Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

I have been trying to find a great red velvet recipe since about last May, when we had some wonderful red velvet cake at Claim Jumper for Jared's birthday. I probably tried 2 or 3 recipes last Fall and each one was a bigger flop than the next. I was seriously depressed and felt like a major failure for a couple weeks. Dacia was here last week and we decided to attempt them one last time for Valentine's. We each tried a different recipe... I tried another new recipe from scratch, and Dacia tried a kicked up box mix recipe that we found on Picky Palate.
The verdict: although mine finally turned out and tasted good enough, we both preferred the box mix. So there you have it. We apparently have completely uncultured taste. But after struggling so hard to even find a red velvet recipe that works, I'll stick with this box mix from here on out. At least you know you can't foul them up.

We topped these with the best cream cheese frosting I've ever made and these little cupcakes were seriously delicious. We wanted to make them extra fancy for Valentine's and Dacia had a stroke of genius to make cute little chocolate hearts to go on top and I think they may be the cutest cupcakes I have ever made. The little hearts on top were seriously easy and I can't wait to try different pictures for cupcake toppers. They were just so cute!

Anyways, here's a great little cupcake for Valentine's!

1 box Red Velvet Cake Mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
8 oz. sour cream (I was out and substituted plain yogurt with no problem)
1 small box instant chocolate pudding
4 eggs
1-2 Tbsp. red food coloring, optional (without it, you won't get a very deep red for your cupcakes, which may or may not be a big deal to you)

This frosting is seriously yummy. And I'm not a frosting kind of girl. But a word of warning... this makes a TON. If you're only planning on using it to frost these cupcakes, you can easily halve it. And looking at the ingredients list is seriously scary... these aren't for the health conscious!

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 1/2 lbs. cream cheese, slightly softened (2 1/2, 8 oz. packages)
1 lb. butter (the entire 4 sticks, my friends...)
2 lb. powdered sugar, sifted (yes, that's an entire large bag...)
1 Tbsp. vanilla

Mix the butter and cream cheese until well combined. Add the sugar and mix until fully incorporated. Add the vanilla and a pinch of salt.

For Chocolate Hearts:

Candy Melts in desired colors (we used red and chocolate-- you can find them at Jo-Ann's, Michaels, Wal-Mart, even party supply stores)
wax paper
Piping bag or ziploc bag

Melt candy hearts either in microwave, stovetop, or I always melt them in the oven. I put them in an oven proof bowl, set the oven to very low (either the warm setting or 200) and let them melt slowly. I find that they stay the right texture longer when I melt them slowly.

Fill a piping bag, or sturdy ziploc bag with melted chocolate. Snip the bottom corner of your ziploc bag and trace heart shapes onto waxed paper. Dacia drew hearts on her paper first with a pen, and then flipped it over, to use as a template. But once she got about halfway through, she realized she could draw a heart free-handed just fine. Allow your outlines to set.

Fill another piping bag or ziploc bag with your other color and fill in your heart shapes. I used the tip of a baby spoon and toothpick to fill in all the corners. Again let that set, and then remove. Voila! You have adorable, perfect little heart toppers.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Cookie Dough Topped Brownies

Yeah. You read that right. Cookie dough. And brownies. Can you imagine anything better? OK, maybe cheesecake... but that's about it. We're talking gooey fudgey brownies, topped with chocolate chip cookie dough. Good stuff. I found this recipe at My Kitchen Cafe. Dacia and I made them while she was here and we both agreed this recipe was a winner. It definitely gets better after sitting in the fridge for a little while, though. The cookie dough firms up and then the bars are just perfect.

Brownie Layer:
1 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour

1. Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter and chocolate chips, either in a medium saucepan over low heat or in the microwave. I did it in the microwave because I'm lazy like that.

2. Once the chocolate chips are fully melted, remove from heat, and blend in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, fully blending before each new egg is added.

3. Add flour and salt and beat until air bubbles form in the batter.

4. Pour in a greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes.

5. Cool completely and then top with cookie dough layer.

Cookie Dough Layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a small bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.

2. Beat in milk and vanilla. Gradually add flour and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. Drop by tablespoons over fully cooled brownies. Carefully spread over the top. (This can be tricky and the best way to do it to slightly wet your hands and pat the dough down so it doesn't pull up the brownies. Or if you didn't let your brownies cool enough, it'll get super runny and spread easily... not the best way to do it! ;)

Store finished brownies in the fridge. They get better once the dough has had a chance to chill.