Fourth of July Cupcakes

 

Are y’all ready to party like it’s 1776?

I know I am.

July 4th is Monday, and I’m assuming there are going to be a bunch of parties.

I say ‘assuming’ because I have never been in the whole party loop.

Usually on the fourth, my family is too busy consoling my three-legged dog, Mannie, and our family dog, Oreo, who consequently freak out when the fireworks are going off, to bother with parties.

We did the whole friends-and-family BBQ thing for awhile, until we came home and our entire house was trashed and smelled like pee, no thanks to our panicked Lab.

It’s not her fault. I’m not a huge fan of the holiday myself.

It’s not because of the Independence thing; freedom’s cool. It’s not because I’m not patriotic; if I hated America like some Americans claim to, I definitely wouldn’t stay here. It’s simply because a) spending an abnormal amount of money on fire-crackers that last 4 seconds is ridiculous; b) it’s too hot to move and/or enjoy anything (it’s going to be 104 on Monday here in Sacramento); and c) I really hate the jerks who wait til midnight to light off the most obnoxious fireworks possible. Or the people who continue the whole 4th of July fireworks-thing later into the week.

You have one day to blow up Piccolo Pete’s. July 4th. It’s just kind of white trashy and annoying to do it any other day. Just sayin’.

I have no idea what I’ll be doing on the 4th, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be convincing my dog that we’re not in World War 3 while simultaneously hating my neighbors, eating a hamburger (broiled, since our BBQ decided to die this summer) and not being invited to one of the many Fourth of July parties. What, no, I’m not bitter.

Which is fine by me, since I can then enjoy a bunch of cupcakes in the comfort of my air-conditioned home, being patriotic by exercising my freedom to watch bad reality TV and maybe having a beer (American, of course) because I’m a proud American.

And proud Americans make these patriotic cupcakes.

Since our family is not participating in fireworks this year, I decided to celebrate with them in a tastier, silent-kinda way … by making white chocolate fireworks to top these adorable cupcakes.

Wanna know how to make them, Miss America?

Fourth of July Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix, plus ingredients on back of box, substituting unsweetened applesauce for the oil
1 box EACH sugar free/fat free Berry Blue and Strawberry Jello mix
Frosting ingredients (recipe & ingredients follow)
1/2 bag white chocolate candy melts
Non-pareils sprinkles

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, prepare cake mix according to package directions. Divide batter evenly among two bowls. Stir the berry blue jello mix into one bowl, and the strawberry jello mix into the other until both are combined. Using two spoons, alternate blue and red batters among muffin cups, layering the colors, not swirling them. Bake, approximately 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
2. Meanwhile, make firework/star decorations. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and secure with scotch tape, if needed. In a medium bowl, microwave and prepare candy melts according to package directions until melted and smooth. Carefully pour warm melted candy into a piping bag attached with a small round tip (I used Wilton 57) and pipe fireworks or star designs onto the wax paper. While still wet, sprinkle with sprinkles or jimmies. Place in fridge to harden completely. Use a butter knife to carefully loosen chocolate decos from wax paper.
3. Frost cupcakes with buttercream icing, then top with a white chocolate deco. Store in fridge, covered.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

2/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp milk
Approx 4 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, vanilla and milk until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until stiff but still spreadable. Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

 

Aren’t these cute?

And those white chocolate decos are so easy to make. If you wanted, you could even use red and blue candy melts to make flags or different colored stars… it’s only limited to your imagination!

Happy B-Day, America!

xo, Hayley

 

 

 

Root Beer Float Cupcakes

Question: Who else thinks it’s cripplingly awkward to see someone years after you went to high school with them?

Whether or not you were BFFs, mortal enemies or mere lab partners, seeing people from high school is totally weird after the fact.

In high school we were all awkward, geeky, insecure and immature together. We were guilty of judging our peers, making fun of the nerdy kids playing D&D, and gossiping about the sluts who we were secretly scared our boyfriends flirted with in Spanish class (you obviously took French since it sounded way cooler).

And in high school, everyone seemed so little and childish still. Some of us could still pass off as a kid when ordering a Happy Meal, and we all bonded together in the fact that we all dealt with similar problems: breakups, pimples on the night of a dance, having frenemies, failing math tests (that was totally me). Minus a couple teenage statistics, the idea of getting married, being pregnant, graduating college or having careers, families, traveling adventures and other grown-up endeavors sounded so far off and crazy.

I don’t want this to sound like some stupid graduation speech while Green Day’s Time of Your Life plays in the background. Please, no flash photography. I’m not reminiscing, but rather commenting on how much things have changed.

I’ll run into classmates now and be absolutely petrified that they’ll notice me, the girl with formerly rainbow-colored hair, and they’ll approach me while I’m in my own little world buying cake mix at Walmart. And they’ll be like, “ohmigawd Hayley! You’ve changed sooooo much! Where’s your rainbow hair?” And I’ll be like, “Oh heeeeeyyy you! Yeeaaaah, we’re adults now, hence why I don’t have purple hair. Glad to see you’re pregnant.” I mean, awwwwkward.

Not that I’m knockin’ on pregnant women. Just saying that when we had so little in common to begin with (um, YEEEEARS ago) we have absolutely nothing in common now.

And it’s always moderately humorous when you see or hear about former peers who have taken a not-so-desirable path, whether or not you expected it.

Recently, I heard of former classmates who are delving into the happytastical world of drugs, and I have to chuckle. I sincerely hope I don’t ever have to run into them, forcing awkward conversation with a drug addict. “Oh, you’ve been doing some heroin? Well I see it’s treating you nicely.”

Um, really?

I also heard about the new drug craze of snorting bath salts.

Um, REALLY?

