Sweet And Crumby

Baking, a Love Story

A Trio of Cupcakes


Rich Red Velvets, Devil’s Food with peppermint buttercream, and whipped chocolate Three Musketeers mini cupcakes made up a festive tray for a Christmas party my son was attending over the weekend. It was a last hurrah before the dreaded finals week or as I affectionately like to refer to it as the “f” word.

My thirteen-year-old daughter and I had spent almost two hours just decorating 48 mini cupcakes. That was a labor of love if there ever was one. But honestly, we didn’t do it for those unobservant teens (no offense guys). We did it for us; for the fun of hanging out in the kitchen together, laughing at our ridiculous piping mistakes, and pulling the big, goofy Golden Retriever away from the table as she was only millimeters away from licking a cupcake.

That was one happenin’ Friday night at my house as we decorated like cake maniacs and then delivered them to the party in our cool “whip” big, white mini-van driven by our trusty chauffeur dad and hugged big seventeen-year-old guys as we waved good-bye to the hostess and left our cupcakes to be devoured.

Night time photos are the worst...must get external lighting. Santa?

Sometimes you look at your life and wonder, how did I get here? When did all this happen? I love that saying, and one of my favorite lines from John Lennon’s song, Beautiful Boy, “Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Ain’t that the truth. We think we know it all when we are young and the whole world is our oyster. We think we can see into the great big future and know how it’s all going to play out.

I had thought Friday nights were always going to be about date nights, late movies and all-nighters pulled studying with friends.  In my imagination my car would always be a cute, little red thing with a sunroof and speakers blown out from blasting Boingo and Depeche Mode down the 405 freeway in Newport Beach.

In my innocence, relief was when grades were posted on the back of my professor’s door and I passed a class with flying colors.  Who knew that relief would really be the peaceful silence of a baby sleeping or the sound of my son’s car pulling up in the driveway? And a big, white, dorky mini-van would be my car of choice because piles of kids can just hop in and dogs can ride shotgun.

And last night, as I pulled up to my house from a date night with my husband, I noted cars lining my driveway driven by my son and his friends, and I let out a sigh of relief. They were all here, present and accounted for and yet tears welled up without the slightest provocation. Because I know this is the beginning of another new chapter. It is one I cannot predict nor plan for but instead must take a “wait and see” approach. As a true Type A terror, I am not very good at “wait and see”.

My son is making plans for college and my daughter is almost in high school.  And me, who ever thought I would be here, more of an observer of my kids’ lives rather than the center of their universe?  I didn’t plan on that. That’s how it happens I guess. Life sneaks up on us, and if we are lucky we can look back at so many great times with hopes of there being many more great times to come…we just can’t plan the route or the destination it seems.  I guess I will just have to white knuckle it and see where we are going next.

I have included a NEW to ME Red Velvet recipe from Joy the Baker (Via The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook). It’s rich and decadent and has forever solved my “how to add red dye and not over mix the batter” problem to Red Velvet anything.  I have also linked to my Devil’s Food cupcake recipe and the frostings in the trio above so you can make the whole set if you like and wow your hostess when you bring a trayful to the next party.

Rich Red Velvets

From Joy the Baker (Taken From Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)
Makes about 1 dozen regular cupcakes or 24 minis.
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality you can afford)
2  Tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

To make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two mini muffin tins with cupcake liners. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy…about 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and beat on high another minute.

In a small bowl, make a paste with the cocoa powder, red food dye and vanilla. Add it to the butter mixture and cream together on medium speed until well incorporated.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the salt and flour.  Alternate adding in 1/2 the batter and 1/2 the buttermilk, mixing in between and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl until well combined and the color is the same red throughout the batter.

While the mixer is on low speed, add the baking soda (sprinkle over entire batter to disperse) and vinegar and mix just until combined. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop batter into each muffin cup until 2/3 full. Bake mini cupcakes for about 12-14 minutes or until lightly firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean. For regular sized cupcakes, bake for about 20-25 minutes.  Wait until entirely cool to frost cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting
10 ounces cream cheese brought to room temperature
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (you can add more if needed)

Garnish: Crumble up one of your mini cupcakes into smithereens so the crumbs are fine. Use these crumbs to top your frosted cupcake.

To make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until creamy and smooth. Add vanilla and SIFTED powdered sugar. Beat on medium and then high until smooth.  You want your frosting a bit stiff if you are going to pipe it. So keep adding 1/4 c. of powdered sugar until it is creamy but a little firm. Then refrigerate your frosting for a good 1/2 hour or so before piping.

Peppermint Frosting go here.

