Flicks and Eats

Life is like a box of cupcakes…

Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie Cupcakes


Rachael's Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie Cupcakes with Butter Pecan Frosting

Over the holidays, my Uncle John makes killer Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pies with homemade crust. Naturally, the next step was to convert this mother-loving flavor combo into cupcake form. I immediately took to the great, wide web. Lo and behold, there were already recipes! Tears of joy flowed freely down my face, and into my glass of bourbon. One recipe from Half Baked Harvest stood out amongst the others, and I didn’t need to change a single thing. Thanks, Tieghan — you are a saint among bakers (and bourbon lovers).

These cupcakes will keep you warm on a cold, winter’s night.

posted by Rachael in Recipes and have Comments (2)

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Rachael’s Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Round 2 of Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes I made for neighbor's birthday gathering

Hey everybody, it’s Christmastime! If you’re so inclined, spread some cheer with these Peppermint Mocha cupcakes. I suggest walking around your neighborhood and handing them out to neighbors, strangers, and children alike. You’ll make friends. I guarantee at least a 65% success rate, and only about 10% of the parents will report you to the police. The odds are in your favor.

I threw together a couple recipes from Sally’s Baking Addiction and Bakers Royale. Borrowing, modifying, and combining recipes is my thing.

Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep time: 
30 minutes
Bake time: 15 – 16 minutes


Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes:
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 heaping Tablespoon instant coffee
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
½ cup buttermilk

Peppermint Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
5 large egg whites
1 ½ cup sugar
4 sticks unsalted butter, diced and softened
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Chocolate Pouring Sauce:
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
4-5 tablespoons water, warm

For Cupcakes:
– Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a 12-cup cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake liners. Set aside.
– Melt the butter and chocolate together in the microwave. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring between each time. You may also melt the butter and chocolate over low heat on the stovetop. Stir until combined, then mix in the instant coffee. Set aside to slightly cool.
– In a medium bowl, toss the cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
– In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, and peppermint extract together until smooth. Add the cooled butter/chocolate and whisk until smooth. Add half of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk. Repeat until everything is added. Stir until just combined; do not overmix. The batter will be very thick like pudding.
– Divide the batter between 12 liners in your cupcake pan. Fill cupcake liners half full — do not overfill. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

For Peppermint Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
– Combine egg whites and sugar in a bowl placed over simmering water. Bring mixture to 160 degrees F while whisking constantly.
– Transfer mixture to stand mixer bowl, fitted with a whisk attachment and beat on medium high speed (speed 8 on a KitchenAid stand mixer) until mixture cools and doubles in volume and forms stiff peaks; about 10-12 minutes).
– Add butter in one piece at a time, mixing to incorporate after each addition. The mixture may appear clumpy and almost curdled looking at first-this is normal. Keep mixing and it will become even and smooth again.
– Add salt and peppermint extract and mix to combine.

For Chocolate Pouring Sauce::
– Place chocolate and heavy cream in a bowl over simmering water, or microwave in 30 second increments. Melt chocolate.
– Add powdered sugar and mix to combine.
– Add water 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing after each addition until pouring consistency is reached.
– Set aside and let sauce cool to warm.

To Assemble Cupcakes:
– Frost cooled cupcakes with buttercream frosting.
– Drizzle chocolate pouring sauce over frosting (reheat chocolate pour in microwave as needed to keep pouring consistency).
– Sprinkle chopped candy canes on chocolate sauce.
– Finish with a peppermint candy on top.


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Mrs. A’s Cupcakes


Salted Caramel, Choco Banana, Nutella, and Mango Shortcake cupcakes from Mrs. A's Cupcakes in Park Ridge, IL

We stumbled upon this family-owned place (Mrs. A’s Cupcakes) while looking for a restaurant in Park Ridge, IL. Ian and I were strolling down the street and I was yammering on about something or other, per usual, when we spotted this place. I stopped in my tracks and without another word, wandered into the shop – like a moth to a flame.

A friendly woman and her daughter (I’m assuming) greeted us. Upon their recommendations, we left with a Red Velvet cake pop (ya know, to eat on our way to dinner), a cookie decorated like a pumpkin and of course, cupcakes – Salted Caramel, Choco Banana, Nutella, and Mango Shortcake.

Our thoughts:

The Salted Caramel consisted of yellow cake with a salted caramel cream cheese buttercream. The cake reminded me of pound cake and was a tad dry. Frosting was decent, but I thought it had more than a “touch of Mediterranean sea salt” – as described on their website.

