Guinness chocolate cupcakes with Bailey’s buttercream (Movember cupcakes)

We had another bake sale at work. Jen, Ian and I bake an absurd amount of things for these occasions.

Our contribution: six banana bread loaves, three dozen cookies, three dozen cinnamon buns, 16 moustached cupcakes

(Also, work and life have been super busy lately, hence my tendency to slack on blogging)

Unlike bake sales past that have lined up nicely with some festive celebration (Thanksgiving and whatnot), this mid-November bake sale could not be pegged to any calendar date. Or so I thought. That’s when I was inspired by facial hair – the fuzzy upper lips that are driving our society into a state of barbaric teenstachedom. Movember.

Other than lip fuzz, the other thing I think of when someone says “Movember” is Ottawa chocolatier Jen Winter with koko chocolates. Last November Jen came out with a brilliant quartet of chocolates in what she considered “manly” flavours: a double-smoked bacon with a hint of maple, a milk chocolate ganache infused with Glenmorangie scotch, espresso and “the koko” – a 75 per cent Venezuelan dark chocolate ganache. With part of the proceeds going to prostate cancer research, Jen’s chocolates were sweet for more than one reason. I saw Jen again earlier this month at Urban Craft in Ottawa, and was pleased to see she had continued her Movember line – adding these amazing seasonal ‘staches to the mix.

Inspired by Jen’s chocolates, I set out to create a chocolate dessert of my own. I knew I wanted to incorporate lots of alcohol into these cupcakes, so I adapted Smitten Kitchen’s Car Bomb Cupcakes (which look unbelievable) and used the Bailey’s buttercream icing recipe I first created for my green velvet cupcakes on St. Patrick’s Day last March. While much of the beer flavour baked off, it did leave the cake with a moist and even consistency. Absolutely delicious, though I regret eating my cupcake prior to icing and moustache-ing.

In an appropriate turn of events, all four people who bought these cupcakes were men, two of whom had decided to take part in this month’s furry fundraiser. I delivered the cupcakes and snapped their picture.

In other news, chocolate ganache remains the bane of my existence. The chocolate-whipped cream combination insists on seizing up as soon as I’m about to do anything with it. On the bright side, I think I would be positively masterful at making chocolate truffles. My first batch of ganache solidified in the piping bag, and, after shovelling fingerfuls of it into my mouth to soothe my sadness, I mixed it with a bit of boiled water and was on my way. The moustaches need a bit of grooming, but they’ll do.

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Cadbury creme egg stuffed Easter cupcakes

Think of your most extreme sugar fix ever and then quadruple it. With that level of sugary expectation in mind, I present to you with: these cupcakes.

Doesn't this cupcake look like a volcano that was cut in half?

As much as I’d like to, I can’t take all the credit for the Cadbury creme eggs centres. That diabetes-inducing idea came from the website Bake It in a Cake, which my friend Matt showed me for the first time last Easter. Since I was a little preoccupied creating these godzilla peep cupcakes back then, I filed the idea away for 2012’s bunny-filled holiday.

And so, it was with great anticipation that I greeted this early Easter season. A few of my friends were hosting an Easter potluck for all us out-of-town babies, and so I had both a recipe and a baking opportunity.

Then I just needed the Cadbury creme eggs, the acquiring of which posed a bit of a challenge.

Note to everyone: these eggs are not easy to find the day before Easter. In the end, only eight out of the 12 cupcakes ended up being stuffed with a creme egg. It’s all they had at the grocery store. Don’t worry, I covered up the cupcake absences by saying that finding a filled centre was like a charming little Easter egg hunt! Problem solved.

One more note: if you have an extremely photogenic roommate who also happens to love cupcakes, then you should probably have her pose in a multitude of shots.

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Green velvet cupcakes with Bailey’s buttercream frosting (St. Patrick’s Day 2012)

Yes, you heard me. Green velvet. A festivity of food colouring, if you may. Ever since catching word of Bakerella’s take on traditional red velvet cake, I’ve been dying to try this one out myself. And what better time to do so than on St. Patrick’s Day?!

Festivities (and sneaky cupcake eating!)

