Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cranberry Black Walnut Coffee Cake

Because black walnuts have such a strong flavor, there are not a lot of recipes that use this ingredient. Using this type of nut in a recipe does require the proper balance of flavor, which involves a lot of trial and error. The other consideration is the development of flavor over time. Cookies, for instance, are usually in the cookie jar for a few days before they all disappear.

When I saw this recipe, I was deliberating about using English walnuts instead of the black, but I am glad I chose the black. The black walnuts provided a perfect amount of subtle flavor that was well matched with the cranberry and cinnamon. The moist cake, warm cranberries and crunchy streusel really hit the spot.

I would say that eating things that remind us of the fall makes us happy. The flavors conjure up thoughts of the holiday seasons with family get togethers, sitting in front of the fire and cool crisp days outside. Sometimes we all need an attitude adjustment and a slice of this coffee cake may just be the key-especially on a Monday morning.

Cranberry Black Walnut Coffee Cake
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Fall Baking

3 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, melted
1 cup milk
2 inches stick cinnamon
1 cup apple juice or apple cider
2 cups dried cranberries
1 cup walnuts (black or English), toasted and ground

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup flour
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (black or English)
1/3 cup of cold butter, cut into small cubes

Start by making the cranberry topping.  Fill a saucepan with 1/2 cup of the brown sugar, cranberries, stick cinnamon and apple juice (or cider).  Place over medium high heat and stir constantly, letting the mixture come to a boil.  When the sugar has dissolved, lower the heat and let simmer.  As it simmers, the liquid will reduce. It will take about 15 minutes of cooking for the cranberry topping to reach the correct consistency. Remove from heat and discard cinnamon stick. Set the mixture aside and let cool completely before using, this is your first bowl.

Grease the interior of a 10 inch springform pan and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. For the second bowl, sift the cinnamon, flour, salt and baking powder in to this bowl. Add the ground nuts,granulated sugar and remaining 1/2 cup of brown sugar. Stir so all is evenly distributed. Also, set this bowl aside.

Proceed to making the streusel topping by combining the cinnamon, flour and brown sugar together in a small bowl, the third bowl. Add the cubes of butter and use a pastry blender to cut the butter into the sugar mixture. Once no dry streaks remain and mixture can easily clump together, stir in the walnuts.

Get your second bowl and make a well in the center of the dry mixture. Take out a 4th bowl. Crack eggs into this bowl and beat with a fork for about 1 minute. Mix in the melted butter, milk and vanilla. Pour this egg mixture into the well of dry ingredients in the second bowl. Stir until blended and mixture becomes a batter.

For assembly, pour the egg batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top so it is even. Spoon the cranberry mixture (from the first bowl) over the top of the batter, leaving a 1 inch border. Lastly, sprinkle with the walnut streusel topping.

Place pan in oven and let bake until edges are golden brown. Cake will start to pull away from edge of pan when done. Bake time is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing the outside ring of pan. Slice and serve warm.
                                    **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Liqueur Suicide Cheesecake**

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Marbled Pumpkin Chocolate Bundt Cake

People that bake occasionally really do not have much concept of how a recipe can actually end up being a visual work of art. A carefully placed series of strawberries on a cheesecake all the way to a contrasting marbled cake can be as visually pleasing to the eye as well as pleasing to the palate.

The "visual aspect" does play an important part when it comes to choosing food, especially at a younger age. It took me quite some time to actually try guacamole, simply because I was turned off by the look. Now, as a food blogger, I am more open to try things before making a decision regarding food and yes, I do think guacamole is pretty tasty!

This particular recipe blends spicy, pumpkin flavor with rich chocolate in a cake. The end result is a tasty, as well as stunning, dessert. This bundt cake has great texture. The use of oil instead of butter always yields a more moist cake. The chocolate part of the cake is extra rich, using dutch process cocoa while the spicy pumpkin swirl offers a tasty accent of flavor to every slice.

