Tag Archives: cooking with kids

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes

(and a gender reveal–NO, not mine)

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I first made these chocolate butterfly cupcakes for my sweet Little J’s 6th birthday. I was feeling very nostalgic about having my last baby in kindergarten and we had a super fun cooking party with a few of her friends. It is (by far) my favorite kids’ birthday party that I’ve hosted. I still get a little bit weepy just thinking about it. If you like a good sentimental cry, you can read about it HERE.

Then last month, a friend asked if I could make some gender reveal cupcakes to announce the sex of their upcoming new baby to their other four children. While I am perfectly content with the 5 children I already have and have no desire to start again with another one (5 years and counting until we are empty nesters!), celebrating with other new moms always makes me reflect on my own babies that are not babies any more.

So I happily agreed, and immediately knew that I wanted to make these butterflies again, for my friend and her family who are welcoming a new life into their family, and for me to reminisce about my own little ones and the joy it has been parenting them. And having my Little J (who isn’t so little anymore) help me make the butterflies and cupcakes was a really great experience.

And because writing this is making me feel nostalgic all over again (and this is my blog so I get to indulge my wistful feelings as much as I want), here is my Little J, then and now:

Little J 2010 2017-09-13 15.54.09

Enough about me and my maudlin ramblings; you really just want to hear about the cupcakes. For my friend, I made my favorite dark chocolate cupcakes. They are tender and moist and absolutely delicious. It also doesn’t hurt that they are easy to make. They start with a cake mix, but the addition of pudding and sour cream takes them well beyond your average chocolate cupcake.

For the “gender reveal”, I cut out a section of the top of each cupcake and filled it with a blue filling (It’s a Boy!!). For the filling, I mixed the white frosting with some of the leftover blue candy melts from the butterflies and piped it into the cut-out centers.

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The frosting I used is a cooked vanilla frosting. It is not as sweet as a traditional buttercream, but is light and fluffy and delicious. I tinted the frosting with pink and blue food coloring to make a striped frosting.

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To create the two-toned look, use a paintbrush and food coloring to paint stripes onto the inside of a pastry bag. (Credit to my hand model Little J!) Carefully spoon white frosting into the bag. Before frosting the cupcakes, squeeze out a small amount of frosting until the color begins to show in the frosting. I used a 1M tip to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes.

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Now on to the butterflies. Full disclosure: these are time consuming. But they are not particularly difficult. Just be prepared to spend several hours making them if you plan to make a lot.

Items needed:
chocolate and colored candy melts, stencil printed on paper, waxed paper, toothpicks, foil, pastry bags (one for each color), one writing piping tip, small round sprinkles. Optional: heating pad

Draw your desired butterfly wing shape onto a sheet of white paper using a permanent marker. Cut pieces of waxed paper (one for each set of wings you are making) large enough to cover the stencil. You can also draw a set of antennae if desired (see example HERE).

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Place a small amount of colored and chocolate melting disks into separate pastry bags or Ziploc bags. Melt in microwave—Start with 30 seconds, squish bags, then add an additional 10 seconds if not completely melted.

To keep the chocolate melted while making dozens of wings, I placed a piece of plastic wrap over a heating pad and set the bags on the heating pad while they weren’t being used.

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I used a writing tip to pipe the chocolate, but I just cut off a small end of the bag to squeeze out the melted colored candy.

Place a small square of waxed paper over your stencil paper. Use the melted chocolate to trace around the edge of one wing at a time.

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While the chocolate outline is still wet, squeeze a small amount of colored chocolate into the center of each wing section. I used pink in the top section and blue in the bottom section. Use a toothpick to spread colored chocolate to fill the wing. Use a toothpick to gently swirl chocolate edges and colored chocolate. Sprinkle edges of wings with round sprinkles, if desired.

Work with just one wing at a time. The chocolate hardens quickly!

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Let the wings harden completely before assembling butterflies.

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To make the body and assemble the butterflies, fold a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil in half and then into a v-shape with a flat bottom (about 1/2” wide).

