Meatloaf “Cupfakes”

Mike typically likes his food to LOOK like what it TASTES like. While I understand his natural desire to know what he’s eating, I also have a great love of trickery. I love food that’s made to look like other food.

I saw this cute cupfake post on a blog the other day. Instantly, I was reminded of all of the fun meatcakes I’d seen before (here’s a great gallery!) I’d always wanted an excuse to make some, and the perfect excuse came Saturday. Mike had a hard day of GRE testing (he obtained a PERFECT score on his math section, by the way; Congratulations, Mike!) and I told him I’d make a surprise dinner. What’s more surprising than a platter of cupfakes? I baked these cuties up with two other kinds of real cupcakes: Peach Cobbler Cupcakes and Peach Lemon Cupcakes.


The whole meal together!

When he came in, I told him that his surprise was that we were skipping dinner and only eating dessert! I could tell he was a little disappointed, so I pointed to my cupfakes and asked what flavor he thought they were. He guessed chocolate, red, and green (okay, he’s not good at guessing) before finally giving up. I loved the look on his face when I made the big reveal — MEATLOAF cupcakes! He loved it!

The piping on these could have been a LOT better. I rushed a bit, and I made the mashed potatoes a bit too viscous. I also should’ve cut a larger corner off of my ziplock! Oh well, there’s always next time.

This meal is so fun, and so easy to make! If you make these, make sure to post about how your surprise goes over!

Currency Meatloaf “Cupfakes”


Recipe By: Oprah, according to my Mom’s recipe.
Yields: 2 loaves (or 12 meatcakes and 1 loaf, or 24 meatcakes)

Meatloaf Ingredients:
3 lbs. 97% lean ground beef
1 1/2 slices bread, torn
1 cup milk
2 eggs beaten
2/3 cup onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon dried mustard
1 heaping tbs sage
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup green pepper, diced
3 stalks celery
pepper
1 can tomato paste, for top

Decorations:
instant mashed potatoes for “frosting”
grape tomatoes for “cherries”
salt
food coloring

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix meatloaf ingredients and put a heaping scoop in each of 12 greased cupcake wells. Do not pack. Spoon the rest of the mixture lightly into a greased loaf pan (preferably with racks, to allow fat to drain out). Spoon tomato paste on top of each cupcake well and the loaf. Bake meatcakes for 25 minutes and drain on paper towels. Bake loaf for 1 hour.

Once meatcakes are drained, place them carefully into cupcake papers. Frost with instant mashed potatoes in a ziplock bag (I added some garlic to mine for flavor, and you can add more milk to get the right consistency. I think I added too much!) Mix a tablespoon or so of salt with a drop of whatever food coloring you like, and sprinkle lightly on top. Top with a squirt of ketchup or a grape tomato for a cherry (my mother reminded me, and I still forgot!)


Nestled in their cute cupcake foil liners!


Finished (albeit with not-so-cute piping on my part)


Mike’s Cupfake Meal (with some delicious stuffed squash — let me know if you want the recipe!)

Peach Cobbler Cupcakes

Mike loves peach cobbler, and I’ve been trying to think of a peachy cupcake, but the two ideas didn’t meet until recently. A cobbler and a cupcake? One a sultry, spicy, fruity dessert and the other a cute, frosted mini-cake? The meeting of the desserts — living quite independently until now, thank you very much! — reminds me of one of my favorite poems, Thomas Hardy’s “The Convergence of the Twain.”

Alien they seemed to be:
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history.

Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one August event…

Or in this case, a June event!  And a much happier one than that of the Titanic meeting an iceberg (read the rest of Hardy’s poem for that more morbid meeting).

It struck me while driving one day that a peach cobbler cupcake would be fun to construct — the spices of a cobbler, chunks of fresh peach, the crunch of some streusel, and a little cream cheese frosting to mimic a rich scoop of ice cream.  I “cobbled” this recipe together after looking through recipes for brown sugar cupcakes, cobblers, and fruit-filled cupcakes. The result is delicious. If you love carrot cake, you’ll love these little peach spice cakes. One of my lovely Charlotte taste testers (my boyfriend’s mom) said that this is her favorite cupcake yet!

You may be looking at the photos and wondering why the cupcakes are a little flat up top. Initially, I only used baking soda to react with the acidity of the buttermilk, and no baking powder. Baking soda reacts immediately and therefore must be baked immediately to have an effect on the rise of the cupcake.  With all the streusel and peach additions to these cakes, though, it’s hard to get them in the oven fast. I tweaked the recipe a bit, so the version below should produce cupcakes that are a little lighter and prettier.

Peach Cobbler Cupcakes


Recipe By:  Me, “cobbled” together from this and this. Frosting by Paula Deen, with tweaking.
Yields: 12 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1 stick butter
3/8 cup light brown sugar
3/8 cup white sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Splash of peach syrup from canned peaches (if you used canned)
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Fresh or canned peaches, chopped

Streusel Ingredients:
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons)

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Splash of peach syrup from canned peaches (if you used canned)
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 wells in a cupcake pan. In a small bowl, make streusel. Add all the ingredients and cut the mixture into crumbles with two knives until it’s about the consistency of coarse cornmeal. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Add the eggs one at a time and mix. Mix in the buttermilk, vanilla, and a little peach syrup.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add a little of the flour mixture at a time to the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition. Beat the batter well until air is incorporated, about 2 more minutes.

