Elvis Cupcakes, Family Traditions & #TopChef!

With Christmas days away, I wanted to write a fun post about two of my favorite things: holiday family traditions, and Top Chef.

bravo, top chef

First: this season of #TopChef is INTENSE! There are so many interesting Quickfires and some nerve-wracking Elimination Challenges–ones that give ME the heeby jeebies and I’m not even competing. There’s still a lot more in store, and I can’t wait to see all the nitty gritty and crazy schemes Padma and the Judges cook up for the Chefs (and to see how far my fave Cheftestant Brooke [hi, Brooke!] goes).

Second: family traditions. Our family doesn’t have many, but the ones we do have, I enjoy because they’re pretty unique to our family. I’ve heard of many families getting takeout Chinese on Christmas Eve, or gifting each other PJs, or even waiting until Christmas dinner (do people really wait ALL day?!) to open gifts. Our family is a little, er, unconventional with our traditions and that’s why I like it.

For starters, our family has this crazy tradition of waking up at the most psychotic hour of the morning to open gifts. If you thought your kid waking at 7am was too early, I would like to ask you to thank your child and count your blessings that you’re not waking up at 2am, 3am, and 230am like we have the past several Christmases. I’m not kidding.

I don’t know what it is, but I’m just obsessed with Christmas. Going to sleep on Christmas Eve is still incredibly hard for me to do–and I’m turning 22 in a month. Suddenly, I’m SOCLOSEICAN’TSTANDIT to ripping open those beautifully wrapped packages that I can’t even sleep and inevitably, I’ll wake up at 2am, send a quick “are you awake?” text to my siblings in the next room, turn on my light, and be obnoxious until my parents are forced to wake up. I never said I was the easy child.

And every Christmas morning, my mom makes my Grandma’s Coffee Cake. We’ve been eating it since I was little, and I’ve had a love affair since my first bite. It’s crumbly, brown-sugary topping–almost like a streusel, and baked until golden and crunchy and perfect. And the spicy, sweet layers of fluffy cake.. it’s no wonder my mom is obligated to make two pans since the first is inhaled within minutes of exiting the oven.

So when Top Chef recently aired an episode about the holidays, family lineage and family traditions, I fell in love with the idea. I was so intrigued to see every Chef’s interpretation of their family’s favorite holiday dish–something they look forward to, crave, and are excited to make and taste this time of year. Of course, I could totally relate to Brooke’s Apple Cheddar Pie because hello, I’m about as American as you can get and apple pie is my die-hard fave. Brooke, can I come over to your house for Christmas? Please?

I decided that in keeping with the fun family traditions theme from #TopChef, I’d post some family favorite treats that remind us all of the holidays, being together, and our personal traditions. I hope you enjoy!!


Grandma’s Coffee Cake –made every Christmas morning, our entire family looks forward to this deliciously spicy cake. We make two pans every year!
Circus Animal Cookie Truffles –these classic cookies remind me of my childhood. And this fun take on them is just too cute not to make for holiday parties!
Donut Hole Blondies –my sister and I adore blondies, and these scrumptious, decadent treats not only smell and look incredible, but taste it, too!
Churro Bugle Mix –no shocker here, but my family and I are die-hard snackers. This mix is impossible to resist! tradition2

Pie Friesevery year, I make an apple pie for Christmas dessert. With the extra scraps of dough, however, I make fries. They’re one of those treats my mom and I can’t stop snacking on!
Homemade Nutty Bars –these snack bars were a staple in my lunch and remind me of spending summers at my grandma’s house, eating them and watching Scooby Doo.
Christmas Swirl Sugar Cookies –my mom loves sugar cookies, so I make a batch every Christmas Eve for our family to enjoy while watching Christmas movies or playing games.
Pecan Snowballs –my all time FAVORITE Christmas cookie, nothing screams the holidays more than this delightful, tender bundle of ground pecans and powdered sugar.

And I thought I’d take this time to introduce you to another Parker tradition: Elvis. Ever since I can remember, my grandma has had an obsession with the King, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without his soulful Blue Christmas crooning. So why not make an All-American Elvis cupcake in the Graceland King’s honor? Plus, it’s both sweet and savory, just like in the Quickfire during the home for the holidays Top Chef episode.


