a balanced plate with room for dessert


Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting  |

My last post was a week and a half ago. I got back from vacation last Tuesday and meant to post a vacation recap (aka photo-dump a select few of the thousands of pictures we took) and a recipe later last week. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Life got a little… crazy.

Let me back up to a month ago. I applied to a really awesome nutrition program consultant job. I didn’t think I would get a call back from them. Fast forward about a week: I get a call for an interview. I go to the interview, it goes fine, and I don’t think much more of it. Fast forward again to last Wednesday.

I got a job offer. I cried, called Mike, and didn’t sleep for the next two days. They needed an answer by Friday, and I hadn’t had time to fully process everything yet. Taking this job would mean moving back to Madison, our college town. Mike’s business is in Appleton. Our families are in Appleton. We have a house in Appleton.

After several long discussions and a total of 6 hours of sleep in two nights, I called them back and accepted. We’re moving back to Madison! Kind of. I’m estimating that I will be spending 1/3 of my time in Madison at the office, 1/3 of my time traveling to my sites,a nd 1/3 of my time in Appleton. I still can’t believe that all this is happening. Needless to say, I have a lot to prepare in the next month for the big transition. It looks like the travel yoga mat I bought for vacation is actually going to get put to some good use!

Anyway, I will spare you the photos from my vacation (for now) and instead share with you these cupcakes that I made for Mike’s birthday over the weekend. My handsome hubby turned the big 2-5! Mike gave me the go-ahead to make whatever birthday treat I wanted. Perfect.

These cupcakes were to die for. Seriously. Make these now. Everything from the cake (moist, fluffy, and chocolatey with a hint of stout) to the frosting (creamy, caramely deliciousness) is perfect. In fact, I ate all the extra frosting with pretzels and ate the rest of the caramel with a spoon. Don’t judge, because when you go finish reading this post, you will go and make these cupcakes. And you will eat all the leftover frosting and caramel, too.

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting  |

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes

for the cupcakes:
3/4 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-12 ounce bottle Guinness Extra Stout (or other stout beer), room temperature
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

for the salted caramel:
1/2 granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

for the salted caramel frosting:
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
mini pretzel twists  to garnish, optional
sea salt to garnish, optional

  1. To make the cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease 24 muffin tins or line with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the stout, butter, vanilla and eggs. Beat together until combined. Mix in Greek yogurt until smooth and well combined. Carefully stir in dry ingredients 1/2 cup at a time.
  4. Fill muffin tins 3/4 full and bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cupcakes are domed in the center and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes in pan before place removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  5. To make the salted caramel: place sugar and water in a 3 quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir carefully until sugar is dissolved, being careful not to touch the sides of the pan. Bring mixture to a boil and stop stirring. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until mixture turns a deep amber brown color, about 10 minutes. Remove mixture from heat and carefully stir in whipping cream and vanilla extract. Let cool for 1 hour.
  6. To make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and salt until light and fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time until well combined. Add in 1/2 cup of caramel and mix until fluffy.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes with salted caramel frosting and drizzle remaining caramel on top. Garnish with a mini pretzel twist and a tiny sprinkle of sea salt, if desired.

cupcake recipe barely adapted from Food Network and frosting recipe adapted from Carla’s Confections


Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Carrot cake. I love it in all different forms and with all different sorts of add-ins and toppings. Nuts, coconut, pineapple, cupcake or cake: I will shove it into my mouth. In fact, I love it so much that it made an appearance at our wedding:

Photo taken by Alacrity Photography

I don’t think I’ve ever had carrot cake with lemon, though. Not surprisingly, I love carrot cake with lemon, too. I love it a lot.

Let me back up a second. This whole carrot cake madness started because of a recipe swap. This swap was Blogger’s Choice. I was assigned Feed Me, Seymour. I found so many recipe on Kim’s blog it was impossible to narrow it down. I had five of her recipes open on my iPad, no joke. I finally narrowed it down to two and couldn’t go any further. So, I made both. The other recipe I picked from her blog will be coming shortly. I just couldn’t wait to share this carrot cake with you!

healthy carrot cake with lemon cream cheese frosting |

Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
adapted from Feed Me, Seymour

for the cake:
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups shredded carrots
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

for the frosting:
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 tablespoon skim milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch cake pan with butter and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease parchment paper with butter. Set pan aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, oil, honey, and vanilla until combined. Mix in carrots and ginger.
  3. In another medium-sized bowl, whisk together white and whole wheat flours, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
  4. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined. Pour mixture evenly into prepared cake pan. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely and slice into 36 bars.
  5. To make the glaze: combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat on medium until well combined. Pipe onto bars and serve immediately or store, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Thanks to Taste of Home Cooking for organizing! Make sure to check out the other recipe swap posts!


Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I can’t help myself. Every time I go to the store, I buy strawberries. Walking through the farmers’ market is dangerous. I buy strawberries. I just love strawberries!!! I love them in salads, I love them in cakes, and now I love them in cupcakes!

This was inspired by one of Mike’s favorite summertime drinks – strawberry lemonade. I wanted a cupcake that echoed the taste of strawberry lemonade – sweet, but tart, and really refreshing.

I think this one really hit the spot. I found a recipe on  Annie’s Eats and modified it to suit my tastes. I love this! Be warned – the more strawberry and lemon you put in, the runnier the icing will be. I ended up with 5 teaspoons of lemon juice and the whole half cup of strawberries in my frosting. I wanted the flavor in there. I paid for it with runnier frosting. Worth it 🙂

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

For the cupcake:
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and diced

For the syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

For the frosting:
½ cup fresh strawberries
6 ounces cream cheese
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
  2. In medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Stir together and set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in egg, scraping in sides, until well combined.
  4. Add half the flour mixture and beat on low until just incorporated. Mix in milk until smooth. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in strawberries.
  5. Divide batter evenly into paper lines, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Once cupcakes have cooled, whisk together lemon juice and powdered sugar for the syrup, until well combined.
  7. Poke holes into cupcakes with a skewer (I used a chopstick) and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.
  8. To make frosting, puree strawberries in a food processor or blender and set aside. Beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in powdered sugar until smooth. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract until incorporated. Mix in strawberry puree a little at a time until desired consistency and flavor is reached.
  9. Frost cupcakes and serve immediately or keep refrigerated.

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Red Velvet Cake

I made this cake for Mike’s 21st birthday party. It was a huge hit and everyone thought it tasted great. I made the cake with cream cheese frosting, even though that isn’t the traditional frosting used for red velvet cake. I think next time I will make the cake with the traditional frosting though!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get great pictures of the cake after it had been cut since my camera ran out of battery, but I managed to get a few during the assembly process.

Red Velvet Batter

Red Velvet Cake

2 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring
1/2 cup unsalted butter,  room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk,  room temperature
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round baking pans.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix together cocoa powder and food coloring until a smooth paste forms.
  3. In a large bowl with a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs one at a time and then blend in vanilla extract and red cocoa paste. Make sure to mix thorougly, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  4. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Add in half of the buttermilk. Mix in another 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the remainder of the buttermilk. Add the last 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix in, making sure that the batter is well incorporated.
  5. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and baking soda. Add this to the batter and mix in thoroughly. Divide the batter equally between the two pans.
  6. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, rotating pans once during baking. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool cakes in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and place on rack to finish cooling after 10 minutes.
  8. Frost the cake with the traditional icing or cream cheese icing – recipes are included below.

Red Velvet Assembly

Cream Cheese Icing

2 packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

  1. Blend together cream cheese and butter with a mixer until smooth. Add in vanilla extract.
  2. Add powdered sugar with the mixer on low speed.
  3. Blend the frosting on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Red Velvet

Traditional Red Velvet Cake Icing

1 cup milk
5 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk and flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Cool completely.
  2. Using a mixer, blend together sugar, butter and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  3. Stir in the flour mixture. Mix until the icing is a good spreading consistency.

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Coconut Cupcakes

My roommate, Isabel, and I were going to make a coconut cake using fresh coconut but our coconut was… fermented. So then we decided to make coconut cake using store-bought sweetened coconut; but, then we forgot to put the coconut milk in to the cake so we just made normal vanilla cupcakes instead and topped them off with some toasted coconut.

The cake recipe is Paula Deen’s 1-2-3-4 cake recipe and the frosting is her 7 minute frosting.

coconut cupcakes

1-2-3-4 Cupcakes
yields 24 cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups sifted self-rising flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Line muffin pans with cupcake liners. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
  3. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.
  4. Cool completely and then frost with 7 Minute Frosting (recipe below).

7 Minute Frosting

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1 tablespoon white corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  1. Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer at high speed for 1 minute.
  2. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy).
  3. Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

Toasted Coconut

Heat the oven to 350°F. Spread the coconut out in a thin layer. Toast for 2 minutes and then in 1 minute intervals until lightly browned.


Frost cooled cupcakes and then sprinkle with toasted coconut.

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Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Whenever I shop, I find myself over-buying groceries. So, what do I do with all my extra carrots? Make carrot cupcakes, of course!

Carrot cupcakes

Carrot Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups grated carrots
1 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line muffin cups with cupcake liners – you will need about 24.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, applesauce, brown sugar, white sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Stir in carrots. Fold in pecans. Pour into prepared muffin pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for about 22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let cool in pans completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
frosts 24 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  2. Spoon the frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and frost the cooled cupcakes. Alternatively, if you don’t have decorating tools, use a metal spatula or spoon to smooth the frosting onto the cupcakes.