter later, I decided to toss that batch and go back to the extract version.

York Peppermint Patty


In the end the frosting turned out pretty darn perfect. I used probably about 2 tbsp room temperature butter with 2 boxes of confectioner’s sugar and much more extract than I expected (maybe a tbsp?), and proceeded to add nonfat milk while mixing until the texture was perfect. Tasting it was pretty gross for me, but I trudged through it and it came out great. The last step was green food coloring, just enough to make it look fresh and minty.

Next was the lemon. I used the same basic recipe (sugar, butter, milk; added slowly until the correct texture.) Also before I started with the milk I added one lemon worth of lemon juice (about 1/4 cup) and about a tsp of lemon zest, and also some yellow food coloring. The texture was perfect as I piped it on the cupcake, but as the evening progressed it seemed to get droopy and watery. Perhaps next time I’ll make it a little too stiff to begin with, to offset this phenomenon.

Lemon Chalet Creme Cupcake

Lemon Chalet Creme Cupcake = White cake + lemon frosting

Last I did the simplest one. Confectioner’s sugar, butter, milk. I added vanilla to taste, but not too much. I wanted to retain the sugar taste and not have it overpowered by the vanilla. I also decided to add 2-3 drops of almond extract to keep it interesting. I think it really added to the flavor.



  1. […] milk a little at a time until the consistency feels right. I’ve talked about this process before, and you’ll see it again because I LOVE […]

  2. […] going to be making something up, or altering something to the extreme. For example, when I made my girl scout cookie cupcakes, I had it all written out. What frostings, what cakes, how many. Everything. I knew exactly what I […]

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