I didn’t think I’d have to fight off crazed, drug-riddled lunatics at the Bath & Body Works Semi-Annual Sale. I figured it’d just be soccer moms stocking up on hand soaps. But now I’m forced to fight off some tweaked out looney tune for some lavender-scented bath salts?

BRING. IT. ON.

I mean, I love Bath & Body Works too. And who doesn’t love relaxing? But I think the whole purpose of taking a bath is to pour the salts in the running water… not, you know, up your nose.

I am so thrilled that I know these people. /sarcasm.

That’s why I never understood the purpose of high school reunions. Sure, it may be fun to catch up with that geek in bio class that turned into a millionaire hottie or the slutty, popular chick who now has a caravan of kids and eats her weight in Ding Dongs, but for the most part, it just seems like a mediocre, blast-from-the-past party filled with people I never want to see again.

Facebook’s fine. But forcing awkward conversation filled with lots of “soooooooo’s” isn’t my idea of a rousing good time.

Wanna know what is? Eating root beer floats.

You could say I’m addicted to root beer floats. Not that I’m going to start snorting them or anything.

But seriously, root beer floats are one of summer’s essentials. They’re refreshing and delicious, and surprisingly easy to turn into a cupcake.

You could say they were voted “Most Impressive Transformation–From Drink to Cupcake” in the food yearbook world.

And get this–this recipe uses only THREE ingredients to make these tasty treats.

BRING. IT. ON.

So when you finally run into that weirdo you hoped wouldn’t notice you buying cake mixes at Walmart, you can say, “well, I just got back from the huge sale at Bath and Body Works, and you remember Billy Smith, right? Yeah, well I totally just finished kicking his ass for the last container of lavender chamomile bath salts. Looks like he’ll be snorting Dollar Tree brand for awhile. Anyways, gonna make me some root beer float cupcakes now.” And that weirdo you hoped wouldn’t notice you will thoroughly be impressed with your amazing life.

And you will be too once you eat one of these.

Root Beer Float Cupcakes *adapted from 101 Gourmet Cupcakes in 10 Minutes

1 box white cake mix–JUST the mix. You do NOT need the eggs, oil or water!
1 can of your favorite root beer (I used diet! Yay for low-cal!)
2 tsp root beer concentrate (you can find this by the vanilla extract on the baking aisle at all grocery stores)
Root beer frosting (recipe & ingredients follow)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, root beer, and root beer concentrate–that’s all!–until well blended, about 2 minutes. Portion into prepared liners, about 2/3 full, and bake approximately 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Root Beer Frosting (seriously AMAAAZING)

2/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp milk
1 tsp root beer concentrate (I know, lots of teaspoons of things)
4 cups (approximately) powdered sugar
Crystal sugars, root beer barrel candies, and cut off straws for decor, optional

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter, vanilla and milk until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time, blending in thoroughly. Beat in root beer concentrate. Frosting should be stiff but still spreadable. Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with crystal sugar and top with a root beer barrel candy and a straw.

SOOOOOOOOOO YUMMMMMMMYYYY.

And since I used diet root beer, I’m pretty sure it makes it okay if I have nine of these.

And they’re perfect energy food for fighting off weirdos in Bath & Body Works.

Happy Eating!

xo, Hayley

Raspberry White Chocolate Brownies

 

I really wish I had money.

I always think that, if I had lots of money at my complete disposal, I’d know exactly what to do with it. But this is only a half-truth.

I really have no idea what I’d do with a bunch of money. I certainly wouldn’t spend it on stupid people, that’s for sure.

I’ve never come into a large sum of money, but I know plenty of people–even so-called “friends” who would suddenly become a lot friendlier if they knew I was wealthy.

“Soooooo, Hayley, what have you been up to lately? Getting a lot of money? That’s soooooo awesome, really! So, you know my sick grandma? Yeah well she needs some money to replace her hip. No, she didn’t die two years ago, that was my other grandma. No, she had two names: Susan and Beatrice. They’re not two different people at all, why would you say such a thing…?”

Or, “that’s soooo neat that you came into some money! Good for you! Oh, yeah, well you know, I’m working two part-time jobs trying to make month’s rent… it’s hard living on Ramen every night… I’ve gained weight. I wish I could be a housewife. I love your baking, I really do… Wouldn’t it be cool if I could bake like you? Too bad I can’t afford supplies… or cable to watch Real Housewives.”

Those leeches would go straight to what gets me most: baking and Real Housewives. I know them too well.

Sometimes I wonder if I would turn really snobby if I were rich. You know those people. They tote teacup sized dogs in large designer purses, wear huge sunglasses in an attempt to pretend they’re famous, and have lots of crystals on the asses of their jeans. They also drink fine wine, have fresh flowers delivered to their immaculately designed homes and get mani-pedis twice a week. And shop at Whole Foods. Man, I love Whole Foods, but sometimes I’m like wtf am I doing here, I am poor.

I would thoroughly enjoy strolling through some fancy farmer’s market a couple times a week, picking up aged cheddar and a 20-year old shiraz like I know what I’m doing. I’d also really enjoy having useless furniture in my house, like a chaise lounge, or having rooms in my house with no purpose, like a foyer… just so I could be the snob who says, “Oh yes, dahling. You can leave your fancy trench coat in the foyer on the chaise. Isn’t it mahvelous? Chip (Chip would obv be my snobby husband) and I got it in Paris last winter.”

Okay, maybe I wouldn’t be that snobby. But in their defense, chaises are really cool.

And I’m positive many un-snobby people have them–but really, WHAT do you use them for? Certainly not lounging.

The only thing I’m particularly snobby about is grammar.

I’m an English major, but even without that title, I simply do not understand why people cannot spell. Or use proper grammar.

Should we go back to grade school when we’re taught our “your” and “you’re”‘s? Because seriously, insulting someone or speaking with a “your” when you mean “you’re” is pathetic.

