Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I call this heaven in my mouth. I have always loved sweet and salty things together because I feel that the combination brings out the flavors in both. These cupcakes do not disappoint!

The cake came together quickly, as it always does, thus adding to why it's my favorite. However, the frosting was a different story. I found myself missing some key ingredients, so, after painting all day and baking chocolate cupcakes, I had to make myself presentable and head to the grocery store {because we all know the one time you go to the grocery store looking gross, you will run into everyone you went to high school with, a few coworkers, and possibly the man you'll marry - bad news}. Around 9pm I started the Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting base, which takes some time, but this was during the days before my Stand Mixer. While I struggled to hold the mixing bowl against the spinning of the mixer filled with tacky sugar and egg white mixture, the Yosh smelled something burning on the stove. In an effort the save what I thought was burning, I let go of the bowl only to helplessly watch it as it went flying across the stove seconds later, flinging the white, sticky substance all over me, the Yosh, my mom, and the kitchen. I was too exhausted from a day of painting to do anything but laugh.

Since the frosting didn't set up (which is tricky with this type of Buttercream), we decided to scratch the whole thing and start over (I got impatient when it was in the double boiler and didn't quite allow it to reach 160*F...I was not rewarded for my impatience). Eventually...and we're talking midnight here...the frosting was finished, only I had reheated the caramel too much and it quickly melted the beautiful frosting, so I could not frost the cupcakes that night. In the end, it was well worth the wait, these cupcakes were FANTASTIC!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes:

Recipe from Ina Garten via Food Network

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat oven to 350*F. Line regular cupcake tins. (I find that greasing the pans causes the cupcake liners to lose their color, so I just try not to overfill each liner and omit the greasing)

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl. Mix until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. (this can all be done with a hand mixer or even by hand)

Using a ladle or ice cream scoop (the mixture is extremely soupy), fill the cupcake liners halfway. Bake at 350*F for 18-22 minutes for regular cupcakes {or 10-12 minutes for mini cupcakes}, or when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake. Cool completely before frosting.

Dulce de Leche Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Sweetapolita

8 large egg whites (30g each)
2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
2.5 cups (1.25 lbs, 5 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
15 ml (1 tablespoon) pure vanilla extract
Salt to taste
½ cup Dulce de Leche {recipe follows}

Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk attachment, small bowl, and whisk with paper towel and lemon juice (or vinegar), to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar,  and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140 degrees F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot {you can feel a drop in between your fingers to ensure no granules}.
Take off of stove, and place bowl back on electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and neutral (you can feel outside of the bowl to test temperature). Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on medium speed continuously, add butter one cube at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).  Add vanilla and salt, mix well. You can also add a wide variety of flavorings, extracts, and more. If buttercream is too runny, the butter was possibly too soft--place into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, then beat again. If still too runny, add a few more cubes of butter and keep beating. Use immediately, or refrigerate/freeze.
Keep in airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, rewhipping in mixer for 5 minutes.
Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.
If buttercream still doesn't have its satiny finish after rewhipping, microwave 1/3 of the buttercream for approximately 10 seconds and add to remaining buttercream in mixer bowl, beating for a few moments to incorporate.

Dulce de Leche
Fill a crock pot with water almost to the top. Remove label off of one can (any size) swe etened condensed milk. Place can on its side in the crock pot, cover, turn crock pot on low, and cook overnight (~8 hours) or on high for ~4 hours. Turn off crock pot and allow can to cool.

Source: Adapted from Sweetapolita  and Ina Garten


Sunday, April 15, 2012


After seeing so many pictures of Macarons and thinking, "I wish I could do that!", I finally decided to take on the task. I mostly followed a recipe from Annie over at Annie's Eats, after looking at some great tutorials from Helene of Tartelette. For those who do not know what a Macaron {pronounced Mac-uh-rhon} is, the world literally  means "button" in French, and that's exactly what they look like...little buttons! These are very different from the American counterpart, the Macaroon, which is very sugary and often made with coconut. These are light, crisp, airy cookies filled with any filling of your choice - chocolate, which chocolate, or espresso ganache; any flavor buttercream; etc.... if you can dream it up, you can make it! You can make any flavor combination you choose in any color, as long as you follow a few simple steps that can be found in the searches listed at the bottom of this post or any ol' Google search.