How to Pipe Swirls

*Always refrigerate your frosting first for about a 1/2 hour before piping with it.  It will firm up and your swoops will hold much better.
1. Snip about 1/2 inch off of a pastry bag to begin and place your plastic coupler inside the cone.  Place your favorite tip (I made the peppermint swirls with an open round tip) on the outside of the bag over the coupler and use the coupler’s ring component to screw it on over the tip.
2. Take your pastry bag and place it in a tall glass/tumbler point side down. Open up the bag and pull about an inch or so of the bag up and over the top outside of the glass to open up the pastry bag.
3. Put a toothpick in your red dye and draw a thin line of red from bottom to top inside the bag. I had to re-dip my toothpick half way into making the line to make sure there was enough red dye on it to do the job.  You will stripe four red lines in total (think 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 0’clock).
4. Then carefully scoop your frosting into the bag and fill it within two inches of the top. Fold the top corners of the bag in and roll/fold up the bag to contain the frosting. Pinch/grip tightly at the top of  the bag as you hold down the folded edge and pipe.
5. Start making your swirl at the outside of each cupcake and work your way to the center. You will be amazed how good they look and how easy it is to do. For an excellent how-to video and pictures go to Glorious Treats. Sprinkle with red sprinkles or candy cane dust if you have it.

For the Devil’s Food cake batter, I used my Three Musketeers Cupcake recipe and also the Chocolate Frosting from this post as well. I did NOT put a piece of the candybar inside the cupcake since it was a mini-cupcake and I feared that would not work as well as it does with a normal sized cupcake.

Cupcake info I wish I knew years ago: The larger the tip the better. It makes much prettier swirls and swoops and it is MUCH EASIER to pipe with the big gun tips. They require an extra large coupler. I have been told the largest tips require no coupler but I haven’t been that daring yet. My favorite tips and cupcake decorating supplies are in this kit. It is the best!  But you have to buy the ginormous coupler separately. It really changed my cupcake life. I am NOT a crafty gal and have never been very good at piping but this kit makes it rather idiot proof and I am so glad about that.

61 thoughts on “A Trio of Cupcakes

  1. Geni, I can tell that you are such a good mom from your posts. Your kids are going to do great, I just know it. And you can always mail your son some very tasty care packages that he’ll love. Hugs!

    • Honestly, there are moments I’m a crappy mom but I do think most of the time I am a good mom, not a great mom. Sometimes I reach greatness. I strive for really good because I think the moms that strive for perfection actually end up with the craziest kids. I don’t know why that is. That’s just my own personal observation. Those 100% helicopter moms that need to control their every bite, each and every playdate, harass every coach and teacher, they are a bit overboard and stress out their kids I think. That’s my two cents and probably all my opinion is worth. 😉

  2. Another lovely post 🙂 It’ 10am coffee time here in Oz and now I am HUNGRY for cupcakes. And, let me say, that icing cupcakes sounds like the perfect Friday night to me, and I appreciate the extra icing instructions. It is funny how you suddenly look around yourself and wonder ‘how did I get here’? But it sounds me to like you’ve got a lot of wonderful things around you.

    Now, how is it snowing on your website? What tricks did you do and how can I do that? It’s SUPER cute!

    • I am not so clever. Here’s how simple it is: Go to your Dashboard on WP. Last tab on your left is “Settings” Click on settings and then click on “General” (first on list). Scroll down to your last choice in “General” and check box with “Snow falling on blog” . Click save settings. 🙂 I had to google it by the way and had to read it on someone else’s post as well.

  3. You are supermom and your kids are blessed to have you! Those cupcakes look fantastic even with the kitchen lights..but I hope Santa look at your letter first *wink:)))

  4. Oh good gracious. I bet when you make these you’re still the center of their universes!

  5. Gosh darn it Geni…there you go making me cry again. 😉 You are too darn good at that. Fantastic cupcakes!!! I’m sure they were the hit of the party. (And I had a little red car too. Miss that thing!)

    • Sorry I make you cry so often. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. Anyhow thanks for the compliments and yes, I do miss my car as well. It even talked to me (“key is in the ignition”, “door is ajar”…I heard those phrases way too often) and had keyless entry. No, it wasn’t a rich girl’s sports car for the record, but it was a slightly spoiled girl’s very cool compact and way ahead of its time. 😉

  6. Oh, Geni… You are making me tear up with this! The cupcakes look amazing too!

  7. Geni, your post brought tears to my eyes. I am just a little in front of you on that road.. my son’s left for hockey/college this year and my daughter is 3rd year university (but still at home and bakes with me too:) It’s an emotional time but I can tell you will be so close to your kids always, what a great mom you are!

