S’more Cupcakes!

One of the cupcakes I was looking forward to trying was s’more cupcakes! It sounded like an interesting idea with the graham crackers and marshmallow and all that. I found this recipe (http://tinyurl.com/8kyakb3), and figured this had the best concept. I didn’t want to shove a marshmallow inside the cupcake or anything. I did make a few changes here and there to the recipe. I’ve been doing this lately. I don’t want to copy anyone directly, and if someone wants my recipe i can give them the original without my changes.  Sneaky? Maybe! But I want to keep the few things I change to myself.

Below is a picture of one of my dogs helping with the cracker grinding process. I guess he thought I needed help? More likely he was confused by the noise. I kicked him out of the kitchen after that. So the first step was making the cracker crust for the cupcakes and chopping up the chocolate. I went with a semi-sweet instead of a bittersweet like it calls for. I only made this decision because I couldn’t find any bittersweet chocolate. I debated using Hershey’s chocolate bars but figured there was a reason you had to use baking chocolate (there is, it holds up better in the cupcake!).

smorepic1After adding the melted butter and sugar, this is what the crust looked like. I’m sure I could have added more butter but I was happy with the way it was.

smorepic2It may be hard to tell in the picture below, but the left side is when the crackers are put in the liner, and the right is how they look when they are taken out of the oven after 5 minutes of cooking.

smorepic8I didn’t add the left over crust and chocolate to the batter like the recipe called for. after they were done, I added a small piece to the top. If I make these again and they need to look nice, I’ll do it the way the recipe calls for.

smorepic3In my opinion, use whatever meringue frosting you feel the most comfortable with. I didn’t like the one that was in the recipe so I used my own. Mostly because it was simple. I should note, I made these a second time and decided to double the amount of ingredients needed for the meringue. Yeah, that was wrong. The icing gets bigger the more you whip it and I ended up with too much. Below is the egg whites starting to get fluffy in the mixer. I didn’t hand mix any of it. Using the mixer is a life saver.

smorepic4I made the topping two ways. I say that as if I planned it, when in reality I ran out of time and did what would be easiest and without getting my fingers covered in sticky meringue. I piped the meringue high on each cupcake and added a small piece of chocolate after it was done being toasted. For the other half of the picture I just mixed all the left over cracker dust, chocolate and meringue together and plopped it onto each cupcake.

smorepic5This recipe makes a ton of batter. I was able to make 23 cupcakes and three 4′ cakes (I froze them for a later project).

Now, part of the reason why I wanted to try making these is because I found a kitchen torch when I was cleaning out the kitchen. I thought it would be a blast to use! No pun intended. I went to the store and bought a can of butane gas and tried filling it up. Unfortunately, the can spout wasn’t compatible and I ended up with freezing gas going everywhere. I tried multiple times to get it to work, but it failed. I then thought I could just use the oven broiler, but I was worried about the cupcakes cooking for too long. I tried making an ice bath for them to sit in, but that was a horrible idea because the water kept getting into the cupcake holes and therefore on the cupcakes themselves. After some trial and error I let the oven heat up with the broiler on high, then put the cupcakes back in the cupcake tray and into the oven. If you wait long enough, you should only have to keep them in there for 45 seconds. You should try and spin them for an even toast. This worked best and I did it with both sets of toppings. It gave the meringue a lovely marshmallow flavor.

smorepic6Now here is the big shocker, I actually ate a cupcake! I never do that! But they looked so good I had to try them. I was also worried about the crust inside holding up and wanted to see how that was doing. As you can see below, even with the cupcake liner off the crust stayed in place.

smorepic7Now I’m going to rant a tiny bit. When I was going to the store to buy the chocolate I needed, I had to go down the baking isle of my supermarket. And what did I see? A box of s’more cupcake mix.

smorepick9Something about this just made me so angry. I spent so much on ingredients and this box is under $4. Really? I shouldn’t be upset about it, but it just makes me angry that a recipe I found is something you can just get out of a box too. The cost difference! Man. I shouldn’t be angry about it, but I am. Oh well.