For my first attempt, I was quite pleased with the outcome! I shared them with The Yosh, my mom, and my sister and brother-in-law and everyone raved. Below are some pictures of the process in case you want to embark upon this culinary adventure too!



Macarons with Chocolate Ganache Filling
Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats

For the macarons:
110 gm almond meal (or whole almonds, plain, in food processor)
200 gm confectioners’ sugar
100 gm egg whites (from about 3 eggs), aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours
50 gm granulated sugar

For the ganache:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

If using whole almonds instead of almond meal, pulse the almonds in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground.  Add the confectioners' sugar to the food processor and process until blended.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy (think bubblebath).  Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms (think shaving cream).  Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted.  

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip.  Pipe into small rounds on the prepared baking sheets (each round should be about 1-1½ inches in diameter), spaced about 1 inch apart.  Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell.  

Preheat the oven to 300˚F.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size.  Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies.  

While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache.  Combine the cream, butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream mixture to a simmer, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.  Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk gently in small circular motions until the ganache forms.  Let the mixture cool until it is thick enough to pipe.  (To speed chilling, transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator and let cool, stirring every 10 minutes, until thickened.)

Once the cookies are totally cooled, match them up by size.  Pipe a layer of ganache onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich together with the remaining cookie, pushing the filling to the edges.  Store in an airtight container.

{For more tutorials, please see the following: Helene of Tartelette visits Pioneer Woman's ranch (see especially the link for Helene's "Demystifying Macarons" article which may only open once on your computer, as is the problem for me), Annie's beautiful step-by-step photos, and peruse the Tartelette blog for many more recipes and pictures.}

Good luck! I hope your family, friends, and coworkers enjoy them as much as mine did!!


Monday, February 13, 2012

Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Hi. I baked you a cake. I'm hoping it makes up for my absence this past year (give or take a few months).

I'd get into what took me so long, but that would be a really long, boring post. Instead, I'll just fill you in on the highlights of this past year that I've missed sharing with you all. I graduated from grad school  (YAY!), I found a really great man (double YAY!), and I got a big kid job (YAY for paying bills!). All the while, I've been thinking about you, my dear readers, and wanting to bake something pretty and delicious for you, but just couldn't get all the pieces together - mostly because whatever I made was devoured before I could get a picture. And what's a post without a picture??

So, I baked a cake for my man's birthday...AND I managed to take pictures, many many pictures. In fact, I could hear tummies grumbling as I snapped away because everyone wanted to eat cake. Who doesn't? But I did this for you. And for this wonderful man, whose birthday we were celebrating.

I love to bake, as I'm sure you all understand, so no occasion can pass without being marked by a delicious treat - and birthdays are certainly no exception. So, I asked my man, "If you could have any flavor cake or cupcake in the world, what would it be?" After some careful consideration, he replied, "Vanilla with Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream because that's the first thing you ever baked while we were dating." He's such a sweetie. But seriously? Not Chocolate Peanut Butter? Or Caramel Swiss Meringue Buttercream? Or Nutella Swiss Meringue Buttercream (my all time favorite)? Well, if that's not a challenge to find the best Vanilla cake recipe, then I don't know what is! 

Without further adieu, I bring you Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake...

Vanilla Bean Birthday Cake

Vanilla Bean Cake Layers
Yield: three 8-inch round layers


1 1/2 cups (3 sticks,  341 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature (on counter apprx 20 minutes)
2 2/3 cups (540 g) granulated sugar
9 (275 g) egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups (630 g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (22 g) baking powder
1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
2 cups (500 mL) buttermilk
1 tablespoon (15 mL) Nielsen-Massey Vanilla Bean Paste - 4 oz, OR 1 vanilla bean, split & scraped
1 teaspoon (5 mL) pure vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 350° F.  Butter three 8" x 2" round cake pans, line with parchment rounds, and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until lighter in color and slightly increased in volume, 3 to 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the egg whites gradually, mixing until fully incorporated.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Mix vanilla extract and vanilla paste (or contents of vanilla bean) into buttermilk.  Alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into creamed mixture, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated or finish by hand gently.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. If possible, weigh the batter in each cake pan on a digital kitchen scale to ensure even layers.  Smooth with small offset palette knife, and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating once after 20 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes clean.