Pour just enough batter into each of 12 cupcake wells to cover the bottom. Spoon a thin layer of streusel over this batter, and drop a 3-5 pieces of chopped peach on top (depending on the size of the pieces and your personal taste). Spoon another layer of batter over each well until each is about 3/4 full.   If you love a lot of peach in your “cobbler,” you can add a few more hunks on top.  Spoon a sprinkle of streusel over the top of the batter in each well. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pan for a couple of minutes, and then on a cooling rack. Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost them.


Almost ready for the oven!


Mmm, these make the kitchen smell amazing.

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter vanilla, and splash of peach syrup (this might also be nice with a spoonful of peach jam or preserves) together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip (I used star tip 1M.) I only put a puff of frosting in the middle so as not to overwhelm the peach cobbler flavor, or overdo the sweetness!


All frosted!

NOTE: I tried two methods for inserting the peach into the cupcake. The first and most successful is described above — chunks of peaches in a middle layer of the cupcake. The second, pushing a larger chunk of peach into the middle of the cupcake, was good but not great. I liked the fact that having many chunks of peaches ensured you’d get more peach per bite.

If you don’t use canned peaches, feel free to leave out the peach syrup in the cupcake batter and frosting and add more peach chunks.

Don’t overfill your cupcake wells, by the way! I always overfill mine and the cupcake “outgrows” its well as it bakes. This leads to the edges of the cupcake top being overdone.

Enjoy!

Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

My first introduction to red velvet cake as a child was that scene in Steel Magnolias where folks are hacking into the red velvet groom’s cake shaped like an armadillo.  The cake looks like the blood red innards of the hideous creature when exposed.  Here’s a screen shot for those of you who missed the movie (though you should certainly go watch):


The Red Velvet Armadillo from Steel Magnolias

Thankfully, I’ve had better red velvet experiences since then! As you may have read in the About Willow Bird Baking page, Paula Deen’s delicious, fluffy red velvet cupcakes with decadent cream cheese frosting are what ignited my baking spark!  My boyfriend, Mike, is absolutely in love with them, and for good reason.  Mrs. Deen knows when to splurge on the fats, and this recipe definitely uses its fair share of oil and butter.  The result is heavenly.

A family friend, Wanda, had a birthday this week and agreed to be my “taste tester” (I’m always looking for folks to eat my cupcakes — let me know if you’re a hungry Charlottean!), so I baked her up Paula’s fantastic cupcakes as a birthday surprise. Check out the recipe below!

I bought a cute little gift box at Target, lined it with tissue paper, and popped in some cupcakes. Michael’s also makes great little cupcake holders if you’re thinking of baking up a food gift.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
The gift box! What’s inside?

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Lots of cupcake goodness!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I wanted to add a little something special, so I used a chocolate candy melt to create some decorations. This is a simple and fun way to add a personal touch to cakes or cupcakes. I use chocolate CandiQuik that I buy at Super Target. I like the consistency and taste better than Wilton’s candy melts (found at Michael’s), but you could use those too. Simply melt a hunk of the candy melt per the package instructions, spoon it into a ziplock bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off, and start piping designs onto wax paper.

Want to pipe out some letters, but having trouble making them look nice? A great trick I tried this time around is to print words out in your favorite font to place under the wax paper and “trace.” There’s only one issue: we’ll want to flip the letters over when dry to use the smooth side, but they’ll be backwards! To solve this issue, I typed my letters out in Microsoft Word (make sure to leave space between each letter!) and took a screenshot of them (easy instructions on how to take a screenshot: Windows / Mac). I then opened my screenshot in a photo program and selected “flip horizontally.”  This created a mirror image of the letters to trace.  Then I piped on my candy melt, let it dry, and flipped the letters — VOILA!  Smooth and beautiful. Here are some pictures of the process:

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Ready to trace!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Doesn’t look like much here, on the “bumpy side.”

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ta da! Okay, maybe I got carried away! But there are a LOT of cupcakes to decorate! Love the font idea for Wanda’s name — it worked so well!

Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting


Recipe By: Paula Deen
Yields: 24 cupcakes (see note)

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries (or chocolate decorations!), for garnish

Directions:

Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
BRIGHT red and fresh from the oven. The kitchen smelled great!

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip (I used star tip 1M.) Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry (or chocolate decorations).


Frosting the cupcakes!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
All finished and frosted.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Aww.

NOTE: The frosting recipe makes a TON of frosting! I made 1.5x the original recipe of cupcakes, which yielded 39 total, and this frosting recipe frosted all of them.


