Highway to Heaven Cupcakes {and Sugar Cube Winner!}

Happy Monday!

Here is the winner of the The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet book giveaway:

#8 NanaBread (Jeanne): “dark chocolate & salted caramel is at the top of my list, along with coconut & chocolate, strawberry & cream cheese, and anything with cherries”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favourite flavour combinations!

See you soon. ♥

The Giveaway:

When I was asked to be part of the Sugar Cube Blog Tour to celebrate the newly released The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet, it sounded like my kind of party, but I hadn’t heard of the book or the adorable Portland, Oregon food cart before. But, upon first glance I fell in fast love with everything about Kir Jensen’s delicious sugared world, and after first read and taste, the book is now in my leave-it-out-because-I-use-it-so-much collection. I had such a hard time deciding what to make first, and what to share with you, but when I set eyes on Highway to Heaven Cupcakes adorned with shards of Ruffles and read that she’s built her entire reputation on this particular cupcake, I knew that these had to be my first Sugar Cube experience.

So what’s this book all about (aside from its undeniably adorable cover)?

This covetable cookbook is a greatest-hits collection from Sugar Cube, a tiny pink food cart in Portland, Oregon, that is thronged daily by hungry hordes craving voluptuous sweets intensified with a spike of booze, a lick of sea salt, or a “whoop” of whipped cream. Sugar Cube founder and baker Kir Jensen left the fine-dining pastry track to sell her handmade treats on the street. Recipes for 50 of Kir’s most enticing cupcakes, cookies, tarts, muffins, sips, and candies are made more irresistible (if possible!) by 32 delicious color photographs. Sassy headnotes and illustrations that resemble vintage tattoos liven up this singular boutique baking book.

And they do not lie–this book is everything they say it is, and more. It is really special. What I love is how Kir really pushes the boundaries of classic and comforting treats in a gourmet and innovative way (think Vanilla Bean Risotto, Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie, Cream Soda Ice Cream and more). The recipes are easy to follow and the flavors and textures almost leap straight off of the page. I am sincerely excited to make each and every recipe in her fabulous book, and I’m also excited that 1 lucky reader will win their own copy! But, let’s talk more about the recipe I made to share with you, these Highway to Heaven Cupcakes . . .

But don’t be fooled: What makes these cupcakes so incredible isn’t just the fact that there are salted caramel drizzled Ruffles chips on top, because that’s simply an added bonus (a sweet & salty, crunchy, heavenly bonus, that is), because there’s so much more depth and decadence to relish in here. The cupcakes are a moist super-chocolatey delight that are brushed with coffee syrup, injected with homemade salted caramel sauce, topped with a rich sexy bittersweet ganache, drizzled with more salted caramel sauce and then, if you love double-wowing the crowd, spears of caramel-drizzled potato chips, of course. As far as cupcakes go, it just doesn’t get any sexier.

These were so enticing in all of their dark, glossy, drizzled, crunchy goodness that I couldn’t stop taking Instagram photos while I was making them. When you’re trying to decide where to start in the flurry of decadent treats in this book, I can safely say this is an ideal place to start. (It’s also safe to say I’ll be making these cupcakes at least *once a month* for years to come.) Girls, who’s with me?

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What is your favourite dessert flavour combination?”

2. For an extra entry, tweet: “I want to win a copy of @TheSugarCube’s book from @Sweetapolita!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 11:59 pm (EST) and winner will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear at first, but it’s there.

*Prize courtesy of Chronicle Books. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

Good luck, everyone!

