Remember to Follow Me!

Just a reminder that you can still follow my delicious adventures every week, but to do so you now have to go to www.smilesbymeg.com and enter your email address there! Hope you decide to keep reading, because I’m definitely going to keep baking!

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Big News for SMiLes

Hello all my faithful readers! As I mentioned in an earlier post, SMiLes by Meg is undergoing some exciting changes! For starters, I’m moving to a new domain, www.smilesbymeg.com.  That means if you want to keep SMiLing every Sunday, you should go there and follow me, using the sign up on the left menu bar.

My first post on the new site, Frozen Yogurt is already live, so you should check it out!

Also, I’m branching out into the world of other social media, which are also linked on the new site! So if my Sunday posts aren’t enough, you’ll be able to see what I’m up to on Twitter and Instagram as well!

Thank you all so much for your support – I love writing this blog and hope you’ll all make the journey with me to my new site!

For now, this one will stay live until I’m totally done reworking the other, but any future posts will appear there, not here.

What are you waiting for? Get over to www.smilesbymeg.com!

Chocolate Chocolate Cupcakes

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At 12:36pm tomorrow, I will have completed my first year as a high school biology teacher.  This is crazy to me.  I started this blog the night before my first day of school in September, because what first year teacher doesn’t want to add additional commitments to an already overwhelming amount of work?  Every week, no matter how much lesson planning I felt I needed to do, I found time to bake something and write about it.

Looking back, this routine probably helped me out a lot this year.  For some reason, I seem to do better when I have a lot on my plate at once.  So a big thank you to my followers for giving me someone to bake for every week.  And look forward to some big projects, and big changes (good, I hope), this summer!

Anyways, since I am leaving New Jersey for the summer tomorrow, I didn’t really want to buy a bunch of ingredients this weekend.  So instead, I’m giving you the recipe for the chocolate cupcakes I promised here, that you got a preview of in this picture:

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You’ll notice I also did vanilla on chocolate and chocolate on vanilla.  Gotta try to please as many people as possible.

Also important to note: I halved this recipe as well, making 12 cupcakes instead of 24.  Double it if you want more.

First, melt the chocolate in the microwave, 15 seconds at a time at 50% power, stirring after each interval.  Magnolia’s insisted on using a double boiler, but that is not something I’ve felt necessary to have in my apartment.  Let the chocolate cool for 5-10 minutes until lukewarm before using.

 

 

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In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.

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In a large bowl, cream the butter using a hand mixer at medium speed.

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Add the sugar and light brown sugar (I still love the little sandcastles), and beat on medium speed until fluffy, which should take around 3 minutes.

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Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

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Add the chocolate and mix until well combined.

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Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla.  Beat until just mixed after each addition, being careful not to overbeat.  Combining the vanilla and buttermilk in your measuring cup before starting will make this easier.

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Spoon the batter evenly into 12 lined cupcake tins.  Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool 15 minutes in the tin before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Meanwhile, you can prepare the buttercream.  This frosting can also be stored at room temperature for about 3 days before using.  It held up significantly better than the vanilla buttercream, but I think that’s because I didn’t add enough sugar to the vanilla.

Again, melt the chocolate using the microwave technique and allow to cool until lukewarm.

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In a large bowl, beat the butter for 3 minutes until creamy using a hand mixer at medium speed.

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Add the milk and beat until smooth.

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Add the chocolate and beat for about 2 more minutes.

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Add the vanilla and beat for 3 minutes.  There’s a lot of adding one ingredient and beating for what feels like too long in this.

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Finally, add the sugar gradually while beating at low speed until you get the consistency you’re looking for.

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I stored it at room temperature in Tupperware for a day or two, but you can use it right away if the cupcakes are being served same day.

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Decorate your cupcakes as desired.  Mix it up and do some vanilla with chocolate frosting as well.  Reviews from the teachers that tried these said they preferred the contrasting ones, but I think that’s because they may not be quite as devoted to chocolate as I am.

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For once, I already know what I’m posting next weekend, and you’re not going to want to miss it, I promise.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 15 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval.  Allow to cool 5-10 minutes to lukewarm.
  2. Whisk together flour and baking soda in a small bowl.
  3. Beat butter until smooth in a large bowl using a hand mixer on medium speed.
  4. Add the sugar and brown sugar and beat 3 minutes until fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
  6. Add the chocolate and beat until well-combined.
  7. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the vanilla and buttermilk, beating until just combined after each addition.
  8. Spoon batter evenly into 12 lined cupcake tins and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool 15 minutes in tin before transferring to wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Buttercream

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/8 cups confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. Melt chocolate in microwave in 15 second intervals at 50% power, stirring after each interval.  Allow to cool 5-10 minutes to lukewarm.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter for 3 minutes until creamy using a hand mixer at medium speed.
  3. Add milk and beat until smooth.
  4. Add melted chocolate and beat 2 minutes.
  5. Add the vanilla extract and beat 3 minutes.
  6. Add sugar gradually and beat on low speed until desired consistency.
  7. Decorate your cupcakes!

