Hi! I feel like it’s been a while. Summer has been really confusing in LA with warm days and cold nights, which even further confuses me when I emerge from the dark and chilly cave I spend 6 days out of the week in. I’ve been busy, real busy, with school and I don’t want to complain about it and take away from what you’re really here to read about – but it’s my little note to you on why the blog has been a little quieter lately. But isn’t that how summer sort of feels? Small businesses closed for holiday, uncanny bouts of quiet, and a lazy summer heat beating down on the city.
I’m not sure if it keeps me sane or just drives me a little crazier, but I always have a tendency to future vacation plan during the summer months. Some girls have wedding Pinterest boards, I have ones dedicated to vacation ideas. Recently, I was doing a little internet snooping and discovered that a LINE Cafe has recently opened in Seoul – something that’s now on my list if we ever head back to Korea. LINE characters have been v accurately conveying my reactions over text since 2011. I downloaded the app so I could text Steph while she was in Taiwan and China over the summer (you can message + make phone calls from anywhere, for FREE, as long as both parties have a wifi connection!), and it somehow turned into our main method of text communication between us and our friends. It’s the stickers. Before Facebook adopted the sticker fad, there was LINE and their cast of hilarious original characters: James, Cony, Brown, Jessica. I’m including a little photoset of a few of my favorite stickers below for any of you who have no clue what I’m talking about.
You can’t get this level of emotion across with emojis, that’s for sure.
I think we can all agree that cupcakes are awesome – and if not for the taste or the bite-size cakeness or that swirly dollop of frosting on top, then definitely because they are so simple to make. The red velvet and vanilla bean cupcake recipes I’m using here are from another one of my favorite FoodTubers, Nick from The Scran Line! I absolutely love watching his videos. Nick is adorable and has such a talent for decorating his cupcakes in new and exciting ways with each video. Best of all, both of his red velvet and vanilla bean cupcake recipes use only one or two bowls, which is kind of the greatest thing about baking at home. No one likes a pile of dirty dishes in the sink when you just wanna rest your feet and finish that episode of Game of Thrones you missed last night, amiright?
Can I let you in on a little secret? Invest in an ice cream scoop. It is absolutely best way to make perfect scoops of cookie dough, red bean filling, and to portion out cupcake batter evenly. My biggest issue with cupcakes is I always have the hardest time getting them filled just right. Sometimes I use too little batter and the domes don’t make it past the top of the liner, while other times I use just a little too much and the cupcake spills out a little around the rim of the pan and I’m left with flat and slightly lopsided looking mini cakes. My ice cream scoop makes life a million times easier for portioning because you get consistent results and that little latch that snaps back and forth releases the batter neatly into the liner. If you’ve run into the same problem as I have, bake a lot of cookies, or just love eating ice cream, then you need to get yourself one!
I know, I know, I know. There are so many steps in this recipe! But, pleeeease don’t be wary of it! There are a lot of different elements, but every single part can be made in advance and stored in the freezer until ready to use. Plus, all the ingredients themselves are very simple to bring together! I split up the process into three days by focusing on the sugar cookies on day one, then baking all the cupcakes and icing the cookies on day two, then whipping up both frostings and putting everything together on day three. All the work felt well worth it seeing everyone’s faces when I brought them to class!
Notes: Once you’ve piped the icing onto your cupcakes, make sure to add the sprinkles as soon as possible! I waited a tad too long and the sprinkles wouldn’t stick onto some of the cupcakes. Another thing to note is make sure to stick the cookies on as soon as possible too! You might have noticed but the pink frosting has a few cracks in it because the surface had already started to dry before I added the Cony cookies at the end.
for the sugar cookies
• 3 cups all purpose flour
• 3 tbsp cocoa powder* (for chocolate sugar cookies, eliminate if making regular sugar cookies)
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 1 egg, room temperature
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
1. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg and vanilla extract.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed. Add in the egg mixture slowly, beating for 30 seconds to 1 minute until full incorporated.
4. Add the flour to the wet ingredients in three additions, mix on low speed. Beat until just combined but the dough has not come together yet.
5. Dump the dough out onto a work surface, making sure to get any left over bits still in the bowl. Use your hands to lightly knead the dough until it comes together.
6. Split the dough in half. Shape both into a round disk and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate one half of the dough overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours. Store the other half in the freezer until needed.
7. The following day, let the chilled dough sit at room temperature for a few minutes until workable. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
8. Separate the cookie dough in half. Between two sheets of parchment, roll one half of the dough to about 1/4 inch of thickness. I used a circle cookie cutter about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter, a large round piping tip, and a mini gingerbread man’s arm to cut out the bear and bunny faces and their ears. Place the cookies on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicone, then attach the ears on by lightly pressing the dough together and using a toothpick to score the two together. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies.
