Tag Archive | cream cheese frosting

A Sweet and Salty Spin on Spumoni

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Pistachios…a sweet and salty snack.  Sweet and salty flavors are definitely one of my favorites; peanut butter and chocolate, salted caramel anything, on and on…. Pistachios fall into this category also.  Pistachios are the nut found on a Pistacia vera tree, and are a member of the cashew family.  The taste is salty, similar to a cashew in its creaminess, and slightly sweet.  It is actually very hard to describe, it’s almost an emotional kind of taste – you know it when you taste it!  It is unique.  Spumoni is a dessert that showcases pistachios; layers of chocolate, pistachio and cherry ice cream.  Delizioso!

For this next cupcake in my journey, Iced Pistachio Cupcakes, I wanted to remain true to the recipe but I also wanted to put my own spin on it.  So, half of the cupcakes are made exactly according to the recipe and the other half are topped with my interpretation of Italian spumoni.  If you would like the recipe, click here (courtesy of My Bare Cupboard).

Mise en place

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Before actually starting the recipe, some prep work needed to be done.  First, I ground pistachios to a paste.  Then I coarsely chopped additional pistachios.

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Once this prep work was done I could get started.  I creamed together butter, cream cheese and the pistachio paste.  After this mixture was fluffy, I added sugar which I beat in until smooth.  Eggs were next, one at a time, and beaten until incorporated.  The final steps were to add vanilla bean paste, a drop of pistachio oil, flour and salt.

I added the coarsely chopped pistachios by hand to the batter.  That’s it!  It was pretty easy once the grinding and chopping were done.

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Here they are out of the oven.  Hmmmm…. very flat.  But again, as in the previous few recipes, no leavening was used.photo 2 (2)

Martha’s recipe calls for a simple confectioners sugar glaze to go on top of the cupcakes.  Very easy, just confectioners sugar, cream, lemon juice and a tiny bit of vanilla.  This is what I used for half of the cupcakes.   Here is how they turned out.photo 4 (2)

The other half of the cupcakes received a special topping:  Cherry glaze, pistachio cream cheese frosting and a chocolate drizzle.

For the cherry glaze, I simmered cherries and a mixture of sugar and water for about 20 minutes.  I strained the mixture, tossed away the cherries and added cherry preserves to the cherry liquid.  I simmered this for a while until it was thick and then dipped the cupcakes in it.

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Atop the cherry glaze, I piped a pistachio cream cheese frosting.  Very simple, I just added pistachio paste to a regular cream cheese icing.  Finally, I drizzled chocolate ganache on top of the frosting.  Here is the final product.

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Now, the taste:  Delicious and very different.  Each cupcake had its own personality.  The basic one was moist, very dense (again, much like a muffin), sweet, salty and crunchy.   The spumoni cupcake was also moist and dense, but had an added dimension from the cherry and the chocolate.   They were very different cupcakes, both delectable!

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If you like sweet and salty, try this!

Next time: Apricot-Glazed Black and White Cheesecakes.

Stay tuned,

Sweet Joan


Old Fashioned Comfort


“Good, old-fashioned ways keep hearts sweet, heads sane, hands busy.”  ~ Louisa May Alcott

I adore old fashioned desserts; pineapple upside down cake, apple crisp, peach cobbler, chocolate cake and the like.  Just thinking about these goodies makes me smile.  thIKHV9FQ3









It reminds me of the days during my childhood when tables of these yummy desserts would be present at every family gathering.  Applesauce cake is one of those old fashioned kind of desserts; sweet, spicy and very moist.  Sometimes it had frosting, sometimes just powdered sugar; but always delicious.   Old fashioned desserts evoke a time, a feeling; the kind of comfort that can only be found in the kitchen.


This cupcake, Applesauce Spice, is a delightful old fashioned treat; just the aroma will send you to a wonderfully warm and cozy place.  Pour a big glass of milk or a cup of coffee and settle in for a delicious repast.

This recipe goes together very quickly and easily.  First….