Or when people misuse their “they’re,” “their,” and “there.” THEY’RE idiots because THEIR brains cannot comprehend that THERE means distance; THEIR means possession; and THEY’RE means ‘they are’.

See? It really required a lot of energy and brain power to understand.

Phew, I’m ready for a glass of aged wine and some cheese. Where’s that grape-feeding maid when I need her?

But seriously, if I had oodles of money, I’d like to think I’d spend it wisely. And by ‘wisely’ I mean vacationing in Europe three times a year, shopping to my heart’s never-ending content three times a week and investing it wisely to earn me even more money.

And I suppose I’d donate some to charity so people wouldn’t get all huffy that I’m some snobby beeyatch with a chaise lounge. No one likes to be bothered with furniture matters.

Anyways, the idea of these brownies sounds quite luxurious, if I do say so myself. One, because typically, fresh raspberries cost an arm and a leg. Lately, however, they’ve been decently priced in my area, causing me to stock up whenever possible. Two, because any time you pair fruit and chocolate, people get all antsy that something fancy is going down. And three, because even if you have a skinny pocketbook like I do, we all deserve to feel sophisticated and snobby and rich, even if we don’t have crystal asses or even know what the hell ‘shiraz’ is.

Raspberry White Chocolate Brownies

1 box fudge brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker), plus ingredients on back of box
1 clamshell (small carton) of fresh raspberries or about 1 1/2 cup frozen and thawed raspberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8×8 or a 13×9 inch baking pan (your choice if you want thicker or thinner brownies–I did mine in a 13×9). In a large bowl, prepare brownie batter according to package directions. Stir in rinsed (if fresh) raspberries and white chocolate chips; gently combine into batter.
2. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake according to package directions based on which pan size you chose. Brownies are done with a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean or with no crumbs. Cool completely, then cut into squares and store covered in fridge.

Look at you, fancypants! Noshing on some fancy brownies in your foyer… or on your couch, whatever.

I mean, if we’re being completely honest, I ate mine standing up. So a couch is even classier than inhaling it upright. But who are you to judge me, right? We’re all classy here…

Chaise lounge or not.

Happy Noshing!

xo, Hayley

Cotton Candy Cupcakes

I’m a huge fan of amusement parks, but please don’t confuse amusement parks with carnivals.

I really despise carnivals.

In Sacramento, and I’m presuming everywhere else it’s the same, ‘carnivals’ consist of either anorexic or morbidly obese people I call “carnies” whose little number of teeth probably represent the grade in which they dropped out of elementary school and who are shooting heroin with their wife, the Bearded Lady, in the back of their trailer, which happens to be right next to the merry-go-round. They smell bad, they have beady eyes, and they operate very large, very fast, and very dangerous machinery that we willingly blow seven tickets to put our children on.

While this may sound like an entertaining party, it is. But I am still mildly freaked out by carnivals.

They just don’t have the same personality as an amusement park, which admittedly has higher admission prices, ridiculous parking, and charges a right lung and a Benjamin for a funnel cake (but damn, it’s a good funnel cake).

Some of my favorite memories come from the magical world of D-Land, which I visited frequently when I was a kid, thanks to my mom’s belief that any child who hasn’t been to Disneyland was abused.

This is very true.

I remember feeling that ache to pull away from my parents who walked too slow so I could race to Star Tours or Indiana Jones. Forget Magic Teacups; I was all about getting drenched front-row-center on Splash Mountain.

And don’t even get me started on D-Land’s food. Seriously divine cuisine.

Their churros are my favorite–in fact, a few years back when we went, I don’t remember eating anything but the foot-long doughnut sticks.

But I’m also quite fond of their character breakfasts, the New Orleans-authentic beignets (OMG), and their chicken strips, caramel apples, and nostalgic Mickey head pancakes.

I don’t even like pancakes.

I can’t imagine anyone ever disliking a pancake shaped like a mouse’s head. I mean, in any other circumstance that would be awful, distasteful and slightly disgusting. But when it’s Mickey’s head at D-Land and you’re headed straight for the right ear, it’s glorious.

And the employees are always super nice and helpful, never drug-riddled circus-freaks with nine children running around pick-pocketing innocent carnival-goers.

I mean, who knows. Maybe D-Land does the same thing. But at least you’ll say “Awwwwwhh how cute!” before you realize Chip and Dale snatched all your cash…whether that be from them actually pick-pocketing you or making you fork over $20 on a picture of your kid with them.

Either way, there’s one thing that’s undeniably good from both creepy carnivals or high-class amusement parks, and that’s cotton candy. It’s light, sweet and absolutely nostalgic of summertime, bumper cars and either chasing down your favorite character for a picture or being chased by a carnie to spend $5 on a game of whack-a-mole.

These cupcakes get their signature sweet flavor from a special cotton candy oil, along with cotton candy snow-cone syrup I found at Walmart. The syrup, which replaces the water in this recipe, gives a nice background flavor of cotton candy to this white cake base, while the oil gives it the real flavor for a true cotton candy cupcake. I also stirred in a few broken up pieces of fluffy stuff into the batter for a more authentic flavor. The result is a deliciously moist cake with a seriously tasty cotton candy punch. No carnies, either.

Cotton Candy Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
4 egg whites
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cup cotton candy syrup (replace with water if needed)
1 dram cotton candy oil
Wilton food gels in Pink and Royal Blue
1 pkg cotton candy
Frosting recipe (recipe and ingredients follow)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, egg whites, unsweetened applesauce and syrup until well blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in dram of cotton candy oil, and stir in about 1/2 cup shredded cotton candy pieces (break up with your fingers; you don’t want chunks).
2. Divide cake batter evenly among two bowls. Tint one batch a light pink and the other a light blue (think cotton candy, people!) Portion into muffin tins (I did one generous scoop of blue on bottom, pink on top for some and vice versa for the rest). Bake, approximately 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Sweet Rich Buttercream

2/3 cup butter, softened
4 teaspoons cotton candy syrup
About 4 cups powdered sugar

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and three (3) teaspoons of the syrup until creamy and combined, about 2 minutes. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until you’ve reached a stiff but spreadable consistency–add additional teaspoon of syrup if your frosting it too thick or stiff. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes and top with remaining pieces of cotton candy.

