I should be packing. And organizing. And throwing out things I haven’t touched in the past four years since moving to Chicago. I shouldn’t be blogging and baking and coming up with new recipes. I shouldn’t be running to Trader Joe’s to pick up bags of ingredients. Or setting up my white boards in front of the window to wait for the light to turn just right. Read more

Match Day—done! Hallelujah and thank you for all the crossed fingers, prayers, and happy thoughts! Last Thursday night felt like Christmas Eve as a 5 year old. I was up every hour hoping Santa had already come. The fateful email finally came in a little after 7:30 am, only moments to spare before having a heart attack.

I promised you answers in the form of a sweet treat. Here she is. Nutmeg Spice Cupcake. Can you figure out where we’re going? If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know I love Warren Brown and his cake recipes. So when it came time to announce the Match Day results, I flipped open Warren’s book—United Cakes of America. Page 38. Connecticut. The nutmeg state. Read more

If there’s one thing I know about food blogging, it’s that people love chocolate. And If there’s one thing I know about myself, it’s that I love chocolate. Rich, dark chocolate. So dark it’s healthy. At least that’s what I tell myself. But somehow, I have yet to post a chocolate cake. Sometimes things get consumed before I get ahold of a camera. And we all know a post without a picture is no bueno. This, however, is bueno. Muy bueno. Read more

I’m not sure if I should title this Cupcakes 101, Baking 101, or Melissa’s Baking Philosophy. I did a presentation on this a couple weeks ago and called it Cupcakes 101. So we’ll stick with that. Just know—this isn’t your ordinary cupcake talk. I apologize.

I mentioned doing a presentation. On food. First time ever. Yes, I was nervous. Nail biting nervous. I’m used to presenting logos, brochures, and ideas, but food…I love food. It’s got an extra soft spot in my heart and in my stomach. But I’m no expert. I’m self taught. I guess you could say Martha taught me everything I know via daytime television. That gives me some credibility. But it ends there. Most days, it’s just me, my kitchen, trial, and error. Read more

Every Wednesday at work, we have break. It’s exactly like it sounds—a break from work. But it gets better. We eat. You could probably say it’s my favorite day of the work week. Never, no never, do I plan a meeting during this time. It’s a sin. 10 am is reserved for break and break alone.

We take turns providing food. You only have to do it a couple times a year. I’d sign up every week if I could, but I’d go broke! So last week it was my turn along with my coworkers Ruby and Danielle. Ruby had the great idea of doing a bake sale. So cute! We each made baked goods. Danielle brought the world’s best Date Balls. I don’t even like dates, and I loooveed these little gems. Ruby brought chocolate chip cookie bars and chocolate cookies. Also delish! And I brought mini brownies and vanilla cupcakes. (PS—If you make these mini style, reduce the baking time immensely. Bake for about 12-15 min.)

The ideas kept on flowing. Ruby came up with prices for the baked goods like—3 shimmies or 4 girl push-ups or 2 karate chops (we work at a non-profit). She also had the cute idea of packaging the food and creating sticker labels. Sign me up! I love designing for food. If I could design for bakeries all day, I’d be in heaven. The only thing better would be working in a bakery all day. A couple clicks and light bulbs later, the Bake Sale became the Break Sale. And we were in business.

Now, if we could only make money.

I had planned on doing an easter post today. But my idea flopped. Many tireless hours went into, and it flopped. Yes, I do want some cheese with this wine. I wasn’t going to tell you what I was making incase I decided to give it another try. But, I’m not. I’m no good at these things. And by “things” I mean cake balls. I’ve tried a couple times, and they’re just not my forte. I have these conflicting thoughts of “Don’t give up!” and “Just stick with what you’re good at.” Well, I’ve decided to stick with what I’m good at, leaving the cake balls to Bakerella. Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for a good challenge. And, I don’t mind if I fail from time to time. But I’ve learned I’m much better at baking than I am at decorating (case in point—cake ball fail). I’m much better at perfecting the classics (scones, cakes, cookies, macarons) than coming up with something new. I’m much better at sticking to my purist ways, than bending the rules and using the not so pure stuff. My take-away from all of this is—stick with what you’re good at, and get really good at it.

Shawoof (wiping sweat off brow). That was cathartic.

