Monday, March 31, 2008

Cutest Cupcake Contest by Martha Stewart


*UPDATE Click here to see the winners!

To go along with Cupcake Week on MarthaStewart.com enter your Cutest Cupcake for a chance to win not only a cupcake tree, but maybe your cupcake will be featured on the Martha Stewart Show!

Upload your photo or view photos here! Deadline is April 4, 2008.

Good luck friends!

Cupcake Week on Martha Stewart


Hi friends! If you have not heard the news, then let me share the declaration from America's homemaker, Martha Stewart. It is "Cupcake Week!" Our three lovelies (Allison, Nichelle and Rachel) from Cupcakes Take the Cake taped a segment to help kick off cupcake week! Check these photos from the set and look at their darling handmade cupcake jewelry; so cute! Click here to see Cupcakes Take the Cake website!

Also, do not forget to check out some of Martha's pictures for the most beautiful cupcakes, recipes and cooking tips! Click here to see pictures of Martha's Favorite Cupcake Bakeries and images of individual cupcakes. Click here to see favorite recipes as seen on Martha's Show.

Get the recipe here for the Coconut Cupcake picture above from the Martha Stewart website!

Cupcakes are everywhere!
Best!

(Special thanks to Thomas Barwick for the use of this picture.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Ultimate Rocky Road Cupcake: Chocolate Cupcake with Caramel Buttercream Frosting [Marshmallow, Pecan, Chocolate Chip]


Hi friends! It's a multiple cupcake kind of week! Since the deadline for Cupcake Hero is fast approaching, I needed to get my recipe in. I have always liked Rocky Road ice cream, Rocky Road brownies, Rocky Road anything! This cupcake is a really tasty creation but unlike traditional Rocky Road with walnuts, I used pecans.

This moist chocolate cupcake is only a bigger slice of Heaven when you taste the frosting. It is a creamy caramel buttercream loaded with marshmallows, pecans, mini chocolate chips, then drizzled with caramel and chocolate to complete the ultimate Rocky Road experience!

Best!

Chocolate Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted (see Note)
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers. Set aside.

3. In a small bowl, sift together the flour and baking soda. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the chocolate, mixing until well incorporated.

6. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat.

7. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

8. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

9. VERY IMPORTANT: Cool the cupcakes completely before icing.

Caramel Buttercream Frosting

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp. cocoa powder (for color)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. caramel flavoring
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

1. With an electric mixer, cream shortening and butter together in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add vanilla and caramel flavoring to mixture and beat well on medium speed.

3. Add cocoa powder and confectioners' sugar (1 cup at a time). Beat on low to avoid powdered sugar from flying all over the place. Once everything is incorporated into the butter mixture turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for 30 seconds. Mixture will be dry.

4. Add cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a medium consistency is achieved. Keep beating for 5 minutes until frosting is light and fluffy.

5. Once icing is piped onto completely cooled cupcakes, sprinkle with mini marshmallows, chopped pecans, mini chocolate chips then drizzle with caramel and chocolate sauce.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Week 13: Cinnamon French Toast Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting


Hi friends! If I were to tell you I could eat breakfast all day ~ it should come as no surprise. I love breakfast foods. I love foods! But breakfast foods, oh yum! Pancakes, Belgian waffles, omelettes, crepes, muffins, french toast... which brings me to this weeks cupcake!

Cinnamon French Toast with Cream Cheese Frosting dusted with Cinnamon Sugar. I originally saw the French Toast cupcake on Bake & Destroy and was intrigued by the recipe. After a recent trip to Vermont I had plenty of pure maple syrup and decided to give the recipe a Cupcakery twist.

Seriously, breakfast foods IN A CUPCAKE! Yum! This cupcake should make you a believer! It is absolutely delicious. I live in the Hudson Valley in New York, where plenty of trees have been tapped for the maple season already in hopes to yield plenty of the tasty sweet syrup breakfast lovers (pancake, waffle, french toast) MUST have! I, personally, love maple syrup ~ it can be used so many ways and with so many things.

This is such a tasty cupcake and it got so many "ooohs" and "aaahs" at work. It is definitely a keeper.

Best!

French Toast Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. maple extract
1/2 cup milk

1. Preheat your oven to 350° degrees. Line muffin tin with baking liners.

2. Combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a mixing bowl.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and eggs until combined. Then add maple extract.

