Be My Valentine Cupcakes

I know you are thinking… wow, she’s making more desserts?! Yes, I sure am!! And RJ is one happy man! He will be on some serious sugar high’s this week! But because it’s Valentine’s Day, I had to bake some more treats! I saw a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes and thought I would give it a whirl! I’ve never made Red Velvet anything before, so I was a bit timid about making these, especially when I saw the end result of the cupcake mix! It was so red! But they ended up turning out marvelously!

I did however have a hard time tasting the cocoa powder, so next time I make these, I will definitely add more cocoa powder and see how it turns out. I also decided to add a tsp of almond extract to the cream cheese frosting to give it a little more flavor and it turned out very tasty!

Lets begin by lining your muffin/cupcake tins with paper liners. Preheat your oven to 375ºF. Next take a medium sized bowl and whisking your dry ingredients together. This will be your cake flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In an electric stand mixer, combine your eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat on medium speed until blended well, then turn it down to low speed and pour your dry ingredients in small portions. I usually divide into 4 sections. This will take about 2 minutes, or until it is well blended.

Next divide your batter into the cupcake tin as evenly as you can. I use an ice cream scooper to help me keep the same amount. Bake in the oven for 18 minutes, being sure to rotate the pans halfway through. When the timer is up, take a toothpick and insert into the middle of the cupcakes to make sure they are done. You will know this because the toothpick will come out clean. Wait 5 minutes then transfer the cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes are cooling, go ahead and make your cream cheese frosting. I have used this recipe before when I made the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins, one of my favorites! In a stand mixer, cream together your cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes. Make sure your cream cheese is chilled and your butter is at room temp.

Next sift in your powdered sugar. Then add your imitation vanilla extract (this keeps the frosting white!) and almond extract. Mix on low speed for another 2-3  minutes or until well blended and creamy. And for another few minutes beat on high speed.

Now you can decorate your cupcakes!! Make sure they are completely cool before you do so. I used a star shaped tip for my frosting.  I also found those cute sugar letters at Michael’s! I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day and treat yourself (and your special someone) to these lovely treats!! Enjoy 🙂

What you’ll need:

For the cupcakes:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:
10 oz. cream cheese, chilled
6½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tsp. clear vanilla extract

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Aside

Valentine’s Day Sugar cookies

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and I thought these cookies would make the perfect treat for my fiance! For months I have been wanting to make sugar cookies perfect for decorating. I did some researching and found this recipe on my favorite blog!! The Royal Icing tutorial was beautifully written out and showed with pictures step by step. This is how I learn best, and I am so thankful to have had pictures! Also, these are seriously the best sugar cookies I have tasted! They have lemon zest in the mix and it tastes beautifully mixed together with the vanilla and sugar.

I have to admit, I have been wanting to use these colors for a long time! I saw them on the knot.com and almost made them my wedding colors, but I thought it was a bit too much. So I’m glad to have used them now. I saw Annie’s bird cookies and had to copy those also, but hers makes mine look like a pre schooler decorated them 🙂  For my first time making sugar cookies and decorating with icing from scratch, I am pretty proud of myself! And with practice, I hope to some day make my cookies professional looking!

If you are planning to make these cookies, please be sure to give yourself a good day to get most of it done. You will need a few hours for each time you ice the cookies and then a few more to let the icing sit and harden.

Let’s start by making the dough! I couldn’t find vanilla bean, so I just added another tsp of vanilla extract. In a large mixing bowl, mix the confectioner’s sugar and butter on medium high speed until it is of creamy consistency, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds (if available), and lemon zest until blended. Mix in flour and salt on low speed until mixed well. And your dough is ready! Take it out of the bowl, form into a ball, and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for several hours (or overnight if you prefer). When ready, it will be firm and cold.

Once the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 375°F. Line your baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. Take the dough and roll onto a well floured surface, being to sure to also flour your rolling pin. You want to make about 1/4 in of thickness and as even as you can. Use your cookie cutters and place the cut outs on your baking sheets.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, turn the baking sheets halfway through to produce evenly baked cookies.

They are ready to take out when they are cooked through but not brown. Let cool for 5-10 minutes then transfer them to a wire cooling rack. Make sure they are completely cool before beginning to decorate with icing.

Time to make the icing! Here are a few things you’re going to need to have on hand:
Icing gel colors . Gel is best because it doesn’t add extra moisture and liquid to the frosting.
Small Tupperware containers with lids for each color of icing you plan to use.
Spoons, for mixing
Toothpicks
Disposable pastry bags fitted with small round tips, you can find these at Michael’s/Hobby Lobby. I would suggest using small number sizes for the tips, #2 & 3 are what I  used.

In a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment, if available. I did not have one and used the regular mixers and it turned out just fine! Mix all of the ingredients on low speed until the icing is no longer shiny, about 7-10 minutes. The icing will be very stiff, scrape all of the icing out into a bowl. Pour little bits of water at a time until it is a good enough consistency for piping. Invert your icing bags as pictured below. Separate your icing into the separate Tupperware containers and color them to your liking with the gel colors.

Once they are colored, place the icing into the bags for piping. Take a tall glass and fill just barely with water, this will be where you place your piping bags when you aren’t using them and you will prevent the icing from hardening.

Take your cookies to a big table and leave them on the cooling racks. Make sure to have room to leave your arm or elbow on the table to help keep a steady hand, when outlining the cookies, keep the piping tip as close to the cookie as you can to prevent squiggly and uneven lines.

You will want to leave these to sit for a few hours before you continue decorating. Make sure you close the lids of the containers with the icing to prevent it from hardening. Once the icing outlines have set and hardened, it’s time to make the filling! Take your containers and add a tsp of water until the icing has a runny consistency like the picture below.

You’ll know when it’s ready when the icing drips off the spoon and smooths back into the container. If you have made it too thin, add a little bit of confectioner’s sugar. Now, take the icing and place in a squeeze bag or a squeeze bottle and place in the center of the cookie. Take a toothpick and spread out the icing to the outlined edges until the cookie is fully colored. (Kind of like coloring!!) You will notice some bubbles pop up, when you see them, pop them with a  toothpick. Once you have filled in each cookie, let it sit for at least 2 hours, or over night. You will know it’s ready when the icing no longer looks shiny.

Once the filler icing has dried, take the previously mixed, thicker icing that you used for piping and decorate your cookies with the fun and creative designs of your liking! If you would like to know how to make the small hearts I did on some the cookies, it’s actually very simple! Take the runny icing and use any two colors you would like. Place a layer of the runny icing on the cookie, then place dots in a line using another color. Take a toothpick and drag from the beginning of the line to the end, dragging the toothpick in the center of the dots.     Here are some examples:

I hope this particular post was helpful for you if this is also your first time making these! If you have any questions, or if I have left some details out please let me know and I hope your cookies turn out beautiful 🙂

What you’ll need:

For the Sugar Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg
2½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Zest of half a lemon (or the zest of a whole lemon, if you love lemon)
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt

For the Royal Icing
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tbsp. meringue powder
5 tbsp. water

Of course you should always let your significant other decorate!! Here is RJ’s helicopter cookie!! Of course it’s only fitting 😉