Now, here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book: The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet

highway to heaven cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes



  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups warm strong-brewed coffee or french-pressed coffee
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

coffee syrup

  • 1/2 cup strong-brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 recipe sexy bittersweet chocolate ganache

1 recipe salted caramel sauce, at room temperature


  • To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and there are no lumps. (It’s a thin batter, but it will bake up beautifully.)
  • Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch room at the top. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • To make the coffee syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the coffee and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil for 1 to 2 minutes more to concentrate the mixture.
  • While the cupcakes are still hot, brush the tops with coffee syrup. (You’ll use most but not all of it. Just discard the rest or use it in a cocktail.) Let the cupcakes cool completely before filling and frosting.
  • Place the caramel in a squeeze bottle. Insert the tip into the top of each cupcake and squeeze in some caramel. (You’ll see them plump up a bit, but don’t fill them with so much that the cupcakes split.) Dip the tops in ganache, then tilt to shake off the excess. Let the chocolate set (it will be glossy but not runny) for about 30 minutes before drizzling with more salted caramel to serve.

sexy bittersweet ganache

makes about 2 cups


  • 12 ounces chopped good-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, but into cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoons good sea salt, such as fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup


  • In a medium metal bowl, combine the chocolate, butter, salt, and corn syrup. Put the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and heat, stirring, until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from the heat.
  • Use as a glaze for cakes, or let cool until spreadable and use as a frosting or filling. Ganache can be refrigerated for 1 week. To gently rewarm, heat it in a microwave on 50 percent power or put it over a saucepan of barely simmering water and give it a good whisking.

salted caramel sauce

makes about 2 1/2 cups


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
  • 2 cups heavy cream, warmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • In a deep heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugar, water, and salt and stir until well mixed. Cook over high heat until the sugar starts to color around the edges of the pot, swirling the pan to promote even caramelization of the sugar. (Do not stir or the sugar will crystalize, that is, harden.) Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until the caramel is very dark mahogany is color and lightly smoking (it should be on the verge of burning), 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Immediately remove the pot from the heat, and while stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon, add the warmed cream in a steady stream. (Since you’re taking the caramel to the dark side, you have to work quickly and being adding the cream right away to stop the cooking process. But you don’t want to add it all at once, so pour it in a continous, steady stream. Be careful: The mixture will steam and bubble up furiously. (I recommend wearing an oven mitt on the hand that’s stirring in the cream.) Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Stir in the vanilla and let cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Refrigerate, uncovered for several hours to thicken.
  • Whisk before using or transferring to an airtight jar for longer storage. It will keep refrigerated for at least 1 week.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I followed the recipes for each of the components exactly, and they were a success.
  • I served and tasted several of these sans potato chips, and just drizzeld in the caramel sauce, and they were incredible too.
  • As with some of my other favourite chocolate cake recipes, the coffee in these cupcakes simply enhances the deep chocolate flavour–they don’t taste coffee-ish, I promise.
  • As Kir explains, the sexy bittersweet ganache goes on super glossy and dries with a nice sheen.
  • I used Fleur de Sel for the salted caramel sauce and the sexy bittersweet ganache, Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder for the cupcakes, and Callebaut Dark Callets and the ganache.

Good luck & enjoy!


Share the Sweetness!

Sunshine Sweet: Citrus Curd

Lemon Curd via Sweetapolita

Here’s something you might not believe: If I could only eat one type of dessert for the rest of my existence, I would have a hard time choosing (that’s the not part you might not believe), but what I do know is that it would be smothered in, filled with, topped with or made entirely of citrus curd. Who’s with me?

Lemon Curd via Sweetapolita

True, Meyer lemons, limes, Key limes, grapefruit, oranges — they’re all pretty delightful on their own, but marry citrus juice with eggs, sugar and butter and you’ve got a whole new world of awesome. I know citrus curd has been around forever, but I find sometimes it gets overlooked and in some tragic situations, underloved. Even I forget about it sometimes and go about life thinking things are okay, but then I realize that something very zingy-sweet is missing.

La La Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

You might remember these little La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes from last week with their dollops of lemon curd nestled comfortably under Whipped Lavender Frosting. As promised, I wanted to share the recipe I use for my citrus curd, and that’s just it — it’s “citrus” curd because you can use any kind of citrus, switch it up from time to time, and use the same base recipe. It’s so versatile, so incredibly tart and can really add a punch of sunshine to any dessert (or spoon). I would say my favourite of the curd flavours is Meyer lemon (they just pack so much amazing sweet citrus flavour), but since we only get them (imported) in grocery stores for a few short weeks in the winter, I most often use organic lemons, as I did with these cupcakes, but well-washed regular lemons make a dandy curd too.