March 17 is always a weird day for me. Even though I’m more Irish than 90 per cent of the population (what up, dual citizenship?), I always feel a little weirded out by a holiday that us North Americans have created just so we have another excuse to patio drink (which, hey, I’m totally fine with). I don’t know, I’m fine with people getting hyper-patriotic, but I wish they knew what they were celebrating. But I digress…

Normally on St. Patrick’s Day I’m busy baking for another celebration – Brittany’s birthday! But that did not happen this year. Shipping a cake (or pavlova) to Paris is sort of pricey. Virtual wishes were sent this year. And so, I focused all my attention on these.

Woah, they were cool.

A few things:
1. Cake flour is probably the best thing to have ever entered my kitchen. It makes all the difference in cake-making, especially once you realize that the self-rising stuff already has the salt and baking powder added. May have missed that important point a few times…

2. Lucky Charms topping St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes = a hit. The marshmallows rehydrate themselves after sitting in the icing.

3. A strong, spiked buttercream frosting is sometimes enough to give you a head start on the day’s 19+ festivities. Especially when you’re eating rather large globfuls of it for breakfast. *burp*

4. It is essential that you up the Irish ante on these cupcakes and bake them in gold liners ($3.99 from Bulk Barn). Be incredibly pleased when the revelling crowds realize they look like tiny pots of gold.

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Almost-vegan coconut lemon poppyseed cupcakes

Almost vegan in the sense that oops, half a cup of butter just happened to slip in. Clumsy me. I swear it won’t happen again.

Coconut lemon poppyseed cupcakes + Instagram + TurboCollage = Love

I never thought I would eat the combination of lemon and poppyseed ever again. And you should know, I loved lemon poppyseed desserts. Once, I even made a lemon poppyseed frappuccino (ed. note: this is the most difficult word to spell … I always forget which letters are doubled) when I worked at Starbucks in high school.

I will not explain the story behind my change of heart, but know that it involves evil dogs, water being spilled and stop-action motions. These cupcakes banished the lemon-poppyseed curse.

This past weekend, my parents were having two of their adult friends over for dinner and I said I would make dessert. Since they are grown-ups (much unlike myself) I figured they probably wouldn’t like a dessert that involved my usual use of excessive Kindergarten-colours (darn, I really wanted to make this!). Half of my family also has a thing against chocolate, so that was unfortunately ruled out.

I had been wanting to jump head first back into the world of lemon + poppyseed for awhile, so I decided to go for it. I have been in lemon deprivation lately since I’m not getting my bi-daily fix of lemon gelato at my favourite Ottawa cafe. Since one of our guests is lactose intolerant, I used coconut milk in the cupcake batter, adding a light smell and taste that could counter the lemon. After an initial failed attempt at making a glaze (it looked like some sort of cleaning solution), I decided to just do a icing sugar-lemon juice combination, which I topped with a bit of toasted shredded coconut.

They were so pretty! And got the Adult Seal of Approval.

PS: I am returning to Ottawa today, meaning there will no longer be home cooked meals waiting for me around every corner. I have lots to do this week school-wise, which can only mean one thing: I’m going to bake a lot. Are you excited?! I’m excited.

It is essential that your feet sneak into at least one food photo

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Happy belated Valentines Day, ft. chocolate stuffed pink marble cupcakes

You know I always have a good reason for not blogging.

Unlike former hiatuses where I’ve still been cooking and baking loads of things, these past two weeks have been different, since I’m back home in Sudbury. Because of this, my mom has been the one doing all the cooking and baking. Have I mentioned that I’m spoiled?

So why am I home? Well at this point I am two weeks into a three-week internship with CBC Sudbury. It has been an absolutely amazing experience so far. It’s a small station, which means I got thrown into doing on-air stuff, editing and interviewing right off the bat. The past two weeks have been some of the most educational ones of my journalism career so far. Here are a few links to the things I’ve been working away on: an interview with the son of a man who died in the Ocean Ranger oil rig accident in 1982, a story I did about the shortage of working stoves in Sudbury (which resulted in more than half a dozen donations of the appliance!) and one portion of a three-part series I did on the behaviour of coaches in minor hockey.

One thing that has made my experience at CBC even better has been the friendliness of my co-workers. They’re always willing to help and have a great, down-to-earth sense of humour. This especially comes out when talking about our particular love-hate relationship with Valentines Day crafts.

Since I couldn’t pass on an opportunity to theme bake – even after actual Valentines Day was over – I made these cupcakes last night and brought them into the newsroom today. Next week: A CBC fondant cake!

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