Marbled Pumpkin Chocolate Bundt Cake
adapted from Kiss My Bundt

Ingredients/Pumpkin Batter
7 1/2 to 8 oz pumpkin puree (1/2 15 oz can)
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 granulated white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour

Ingredients/Chocolate Batter
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup boiling water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa powder
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 3 tbs sugar

Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Then generously grease and coat the interior of a 12 cup bundt pan with flour.

For the pumpkin batter, crack the eggs into a bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed about 3 minutes. Eggs will have a frothy consistency. Turn the mixer down to low speed and slowly stream in the white sugar. Then toss in scoops of the brown sugar. Continue to beat until batter becomes thick. Add the pumpkin puree and the oil. Combine with the mixer on medium speed until completely blended. Set aside.

Using a separate bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients for the pumpkin cake. Also, set this bowl aside.

For the chocolate batter, fill the bowl of a stand mixer with the egg, milk and oil. Beat for about one minute. Set aside.

Sift the baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, flour and salt into a medium size bowl. Stir in sugar until mixed evenly. Empty 1/3 of the batter into the egg/oil mixture and fold together. Continue
with this process until all the sifted ingredients has been blended into the batter. Lastly, mix in the
 boiling water.

Go back to the pumpkin batter and fold in the sifted pumpkin spice ingredients. Add and stir in increments, just like the instructions for the chocolate batter.

Now that you have created 2 batters, you will start the layering process. Using 1/3 of the pumpkin batter first, spoon it into the bundt pan, making sure batter makes a complete circle inside the pan.  Then pour on 1/3 of the chocolate batter. Repeat this process until you have filled the cavity of the pan with 6 layers of alternating batter. The batter layers in the pan start with pumpkin and end with chocolate.

Bake until tester comes out clean.  Cake should take about 45 minutes to bake.  Remove cake and let rest on a cooling rack about 20 minutes. Then invert onto rack to finish cooling. When cool, transfer to serving plate.

Tips and Notes:
1. The chocolate batter will be very runny, that is why the pumpkin batter goes first into the pan.
2. The chocolate is very rich, so much so that the prumpkin flavor to chocolate is not 50-50.  Should you want  a 50-50 ratio of flavors, you will need to experiment more with the recipe. However, this cake disappeared very quickly, perhaps waiting a day before serving may have allowed the pumpkin flavor to develop more.
3. Glazing or topping the cake is optional, but I would have chosen a cinnamon glaze since it pairs well with either chocolate or pumpkin, if I was going to glaze or frost the cake.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Chocolate Pecan Snails** 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Frosted Pineapple Cookies

All the summer tourists are now back home. If you have ever lived in a tourist area, you will find that the residing population always have nicknames for the tourists. In Florida, we always called them "snowbirds". That is due to a lot of people visiting from the northern states who have very little exposure to the sun. The north has their days where they use nicknames as well. You will often hear the term of "leaf peepers."

With that being stated, just like the "snowbirds", the summer recipes will be gone until next year. This marks the last one. Even though it is still hot in Texas, I will comply with the calendar seasons. For this year, the "official" first day of fall is September 23rd. Goodbye to citrus and berries and hello ginger and spice.

To close out the summer, I chose a cookie recipe that has a buttery base with chunks of pineapple. It uses crushed pineapple instead of dried pineapple. Also, the frosting on top incorporates pineapple juice and lemon zest for an extra pop of fruity flavor. This recipe makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies. As a reminder, the recipe has not been altered but there are important tips and notes at the end to help you succeed when creating these. Now let's get to it....

Frosted Pineapple Cookies
adapted from Copycat Recipe website

Ingredients/ Cookies
1 egg
1 8oz can of crushed pineapple
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup of butter
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup packed brown sugar

3 tbs reserved juice from canned pineapple
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp lemon zest

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. The preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Using a stand mixer, fill the bowl with sugar and butter. Beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes, stopping periodically to scrape down the interior sides of the bowl. You now have a cookie batter.

Take out a small bowl and a sieve. Open the canned pineapple and pour into the sieve, letting the juices drain out into the bowl. Reserve 3 tbs of the juice for use in the the frosting. Empty the contents of the sieve into the cookie batter. Then add the vanilla extract and egg. Beat the mixture until all is blended smoothly.