Now wasn’t that a helluva lot cheaper and easier than forking over $10 to be leered at by the carnies’ beady eyes?

Plus, now there’s no risk of hurling these after a few too many spins on the Tilt O Whirl.

Enjoy!

xo, Hayley

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Cookie Dough Frosting

 

Genetics are a funny thing.

It’s crazy that I am a product of my completely opposite parents.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some creepy birds-and-the-bees post.

Just saying that genetics are kind of a weird thing.

That somehow in the womb I got my dad’s personality but my mom’s looks. My mom’s teeth but my dad’s freckles. And everything else mom-related: hair, skin, horrible eye sight yet pretty brown eyes.

I guess I’m kind of glad I don’t really look like my dad. Ever see those girls who totally look like a dude? I’m glad I don’t.

Not that my dad isn’t a handsome man–he’d just be a weird lookin’ chick, as I would be a funky lookin’ dude.

And how different people inherit different personality traits from their parents. For instance, my boyfriend acts exactly like his mom: goofy and outgoing, where his brother acts exactly like his dad: calm and quiet.

Or how I inherited my dad’s ability to snack constantly. And my mom’s ability to judge people, often wrongfully, but always correctly.

Sorry, peeps, I only judge you ’cause it’s in my blood.

And yes, I judge you.

A lot.

But it’s okay if you judge me, too.

Which leads me to my new point: first impressions. Do you ever wonder what someone’s first impression is of you?

I suppose if you’re new to this blog, you probably think I’m some random girl somehow attempting to link genetics and cupcakes together. You’re either delightfully entertained by my whimsy or horrendously bored.

And if you’re bored, I don’t want to hear about it. But if you’re delightfully entertained, I definitely want to hear about how awesome I am.

Aaaand, now you think I’m conceited.

Well, I kind of am. I have a nice non-dude looking face. And good skin (thanks, Mom!)

Apparently, I also inherited my parents love for cookie dough. Yeah, I bet you didn’t think you could inherit such a thing? Well, I did. I love cookies, despite my lack of a sweet tooth. Especially warm, gooey cookies that are preferably underbaked. Thus, cookie dough is an obvious favorite.

Wanna hear a family story? Okay.

Supposedly, while my mom was pregnant with me, she’d make huge batches of cookie dough with the full intention of never baking them into cookies.

Maybe all those raw eggs is what made me so strange. Who knows, but I’m going to pretend that’s the reason.

Maybe that’s why I like cookies so much. And love to bake.

But you had to know this isn’t your average chocolate chip cookie dough cookies recipe. This is a totally rockin’ chocolate chip cookie dough cupcakes with cookie dough frosting recipe, which is even cooler than me (a feat in itself).

And, even if my first impression bombed, at least this one can still be saved. Because after bite one, you’ll not only fall in love with this cupcake, but you’ll probably love me, too.

So I guess I’ll start mentally preparing for your fan letters. I’m sure they’ll arrive any moment now.

Wanna have your cake and your cookie?

**This recipe uses a homemade EGGLESS cookie dough recipe. Since the key is to have a gooey, soft cookie dough center, you want your cookie dough to be completely frozen. That way, when your cupcakes are baking, the dough inside doesn’t cook all the way. You can use premade cookie dough; however, bear in mind that premade cookie dough contains eggs and it’s never a good idea (even though my mom is a smart lady!) to consume raw eggs.

You can make any of your favorite cookie dough recipes; however, I used the one offered by the original recipe. If you use your own recipe, remember that 2 Tablespoons milk = 1 egg.**

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes with Cookie Dough Frosting *adapted by Kevin and Amanda’s recipe … genius!

For Cupcakes:
1 box yellow cake mix, plus ingredients on back of box
1 small box SF/FF French vanilla pudding mix
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For (eggless) Cookie Dough:
2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
4 T milk
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

For Cookie Dough Frosting:
3 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
4- 4.5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 T milk, if needed
Mini chocolate chips, for sprinkles

1. First, prepare cookie dough in a large bowl: Beat together butter and both sugars until creamy. Beat in milk and vanilla. Lastly, slowly beat in flour and salt. Stir in chocolate chips. Using a small cookie dough scoop, portion out cookie dough into small balls and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Freeze for several hours or overnight until completely firm and frozen. This is KEY.
2. Once cookie dough is frozen, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, prepare cake mix according to package directions. Stir in pudding mix and the vanilla extract. Using your small cookie dough scoop, fill muffin cups about 2/3 full (one heaping scoop did it for me). Place one cookie dough ball right in the center of the cupcake. Do not top with more batter; the dough will sink a little as the cake rises. Bake, approximately 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in (the cake part) comes out clean or with little moist crumbs. Cool completely. The tops of your cakes may have signs of cookie dough (mine did). That’s okay! It’ll be covered by frosting anyways.
3. Once cupcakes are cooled, make frosting. In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat together softened butter and brown sugar until creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until you’ve reached a stiff but spreadable consistency. Beat in vanilla and milk, if too stiff, for 1 minute. Once desired consistency is reached, pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Store in fridge.

These taste absolutely identical to chocolate chip cookie dough–it’s insane. This cupcake is more about the dough flavor than the cake flavor, so it’s even better–sorry cake, but you’ve been outshined.

