Dah dah dah dah… It’s Elmo Time!!

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

About a month ago a friend told me that she was throwing an Elmo themed birthday party for her sons second birthday. I have seen a few Cookie Monster cupcakes and Elmo cupcakes on various blogs in the past and I was always wishing that I had a good excuse to make them. This party was just the excuse I was looking for. So I jumped on the opportunity and offered to make the cake/cupcakes. They wound up being a huge hit and the birthday boy was definitely loving the Elmo theme.


Most of the blogs that I have seen have used frosting to make the eyes and the nose but I wanted to do something different. I also knew that I would need to spread the work out over a few days and using all frosting wouldn’t work for that. So I decided I would make the eyes and nose out of Wilton candy melts. A week before the party I did a test run on my idea for decorating the cupcakes and I was so excited when it worked. The week of the party I spread the work out over three days. On Wednesday I baked the cakes and cupcakes and then covered them will saran wrap and froze them. Thursday night I made the eyes and nose. Friday I took the cupcakes out of the freezer in the morning and then in the afternoon I did all of the decorating except for the mouth (didn’t want the gel icing to spread/melt). Saturday all I had to do was put the mouths on the cupcakes and get them safely to the party. I do think that you could do all of this work in one day. It would take several hours but it is doable. I am listing step by step instructions with some pictures below!


Elmo Cupcakes

Supplies

20-24 cupcakes (I used this recipe and this recipe)
Wilton candy melts in white and orange
Candy melting squeeze bottle (follow instructions for melting the melts)
Chocolate chips
Tooth picks
1 large bowl of hot water
Paper towels
2 cups buttercream frosting
Red food coloring
1 piping bag fitted with tip #18
Black decorating gel in .68 oz tube

To make the eyes and nose:

  1. Melt the candy melts and chocolate chips in squeeze bottles by filling a bowl with hot (but not boiling) water and placing the squeeze bottles in the water. I kept the bowl next to my work station so when I wasn’t using a bottle it was staying warm. Replace the water as necessary and keep paper towels by your side to dry of bottles as needed.
  2. Print a picture of Elmo and place the picture under a sheet of parchment paper on top of a cookie sheet.
  3. Start by outlining the eyes in white, leaving a space for the chocolate eye.
  4. Fill in the whites and use a toothpick with small, light circular motions to smooth.
  5. Fill in the spot for the chocolate by squeezing a small amount of chocolate into the space. Then wet your fingertip and lightly press down on the chocolate to fill in the space and smooth it out.
  6. Outline the nose with orange. Fill using the same circular motions with a toothpick.
  7. Move the template to a new spot on the parchment paper and repeat until you have all of the eyes and noses that you need, plus a few extra just in case.
  8. When you finish making all of the eyes and noses put the cookie sheet in the freezer to set the candy.

Assembly

  1. Fill a piping bag, fitted with tip #18, with the red buttercream frosting. Be sure to twist the top of the bag so frosting doesn’t squeeze out while you decorate
  2. Outline the edges of the top of a cupcake by holding the piping bag perpendicular to the cupcake. Lightly squeeze the bag and use a small down then up motion to make a star.
  3. Once the top of the cupcake is outlined fill in the middle using the same motions, be sure to make the stars close together and not to leave empty spaces.
  4. After the cupcake is frosted, place candy eyes on the cupcake letting them hang over the edge about 1/2 inch.
  5. Using the black decorating gel, draw a mouth below the eyes and nose.

Tips:

  • To decorate a cake, use the same method for the eyes and nose but on a larger scale. It was easier to outline the eyes/nose and then use a warm spoon to fill in the space. For the cake I used chocolate for the mouth instead of decorating gel. To pipe the frosting I used a bag fitted with tip # 2D. I used a total of 4 1/2 cups of frosting to make 20 cupcakes and one cake (it was 2 thin layers)
  • If you do not have a piping bag you could simply frost the cupcakes using a spatula and then put the eyes and nose on. It wouldn’t have the textured look but it would have the same overall feel.
  • Make sure the eyes and nose are fully set before trying to transport them to the cupcakes.
  • If you are pressed for time just use a boxed cake mix and store bought icing.
  • Wait as long as you can to use the decorating gel because it will eventually start to run/spread.
  • I hope these directions help, but if anything is unclear feel free to leave a comment or email me (orangekitchencooking @ gmail.com). I will try to clarify anything that doesn’t make sense!
  • And last but not least, don’t worry, these cupcakes are “Birthday Boy Approved”

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Reese Whoppers

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

This past Saturday I was in the grocery store check out lane when I saw something that peeked my interest. A cute little box of Reese whoppers. I’m not usually a whopper girl but I have a hard time saying no to new twists on Reese’s. I was a pretty big fan of the inside Reese cups, the newer whipped Reese candy bar, and I’ve always loved Nutrageous bars, so I grabbed a box. I tried one and I actually really liked the combination of peanut butter and crunchy malt. But I have to admit, I was really missing the chocolate component. Then it hit me, these would be an awesome addition to ice cream. I’ve made the Chocolate Ice Cream from the Perfect Scoop before and while I really enjoyed the rich flavor, Jesse prefers a more milk chocolate ice cream so for this idea I used the milk chocolate recipe.