Triple-Lemon Blueberry Cake via Sweetapolita

As they did for this Triple Lemon Blueberry Cake (while we’re on the topic, this cake makes an incredible Mother’s Day dessert). The intense and lemony curd was just what this cake needed to compliment the sweet frosting on the outside and that’s just it — you can add curd to pretty much anything and it kicks it up a notch. You can even add a few tablespoons (to taste) of lemon curd to a stable, classic frosting and whip it in for a simple and flavourful twist.

I have tried many different recipes for the curd itself, and although they’re all good (I just love experimenting), I most often make the version I included in this post. Some recipes include more eggs and yolks, more or less juice, more or less butter, and zest or no zest, so I’ve ended up settling on a mix of a few recipes I’ve tried for something that falls right in the middle. I make it and freeze (you can freeze for up to 1 month, or so), which comes in really handy when you’re making a dessert that has a lot of components, and you want some make-ahead options.

Lemon Curd via Sweetapolita

This batch in the photo was Key Lime Curd, and I made it for filling a Key Lime Coconut Cake (this was a photo before I completed the cake). The recipe I use does include a few teaspoons of zest, which I personally love, but you could always omit that. If you do opt for filling a cake with it (and really, why would you not), just be sure to pipe a nice stiff frosting dam around the cake first, so that the curd doesn’t ooze out when you add another layer.

This is actually a great idea for anytime you are using a filling that is a little soft or loose, so let’s say you had a really light frosting/filling, you can use a stiffer frosting for a dam and continue with your light frosting inside of it. But, in the case of citrus curd you will always want to pipe the dam — trust me. Just remember that when you’re filling a cake with citrus curd, you then need to keep it refrigerated after a few hours at room temperature because of the eggs that are in it.

So whether you decide to simply eat it alongside cookies and scones, jar it and gift it, add it to frosting, fill a cupcake, place it on top of a cupcake, fill a tart, fill a cake, or do what I do and sit down with the whole lot and a ladle spoon, just know that it will undoubtedly make someone’s life a little brighter. ♥

I will see you much sooner than later, my friends, with an insanely delicious post — you’ll see!

Here’s the recipe:

Citrus Curd           {click to print}

*loosely adapted from Williams Sonoma

Yield: ~ 1-3/4 cups


4 lemons (or 6 Meyer lemons), or 2 oranges, or 5 limes (or 8 Key Limes), preferably organic

2 whole eggs plus 4 egg yolks

1 cup sugar (200 grams) (7 ounces)

4 tablespoons (60 grams) (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small even cubes


1. Wash citrus really well (with a bristled brush under cold water) and using a Zester, remove all of the coloured portion of the peel from the fruit (not the white pith–it’s bitter!) into a bowl or onto a piece of wax paper. Rotate fruit as necessary to get as much of the zest off. Repeat until you have 2 teaspoons (30 mL) of the zest, and set aside.

2. Slice the citrus in half crosswise (I find room temperature citrus is best for juicing) using a sharp knife, and extract as much of the juice as you can using a citrus reamer, or I use a small Citrus Juicer. Just be sure to catch all of the juice in a bowl and to completely strain the seeds before using. Repeat the juicing until you have 2/3 cup (5 fl oz/160 mL) of the strained juice.

3. Get your double boiler ready by filling a saucepan with 1″ of water, then placing a metal bowl on top of the saucepan. You will need to ensure the bowl fits snugly into the top of the saucepan and that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water (important, or your eggs will cook!). You can now remove the bowl and continue with making the curd.

4. Whisk the juice, whole eggs, egg yolks and sugar in the bowl until smooth. Add the butter cubes to the bowl, but don’t stir.

5. Heat the water in the saucepan over low heat until it simmers (not boils) and place the bowl atop the rim. Stirring gently, but constantly, using heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, cook until the curd has thickened and all of the butter has melted and is incorporated, about 10 minutes (this can vary). To test if the curd is thick enough, remove the spatula or spoon from the curd and check that it’s coated.