Lemonade Layer Cake

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Yesterday I had the most perfect first day of summer you can dream up.  I started the day with a nice long run, did some chores around my apartment, and then biked to a farmer’s market where I met a friend (Hi, Ashley!) to shop for some local produce and eat food truck tacos.  After that, we wandered around my town’s stores before heading over to our school to watch one of her students compete in a skateboarding competition.  When I got home, I roasted up my vegetables for a delicious dinner.  All in all, exactly what I wanted to be doing on a Saturday with no school work in sight.

So to continue the summer theme, I thought it would be the perfect weekend to make a lemonade layer cake.  I’ve made this recipe before, way long ago in my pre-cake decorating class days.  It is best served chilled (like lemonade!), which was the real motivation behind making it – I needed a cake that could last until Tuesday frosted in my refrigerator. That’s because on Tuesday I’m going to a dinner that I promised I’d bake for, and between now and then I probably couldn’t find the time to whip up a cake.

And, to add to the beauty of this recipe, it’s adapted from Cooking Light, so I can even convince myself that it’s healthy!

First, put the sugar, butter, lemon rind, lemonade concentrate, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Beat on medium speed with a hand mixer for about 5 minutes, until well combined.

 

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Add the eggs then egg whites, one at a time, beating after each addition.

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In a separate, small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.

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Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, and beating after each addition.  You should start and end with dry ingredients.

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Pour half the batter into each of two 9 inch round cake pans, sprayed with cooking spray.  I only had one, so I had to bake in two parts, but it works out either way.

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Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  I would check a couple minutes early on this – mine cooked a little faster.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes in pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

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Side note: during this baking expedition I fell in love with my Caphalon round baking pan.  The walls were nice and high, preventing that annoying rounded top you can get when you are baking two layers of a cake separately, which always results in wasted cake when you level it off.

Anyways, while the cake is in the oven, prepare the frosting.  First, put the butter, lemon rind, lemonade concentrate, vanilla extract, and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Make sure the cream cheese is chilled before you do this – otherwise you’ll end up with more of a runny icing than a good frosting.  Beat on medium speed with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy.

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Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat on low speed until blended, but do not overbeat.  You will likely need to scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once – this gets pretty thick.

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Chill the frosting, covered, in the refrigerator for about an hour while you wait for the cake to cool.

When you’re ready to frost, place one layer on a cake circle (or plate) and spread about 1/2 cup of the frosting on top.  Make sure to go only to about half an inch from the edges, since you’ll be putting a layer on top.

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Use a cake lifter to put the second layer on top of the first.

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Using an offset spatula, spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.  Decorate if you’d like, but I actually like the simplicity of leaving this one plain.

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You can store the cake in the fridge, since it’s best served cold, covered loosely with plastic wrap.  I’m also hoping you can store it 2 days if it’s in a nicely sealed cake carrier, but we’ll see on Tuesday!

Enjoy!

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Lemonade Layer Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • grated rind from one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • grated rind from one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons thawed lemonade concentrate
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (8 ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, chilled
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar, butter, lemon rind, lemonade concentrate, and vanilla extract in a large bowl.  Beat with a hand mixer at medium speed for 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs and egg whites one at a time, beating after each addition.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. Add dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk, making sure to begin and end with the dry ingredients.  Beat well after each addition.
  5. Pour batter evenly between two sprayed 9 inch round baking pans.  Bake at 350°F for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  6. Allow to cool 10 minutes in pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. To make the frosting, combine butter, lemon rind, lemonade concentrate, vanilla extract and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy.
  8. Add the confectioner’s sugar, and mix on low speed until blended, scraping down the sides frequently.
  9. Chill frosting, covered, for 1 hour before frosting cake.

Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes

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It was 60° on Friday.  It’s December.  It’s really hard to get into the Christmas spirit when the weather feels like we’ve skipped about 5 months.  Fortunately, I planned Christmas activities for the weekend anyways.  And now it’s snowing!  It all works out.

Anyways, today I had some friends from college over for a Christmas brunch.  This involved lots of baking last night, and lots of real cooking this morning.  But with my forest of paper trees and Straight No Chaser to get me through it, it was impossible not to feel Christmas-y.  Side note: if you haven’t listened to their Christmas album, you’re missing out.  It has some of the classics, but without trying to make them sound like the originals.  Wicked awesome.

So as I browsed through recipes and websites to find a good crowning dessert to my brunch, I was stuck.  I was serving a lot of stuff with cinnamon and nutmeg and those sorts of spices, but I didn’t particularly want that to carry into the dessert as well.  I also wanted to make something a little more pretty than cookies.  So in my website hunt, I came across another blog, The Pastry Affair, and it had the perfect solution: Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes.  They were chocolate, which is always good, and mint, which finishes most meals well.  And they are really cool looking.  An all-around win.

