Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsDo you listen to the Stuff You Should Know podcast? My sister turned me onto it a few months ago and it was love at first listen. As my job is very solitary, I spend my days listening to Josh and Chuck talk about all sorts of things I have never given a passing thought. Imagine my surprise to find that yesterday’s episode was about something that I know all about: cake!

Yes, I spend many waking hours thinking about cake. Really. At any given moment, I am thinking about baking, layering, decorating, or eating cake. If you listen to the podcast (which you should!), it sounds like Josh, Chuck, and I may have that in common…the eating part anyway 😉

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsOne thing we definitely agree on though is that we all occasionally eat cake solely as a vehicle for frosting. For some *unknown* reason, it’s socially unacceptable to eat a bowl of frosting, so we eat cake to get our fix 😉 Until now, anyway…

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsEnter buttercream candies: literally frosting coated in chocolate.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsFrosting. coated. in. chocolate.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsFrosting for frosting’s sake.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsIf you’re anything like me (or Josh and Chuck, apparently), this is basically the best news ever. These are the no-bake treat of my dreams.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsYou can make buttercreams using any flavor of frosting you can imagine–if it can be whipped into buttercream frosting, it can be rolled into candy. As we’re just a few weeks out from Christmas, I’ve decided to go with Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams today 😊

The frosting base of these candies is a classic American chocolate buttercream that I’ve souped up with 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract and some instant espresso. It comes together in just a few minutes and is super fluffy and luxurious.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsChill the peppermint mocha frosting before scooping it by the teaspoon and rolling it into balls. This is not a glamorous process, but it is helped greatly by coating your hands in confectioner’s sugar.

After another chill, it’s time for a dip in melted chocolate…

Peppermint Mocha Buttercreamsand a smattering of crushed peppermints, or perhaps some holiday sprinkles.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsPeppermint Mocha ButtercreamsOne more quick chill later, the Peppermint Mocha Buttercreams are ready to eat. And oh, are they good. I mean, how could the combination of a chocolate shell and a melty espresso-mint center be anything but delicious?!

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsThey’re basically holiday perfection in a mouthful.

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsLooking for more Peppermint Mocha? Try my Peppermint Mocha Cookies ❤️💚❤️💚

Peppermint Mocha ButtercreamsPeppermint Mocha Buttercreams
inspired by and heavily adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes about 4 dozen candies

1 tablespoon instant espresso granules
2 teaspoons warm tap water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (NOT mint extract)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
16 ounces dark chocolate (not chocolate chips)
crushed peppermints, for decorating (optional)
sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together espresso granules and warm water. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and peppermint extracts, followed by espresso mixture. Add heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy. Press plastic wrap to the surface of the frosting. Chill one hour in the refrigerator.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove chilled frosting from the refrigerator and discard the plastic wrap. Scoop frosting by the teaspoon, roll into balls, and place on prepared pan. Coating your palms in confectioner’s sugar may help the rolling process. Chill rolled frosting uncovered for one hour.

Use a large, sharp chef’s knife to chop chocolate. Place in a microwave-safe bowl. Melt chocolate in 30 second increments, stirring between, until smooth. Alternatively, melt chocolate in a double boiler. Let cool five minutes.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Remove buttercreams from the refrigerator.

To dip, drop one ball of buttercream into the melted chocolate. Use a fork to coat buttercream in chocolate. Drain briefly by scraping the tines of the fork on the edge of the bowl. Use the fork to gently lay the buttercream on the prepared pan. Immediately top with crushed peppermints or sprinkles. Continue until all buttercreams have been coated and topped.

Chill buttercreams for at least fifteen minutes before serving. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream

 My birthday is this weekend! I’m going to be 31 😁 I feel a little old, but I’m also really enjoying this phase of my life. 

In my 31st year, I have:

  • seen my family on six separate occasions (together and individually), including my 30th birthday trip to Santa Fe, a super-secret surprise trip to Austin for E3’s birthday, and visits to NYC from my mom, both sisters, and sister-in-law. That’s the most time I’ve spent with them since I moved to NYC in 2007. The older I get, the more I appreciate the amazing people who made me who I am.
  • spent some time off the grid in Maine, and enjoyed it way more than I ever expected. I can’t wait to do it again in a few weeks.
  • catered a dinner party for 300 people. I had three amazing helpers, and it went off without a hitch despite the six weeks of panic that preceded it. I hope to do it again this year…because I am insane.
  • moved. And moving in New York is horrible. Heck, moving anywhere is horrible. But I love my new apartment. Shoutout to my mom for coming to help me on the coldest weekend ever.
  • navigated my way through some major life changes and lessons with some modicum of grace and dignity.
  • opened my own Netflix account. #adulting
  • realized that I am still figuring out who I am. I hope this never ends.
  • made a lot of cookies. And eaten a lot of cookies.
  • really fallen in love with my friendships. My friends really stepped up and took care of me this year when I didn’t feel like I could do it myself. There’s nothing like laughing ’til you cry when you feel like your life is a mess. Thanks, guys.
  • started a baking blog. I dreamt of having this blog for six years before hitting “publish.” Thank you for reading, liking, sharing, and making the recipes. Thank you for making this little corner of the Internet what it is: a place filled with sugar and ridiculousness. Without you, I’m just talking to myself. 

…that got a lot mushier than I intended. 

This weekend, I’ll be celebrating at a cookout with those I hold nearest and dearest. My friends are making dinner, and I can’t wait! They offered to make dessert too, but being me, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I’ll be there with pie 😊

Of course, I thought about cake, but with the heat we’ve been having, I am afraid the frosting would melt. But I just can’t let my birthday go by without cake, so I’ve been celebrating a little early with this Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream. The cake is moist, fluffy, and so, so easy. The best part? No mixer required! I’ve been making this cake for two years, and I can safely say that it’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had. And that’s coming from a self-proclaimed vanilla person. 

The frosting is a tribute to one of my very favorite things: chocolate malts. Oh yes, I love a chocolate malt. I just *have* to have one at least twice a month. It only seems appropriate that I’d use it as inspiration for my birthday cake frosting. This is a super easy chocolate buttercream with a hefty dose of malted milk powder. It’s creamy, dreamy, chocolaty, malty magic. If malt isn’t your thing, I recommend replacing the cup of malted milk powder in the recipe with an additional cup of confectioner’s sugar. It’ll still be delicious 😊 

As for decorating, I went for a sort of naked cake approach here, using the bulk of the frosting to frost the top and fill the layers. This recipe makes enough frosting to fully frost and fill a two layer 9″ round cake, if you’d like to cover the whole thing. If you want to pipe, you’ll need to make 1.5 times the recipe. No matter which route you choose to go, your cake will be fantastic.

If you don’t have a reason to make cake this weekend, I give you full permission to use my birthday as an excuse. We’re Internet friends after all. And friends who eat Malted Chocolate Buttercream together stay together, right?!

Have a great weekend! 

 Chocolate Cake with Malted Chocolate Buttercream
cake recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes one two layer 9″ round cake

For the pan:
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder

Cake:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch Process)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil (I use canola)
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (low fat is fine)*
1 cup strong, hot coffee (decaf is fine)

Frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup malted milk powder (I use Carnation)
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3-4 tablespoons heavy cream

chocolate chips, for decorating (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease the pans. In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together oil and cocoa powder. Use a pastry brush to paint the entire insides of the pans with the mixture. Set aside.

Make the cake batter. In a large mixing bowl to sift together flour, cocoa powder, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together oil and eggs, followed by vanilla, buttermilk, and coffee. Whisk in dry ingredients in three installments, just until combined. Divide batter evenly among the pans. Tap full pans on the counter five times to release any air bubbles. Bake 23-27 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Let cakes cool in pans for ten minutes before running a small, thin knife around the edges. Invert cakes onto cooling racks and allow to cool to room temperature.

Make the frosting. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner’s sugar, followed by cocoa powder. Mix in malted milk powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream, and beat on high for two minutes. Add more cream by the tablespoon until desired consistency is reached. Fill the layers and frost as desired. Decorate with chocolate chips, if desired.

Frosted cake will keep covered at room temperature for up to two days, and in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Note:

If you don’t have buttermilk, put one tablespoon of white vinegar in the bottom of a liquid measuring cup, then pour milk up to the 2 cup mark. Stir and let sit for five minutes, until curdled. Use as instructed in the recipe. Do not use skim or fat free milk.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream

 Peanut butter and Oreos are a match made in heaven. The salty-sweetness of peanut butter combined with dark chocolate wafers and creamy filling is straight-up amazing. Seriously, if you have never tried them together, I demand that you do so ASAP. And while there’s nothing quite like spreading peanut butter onto an Oreo, why not take this magical combination and make it into cupcakes?