5. Let pans cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then invert cakes onto racks, gently, peeling away parchment rounds. Let cool completely.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Yield: 7 ½ cups


8 large egg whites (30g each--total 225g, or 1 cups)
2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
2 ½ cups (5 sticks) of unsalted butter, softened but cool, cut into cubes
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (I use Vanilla Bean Paste)
1/4 tsp salt


Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk attachment, small bowl, and whisk with paper towel and lemon juice (or vinegar), to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and sugar,  and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 160 degrees F, or if you don't have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot (you can feel a drop in between your fingers to ensure no granules.).

Take off of stove, and place bowl back on electric mixer fitted with whisk attachment, begin to whip until the mixture is thick, glossy, and neutral (you can feel outside of the bowl to test temperature). Switch over to paddle attachment and, while mixing on low speed continously, add butter one cube at a time until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).  Add vanilla and salt, mix well. You can also add a wide variety of flavourings, extracts, and more. If buttercream is too runny, the butter was possibly too soft--place into the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, then beat again. If still too runny, add a few more cubes of butter and keep beating. Use immediately, or refrigerate/freeze.


1. Place bottom layer face up on a cake stand, plate, or thin cake board (on a rotating cake stand, if possible).  Spread and smooth ~ 1 cup frosting using a small palette knife.

2. Repeat step 1 using second cake layer.

3. Gently place third cake layer, face down, on top.

4. Spread a thin layer, also known as a crumb coat, all over cake using an the offset palette knife for the top and straight palette knife for the sides (I use Ateco Ultra Palette Knife - Straight - SS/Polypropylene - 10"). Then, using a bench scraper, gently scrape off excess frosting from the cake, for a smooth finish. This works best while slowly spinning your rotating cake stand with one hand and holding the bench scraper with the other (I use this one: Fat Daddios Bench Scraper - Stainless steel). Refrigerate your cake at this point, for between 30-60 minutes (can be more).

5. Use remaining frosting to decorate your cake. If you want a smooth finish, you can repeat step 4, but with a thicker layer of frosting.

6. Add sprinkles or any other decorations that make you happy!



Monday, December 27, 2010

A dash of this, a pinch of that

I'm taking full advantage of my vacation and procrastinating. I leave for Charleston and my cruise in 4 days, and instead of packing, I decided that I would cook! Tonight's menu: My mom's famous Chicken Enchiladas! However, I add something new each time, and this time I went a little wild. Here is my updated version of an old favorite.

Chicken Enchiladas:
Serves 4
2 cans Cream of Chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 Tbsp Chili Powder
Ground Cayenne Pepper, to taste
3 generous dashes of Cholula hot sauce
1 can Black Beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups cooked chicken, cut up
Monterey Jack and Cheddar Cheese, shredded
8 flour tortillas

Preheat oven to 375*.

Sautee onion in butter. Add Chili Powder and Cayenne Pepper. Add 11/2 cans of Cream of Chicken soup, 3/4 cup Sour Cream, and drained and rinsed black beans to the pan and heat through.

Put chicken mixture in tortillas, top with cheese and roll up. Place in greased baking dish. In a separate container, mix remaining Cream of Chicken soup (roughly 1/2 can) and 1/4 cup sour cream (I always sprinkle a little chili powder in this mix as well). Spread this mixture on top of the filled and rolled tortillas, cover with foil, and bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese on top. Return to oven, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes.

Source: adapted from my mom

I hope your family enjoys this as much as mine always has!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Parties

My favorite part about this time of year is, hands down, all of the parties! Every Christmas party means a chance to bake something festive and to see people I love!

For my sister's Christmas party I made my famous Red Velvet Cupcakes

Lorin and I at her Christmas party

For my mom's birthday, I made Red Velvet Cupcakes as well because they are her all time favorite and she is my inspiration for creating and baking them. (These are actually the cupcakes that started it all back in my tiny kitchen on Coming Street in Charleston.)

The 5 of us at Valhalla for mom's birthday.

Then I got a great recipe for Eggnog Cupcakes from my all-time favorite food blog, Annie's Eats. When I got an eVite to the Franco's Christmas Party, I knew just what to bring! And I knew it had to be amazing because they have a competition every year and I'd like to have a chance at it this year :) So, I spent an afternoon baking Eggnog Cupcakes at Josh's (which is not a very equipped kitchen, but my sister let me borrow her KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer, so I worked with what I had)


Final product

Eggnog Cupcakes

Yield: about 18-20 regular cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
¼ cup dark rum or bourbon (optional) (I used Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum and it is NOT optional!)
1 cup eggnog
¼ cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar

For the frosting:
20 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2½ tbsp. eggnog
1 tbsp. dark rum (0ptional) (Again, Captain Morgan's Spiced Rum, NOT optional!)