The Choco Banana left me wanting more chocolate, bananas, and I dunno – chocolate and bananas? It had the same yellow cake as the Salted Caramel. The chocolate frosting was a bit grainy and the only bananas to be found were the dried pieces on top. Meh.

The Nutella held more promise. It consisted of a chocolate cake, which was better than the previous yellow cakes. The top was smeared with a thin layer of Nutella and completed with another layer of Nutella buttercream frosting. Chocolate shavings adorned the top. If someone offered me another one of these, I wouldn’t turn it down.

The Mango Shortcake was the most intriguing of the bunch. The yellow cake was spongy and relatively moist. Between the bottom and rounded top of the cupcake, they slathered a light mango buttercream frosting. The top was sprinkled with powdered sugar. This was the best of them all, besides the cake pop.

This may be blasphemy, but I’ll say it anyway – Red Velvet is one of my least favorite cupcake flavors. Perhaps because I feel it doesn’t commit to a flavor and it requires an unholy amount of red dye to trick us into thinking it’s unique. Srsly, you need a Costco-sized jug of red dye to make these happen. Considering this, I actually enjoyed their Red Velvet cake pop the most of everything. It was fudgy, and had a wonderful cocoa-vanilla flavor. We ate it in the dark so I could ignore the food coloring. That’s how I like to eat a majority of my food, in the dark…without shame.

After dissing Red Velvet cake, I felt the need to read about it on Wikipedia. Hmm.

So yea, this place was alright. I like supporting small businesses.

Be kind to each other.

Rating:  ★★★½☆ 

posted by Rachael in Cupcakes and have No Comments

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes


Rachael’s easy Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

For my coworkers’ birthdays, I tell them to choose any flavor and I’ll bake it. Per Lauren’s request, I made Pink Lemonade cupcakes with swirled pink lemonade and lemon buttercream frosting. A tart and sweet summery treat.

After a long meeting at work, I found this brightly colored graph taped to my work computer. Lauren, a statistically inclined coworker, enjoyed her Pink Lemonade birthday cupcakes and wanted to creatively express her gratitude — “Results are in… Testing for cupcake and cupcake by time trend effects — Statistically Significant! In other words, your cupcakes really make all the difference in Birthday Satisfaction! And it only gets better with time!”

I bake to please.

Also, we are huge scary nerds.

Estimation of Rachael Cupcake Effect Size

Yield: 24 cupcakes
Prep time: 25 minutes
Bake time: 16 – 18 minutes


For cupcakes:
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® natural vanilla cake mix
¾ cup frozen (thawed) pink lemonade concentrate
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup water (instead, I added a ½ cup pureed strawberries)
3 eggs
Pink food color, if desired

For pink lemonade buttercream frosting
1 stick butter, softened
2-3 Tbsp frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
2-3 cups powdered sugar

For lemon buttercream frosting
1 stick butter or margarine, softened
1-2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
2-3 tablespoons lemon juice
2-3 cups powdered sugar

For decorating (optional):
sour strawberry straws

– Heat oven to 350°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups.
– Make cake batter as directed on box, using cake mix, ¾ cup lemonade concentrate, ½ cup oil, ½ cup pureed strawberries, eggs and food color. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.
– Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
– Cool in pans for less than 5 minutes; remove from pans to cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.
– Make one or both frostings by beating together ingredients with mixer. I made both and created a swirled frosting.

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Irish Soda Cupcakes (with whiskey)

Rachael’s Irish soda cupcakes infused with a honey & whiskey syrup, and topped with a whiskey buttercream frosting

The ecard below describes me pretty well. If this is you, make these cupcakes. If this isn’t you, make these cupcakes. It’s as simple as that.


Yield: 12 cupcakes
Prep time: 
15 minutes
Bake time: 15 – 18 minutes


For cupcakes:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup canola oil
¾ cup dried currants or raisins

For Irish Whiskey Buttercream Frosting:
2 sticks butter, softened
~3 cups confectioners sugar, to preference
3 tablespoons Irish whiskey (or more!)
1/4 teaspoon salt

– In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda and caraway seeds. In another bowl, beat the egg, buttermilk, butter and oil.
– Before combining dry and wet ingredients, grab a small palmful of the dry ingredients and throw into a separate bowl with the currants/raisins. Make sure the raisins are coated in flour. Then, stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until just moistened. Do not overmix. Fold in flour-coated currants/raisins.
– Fill greased muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake at 375° for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Let cool.
– Whisk together equal parts honey and whiskey. Poke holes in tops of cupcakes and spoon the honey & whiskey concoction over the tops. Let it soak in and repeat.
– For frosting: Beat butter until fluffy, add salt. Gradually add confectioners sugar and whiskey until desired consistency is reached.

