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M&M Cookies for Easter

Easter 2020, the first holiday of the quarantine that I could not spend with my family *sigh*. Even though I moved to NYC from my hometown a couple of years ago, I always find a way to be together with my family for birthdays and holidays. But given the stay-at-home orders in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus and wanting to keep my family safe, I wasn’t able to be home with my family for Easter this year. We still dressed up and celebrated Easter together virtually, even though we were physically apart. We also reminisced on the incredible family trip we took last year along with my dad, my aunt, and our friend to Budapest, Prague, and Vienna where we got to experience multiple Easter markets in each of those cities. One thing this pandemic has reinforced for me is that beautiful memories live on and it’s something to hold on to during difficult times since they offer such immense joy.

To kick off the Easter weekend, my sister and I baked some cookies together via Zoom! I found a recipe for cookies and since it’s hard to maintain a fully stocked kitchen these days (especially in the baking department), we used different mix-ins for our cookies and had a sweet treat for the holiday weekend. I did half of the recipe with Reese’s peanut butter eggs and the other half with Cadbury chocolate eggs (I highly recommend the Reese’s combo!). It was really easy to use Zoom to share the recipe on both of our screens, follow the recipe steps simultaneously, and chat while we waited for the cookies to bake. We wrapped up by tasting the cookies and our mom joined in to chat as well. I think I’m going to keep doing Zoom baking sessions, stay tuned!

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white or milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 to 1 cup M&M candies or candies preferred

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Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on top of baking sheets, set aside, or place on ungreased baking sheets.
2. Add butter to a microwave dish and microwave for 25 seconds or more until butter is partially melted, like 1/2 of the butter should appear melted while the other half still looks like a melted butter stick.
3. Add the brown sugar and white sugar to a large mixing bowl with the partially melted butter and stir well to combine.
4. Then, beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined.
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5. Add in the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix until just combined.
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6. Add in the chocolate chips and candies by hand, saving a few to press onto the tops of the cookie dough, if you wish.
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7. Use a large cookie scoop (3 tablespoons) to scoop out 12 cookies or use a medium-sized cookie scoop (1 1/2 tablespoons) for 18-20 cookies and arrange them evenly on the baking sheet.
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8, Bake for 10 minutes for medium-sized cookies and 13-15 minutes for larger cookies. Cookies will still be slightly underdone when you remove them from the oven. Make sure not to overbake for soft and chewy cookies. Cookies will not spread much while baking.
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9. Let sit on baking sheet for 5 minutes before eating. Allow cookies to cool completely before storing in an air-tight container for up to 4-5 days.
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Recipe from The Baking ChocolaTess

Baking During a Pandemic

Typically during December of every year, as we get closer to the new year, we start to think things like “how will I improve next year? How will I become a better version of myself in the new year? What goals will I try to accomplish?” And prior to such an epic year as 2020?? We all had BIG plans for this year. Yet, who could have predicted that it would be a year where we had to hunker down, stay inside, and keep away from each other to just stay healthy? Well that is exactly what happened and this is where we are today.

During these difficult and unprecedented times, we have all coped in different ways. We have tried to pick up new hobbies to keep busy and we have also turned to old activities in which we find comfort. Personally, I have learned a lot during this time about myself, society, public health, crisis recovery and management, brain science behind habits, design thinking, and so much more.  But, I have also turned to some old comforting activities that keep me calm and centered, one of those being baking!

I am very comfortable using Zoom because I have been working from home for two years now and since the beginning we have been using Zoom for all of our meetings. This pandemic has of course expanded the uses for Zoom beyond just work meetings. Via Zoom, I’ve caught up with friends weekly for happy hours, game nights, tea parties, salons, and more! Naturally, baking came up as another activity we could do virtually, apart. My mom, sister, and I have consistently been baking through this pandemic, allowing us to connect and make delicious goodies from our respective homes. It’s been calming, entertaining, and productive in that we have delicious treats to carry us through another week of quarantine! I’ll share the recipes we’ve been using (keeping in mind limited quantities of many ingredients and access to random grocery trips) and the fun screenshots of these unique moments.

If you end up doing some of these recipes, feel free to comment with your pictures. Let’s bake together, apart! Stay safe and bake on!

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookies

We have been eating A LOT of eggs during quarantine so when we looked at what ingredients we had in our kitchens this week, we all had chocolate chips but we didn’t have eggs so we looked for a recipe for an eggless chocolate chip cookie. This recipe was really easy to make and it did the trick! Classic chocolate chips for a not so classic moment.