For garnish:
Ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg
Cinnamon sticks

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg; whisk to combine. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the rum, eggnog, vegetable oil, vinegar, and sugar. Beat on medium-low speed until well blended. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling the cups 2/3 full. Bake 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. If making mini cupcakes, I bake for 11-13 minutes.

To make the frosting, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 20-30 seconds. Add in the powdered sugar, salt and nutmeg, and mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and smooth, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add in the eggnog and whip on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 minutes. With the mixer on medium-low speed, blend in the rum.

Fill a pastry bag with the frosting and decorate the cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large Wilton 1m star tip for these cupcakes). Sprinkle with ground cinnamon or grated nutmeg, and garnish with cinnamon sticks if desired.

Source: Annie's Eats; cupcakes adapted from Baking Bites, frosting adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

Enjoy and happy holiday partying to you all!!

*Snow Day*

I'm not typically a fan of winter. I do not like cold weather, I do not enjoy being stuck inside, I do not enjoy having to dress in winter clothing, and I do not like that the days are so short. However, I can stand winter when it snows, so what better way to usher in winter than to have a snow day?Fortunately, my semester ended on December 10, so I've had some time to relax outside of snow days, but I really enjoyed this one!
There is something about the silence and stillness that snow brings. It absorbs sound and covers everything around in a thick, white blanket. However, since I do get cabin fever pretty quickly, Josh and I took my mom up on an invitation to walk to her house for a visit. It's about 1/4 mile if we take the back road that runs between Josh's house and my mom's (very country, I know), so I took her some hot chocolate mix that I had made that morning. I adapted the recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, Confections of a Foodie Bride.

Hot Chocolate Mix
2-3 cups granulated sugar (adjust to taste)
24 oz high-quality milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups Dutch process cocoa

In a food processor fitted with metal blade, process semisweet chocolate and dark chocolate until finely ground, using 4-second pulses. Process in batches, if necessary.

Combine sugar, ground chocolate, and cocoa powder whisking to blend, making sure to combine well. Store mix in an airtight container at room temperature for up to six months.

Yields: 76 2-Tbsp servings, or 12 3/4-cup servings

To make Hot Chocolate:

8 oz milk

2 Tbsp Hot Chocolate Mix (above)

Splash of Pure Vanilla Extract

Bailey's or Peppermint Liqueur if desired (I'm a chocolate purist so I didn't try either)

Heat the milk and add Vanilla and Hot Chocolate Mix. Stir and enjoy!


Here is some of the fun we had while visiting my mom:

Josh and I. Those who know me know my disdain

for camo...however, I LOVE that he wore this

because it brought a huge smile to my face :D

And yes, I wore heels to hike through the snow...it just wouldn't be me if I didn't!

The railroad tracks covered in snow.

The little back road few had traveled that day.

Happy Winter!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I did it!!!!

So the title of this blog is, fittingly, Champagne and Cupcakes, and the reason for the post is a cupcake that I at last New Years Eve while I was in Washington DC at Red Velvet Cupcakery in Dupont Circle. It was a Champagne Cupcake...2 of my favorite things so perfectly paired. Well, it has been my mission since then to try to recreate those cupcakes...they were sweet, yet salty, and had the perfect essence of Champagne. They were crumbly, but moist. They were delicate and dainty, but could hold their own against any other cupcake. And the top of the cupcake had the slightest crunch. The frosting was creamy, light, fluffy, rich, shiny, and melted in your mouth. Together, they were irresistible...after all, they sparked a year long cookbook and blog search, dozens of failed recipes, and at times, lost hope. I had finally resigned myself to calling Red Velvet Cupcakery and having them ship a dozen of them (because I often like to pretend that I get a paycheck for all of the work I do) on New Years Eve.