4. Alternate between whisking in flour mixture and milk into your liquid mixture. Make three additions of flour and two of milk. Beat until smooth.

5. Divide batter into prepared pan and bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched.

6. Cool cupcakes for 10 minutes, remove from pan and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1 tsp maple syrup
4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
cinnamon sugar, for dusting

1. Beat together cream cheese, butter and salt until creamy. Add maple syrup.

2. With mixer on low, add sugar 1/2 cup at a time until light and fluffy.

3. Increase mixer speed between additions.

4. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on cupcakes after piping frosting onto completely cooled cupcakes!

Monday, March 24, 2008

St. Paddy's Day Pub Crawl 2008 Winning Cupcake!

Wow! My Chocolate Guinness Stout Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Bailey's Buttercream Swirl won the St. Paddy's Day Pub Crawl 2008 which was hosted by Emiline on Visions of Sugar Plums last week! Eventhough Emiline's Mom was in a terrible car accident on St. Patrick's Day, she still did a lovely round up and managed to complete this charming and delicious event. Thanks for your commitment Emiline!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Week 12: Easter Cupcakes; Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting


Hi friends! Happy Easter to you and your dearest ones, whomever they might be! It has been a challenge for me lately to juggle all the things before me, but somehow baking has become my respite and an escape in the chaos. This whole Daylight Savings Time AND a Leap Year should technically have given me an extra day and lots more "time in the day" but more daylight does not = more time. Like say, a 28 hour day would!

I am sure as most of you know, from surfing around the internet, there are many wonderfully talented bakers (both professional and amateur). I, myself, fall into the second category. I have so much fun reading blogs, looking at pictures of finished creations and learning "how to" from other websites I read daily. I feel my skills have really come a long way in a short time. I will admit, there are those moments when I will read some of my favorite blogs multiple times daily (while I am at work - geez I hope my boss isn't reading this!) simply to get a dose of inspiration. Often times it is reading and seeing fabulous pictures which makes me want to try different methods I am used to.

There are also those moments I wish all I had to do was bake. Unfortunately, life gets too busy and I have to make time to get into my kitchen and bake. There are occasions I am not getting started on projects until after my little guy goes to bed at night. But when I get started, it is like magic. I love it. Baking gives me the opportunity to clear my head and have time to think, create... EAT! It is a splendid reward system.

I told you recently about The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, if you have not checked it out, you really should. I spent Easter at my Aunt and Uncle's home. I wanted to bring a dessert which was not too heavy. For some reason, coconut seems to be on many people's minds these days. Plus it is so versatile. I wanted to try Melissa's Fluffy Coconut Cake with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting. These cupcakes are delicious!

Now onto the good stuff, this recipe is truly a delight. I used the Reynolds Wrap "Jumbo" cupcake liners and they were the perfect size for these birds nests! Let me know how you make out should you decide to try these!

Best!

Fluffy Coconut Cupcakes
Yields 14 Jumbo Cupcakes
20 tablespoons (2 1/2) sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
9 large egg whites, at room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking pan with paper liners. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. In separate large bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. In a separate bowl, combine the milk and vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Mix well after each addition but be careful not to overmix. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix on medium-high speed for 10 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

5. In the very clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the very clean whip attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until they hold medium stiff peaks.

6. Using a rubber spatula, briskly fold one-third of the meringue mixture into the batter to lighten it. Gently fold in the remaining meringue until just combined.

7. Divide the batter equally between lined cupcake pans. Use a spatula to level the batter.

8. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when touched with your finger, and a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a rack to cool for several minutes before turning out onto the rack to cool completely.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sweetened cream of coconut
3 cups sweetened coconut flakes (see below for adjustment to recipe)

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar on low speed, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until fluffy and smooth, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

2. Add the butter and mix on medium speed until just combined, stopping once to scrape down the sides of the bowl, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overbeat. Decrease the speed to low and add the vanilla and cream of coconut and mix until just combined.

3. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Let the frosting come to room temperature and beat with the mixer slightly before using.