My mom made a happy face cookie totally on accident! This is the moment we all realized it looks like a happy face ūüôā

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon baking soda
  • a pinch salt (skip it if using salted butter)
  • 1 stick or ¬Ĺ cup unsalted butter , soften to room temperature
  • ¬ľ cup white granulated sugar
  • ¬ľ cup light brown sugar
  • ¬Ĺ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¬Ĺ cup chocolate chips

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C for at least 10 minutes. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or just spray with nonstick spray.
  • Take dry ingredients (all-purpose flour, salt, and baking soda) in a bowl. Whisk it until they are incorporated and keep it aside.
  • Take softened butter in another bowl. Beat it with wire whisk or by electric mixer until it becomes creamy and smooth.
  • Then, add both sugars (granulated and brown sugar). Again beat until it becomes fluffy (about 2 minutes).
  • Then add vanilla extract and milk. Whisk until it gets incorporated.
  • Add dry ingredients. Beat until incorporated.
  • Add chocolate chips and fold them in.
  • If the dough looks soft and sticky, then chill it into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.
  • Now make 1-inch size balls from chilled cookie dough. Place on the cookie sheet a few inches apart from each other, because they will spread as they bake. Flatten it slightly using back of glass or bowl or use your fingers.
  • Bake them for 10-12 minutes in preheated oven or until the edges are become golden brown.
  • Let them cool on the sheet for 5 minutes.
  • After that, move them to the cooling rack to cool completely.

Recipe from Spice Up The Curry

Thumbprint Cookies

This Thumbprint Cookie recipe has been the most popular recipe of the quarantine by far! I’ve done this recipe twice already: the first time was for a virtual tea party we had planned to do in the spring in person but instead transitioned to Zoom due to the pandemic and the second time was with a bunch of friends at once. Everyone had the ingredients in their kitchens and everyone loved the cookies at the end!

For the virtual tea party, I was looking for a recipe that would be fitting for an afternoon high tea but most of the recipes were quite complex and required a lot of different ingredients. Then I stumbled upon this recipe for thumbprint cookies that required very few ingredients (all of which are common kitchen staples) and also let us each customize them in a way with what we put on top of the cookies. The cookies were fun to make together and they also paired really nicely with our teas.

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The “customization” came in different forms. For example, when we baked these cookies for the tea party, I used raspberry jam but my sister used strawberry jam for some of the cookies and then used caramel for others (although she did note putting too much caramel does not work out well). My mom on the other hand used a blackberry marmalade that is very special to our family. My grandfather built a children’s park called “Pueblito Sue√Īos del Abuelo” by creating a tiny town with typical buildings you would find in a town like a local school, a church, a general store, a bank, and homes, which all surround a central plaza with a fountain. We grew up going to this amazing place and playing in the tiny houses and seeing the other kids have so much fun as well. In addition to building the park, my grandfather made different foods from the harvest of his crops and one of those items was the most amazing marmalade. The land this park is built on is very conducive to growing blackberries and he made a delicious blackberry marmalade (and he actually used my baby picture on the label and they’re called “Mermaladas Claudia”).

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It was so great to see her use it for these cookies that we baked together for our virtual tea party!

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Many people during this pandemic have had to celebrate birthdays apart from their loved ones. At the beginning of all of this, I thought we would be back to “normal” by the time my birthday came around after two months of staying at home but boy was I wrong! I never would have imagined we would still need to stay at home by the end of May but alas, we had to adapt and my family and friends truly made me feel so happy and special on my birthday this year and I am so grateful. While we were all on the Zoom party, we started talking about Baking with Friends and decided we would do a session the same weekend. As I was searching for recipes to send over quickly, this recipe popped in my mind and so I sent everyone the recipe to see if they had the ingredients and they did! We all used different flavors of jams and some even put chocolate chips on top and they came out really nicely, again.

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I grew up with these ladies and I consider them my family. It was so great to be able to enjoy a Saturday afternoon with them as we made these fun, easy, and delicious cookies. We even had some special guests join in on the fun! It was one of our friends’ brother’s birthday and when he joined in we all sang happy birthday to him and another one’s sons FaceTimed his mom during the call and we all said hi via the wonders of technology! And there were plenty of helpers and taste testers step in throughout the call to get in on the fun of baking. This recipe is officially one of my top go-to’s for Baking with Friends and I hope you enjoy it as much as we all have!

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Ingredients

  • 1¬†cup¬†(230 grams) unsalted butter¬†softened
  • 2/3¬†cup¬†(135 grams) granulated sugar¬†plus 3 tablespoons (40 grams) for rolling the cookies
  • 2¬†large¬†egg yolks¬†room temperature
  • 1¬†teaspoon¬†pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4¬†teaspoon¬†salt
  • 2¬†and 1/3 cups¬†(290 grams) all-purpose flour¬†spooned & leveled
  • 1/2¬†cup¬†strawberry or apricot jam

Instructions

1.Preheat oven to 350¬įF (177¬įC). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats and set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar for 1-2 minutes or until well combined. Mix in the eggs yolks, vanilla extract, and salt until fully combined, then mix in the flour. The mixture will be a little crumbly at first but it will come together as you continue mixing it.

