Sunday, November 24, 2013

snickerdoodle cupcakes (aka, the best cupcakes I've ever made)

When we visited Seattle a few summers ago, we went to Trophy Cupcake. I had a snickerdoodle cupcake, A had red velvet. And they were amazing.

So when I was at my local library a few weeks ago, and saw this book*, I had to get it.

And it is beautiful. Not just the pictures, but the content. The cupcakes, the party decor, all of it. And guess what? It contains the snickerdoodle cupcake recipe I've been coveting for years now.

I made the cupcakes, with a few minor alterations. First, I used canned milk instead of half-and-half, and almond milk instead of milk (that's what I had). Second, I made my own cake flour** because that's not something I just have in my cupboard. I cut down the frosting recipe significantly. They frost their cupcakes rather generously, and while it is delicious, I did not want to use six sticks of butter. So here's the recipe.

Snickerdoodle Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons half-and-half (or canned milk)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
2 3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
cinnamon sugar (1t sugar + 1t cinnamon)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep your cupcake pans with liners (recipe says it will make 24, I got 30).

Sit together flour, cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Combine milk, half-and-half, and vanilla in a measuring cup with a spout. Set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in a mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment, at low speed until it is smooth and creamy (1 minute if butter is soft). Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Wait until all traces of egg have disappeared before adding the next one.

Add dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with wet ingredients in two parts. Keep mixer at the lowest speed, and mix each time until just combined. After everything has been added, scrape the bowl once more, and stir until the batter is just smooth. Let it rest for 15 minutes, then stir gently before using.

Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake about 20 minutes (cupcakes should be firm, pale but golden around the edges). Let them cool 5 minutes in the pans, and finish cooling on a cooling rack (try at least one warm, they are divine).

Cinnamon Buttercream

3 cups unsalted butter at room temp (1 cup)
6 cups confectioners sugar (2 cups)
2t vanilla extract (3/4t)
1/4t salt (I omitted, because I used salted butter)
1t cinnamon

Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Start at the lowest speed, and gradually increase the speed, scraping the bowl frequently, until the butter is light in color and perfectly smooth (30 seconds if it is softened).

Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing at the lowest speed and incorporating each cup completely before adding the next. Scrape the bowl, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and salt. Beat at low speed for 15 seconds. increase to the highest speed you can and whip for 5 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Buttercream should increase in volume and stiffen.

Frost cooled cupcakes with a generous swirl of frosting (if you made the full recipe), of a lighter swirl if you made the lesser amount. I knife-frosted some of mine, which I like the look of, to make the frosting go further. Optional, you can sprinkle with sanding sugar and more cinnamon. Enjoy this deliciously rich cupcake with buttery, not-so-sweet but wonderfully spiced frosting. You won't regret it.

*If you like parties, or cupcakes, or pretty books, you should get this book. I have been repeatedly dropping my husband hints that I'd like to own a copy of it (since it is due back to the library this week). Here's a link to the book on Amazon.

**To make cake flour, measure one cup of flour into a bowl. Remove two tablespoons of flour, and add two tablespoons of corn starch. Whisk together, and then sift together at least 3 times so that the corn starch is completely incorporated.

Dear Evelyn, you're growing up.

Well, you are 11 months now, plus one week. You're birthday is just around the corner. It seems weird now to think that soon we won't be counting weeks or months,  just years.

You mostly crawl and furniture walk still, but today you walked across the aisle and back a few benches ar church,  probably ten steps and your longest distance yet. It was pretty exciting.

You still clap, play peek-a-boo, wave at EVERYONE,  occasionally sign (more, milk, all done), and examine teeth. Now you also put things back (toys in a basket, rings on a stacker, etc.). You don't say recognizable words yet (though your cousin is convinced you said nugget), but you jabber and make noise all the time.

You go to the gym with me, and happily play with toys at the daycare there. You don't cry, which is great. And you love other kids, especially your cousins.

You eat lots of things: grapes, string cheese, peas, veggie soup,  apple, banana,  muffins, oatmeal, pb&j, rice, carrots. You love to have drinks, either water or water with a bit of juice mixed in.

You sleep through the night almost always, and nap twice a day almost always. You've started throwing tantrums, usually surrounding naptime, and we hope this isn't an omen for the toddler years. Mostly, you are funny and cheerful and friendly and sweet.

Love you baby girl, can't believe you've been here almost a year!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ready, set, go!

Evie walked, for the first time, on October 26th. She took a few little steps, halting and in desperation (it was right at bedtime, and she really wanted to get to me so I'd hold her). We've practiced since then. The first few days she wouldn't do it again. Then she decided it might be ok, especially if we gave her something to hold onto. Then tonight, in a mid-storytime break, we decided to try again tonight. And she just took off, toddling back and forth between us. We looked at eachother, a combination of excitement, awe, and disbelief on our faces. It really is amazing,  not just witnessing this milestone,  but watching her every day. People sometimes get down on parenthood-- like a recent study that showed that people without children are happier than those with-- but I really do think it is the greatest.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Life Update

I took Evie to visit my old office this week. I got a lot of "what are you up to?" and "how are things going?"

This is a tough question to answer as a stay-at-home-mom. Yes, I change diapers, cut up food into little bite-sized pieces, play peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake, snuggle and console, and have conversations with a tiny person that can only respond with gibberish. And I love it. I'm proud and grateful to do it. And yes, it is hard.

The other things I've been doing are, perhaps, less meaningful. But it is nice to be able to do things that I couldn't do when I was working. I've been making my bed everyday, staying on top of the laundry, looking into going back to school, working with the Young Women (I'm a beehive Advisor), going on errands with the babe, and making things. I've made four birthday cakes in the last two months, and my mom and I have been making bunting banners. We consigned some, and will be selling a bunch at a carnival this month.

I guess the most exciting thing is the school possibility. I looked at multiple Masters programs, and none of them felt right. I want to be sure that the next thing I pursue better prepares me to get a job. I have two bachelor's degrees, graduated second in my class, and still somehow couldn't get the job I wanted. So I decided to look into the world of medical jobs, since that seems to be a field that is steadily growing. I'm not a blood-and-guts kind of person, and am not interested in too many more years of school, so here's what I'm looking into: radiology and sonography. Essentially, two years to train to become an x-ray tech, then another two to be an ultrasound tech. It is yet another bachelor's degree, but from what I've read the job market and potential are really good.  And I could do fetal, cardiac, or vascular sonography, and make decent money. And work with people. And not have to leave the state. And who knows? Maybe I'll decide down the line to get a Master's in health administration.

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