This ice cream recipe really is awesome. The chocolate was smooth and creamy and I absolutely loved the added crunch from the whoppers. The Reese flavor is pretty subdued so if you’re looking for a strong peanut butter punch I would add a peanut butter swirl, but if you just want a small hint then this is perfect. Basically, this was fun to make, I liked using an “unusual ingredient” and the ice cream base is AWESOME.

I also want to add that I often substitute half and half for heavy cream and 2% milk for whole milk when making ice cream. It doesn’t save a ton of calories but it does help me sleep better at night and I don’t think it’s a huge sacrifice in texture or flavor. For example, I made those substitutions in this recipe and I thought the ice creams texture was among the best I’ve ever had/made. So really, if you’re feeling frisky use heavy cream and whole milk but for less guilt go with 1/2 and 1/2 and 2% milk. Below I’m listing the recipe using my substitutions.

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Reese Whoppers
(Adapted Ice Cream Recipe from The Perfect Scoop but it was my idea to add the Reese Whoppers ;))

Ingredients

3/4 cup milk chocolate and 1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped – the original recipe called for 8 ounces of milk chocolate
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 1/2 cups 2% milk
3/4 cup sugar
Big pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla – the original recipe called for Cognac, but we don’t have fancy things like that at my house 😉
1/2 cup Reese Whoppers, roughly chopped

Directions

Combine the chocolate and cream in a large, heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of simmering water (I can’t lie I just put it right in a saucepan over medium heat and skipped the simmering water). Stir until the chocolate is melted, then remove the bowl from the saucepan (or saucepan from heat). Set it aside with a mesh strainer over the top.

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk chocolate mixture, add the vanilla and mix together. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the Whoppers.

Red, White and Blue Cupcakes!

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

Lately I have seen a lot of “tie dye” cupcakes in the food blogging world and I always think they are so cool looking. I remember the first time I saw them I knew that I was going to have to make them! So I didn’t have to brain storm for very long to decide what I wanted to make for the 4th of July. I have to say that I am very very pleased with the results! They turned out even cuter than I had hoped for. So if you are looking for an impressive treat for your 4th of July celebration, look no further. 🙂

Red, White and Blue Cupcakes

Supplies/Ingredients
White cake batter (I used the Wilton recipe below but don’t feel bad if you just grab a box of white cake mix from the grocery!)
Red Food Coloring
Blue Food Coloring
3 bowls (1 for each color)
Buttercream Frosting
Red, White and Blue Sprinkles

Directions
Prepare the cake batter as directed.

Divide the batter into 3 bowls. Leave one bowl white. Add 3-4 drops of red food coloring to another bowl and 3-4 drops of blue food coloring in another. Mix the food coloring in and add more if the colors are not bright enough.

Prepare a cupcake pan with liners. Start by dropping a spoonful of white batter into the bottom of each liner. Follow with a spoonful of blue. If you want you can go back with a toothpick and swirl the colors a little bit, just be careful not to “stir” the batter because the colors will blend). After the blue do a drop of white in each. Then a spoonful of red. Finish with small drops of each color on top.

Bake according to cake batter recipe.

Top each cupcake with buttercream frosting and sprinkles.

Classic White Cake – I cut the recipe in half and below I’ve listed the measurements I used
(Source: Wilton Website)

Ingredients

3 cups cake flour sifted
1 tablespoons baking powder
3/4 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2cups granulated sugar
1cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites

Directions

Preheat oven to 325°F. Prepare cupcake pans with cupcake liners (24)

Sift together flour and baking powder. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Set aside. Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Set aside. With mixer at slow speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture, alternately with milk. Beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Gently fold egg whites into batter. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

The Chewy

** This post was imported as a part of my top 30 from my old blog – What’s Cooking in the Orange Kitchen**

One of my favorite Food Network stars has always been Alton Brown. When I was first getting into cooking his shows were really helpful because he takes one thing and focuses an entire episode on it. So you will learn several different techniques for using an ingredient or several different ways to create a dish. The science behind it is also extremely helpful for a new cook and he does a really great job of breaking things down. For this reason, I knew that I was going to have to try this recipe when I started seeing it pop up in all of my favorite blogs.

This cookie came from one of Alton Brown’s shows where he made a few changes to the classic Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe to make three distinct types of cookies. The Chewy, The Thin and The Puffy. While I probably will not try The Thin cookie, The Chewy sounded right up my alley.The result was just as I had expected, great! The cookie is definitely chewy and the I like how the chocolate flavor really comes through. I would like to try to make this again and cut back on the butter a tiny bit because I felt like they were just a tad greasier than I like, but other than that I would make no changes! **Edit 6/11 After sitting for a day the cookies are even better! I am not sure I will change the amount of butter next time. I may expiriment with 1 1/2 sticks, but after cooling all the way, they are no longer “greasy”**


The Chewy
(Source: Alton Brown via The Beantown Baker)

Ingredients

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough (I chilled my dough for 1 hour), then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet (I was able to fit 12 cookies per sheet using my medium scoop). Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown (mine were finished in 12 minutes), checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

*TIP* When storing chocolate chip cookies, keep a slice of bread in the air tight container. It will keep the cookies moist and chewy!