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Using the melted chocolate (remove the writing tip), pipe a body onto a separate piece of waxed paper (or directly onto the bottom section of the folded foil). Make little dollops of chocolate, being sure that they touch.

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Place segmented body (before it hardens) into the folded foil and place the wings at an angle into the still soft chocolate body. Prop them up underneath if the foil doesn’t hold them. (Sorry, I didn’t get a photo of this step)

Don’t use your fingers to support the wings while the body dries: the chocolate will melt in your fingers and ruin the wings.

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Gently press a butterfly onto the top of each frosted cupcake.

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Did you know that a group of butterflies is called a “Kaleidoscope.” What a perfect description of these butterflies! Whatever they are officially called, your family will call them beautiful and delicious!

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RECIPES:

Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 11  Chocolate Butterfly Cupcakes 12

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

1 box dark chocolate fudge cake mix
1 small box (3.9 oz) instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
½ cup warm water

Preheat oven to 350°F . Place cupcake liners in muffin tins.

In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients and beat with a mixer for 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners just over halfway. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Makes 30-36 cupcakes.

 

Cooked Vanilla Frosting

2 cups whole milk
10 Tbs flour
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups butter
2 cups granulated sugar (do not use powdered sugar)
Optional: gel food coloring

In a small saucepan, mix the flour and milk until no lumps remain. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until mixture thickens (and is just about to boil). Remove from heat and let it cool completely to room temperature.  Stir in vanilla.

In a large mixing bowl (a stand mixer works best for this) cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the cooled milk mixture and beat for 5-7 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy and completely uniform throughout. Beat in food coloring, if desired.

This frosting looks best when piped with a large decorating tip, but can also be spread with a spatula.

Yield: frosting for 24-36 cupcakes

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Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

DAY 5: Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Balls of peanut butter cookie dough baked in a mini muffin pan and then squished by a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Definitely a kid favorite! Both to make and to eat.

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RECIPE:

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

½ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 pkg (12 oz) Reese’s Miniature Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped **

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a mini muffin pan (or spray with non-stick baking spray).

In a mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar and brown sugar. Beat in peanut butter, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to mixing bowl and beat until well mixed.

Roll dough into 1” balls and place in greased muffin pan. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until dough puffs and just barely begins to brown on the bottom.

Remove pan from the oven and immediately press a Peanut Butter Cup into the center of each cookie, pressing down until top of peanut butter cup is level with the top of the cookie. Cool completely in the pan and then remove to a wire rack. To remove cookies, hold the cookie by the top edge and twist gently.

Makes about 32 cookies.

**NOTE: A 12 oz package of peanut butter cups usually has 40 candy pieces. The recipe makes about 32 cookies, so you may have a few extra.

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Stained Glass Valentine Cookies

Stained Glass Valentine Cookies 1

Here is a fun Valentine treat to make with kids and is easier than your traditional frosted sugar cookies. All you need is a good sugar cookie recipe, a package of Jolly Rancher hard candies and two different sized heart cookie cutters.

To begin, you will need to line your baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment paper. Non-stick foil might work as well, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Prepare your dough and cut out large hearts. I usually like to make nice thick sugar cookies, but these need to be about 1/8” thick, or the center “window” will be too thin compared to the cookie. Place cookies on baking sheet and then cut out the smaller heart in the center of each cookie. Cutting out the smaller heart after the cookie is on the baking sheet helps the cookie dough retain its shape. It is harder to move cookie dough with the center cut out. You can bake the little hearts along with the big ones, or reroll them with your dough scraps.

Place one Jolly Rancher candy (whole) in the center of each cookie. If your openings are smaller than the candies, you can crush the candies first, but I found that there are fewer bubbles in your windows if you leave the candies whole. And it is so much easier than crushing hard candy!

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While the cookies bake, the candies will melt and fill in the centers.

After baking, let the cookies completely cool and the candy window centers harden before removing from baking sheet.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

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You could also make these into cookie pops by inserting lollypop sticks into the bottoms of each heart before baking.