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Cherry Almond Cupcakes


Rachael’s Cherry Almond Cupcakes with Cherry Buttercream Frosting

Flour is in the air, and that could be a good or bad sign. In this case, it was a measurably good sign.

The night before Valentine’s day, I ran around in a frenzy attempting to simultaneously finish my husband’s gift, prepare my multivariate stats lecture for the next day, and bake cupcakes for my students. Against my better judgment, I had promised to bake them something, and gosh darn it, I keep my promises.

I had never made cherry cupcakes so what better time to experiment than Valentine’s Eve. Fortunately, there were plenty of recipes at hand and I wisely chose Ali’s recipe for Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes on Gimme Some Oven. Thanks, fellow cupcake lover.

Valentime’s is serious times.

I haphazardly applied the last piece of tape to my husband’s wrapped gift, hit “save” on my multiple regression PowerPoint presentation, and frosted the last of the cupcakes. Then, I poured myself a glass of wine and propped up my feet. A flour dust settled around me and all was well in the world.

Btw, these cupcakes were moist and cherry-licious. One of my students requested the recipe to make for her son’s birthday. Yahtzee!

Yield: 24 cupcakes
Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 15 – 18 minutes


For cupcakes
½ cup (1 stick) butter
4 egg whites
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup buttermilk
⅓ cup maraschino cherry juice
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract

For frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice or milk
½ teaspoon almond extract

For decorating (optional):
maraschino cherries
conversation hearts
almond slices

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.
– In a medium bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk and cherry juice until combined; set aside.
– In a large mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, vanilla, and almond extract; beat until combined. Add egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Alternately add flour mixture and buttermilk mixture to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.
– Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about two-thirds full. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool cupcakes in baking cups on wire racks until completely cooled.
– In a large mixing bowl beat frosting ingredients until smooth. Then, frost to your heart’s content.

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Elvis Cupcakes: The King Lives On


Rachael’s Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese & Milk Chocolate Swirled Frosting

Elvis, the King, had good taste. One of his favorite flavor pairings was said to be banana and peanut butter. Combining this dynamic duo in cupcake form is no new thing, but I also threw in chocolate for a twist. I present to you — Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese & Milk Chocolate Swirled Frosting. I brought these to a Super Bowl party and one fellow exclaimed, “These should be illegal in most states!”

These cupcakes got me all shook up. And, you can never have too much of a good thing. Long live the King!

Yield: 24 cupcakes
Prep time: 
20 minutes
Bake time: 20 – 22 minutes


For cupcakes:
2¾ cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1¾ cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1½ cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 4 bananas)
½ cup buttermilk

For peanut butter cream cheese frosting:

1 (8oz) package of cream cheese (softened)
½ creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3.5 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons of milk

For decorating (optional):
dried banana slices
mini Reese’s® Peanut Butter Cups

– Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.
– Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
– In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed until creamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl, add the eggs, and beat until just combined. Scrape down the bowl again and add the bananas. Beat until just combined. Turn the mixer to low. Add the flour mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
– Fill the cupcake liners about three-quarters full. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and place them on the rack to cool completely.
– Frost the cupcakes once completely cooled. I cheated and bought Hershey’s® Milk Chocolate frosting. I used one cake bag and carefully spooned both frostings on either side to create the swirl effect.

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Cherry Limeade Cupcakes


Rachael's Cherry Limeade Cupcakes

Cherry Limeade flavor combo, sound familiar? This cupcake was inspired by the Cherry Limeade beverage from the Sonic Drive-in. I saw a pin of these babies on Pinterest and wet myself. Soon after seeing them on Pinterest, I crafted these gems of summery deliciousness for our condo BBQ. The consensus? Everyone left with wet pants, and a sugar high.

You (yes, you) must make these. In addition, you can make some homemade Cherry Limeade to accompany these cakes of cup. For one refreshing glass, squeeze three lime wedges over ice, pour ¼ cup of cherry juice on top of that, and then fill the rest of the glass up with Sprite®. PA POW!

Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats. Annie, you have rocked my world.