3. Using a one-tablespoon cookie scoop or measuring tablespoon, measure out the cookie dough, roll into balls, roll each one in granulated sugar (optional), then place on the prepared baking sheets.

4. Use your thumb (or the handle of a large wooden spoon) to press an indentation into each ball of cookie dough. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of jam into the indentation in each one.

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6. Bake at 350¬įF (177¬įC) for 12-14 minutes or until the cookies are set and the bottoms are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Recipe from Live Well Bake Often

BWF mama chalk
Check out my mom’s chalk art before we started baking with the ladies!

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Cheers!

Nutella Cookies

My sister, Laura, and I wanted to do cookies again since they’re really easy to make, don’t take much time in the oven, and are perfect quarantine anxiety relievers (for the few seconds that they take to chew). Laura had some Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter that she was trying to figure out how to use and I stumbled upon this great recipe that only requires three ingredients and cookie butter is one of them! Unfortunately, I’m not super close to a Trader Joe’s and I wasn’t going to venture out to find some of their cookie butter before baking together, BUT, as you may have read in my previous post about Nutella Donut Sandwiches, I had a tub of Nutella that I was trying to finish before it expired and I realized hazelnut spread is close enough to cookie butter that the recipe should still work. I was totally right! These cookies were so easy to make, so delightfully pleasant to eat, and they just FLEW in my apartment. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did! As we were baking, our parents, aunt, and friend (based in Barcelona),¬† hopped onto the Zoom call to check out what we were baking while the Global Citizen Together at Home Festival was going on via YouTube. It felt like such a globally unifying moment all around.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup cookie butter
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 egg
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Instructions

1. In a medium-sized bowl, mix all 3 ingredients together and drop by tablespoonful onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

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2. Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes.

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3. Cool cookies on a wire rack, enjoy!

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Recipe from Smashed Peas and Carrots

Nutella Donut Sandwiches

So I purchased a container of Nutella a while back and I was super excited about it. But the days kept passing by and I kept putting off doing something with it. TBH the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Nutella is a crepe with Nutella, strawberries, and bananas and there’s a place nearby that I always go to called Bonjour Crepes and they’re amazing so I didn’t really see a need to make them myself… (side note: sadly they had to close during the lockdown, but they’re open again now!) So every time I’d look at the tub of Nutella, I didn’t really feel like making crepes so it just sat there for a while.

As the expiration date was approaching I realized I had to do something with this tub of Nutella before it went bad! So I looked for dessert recipes using Nutella and I squeezed in two recipes to use up the tub before the expiration date. This recipe in particular really balanced out the sweetness of the Nutella very nicely. They were a little crispy (see my note below) but they were the perfect vessel for the Nutella that I had to eat ASAP. And if you don’t have Nutella, technically you could stuff these with any creamy spread you like!

Note: I don’t have a mini muffin pan in my NYC apartment, just a regular-sized one so I followed the recipe and put 1 tablespoon of batter at the bottom of each of the regular-sized muffin pan slots but they didn’t quite bake as they appear in the original recipe. I think this is why my donut “holes” flattened out so much that they ended up looking more like sandwiches. I ended up slicing them down the middle so I could add in the Nutella but I would definitely recommend using a mini muffin pan if you have one!

Ingredients

For the donut holes:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the topping and filling:

  • 3 Tbsp melted unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup Nutella (or any other creamy spread)

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, add all donut ingredients and blend with an electric mixer until combined (about 2-3 minutes). Lightly grease a mini muffin pan with baking spray.
  2. Spoon (using a 1Tbsp scoop) into muffin cups and bake in a 350-degree oven for about 13-15 minutes.
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3. Remove from oven and cool about 5-10 minutes in pan. Flip each donut onto its side, as it makes it easier to fill with Nutella.

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4. Fill a piping bag with Nutella, and using a tip (I used a size 5 tip), squirt the Nutella into the side of the donut hole, applying enough pressure to see the donut hole expand. Repeat until all donut holes are filled.

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5. Melt butter and place in a small bowl. Add sugar to a separate bowl. Drop donut into the butter, roll around. Then drop into sugar, coating generously.

bwf donut holes 66. Allow to set (about 10 minutes). ENJOY. These are best enjoyed in 24 hours.

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Recipe from Shugary Sweets

Lemon Bars

Lemons are my favorite! So baking lemons bars was naturally the best way to kick off the quarantine baking extravaganza. This recipe was very easy and super delicious. They also stayed nice and fresh in my fridge for a whole week! My good friend Mari also did the recipe from her home in California and it was a success for her as well! Because when life gives you lemons (in this case in the form of a global pandemic), make some lemon bars!