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and set aside. In another bowl, sift together the baking powder, baking soda, flour and salt.  Using 1/3 of the sifted ingredients, fold into the batter.  Continue with the process in two more increments, until all the dry ingredients are mixed into the batter.

Using a scoop, drop batter onto prepared cookie sheet. Since the cookies do spread, space the batter lumps about 2 inches apart. Place cookie sheet in oven and bake until golden on bottom and around edges. This should take about 17-20 minutes. Transfer baked cookies to cooling rack.

Once the cookies have completely cooled, it is time to make the frosting.  Mix together the zest and 2 tbs of juice in a medium size bowl. Sift the powdered sugar into the same bowl and then mix with a  spatula. Blend in more juice to make a spreadable frosting. Frost cookies by drizzling on top. Let frosting set up before storing or stacking cookies.

Tips and Notes:
1. The spreading of the cookie when baking is a result of the amount of juice that remains after the pineapple is drained. I wanted thicker cookies, so after draining, I pressed out a lot of the juice. Also, I saw one complaint on the original recipe stating that the cookies ran all over the pan-too much liquid.

2. Reserve all the juice from the canned pineapple. This way you can have the opportunity to make more frosting if you prefer. The original recipe shows just a drizzle on the cookies instead of being frosted like the picture above. I definitely made more frosting.
                           **LAST YEAR:Pastry Project:Croissant Dough**

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Peach Pecan Cheesecake

Using fresh fruit in a recipe that requires baking does have its challenges. First of all, you have the juice issue which may add too much liquid to the recipe. The other challenge is the acid in the fruit. In review, I would say that the citrus fruits are the most acidic and the other end of the spectrum would be bananas. The mid range would be peaches, apples and melons.

While most cheesecake recipes have a fruit sauce that you ladle on top, this one actually has diced peaches baked in. That texture, along with the crunch of chopped pecans and a cookie crust, is an excellent contrast to the creamy cheesecake. The cream cheese batter bakes up with a nice depth of flavor, incorporating a blend of dark brown sugar and peach schnapps. The chopped additions of diced peaches and toasted pecans offer an occasional zing of flavor.

My co-workers really liked this dessert and it disappeared quite quickly, so I this particular recipe is marked as a keeper. The instructions are for 1 nine inch cheesecake.

Peach Pecan Cheesecake
adapted from Cheesecake Extraordinaire

3 tbs chopped toasted pecans
3 tbs melted butter
11 vanilla sandwich cream cookies

Ingredients/Peach Pecan Filling
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 1/4 cup peeled and diced fresh peaches
5 tsp cornstarch
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
24 oz cream cheese
1 egg yolk
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbs heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup peach schnapps

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan.

Using a food processor or blender, grind the cookies into a fine powder. Empty contents into a small bowl and stir in the pecan pieces. Pour in the melted butter and mix until all crumbs are damp and can clump together. Transfer mixture to springform pan and press into the bottom, forming a flat, even layer on the bottom of the pan. Set aside.

Fill the bowl of a stand mixer with brown sugar and cream cheese. Beat until smooth. Sift in the cornstarch and beat for 30 seconds, so it is evenly distributed into the batter. Add egg yolk and beat on low speed for 15 seconds. Repeat this process for each egg. Once all the eggs are blended, add vanilla extract, peach schnapps and whipping cream. Beat again on low speed for about 1 minute.

Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in pecans and diced peaches. Pour the batter over the crust in the springform pan. The baking process will be in intervals. Bake the cheesecake for the first session at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Then lower the oven temperature to 225 degrees and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes. The cheesecake will be done once the center no longer looks wet or shiny.

Take the cheesecake out of the oven and run a knife around the inside, between the pan ring and the cheesecake. Also, turn the oven off. Put the cheescake back in the oven for another hour.  After the hour has expired, place in refrigerator to chill overnight.

Tips and Notes:
1. Use only fresh fruit, canned and frozen will have too much liquid for this recipe.

