Can’t Stop Thinking About Cupcakes
I’m finding it hard to focus at the moment. Not just because it’s Monday morning but because I’ve just spent some time on Nicole Friday’s site, The Cupcake Craze, and all I can think right now is Must…have…chocolate souffle cupcake…)
Like me, Nicole is a mom of two children, ages 6 and 3, who lives in New Jersey. (Those are her boys, Ellis and Edison, at right.) But unlike me, she’s a fabulous baker with her own catering business–just check out the slideshow of scrumptious desserts she’s created. I asked her to share some of her best baking-with-kids tips, and she happily obliged:
1. What’s a home-run flavor combo for kids?
Oreo Cookies & Cream is definitely a hit! Anything chocolate works with kids, especially a supersize cupcake—chocolate cake with cookies & cream frosting and topped with an Oreo cookie. Simply irresistible!
2. How old were your boys when you started baking with them?
Ellis was 2 (he’s now 3 ½) ; Edison was 3 (now 6).
3. Any fun kitchen missteps you can share?
Oh yeah. Edison added a bowl of eggs–including the shells–to the batter and turned on the mixer. There was no picking out those shells—another batch into the garbage! Another time, I had cupcakes for an event resting on the counter and Ellis, who was 2 at the time, stuck his fingers in all the cupcakes. (Luckily I made it to the event with a new batch of “hole-less” cupcakes.)
4. What’s the best task for little ones brand-new to the kitchen?
The key is to start off small, doing pretty much anything that doesn’t involve fire or hot or sharp things. So you can try beating eggs, adding and mixing pre-measured ingredients, licking the bowls clean. That’s a popular one.
5. Do you have favorite gadgets for kids?
Use a mini ice-cream scooper to fill the liners and a plastic spoon to spread the frosting (though fingers work too!). The picture above shows my boys doing just that.
6. Is there any such thing as a “healthy cupcake” that kids will love?
Yes. It’s all about the ingredients and the size: I choose mini-cupcakes and sneak veggies and “good stuff” into my cupcakes all the time, especially when my kids are on a veggie strike. Some ideas and healthier choices include: applesauce, carrots, sweet potatoes, zucchini, raisins, cranberries, apples, blueberries, strawberries, bananas. Instead of butter, use canola oil; opt for white-whole wheat flour or whole-wheat flour; use non-fat ingredients such as sour cream, buttermilk, and cream cheese. You can even skip the frosting and dust with powdered sugar.
7. Care to share a recipe?
Here you go!
Candied-Yamberry Cupcakes by Nicole Friday
Yield: 24 mini cupcakes
1 pound (2 medium) sweet potatoes
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¾ cup canola oil
¼ cup sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup applesauce
¼ cup dried cranberries
½ teaspoon orange zest
- Boil sweet potatoes over medium-high heat until the center is soft and the skin begins to peel. Remove from water, set aside and let cool. When cool enough to handle, scrape skin from the potatoes and mash until smooth.
- Preheat oven 350°F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
- With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat together oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, applesauce and sweet potatoes. Reduce speed: add flour mixture. Stir in cranberries by hand, until combined.
- Divide batter evenly among lined cups filling three-quarters full. Bake approximately 25-30 minutes, rotating pans halfway through and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer pans to rack or counter to cool before removing cupcakes.
- To finish, top cupcakes with mini-marshmallows mounds. Using a small kitchen torch, brown marshmallows all over and enjoy!
(Note from Nicole: If you don’t have a torch, use the broiler. Works magically–just keep a close watch, otherwise you’ll have super-toasted marshmallows. Or take the no-frosting route and just dust the cupcakes with powdered sugar. Still yummy!)
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