6. Strain the curd over a bowl using a fine-mesh sieve and then stir in the zest. Cover with plastic wrap pressed directly against the curd (to prevent a skin from forming) and chill for at least 3 hours (I like to chill it overnight). It also thickens up a bit more while chilling.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

You can use the chilled curd right away, keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze the curd in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the curd surface for up to 1 month. To use frozen curd, you can remove from freezer and use immediately–no need to thaw it as it doesn’t really freeze, per se. You can either scoop out what you need and keep the rest in the freezer or use all at once.

Citrus Heaven.

Good luck & enjoy!


Share the Sweetness!

La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Today’s Weather Forecast: A sweet mix of sunshine and clouds. Probability of celebration is 100%.

Did I mention that I have a bit of a thing for clouds these days? Yummy ones, that is (you may remember these cloudy sweets). Maybe it’s a subconscious need to escape the everyday, or to float above reality to la la land for awhile, but every time I bake (it’s been known to happen) clouds are on my mind. A little while back I woke up with an undying need for something lavender & lemon, which has also been known to happen, so I made some Lavender & Lemon Shortbread cookies — these little things are so delightful. I love the kind of shortbread that just melts in your mouth with all of its buttery goodness, and the recipe I use is one I’ve adapted from Joy of Baking–it never disappoints. I cut little L&L clouds and felt that they were just too cute to be gobbled up and long forgotten. So I decided to create some cupcakes to perch them upon, to celebrate the awesomeness that is Lavender & Lemon even further.

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

And it’s to not say that these cupcakes need to be cloudy, because are pretty special all on their own–the cupcakes themselves are light, tender, citrusy Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes, topped with tangy homemade Lemon Curd and topped with Whipped Lavender Frosting. If you’ve never baked with culinary lavender before, you’re in for a real treat–the lovely flavour of the lavender doesn’t come across floral, but rather compliments the sweet vanilla and lemon flavours like a dream (you just don’t want to overdo it by adding too much — less is more).

I also thought it would be neat to make my own cupcake wrappers for these, because I wanted something pastel and lavender with a cloud-like scalloped edge. I found a scrapbook paper that I loved and went ahead and cut out some wrappers — this is so easy! For the template, you can check out this simple post from Skip To My Lou. I snipped the tops with the “cloud” style (I didn’t make that up) scallop scissors from the craft shop and secured the backside with a glue stick. Once you learn this simple trick of making your own wrappers, the possibilities are literally endless. Sometimes the liners that we bake the cupcakes in look so cute and, unless they’re really thick, they absorb a lot of the grease of the cupcakes and a lot of the colour is lost. I can see making these little wrappers becoming a wee bit addictive!

I think these cupcakes would make the cutest and yummiest addition to any spring or summer party, shower, dessert table, picnic, birthday or, of course, a lovely Mother’s Day treat. I just adore this flavour combination, and it’s always fun to watch someone’s face light up when you tell them that they just ate lavender–suddenly they feel pretty fancy. It’s hard to not smile when you take a bite of summer.

Even if you stopped at making the Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Clouds, well I’d be okay with that too. They are such a tasty little treat and look pretty darling alongside a cup of tea. With only a handful of ingredients, they’re also pretty quick and easy to make. To make this cutter, I used a simple small flower cookie cutter and gently squished it into a cloud shape — it works!

Lavender & Lemon Shortbread via Sweetapolita

Or you can always whip up some Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Unicorns and call it a day — the world will forgive you. (For those who will want to know more about this fancy cutter in particular, it’s made by Tovolo — I just don’t see it on their website anymore. Sorry!)

Or you can do as I do, and make the L&L Shortbread Unicorns, eat and share most of them before you can actually photograph and blog about it, then make another batch of the shortbread, turn them into clouds, make the following recipes, stack it all up and watch them beam . . .

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Escape to La La Lavender & Lemon land . . .