 

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Ballet Shoes & Cupcakes

For my nieces last day at dance class I made cupcakes for her to give out to all her classmates at their class party. If you refer to my previous post, I rush made these cupcakes before my final class for Wilton Course 2. I don’t have any pictures of making the cupcakes because they are my normal vanilla cupcake with my normal buttercream. I added some coco powdered into the buttercream and then struggled to get it back to a pink/red. It ended up becoming a lovely color, but after 12 hours it went back to brown. Test failed! Moving along…

Below, are the boxes I ordered. I thought they were very cute and simple, and worked with the pink theme I was going for the cupcakes and ballet shoes.

dancecupcakes1I broke out my pasta roller to make the ribbons for the ballet shoes. I rolled out the fondant and put it through part of the pasta roller to flatten it out, and then through the linguine roller. Below is the pile it fell on. After ripping apart the fondant to separate it, I broke it up into smaller pieces and then put it back through the machine. I broke the pieces up to the length I needed and saved it in a tubberwear. If I ever make these again, I would do this step last to keep the fondant as pliable as possible for setting them up on the ballet shoes. Live and learn!

dancecupcakes2I cut out circles and rolled them out with a toothpick to make a ruffled appearance. This is something I’m going to have to work on more. I struggled to get the fondant to “fluff” the way I wanted it to. I tried rolling it out with a ball tool first, and then using the toothpick but it didn’t work out. After about an hour of fighting with it I got into a groove that I was comfortable with. It would have been a hell of a lot easier to have the ballet shoes resting on a flat fondant circle, but this way it almost looked like it was resting on a ballet tutu. If I do these again though? Flat surface for sure.

dancecupcakes3To make room I put all the fondant toppers on an upside down cupcake/muffin pan. This made sure they didn’t slide around and didn’t bump into each other. Made things easier to carry too!

dancecupcakes4I’m sure there is a nicer way to make the ballet shoes but I just took a ball of fondant and rolled it oval, and then stuck a round tool into it to form a loose shoe. Almost looks like a soap dish in this picture.

dancecupcakes7Lined up they almost look like ballet shoes. I was banking on them looking better when they were all decorated. I should note that this process took me a very long time. I also added little fondant bows to each shoe to tie in the look. I only have one mold so I had to freeze each bow so it would pop out without tearing (it was so small) and wait a few minutes in between. 48 bows needed to be made, and I had to wait about 5 minutes between each. It was a long night.

dancecupcakes6After the bows were on, I used royal icing to glue to ballet shoe ties to each slipper and then used more royal icing to glue the shoes onto the cupcake topper. I tried to place the ribbon as nice as possible without having it break. This is why making these ribbons should be the last step! It would also give the other parts of the topper time to dry.

dancecupcakes8As I final touch (as you can see in the bottom right shoe), I added some luster dust to make it shimmer. I should have made the shoes a different shade of pink then the bottom. They were blending together and looked like a big pink blob. Adding the shimmer made it stand out more. I should also note that it was very hard to take a good picture of these toppers. dancecupcakes9Below was the pretty color icing. This is when it was starting to turn brown. By the time it got to where it needed to be, it looked like chocolate icing. Oh well! I just wanted a light chocolatey taste.

dancecupcakes5Inside the box you can see the contrast a bit better. I originally put a pink ribbon on top of each box to dress it up. It looked silly. I took off all the ribbon. The box itself and the little note attached to it was all it needed. Sometimes simple is better!

dancecupcakes10I finished the toppers 12 hours after I started them. I had to work through the night. I was so tired that I didn’t take many pictures. My dog also took a cupcake topper and ran away with it which led to a semi-breakdown. They are usually locked out of the kitchen when I work, but I was finished and let them walk past. Big mistake!

You can see the little message I had tied to each box. I found the dancer picture from a Google image search and just added it on. Tied it together nicely! Below that are three more pictures of the toppers. I put a filer on one to show the shimmer more since it wasn’t coming up well in the photos.

dancecupcakes11I wasn’t there when they were given out, but I heard people liked them. It was hard work, but hey, if people liked them I guess that’s what matters.

Communion Cupcake Favors

The same week I had to do the artist cookies and the Xbox cookies I had an order for 90 cupcake favors. Because of the cookies and how long they were taking, I didn’t start the cupcakes until the day before they were due. My sister came over to help. If my mother and my sister weren’t around to help me today I’m not sure this would have gotten done. Or, I would have been up another 12 hours, things would have been super sloppy, and I would have been rushing to get it done before I had to leave for delivery.

