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old-fashioned chocolate whoopie pies

May 10, 2010

So I’ve tried my hand at whoopie pies quite a few times, but I’ve never gotten them… right. The first time I made whoopies, I essentially made tiny cakes with buttercream smooshed between them. Delicious, but not an authentic whoopie. The next time? I made bright pink monstrosities with a too-thin batter… they were big, thin sugar cookies with an unbearably sweet cream filling, and rainbow sprinkles. Easily the most flamboyant thing that’s ever come out of my oven.

Pictured: not a whoopie pie.

This time, I was determined to get them right. And guess what?! I did it, I did it, I did it! Yay! I made these for my lovely sisters in Tau Beta Sigma, for us to nom on at our last meeting of the year. :]

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Whoopie Pies
adapted from this faboo recipe

1/4 c vegetable shortening
1 c milk
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c AP flour
1/4 c + 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

1. First, combine shortening, milk, sugar, egg, and vanilla.

2. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and mix using a hand (or stand) mixer until well-blended.

3. Scoop onto an ungreased cookie sheet using a small ice-cream scoop or spoon.

4. Bake on 350F until a toothpick comes out clean.

5. Allow to cool completely before assembling whoopies.

Whoopie Pie Filling
also adapted from this lovely recipe

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c vegetable shortening
1 c sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 warm 2% milk
1 tsp water

1. Combine all ingredients and mix until fluffy, smooth, and cloud-like. If you’re using Crisco, this could take a while longer because it tends to be “tougher” than generic vegetable shortening.

Once assembled, these whoopies do not need to be refrigerated! Just make sure to store them covered. :]

mexican hot chocolate cupcakes (whole wheat, sugar-free)

May 1, 2010

So… Mexican hot chocolate is one of my new favorite flavors. I’m seriously addicted. Not gonna lie, at first the idea of chocolate and cinnamon together just… repulsed me. But once I tried it? Man, I’ve had a serious change of heart. I threw together these cupcakes yesterday for one final splurge before I started dieting, and they were just perfect 🙂 I tweaked my usual whole wheat, sugar-free cupcake recipe just a bit and ended up with a much nicer final product this time: more moist, and more evenly rounded tops 🙂 Yay!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
approximately 140 calories/cupcake (makes 16-18)

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour, sifted
1 c baking Splenda
1 tbsp cinnamon
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 dash salt
1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 c 2% milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar
2 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, Splenda, cinnamon, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another bowl, cream butter using a hand mixer.

4. Add milk, vanilla, vinegar, and eggs to the butter and combine.

5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until well combined. If the mixture is too thick, add more milk in increments of 1/3 cup.

6. Grease muffin tin, and fill each half-full (one large, heaping spoonful).

7. Bake approximately 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow them to cool completely before frosting.

Cinnamon-Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
approximately 75 calories/tbsp

1 stick butter, softened
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp 2% milk
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar

1. Cream butter well using a mixer.

2. Add cinnamon, cocoa, and vanilla and mix until well combined.

3. Add sugar in 1 cup increments and mix until smooth and well-combined until all the sugar is incorporated. If at some point the frosting becomes too dry and begins to get clumpy, add milk in increments of 1 tbsp (if you need more than the designated 2 tbsps, that’s fine).

4. Continue to combine until smooth and creamy.

5. Refrigerate until ready for use.

chinese dumplings, part 1/5: making wrappers

April 11, 2010

Authentic southern Chinese dumplings… quite possibly the greatest breakfast ever. Apologies for the quality, pic was snapped with a cell phone.

A memory of China… it was really early in the morning. It was still dark out, and it was cold and rainy. We were tired and I had a terrible headache. And to top it all off we were walking in the dark and the cold and the rain from the hotel to… somewhere. It was our last morning in China, as in about an hour we’d be boarding a bus to Hong Kong and then flying back to the States. We were all pretty sad. But then… a light in the dark. We stopped at a hole-in-the-wall dumpling restaurant that just happened to be the only thing open at such an ungodly hour. It was warm inside, and dry, and just as soon as we sat down they were piling up bamboo steamers full of dumplings on our table, and they kept coming. I may have binged a little bit, knowing that once I got back to the States (especially Louisiana) I’d never have access to dumplings this great. And for the most part, that’s proved true. It’s pretty easy to go to a local Japanese place and order a plate of gyoza… but it’s just not the same. I want my jiaozi… with pork and cabbage, peanut sauce and black vinegar… I want to taste China again. So I’ve been learning how to make dumplings, completely from scratch (and with the limited resources that North Louisiana has to offer). The first couple of times I made them were… disasters. Complete and total disasters. But then, I went to a Chinese New Year celebration put on by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at my school, and they taught me, hands-on, how to make dumplings start to finish. It was great, and it’s a fool-proof method, and now I’m hoping to share my dumpling making experiences with all of you folks.