2. None of the recipes in this book use a water bath in order to keep the cheesecakes from cracking. The book does offer other pointers in order to minimize cracks, but none are guaranteed to prevent all cracks. The eggs should not be over beaten into the batter, which is why the instructions state using low speed when blending. Also, running a knife around the interior edge right after baking helps because the cheesecake will contract upon cooling. Other tips include: making sure your oven is at the correct temperature and not overbaking the cheesecake.

3. So you did everything right and you still have a cracked cheesecake? The author suggests using a wet knife to smooth it out on top when the cheesecake is still hot. However, due to discoloration, a dry knife is recommended with chocolate cheesecakes. This will not fix "Grand Canyon" cracks. Those are the big cracks that result when the cheesecake is overbaked.

4. Do not cover your cheesecake when you place it in the refrigerator to chill. Covering will cause moisture to form on top.

5. For best flavor, cheesecakes should be made 1 day in advance of serving.

6. If you are making a cheesecake with topping, slicing prior to the topping is easier. Slicing should be done with a thin, hot and sharp knife.
                                            **LAST YEAR:Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese**   

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Boo Boo Pie

Sorry, but there is no back story here as to how this recipe got its name. We can only speculate that it was a mistake or "boo boo" that actually turned out to be a delicious error. Errors can prove to be a good thing in certain cases. After all, chocolate chip cookies stem from the act of someone trying to compensate for a missing ingredient in a recipe.

If you love Mounds candy bars, then you have come to the right place. This recipe is basically a sweet combo of a rich chocolate brownie and chewy coconut. Not only will it squelch your craving for something sweet, you will not be spending very much time in the kitchen to create this. Another plus is that the ingredient list is very basic. Now let's get into the details....

Boo Boo Pie
adapted from Recipe Goldmine

3 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 2/3 cup sweetened coconut or 1 7 oz bag
1/2 cup flour
1 14.5 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Grease the interior of a 9 inch pie pan.

Empty the bag of coconut into a bowl. Using a fork or clean hands, separate the coconut so there are no clumps. Once all the clumps are loosened, pour in the sweetened condensed milk. Mix together and then let sit for at least 1 hr so the coconut can soak up some of the milk.

While the coconut is soaking, start on the brownie part of the recipe. Set up the bottom part of your double boiler by filling 2/3 full of water and placing over medium high heat. Once water comes to a simmer, place top pot on top and fill with butter and chocolate. Let ingredients melt together, stirring occasionally until smooth and blended. Remove from heat. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Take out a medium size bowl and fill with eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Stir with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed. Then mix in flour. Lastly, pour in the melted butter and chocolate blend. Mix together to form a smooth chocolate batter.

Empty the chocolate batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top and make sure the batter is even in the pan. Go back to the bowl of coconut and sweetened condensed milk and stir.  Then spoon the coconut mixture on top, but leave a 1/2 inch border around the edge so the brownie batter can form a crust.

Place pan in oven and bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing.

Tips and Notes:
1. The thickness of the coconut mixture is personal preference. The center of the pie, with the recipe as is, produces a sticky but soft texture. For something more solid, cut back on the sweetened condensed milk.

2. Bear in mind that the center sets up when cooling, but it should be somewhat solid coming out of the oven, not too jiggly.

3. Due to the liquidity of the chocolate batter, smoothing out the coconut filling evenly can be difficult. To insure that the coconut layer is even, spoon it onto a sheet of wax paper and smooth it into an even 8 1/2 inch round. Then place it in the freezer until it becomes a solid mass. Remove and peel off wax paper and center on brownie batter and lightly press down. Since the coconut mixture is frozen, you will need to increase the baking time. 
                             **TWO YEARS AGO: Creme Fraiche Coffee Cake**

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Honey Glazed Berry Scones

When it comes to combining fresh blueberries or blackberries to dough, it is hard for the end result not to look like a bruised lump or have tinges of purple. That is why most bread recipes use dried fruit. There is nothing wrong with dried fruit, but you cannot deny the "gummy bear" type of texture when biting into a chunk of dried fruit. Some recipes remedy this by including a "plumping" or soaking interval for the dried fruit prior to mixing it into the dough, which is a beneficial process.