9. Freeze the uncooked cookies for 10-15 minutes. Bake for 9 minutes. Let the cookies cool to room temperature. They will harden and be ready to decorate.
for the royal icing:
• 1 lb powdered sugar (453g), sifted
• 2 1/4 tbsp meringue powder
• 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
• 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1/2 c warm water
• brown, black, and pink food coloring
10. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the meringue powder and warm water together until foamy. Add in the cream of tartar and vanilla and mix until combined.
11. Add in all of the powdered sugar at once. Use the paddle attachment for the mixer and beat on the lowest setting for 3-5 minutes. The icing will be on the thicker side. You can loosen the consistency by adding a tiny bit of water at a time as needed. You don’t want it to be so thick that it will hold a stiff peak or too thin to where it’s liquidy.
12. Transfer half of the icing to an air tight container. Make sure to cover the top with a layer of plastic wrap to prevent it from drying out. You will only need half to decorate all the cookies. I store my icing in the refrigerator until needed.
13. Portion the remaining half of the icing into 6 small bowls. Use food coloring to create two shades of brown (one slightly darker than the other), two shades of pink (one darker than the other), and black icing. Leave one bowl of icing white. Transfer the colored icings into separate piping bags. Decorate the cookies, then let them dry completely before handling. This should take a few hours.
for the red velvet cupcake batter
• 400g all purpose flour
• 2 tbsp natural cocoa powder
• 320g caster sugar
• 2 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 190ml vegetable oil
• 3 eggs
• 250ml buttermilk
• red food coloring
• 2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 320°F. Line two cupcake trays with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, combine the oil, eggs, buttermilk, food coloring, and vanilla extract. Make sure to whisk together until well combined. To get that deep red velvet color, make sure to use a lot of the red food coloring as the color will fade after baking.
4. With your stand mixer, switch out the whisk attachment for a paddle attachment. Add in the wet mixture to the dry in a slow and steady stream with the mixer on a low speed. Mix until just combined and there are no longer any dry bits. Do not over mix. Scrape down the bowl and beat the batter for a few more seconds again.
*Tip: Use a large ice cream scoop to fill the cupcake liners with batter. The cupcakes will rise quite a bit so fill them about 1/2 way to overspilling. Bake cupcakes for 30 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the middle of one comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
for the vanilla cupcake batter
• 430g all purpose flour
• 3 tsp baking powder
• 265g granulated sugar
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 375ml whole milk
• 125ml vegetable oil
• 2 tbsp yogurt or sour cream
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 large eggs
• 125g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 320°F. Line two cupcake trays with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt on low for a few minutes to aerate the dry ingredients.
3. In a bowl, combine the milk, oil, yogurt, vanilla extract, and eggs. Whisk together until well combined. Set aside.
4. Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until the mixture becomes grainy, almost like sand. Add in the wet ingredients in a slow and steady stream with the mixer on low. Combine until there are no dry ingredients left. Scrape down the bowl and mix again for another few seconds.
5. Use an ice cream scoop to fill each cupcake liner with batter. Fill them about 3/4 full and bake for 30 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
for the pink cream cheese frosting
• 100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 160g cream cheese
• 560g powdered sugar, sifted
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the softened butter and cream cheese on med-high speed. Beat for 3-5 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.
2. Add in half of the sifted powdered sugar and beat for another couple of minutes, starting on a low speed and increasing to med-high. Add in the second half and beat again.
3. Add in a few drops of pink food coloring and beat until the color is evenly incorporated. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to get any extra bits, then give the frosting another quick mix. When done, transfer to a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
4. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe big swirls onto the red velvet cupcakes. Sprinkle with white non-pareil sprinkles and add a Cony (the bunny) cookie.
for the chocolate frosting
• 300g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
• 540g powdered sugar, sifted
• 4 tbsp whole milk
• 180g dark chocolate, melted and cooled to room temperature
optional: 1 tsp instant coffee granules
1. Melt the chocolate in microwave or over a stove top in a double boiler. Don’t use until it has cooled to room temperature but is still liquid.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed for a few minutes until very pale and fluffy.
3. Add half of the sifted powdered sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add in the second half of the powdered sugar and beat again for 3 minutes.
4. Portion the milk into a small bowl and add a teaspoon of instant coffee. Mix together until the coffee has dissolved. With the mixer on low, add in the milk until combined. Next, add in the cooled chocolate and beat for about 2 minutes until the chocolate has been completely incorporated.
5. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe big swirls onto the vanilla cupcakes. Sprinkle with rainbow non-pareil sprinkles and add a Brown (the bear) cookie.