I’m no dumpling master, but I like to think that I’m getting there. I’ve divided this tutorial into 5 portions just to make it easier and more organized. This post is all about making the wrappers, or dumpling “skins.” The following posts will be on making filling, assembling the dumplings, cooking methods, and dipping sauces, respectively. I hope you enjoy, and learn at least a little bit. 🙂

Chinese Dumpling Wrappers
makes approximately 48 wrappers

3 c & 2 tbsp AP flour, sifted
1 and 1/4 c water

1. Place flour in a large bowl and slowly add water, mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon as you go.

2. Once the flour and water are combined, flour a kneading surface and knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and pliable.

NOTE: throughout the dumpling making process, you’ll want to be very generous with the flour. Keep a small bowl of flour at your workspace for kneading, flouring your hands, and flouring any surfaces your dumpling wrappers touch. You definitely don’t want them to stick to anything.

3. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.

4. Flour your kneading surface once more, and place your dough on the surface–knead it once more for just a minute or so.

5. Divide your dough into four sections, and then use your palms to roll each of these sections into “tubes” about 7 inches long and an inch in diameter.

6. Using a big ol’ knife (preferably a meat cleaver if you’ve got one lying around), cut each tube into about 12 pieces.

7. Cover these small pieces in flour, and flatten them each with the palm of your hand into a medallion shape.

8. Roll them out into wrappers approximately 2-3 inches in diameter.

9. Store them on wax paper, covered, in the fridge–unless you plan to use them immediately.

cupcake monsters (w/ sugar-free lemon-cream cheese filling)

April 10, 2010

So this weekend I was supposed to go to Waco, TX with my sorority sisters for the Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma Southwest District Convention, but my sister’s been pretty sick lately, so I opted to come home and spend the weekend with her… cause I do kind of like to try to be a good big sister, sometimes haha.

So, as you guys know, I’ve been looking for a recipe for a good, sugar-free frosting for my sugar-free cupcakes. Well I finally did what I should’ve done a while ago and Googled that crap, and found the secret: sugar-free instant pudding mix.

Well last night I was chilling at home, and whipped up a sugar-free frosting and a batch of chocolate cupcakes. The sugar-free frosting, though, has such a thin consistency that there’s no way it would stay on top of a cupcake. Mom suggested we cut the cupcakes in half and put the frosting between the halves… and thus cupcake monsters were born.

Just a warning: my whole wheat, sugar-free recipe for cupcakes is not very sweet. Usually I make a full-sugar buttercream frosting to add the sweetness to the cupcakes, but the cupcakes with this sugar-free frosting are not very sweet at all. Tasty, but not too sweet. I’m working on it.

Cupcake Monsters
makes approximately 18 cupcakes

1. Make a batch of cupcakes, any kind of cupcakes you want. Here is my recipe for whole wheat, sugar-free cupcakes. For this particular recipe, I did not use any food coloring, and I added a couple extra teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder because I wanted them extra-chocolaty.

2. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely (preferably on a cooling rack and NOT in the pan), and cut the tops off using a serrated knife.

3. Place a spoonful of frosting on the bottom half of each cupcake, and replace the top. Scroll down a little lower for my sugar-free lemon-cream cheese frosting recipe.

4. To make these “monsters,” I dotted little red eyes on each of them using royal icing, but this is definitely the part of the process where you can get creative haha.

Sugar-free Lemon-Cream Cheese Frosting
makes approximately 65 tablespoons
approximately 25 calories/tablespoon

8 oz. (1 pkg) cream cheese, softened
1 pkg sugar-free instant pudding mix – lemon flavor
1 3/4 c 2% milk
8 oz. sugar-free whipped topping
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla
a dab of yellow food coloring (optional)

1. In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese with the vanilla and the lemon juice until well-combined.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk and pudding mix.

3. Add the pudding and milk mixture to the cream cheese mixture and blend well.

4. Slowly fold in the whipped topping until the frosting is creamy and evenly mixed. At this point, add a toothpick tip of yellow gel food coloring (if you want) to get a pretty pastel yellow.

5. Refrigerate until ready for use.


easter special! chocolate bunny cake w/ cream cheese frosting

April 5, 2010

This is an Easter tradition of ours… super-fun and super-cute. The perfect dessert to our massive Easter feast: garlic and red pepper pork tenderloin, brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole, no-knead bread, and sweet tea. Needless to say, we’re all stuffed. The only complaint I have about this cake is the texture… it turned out rather spongy, which I’m not a fan of. Our internet was down, so I wasn’t able to access the recipe I normally use haha, so I busted this recipe out of one of my mom’s old cookbooks. It was good, just a really unappealing texture.

Easy Easter Bunny Cake
about 12 servings

1. Bake two cakes in 9 in. round pans. Make sure to grease the pans really well or use parchment paper, because it will be really hard to work with the cakes if they’re crumbly and stuck to the pan. Here‘s a great chocolate cake recipe that would work well for this cake. A box mix would work great as well.