Last week I decided to food blog at work in order to avoid thinking about my Spirituality presentation that was looming overhead like a dark cloud. I looked on Red Velvet's website for any clues, and there it was... Swiss Meringue Buttercream. What is this that you speak of?? I have only heard of regular Buttercream. I never realized there were other versions of the Home Ec class basic that my mom spent years teaching in high school. I had to find the recipe and try out this new discovery! I searched through dozens of blogs, looked at food blogger's favorites, looked through their pages, and then finally happened upon Annie's Eats, a blog that puts all others to shame. I see so much of myself in her. She's a busy woman, but finds time for her passion - baking. She doesn't do it commercially, but loves to bestow wonderful little confections upon those that she loves. So, I decided to peruse her inviting blog for something new to try.

It was then that I saw it...Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting and the perfect cake to go with it. I spent my week counting down the days until I was free and could try it out! I had to finish my presentation, read some chapters, work at my internship, and basically try to survive the stress. Needless to say, things in my personal life have been all over the charts (hence the subtitle - My search for balance in a completely unbalanced life). Some things are going on that I often wonder how I will ever come through the other side of, and then there's my wonderful new man, who just has a way of calming me and making me realize that I am a strong woman and can make it through this and anything else that comes my way. But, what do I always turn to when stressing out? BAKING!!! So, I kept this little daydream tucked away for the week as my motivation.

I survived the one-hour presentation on Spirituality - it actually went really well - and the chapters could just wait for another time...the weekend was in sight. I worked on Friday and then went to the gym with Beth (favorite new past time - going to the gym with Carrie and Beth and doing Zumba, Pilates, and Step Aerobics). That night, Josh (new man) and I took my mom out on the town and then took her to Texas Tavern (a Roanoke establishment) for some late-night food. I had fun, but I still just couldn't wait to spend my weekend in the kitchen trying out this recipe and others. I needed to be creative and inspired, and do something that has NOTHING to do with mental health, college applications, classroom guidance, breakups, angry teachers, studying, reading, writing, advising college students, or anything else that consumes my every day. Don't get me wrong, I love all of that stuff, but I haven't had a break since August 31, so I desperately needed some "me time". And "me time" = baking.

Well, Saturday came and went. Personal life things came up and I had to deal with them, so I decided to spend the afternoon making French Onion Soup because my heart and mind just weren't in the cupcakes. When I bake, I pour my sadness, happiness, frustrations, disappointments, anxieties, and love into the batter. Saturday just wasn't the right day because sadness, anxiety and disappointment would have ended up being the main ingredients and the final product would have shown that. (Who knew baking was such a difficult decision!?) So I decided to wait.

Sunday it was. I woke up looking forward to baking my cupcakes. I went to church with Josh where my mom met his parents (so cute) and then he and I went to lunch with my mom. I was starting to get anxious because I couldn't WAIT to start baking. Then, it was time to go to the house and get started. Josh grabbed Champagne and I went home and picked up Lola (important ingredients for a day of happy baking). Then I came back to my sister's and brother-in-law's house, where I'm housesitting. Let the baking begin!!!!! It took all afternoon. The butter had to cream for several minutes, then I added the sugar 1/4 cup at a time and let it work its magic a minute at a time. Suddenly, the stress started leaving me, the sadness didn't seem so sad, the happiness became joy, and everything started falling into place. All from baking. We took an intermission to have dinner with Josh's family, and the excitement began building again.

The next step was frosting...this new Swiss Meringue Buttercream I had been waiting all week to try! So when we got home, I immediately headed into the kitchen. It was a long process, but the outcome...PERFECTION!!! It was light, fluffy, rich, creamy, and SO much better than I remember! I couldn't have been more excited! I couldn't stop smiling and dancing in the kitchen knowing I had just done it! I had accomplished what I have spent the past year trying to accomplish!!!! The cupcakes were all out of the oven and cooled and we quickly topped them with the frosting and bit in...it was heaven. It was everything I needed and wanted it to be in that moment. With all that is going on, it's so great to know that I can dedicate myself to something and finally accomplish it. And so, tonight I get to sit in a blissful state of relaxation and accomplishment.

What next? Well, I still haven't incorporated Champagne into the cupcakes, I just drank it on the side, so next I will do that. Until then, I'm grateful to my sister for letting me use her house and her KitchenAid Stand Mixer and to Josh for enjoying this as much as I did! Next up...Champagne Cupcakes...the PERFECT Champagne Cupcakes...and perhaps one day I will share the personal struggle that was behind this latest kitchen marvel...or I may not. Stay tuned!

Happy Thanksgiving to my readers :)