Sure, Valentine’s Day was over a week ago, but only a cranky grump would snub their nose at these sweet pink cupcakes. Besides, I made them for my husband and a few other family members on Valentine’s Day (which counts for something!), and was reminded how delicious and easy the are to make, and definitely worthy of posting. Yeah, yeah, I know…I did get a little sprinkle-crazy and carried away with the whole pink and hearts theme, and the cupcakes feel a little over-the-top, but, after all, isn’t that sort of the theme of Valentine’s Day…you know, to go all out and show the ones you love just how much you care about them? But, the cool thing is, you can easily make them for any other occasion by using another food coloring or keeping them white, decorating with different sprinkles, and lining the cupcake pan with different paper liners (there are lots to choose from)!

Anyway, I’ve made a lot of cupcakes in my day, and in my early years, it was hard to find a recipe for homemade vanilla cupcakes that were fluffy, tender, and moist, like these…most often they were just dry, dense, and (yawn) bland. The recipe here is an adaptation of a sheet cake I created for Bon Appetit magazine last summer. These cupcakes surely don’t fit into my “nutritious” category, but they’re worth every lovely bite.

Sweetheart Cupcakes

Makes 15

Cupcakes:

1 3/4 cups cake flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

4 large egg whites

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups sugar

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

Frosting:

1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup heavy cream

Pink gel food coloring

Assorted Valentine sprinkles

To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 15 standard (1/3-cup) muffin cups with paper liners. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk the buttermilk, egg whites, and vanilla extract in another medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 3 additions alternately with the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beating to blend well between additions and occasionally scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Divide the batter equally among the paper liners, filling each about three-fourths full.

Bake the cupcakes until they are pale golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with some crumbs attached, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pans on a rack for 10 minutes then remove them from the pan and cool them completely on the rack.

To make the frosting: Using an electric mixer (preferably a stand mixer with the whisk attachment) on low speed, beat the powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in the mixer bowl until it is blended. Increase the speed to medium-high and blend until the frosting begins to lighten. With the machine on, gradually add the cream and beat until the frosting is fluffy. Gradually add the food coloring, one drop at a time, and beat to blend well.

To frost and decorate the cupcakes: Transfer the frosting to a piping bag that’s fitted with a large star tip and pipe the frosting decoratively atop each cupcake. Alternatively, you can spread the frosting over the cupcakes with an offset spatula. Immediately sprinkle the cupcakes with the sprinkles. DO AHEAD: The cupcakes can be made 1 day ahead. Cover them with a cake dome and store them at room temperature.

A helpful tip: Be sure to use cake flour, not all purpose flour; it is the key to giving the cupcakes their light and airy texture. Look for cake flour next to the other flours in the baking aisle – you can find it at nearly every supermarket.

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Photograph by Henry ZemanThanksgiving, to me, is not about eating turkey. In fact, I really prefer not to make one of those charming birds ever again to celebrate the holiday (seems like a silly, antiquated tradition)! Instead, to me, Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. It’s something we should really do everyday, but at least, as a nation, it’s something we can do together. After all, we have a lot to be thankful for.

My brother is serving in the military and after returning home from his tumultuous tour he compared the life we live here in American as “a vacation.” I honestly never thought about it that way, but he’s right. So, I’d like to dedicate my Thanksgiving this year to my brother. He’s my hero.

As we sit down to the holiday meal this year, we’ll give grace for all our blessings and pray for opportunities to help make our world a better place. I hope you do too.

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From how it looks out there, you might just think Christmas comes right after Halloween! But, really, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. If you haven’t already figured out what you’re going to make and you’re feeling a bit adventurous, try one of my stuffings from this month’s Bon Appetit magazine! I’ve created one for every personality:

  • If you’re the “I-want-something-traditional,-but-with-nutritious-greens” person, try Rustic Herb Stuffing
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Want to take a dessert to the next barbecue? Check out my new dessert recipes in the July issue of Bon Appetit magazine! There’s something sweet for everyone!

Spumoni Sundaes with Espresso Hot Fudge

Truffle Brownies

Chocolate-Raspberry Panini

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Fresh Plums

Coconut Sheet Cake with Hibiscus Sauce

Deep-Dish Peach Pie with Pecan Streusel

Passion Fruit and Guava Pops

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Looking for something sweet for your valentine?

Check out my milk chocolate dessert story in the February issue of Bon Appetit!

You just might fall in love with…

“Top Tier” Devil’s Food Cake with Sour Cream-Fudge Frosting

Milk Chocolate-Caramel Tart with Hazelnuts and Espresso

Milk Chocolate Souffles with Nougat Whip

Milk Chocolate Mousse with Port Ganache and Whipped Creme Fraiche

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Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Additional unsalted butter
  • Blueberry Compote

Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, sour cream, eggs and vanilla in another large bowl. Add to dry ingredients. Stir until batter is just blended but still lumpy (do not overmix).

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter on griddle over medium heat. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle, spacing 2 inches apart. Cook until bubbles break on surface, about 3 minutes. Turn pancakes over. Cook until bottoms are golden, 3 minutes. Transfer to plates. Repeat with remaining batter, adding butter to skillet as needed.

Serve pancakes immediately with butter and Blueberry Compote.

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Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups light vanilla ice cream
2 teaspoons bourbon or dark rum
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup roasted unsalted almonds, chopped, divided
cup dark chocolate-coated espresso beans, crushed, divided
3 cups lowfat latte ice cream
4 cups light chocolate ice cream
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon whole milk

Directions

Coat a 9-by-4-by-2″ metal baking pan with nonstick spray (this will help the plastic wrap stay in place). Line the pan with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to extend 2-3″ beyond the sides of the pan.

Working quickly to prevent the ice cream from melting, stir the vanilla ice cream, bourbon or rum and nutmeg in a medium bowl to blend. Spoon evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with half of the almonds and half of the crushed espresso beans. Freeze first layer of terrine for 45 minutes. Remove from freezer and add latte ice cream layer. Sprinkle with remaining almonds and crushed espresso beans. Freeze for 45 minutes. Remove from freezer and spread chocolate layer. Cover and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, whisk the cocoa powder and maple syrup in a small, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat until the cocoa dissolves and the mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Whisk in milk. (The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Reheat before using.)

To serve, unwrap the ice cream terrine and invert onto a serving platter. Cut into 12 slices and arrange each on a plate. Drizzle with sauce.

Serves: 12

Prep Time: 45 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Nutrition Score per serving:

264 calories, 9.2 g fat, 3.7 g saturated fat

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Talk about a fusion of world cuisines! Cubes of avocado are folded into chimichurri—an Argentinean sauce made of chopped parsley, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, and oil—to create a Latin variation on bruschetta, a classic Italian starter.

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