2. After the cakes come out of the oven, flatten them with paper towels and stack them one on top of the other. Place them in the freezer for about 5 minutes. This will speed up cooling, and flatten the cakes to make them easier to decorate. After removing them from the freezer, take them out of the pans and allow them to cool completely on a cooling rack.

3. While the cakes are cooling, throw together a quick frosting. I used a cream cheese frosting for this cake, recipe here. Store-bought icing, of course, is fine too.

4. Once this cake is assembled, it takes up a lot of space, so prepare a large workspace on which to decorate and serve the cake. I had to layer two thin plastic cutting boards on top of one another.

5. Using a serrated knife, cut two football shaped “ears” off of opposite ends of one of the cakes. The middle portion of this cake will be the bunny’s “bowtie.” If you need to, trim up the ears and bowtie to make them look neater.

6. Place the whole cake in the center of your workspace, and then place the ears on top and the bowtie on bottom, leaving space between the cakes so you can frost each side.

7. Frost the cakes evenly on each side. It doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect; your bunny will be precious even if the icing is kinda messy.

8. Decorate! You can use whatever you want: candy, chocolate, icing, etc. We used store-bought royal icing to draw the bunny’s eyes, nose, mouth, bowtie buttons, and the inside of his ears.

9. Enjoy!

He was a tasty little guy… and we felt bad after chomping on his ears, so we drew him some more. He’s a cat now, I guess.

red velvet mini-cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

April 3, 2010

These cupcakes are whole wheat and sugar-free. The frosting, however is not sugar-free. I ended up making a total of… 54, I believe, with plenty of frosting leftover haha… there are about 45 cupcakes left after they’ve been picked at all day by me and my family… I’m already sick of red velvet and cream cheese haha. I’m hoping to give them out tomorrow. 🙂

Whole Wheat, Sugar-Free Red Velvet Mini-Cupcakes
makes 54 mini-cupcakes, 18 reg. cupcakes
45 calories/mini-cupcake, 140 calories/cupcake (no frosting)

2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3/4 c baking Splenda*
1 tsp baking soda
4 tsp cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 stick butter, softened
1 c 2% milk
2 large eggs
2 tbsp red food coloring (more if needed)
1 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp vanilla

*if you don’t want sugar-free cupcakes, replace the Splenda with 1 c sugar. I don’t like the cupcakes to be too sweet because the icing is very rich and very sweet.

1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease your muffin pan.

2. Cream butter in a medium bowl.

3. Combine flour, Splenda (or sugar), baking soda, and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Add the butter to these ingredients and combine them well. The mixture will be clumpy.

4. In a medium bowl, combine milk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

5. Slowly add the wet mixture to the butter and dry ingredients, mixing consistently until everything is combined well. If, for some reason, the mixture is too dry, add more milk in 1/3 c increments until the batter is moist enough to work with. At this point you can also add more food coloring if you need to.

6. Fill muffin pan and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
makes approximately 60 tablespoons
50 calories/tablespoon

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp vanilla
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar (1 box)

1. In a large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese.

2. Add vanilla and combine fully into the mixture.

3. Add powdered sugar in 1 c increments, mixing consistently until all sugar is incorporated and the frosting is smooth, fluffy, and creamy.

4. Refrigerate until ready for use.

whole wheat, sugar-free chocolate whoopie pies

April 1, 2010

So last weekend I wanted to try my hand at whoopie pies, and I knew just the thing I wanted to cook them in. My mom has a precious heart-shaped cake pan… I know, I know, it’s a little late for the hearts and all… Valentine’s day was a month and a half ago… but I think hearts are timeless, haha. And, you know, these are really cute.

Just a note, however: the frosting/filling is NOT sugar-free. The chocolate cookie/cakes are 100% sugar-free, but I’ve not yet discovered a recipe for a good sugar-free frosting. It’s in the works, though!

Whole Wheat, Sugar-Free Whoopie Pies
makes approximately 14, 130 calories each
1 serving = 2 cookies = 260 calories

1/2 c baking Splenda
1/2 c vegetable shortening
2 eggs
2 c whole wheat flour, sifted
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 c 2% milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350F and butter your baking pan. In a medium bowl, cream shortening and Splenda together.

2. Add eggs and milk to the Splenda and shortening mixture and combine well.

3. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and vanilla.

4. Slowly incorporate the Splenda/shortening/egg/milk mixture, mixing steadily. If the mixture seems to dry (which is very possible due to the whole wheat flour), add milk in 1/4 c increments until the batter is suitable for you to work with.

5. Fill baking pan and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on these, they cook fast!

Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting
makes approximately 28 tablespoons
approximately 85 calories/tablespoon

1 stick butter, softened
1/2 c peanut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 lb. powdered sugar

1. Cream butter in a large bowl.

2. Incorporate peanut butter and vanilla until combined.

3. Add powdered sugar in 1 c increments until frosting is well-combined, smooth, and creamy.

4. Refrigerate or use immediately.