And remember, you can eat these no matter your gender or if you’re expecting or not. I will only judge you if you don’t make them.

…Or if you begin counting how many sticks of butter were used.

Happy First Impressions!

xo, Hayley

Watermelon Cupcakes

 

I wish summer was like how summer is portrayed in a Crate and Barrel catalog.

The table is elegantly dressed in bright, punchy linens with matching FABRIC! napkins in those napkin rings, with color-coordinated dishes and delicious food that surprisingly isn’t being invaded by flies or ants and hasn’t been viciously violated by the heat’s damaging rays. Where the kids are behaved, playing politely with a $500 lemonade stand that only rich parents can afford, and the party guests are well dressed, well groomed, and aren’t drunk/gross/or miraculously, sweating.

How are they not sweating?

It isn’t even officially summer and Sacramento is experiencing a sweltering 95-degree day.

I bet Texans are laughing in our faces right now, but honestly, I’m no Southerner. I’m a Valley girl. And Valley girls don’t much appreciate sweating themselves a pair of …you know.

It just doesn’t look right.

Everything in those catalogs always looks perfect. How come life never goes according to catalog plans?

First of all, my family is weirdly antisocial and never has any sort of party or function in which any guests other than my boyfriend come over. Second, we don’t have color-coordinated stuff in colors like tangerine, lime verbena or raspberry fizz. And we definitely have never owned napkin rings, which are better equipped as bracelets for a 5-year old’s dress-up party.

And movies about high school are never about high school. I get it–“it’s only a movie.” But seriously, have any of those directors ever been to high school? It’s nothing like the movies at all.

Kids, even the nerds, definitely aren’t as good-looking as movie-star nerds. And even though it’s one of my all-time favorite movies, Mean Girls is hardly a realistic portrayal of high school girls.

I mean, only about 2 girls at school wear high heels. And they’re usually the slut or just trying to be one.

And I only wish Tina Fey was my math teacher. Though I never made it beyond Algebra 1, and even watching those math scenes in the movie makes my head spin… so I’d probably never be in her class.

Instead, I’m stuck with my high school experiences being nothing like the one I was promised in Mean Girls and a non-existent summer BBQ party with a plastic tablecloth from Dollar Tree and some paper napkins, sweating myself silly.

I’m so not summer BBQ party chic. In fact, I guess you could say I’m kind of a loser for not having matching table linens and not wearing high heels to class.

I think I’m pretty cool.

And I’m pretty sure (like 100%) that pretty cool people make pretty nifty watermelon cupcakes.

I didn’t even have to go to Algebra 2 to know that.

Whether you’re having a super catalog-worthy backyard BBQ or not, you can enjoy these cupcakes, too. They taste exactly like watermelon, with big, bold flavor. And they’re so darn cute and easy to make!

Plus, you can use a PAPER NAPKIN to wipe your face up.

You’re so rebellious.

**Mini Note!: I wanted these cupcakes to be SUPER watermelon-y, so I used watermelon syrup, watermelon oil AND watermelon jello. If you can’t find one or would prefer a tamer flavor, you can omit the syrup and use water for the cupcake batter, OR only add the watermelon jello and skip the oil, syrup and pudding. However, I think the way I did it tastes the best, but use your own taste preference as a guide.**

Watermelon Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
3 egg whites
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/4 cup watermelon syrup (I used snow-cone syrup I found at Walmart–use water if you can’t find syrup or want a tamer flavor)
1 small box SF/FF vanilla pudding mix
2 drams watermelon oil, divided
1Tablespoon watermelon Jello mix
Mini chocolate chips
Frosting ingredients (recipe and ingredients follow)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, egg whites, applesauce,  & syrup (or water) until blended, about 2 minutes. Beat in pudding mix (omit if only using jello). Lastly, beat in 1 Tablespoon watermelon jello mix and one (1) dram of watermelon oil. This will give it an intense watermelon flavor! At this point you can either stir in about 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips OR layer them, like I did.
2. To layer: Put one heaping spoonful (or cookie dough scoopful) of batter into each muffin cup. Sprinkle tops with a few mini chips. Top with another scoopful of batter, and sprinkle with more mini chips. Bake, approximately 15-17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Watermelon Frosting

1 can vanilla frosting
2/3 cup softened butter
1 16oz bag powdered sugar
2-3 T milk
1 dram watermelon oil
Green food coloring
Mini chocolate chips

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together butter and the entire dram of watermelon oil until creamy, about 2 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Mixture may turn paste-y. If this happens, add milk ONE Tablespoon at a time. Continue adding milk and/or powdered sugar until you’ve reached a soft but spreadable consistency.
2. Meanwhile, tint vanilla frosting green. Fill a pastry bag with green frosting. Using a small tip (I used Atecco 12) pipe green frosting in a thick circle around the perimeter of the cupcake. If you’d rather, you can frost the tops of the cupcakes green and continue onto step 3.
3. Place watermelon frosting into another piping bag, fitted with Atecco tip 807. Pipe pink watermelon frosting into the center of the green circle (covering the exposed part of the cupcake) or into the center of your frosted cake, leaving a green border. Pile on as high as you’d like. Sprinkle with remaining miniature chocolate chips. Store covered in the fridge, or consume immediately for tastiness.

Of ALL of the cupcakes I’ve made (and you all know I’ve made many!) these are one of my top faves! They’re moist, refreshing and taste so much like watermelon, it’s ridiculous.

Plus, the watermelon frosting is INCREDIBLE.

Enjoy, my paper-napkin using friends!

And PS, you’re all invited to my summer backyard BBQ if I ever have one.

xo, Hayley

Oreo Cookie Cream Cheese Brownies

I always feel like, as a girl, I have a certain expectation to look a certain way.

Since I live in California, this usually means I should be extremely tanned with a model body, bleached blonde hair and wear denim cut off shorts and swim suits.