Elvis Cupcakes, Family Traditions & #TopChef!
Recipe type: Cakes/Cupcakes
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18
Sweet, salty and totally sinful, these cupcakes will satisfy any King-sized appetite.
  • For Banana Cupcakes:
  • 1 box yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup (about 2 medium) bananas, mashed
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small box sugar free/fat free instant banana pudding mix
  • For Peanut Butter Frosting:
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • About 5 cups powdered sugar
  • Crispy, crumbled bacon
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin tins with about 20 paper liners and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, mashed bananas, water, oil and eggs with a mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in the pudding mix to combine. Portion the batter evenly among the muffin tins, about ⅔ full, and bake for approx. 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely.
  3. For the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the softened butter, peanut butter and vanilla until creamy and smooth, about a minute. Gradually add the powdered sugar, about a cup at a time, until light and fluffy. If needed, use a teaspoon of milk to thin the frosting out if it becomes too thick.
  4. Pipe the frosting high onto the cooled cupcakes (I did so with an Atecco 807 tip) and garnish with cooled, crispy bacon crumbles. Serve the cupcakes immediately for best taste.


004This all-American cupcake is a winner in my book. If you’re a fan of sweet and savory, you must try this! The banana cake is so fluffy and moist and is topped with that absolutely decadent, salty peanut butter frosting. Together, they’re a heavenly sweet + salty pair. However, adding the crumbled, crispy bacon sprinkles gives this cupcake an entirely new flavor profile, with its smoky, saltiness, yet subtle sweetness, the bacon elevates this cupcake to a whole new level you MUST try. I think Padma would agree 🙂

You can tune into Top Chef Wednesday nights at 10/9c on Bravo or visit Bravotv.com for complete episode guides, videos, blogs and more! Or tweet about #TopChef on Twitter!! And don’t forget to vote for your favorite voted-off Chefs in Last Chance Kitchen! #savechefcj!!

Have a great weekend!!

xo, Hayley

In the interest of full disclosure, I am working with Bravo to provide reviews for Top Chef. All opinions are 100% my own and I was compensated for this post. 

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  1. Ohhh yessssss thank you thank you very much!!!! lol Have to do these!!

  2. Have a Very Merry Christmas!

  3. I had to laugh when I read your comment about opening presents after Christmas dinner (Do people really wait all day?!). I was the first grandchild, and I had to wait almost 10 years before I got a cousin. When I was a child, my mom’s whole family would gather at my grandparents for Christmas, and presents didn’t happen until after Christmas dinner (and coffee and dessert and eons of boring grown-up chatter). It was torture, but I really didn’t know any better, so I didn’t rebel too much. As soon as my other cousins started being born, present time switched to early in the morning and I realized I’d been cheated all those years!

    • Monica, you were cheated! I guess your family wanted to test your present opening endurance and it looks like you passed! Lol, however this IS coming from a bratty kid (me) who wakes up HOURS before dawn…so I’m pretty sure if I actually had to wait all morning (read: from 2am to say, 9am) I’d probably freak out. Haha have a Merry Christmas!!

  4. Ever since Elvis re-married us, I’m totally obsessed. And, I love these cupcakes!

  5. Back for Seconds says:

    You are such a problem child! Ha!
    These cupcakes are so fun, love the combination of flavors!
    Hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas together. I’m so glad we’re friends, love ya!!

  6. We open our gifts from each other on Christmas Eve and I can never wait for the stockings in the morning so we usually get up around 3AM 🙂 I gotta have these cupcakes! Merry Christmas!

  7. OMG that is exactly what I would do! I’d wake up at 2 or 3, sneak into my brother’s room, wake him up, then we’d hang out downstairs around the presents until 6 or 7 when we were allowed to wake mom up! Sadly, that tradition ended last year, but I still think it’s awesome 🙂

  8. I made your Elvis cupcakes about a week ago and they were a huge hit! I substituted the yellow cake for chocolate and omitted the bacon, just because we didn’t have any. But they were yummy and moist! I love your recipes. I’m going to try your Chocolate PB 7-layer bars tonight.


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