Today, I’m bringing you just that–moist, fluffy cupcakes jam-packed with peanut butter and a buttercream frosting chock full of crushed Oreos. Oh yes, these are goooooooood. Like, I’ve-eaten-three-today-and-am-considering-another good. Almost too good to share. But I will, because having seventeen…make that fourteen…of these in my apartment is clearly a bad idea. 

These cupcakes are full of peanut butter flavor. There’s 2/3 cup of the good stuff mixed right into the batter. Yes, it takes that much. Peanut butter is one of those ingredients that can easily disappear in baked goods. If you don’t use a lot, you might as well just make vanilla cupcakes because that’s exactly how the final product will taste. I love vanilla cake, but when I want peanut butter, I. want. peanut butter.

Not only does the peanut butter serve to flavor the cupcakes, it also keeps everything moist along with a little bit of softened butter, a lot of dark brown sugar, and a couple of eggs. Where many peanut butter cupcakes are dry and crumbly, these stay soft and springy. The rest of the ingredients are pretty standard fare: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar, vanilla, and buttermilk. There’s also 1/4 cup of cornstarch to lighten the batter and keep the texture nice and soft. 

These cupcakes bake up to be gorgeous and golden with crackly tops. And oh, they smell ridiculously good. You’ll want to have two straight out of the oven, but you should wait because 1) you will burn your mouth, and 2) there’s Oreo Buttercream to be had! 

This frosting is pretty much everything I want in life. It’s light, fluffy, super creamy, and packed with crushed Oreos! And it couldn’t be simpler. Beat softened butter and confectioner’s sugar together until light and fluffy. I always add a pinch of salt too, just to keep the frosting from being overly sweet. Next comes some vanilla, followed by nearly a cup of crushed Oreos. There are twelve of the little sandwich cookies in this frosting! YAAAAAS. Add in a few tablespoons of heavy cream, and beat until everything is super fluffy, delicious, and ready for cake. Pipe or spread the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and garnish with more Oreos. Because Oreos.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream are too good, you guys. Too good. The cake itself is moist, springy and packed with peanut butter, while the frosting is fluffy and full of that classic Oreo flavor. They’re perfect for birthdays, cookouts, or any occasion that demands cupcakes. Just make sure that you have people to share with. I’m still eyeing that fourth one. 

 Want more peanut butter and Oreos? Check out my homemade Oreo Peanut Butter!

Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Oreo Buttercream
makes about 16-17 cupcakes

Cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2/3 cup creamy-style peanut butter*
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk*

Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
12 Oreo cookies, finely crushed (a scant 1 cup of crumbs)
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream*

For Garnish:
16-17 Oreo cookies

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.

Make the cupcakes. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter and peanut butter until combined and fluffy. Beat in dark brown and granulated sugars, followed by eggs and vanilla. Mix in buttermilk. Add dry ingredients in two installments, mixing until combined.

Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full of the batter. Gently tap pan on the counter five times to release any large air bubbles. Bake cupcakes 21-23 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a couple of cupcakes comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the pan for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Cool muffin pan completely before filling with any remaining batter.

Make the buttercream frosting. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments, followed by salt and vanilla. Mix in crushed Oreos until well-dispersed. Beat in cream until your desired consistency has been reached. Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Garnish with additional Oreos, if desired.

Cupcakes will keep covered at room temperature for up to three days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Notes:

1. Do not use natural-style peanut butter.

2. If you do not have buttermilk, you may make your own. Pour one teaspoon of white or Apple cider vinegar into a liquid measuring cup, and pour in regular milk up to the 3/4 cup mark. Stir and let sit for five minutes before using. I do not recommend skim or fat-free milk.

3. Half & half or whole milk may be substituted in the frosting, although the final product will not be as rich and creamy as frosting made with heavy cream.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

  
Things are about to get really basic up in here. I have taken all the flavors of the beloved pumpkin spice latte and mixed them into light, fluffy cupcakes with vanilla buttercream piled high on top. Pumpkin spice lattes in cupcake form? I might as well just put on the Uggs that have been relegated to the closet the last couple of years because I CAN’T EVEN. Pumpkin spice, espresso, lighter-than-air cupcakes, and dreamy vanilla buttercream? YAAAAAS. YAAAAAAAAAS. Pumpkin spice all the things!