I think the only thing I relate to in the above description is I’m a girl. Hardly looking like those ones previously mentioned.

But I don’t worry about it. I prefer my naturally pale skin to be perpetually pale throughout the year, which means blinding people with my Casper-white legs while frolicking on the beach. My naturally dark hair was once bleached blonde, but I recently went to the darker side, which kinda makes me look like Snow White, which I kind of like. And I own one pair of denim shorts, and I’m sad to report they’re not even cut offs.

You could say I’m a horrible typical Californian.

Except for the whole rolling-through-stop-signs, aka “California stops” and flipping people off.

I think every Californian does that.

We’re jerks on the road; I know and I admit to this.

Despite failing to live up to the typical California-girl expectation, and unlike Katy Perry’s song (my skin has never melted a Popsicle (but it’s worth a try), I definitely have a certain personal expectation of how I like to look.

Even though I’m twenty years old and have no special engagements which would require this absolutely tedious task, I plan all of my outfits very carefully, with the not-so-eager help from my mom and sister who are constantly asked, “Does this look okay?”

I have a closet full of clothes, and I enjoy putting together new outfits. But there’s still always ample room for more clothes, as 99.9% of women can agree.

And what’s the big whoop with wanting to look good? People say you shouldn’t care about what others think, and I don’t, but I do care about looking stylish for myself.

That’s why I never wear flip flops or sweats in public. It’s just a gigantic no-no in my book.

Now I’m aware that 100% of the population is okay with flip flops, but they just aren’t my thing. I mean, really, at the beach, I’ll just wear flats. I seriously hate flip flops.

In fact, I hate most warm weather attire. No matter how I look at it, my body just doesn’t look like the girls from the Victoria’s Secret catalog, and I really hate when the pocket lining is visible from the microscopically short shorts that are only available during this season.

Therefore, it’s incredibly hard to live up to my personal stylish expectations when I’m limited to clothes due to my incurable hatred for flip flops and denim cut offs.

So I try and be different and wear cute dresses or my go-to of bright cotton shirts and shorts. And honestly, that works for me.

I may not look exactly like I “should” (who makes up those lame rules, anyways?) but I enjoy being different, and that works with me!

This random story actually has some kind of relevance to my post today, about my Oreo cookie cream cheese brownies. I saw a picture on Betty Crocker’s website for cream cheese brownies and I had to make them. Though mine didn’t look as pretty as hers (I need a food stylist, just sayin’) they tasted amazing. So don’t be fooled by what is atypical, because most of the time, it’s even better than the rest!

Oreo Cookie Cream Cheese Brownies *inspired by Betty Crocker’s Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies 

1 box brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker’s Original Supreme, but any box mix will do), plus ingredients required on back of box
4 oz (half a package) softened cream cheese
1 egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons sugar
10-15 Oreos, coarsely crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8×8 inch baking pan. Prepare brownie batter according to package directions. Spread 3/4 of the brownie batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with some of the crushed cookies. In a medium bowl, beat together the softened cream cheese, egg, vanilla, and sugar until blended. Stir in 1/4 cup crushed cookies. Drop cream cheese mixture by large Tablespoonfuls into brownie batter. Drop remaining brownie batter over cream cheese mixture. Cut through the batters with a butter knife, swirling batters together for a marbled effect. Sprinkle with remaining crushed cookies.
2. Bake for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted 1″ into the middle of the brownies comes out mostly clean. Cool completely, and then store covered in the fridge.

**I found that the cream cheese mixture was less prominent in these brownies than I’d liked. If you prefer a light cream cheese flavor, keep it at 4 oz of cream cheese. If you want it to be more cheese-cakey, use a full 8 oz package of cream cheese and add another Tablespoon of sugar and another 1/4 tsp of vanilla.**

These brownies were ooey, gooey and delightfully atypical than the normal chocolate brownie bar. So good! And since it’s summer, I highly recommend these with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum.

Enjoy being different!

xo, Hayley

Red Licorice Cupcakes

While looking through those newspaper ads that come in the mail, I saw at one store that if you purchased six boxes of Nabisco products, you’d get a free movie ticket voucher. Needless to say, I got pretty excited.

Until I realized I absolutely DETEST going to the movies.

The movies would be far more enjoyable if they banned crying babies, people who bring in crying babies, children, teenagers, and old people with hearing disabilities who are constantly whispering to their neighbor, “Whaaaaaat did she just say? Whaaaaaaat’s going on!?

Nevermind, let’s just exclude everyone but me from the movies to make it fair.

Why am I the lucky one? (Besides the obvious?)

Because unlike crying babies, I do not cry. Unlike the mothers who bring in their crying babies, I do not have crying babies, much less a single crying baby to disturb fellow moviegoers. Unlike children, I do not kick the backs of people’s seats, run up and down the aisles like a miniature crack addict, or giggle incessantly throughout the movie. Unlike teenagers, I do not text during the film I spent a disgusting $12 on, laugh with my equally pimply-faced, obnoxious teenager friends over sexual innuendos or lame fart jokes, and I do not make out with aforementioned pimply-faced obnoxious teens during the movie. And, lastly, unlike older folks, I do not whisper constantly to my neighbor as if she were the direct-from-the-set movie translator, explaining every single detail and every bit of dialogue going on in those weird whispers older people do that’s a weird mixture between a scream and a whisper–you know what I’m talking about, those really LOUD whispers. Those. Those are annoying.

Therefore, none of the above-mentioned patrons should be allowed in movie theaters.

It’d be SO much more enjoyable if I could stroll into the theater, choose a seat right in the middle ballpark, prop my feet up on the EMPTY seat directly in front of me, and nosh on my smuggled-in snacks (because who genuinely spends $10 on a small pack of M&Ms?) in my own peaceful and quiet world.

