I was never actually into the Hostess cupcakes that much as a kid. I was definitely more of a Nutty Buddy type. Wafers plus peanut butter plus fake chocolate tasted fabulous!
Now I prefer to bake stuff from scratch when I can, mainly because I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and it’s weird that something can last for years on a shelf. Time for a copycat version that’s homemade!
This week’s Reddit bake challenge was childhood favorites. Hostess Cupcakes have been around quite a while and look really monochromatic and cool. My husband fondly remembers eating the rubbery chocolate layer off them first as a kid, so I’m going to assume these count as a childhood favorite 🙂
Your cupcake base is a FABULOUS chocolate cake recipe simply in cupcake form. I actually use this particular recipe for all my chocolate cakes because it’s so good. Don’t be afraid of the instant espresso; you won’t taste it and it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.
Each little cake is filled with a simple 7-minute frosting, cooked over the stove and whipped. The recipe for that is here. Save your leftovers after filling them, cuz you’ll need it to pipe the little swirly on the top to decorate. They aren’t the real deal without the swirl 😉
They are all topped off with a 2-ingredient ganache. I used bittersweet chocolate chips, but I bet you’ll get an even more “authentic” flavor if you use semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips instead. Let them sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up the ganache, and pipe your curly-cues on top for the finishing touch with the leftover frosting.
(Weird measurements in the recipe are from scaling it for exactly 12 cupcakes; we definitely didn’t need 24 of these sitting around 🙂
The finished product really does taste amazing, and we had exactly none leftover from the dozen we made. There’s something SO satisfying about whipping up something that’s typically made in a factory 🙂
Copycat Hostess Cupcakes
A homemade twist on the classic childhood favorite!
Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and 1 egg.
Using a mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
Bring the 1/2 cup water to boil and add the espresso to it. Immediately add this to the batter and mix until combined. It will be thin and watery.
Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter.
Bake about 18 minutes, until toothpick stuck in the center is mostly clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.
When your cupcakes are cooled, get started on the 7-minute frosting. Recipe I used is up above in instructions, but any basic 7-minute frosting would be fine.
If your cupcakes have a dome, use a serrated knife to shave a bit of the top off and level them. Now core out each cupcake for the filling. I just use a small metal veggie peeler and carve out of a little rough circle shape from the center of the cupcake. Fill with frosting.
Place your chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
Bring your heavy cream just barely to a simmer and take off the heat.
Pour heavy cream over chocolate and cover the small bowl with a lid. Set aside for 3 minutes to soften the chocolate.
Using a whisk, gently mix the cream and chocolate together in one direction, not vigorously. It will eventually come together in a smooth, glossy, beautiful ganache.
Let cool for a few minutes until firmed up just a bit for spreading over cupcakes. I used an offset spatula to spread it just to the edges; dunking the whole cupcake upside down in the ganache resulted in a mess, so I would avoid that way with this recipe 🙂
Put the ganache-covered cupcakes in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the ganache. Make the swirl on top using the leftover white frosting.
Week 5 of the Reddit 52-week baking challenge was trifles. I have never made one of these before, but have drooled many a time at pictures of them. Mint isn’t generally a winter favorite of mine (cool and refreshing are for summer!), but my son is a huge fan of mint so I threw him a bone this week 😉
The dark chocolate layer you see is a fabulous Taste of Home chocolate chiffon cake – http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/chocolate-chiffon-cake – The icing was left off since I was just going to cut it up into chunks anyway. This cake was so light and airy, and my daughter actually (almost) requested this specific cake for her birthday. A winner!
The white layer is just a standard homemade whipped cream, i.e. heavy cream tossed with a bit of sugar and whipped up.
Finally, the Leprechaun-green color is a mint pudding. I had to “wing it” for this, as the only recipes I found online were for chocolate mint pudding, and that wouldn’t get me a cool green color 🙂 Layers are alternated, and a few crushed Andes candies are on top for good measure.
An easy and versatile recipe! Just cake, pudding, and whipped cream in alternating layers.
In a medium saucepan off the heat, whisk together your sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly add in milk while whisking. Add your food coloring now; I used about 3 drops of green leaf gel coloring.
Cook on medium heat while whisking. It will thicken and start to boil. Boil for 1 minute more while stirring.
Take about 1/4 cup of the hot pudding and mix with your egg yolks in a separate small bowl. You are "tempering" them so you don't get scrambled eggs! Now add your yolks back into your saucepan of boiling pudding. Keep whisking and boil for 1 more minute.