Mise En Place

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(Mise En Place is a French term that literally translates to “set in place”.  In the culinary world it means you have everything ready to cook and in its place…sorry, sometimes I just like to show off. )

First of all, I whisked together the dry ingredients along with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.   Next, I creamed together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar.

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After that, I added the eggs, applesauce and the dry ingredients.  When this was well mixed,  I stirred in chopped pecans.

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Here they are, out of the oven.  Yum.

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The frosting that was recommended was a Brown Sugar Cream Cheese frosting.  I thought I had tasted almost every kind of cream cheese frosting, but this one was new to me.

First I creamed the butter and brown sugar.  Next, I added confectioners sugar and beat this until smooth.  Finally, I added the cream cheese and beat everything together.

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Here they are after adding the frosting.  Cute, huh?

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I used an “old fashioned” plate to display these, it actually belonged to my late mother-in-law.  The candle sticks are very old and belonged to my husband’s grandmother.   Seemed appropriate for these cupcakes.

I loved these; they were deliciously moist and perfectly flavored.   They were not overly sweet which complemented the frosting very nicely.   And speaking of frosting – it was divine; not too sweet and more flavor depth than an ordinary cream cheese frosting.

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Do yourself a favor and make a good old fashioned dessert soon.  You never know what memories and good times it will bring back.

Next up: Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes.

Stay tuned,

Sweet Joan

Monkeyshines…got bananas?

I love bananas.  I am not sure if it’s the creaminess of the fruit in its natural state, or the magic that happens when it’s combined with the wonderful spiciness of cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavorings.  Any cake or bread that contains the fruit becomes moist, chewy and utterly delectable.  Desserts containing bananas seem perfectly designed for this time of year; maybe it’s the aroma of the spices or the other ingredients such as nuts that pronounce it “fall-like”.

This recipe, the next in Martha’s cupcake collection, is no exception.  Banana-Pecan Cupcakes – the moistness, nuttiness and spiciness are amazing.  The frosting, a caramel cream cheese buttercream is a perfect topper.

Here is how I made it –

Whisk together the dry ingredients:

and the wet ingredients (including the mashed bananas):

and set these aside.  Cream together the butter and brown sugar:

until it looks like this:

After adding the dry and wet ingredients, the nuts are mixed in by hand:

After baking, this is what they look like:

Here’s a tip when working with bananas:  If you notice that your bananas are overripe, don’t drop everything to make cupcakes, banana bread, etc.  Take the overripe bananas and put them into your freezer (unpeeled).  Then, when you are ready to bake just defrost them and they’re ready to use.

Another tip: If you want to intensify the banana flavor, microwave peeled bananas for approximately 5 minutes covered with plastic wrap.  The liquid that remains in the bowl of bananas can be boiled on the stove in a heavy saucepan at a high heat (watch closely to prevent burning!)  When the liquid has been reduced and becomes syrupy it can be added to your recipe.

Now, back to this recipe.  After cooling I frosted the cupcakes with caramel cream cheese frosting.  I cheated a little here; instead of making my own caramel, I used a bottled version.  It was delicious, but homemade is a lot better!  Basically, I just added some of the bottled caramel to a standard cream cheese icing and mixed together.  The caramel flavor with the bananas and nuts was extraordinary!

These cupcakes are a definite keeper; I am sure I will be making them over and over.  They are just that good. Period.

Here are a few more pictures:








That’s all for now – it’s time to get back to my Halloween cupcakes and cake pops.  The event starts one week from today!! Yikes!!

Stay tuned,

Sweet Joan

Petit Gateau Rouge Velour

For those of you who have not studied French, the title is Red Velvet Cupcakes (I didn’t study French either, I looked it up).  So you are probably thinking that the title is in French because Red Velvet cupcakes come from France.  Makes sense, but not really.  As a matter of fact, no one really knows the exact source.  Many claim that the recipe for the unbelievably popular sweet is theirs, but no one can really prove it.  The common thinking is that it comes from the southern U.S., but there are also claims from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, from an obscure town in Canada, etc etc.  You are probably asking why did I chose to title this post in French – I just thought that since no one knows FOR SURE where these cupcakes came from, they could just as well be from France.  Besides, I love French pastries!