That being said, my mother put the boxes together the day before so they were already done when my sister and I started working on everything. I bought sticker paper and printed out the wording the client wanted on the favor. I gave my sister the task of getting the boxes ready to drop the cupcakes in. So while I baked, she cut out the stickers, put them on the box, put the sticker with my information in the bottom of the box, hot glued the ribbon to the bottom of the box (to easier tie the ribbon later), and then cut a fake flower off the stem, and glued it to the top of the box. When it was all put together, it seemed like it would be something that wouldn’t take long. But in fact it took her 10 hours of straight work. Making sure everything was in the right place and cut correctly took a lot of time. While she did this, I did the cupcakes. It’s time likes this I wish I had a double oven.

Here you can see some of the boxes that were already done towards the back of the table.

ImageBelow are 90 cupcakes. Just plain vanilla. They didn’t seem like much laid out like this. After they cooled, I painted all the tops with simple syrup. It’s been a couple of weeks since I made these, but I remember having some trouble. The recipe said they would be done in 12-15 minutes, but most had to go to 16-18 depending. I had to have a pow-wow outside of the oven and watch them. Some with less batter may have dried out, but no idea really.

ImageMy goal was to have a the icing look almost like a hydrangea. They were originally going to be simple lavender colored icing on top, but of course I had to go the extra step. So after mixing and coloring the icing, I had to get them into the same bag so both colors would pipe out at the same time using the 2M tip. You would use this tip to basically make a ton of stars which would then look like a hydrangea. Getting the icing in the same bag was messy. Some of the cupcakes had a good even color between the blue/lavender, and some had more than the other.

ImageBelow are the first cupcakes I made. I made about 20 with these colors.

ImageWhen I made the next batch of icing, I made the blue deeper. I think they came out better this way as you can see below. The picture also shows how different each one looked.

ImageI saw with my sister decorating all the cupcakes while she finished up the boxes. Below, you can see all the boxes completed and laid out, waiting for a cupcake.

ImageHot gluing the ribbon to the bottom of the box made things much easier then I tied the ribbon on the box. Below, you can see the cupcake in the box with the tied ribbon and a closeup of the label sticker I made. I thought it was a little simple looking, but I’m going to have to learn better computer skills for the future.

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ImageHere is the final picture of them all boxed up and waiting to be put in my car in the morning. I finished around 2AM, and I was so happy to be done.

ImageOriginally, I bought some molds for crosses to make as a cupcake topper. I tried adding them, but they were very large and just didn’t look right. I think in the future a small fondant cupcake topper would have been better. My sister, mother and I decided they looked better as they were. So here we go! A big order done, and it was a busy, busy week.

Putting together the pieces: Cupcakes done!

After finishing the cake, I went to sleep for a few hours, then began work on the cupcakes. I found this recipe and went for it (http://tinyurl.com/op8pucw). The recipe called for cake flour, which I didn’t have and my local store didn’t stock, so I went with regular flour. I also used extra light olive oil instead of canola oil. Luckily, I had buttermilk on hand.

When I pulled the first batch out of the oven, they were no where near done. I let them cook another 7 minutes, but then worried I overcooked them. The next batch came out normal, but they were very pointed tops. No idea why that happened. I like the cupcakes to have a slight dome to them.

While the cupcakes were cooling, I made small, rolled flowers to use as a flower bush on the cupcake. I rolled 25 of purple/pink/reddish. They were easy to roll and dried quickly.

ImageI saved the rest of the buttercream I put on the tooth cake, and used Kelly Green + 1 drop of Chocolate Brown gel fool coloring to get the color green I wanted. I put a thin layer of icing on the cupcakes to hold the house, and the walkway.

ImageI should mention, before I put the thin layer of icing on, I put some simple syrup on each cupcake. I put a dash of vanilla extract in the syrup as well. I was concerned some of the cupcakes would be overcooked, and used this as a possible way to balance it out. I actually forgot all about using simple syrup on my baked goods until that moment. I really should be doing that on everything.

ImageThe houses ended up being very heavy, so I cut toothpicks in half and put them inside the houses just to anchor them into the cupcakes better. The walkway just stuck right on. I wanted the house and the walkway down first, then I piped the grass around the rest of the cupcake. After the grass was on, I put on the flowers.