4. For this recipe, follow "Toasted Coconut" directions below.
(Toasted Coconut)

Toasted Coconut

3 cups sweetened coconut flakes

1. Preheat oven to 350°F degrees.

2. Spread flaked coconut on a large cookie sheet and put into the oven. Keep a watchful eye on coconut and stir to mix levels of coconut every 2 minutes. Edges will brown first, so continue stirring every few minutes until coconut turns light and toasted.

The birds and beaks are made from my classic buttercream frosting and tinted with Wilton gel colors.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cupcake Round Up (Weekly); All Things Cupcake


Another delicious treat of a website for EVERYTHING cupcakes All Things Cupcakes; picked the Chocolate Guinness Stout Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache and Bailey's Buttercream Swirl for their weekly cupcake round up! Yay!

Cupcakes Take The Cake (Mini Round Up); March


The best website on the Internet for EVERYTHING cupcakes; Cupcakes Take The Cake Cupcake Blog Mni Round Up on March 14th included my yummy Chocolate Guinness Stout Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Bailey's Bittercream Swirl. I was tickled to be among so delicious cuppies!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Sweet Melissa Baking Book Released Today!

Hi friends! Just a reminder to let you know The Sweet Melissa Baking Book is available today from Penguin Books. I wrote about this delightful new cookbook last week. Be sure to check your nearest bookseller for a copy or purchase it online! You will not be disappointed by this charming collection of kitchen treasures.

UPDATE: Read Melissa Murphy's Amazon Blog entry!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Week 11: The Five Star Irish Stout; Chocolate Guinness Stout Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache and Bailey's Buttercream Swirl


Hi friends! Even though my home is still drying out and my hardwood floors resemble a washboard (severely warped), I was still able to come up with a fabulous cupcake for this week! I really think you will love it!

I remember making a "Guinness Stout Cake" a while back when I had a subscription to Bon Appétit magazine. The more time I spent at my "Five Star" hotel, the more inspired I became with this combination, again! As you well know, I am a fan of anything chocolate. With St. Patrick's Day around the corner, I wanted to come up with something unique and most definitely not cliché, so I tried very hard to find the recipe I remembered seeing so many years ago. The changes I made to the recipe (with my own Cupcakery twist) are below!

The cake is so moist and surprisingly not as dense as you would think. It is definitely from the sour cream. The Guinness Stout adds such depth of flavor that does not make the "chocolate" part of the cupcake taste too sweet. I would be remiss if I did not tell you how luscious the Guinness and butter simmering before adding the Dutch-process cocoa smelled. I could almost swear a loaf of fresh baked bread was in the oven (it was that good)! I have made this recipe with and with out mini-morsel chocolate chips; It's entirely up to you - but if you really like chocolate... the more, the merrier! The ganache is a perfect complement to the robust flavors of the cake and then I added a swirl of Bailey's Buttercream frosting on top of all this deliciousness. This, if I may say, was a really unexpected surprise for the tastebuds each time I make this recipe.

This, to me, is proof that God loves the Irish! Even if you are not Irish, eating this wonderful combination made with some of Ireland's most popular and flavorful beverages, you will be Irish enough to make anyone's eyes smile!

If you get a chance to kiss the Blarney Stone this year, may you have a lifetime of eloquence! If you don't get to the Emerald Isle, I can just about guarantee this cupcake will transport you there! Happy St. Patrick's Day!

These cupcakes are also perfect for a regular Tuesday at work also!
Best!

Chocolate Guinness Stout Cupcake

2 cups Guinness Extra Stout
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sour cream
1 pkg. Hershey's mini-morsel semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Line baking cups with paper liners and set aside.

2. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in large saucepan over medium heat. Do not boil.

3. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
(Once the cocoa powder is added, your mixture should look steamy like this.)

4. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend.

5. Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.

6. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine.

7. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed.

8. Using a rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Gently fold in mini-morsel semi-sweet chocolate chips.

(Mixture will appear robust and lumpy as pictured.)

9. Divide batter among paper liners and bake 17 - 22 minutes. Cupcakes are done when tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean. Let cool for about 10 minutes on a wire rack.

10. VERY IMPORTANT: Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting!

Chocolate Ganache

12 ounce pakage Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate)
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Combine both ingredients in a double boiler.

2. Continue to mix thoroughly over boiling water until ingredients are smooth and chocolate is completely melted.

3. Layer this ganache on completely cooled cupcakes and allow to harden.

Bailey's Buttercream Swirl

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. whole milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 (2 1/2 Tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream)

1. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and salt for about 30 seconds.

