Year: 2014

Dinosaur Cupcakes

DSC_2328x900Every semester, without fail, I become fixated on one movie. I like doing my work with the noise of the TV in the background, so I put a movie on repeat… sometimes for days. Whatever the movie may be, it keeps me company but doesn’t distract me (because really, after the 16th time watching anything, you’re over it).

Last spring it was the Breakfast Club. This fall it’s the Jurassic Park triology. I’ve always adored these movies — they’re entertaining, a little kitschy, and involve DINOSAURS! Awesome, right? Who knows what life will bring me, but I secretly hope for a son (or a daughter… don’t want to make gender assumptions!) who loves dinosaurs as much as I do.

Dinosaur Cupcakes
Print Recipe

1 box cake mix plus required oil + eggs (any flavor cake will work)
1 batch of buttercream icing (I’d recommend the White Buttercream recipe here)
Green food coloring
A disposable pastry bag
A large star pastry tip (I used a large French tip)
Pressed sugar dinosaurs (mine are from Cook’s Baking Supply in Milwaukee)
Chocolate “rocks” (mine are from Vanilla Bean in Madison)

1. Make the cupcakes according to box directions. Allow them to cool completely before beginning to decorate.
2. Dye your batch of buttercream icing green. Pipe icing onto each cupcake using your disposable pastry bag and pastry tip.
3. Decorate the cupcakes with the dinosaurs and “rocks.”

Bakery Review: Miss Julia’s Bake Shop

DSC_2087x900I’m reviewing Miss Julia’s Bake Shop – located in Brookfield, WI!

  • I only have 7 months left in Milwaukee, so I’m trying to eat as many good things as possible — and to try as many new places as I can. Miss Julia’s was on my list!
  • I thought these cupcakes were great — moist, fresh, and the frosting was so, so good (and I’m not a huge frosting lover).
  • I can’t remember every kind that we tried, but the Whopper cupcake was my favorite! Jillian loved the pumpkin. Andrea loved the grasshopper. And Bekah loved the banana.
  • Miss Julia’s has a standard, everyday selection of flavors (like vanilla, chocolate, red velvet) plus varieties that change daily and seasonally.
  • Miss Julia’s is located in a strip mall in Brookfield. Not the cutest of locations, but at least the treats were delicious!
  • PS: they are located right behind Kopp’s… should you need a some amazing savory to balance out the sweets. All of you Milwaukeeans will know what I’m talkin’ about with Kopp’s!

Note: I’m not being paid to promote this bakery. I just like to try new places and I’ll take any excuse I can get to eat a few cupcakes.


Popcorn Birthday Cake

Happy birthday, Lori! Lori is Andrea’s mom. I’ve mentioned Andrea a lot on my blog — as she’s one of my favorite people and a BFF. Lori’s birthday was exactly one week ago. Andrea and I made her this popcorn cake because popcorn is her favorite food (smart lady because popcorn is nearly perfect, am I right?!)

The cake was relatively simple to make. It’s a basic 9×13 cake covered in icing — and topped with gooey-marshmallow-covered popcorn. Here are the instructions if you’d like to try this yourself for the popcorn lover in your life.

Popcorn Birthday Cake
Print Recipe

You’ll need:
9×13″ cake pan
2 boxes of cake mix, plus required oil + eggs (use any flavor you’d like)
A batch of buttercream icing (I would recommend the White Buttercream recipe here)
Red food coloring (I would recommend AmeriColor’s Super Red)
A small round pastry tip
A small star pastry tip
A few disposable pastry bags
5-6 cups of popcorn
2 Tablespoons butter
A half bag of mini marshmallows