Stir in the cut up butter and peppermint extract.
Strain your hot pudding into a separate bowl to get rid of lumps. Pour into dessert cups, Pyrex container, another bowl, etc. Let cool for 2 or 3 minutes and place plastic wrap on top to prevent a skin from forming.
Refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up and get cold.
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker's vanilla pudding.
Something about winter makes me crave lemon/lime/orange stuff. Maybe my body trying to avoid scurvy during these cold and gray Pennsylvania days? I’m not entirely sure, but it will be my excuse for making these lovely little lemon pudding cakes!
You may be asking, “Wait…is this PUDDING or CAKE? Make up your mind, woman!” They are in fact both – light springy cake on top and creamy lemon pudding hiding underneath. Perfect for 35 degree weather and pretending it’s another season entirely!
You will find exactly zero lemon zest in this recipe because I truly hate zesting anything. Maybe I have the wrong tools,
maybe probably I’m too lazy to scrape my knuckles against my grater for a teaspoon of fruit peel, but I’ll pass on that nonsense. I have, however, found a close second to zesting…CITRUS OILS. Think extracts but stronger and much less is needed. They give fabulous flavor without the hassle 🙂
Little Lemon Pudding Cakes
Easy to bake lemon pudding cakes in individual portion sizes.
Grease 6 ramekins and lightly dust with a bit of sugar. Set aside.
Using a hand mixer, gently blend together egg yolks, milk, bottled lemon juice, and lemon flavoring oil. You want a smooth consistency.
Sift your flour, sugar, and salt into the egg/milk mixture and blend the batter briefly.
In another small bowl, mix your egg whites until the soft peak stage. Fold the whites into your lemon batter.
Ladle your batter into your ramekins and place them into a large pan. I just used a glass 13 x 9, but you could use something smaller as long as the ramekins fit inside with room around them.
Pour water into the pan around and halfway up the sides of the ramekins; you are making a water bath to gently bake your cakes.
Bake 20 to 30 minutes, or until your cakes are lightly browned and springy to the touch. Lightly dust powdered sugar on top. Enjoy warm or room temp!
Adapted from Savory magazine, Light Lemon Pudding Cakes, January 2017 issue
I find meringue to be fickle sometimes. I went through 2 batches of another meringue recipe on a drizzly day and it refused to make stiff peaks both times! Almost weekly I whip up egg whites for macarons, so I’d like to THINK I have my technique down at this point. I’ll blame it on the rain that day 😉
This recipe was used to make tiny mushrooms for a Buche de Noel for Christmas…they were the best meringues EVER. They literally melted in my mouth, which was quite a change from other dry, hollow hockey pucks I’ve made in the past. I’ve narrowed it down to temperature being important here; too high a temp seems to create giant gaps in meringue cookies. So go low and slow!
Like macarons, this recipe only uses whites and you’ll need to either throw out your yolks or save them to make this deliciousness.
Shockingly enough, these are even better dipped in chocolate and the bottoms bathed in nonpareils. The texture rocks on these – crunchy sweet bottoms with light and airy meringue on top. I really enjoy the contrast! I also just drizzled some bittersweet chocolate on a few of them, because why not?
One more tip – make sure your cooled meringues are stored in an airtight container. They like to absorb moisture from the air and become sticky, although still tasty 😉
Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Cookies
Meringue cookies are both easy to make and impressive to serve to guests! A batch of these would make a welcome gift.
Preheat oven to 200 F and cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Place your egg whites and cream of tartar in a very clean bowl; any fat/oil/grease in the bowl will prevent your eggs from peaking.
Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, start to mix on low and inch your way up to medium speed until soft peaks form.
Increase your speed to high and slowly add your granulated sugar. I just hold the small bowl over the mixer while it's running and just sprinkle it in small amounts until gone. Mix until you get stiff peaks.
Now you can either use a spoon to place small teaspoon-sized mounds on your parchment, or you can use a piping bag with tip to make a small "kiss" shape on your parchment. I made these about 3/4 inch in diameter.
Bake for 1 hour at 200 F and turn your pan around; my oven has "hot spots" and this keeps one side from browning before the other. Bake for another 30 minutes and turn the oven off, leaving them inside another 15 minutes. Depending on the size of your meringues, you may need more or less time in the oven. When they feel light, crisp and airy and come off the paper easily, they are done. They will start to shrivel a bit if overcooked, although taste will still be yum 🙂
Dip the bottoms of your cooled meringues into the melted chocolate and then into nonpareils, or alternatively you can drizzle the chocolate over them. They will rock either way!