ImageI’m very happy with how they came out! They all looked adorable. There is one thing I didn’t make on the cupcake: the little flower next to the house. I had these flowers from a few months ago for the first cake I made for my niece. They really are perfect to use. Either I need to buy more, or I need to learn how to make them.

My friend wanted these cupcakes for her daughters first birthday party that had a fairy theme. She ordered a fairy hut cake and asked if the cupcakes could match. So below is how it looked on the dessert table. I think the cupcakes added to the presentation. I really liked the little figure that the was made for the cake. I need to practice on that myself!

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Making Houses

A couple of posts ago, I showed my attempts at making modeling chocolate for the cupcakes. Well the first of two nights, I actually used the modeling chocolate to make the little houses. It was two long, long, long nights. When I signed up to make these cupcakes, I didn’t really imagine how long it would take to make all the tiny details.

To start out, I picked up the white chocolate that I dried out and then tried to put back together again? Yeah, it didn’t quite work out. When I broke off a piece to being rolling it out, it just immediately crumbled. So, no dice. Impossible to work with. I threw it all out.

ImageIt’s a good thing I had the good block of the vanilla chocolate chips. I broke off small pieces of that, zapped them in the microwave for 5-10 seconds, and then used the heat from my hands to roll it out. Below, you can see the three things that I made with the modeling chocolate that actually worked. First, the little huts. Just making simple squares was easy enough to do. The great thing about the modeling chocolate was how fast it dried. I figured out earlier that I couldn’t just drape the roof over the square shape. I would need a little cone to attach to the top. So I then spent another hour and a half making all the little cones. Finally, the easiest part was making the little chimneys to attach to the roofs. I just took a small block and rolled it out. This entire process took about 4 and a half hours. Very tedious work. I left these to dry overnight just to ensure they were solid and ready to be manipulated for the rood attachment.

Image The next night, or the final day of putting the houses/cupcake decorations together was extremely long. I mean, two episodes of “Friends,” nine episodes of “The Office,” and two episodes of “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.” Yep, that’s right. I spent about 8 hours finishing up the rest of these houses. Holy bananas. The only good thing during this part was how monotonous it was. I say good, because I was able to focus on other things (like the television) to distract myself from cutting out circles.

To start, I used royal icing to glue the cones to the boxes and make the start of the little houses.

ImageI left these to dry while started working on the walkways for the cupcakes. I took out the block of milk chocolate modeling chocolate I made, zapped it for five seconds, and tried to roll it out. I was not successful.

ImageI’m not sure what the issues was. Every time I tried rolling the chocolate into a small ball, it would just crumble apart. I tried kneading it, refolding it, but nothing stuck. I was able to make a couple of strips for the base of the steps, but it was just too difficult to mold. I wrapped up the rest of the chocolate (maybe I can find some use for it in the future?), and decided to go with fondant.

ImageI took some royal icing and dyed it brown to use as an adhesive for the walkway. I made more strips to attach the “rocks,” and then I rolled out very small balls, and flattened them with a cup. I then used the royal icing to attach the rocks to the strips. Now I had my tiny little walkways, and the base of my houses.

ImageI started making the roofs for the houses. Earlier in the day, I went to the store and bought more white chocolate and made fresh modeling chocolate. I forgot to dye the chocolate when I added the corn syrup, so I had to kneed it in. This is supposed to be easy, but as you can see below… No. The chocolate kept crumbling as I kneaded it, and it took an exceptionally long time. I made one circle and tried to put it on one of the houses and it just immediately cracked. This was just not worth it.

ImageI broke out the fondant and decided this was the best course of action. I didn’t want to fight with the modeling chocolate anymore. I’m not sure what was the problem with this batch, or if it didn’t work well being draped, but I didn’t want to take the time to figure it out anymore. I took a ball of fondant and dyed it pink. I couldn’t find any circle cookie cutters the size I needed, so below you can see that I used a metal shot class to cut the circle out. I just had to dip it in cornstarch to make sure it released the fondant.