In light of this information, I decided that frozen fruit is the best choice when you are making a sweet bread type of recipe. The frozen aspect keeps the fruit from tie dying your dough into a purple lump. Also, baked in frozen fruit rates higher on the texture scale than dried fruit.

Dark colored berries, if you did not already know, are the healthiest to eat. I do try to eat fruit for breakfast. However, adding them to cereal, smoothies or yogurt all the time can get boring after awhile. It was time to have something a little different and these scones were the choice. Chock full of a double helping of berries and honey sweetened crust, there was no denying the fact that this chosen difference made my breakfast a little bit more special. Not only did the bread/berry combo turn out to be irresistible, but the honey glaze does double duty with adding sweetness and also keeping the scones from drying out. This recipe makes about 8-12 scones, depending on the cutter size.

Honey Glazed Berry Scones
adapted from A Passion For Baking

2 tsp of vanilla extract
1 egg
1tbs of lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup or 1 1/2 sticks of butter (cut into cubes)
1/2 cup of sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups of flour
1/2-3/4 cup frozen blackberries
1/2-3/4 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 cup of milk or melted butter (for brushing prior to baking)
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter

Start the process by stacking 2 baking sheets together and lining the bottom of the top sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Using a liquid measuring cup, fill with the tablespoon of lemon juice and then the whipping cream. Stir and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder in a medium size bowl. Stir in the sugar. Pour the blend into a food processor and drop in the chunks of butter. Pulse until no more dry streaks remain. This should result in a coarse, sand like mixture. 

Transfer dough back into medium size bowl and make a well in the center. Fill the well with the egg, lemon/cream mixture and vanilla. Blend with a wooden spoon until no dry streaks remain. The dough should be able to hold its shape but also be soft. Then fold in the berries.

Prepare a flat surface by dusting lightly with flour. Take dough out of bowl and knead. This process may require more flour to insure that the dough does not expand after cutting. Flatten and shape dough so it is only 1 inch thick. Cut into desired shape (rounds, squares or triangles) and place on parchment lined baking sheet about 1 inch apart.  Brush the top of each scone with the melted butter or milk.

Bake for about 16-19 minutes. Scones are done when they are golden brown on top. While the scones are baking, prepare the glaze.  Fill a liquid measuring cup with honey and butter. Place cup in microwave and heat on high for 45 seconds. Stir mixture and then return to microwave and heat for an additional 45 seconds.

Remove scones from oven when done and place baking sheet on a cooling rack. Then brush lightly with the glaze. Let the scones sit for about 15 minutes and then coat the surface generously again with the rest of the glaze.

Tips and Notes:
1.The purpose of stacking 2 pans together insures that the bottom of the scones do not brown too fast.

2.The frozen fruit should be in separate pieces but not thawed out.

3. Because of the size of the blackberries and the fact they are frozen, the best way to cut the dough is with a sharp blade. It insures a sharp cut into the fruit and also makes for a good height on the scones when baked. 

4. Due to the glaze, the scones will stay moist and flavorful for up to 4 days.

5. Using a food processor is recommended, but you can blend with a mixer and have the same results.
                                   **LAST YEAR:Banana Walnut Tart**   

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Raspberry Lager Cupcakes

Red velvet cupcakes are always ranked as one of the favorites when it comes to baking contests.  Something about the color and that touch of cocoa really appeals to the majority of cake and cupcake lovers. With that appeal, you run across numerous recipes that have been modified from the original.  One thing I have seen is the color change; blue velvet, green velvet...etc.

However, this is one twist that does not involve a change of color. This recipe is actually a red velvet recipe with a fruity, boozy twist. It incorporates raspberry beer. Even though raspberry and chocolate is a delicious combination, my first concern was about the raspberry flavor. I did not want it to taste "artificial", so I took some time to find a naturally flavored beer. I came across a Belgium beer, Lindeman's Frambois Lambic. Other than being naturally flavored, the size of the bottle (25 oz) was a benefit since the recipe calls for more than 12 oz of beer.