La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes

Yield: 18 standard cupcakes

Moist, fluffy lemon buttermilk cupcakes topped with zingy lemon curd, whipped lavender frosting and topped with lavender sugar cookie clouds.


    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (8 oz) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (230 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (8 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 g) salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Finely grated lemon zest (rind) of two medium-large lemons
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks (340 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3.5 cups (400 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) whipping cream (35% cream), or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried Culinary Lavender
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt


    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two standard muffin pans with your favourite baking liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the eggs, 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and vanilla. Set aside.Sift the cake flour 3 times.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Stir in the lemon zest.
  6. Divide the batter into your prepared liners, no more than 2/3 full.
  7. Bake until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake (~15 minutes). Be so careful to not over-bake. Place hot baking pans on wire racks, then carefully (they’re hot!) remove the cupcakes from the baking pans immediately to let cool. Let cool completely before frosting.
  8. For the Frosting:
  9. In a small bowl or glass, stir the dried lavender into the whipping cream (or milk); cover with plastic wrap overnight (or for at least several hours).
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Strain the lavender cream and add to butter, along with all remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  12. Add a few drops of Violet gel colour (I used Grape Violet by Sugarflair and a drop of Americolor Electric Purple ) and mix until blended.
  13. Assembly of the La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes:
  14. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon curd on top of each cupcake and gently spread (be careful to not put more than this, or it will ooze).
  15. Fill a small pastry bag fitted with pastry tip of your choice (I used a plain large round tip) about 1/2 full with frosting and pipe a generous swirl on top of the lemon curd.
  16. Top with a Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Cloud. Finish with a scalloped cupcake wrapper or design of your choice

[cupcake batter recipe adapted from Canadian Living]

Here is the recipe for the Lemon Curd.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 20 small-medium cookies


  • 1 cup (2 sticks) (227 g) good quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar/icing sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) good quality pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried culinary lavender
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) grated lemon zest (rind)
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) cornstarch (corn flour)
  • 1/4 (2 g) teaspoon salt


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my KitchenAid mixer) the butter until it is smooth and very creamy, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, then stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until they are incorporated. Make a ball of the dough and seal in plastic wrap. Once in the wrap, flatten the dough into a disk and chill for one hour (at least--can be longer).
  4. When you're ready to roll and cut the cookie dough, preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or two baking mats.
  5. Roll the dough 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut desired shapes, place on baking sheets and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes.
  6. Bake until very light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets on wire racks.


Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week, or can be frozen.


[cookie recipe adapted from Joy of Baking]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:
  • Some of the items I used to make these cupcakes are Stainless Steel Scoop for measuring perfectly-even cupcakes, Culinary Lavender, and Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract).
  • To get frosting super smooth (no air bubbles), use a silicone spatula and in an aggressive side-to-side motion, pushing the frosting back and forth against the sides of the bowl (you will hear a sort of paddling sound). Do this every so often while you use the frosting–it keeps it super smooth. You can also add a few drops (just a few!) of water for ideal spreading/piping.
  • Just a note about purple–all purple gel colours will yield a very different colour by nature, for example, Americolor Violet is much more blue than purple (when compared), and Americolor Electric Purple is more magenta than blue. Those differences in addition to the fact that you’re adding it to an ivory base (this butter frosting), can really alter the look of the finished cupcake, so you’ll want to play around with small frosting samples in bowls before tinting the entire batch. (I ended up making the frosting all over again to achieve the shade I liked best). Just be careful not to go too far with these concentrated colours, because it can get too intense quickly.
  • You can find a wonderful cupcake wrapper template at Skip To My Lou.

Good luck & enjoy!


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Pink Éclairs {Winner of the Amy Atlas Sweet Designs Giveaway!}

Happy Wednesday! Here is the winner of the Amy Atlas Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It book giveaway:

#393 Patisserie Paris: “I like a more classic/elegant style for a dessert table!”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favourite dessert table/party themes and party treats!

See you soon with a sweet & summery recipe.