I was excited to try this recipe because it seems that Red Velvet is one of those flavors that is hard to get right.  I think it should have the distinct flavor of rich and ahem….”velvety” cocoa, but not really taste like chocolate.  Confused??  Read on….

Start with the dry ingredients:

The dry ingredients are combined with the standard stuff – eggs, oil, sugar, flavoring, and the not so standard stuff – red food coloring (use paste coloring, it’s much more concentrated) to yield this batter:

One final addition is baking soda and vinegar mixed together and then blended into the batter.

Now, ready for the oven:

 After baking, here they are:

I let them cool and then used the suggested frosting – cream cheese, of course.

Here is a tip if you have trouble with runny cream cheese icing: Do not let the butter get too soft, just room temperature.  Then, cream the butter and confectioners’ sugar together before adding the cream cheese.  Add the cold cream cheese in chunks and do not beat too long, only until the frosting is smooth.

Here is the result; I think they turned out really nice:

They looked good, but there wasn’t a lot of flavor.  I really do not understand, the aroma when they came out of the oven was amazing.  Hmmmm….so disappointed.  The frosting was excellent and helped somewhat, but without it the cupcakes were tasteless.   On the plus side, the texture was wonderful and the cupcakes themselves were very moist.  Perhaps more cocoa would have helped.  I will definitely revisit these cupcakes.

Next: Rhubarb Cupcakes…now that will be a challenge!  Also, over the next few weeks I will be gearing up for the annual Haunted House at our local Youth Center.  I will have a booth and cupcakes and cake pops will be the scary (but sweet) treats!  I am looking forward to sharing my treats here on my blog.

Stay tuned,

Sweet Joan

Life is just a bowl of Carrots…


They say that carrots are good for your eyes,

They swear that they improve your sight,

But I’m seein’ worse than I did last night—

                                                You think maybe I ain’t usin’ ’em right?         – Shel Silverstein

In a former life as an elementary school teacher, I always enjoyed that time after lunch when I asked my students to quietly lay their heads down on their desks and I read to them for a brief time.  It seemed to calm them (and me)down.  One of my favorite authors is Shel Silverstein; his prose is fun, witty, reflective and speaks to all ages, I believe.  So, I thought I would start this post about Carrot Cupcakes with one of his humorous carrot poems.

On to the cupcakes!  I was looking forward to these because I am a huge fan of carrot cake.  The moistness, sweetness, nuttiness (is that a word?) is delectable.  Not to mention the cream cheese frosting, always a favorite.  Actually, frosting is one of my guilty pleasures; sometimes I think that cake is just an excuse to devour the frosting 🙂

This was an extremely easy cupcake to make.  Start with wet ingredients:

Add to this, the dry ingredients:

Wet and dry ingredients together look like this (don’t forget the nuts-I used pecans):

Whisk together.  That’s it!  Super simple!

Here is a tool I use frequently for batters that are very liquid.  It is called a cupcake batter dispenser:

 Best $12.00 investment I ever made.  Just pour the batter into the dispenser, squeeze the handle to release batter, then let go of handle to stop the batter from pouring.  No drips, no mess and it is very easy to control the amount of batter that is going into each liner.

Here I am using the cupcake batter dispenser to pour the batter into the liners:

After baking, here is what they look like:

Martha’s cookbook suggests cream cheese frosting, duh!! I can’t imagine anything else. The recipe in the book was very good, but personally I like mine better.  Mine is not quite as sweet – I use more butter and cream cheese and less sugar.  Oh well, personal taste I guess.

Here is the final product:

I have to say, after tasting I was not disappointed.  The cupcake was moist, flavorful and nutty.  The frosting complimented the cupcake magnificently.  The texture was what you would expect from a carrot cake, dense but not heavy.  Overall, a winner.  But, next time I will use my own frosting recipe.

Next time…Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes.  Hmmmm…..sounds kind of ordinary.  What will I do to kick up the SWEETNESS.  Wait and see!

Okay, one more “carrot” quote, this time from the immortal Mae West:

“I never worry about diets. The only carrots that interest me are the number you get in a diamond.”

Stay tuned,

Sweet Joan