ImageThe circles were just a tiny bit small, so I rolled them out a little more after they were cut. I kept them stacked under a cup to keep them from drying out too quickly. I put a bit of royal icing on the cone of the house, and then draped the fondant circle on top. I took me about an hour to figure out how to get the roof on correctly. At first, it would crack, and the cone would pop out the top. I finally figured out the best way to put the roof on was similar to how you would cover a cake in fondant, and push up on the sides. It took about 5-7 minutes per roof to make sure it was on correctly. Once I got the roof on, I would dip the chimney in the royal icing and stick it on the side of the roof. Possibly in the future, I would use pink icing just to make it blend more, but it the long run it didn’t matter.

ImageOnce all the houses were done, I used the same pink circles and cut out very small ovals to make little doors. I attached these with royal icing as well. Now I had my army of houses.

ImageThere was only one last thing to do, and that was to add the dots on the roof and the doorknob. I spent some time debating if I should actually go through with that. The houses looked fine the way they were, and I already spent so much time making the details so far I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. I finally decided that if I went this far, I might as well stay up and go all the way. I don’t really have any pictures of making the small dots, but that’s because I reached a point of exhaustion I can’t describe.

ImageI’m glad I actually put the dots on. I think they completed how the house looked. Really added something. Once they were done, I crawled into my bed and passed out.

Attempts with Modeling Chocolate

Sunday, I have to bring 24 cupcakes to my friends, daughters first birthday party. The theme is fairies, and the main cake is a “fairy hut,” with some flowers. My friend sent me a picture of the cupcakes she wanted. I agreed to make them, but after the fact, I was concerned about what I would use to make the decorations. I was at my sister’s house, playing with my niece and her new play-dough kit, and I made a practice house. The picture below is of the cupcakes I have to make, and my thrown together little play-dough house.

ImageThe little hut was more sizable than I imagined. My original plan was to make the decorations out of fondant. But here is my current thought process. If I spend 30-40 minutes per cupcake, I’m going to be slightly upset when I see people just pulling off the chunk of fondant and tossing it aside. I think people will eat small/thin fondant decorations, but not a large block of it. I decided my best bet would be to try out modeling chocolate. I have absolutely zero experience with this. It seemed relatively easy on paper (which means I would/will have an extremely difficult time).

I bought white chocolate chips from a chocolate store. I wanted to make sure the chips were a good quality chocolate. I put the water in the double boiler, threw the chocolate in on top, turned on the stove, and started stirring. Things seemed to be going well. I threw in the other bag of chips since why not, right? Things are melting! But then within a second, things started to go bad. The chocolate (what I know now is called seizing), locked up and clung to the sides of the bowl, and became clumpy and just a disaster. DISASTER. It just looked horrible. I stared at the crumbled mixture of horror for a long time. I spent a pretty penny on the chocolate and didn’t want to throw it out.

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Is this cauliflower? No! It’s horribly seized white chocolate!

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Horrible. Just horrible!

I started looking online to see if there was anything I could do to try and revive it. I saw that I could try and add some butter or vegetable shortening to it. Since the chocolate lost all of its oil, it could possibly work. I figured I had nothing to lose, might as well give it a try. I should note, one of the big reasons why I had problems with the chocolate was because I left the stove on, and the water boiling as I melted the chocolate. You’re supposed to let the water boil, then turn the heat off, attach the top of the double boiler, and let the steam melt the chocolate. Knowing this, I put in some Crisco and went back at it. As you can see from the pictures below, it got a little better, but not great. You can see the difference between 5 minutes, 10 minutes, then 15 minutes of trying to fix my chocolate mess.

ImageBelow is a shot of the before and after. I only put half of the chocolate back in the pot. I definitely put too much in which helped with the disaster.

ImageEven though it was still clumpy, like oatmeal, I figured I should add the corn syrup to it anyway and I can make a decision about it when I start molding things. Who knows, maybe it will be okay? I added the slightly heated corn syrup and it seizes the chocolate almost instantly, so you have to work very fast to get it incorporated. It still looked like oatmeal, but I wrapped it in plastic wrap anyway and set it aside. ImageI found in the pantry a bag of vanilla flavored chips that I had from experimenting with vanilla ganache. I figured I could give it a try again using this.

ImageYou can clearly see the difference. Using one bag, and only steam from the double boiler, the chips melted quickly and easily. I added in the corn syrup and it mixed in well. This took me so little time, I was really kicking myself for wasting so much time trying to salvage the ruined chocolate. You can see in the picture below, the two wrapped bags. The top is the ruined batch, and the bottom is the one that went well. I’ll see how the both come out after they sit out.