Today is the day! Amy Atlas, sweet table designer and blogger (and so much more) extraordinaire, is celebrating the release of her first book, Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It–and what a book it is. As you know, I love all things sweet and pretty, and this book is jam-packed with some of the loveliest and most wonderfully crafted dessert and party table ideas I’ve ever seen. Amy shares 175 recipes and seemingly countless crafty ideas for readers to whip up impressive (and charming) dessert displays. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this gem, and after reading it almost all in one sitting I am certainly inspired.

I’m excited to say that one lucky reader is going to win a copy of their own, courtesy of Amy!

Pink Eclairs via Sweetapolia

While reading the book, I was immediately drawn to the chapter entitled Pastel Pretty (naturally), which showcases the most appealing array of pastel sweets and baked goods that take center stage on an incredible dessert table inspired by–you guessed it–pastel colours (think pastel cotton candy, pastel sugar cookie rounds, pastel cake bites and more). When I spotted a recipe for “Pink Éclairs,” I was smitten. I love the idea of including authentic French éclairs on a dessert table (or of course making them for any day of the week) and tweaking them just slightly to give them a pretty twist. So I decided to make a batch. With the crispy pastry (classic Pâte à Choux dough, which is much easier than it sounds) filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with sweet pink glaze, they are every bit as delightful as you would expect “Pink Éclairs” to be.

Pink Eclairs via Sweetapolita

Although you might expect this treat to be a tricky one to make, Amy’s recipe was easy to follow and a great success. I’ve shared the recipe for these delights below, and I know this is only the beginning of my adventures with Sweet Designs.

And for even more celebratory posts in honour of Amy’s new book (and more chances to enter to win your own copy!), be sure to pop by and visit my friends:

Cheryl from Tidy Mom sharing Honey Panna Cotta

Marian from Sweetopia sharing Chocolate Beehive Cupcakes

Jamie from My Baking Addiction sharing Banana Whoopie Pies

Callye from The Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle

Darla from Bakingdom sharing Mini Strawberry Trifles

Bridget from Bake at 350 sharing Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

Maria from Two Peas and Their Pod sharing Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Amanda from I am Baker sharing Chocolate Cupcakes

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What type of party/dessert table theme best suits your personality?” (eg. modern, preppy, vintage, superhero, rainbow, etc.) or “What was the last party treat you made (or enjoyed)?

2. For an extra entry you can tweet: “I want to win a copy of @amyatlas ‘s amazing new book, Sweet Designs, from @Sweetapolita!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends May 1, 2012 at midnight (EST) and winners will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear right away.

*Prize courtesy of Amy Atlas. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

And here is the recipe for the Pink Éclairs, as written in the book Sweet Designs: Bake It, Craft It, Style It, by Amy Atlas:

Pink Éclairs

Yield: 12-14 4-inch éclairs

For the Vanilla Pastry Cream

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon salt

5 egg yolks

1 cup whole milk

1 cup half-and-half

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the Pâte à Choux

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

For the Glaze

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Pink food coloring gel

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add the egg yolks and whisk until combined; set aside.

2. Combine the milk and half-and-half in a medium saucepan and heat over medium-high heat until it simmers. Whisk half of the hot milk into the egg mixture. Return egg-milk mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens and two or three large bubbles appear on the surface. Whisk in the vanilla and butter. Pour the mixture into a heatproof bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator until set, at least 3 hours.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium saucepan, combine 3/4 cup water, butter, sugar, and salt over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until the mixture just comes to a boil. Quickly stir in the flour and continue to stir until the mixture comes together and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir for 2 minutes more (a film may form on the bottom of the pan–this is okay).

4. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the mixture cools slightly and the steam disappears, about 3 minutes.

5. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to completely incorporate after each addition. Stop mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle as necessary.

6. Spoon the batter into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag fitted with a round tip (Wilton Round Tip #1a). Pipe 12 to 14 straight 4-inch lines, spaced 2 inches apart, onto the baking sheet.