This recipe scored very high in flavor and texture. As you can see by the bottom picture, the cake was nice and moist. The brush of raspberry syrup on top gave them an extra pop of delicious fruit flavor. Also the obvious, but perfect, choice of topping is the cream cheese frosting.This recipe makes about 2 dozen cupcakes, but you may try 1 1/2 times the recipe if you are bringing this to a potluck or family get together. You definitely want to make sure no one is left out when it comes to eating one of these special cupcakes.....

Raspberry Lager Cupcakes
adapted from Just a Pinch website

1 tsp vanilla
1 oz red food coloring
2 eggs
1 tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup raspberry beer
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup or 1 stick butter (room temp)
3/4 cup of regular flour
2 cups cake flour
3 tbs cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

3-4 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese (room temp)
8 oz butter (room temp)
1 tsp vanilla
24-30 fresh raspberries for garnish (optional)
1 crumbled cupcake for sprinkling

Ingredients/Soaking Syrup
1 1/2 cups raspberry beer
8-10 fresh raspberries, mashed

Start by making the soaking syrup.  Fill a saucepan with the beer and mashed raspberries.  Bring the mixture to a slow boil and stir. Let it cook down to about 1/2 of the original amount. This should take about 7-10 minutes.  Place strainer over a heat proof bowl and strain liquid. Use the back side of a spoon to separate the fruit from the seeds, scraping the inside of the strainer. Once strainer holds nothing more than seeds, set bowl of strained liquid aside to cool and discard seeds.

To make the cupcakes, begin by greasing the top edge of your cupcake cavities and insert paper liners for approximately 2 dozen cupcakes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix together raspberry beer and food coloring. Set aside. Then fill the bowl of a standard mixer with the oil, butter and sugar. Beat on medium speed, occasionally scraping down the sides, for about 3 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy. Drop in one egg and beat for 30 seconds. Add the other egg and beat again. Pour in cider vinegar and vanilla extract and blend liquids into batter until incorporated.

Using a third bowl, sift together 2 types of flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Fold 1/3 of this mixture into the batter. Pour in 1/2 of the raspberry beer/food coloring liquid. Stir until thoroughly blended. Repeat this process, using 1/2 of the remaining dry ingredients and all of the liquid. Lastly, fold in the last bit of the dry ingredients.

Using a scoop, fill each lined cupcake cavity with batter. Fill to approx. 2/3 full. Place both pans in oven and bake for 10 minutes and rotate pans. Bake for an additional 7-10 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in pans about 5-7 minutes and then carefully transfer to cooling rack. Wait another 5 minutes and then brush lightly with soaking syrup. The brushing step will be in two sessions, about 3 minutes apart. This will give it time to soak in prior to the second session.

Cupcakes can be frosted once completely cooled.

For the frosting, add the cream cheese and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer. Then beat until no lumps remain and both ingredients are completely blended and creamy. Add the vanilla extract and beat again for about 1 minute, scraping down sides of bowl. Remove bowl from stand mixer and sift in 1 cup of powdered sugar. Place bowl back in stand mixer and beat until no dry ingredients remain. Continue with the process, adding the powdered sugar until frosting reaches the desired consistency.

Take one of the cooled cupcakes (preferably the ugliest, misshapen one) and place in mixer or food processor and process until you have fine crumbs.

Pipe frosting onto top of cupcakes and then sprinkle cupcake crumbs on top.  If desired, place 2 raspberries on center of top, just prior to serving.

Tips and Notes:
1. You will have some leftover soaking liquid.  Be sure not to "oversoak" your cupcakes, this will make them very fragile to handle and insure that they will fall apart when someone trys to eat them later.

2. How much food coloring or if you use any is personal preference.

3. The soaking liquid idea can be beneficial in instances where the flavor has baked right out of the cupcake for some reason. The recipe will need to be tweaked more, but you have a way to save these particular cupcakes from the error bin. Making a syrup with the flavoring and brushing on top will add back what was baked out.
                                       **Last Year: Citrus Syrup Tea Cakes***