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Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

Jam — even the word is delicious.  It reminds me of comfort, home, thick slices of bread, thick slices of butter!  So I was very grateful when the mother of one of my students gave me a thoughtful and personal gift at the end of this school year: homemade strawberry freezer jam.  As soon as I saw the jar, I knew that jam was destined to be in the middle of some big, fluffy strawberry cupcakes.  My little school just put on a fantastic performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and after trying these cupcakes, I feel quite sorry for the citizens of that crazy world:

“It’s very good jam,” said the Queen.
“Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.”
“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to “jam to-day,””Alice objected.
“No it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day; to-day isn’t any other day, you know.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing.”

No need to worry, because it must be an “every other” day here!

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

I made these Strawberry Jam Cupcakes at the same time as the Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes below, using the same batter with a few minor changes.  The note at the end of this recipe will explain how to do that if you’d like to.  Because of my aforementioned love of cream cheese, I decided to frost these with a smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream. It was a great combination!

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes


Recipe By: Compiled and adapted by me, from:

Gloria Bradley (cupcakes, adapted)
Paula Deen (cream cheese frosting)

Yields: 12-15 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1.5 cups (about 6 3/4 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
Fresh strawberry jam for filling

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Place 12 decorative paper muffin cup liners into muffin cups. To prepare cupcakes, lightly spoon 1.5 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Measure 1 tablespoon flour; level with a knife. Sift together 1.5 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine melted butter and egg in another large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk, milk, and vanilla to butter mixture; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Toss chopped strawberries with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold berries into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the cupcake part comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. When cool, core a hole out of the middle of each cupcake. Spoon in fresh strawberry jam.

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes
That one lonely little cupcake on the bottom right got a dollop of cream cheese as an experiment — that’s why he’s jamless!

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost completely cool cupcakes, using a pastry bag if available. I used star tip 1M.

NOTE: Use fresh, homemade strawberry jam for filling if possible. See note at the bottom of Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes recipe for instructions on how to make these two batches of lovely cupcakes together.

Mmmm, enjoy!
Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes

Cream cheese can make anything amazing, in my opinion.  Bagels, frosting, a root canal… I’m betting that cream cheese could even fix the economy.  So when Mike and I were at the grocery store awhile back and saw blueberry cream cheese muffins, we had to try them.  They were good, but not as delicious as they should’ve been — not homemade delicious, and not cupcake delicious.  I thought I’d try my hand at my own version — blueberry cream cheese cupcakes, with some lemon added in for good measure.

These cupcakes are fresh, creamy, and sweet.  They are especially delightful straight from the icebox — that’s right, the icebox, because their cool and refreshing taste reminds me of the William Carlos Williams poem:

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums

that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes


Recipe By: Compiled and adapted by me, from:

Gloria Bradley (cupcakes, adapted)
Joy of Baking (cheesecake filling)
-Mom (buttercream, slightly adapted)

Yields: 12-15 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1.5 cups (about 6 3/4 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lemon Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup crisco (white) shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (can use clear if you want the frosting to be snow white)
1/2 teaspoon imitation almond flavoring
1/2 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring
1 tablespoon lemon juice
lemon zest, if desired
2-4 tablespoons sweet milk for thinning
4-5 drops yellow food coloring

Directions:

Cream Cheese Filling: In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy and smooth. Set aside while you make the cupcake batter.

Blueberry Lemon Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Place 12 decorative paper muffin cup liners into muffin cups. To prepare cupcakes, lightly spoon 1.5 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Measure 1 tablespoon flour; level with a knife. Sift together 1.5 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine melted butter and egg in another large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk, milk, vanilla, and lemon juice to butter mixture; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Toss blueberries with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold blueberries into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Spoon a couple tablespoons of the cream cheese filling in the center of each cupcake. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the cupcake part comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Fresh out of the Oven!
Fresh out of the oven!

Lemon Buttercream frosting: Finally, make the buttercream frosting. Cream all ingredients except food coloring together. Can add more sweet milk if needed. Add food coloring and mix. Frost completely cool cupcakes, using a pastry bag if available. I used star tip 1M.

Frosted top!
All frosted!

NOTE: I wanted to make both these and the strawberry cupcakes in the above post together out of the same basic recipe. If you’d like to do this, double the recipe shown here. Make the batter as described, except omit the lemon juice. Before folding in the berries, separate the batter into two bowls. Add the lemon juice and floured blueberries to one bowl, and fold floured strawberries into the other. Bake as described. I didn’t use the cream cheese filling with the strawberry cupcakes because I wanted to fill them with jam, but you could if you wanted.

These cupcakes were so yummy — and as I mentioned above, even better after being refrigerated overnight in an airtight container. They are a little sweet in places — you might want to cut down the sugar in the cupcakes a bit if you’re not big on lots of sweetness. If you wanted the cheesecake filling to be a more pronounced part of the cupcake, you could use the filling and top with some streusel instead of frosting. Another nice thing to try would be simply piping sweetened cream cheese into the middle of the cupcakes post-baking.

Enjoy! Hope these cupcakes inspire poetry in you!

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