7. Bake for 15 minutes, do not open the oven door. At this point, the éclairs will be puffed and golden brown. Reduce the heat to 350°F and bake until éclairs appear dry and are a deep golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes more. Do not underbake; this may cause the éclairs to collapse. Let cool completely on pan.

8. When éclairs have cooled, use a small skewer to poke a hold in either end of each one. Gently move the skewer around the inside the éclair to clear a space for the cream.

9. Spoon the cooled pastry cream into a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag fitted with a Wilton Round Tip #230. Fill éclairs with pastry cream from both ends, taking care to not overfill.

10. In a medium bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Stir in a few drops of pink food coloring until the desired color is achieved. Hold an éclair over the bowl of glaze, spoon the glaze over it, and spread to coat the top. Place the éclairs in individual rectangular treat cups and arrange on a rectangular platter in a single layer. Replenish platter as necessary.

I had so much fun making these decadent and pretty-as-can-be éclairs, and now off I go to bake, craft and style everything else in this incredible book.

Good luck & enjoy!


Share the Sweetness!

Billie’s Italian Cream Cake from The Pioneer Woman + Giveaway {Winners Announced!}

The winners of the signed copies of The Pioneer Woman’s new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier are:

#1082 Gretchen: “My favorite is German Chocolate Cake with Carmel Coconut Frosting.”

#246 Kate W.: “birthday cake!”

#895 Christine: “Any cake with a lot of delicious frosting!!”

Congratulations to the winners! You will be also be notified via email.

It was so much fun reading all of your favourite cakes–I even learned of a few that I’d never heard of before!

See you tomorrow morning with a new post and another exciting giveaway!

. . .

The Pioneer Woman Giveaway:

source: thepioneerwoman.com

Did I mention how excited I am that Ree’s (aka The Pioneer Woman) new cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier is finally released? Well, I sincerely am. And that she’s going to be sending a signed copy to 3 of my lucky readers? This means a lot to me because Ree and I go way back, even if she doesn’t know this. I discovered her back in 2008 when I innocently Googled “cinnamon rolls recipe.” I came across this post and that was that. I felt instantly connected with her, as though we were going to be friends. Forever. Not in like an SWF way, but just in your standard I-want-to-move-into-her-ranch-and-be-best-buds-for-life kind of way. I became an avid reader of her blog, and I can say that she is one of the reasons that I blog today. Come to think of it, before that serendipitous day, I didn’t even know what a blog was. So that’s what makes this recipe and giveaway the perfect theme for my 100th blog post!

So I’ve been whipping up recipes from her blog and her first book for several years now, and I can honestly tell you that any recipe I have ever made (and made and made) has been incredible and loved by all. I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you this, but I was never much of a cook before she came along. Gasp! Truthfully, I now enjoy cooking and trying new savoury recipes, but I just didn’t have a lot of experience with it, or much extra time (layer cake, anyone?). After discovering Ree and her simple-but-scrumptious recipes loaded with step-by-step photos and instructions, I fell in love with cooking, and I make the time. Thank goodness, because it turns out man cannot live on cake alone–particularly men who don’t like cake. (Hi honey!)

Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy of her new book (and signed with a sweet note, no less–thank you, Ree!). As is everything she does, it’s warm, humourous and filled with irresistible recipes, photos and glimpses into her life on the ranch. I have had a chance to try many of the recipes in the book, including Fig-Prosciutto Pizza (fancy & fabulous), Rigatoni & Meatballs (I was so proud of myself), Steakhouse Pizza (crowd-pleaser), Brie Stuffed Mushrooms (delightful), and more. But, as much as Ree can rock the savoury, she also rocks the sweet–sweets of all kinds, including cake. So when I was trying to decide which dessert to try from her new book, I knew instantly: Billie’s Italian Cream Cake. I’ve been dreaming about this cake since she shared it on her site a few years ago, and I knew it was meant to be. Ree explains that Billie is a friend from church, who brought this cake over one Fourth of July and shared the recipe with her, and trust me, if you haven’t made this recipe already,  you’ll soon thank Billie. And Ree. And me?