ImageI still needed some regular milk chocolate, so I made another batch. Again, doing it the right way is very quick and easy. I should note, I later realized I made one big mistake here. I didn’t heat up the corn syrup when I added it into the chocolate, so it didn’t incorporate that great. I noticed some of the chocolate was darker than the other, but I dismissed it.  It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized my problem, took it out, kneaded it, and put it back in plastic wrap.

ImageNow, I wrote the majority of this last night after I finished mixing all the chocolate. It’s now the next morning and my modeling chocolate is a solid block of rock.  I’m trying not to panic about that. I have way too much to do today. I’m going to try and work with it later and see how it goes. Maybe the heat from my hands will make it work. Who knows. If all else fails, all I did was burn some money, and I can fall back on fondant. Right?

 

 

French Toast Cupcakes

I have so much to do this week, so instead of doing what I need to do, I decided to make some french toast cupcakes. I hate making plain cupcakes. Well, not plain, but the traditional vanilla or chocolate. I think as a mini-cake there should be something different about them. French toast should be pretty different, and the recipe I found even calls for bacon! Why not give it a try? I followed this recipe exactly: http://tinyurl.com/oasbfa2.

ImageI almost didn’t go ahead with the recipe. The buttercream calls for 1/2 cup of maple syrup, and I wanted to use real, 100% super awesome maple syrup. Which I had in the house. Which apparently was consumed within a week of pancake breakfasts. But I had some weird table syrup brand called ‘Log Cabin,’ and I decided to just go for it.

The recipe was fairly simple. I have to say, I really enjoy the flour tunnel attachment thing on the KitchenAid (I’m sure that is the technical term for it). It makes life so much easier when you don’t have to keep stopping the mixer. The batter smelled and tasted very strongly of the nutmeg. I was a bit worried about that, but figured even if it ended up tasting like a spice cake it would be nice.

frenchtoast2I baked them for 20 minutes, and they came out great (and hopefully not overcooked). While I sat there and stared at the cooling cupcakes, I decided they may need a bit of a kick. So I mixed together sugar and some ground cinnamon. I love that mixture on basically anything (pretzels, toast, churros!) and thought it may bring home the french toast taste to the cupcakes.

frenchtoast4The recipe ended up yielding 24 cupcakes, so I definitely didn’t have enough icing. I only used a small swirl on each cupcake (so ignore that one super ugly cupcake, it was the last I had of the icing). I think this is the better way to handle icing anyway. I hate things that are overly sweet, and buttercream is usually pretty sweet. I think less is more. I think sprinkled the cinnamon sugar combination lightly on each iced cupcake. I put a close up of the cupcake so you can see it.

frenchtoast5frenchtoast6Now for the best part. The one thing everyone should agree on: BACON. The recipe calls for crumbled bacon on the icing. In general, this freaks me out a bit. I know salty and sweet is the rage right now, and personally I always go for savory after binging on sweet things, but actually looking at bacon on top of a cupcake is strange for me.

I cooked up some fresh bacon. Look how beautiful they look all crispy. Just look at it! I looked at it so much, I ate three of the slices but no one saw me, so it didn’t happen. Right? I couldn’t bring myself to throw the bacon on top, so I crumbled up the bacon and put it in a small container. I figure that way, people can add the bacon if they want. Also, I think in general the bacon should be put on right before it is consumed. Not sure how any residual bacon grease would mess with the icing over a long period of time.

frenchtoast3Even after I sat around at 2AM having the great bacon debate with myself, I had my mother test the cupcake in the morning. She said it tasted like french toast, which is excellent. But then I threw on a small piece of bacon. Now if my mother likes it, it’s a safe bet to keep it in the recipe. She was hesitant, but tried it and said it really added to the taste. Bacon can be overpowering, so I only put three crumbled pieces on each cupcake before I dropped it off to a few people. For the rest of them, they will remain bacon free until they are ready to be consumed.

frenchtoast7A friend of mine really enjoyed the cupcakes. I want to keep trying “strange” cupcake recipes. I think its a nice change than the usual plain ones that are made. After this busy baking week is over, I’ll see what I can find!