It would also be fun to make some for other holidays using different cookie cutters, or a linzer cookie cutter (crush candies first if using a small linzer cutter). Or a gingerbread man with a tiny cut-out heart.

RECIPE:

Stained Glass Valentine Cookies 1

Stained Glass Valentine Cookies

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
About 7 – 7 ½ cups flour
1 package Jolly Rancher candies
2 heart cookie cutters (one large and one small)

In a large mixing bowl, beat sugar, butter, sour cream and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs.  Mix in baking soda, salt and enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough (Start with 7 cups and add more if needed).

Chill for 20 minutes to 1 hour, if necessary, for easier handling. Roll out dough to about 1/8” and cut with large heart cookie cutter. Cut out a smaller heart inside of each cookie. You can bake these plain smaller hearts, or re-roll them with the dough scraps.

Place hearts on a baking sheet lined with a silicon baking mat or parchment paper. Place one whole Jolly Rancher candy in the center of each heart.

Bake at 375°F for 9 -10 minutes, or until candies have melted; cookies should not be browned on the edges.  They should look white when done. Cool completely on the baking sheet. When candy centers are completely cool and hardened, remove cookies to a sheet of parchment paper.

Store covered between layers of waxed paper or parchment paper. The candy centers will stick together if they touch.

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Twelve (More) Days of Christmas Cookies: Turtle Pretzel Snaps

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DAY 11: Technically, these are a candy, not a cookie, but they still make a great addition to any holiday cookie tray. Sweet & salty; crunch & chewy. A great combination of tastes and textures.

These candies are a simple, fun alternative to traditional Turtle Candies. They are also an easy treat to make with kids. They can do almost all of the work themselves.

The base of these treats is a Pretzel Snap: the square criss-crossed shaped pretzels that look kind of like a window pane. Place the pretzels in a single layer on a lined baking sheet. You can use a Silpat, parchment paper or foil to line the pan. Top each pretzel with half of a caramel. Instead of a caramel, you can also use a Rolo candy. I prefer the flavor of the plain caramel, topped with a bittersweet chocolate chip. Using plain caramels also allows me to make some “chocolate free” candies for Little A. But the Rolos do save you one step.

12-1-10 003-1Bake the caramel topped pretzels for about 5-7 minutes, until caramels (or Rolos) are soft. Remove from oven and immediately top with a chocolate chip.  I like the Ghirardelli bittersweet chips, for both the flavor and the fact that they are slightly bigger than normal semi-sweet chocolate chips. (If you are using Rolos, you don’t need to use any chocolate chips) The chocolate will melt by the time you have finished putting one on each caramel. Press one M&M or toasted pecan half into the soft chocolate. Let candies cool completely before moving from baking sheet. 12-1-10 014-1

RECIPE:

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Turtle Pretzel Snaps

Pretzel Snaps (criss-cross shaped)
Caramels or Rolos
Chocolate chips (if using plain caramels); I like the larger Ghirardelli bittersweet chips
Peanut M&Ms
Whole Pecans, toasted (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Lay pretzel snaps in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat, parchment paper or foil. Cut caramels in half and place one half on each pretzel (Alternately, top each pretzel with a Rolo candy). Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until caramels are soft. Remove from oven and immediately top each caramel with one chocolate chip (omit chocolate chips when using Rolos). When chocolate is soft, press an M&M or pecan half into the chocolate. Let chocolate harden before moving to a serving plate.

 

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS COOKIES (2010) RECAP:
DAY 1: Raspberry Crumb Bars
DAY 2: Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
DAY 3: Chocolate Nutella Cookies
DAY 4: Glazed Lemon Poppy Seed Cookies
DAY 5: Almond Macaroon Brownies
DAY 6: Trail Mix Cookies
DAY 7: Cream Cheese Cut-Out Cookies
DAY 8: Chocolate Revel Bars
DAY 9: Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl Cookies
DAY 10: Caramel Pecan Bars

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