  8. Cute & delicious!! Great combo!!

  9. Geni, a great post, those mini cupcakes look splendid…and eye catching..and would a beautiful time with your daughter doing the decorating..beautifully written. Have a great week! x

  10. Geni, you are a great mom and a great inspiration to me. Spending time with your children in the kitchen is priceless, something that I’m trying to do more now. And the cupcakes look delicious.

  11. The cupcakes look delicious! Isn’t it amazing how priorities change?

  12. It is so true, life happens while we are making plans for it. Love those cupcakes.

  13. Geni, this post made me tear up; so beautiful! Your kids are lucky to have a mom like you.

  14. Yum! These all look so tempting. And I think I could eat peppermint buttercream for breakfast. 😉 I know there will be great times to come – it sounds like you have wonderful kids and you are such a great mom!

  15. After reading your first sentence I already knew that I wanted this cupcakes. 🙂

  16. Delicious and sweet–your relationship with your family! AND the cupcakes, I don’t doubt. 🙂

    My first car was a truly un-glamorous used station wagon, thanks to work needs, but the soundtrack of ‘Dead Man’s Party’ blasted out of a good sound system all the same! Thanks for the trip down memory lane *and* the recipes.

  17. Beautiful cupcakes! I love all of the different flavors, but the peppermint buttercream icing sounds the best 🙂

  18. Wow, two hours decorating…that takes some patience! I actually don’t think I’d mind though. It’s somewhat calming I guess. These cupcakes look fantastic! Oh, and I might add external lighting to my list for Santa as well. This waking up 30min earlier thing so I can have natural light for photos just isn’t my cup of tea.

  19. Wow…these look so impressive!! You’re such an awesome mom, Geni!! I love the tips on the frosting – I need alot of practice!! I think you’re ready for Cupcake Wars!!

  20. Geni, very touching post…your kids are very lucky to have a mom like you…and I know that they know it. The cupcakes look awesome, love how you decorated…by the way, nice to have a daughter to share the fun.
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead 🙂

  21. Geni your post brought tears to my eyes..
    I have a qoute from a book I love that I keep repeating: “nothing worthwhile is ever easy” but parenting really takes that to the next level!

  22. I am in LOVE with these cupcakes. I am such a HUGE cupcake person and I am going to try out your tips. I just can’t wait. Thanks Geni

  23. I love your writing so much. I imagine that one day, hopefully not too, too long from now, I will be in your same position watching my kids grow up and waiting to see what happens next. I can’t wait for that, but I’m trying really hard to enjoy right now too, because it’s just as important.

    Your cupcakes look amazing. I need you to come bake for me. 🙂

  24. It really is crazy how life kind of sneaks up on you and how everything changes without you even realizing it. And you can’t stop it. That’s the scariest and most beautiful part.

    These cupcakes look amazing! I can’t believe you decorated so many of them!

  25. These looks amazing little treats. When we build our kitchen word robe with colorful gadgets then all ages of kids would like to help out.

  26. Peppermint butter cream that just sounds divine

  27. Oh Geni, you sound like the best mom and this post brought tears to my eyes. My kids are still little but I wonder how I will be emotionally when they grow up and leave the nest to start the new chapter in their lives. Scary but exciting too.

    I bet your kids love it when you bake up these goodies, I’m sure it brings back some good memories of when they were kids. My aunt use to visit my cousing once a month when he went away to college. Omg, she spoiled my cousin with fresh homemade Italian food, she would prepackage them so he could freeze it. He lived in a fraternity house. All the guys loved it when my aunt came to visit, she was the center of their universe. She loved the attention and went to town with baking and cooking Italian food. I’m sure this new chapter in your life will be an adventurous one,

  28. How adorable those little beauties!

  29. Oh, dear Geni these are so beautiful… Should be so delicious too. I am not good as you in the kitchen but one day I want to try these little lovely cakes. Thank you dear Geni, it was also so nice writing, with my love, nia

  30. those look great, and I understand taking the time to spend together in the kitchen. It really makes for good memories.

  31. Sounds like you gals had a great baking adventure. I’m way overdue for a cupcake date with my sweet mama!

  32. Yum, cupcakes rock. Thanks for sharing on Crazy Sweet Tuesday!

  33. Looks yummy. Good luck with Santa 😀

  34. how did i miss your CUPCAKE post??!?!?!?! lol they are lovely!

  35. Tested and tried – this recipe and icing are amazing! The tips about using a bigger nozzle have also now changed my life. Yes, I’d go that far. I’ll be reposting them soon too 🙂

  36. Pingback: Part 1 – Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting « Clever muffin

  37. Pingback: Part 2 – Butter cupcakes with red cream cheese frosting « Clever muffin

  38. Pingback: Red velvet monster cake with cream cheese frosting « Clever muffin

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