1. Make the cake batter according to box directions — and use two boxes, as you’ll want a thick cake. Spray the 9×13″ pan with non-stick spray and fill with cake batter. Bake until a tester comes out clean. Since I used two boxes worth of cake batter, it took my cake about an hour. But ovens vary — so check on your cake frequently!
2. While the cake is baking, make the buttercream icing according to the directions provided in the link above.
3. Once your cake has cooled entirely, level it with a knife (in other words, slice the dome off the top of the cake — so you have a nice, flat surface). Frost the cake with white icing.
4. Dye some of the left over icing red. Use the small round tip to write “Happy Birthday!” near the middle of the cake and use the small star tip to create the stripes.
5. In a large pan, melt the 2 Tablespoons of butter over low heat on the stove. Add about a half a bag of mini marshmallows and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add in your popcorn. We didn’t write down exactly how much popcorn we added, but I’m guessing it was about 5 cups. What you want is something akin to rice krispie treats — but with popcorn instead of krispies. If you don’t incorporate the marshmallow, the popcorn pieces have no way of sticking together.
6. Cut a portion of the top of the cake off. You will need to do this to make room for the popcorn and to give the popcorn a place to sit. Don’t be afraid, just slice off the top 1/4 or so of the cake!
7. While the popcorn mixture is still warm, add it to the top of your cake. Again, no exact science here — just do what works best to make it look like popcorn is coming out of the box.


PS: I hope you have leftover popcorn + marshmallow mixture — because that was our greatest discovery while making this cake. It’s phenomenal!


Crock Pot Chex Mix

Oh yes, CROCK POT CHEX MIX! I love homemade Chex Mix. I would rank it in my top 10 all-time favorite foods. There is something so perfect about it — or maybe I just love salt a little too much. I’ve always thought that making it was a giant pain in the ass though. Until now.

CROCK. POT. You dump all of the ingredients into the Crock Pot. Add the butter and seasoning. And let it go for 3 hours. Your house will smell magical and you won’t have to lift a finger. Give the Crock Pot method a try for the holidays!

Crock Pot Chex Mix
Print Recipe

3 cups wheat Chex
3 cups corn Chex
3 cups rice Chex
1 cup pretzels
1 cup Cheerios
1 cup nuts (I left them out)
6 Tablespoons butter (I used 8 Tablespoons — because yay butter!)
1 packet of Chex Mix seasoning (you’ll find this in the cereal aisle of your grocery store)

1. Melt the butter in the microwave and add the seasoning mix. Stir until well blended.
2. Add the cereals, pretzels, and nuts to the Crock Pot. Pour the butter + seasoning mixture on top of everything. Stir everything to make sure that the butter coats the cereal.
3. Cook on low for 3.5 hours. Stir about every hour (so the pieces on the bottom don’t burn).
4. Cover your countertop with foil or newspaper. When the 3.5 hours are up, spread the Chex Mix out on the counters so it can cool completely.


Note: I don’t think there’s an exact science to making Chex Mix. Don’t worry if you don’t use exactly 3 cups of each cereal. Just use what you like — and don’t worry too much about being precise in the measurements. Additionally, if you REALLY like salt and seasoning like I do, you might consider doubling the butter and seasoning mixture. Just sayin’. It’s awesome. :)


Confetti Cookies

These are my new favorite cookies. For real. Making a good sugar cookie is more difficult than you’d think. Some are too crunchy. Some don’t have enough flavor. Some turn out looking like pale, anemic blobs of dough. But these babies are different — soft, full of vanilla flavor, and covered in happy rainbow sprinkles.

The recipe is from Joy the Baker’s new book — “Homemade Decadence.” I’ve been reading Joy’s blog for as long as I can remember and her recipes are foolproof. I’d highly recommend her new book — and these cookies!

Confetti Cookies
Recipe source: Joy the Baker
Print Recipe

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking power
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean (I didn’t have one, so I left it out; the cookies turned out fine!)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
About 1 cup of rainbow sprinkles (use jimmies, not nonpareils)

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking power, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the bowl (I skipped this step). Add the egg and vanilla extract, and beat until thoroughly combined.
3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. The dough will be thick. Fold in 1/4 cup of the sprinkles.
4. Put the remaining 3/4 cup of sprinkles in a small bowl. Scoop up 2 Tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball (I used a cookie scoop and it worked well!). Dip the ball into the bowl of sprinkles to cover lightly. Put the ball on a plate. Repeat with the remaining sprinkles and dough, and chill the balls of dough for at least 2 hours.
5. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
6. Transfer the chilled balls of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving about two inches between each ball.
7. Bake until the cookies have spread and are just beginning to brown around the edges, but are mostly pale and soft — about 10 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Makes about 18 cookies.