If you have leftovers (why would you??), then keep them in an airtight container to prevent "chewiness" from absorbing the humidity.
Adapted from Chowhound's Meringue Mushroom recipe.
Leb-a-who?? Lebkuchen, i.e. German gingerbread cookies. The baking theme this week (see https://www.reddit.com/r/52weeksofbaking/) was Germany. I’ve always been interested in all things Deutschland related. With 2 years of German language in high school and a love affair with marzipan, I am almost German, right??
I also happen to have a brand new sister-in-law from the UK that brought my attention to Lebkuchen. According to all-knowing Wikipedia:
Lebkuchen or Pfefferkuchen, is a traditional German baked Christmas treat, somewhat resembling gingerbread.
These lebkuchen are soft when they first come out, but quickly harden and become more crisp as they cool. Eating the cookies plain was a bit underwhelming to me, but the chocolate on top converted me 🙂 There is a reason most pics of Lebkuchen are smothered in icing and it’s because they are definitely tastier 🙂 Having something on top adds moisture that seeps into the cookies and softens them up nicely.
Lebkuchen (German Gingerbread Cookies)
Spiced German gingerbread cookies iced with either powdered sugar or bittersweet chocolate.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Add the molasses and corn syrup to your melted butter and stir. Set aside.
Mix your flour, brown sugar, spices, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
Add your butter mixture to your dry ingredients and mix well.
Add your eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition.
Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon, drop spoonfuls onto your cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between them for spreading.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack before icing.
To make your chocolate icing, melt your chocolate and coconut oil together either in the microwave or over a double boiler on low heat.
Add your melted chocolate to a piping bag, snip the tip off, and pipe in a swirl fashion. Start from the inside and work your way out to the edge for half of the cookies.
Decorate with almond slices while chocolate is still wet. You can also take a few almonds and drag them through the excess melted chocolate to set aside for later.
To make your white icing, mix your powdered sugar with a few tablespoons of water to get a flowing icing consistency. Either add a bit more water or a bit more icing to get the thickness you want.
Add your icing to a piping bag, snip the tip off, and pipe in a swirl fashion to the other half of your cookies.
You can either add plain almond slices to the wet icing or use the chocolate dipped almond slices you made earlier for a nice black/white contrast.
Recipe inspired by Just Like Oma.
Are you a cheesecake fan? I think it’s probably one of my top 5 desserts to make and eat. I love the endless flavor combinations and the cold creamy center. Speaking of cold, creamy center…do yourself a favor and resist the urge to try your cheesecake warm out of the oven because you have no self-control. It was kinda gross.
Now onto the recipe! Bars are fabulous if you don’t feel like dealing with your springform pan and want ease of serving. Just cut into
huge reasonably sized squares and slap some whipped cream on top. Honestly, is there a recipe that whipped cream doesn’t improve upon? These bars (SPOILER ALERT) have pumpkin in them, which is awesome, and contrary to my children’s claim, pumpkin is NOT just for Thanksgiving and is, in fact, something to be enjoyed from October to December 31 🙂
Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
Creamy pumpkin cheesecake bars with a graham cracker crust.
Preheat your oven to 300 F.
Grease a 13 x 9 pan well, including up the sides.
In a bowl, mix your melted butter and graham cracker crumbs.
Press mixture into bottom of 13 x 9 pan and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat your cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice.
Beat your eggs in one at a time on low speed. When one egg is incorporated, add another and so on. Don't go nuts here with mixing. Beating at a low speed keeps too much air from getting into your batter and causing cracks.
Pour half your mixture onto your crust. If you want more exact and even layers, use a scale to weigh your batter first and halve that amount for your first layer.
Add your spices and canned pumpkin to the other half of your batter. This will look like a light orange/brown color, but will darken after baking and cooling.
Stir until smooth and carefully pour on top of your first cheesecake layer.
Bake about 45 minutes; you want a bit of wobble still in the middle, but just set on top.
Turn off the oven, open the door, but leave your cheesecake in there. Let it sit in place for about 15 minutes.
Take out of oven and cool on wire rack. When completely cool, cover and put in fridge for 3 hours before digging in.
When ready to serve, slice with a sharp knife wiped off between cuts to get a nice look. Garnish with whipped cream.
Recipe adapted from A Treats Affair.