Lemons
I always have a bowl of fresh lemons in my kitchen!

For the crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (cold)

For the lemon filling:

  • 1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest of 1 lemon)
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice (juice of 3 lemons)
  • powdered sugar for garnish
Instructions
  1. To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and spray 8×8 pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Place the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan in an even layer, and bake until set (about 20-25 minutes).
  5. To make the lemon filling, whisk the sugar, flour, eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a large bowl.
  6. Pour the filling over the partially-baked crust and bake until the filling is set (about 25-35 minutes).

Cool completely, cut into squares, and dust with powdered sugar for garnish.

Lemon Bars
Final product!

Lemon Bars squares
I really love lemons, even my planner is covered in lemons!

Recipe from Baking a Moment 

4th of July Fireworks Cookies

On our day off, my sister and I decided to make 4th of July Cookies and came across this GENIUS idea to sprinkle sugar cookies with blue sprinkles and red Pop Rocks! Sticks to the 4th of July theme and adds a kick of fireworks in your mouth! The cookies themselves are star-shaped sugar cookies and we just used some icing we had in the fridge. These cookies really are festive and brings back memories of eating those Pop Rocks straight. Happy 4th of July and I hope you enjoy these fun cookies!¬†My sister also was kind enough to take some amazing pictures (I’m positive¬†you can tell when the pictures come from her and when they come from my iPhone but still want to give her a well-deserved shout out!).

Also, if it wasn’t enough of her to take pictures of the baking process, she also took the time to take some pictures of where the BWF magic happens. It’s no gourmet kitchen but it’s my cozy nook where I have everything I need to bake with ease, comfort and joy. Let’s bake! If you want to set up a session just email me at bakingwfriends@gmail.com. ¬†

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Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 2 tsp¬†vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp¬†almond extract
  • 2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp¬†baking powder

Directions:

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamed and smooth Рabout 1 minute.

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Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 or 4 minutes.

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Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

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Add the egg, vanilla, and almond extract and beat on high until fully combine, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

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Whisk the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

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Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.

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Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.

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Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment to about 1/4″ thickness.

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Stack the pieces (with paper) onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper. Chill up to 2 days (max).

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350F. Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. The amount of batches will depend on how large/small you cut your cookies. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut in shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.

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Bake for 8-10 minutes, until very lightly colored on top and around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

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Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I am a happy godmother of two amazing young women: Stephanie and Laura and we were able to spend a weekend together where we explored some embassies in DC, checked out the DC Funk Parade, ate some Chinese food, made brunch and baked cupcakes! Since the beginning of great summer weather is approaching, we thought it would be fitting to make these amazing strawberry lemonade cupcakes. The original recipe also suggested putting them in mason jars which is adorable too, but we stuck with some quintessential summer cupcake liners that were too perfect to pass up. Enjoy these refreshing summer treats!

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Lemon Cupcakes Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup oil (vegetable, canola or extra light olive oil)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (any fat content)

Strawberry Frosting Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 cup¬†butter
  • 4oz. (1/2 block) cream cheese (cold)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tablespoons strawberry jam
  • 2-3 fresh strawberries, pureed (or very finely chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy cream, or milk, as needed

Lemon Cupcakes Directions:

Preheat oven to 350*F. In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with whisk, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds.

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Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add vanilla, lemon extract, lemon juice, zest and oil, beat.

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Add sour cream and blend until combined.

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Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Pour (or scoop) batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners. Fill liners about 2/3 full (no more).

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Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes

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Strawberry Frosting

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until fully smooth. Add cream cheese, and again beat until fully incorporated and very smooth. While mixing on low speed, add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time.

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Add vanilla extract, then strawberry jam and beat until well combined. If the jam you are using has large chunks in it, you may need to blend in a food processor or press through a fine strainer before adding to the frosting. Depending on the ripeness of your berries, you may want to add 1 drop of pink food coloring to the icing.

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If the frosting is very thick, add heavy cream or milk, then beat until light and fluffy. Frost on cooled cupcakes.

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Love these goons:

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Vanilla Cupcakes

Same story as my chocolate chip cookies but for a scrumptious vanilla cupcake recipe!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2¬†teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line (1) muffin tins with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric or stand mixer  on medium speed, beat eggs and sugar for about 2 minutes, or until light and creamy.

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Add the butter and vanilla extract and beat on low speed for about 1 minute, or until well blended.

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Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed until blended. DO NOT OVER MIX! Add the sour cream and beat until smooth.

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Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 the way full with cupcake batter.

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Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.

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Found some icing in my cabinet to match my cupcake liners ūüôā

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