2. Add half of the powdered sugar and the milk to the butter and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

3. Add the remainder of the powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice. Beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl again.

4. Add Bailey's Irish Cream and beat on high speed for 5-6 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy.

5. It is preferable to use the frosting on the same day you make it, but it can keep in the refrigerator for 3 days if tightly wrapped. Make sure and stir the buttercream well before using to get the air bubbles out of the frosting and then pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Cupcake Hero; February Cupcake Round Up


For [February] Cupcake Hero ingredient of the month was Liquor. I entered my Frangelico Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cupcake with Hazelnut Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting. I did not win, but you really have to check out the other entries. The cupcake world has some very creative bakers!!

From Quirky Cupcake:
Wendy of The Cupcakery baked Frangelico Chocolate Chip Hazelnut Cupcakes with Hazelnut Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting. Just looking at them, I think I gained 10 pounds. Maybe I do need to start making the healthier cupcakes! You guys are trying to off me! I do not think I need to say anything more about this cupcake. That photo says it all. Thank you so much Wendy!

From Tempered Woman:
So they helped me out and sacrificed themselves as taste testers. Dear sweet old singing souls. And they agreed that Wendy's Frangelico Chocolate Chip Hazelnut cupcakes were some of the best damn cupcakes they have evah put into their sweet old singing throats. There was just so much goodness with the rich cupcakes that literally tasted like hazelnut chocolate chip cappuccinos. In fact, I decorated them with some cute chocolate covered espresso beans. Rush on over to The Cupcakery to check them out people! But ultimately the winner had to be somebody who truly embodied the secret ingredient of liquor. Wendy's cupcakes were incredibly good but the dominant flavor was definitely coffee in what they tasted and there just wasn't enough of the liquor in them to shine through as the obvious front runner.

* * *

There you have it! As a caveat, I think you could possibly add more Frangelico to the cream cheese frosting but you have to worry about the frosting becoming too runny. So I would increase the Frangelico in the cupcake recipe. Either way - this cupcake is definitely delicious!

The Cupcake Hero theme for March is Marshmallows!

Best!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Housekeeping: A Series of Unfortunate Events


Hi friends! I am not sure if you noticed this week my postings have been somewhat sporadic. There were a series of unfortunate events in home which have caused me to temporarily have to move into a hotel suite, complete with a kitchen so there will be no shortage of cupcakes!

Basically, the hot water heater decided to burst and unleash well over 200 gallons of water on the first floor of my home after I left for work on Wednesday and my little guy was at school. I cannot adequately describe how this amount of hot water actually looks and what it can do, but alas I fear I have lost a majority of my furniture and personal belongings on the first floor which were in the path of the water.

Fortunately, what matters most to me; my 15 year old kitty cat and my little guy, are unharmed. The rest can either be replaced; cleaned up or discarded. I have a clean up service at the house now and am a bit overwhelmed by the mess. I guess it was just about time for some spring cleaning!

I am going to try a few experiment cupcakes in the suite and see what kind of results I get! This should be fun! Life is certainly a journey; not a destination! I did, however, want to let you all know what was going on with The Cupcakery. I hope this finds you healthy, happy and prospering... most of all dry!

Best!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Sweet Melissa Pâtisseries in Brooklyn has three delicious locations where you can stock up on tasty treats. If you are not on the East Coast, I promise you will not have too long of a wait before this refreshingly delicious cookbook is available! This week, I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of this delightful cookbook from the wonderful folks at Penguin Group.

This cookbook, which I prefer to call by the title a "baking book" is filled from cover to cover with charming stories from Melissa's childhood, Professional Tips, and ways to be "Pretty Slick" with mouthwatering recipes that are sure to please even the finickiest eater!

I would be remiss if I did not tell you how much I enjoyed the layout of this baking book... "Dessert for Breakfast"; "After-School Snacks"; an entire chapter is devoted simply to "Somebody's Birthday" special layer cakes, another chapter goes on to talk about "What to do with all this Fruit"; special endings to "Sunday Suppers" and finally an entire chapter dedicated to "Favorite Gifts."