Now on to the good stuff. Red Velvet Cake! Remember the Sailboat Cupcakes from the last post? I told you I’d be back with the recipe. As promised, here it is. But first, I have to do another plug for my favorite baker—Warren Brown from Cake Love. His recipes make the best cakes ever (no lie). He is a purist as well. He believes in baking cakes from scratch. None of that artificial stuff. However, he does make a Red Velvet Cake because of it’overwhelming request at his bakery. It’s the only thing he uses food coloring in. You can leave the food coloring out and call it Brown Velvet. Or you can use the India Tree products (this is what I use), which are made from vegetables pigments.

Red Velvet Cake
recipe from Warren Brown, United Cakes of America
makes 24 cupcakes

2 1/4 c. Cake Flour (I used unbleached AP Flour)
2 tbsp. Cocoa Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Baking soda

1 c. Buttermilk
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar

2 sticks of Unsalted Butter (room temp)
1 1/2 c. Superfine Sugar (You can pop regular sugar in a food processor to achieve this)
2 large eggs
1 oz. Red Food Dye (Opt out and make it Brown Velvet)

1. Preheat oven to 335° and place the rack in the middle position. Line 2 cupcake pans. (Read the last post for a cupcake liner tip.)
2. Measure the dry ingredients and wet ingredients into 2 separate bowls. Whisk each to combine.
3. Measure the the butter and sugar into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on low speed for about 5 minutes.
4. Add eggs one at a time into the well creamed butter. Beat in the dye.
5. Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients about a quarter at a time. (This should only take a minute.) Scrape sides. Beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute.
6.  Pour the batter into the liners and bake the cupcakes for 20 to 24 minutes, or until a wooden skewer comes out clean.
7. Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes before inverting them on to a flat surface. Allow them to come to room temperature before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
recipe by yours truly 

2 sticks of Unsalted Butter (room temp)
16 oz. Cream Cheese (room temp)
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Dash of Sea Salt
3-4 c. Powdered Sugar

1. Cream together butter and cream cheese.
2. Add vanilla extract and salt. Mix.
3. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time. Mix well between each addition. After 3 cups, taste to see if additional powdered sugar is necessary.
4. Ice your cupcakes. Looking for tips? Check out the last post.

If you missed it, click here for the sailboat decorations. For matching invitations, click here.

P.S.—These lovely little sailboats made their debut on the very talented Shauna Younge’s blog! Thanks Shauna!

Remember the Ahoy! It’s a boy! invites I shared with you a couple weeks ago? I told you I may or may not be making cupcakes with a cute DIY topper. Well, I wasn’t lying. It’s time for more sharing and free downloads!

This post includes DIY instructions for the sailboat cupcake toppers. Another post on the recipe for red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting is to come. So sit down, get out a pen an paper (or just bookmark this page), and let’s get decorating!

Here’s what you’ll need:
• Plaid Cupcake Liners (I ordered mine from Bake it Pretty. Sweet LuLu is another great resource for cute baking supplies.)
• White Cupcake Liners (Always double up your liners so you can actually see the pretty liner. If you use one liner, when the cupcake bakes, the color of the cupcake will bleed into the liner thus losing its pretty pattern. Sad.)
• Wooden Skewers (Think kabobs.)
• Wire Cutters
FauxMartha Cupcake Sail Pattern
• Printer
• Textured, cardstock weight paper
• Scissors
• Exacto Knife
• Cutting Board
• Colored Duck Tape (or colored masking tape)

Here’s how to achieve the look (pictures below):
1. Make and bake your cupcakes, using a recipe of your choice. Remember to use 2 liners. Place the white liner inside the plaid liner. Allow cupcakes to fully cool before icing and decorating.
2. Meanwhile, cut wooden skewers about 5″ long using wire cutters or some other cutting utensil. Keep the side with the pointed end. Don’t worry if the wood begins to fray where you made the cut. We will cover that up shortly.
3. Print out the FauxMartha Cupcake Sail Pattern on textured cardstock. Cut out each sail. Using the longest side of the triangle (not the angle), cut an “x” at the top and bottom on a cutting board. Insert pointed end of wooden skewer into the top “x” on the printed side. Continue to insert the skewer through the second “x”.
4. Cut thin 1/2″ strips of duck tape. Place tape on the top of skewer where you made your original cut. Evenly fold over. Make 2 diagonal cuts to achieve a flag. Push sail up to give it that curved wind blown look.
5. Ice your cupcakes with the frosting of your choice. I use the Wilton Dessert Decorator Pro to ice my cupcakes. In order to get the thick swirls, I don’t use a tip. Place pointed end of the sail into cupcake and you’ve got yourself a cute sailboat cupcake!

If your visual, like me, these should help:

If you missed them, click here for the matching baby shower invites. Now that you have everything you need to get started, happy baby shower planning!