Part of the reason I started this blog was to reflect on and write about the people in my life who I love to bake for. I wanted an excuse to really look for the unique characteristics, the passions, the quirks that make my dear people who they are. Each birthday gives me a chance to think about that person and send them a little love. So, today I am sending a little baked love to a friend.
This friend is a force, a whirlwind, really. Each project or activity she tackles is given her all for 10 minutes or so before moving onto the next with an equal enthusiasm. Her pixie hair, her tiny stature and her pink cheeks are picture perfect to describe her… a winged pixie darting up and down and back again all while laughing, listening to music – singing along and leaving a path behind her strewn with nail polish, frosting, cherry tomatoes and books.
And today, this little pixie turns 10. She is my little sister. I was matched with her through Big Brothers Big Sisters this past winter. We get together once a week to bowl, watch movies, go swimming, play tag, do pedicures, bake, and sing a long to our favorite Glee covers. Basically, we do kid stuff and have become friends amongst the water wings, bowling balls and spaghetti tacos (yep, unfortunately you read that last one correctly).
She never misses a beat this little munchkin. We were making tacos. I was making the taco spice for the ground turkey and kept having her try it, so that it did not spice itself into the unfriendly kid taste bud zone. The whole time it was “good, good, good.” So we sat down to dig in. She took one bite, chewed, swallowed and opened her mouth as though she needed air and said “it is kind of spicy, may be you should make me a milkshake to cool my mouth down.” Like I said, she does not miss a beat.
It is a delight to be her big sister and so for her special day I made her chocolate cupcakes that spelled out Happy Birthday in cookies piled on top for her. I also made a set of cookies with her name cut out of them for her to decorate as well. The idea came from the queen of the kid cupcake: Martha Stewart. Martha went with a pale blue and vanilla theme. I went for pink and chocolate. And the munchkin stepped it up with both purple and blue to accompany her tiny chocolate cakes. She figured she could share one with everyone in her class and family and still have one left for her and I. Sweet little sharing pixie.
Happy Birthday Munchkin.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Fluffy Buttercream and Frosted Sugar Cookies
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 pinches of salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup yogurt (full fat please)
Fluffy Buttercream with a hint of Chocolate
1 oz semi-sweet chocolate
1 cups (2 sticks) butter
3 cups powdered sugar
dash vanilla extract
Chocolate Rolled Sugar Cookies
1 cup flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp meringue powder
1/2 cup water
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
food coloring of your choice
Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F. Line standard muffin tins with pretty paper liners (I picked mine to compliment the royal icing color). Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the yogurt, and beating until just combined after each.
Divide batter among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
Buttercream: Melt chocolate over a water bath, set aside to cool. Put butter in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium; add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well, about 5 minutes total. Add vanilla and salt. Raise speed to medium-high; beat until smooth, about 1 minute more.
Sugar Cookies: Whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt together into a large bowl; set aside. Beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; mix in flour mixture until combined. Create a disc with the dough, wrap in plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. with racks in upper and lower thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out to 1/8-inch thick. Cut circles of your choice and cut out centers with a mini letter-shaped cookie cutters to spell your greeting. Transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If cookies become soft, refrigerate until firm, 20 to 30 minutes. Bake, switching positions of sheets about halfway through, until just golden, about 10 to12 minutes. Transfer cookies on parchment to wire racks; let cool completely before decorating with royal icing.
Royal Icing: Beat all ingredients for 7-10 minutes until peaks form. Add color and mix by hand.
Assembly: I did this over two days as it was actually quite a lot of work to make a stand out kid cupcake. First I made the Chocolate Sugar cookies and outlined the letters with the tinted royal icing. Next, I baked up the cupcakes and gave them plenty of time to cool. Then I whipped up the buttercream and placed it in a piping bag for a bit of a chocolate swirl on top. Finally, I used the still soft buttercream to stick the cookies to the top and spell out the birthday greeting.