Then, I wouldn’t have to worry about those FREAKISHLY ANNOYING people who sit down RIGHTNEXTTOYOU even though there are like, 10 million other EMPTY rows around with JUST AS GOOD SEATS if not better. Or those people who clearly see that, after a long day of being a food blogger, you have your feet propped up on the empty chair in front of you and decide, “well, of all of the HUNDRED seats in this auditorium, I think I’m going to choose thatone that’s been claimed by those beat-up Chuck Taylors.”

If I could sock those people in the face, I totally would.

But then I’d be just as bad as one of those annoying kids who kicks the back of your chair.

Can I tell you a funny story? Okay.

A long time ago, my mom took my kid friend and I to see a movie. Everything was going positively smoothly until, mid-movie, the younger child sitting behind us suddenly became disruptive. It was then that my friend could not stand the obnoxious perpetrator and punched that kid in the face.

It was a glorious moment. To this day, still one of my favorite moments.

Because the ONLY time it’s okay to hit a kid is when YOU’RE a kid too and the other kid is being seriously obnoxious. Like during a $12 movie.

That was money well spent, Mom. PS– we should invite her to another movie and see how she handles those annoying teenagers…

And don’t you hate those theaters that only have a one-way entry and exit to the aisles? So if you’re in the middle and someone sits on the end seats, you have to do that awkward tip-toe thing past them in order to go to the bathroom since there’s no other way out of your row.

And I don’t know about you, but I always gotta pee. It’s a girl thing, I think. Another reason why I hate going to the movies: I pay $12 to basically test my bladder to hold in an abnormal amount of urine that has suddenly materialized in my bladder while I’m enjoying my comedy flick.

It’s like, my body, my sanity AND everyone and their old, loud-whispering grandmothers are out to get me when I’m innocently and silently trying to enjoy a movie.

It’s truly tragic.

So I don’t go all that often. But I still don’t miss out on my absolute favorite movie-staple snack: RED LICORICE.

Red Vines are the ultimate movie theater treat. Soft, chewy, FAT FREE? Um, hello. And you don’t have greasy popcorn fingers or weird fake butter breath so making out or holding hands with your significant other (NOT IN THE THEATER!) isn’t all disgusting.

I probably eat Red Vines once a week. They’re seriously addictive.

And I was both troubled and excited to see that there were NO recipes for red licorice cupcakes out there. Would this mean I would be the revolutionary baker who conquered the world of cupcakes, movie-theater-eats edition?

Doesn’t matter, ’cause I took the challenge, anyway.

These cupcakes are really yummy and taste VERY close to the real thing (crazy!) To make them, you need special red licorice oil and cherry oil, which you can find from the awesome team at Layer Cake Shop.  While you’re there, stock up on adorable cupcake wrappers–they have the cutest.

Ready to experience the crazy-baking magic?

Red Licorice Cupcakes

1 box white cake mix
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 egg whites
1 1/4 cup water
1 small box SF/FF vanilla instant pudding mix
2 drams red licorice oil
1 dram cherry oil
Red Vines or your favorite licorice pieces as decor, optional
Frosting ingredients (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin pans with paper liners. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, applesauce, egg whites and water until well blended, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pudding mix and one (1) dram red licorice oil and HALF the dram of cherry oil, and mix until thoroughly combined. Portion into muffin cups and bake, approximately 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
2. Make red licorice frosting and frost or pipe cupcakes with frosting. Top with pieces, sprinkles or chunks of red licorice (I snipped 2 strands with kitchen shears to create my “sprinkles.”

Red Licorice Frosting *tastes kind of like cherry, but has a good flavor regardless!

2/3 cup softened butter
1 dram red licorice oil and remaining HALF dram of cherry oil
About 2-3 cups powdered sugar (eyeball it)
1-2 T milk, if needed

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and flavoring oils until creamy and blended, about 2 minutes. Gradually add in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until desired consistency (soft but spreadable) is achieved (I honestly eyeball my powdered sugar from a large 32 oz bag, so I’d say it was about 2-3 cups) If your frosting is too thick, add some milk to thin it out.
**This frosts about 12 cupcakes, so double for the full 24**

Can we get a unanimous YUM?

They’re seriously delish. And you don’t need to punch kids in the face or snarl at teenagers to enjoy them!

If I were you, I’d totally bake these up right now and snuggle with your spouse, BFF or furry friend and watch some rom-com (or if you prefer not to be emasculated, a thriller). Then enjoy being able to recline comfortably with no jerk-wads takin’ up your makeshift foot-rest.

(BTW, on an unrelated note, THANK YOU SO MUCH for all your continued support! I reached 2,700 views today and am continually amazed by your encouragement and interest in my baking endeavors! You guys ROCK!)

xo, Hayley

Peanut Butter Cup Cake Pops

I really like days off.

I find them to be immensely productive, whether that be ‘productive’ in the true sense of the word, like running errands and cleaning my house, or ‘productive’ as in watching all of the taped episodes of The Real Housewives of Orange County on my DVR and eating bowl after bowl of baked Cheetos.

You know of my obsession. Don’t act all surprised.

Today, I had the day off and decided to do a little shopping before my dentist appointment (see? Productive).

As usual, I was disappointed. You remember my post about trends and how awful they are nowadays. I’m literally depressed. It makes me want to sob into my twenties and hope that the world will be a better, cuter-dressed place soon or else I may lose it forever.

I’m on a (recent) diet and have proclaimed I’ll lose five pounds by the 17th. It’s quite a daunting task, seeing as the gym and I have it in for each other (gym is SO needy and demanding!)

And guess what? I’ve already lost two pounds!

I know, I shouldn’t be talking about losing weight on a blog that promotes baking and eating such delectable treats. But my job is to present the treats, not tell you what to eat. You totally could just have a looksie and never eat anything I make; I wouldn’t judge you (okay, I would a little, but not that much).