But before we get to the cupcakes, I have a confession to make: I don’t really understand the pumpkin spice latte craze. I mean, I get that cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and coffee are good. That’s the entire basis for the chai latte, and I big-pink-puffy-heart love chai lattes. But something about the pumpkin spice latte turns me off. Maybe it’s my confusion over the pumpkinization of America. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve never had a pumpkin spice latte that actually tasted “right.” In my experience, it either tastes of artificially flavored syrup with a good dose of bitterness, or a very milky cup of coffee, neither of which are things that I get terribly excited about. I like my pumpkin real and my coffee black. But I also dig cupcakes. So here we are.

These cupcakes have a hefty dose of pure pumpkin purée (a whole cup!), more pumpkin pie spice than cinnamon (because pumpkin should taste like more than just cinnamon), and a noticeable hit of coffee flavor in the form of granulated espresso. Where many pumpkin baked goods are dense and heavy, these cupcakes are a bit on the softer, lighter side thanks to some serious baking chemistry. Yes, chemistry. Don’t panic. I am a C+ chemistry student at best, so if I can figure this out, anyone can.

To achieve a tender crumb, we need a few things: cornstarch, buttermilk, oil, and my favorite ingredient of late, whipped egg whites. Cornstarch is added to the dry ingredients. Cake flour is a mixture of all purpose flour and cornstarch, and it’s slightly lower amount of gluten makes for a velvety texture. If we used all cake flour here, our cupcakes would likely sag in the middle. They’d still be delicious, but we want them puffy. The solution is to add just a touch of cornstarch to the full volume of flour. Buttermilk also helps with tenderness, and activates our leaveners. Oil is used instead of butter. American-style butter is 15-20% water, whereas oil is water-free. Therefore, our cupcakes will stay moist for days, rather than drying out as the water in the butter and pumpkin evaporates.

 
 Airiness, something that is so often lost in pumpkin baked goods, comes in the form of whipped egg whites, just like it does in my Pumpkin Pie. Egg whites are structural powerhouses in baking. Left in their natural state with the increased moisture from the pumpkin purée, buttermilk, and oil, they would weigh these cupcakes down. But when we whip air into them and completely alter their physical form, we bypass dense, heavy cake completely. Light and fluffy cupcakes all the way.  Once the cupcakes are baked, put them on a rack to cool and get to work on the frosting. This vanilla buttercream, you guys. It is SO good. Buttery, fluffy, not-too-sweet vanilla heaven. And it’s so easy, it’s ridiculous. Beat butter until it’s fluffy and light in color, add confectioner’s sugar and salt, then vanilla and heavy cream. The heavy cream whips within the mixture and makes the resulting frosting so fluffy, I could die! (Name that movie.) You could use half & half or whole milk here, but your frosting will not be nearly as rich and fantastic. Once all your mixing is done, stuff the buttercream into a bag with a piping tip and go nuts. If you’re not comfortable with a piping bag, or just don’t have one, spread the vanilla buttercream with an offset knife.

 
Make these cupcakes this weekend or over Thanksgiving, and get your basic on. Or, if being totally basic isn’t your thing, double the batter and make an amazing layer cake! No matter how you feel about Starbucks or Lululemon or selfies, these Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes won’t disappoint.  Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

adapted from Pumpkin Cupcakes on Sally’s Baking Addiction
makes 14 cupcakes or a one-layer 9″ round cake*

Cupcakes:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 1/2 tablespoons espresso granules*
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2 large eggs, separated
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup pure pumpkin purée
1/2 cup neutral-flavored oil*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup buttermilk

Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened room temperature
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream*

Preheat oven to 350F. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, espresso granules, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together sugars, pumpkin purée, oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and buttermilk. Using a silicone spatula, fold in the flour mixture in two installments. 
Place two egg whites in a medium mixing bowl. With an electric mixer or a whisk, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the pumpkin batter, just until combined. Divide batter into prepared pans, filling each cup 2/3 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat softened butter with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about two minutes. With the mixer starting on low, beat in confectioner’s sugar in two installments. Add salt. With the the mixer on high, beat in vanilla and heavy cream, stopping to scrape down the bowl. When the frosting is to the preferred consistency, it’s ready. Pipe or spread frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

Cupcakes will keep covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Notes:

1. If you want a layer cake, you may double this recipe and pour it into two greased 9″ round pans. Bake at 350F for 25-27 minutes.
2. I use Medaglia d’Oro.
3. I use canola oil, but vegetable oil will also work.
4. Half & half or whole milk may be used in place of the heavy cream.