First up, you have to actually make the chocolate cupcakes.  They recommended just using a box mix, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that if I was going to post to the blog.  So I used another chocolate cupcake recipe from their blog, which has now possibly become my favorite.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.

 

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Add the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract to the same bowl and beat until well mixed.  This recipe is one-bowl baking at its finest.  No pretending that it matters if you add flour to liquid or anything like that.  It cuts right to the chase.

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Another side note: I just used coffee from my Keurig.  I have a mini Keurig, and when I made the cup, I then started second guessing whether it actually made a full cup (as in 8 oz), so I measured it.  I now know that my Keurig is not cheating me – it makes an 8 oz cup.  That was a satisfying discovery that I felt I needed to share.

The coffee also gives the finished cupcake a much more complex flavor than your run-of-the-mill box mix, which was pretty cool.  I was a fan.

Anyways, the batter will be very liquidy, which makes the scooping-into-cupcake-tins action very challenging.  I used a ladle to start, but eventually just settled on a spoon.  It was messy, but I had no better method.  Fill the lined cups about 2/3 full.

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Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, such that a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  I have a single cupcake tin with only 6 spots, so this baking took a very long time for me.  But I did end up with more than 2 dozen cupcakes, which was pretty good.  Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

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For once, I was patient and did let the cupcakes cool completely.  This was mostly due to the fact that I didn’t finish baking them until around 10pm and you really shouldn’t frost cupcakes a day in advance if you want them to look good.  Fast forward to this morning: time to make the frosting.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until smooth.  If you have a stand mixer, I highly recommend you use that.  My hand mixer has two speeds: high and higher.  I also wasn’t totally sure it was going to survive the stress of beating two sticks of butter, but we got through it.

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Then, add vanilla extract, salt, and peppermint extract and continue beating.  This may be the first time I’ve used salt on my blog – I usually leave it out, but I figured that with the other extracts being added to the frosting, it might counteract the intensity a little bit, so I kept it in.

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Next, add the confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream little by little, mixing after each addition.  I did this by adding about a quarter of the box of sugar and one tablespoon of heavy cream at a time.

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If you’re afraid of spray, you can also do the towel trick to make sure you don’t have a kitchen that looks like it was snowed in:

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You may have to add a little extra heavy cream to get the consistency right – the frosting should be stiff but pliable, if that makes any sense.

Now comes the fun (and extremely innovative) part: striped frosting!  I loved this for so many reasons.  The cupcakes look awesome, I got to play with my cake decorating stuff, and it kind of looks like blood for awhile, which is morbid but funny when you’re by yourself icing cupcakes to give to your friends later.

So what you do is dip a toothpick in red food coloring gel (has to be gel, not liquid – you don’t want to mess with the ratios and consistency of the frosting) and draw three lines up the inside of a pastry bag.  It should look something like this:

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Then, use a spatula to add the frosting to the pastry bag, making sure not to scrape the sides.  You also shouldn’t try to fit all of the frosting in at one time.  I made that mistake, and was oozing frosting out of the top into my hand the whole time, which really just resulted in me eating far more frosting than I was intending since I had to keep cleaning off my hand.

This is the part where it looks bloody:

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I used a 2D tip and just swirled the frosting on top of each cupcake to cover.  I was going to use my cupcake pedestal, but that seemed like too much effort and I had a quiche in the oven.  They looked pretty awesome at this point in the process, even without the final step.

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But, I continued on anyways, and crushed 4 candy canes in a bag.  Not going to lie, it sounded like I was doing construction in my apartment as I beat the bag with my measuring cup, but it worked.

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Finally, sprinkle the pieces onto the top of the cupcakes.  When you get lazy/if you aren’t photographing them for a website, it’s just as easy to put the candy cane pieces on a plate and smush the cupcake upside down in the pieces to coat.  But that doesn’t look quite as nice as this.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup strong black coffee
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For the icing:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1 box confectioner’s sugar
  • 4-5 tablespoons heavy cream
  • red gel food coloring
  • 4 crushed candy canes

Directions

For the cupcakes:

  1. Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder in a large bowl.
  2. Add the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Beat until well mixed.
  3. Spoon into lined muffin tins to fill 2/3 of the way.  Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Cool completely on wire rack before frosting.

For the icing:

  1. Beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
  2. Add vanilla extract, salt, and peppermint extract, beating until well combined.
  3. Beat in confectioner’s sugar and heavy cream a little at a time until smooth.  Add more sugar or cream as necessary to reach the consistency of stiff yet pliable.
  4. Use a toothpick to paint three lines of red food gel up the inside of a pastry bag with a 2D tip.  Add the frosting to the bag using a spatula and being careful not to scrape the sides of the bag.
  5. Pipe icing onto cupcakes in a spiral to fill the top.  Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.