Melissa most recently won a national recipe contest sponsored by the Almond Board of California ("Marzipandimonium!" 2006) and competed on the "TV Food Network Challenge: Edible Ornaments" (airing December 2007), where she captured the grand prize. Sweet Melissa Patisserie's currently enjoy the Zagat Marketplace 2007 award for "Best Tarts and Pies" in all of NY.

Over the next few weeks I will be sampling recipes from this truly delicious collection. I will, of course, post pictures and look forward to your comments. In the meantime, pre-order your copy of The Sweet Melissa Baking Book which will be available on March 13, 2008. The book promises "the treats inside will make each day and every special occasion a sweeter one." So far, I have to say the book makes me feel sweeter!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Week 10: Grown Up Creamsicles; Grand Marnier Vanilla Cream Cupcakes with Grand Marnier Buttercream Frosting


Hi friends! I have some shocking news to share with you. News to which I have to say somewhere in the back of my brain I am sure this knowledge was kept but I was somewhat oblivious. Not naïve, just simply oblivious because I cannot imagine it. Here goes... not everyone likes chocolate.

Can you just imagine?!

Well it is true! While I was trying to come up with a recipe for this week, one of the ladies I work with said to me [and I quote] "I like the different cupcakes you make, but I really don't like chocolate!" My response... "Huh!? Who doesn't like chocolate? I mean is that really possible?" She laughed, but I remained steadfast in my quest to come up with a really delicious "non-chocolate" cupcake for this week to knock her socks off!

I decided to put on my thinking cap and try to come up with something unique this week, something tasty which did not include chocolate! My citrus kick continues and I was suddenly craving a Creamsicle. But alas, how do I turn them into a cupcake? It was easier than I thought! The response to this cupcake was AMAZING! Not only were the cupcakes moist and very tasty, but the orange zest and Grand Marnier bumped up the depth of the orange flavor. The vanilla pudding center was a delightful surprise and the kick of Grand Marnier in the Buttercream frosting is truly a burst of unexpected flavor mixed in with all the yumminess [a technical term] of this absolutely perfect recipe for buttercream frosting.

I got my base recipe from My Sweet & Saucy who has a fabulous website. Since I found this recipe I have been using it quite a bit and found several variations. I have not been disappointed by it. Overall, I was very pleased by this grown up version of a Creamsicle. I would love to hear how you like it!

Best!

Grand Marnier Vanilla Cupcake Batter

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tsp. orange zest
1/2 cup Grand Marnier Liqueur

1. Heat oven to 350°F degrees. Line baking pan with liners and set aside.

2. In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

5. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Fold in the orange zest and Grand Marnier gently after all the ingredients are mixed together. Careful not to overmix!

6. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended, then carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full.

7. Bake for 18 - 24 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

8. VERY IMPORTANT to cool the cupcakes completely before piping in vanilla pudding centers and icing.

Vanilla Pudding

2 1/2 cups half-and-half or whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1. Put 2 cups of half-and-half or milk, sugar and salt in a small or medium saucepot over medium-low heat. If using a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and scrape seeds into milk or half-and-half using small sharp knife, then add pod. Cook just until mixture begins to steam.

2. Combine cornstarch and remaining milk or half-and-half in a bowl and blend; there should be no lumps. Fish pod from pot and discard. Add cornstarch mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken and barely reaches a boil, about 5 minutes. Immediately reduce heat to very low and stir for 5 minutes or so until thick. Stir in butter and vanilla extract, if using.

3. Pour mixture into a 1-quart dish. Put plastic wrap directly on the pudding. Refrigerate until chilled. Whisk to remove lumps if needed before piping into completely cooled cupcakes.

Grand Marnier Buttercream Frosting

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. whole milk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp Grand Marnier

1. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and salt for about 30 seconds.

2. Add half of the powdered sugar and the milk to the butter and beat again until combined. Scrape down the bowl.

3. Add the remainder of the powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice. Beat until combined. Scrape down the bowl again.

4. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy. Add the Grand Marnier.

5. Continue beating on high speed for 3 minutes. Add Wilton gel "Peach" in small amount to achieve desired pastel color.

6. It is preferable to use the frosting on the same day you make it, but it can keep in the refrigerator for 3 days if tightly wrapped. Make sure and stir the buttercream well before using to get the air bubbles out of the frosting and then pipe onto completely cooled cupcakes.