Thursday, February 21, 2013

"I Love You" Cupcakes!

My Valentine's Gift from Hubby :) We have a thing for Monkeys...
   If your life is anything like a normal mom's it involves re-planning the "important" holidays around your schedule. Valentine's Day, Birthdays, and Anniversaries all take a back seat to the errands, laundry, dinners, work schedules, and potty training even! Hubby and I have a weird timing to our anniversary(a few days after Christmas :D) so we have actually agreed to celebrate it during the Summer. Any holiday that happens during the week gets moved to the weekend, Birthdays get celebrated on the weekend with the most family member availability, stop me when this starts sounding familiar...However, Moving Holidays doesn't mean ignoring them completely on their actual day. This past Valentine's Day my Hubby and I did little things all week and then had our date night on the weekend! It was fun and honestly I enjoyed having a week of romance and cheesiness. 
   One of the things I did was Valentine's for Hubby's Troop from Monkey. But since I refused to write over 40 Valentine's I did paper Valentine's for the girls and cupcakes for the boys! They were simple and elegant and frankly, beyond delicious. So good in fact that I decided to share my amazing secrets with all of you. 
    First off, when you shop for cake mixes (and admit it, we all use them...) buy the ones labeled supreme, fudge, or anything hinting at awesomeness. Same with the icing. It's easier to add one or two ingredients rather than three or four to make it decadent. We're about shortcuts so take advantage of them when available! 
I started with Betty Crocker's Super Moist Triple Chocolate Fudge cake mix. It calls for Oil, Water, and Egg and the specifics are on the back of the box. I put the wet ingredients in a large bowl and added one large packet of sugar free, fat free chocolate pudding ( the "instant" mix). Mix them together with a hand mixer until the pudding starts to set a little and then add the cake mix. Don't over mix the cake batter or else it will be a tough cupcake. Cut up some fresh strawberries, about 1 cup worth, and fold them into the batter with a spatula. Spray a pan with Pam Butter Spray, normal Muffin pans work too but I prefer Mini Muffin pans simply cause they're cuter and work better with little kids and men :). As well, normal size muffin pans tend to stick more so use cupcake liners if you have them.  Fill them up 3/4 of the way with the cupcake mix. They will look a littler fuller than a normal batter makes them look because of the diced strawberries in the batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for the time stated on the box. If your kids are like mine this is their favorite view in the house. Monkey always likes to sit in my lap and stare in the oven and say "Whooooahhh!!!" like it's the coolest thing he's ever seen.
   Once they are done let them cool for about 2 minutes and then pop them out of the pan. I use a butter knife personally and take them out one by one but that's just my OCD kickin' in :) Place them on a cooling rack and let them cool completely. And I mean completely! Otherwise the icing will melt and slide right off the top of them and while still delicious and slightly funny it's also a little heartbreaking so leave them alone until they are done!!!

     Next comes the Icing. Pop open a gallon ziplock bag and fold the top halfway down. you should be able to slide your hand under the fold and around the bag to hang onto it while filling it. Take whatever icing you chose and spoon it into the bag and then unfold the top and twist it. It should look like this...
   Note my hand around the bag. I use my pinky and ring finger to do the squeezing and my thumb and fore finger to keep the icing from going the wrong way. Once you have pushed all the icing into the corner snip a tiny bit off the corner of the bag. Some people snip first, insert an icing tip, and then fill with icing but I like simple and this way floats my boat. Whatever way floats yours works too!
    Next up is actually icing the cupcakes. Start on the outside of the cupcake and work in a spiral towards the middle and lift up a bit at the end. Don't worry about it looking pretty. It will be hidden later by cute little toppings :)
   Aren't they just so fun and simple looking? Now to spice them up a bit!


Now take a couple of big Strawberries and cut them up in little slices. Press them into the top of the icing at an angle so they stick up a bit. As they sit they will get juice in the icing and start to slide so you want them to be propped into the icing enough to stay put.  Doesn't that make it so simple and beautiful? And who doesn't like Chocolate and Strawberries? As well you could place some candied oranges, Sweetheart Candy, Edible Flowers...the options are endless with this cupcake. Get creative! The best part is that the active time is only about 45 minutes total. About 15 in the beginning and 30 to decorate. And they will fly off the plate guaranteed :) 

   We talk all the time about the importance of family and a lot of the time everyone focuses around Valentine's day on loving the ones around them. Unfortunately it is with things and not time. Maybe this year when you get around to finally celebrating with your Love you can make a point of having more time out of the kitchen and more time in their presence. Spending time together is just as important if not more important than everything else so make the most of the help around you to cut your project's time down. And when people compliment you on the awesomeness, and they will, just smile and act like it is made from scratch. Real Moms use shortcuts, Real Women use discretion in telling people ;) Happy belated Valentine's Day Everyone!
                                  Best Wishes,
                              Jules & Monkey

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