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Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Today is August’s birthday!  She told all her students that her favorite chocolate candy is peanut butter cups (non-chocolate is gummy peach rings).  With 147 students, she got lots of peanut butter cups!  Last year, one of them brought her a peanut butter cake, and she was hooked.  Likely a new tradition now, she asked Zach to make her a peanut butter cake for her birthday today.  This recipe and its proportions, even for the frosting, are appropriate for a triple layer 9″ cake or 24 cupcakes, and if you happen to have chocolate peanut butter cups around the house, this is a creative way to put them to use.

peanut butter cupcakes

peanut butter cupcakes

• For the cake:

2 1/4 cups of cake flour

1 1/4 cups of vanilla’d sugar

1 cup of buttermilk

1 cup of creamy natural peanut butter

1/2 cup of butter

2 eggs

2 tsp. of vanilla extract

1 1/4 tsp. of baking soda

1 tsp. of baking powder

Nonstick cooking spray (and paper muffin cups if making cupcakes)

batter ready to be baked (note the texture)

batter ready to be baked (note the texture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  If making a cake, spray three 9″ round pans with nonstick spray; if making cupcakes, line two muffin tins with muffin cups and lightly spray with nonstick spray.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.  Mix together the sugar, peanut butter, and butter with a hand mixer until creamy and combined, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract, mixing for an additional 2 minutes.  While mixing, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk as such: 1/3 of the flour, half of the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk, the rest of the flour; it is important not to over-mix during the phase, because you don’t want to end up with bread.  Pour the batter evenly into the three round pans, or with an ice cream scoop, portion out the batter into the 24 muffin cups.  Bake the large rounds for 22-25 minutes; cupcakes bake for 18-20 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick – if it comes out clean, it’s done.  Let cool before frosting.

• For the frosting:

3 cups of powdered sugar

1 cup of creamy natural peanut butter

8 oz. of cream cheese at room temperature

1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream

2 tsp. of vanilla extract

With a hand mixer, combine the peanut butter and cream cheese until fully blended.  Add the cream and vanilla, and mix for another minute.  Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, blending well in between adding each cup.  Once the last cup is fully incorporated, mix for another 3 minutes.  For easy piping, fill a pastry bag fitted with whatever tip you want (but larger would be easier) and pipe to your heart’s content.

Optional garnish: cut several chocolate peanut butter cups into quarters and place on top of the frosting.

Second optional garnish: top with honey roasted peanuts.

Third optional garnish: stripe with dark chocolate.

Cinnamon Rolls

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Packaged cinnamon roll kits from the store don’t often provide enough frosting.  And store-baked cinnamon rolls from the bakery aren’t typically fresh.  If you are looking for the perfect weekend breakfast, or if you have time in a regular morning (Zach got up at 3 today to make these for August for Valentine’s Day), try this recipe.

Makes 12

• For the filling:

1 cup of light brown sugar, packed

4 tbs. of melted butter

1 tbs. of ground cinnamon

1 tsp. of vanilla

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon in a medium bowl until well incorporated.  Set aside this filling mixture for use later.

• For the dough:

4 cups of all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/2 cup of heavy cream

1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. of lukewarm water

1/4 cup of sugar

4 large egg yolks at room temperature

1 large whole egg at room temperature

4 tbs. of melted butter

1 tbs. of active dry yeast

Butter for greasing the pan

Pinch of sugar

Canola oil for proofing

Put the lukewarm water in a bowl with the active dry yeast and the pinch of sugar.  Let it sit for 7 minutes to activate.

Whisk the cream, sugar, egg yolks, whole egg, and butter (from the dough ingredients list) in a separate bowl.  Put 4 cups of flour in a metal stand mixer bowl.  Add all the wet ingredients (the yeast and egg mixtures) to the flour and mix with a dough hook for 8-9 minutes, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl.  The dough should feel soft and moist, but not sticky.  Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 30 seconds.  Lightly oil a large bowl with canola oil, transfer the dough to the bowl, lightly oil the top of the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let double in volume for 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Grease a 9″x13″ glass baking dish.  Put the dough on a lightly floured work surface.  Gently shape the dough into a rectangle with the long side nearest you.  Roll into an 18″x12″ rectangle.  Mix the 4 tbs. of melted butter and vanilla for the filling, then brush the dough, leaving a 1/2″ border along the edge.  Sprinkle the filling mixture over the buttered dough, leaving a 3/4″ border along the edge.  Gently press the filling into the dough.

cinnamon rolls 004

Beginning with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a tight cylinder.  Firmly pinch the seam to seal, and roll the cylinder seam-side down.  Very gently squeeze the cylinder to create even thickness.  Using a serrated knife, slice the cylinder into 1 1/2″ rolls, yielding 12 rolls.  Arrange rolls cut-side down in the greased baking dish.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 16 hours).

cinnamon rolls 006

into the fridge they go

Remove the rolls from the refrigerator and place in an oven that is off.  Fill a shallow pan 2/3 full of boiling water and set it on the rack below the rolls.  Close the oven door and let the rolls rise until they look slightly puffy (about 30 minutes).  Remove the rolls and the shallow pan of water from the oven.



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  When the oven is ready, place the rolls on the middle rack and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes.



• For the icing:

1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar

1 cup of softened cream cheese

4 tbs. of softened butter

1 1/2 tbs. of heavy cream

While the rolls are cooling (but don’t let them get too cold), whisk the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until creamy.  Add cream and whisk until combined.  Sift in the powdered sugar and continue whisking until smooth.  Spread over the rolls and serve immediately.

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