Billie's Italian Cream Cake via Sweetapolita

So, yep–I made it. I knew this was going to be amazing for a few reasons (and not just because Grant calls me “Billy” and is of Italian descent). First off, is it just me, or is every recipe that comes from church-going women or church cookbooks not the yummiest ever? And secondly, moist buttermilk cake layers sandwiched between and smothered in whipped coconutty, pecan cream cheese frosting? Nah, I’ll pass. As if! Maybe on opposite day, as Ree would say. This cake is homespun temptation at its best. (And everyone knows I have minimal ability to resist temptation of this magnitude.)

Billie's Italian Cream Cake via Sweetapolita
Yum x infinity.

So, if sharing such a delightful and decadent cake wasn’t enough, as I mentioned, Ree is going to personally sign and send 3 super lucky Sweetapolita readers a copy of her fabulous new book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier!

Here are the details and how to enter (and this could not be easier, guys):

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What’s your favourite cake?”

This giveaway is now closed. Winners will be posted here on the blog and notified by email. ♥

UPDATED 04/22: 2. Contest now ends April 22nd, 2012 at MIDNIGHT (EST) and winners will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry. *I’ve extended the entry deadline until midnight to offer more time for those who couldn’t get onto the site during the day today (Sunday).

3. One entry per person, please. *Your comment may take a few moments to appear.

4. Prizes courtesy of Ree, The Pioneer Woman.

Good luck!

And here’s this amazing recipe, shared with permission from Ree. I have included weight measurements along with a few notes from yours truly:

Billie’s Italian Cream Cake          {click to print}





from the book The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier

For the cake:

5 eggs, separated (then brought to room temperature)

1/2 cup (1 stick/114 g/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (237 mL) vegetable oil

1 cup (200 g/7 oz) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon (15 mL) pure vanilla extract

1 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) sweetened flaked coconut

2 cups (260 g/9 oz) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 g) baking powder

1 cup (237 mL) buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 teaspoon white vinegar), at room temperature

For the icing:

Two 8-ounce packages cream cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick/114 g/4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract

2 pounds (1 kg) powdered sugar

1 cup (110 g/4 oz) chopped pecans

1 cup (100 g/3.5 oz) sweetened flaked coconut


For the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 9-inch round cake pans (from Sweetapolita: I used three 8-inch round pans) or 2 quarter sheet pans, or one 9 x 12-inch pan.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they’re stiff. Transfer them to another bowl, and then clean the mixing bowl and beater.

3. Combine the butter, vegetable oil, and granulated sugar in the mixing bowl and mix until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until smooth.

4. Add the coconut and beat to combine.

5. Combine the flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl, and then add to the mixer bowl, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix for a few seconds between each addition.

6. Add the stiff egg whites by gently folding into the mixture by hand until they’re incorporated.

7. Divide the batter among the pans and spread it out evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 15-18 minutes.

8. Let cool on wire rack for about 10 minutes in pans, and then turn out onto the wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing:

1. Combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer (can use whisk or paddle attachment) until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

2. Add 3/4 cup of the chopped pecans and all of the coconut and mix until combined.


1. If using round cake layers, stack them onto desired cake plate or board with generous amount of filling between each layer. If using the quarter sheet pans, cut them in half lengthwise, resulting in 4 rectangular layers, and spread a generous amount of filling between each layer.

2. Cover the stacked cake with the remaining icing and top with remaining chopped pecans.

Store leftovers in the fridge.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I used three 8-inch round cake pans (rather than 9-inch) for a slightly thicker cake layer.
  • I added 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the batter and a pinch of salt to the icing.
  • This cake is amazing day 1, 2, and likely for several more. Keep covered and refrigerated and bring to room temperature if you’re serving leftovers. The oil in the cake keeps it super moist, even in the fridge. The cream cheese in the frosting is why it should be kept refrigerated.
  • This recipe is now in my top 5 best-loved cakes, so you can imagine how yummy it is!

Good luck & enjoy!


Share the Sweetness!