So anyways, lost two pounds. Obviously this is a stellar accomplishment and I am super duper proud of my efforts. (Actually, to be honest, I haven’t been to the gym in three weeks and have eaten like a starved hog since then and somehow managed to lose 2 pounds, but we’ll pretend I worked really hard). So I wanted to reward myself and my hard work a job-well-done with some cute clothes.

Alas, I was heartbroken that I didn’t get anything but some eggs at the grocery store. Those aren’t that fashionable, so I’m kinda bummed out.

Everyone knows that bummed out Hayley = treats off the wazoo. So I made some for you.

They’re peanut butter cup cake balls, and they’re absolutely ridiculously good.

Well–so my family says. Remember my diet? I’m totally not allowed to eat these. But don’t tell anyone if I snuck in a little, teensy nibble.

And if you’re having the worst luck like me in finding some cute fashions these days, at least you can comfort yourself in making these while we wait for the world to improve.

Peanut Butter Cup Cake Balls *adapted by Wilton’s Peanut Butter Cake Ball Pops recipe 

1 box Devil’s Food cake mix (I always use Duncan Hines)
1 small box SF/FF chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
4 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 pkgs (4 each) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, roughly diced
1/2 can chocolate frosting
2 pkg Wilton Peanut Butter candy melts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 13×9 inch baking pan. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, water, oil and eggs until well blended, about 2 minutes. Stir in the pudding until fully blended. Pour into prepared pan and bake, approximately 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
2. Crumble cake into a fine crumb consistency in a large bowl. Add the peanut butter and 1/2 cup canned chocolate frosting, as well as half of the chopped peanut butter cups. Using your hands, mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Form into 1″ inch size balls and place on a wax paper lined baking sheet. Freeze about 15-20 minutes or refrigerate about 2 hours until solid and chilled (not frozen).
3. Melt peanut butter candy melts according to package directions. Dip the tip of a lollypop stick into the peanut butter candy, then spear a cake ball. Dip and twist the cake ball into the peanut butter candy melts, coating the entire ball. Allow excess peanut butter to drip off. Sprinkle tops with remaining chopped peanut butter cups. Allow to dry vertically in a styrofoam round or block, and let harden completely before eating or photographing or crying or whatever it is you do with these.

…However, I suggest eating them, but that’s purely my opinion (haven’t I mentioned my opinion is always right!?)

Happy Dieting and NOT Shopping!

xo, Hayley

BBQ Cupcake Toppers

Summer’s here!

(Well, kind of).

‘Summer’ is kind of a sore subject for us Sacramentans.

In fact, mention ‘summer’ and everyone around here gets butt-hurt that it’s been raining the past few days.

Everyone’s whining, Isn’t it supposed to be June!? Why is there raiiiiiiinnnn?

Yeah, we get it. It’s raining and hailing and there may have been the oddball tornado warning a few days ago. And thanks, but I’m aware it’s June. And this weather is occurring.

In fact, I’m pretty sure THE ENTIRE FREAKING POPULATION OF SACRAMENTO IS AWARE IT IS JUNE AND RAINING.

So really, there’s no need to complain about something everyone is aware of. Right?

I’m just looking out for you guys, saving you unnecessary topics of casual, awkward conversation and breath that would better be saved talking about something more interesting and thought-provoking than the bad weather for a summer month.

That, and no one gives a flying crap.

Plus, personally, I’m quite the fan of stormy weather. It gives me an excuse to be lazy, which is awesome.

But, have no fear, complainers: Your summer is around the corner. And if you are actually experiencing a real-life summer where ever YOU are in the world, congrats! Here’s some adorable summer BBQ cupcake topper ideas for you.

They’re perfect for a backyard summer BBQ that does not currently exist in Sacramento without your ribs getting hail on them.

At least they’re cute to look at it. And yummy, too!

I’m obviously really good at resizing pictures and editing them for your understanding.

So anyways, summer BBQ cupcakes. Who wouldn’t want an adorable (edible!) hamburger and hotdog on top of their cupcake in accompany to their real hamburger and hotdog?

The more, the better.

I originally made these for my dad’s birthday last year, in 2010. He loved them, and they’re still quite the hit on my Food Porn album on Facebook among my friends and family. So I decided to do a quick tutorial/post on them since they’re summer appropriate.

Here’s how to do it.

You’ll need 24 baked and frosted cupcakes. You can pipe the frosting on, but I wanted a flatter surface for these guys. I also added the rainbow non-pareils sprinkles after I topped them.

Take two Nilla Wafers and invert them on your workspace. Add a dab of frosting (I used leftover vanilla) on one side and top with an unwrapped peppermint patty candy. Squirt a little of your red and yellow tube frosting on top of the patty and add shredded green coconut that was dyed with food coloring. Top with another Nilla Wafer that’s been spread with frosting, and gently press together to form the burger. Allow these guys to sit for about 5 minutes so the frosting can harden before topping your cupcakes.

For the hotdogs, carefully split a circus peanut down the middle, careful not to split it entirely in half. Roll an unwrapped Bit ‘O Honey candy in your palms and pinch the ends together to round them into a log or hot dog shape. Place the Bit ‘O Honey candy inside the sliced Circus Peanut, wedging it in there carefully without breaking the peanut in half. Squirt on some yellow and red tube frosting for the ketchup and mustard.

It’s really that easy.

Aren’t they cute?

And they’re meat-free for your veggie friends :)

You could even add diced green gum drops to the hot dogs as “relish” if you’d like, but I thought these were cute without it.

All your BBQ friends will be totally impressed, even if they’re moping about how it’s raining outside.

Happy BBQing, and Happy Summer!

xo, Hayley

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