Yield: 24 cupcakes
Prep time:
30 minutes
Bake time: 16 – 18 minutes


For cupcakes:
3 cups cake flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
½ cup plus 3 tbsp limeade concentrate
3 eggs
¾ cup milk (I used skim)

For lime syrup:

½ cup limeade concentrate
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar

For frosting:

4 cups confectioners’ sugar, or more
½ cup butter, softened
5 tbsp maraschino cherry juice
red food coloring (optional)

For decorating (optional):
maraschino cherries
lime slices

– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two muffin pans with paper liners.
– In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir together and set aside.
– In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth.
– Add the sugar and beat on medium-high speed until creamed.
– Add in the limeade concentrate and mix to incorporate.
– Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions.
– Add in the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
– Mix ingredients just long enough to incorporate but no longer.
– Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for about 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
– Allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove to cool completely.
– Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, whisk together the limeade concentrate and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl to make the lime syrup. Poke several holes in the top of each cupcake with a skewer and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in. Drizzle the syrup slowly because otherwise, it’ll flow off the sides and make a mess.
– To make the frosting, combine the confectioners’ sugar, butter, and maraschino cherry juice in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated, then increase to medium-high speed and beat until smooth. Add red food coloring if desired.
Frost cooled cupcakes. Garnish with lime slices and maraschino cherries, if desired.


posted by Rachael in Recipes and have Comments (3)

Kristin’s Strawberry and White Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes

Strawberry cake topped with swirled strawberry and white chocolate buttercream frosting

A cupcake for each of Kristin's 24 birthdays

Happy 24th Birthday, Kristin! As Dwight would say, “It is your birthday.” Now, would you like to choose an hour nap or an hour watching TV?

For Kristin’s birthday cupcakes, she wisely chose a strawberry and white chocolate flavor combo. For the cake, we used Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcake recipe which calls for fresh strawberry purée and results in pure deliciousness. Our strawberry frosting was a simple buttercream frosting with strawberry flavoring, and the white chocolate frosting consisted of just a few ingredients—2 sticks of butter, 6 oz of melted (and cooled) white chocolate, and about 3 cups of confectioners sugar. All in all, the white chocolate frosting subtly complemented the full strawberry flavor of the cake. Props to Kristin on decorating these bad boys. I dedicate to her the following poem (which was written during our college softball days).

Rat Pants

Gosh darn it!
Bloody freaking hell!

Holy crap!
Appropriate? One can never tell

Kristin reached her angry state
In a friendly game of euchre
She pulled out the big guns
I couldn’t even rebuke her

Her distress was apparent
The fury was real
Her lip slightly quivered
Megan stopped mid-deal

Kristin glared around the circle
Will she give us another chance?
She took a deep breath
And angrily mumbled, “Rat pants”

posted by Rachael in Recipes and have No Comments

Hummingbird Cupcakes


Kristin’s Hummingbird cupcake topped with a tasty “birds nest” made of toasted coconut and mini Cadbury eggs.


Rachael and Lori’s Hummingbird cupcakes topped with brightly-colored shredded coconut.

My dear friend Kristin is multi-talented. Just to name a few of her many talents, she can run like the wind, heal people with her mad physical therapy skillz, and bake up a delicious storm. I am a big fan of hers. Before Easter, she messaged me asking if I had any ideas for an Easter cupcake. Indeed, I did! I had tried hummingbird cake for the first time the previous spring and decided it would be fantastic as a cupcake. Hummingbird cake consists of a cinnamon-spiced cake filled with bananas, pineapple, walnuts, and coconut, topped with cream cheese frosting. Need I say more?

I was able to quickly find a well-rated hummingbird cupcake recipe at Taste of Home, and away we went to bake—her in Illinois and me in Michigan. Both of our finished products turned out perfectly delightful. I especially like Kristin’s clever decoration on the top of her hummingbird cupcake. It’s a “bird’s nest,” one that I want to eat. Here is Kristin’s review of the recipe:

I told my friend Rachael that I wanted to make cupcakes for Easter and asked if she had any good recipes. I said I didn’t want to do a chocolate or heavy cupcake, but something similar to carrot cake. Rach suggested hummingbird cupcakes and I couldn’t have been happier with the results! It was a delicious cake—banana and cinnamon being the main flavors—and the coconut and pineapple added the perfect amount of texture while keeping the cake moist. I couldn’t get enough of the cream cheese frosting which added a great sweetness to the bread-like flavor of the cake. Loved this recipe, would recommend it to anyone!

Well said, Kristin.

I am beyond excited to say that she will be joining me in Chicago this weekend to celebrate her birthday. On her birthday weekend, we will attend a Brad Paisley concert, enjoy brunch with her family, see our good friend Nikki play on the Chicago Bandits softball team, and bake strawberry cupcakes with swirled white chocolate and strawberry buttercream frosting (post to come). Oh, shoot! I is very excite.

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