Cupcakes, Ice Cream, and Answered Prayers

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26.

Mmmmm. Cupcakes! Cupcake. That’s what Joe Morelli calls Stephanie – she’s a sweet treat (if you haven’t read any of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, you need to – they’re hysterical). Isn’t it funny how we use food to describe people? Tough cookie. Marshmallow. Lamb chop. And of course, cupcake.

So I have this dear dear friend named Pam. Sometimes I call her Pammy, but cupcake would be an appropriate term of endearment for Miss Pam. What an inspiration she is to the people around her. She’s kind and loving and she is an amazing Woman of God. She not only talks the talk, she walks the walk. Being around Pam is both calming and exciting.  She is so loving and so ethusiastic – like a bright shiny new penny. A true friend of the heart. I could tell you so many things she’s done for others, but today I want to tell you about the party she gave last night for her husband, Barney.

Barney.  Mr. Barney. A wonderful match for Pam.  Funny, kind and a  Man of God. Barney has been on peritoneal dialysis EVERY SINGLE NIGHT for the last 2 or possibly 3 years – due to having kidney disease. What this means is that Barney has a tube permanently implanted in his tummy.  What this also means is that there are lots of things Barney can’t do (like going swimming) because he has to make sure he doesn’t get an infection around his tube. And he has to be very careful about what he eats and drinks.

Now, if you met Barney, you’d never guess there was a thing wrong.  He doesn’t talk about it. He just does what has to be done and goes on taking care of his family and friends.  Me?  I think I’d be whining and complaining to anyone who would listen.  Not Barney. Not Pam. Their faith is unshakable. They truly see every event in their lives as a blessing.  Turns out Barney’s sister, Jennifer, who lives in another state, has a kidney she’d like to give to Barney. And she’s a match.  Talk about answered prayers.  And Barney is getting his new kidney THIS WEEK.  And his little sister, Jennifer, is just a honey.  I’m not sure, because I’m not Jennifer, but I don’t know if she really understands the depth of the gift she’s giving him.  She’s a lot like Pam.  Barney needs a kidney, she has an extra one – no brainer!

Last night Pam had a birthday party for Barney.  And I was so honored to make some treats for the party. Pam made the most wonderful spaghetti bake and a delicious chicken alfredo.  I think she could’ve done it with one hand tied behind her back. There were at least 50 people at the party, could’ve been more – the kids are shorter and harder to count. I got to make the cupcakes and since Pam is a huge fan of butter pecan ice cream, I had to make ice cream.  We had mint with chocolate, chocolate with almonds, of course, butter pecan, and good old vanilla bean.  Making ice cream is easy – I have a tutorial in an earlier post (I Scream You Scream We All Scream for Ice Cream).  I am going to include the recipe for the chocolate ice cream here – use the methods in the ice cream post.

The air of excitement and expectation that was present at the party was intoxicating.  Lots of folks shared great stories about what Barney and Pam mean to them.  And getting to meet Jennifer and spend time with her was awesome.  She’s what my husband calls a “one each only” – this  being a compliment of course. We’re all thrilled to know that Barney’s life is going to take such an exciting turn and it is truly by the grace of God.

I sometimes make cakes for people.  And I often make cupcakes.  Don’t you hate it when you go to a fancyexpensive bakery and you get a beautiful little something, but the taste doesn’t live up to the advertising?  It’s dry or flavorless and you just spent three bucks on something that isn’t worth the calories?  My goal is always flavor first, looks second.  Last September I made the cupcakes and cakes for my friend Ebbe’s wedding.  And they had to be perfect.  I tried quite a few recipes (scratch recipes of course), because I don’t like artificial ingredients, but I kept coming back to this one recipe. The reason I was hesitant is because it uses a boxed cake mix as a base.  And I have to admit, I’m a little bit of a snot when it comes to boxed mixes – I REALLY like to make things totally from scratch.  But I ended up trying this recipe, and oh boy, does it make great cakes and cupcakes. I don’t know who originally posted the recipe, but I’ve found it on many Websites which tells me other people think it’s good, too. Here’s what you do:

 

Start with all these ingredients. I used both a white and a chocolate cake mix, because I wanted to make both white and chocolate cupcakes (I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck ya know).

Mix up all your dry ingredients (cake mix, sugar, flour, and salt) and whisk ’em together.

Add in the wet ingredients (sour cream; egg whites for the white cake or whole eggs for the chocolate cake; oil, water, vanilla extract and almond extract)

Beat if for a couple of minutes until it’s fairly smooth.

Here’s what the chocolate looks like. Tasty too – the best thing about being the cook is licking the bowl!

Fill up your cupcake holders.  I’d say about 2/3 full for the vanilla and little bit less for the chocolate.

I cheated. It was fun. And easy. I love this batter squirter thingy!

Mmm. Bake for about 25 minutes.  They’re done when they spring back when you touch the top, or when you poke a testing straw in and it’s not wet when it comes out.  Let them cool in the pan for a few minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. These will be sticky to the touch, so don’t stack them on top of each other. I know it looks like there’s a missing cupcake…

Make some really rich butter cream (real butter cream made with butter, not butter cream made with *shudder* shortening – blech) and put it in a pastry bag fitted with a big star tip.  Make sure to squeeze all the frosting to the bottom of the bag so it doesn’t burp while you’re squeezing it. Now the best way to do this is to hold the cupcake in your non-dominant hand and turn the cupcake as you squeeze. My pictures are fuzzy because I was taking them with my left hand – sorry!

Squeeze a line of frosting around the entire perimeter of the cupcake…

Then inside the first line…

Then into the very center.  Flick your wrist up as you stop squeezing, and you’ve got a frosted cupcake.  Add sprinkles and such as needed. Mine were naked because the only sprinkles I had were Easter egg shapes.

They’re so cute!

The cupcake version of ice cream and cake!

Basic White or Chocolate Cupcake or Cake Mix

Makes about 30 cupcakes; or two 2″ x 6″ rounds and 6 cupcakes; or two 7″ rounds

Ingredients:

  • 1 box white or chocolate cake mix
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 -1/3 cups water
  • 4 egg whites if making white cake; or 3 whole eggs if making chocolate cake
  • 1/8 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325°
  2. Mix all dry ingredients together.
  3. Add all wet ingredients and beat for about 2 minutes until well combined.
  4. If making cupcakes, fill cupcake liners about 2/3 full for white and a bit less for dark.  Bake for about 25 minutes or until they spring back when touched.
  5. For cake, use baker’s grease or grease and flour, and start testing for doneness at about 35 minutes.  I also highly recommend using baking strips around the outside of your pan to keep the cake level.

Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened but not melted
  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract, if desired
  • 3 or 4 tablespoons milk, half and half or whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup sifted cocoa powder if making chocolate frosting (omit for vanilla)

Directions:

  1. Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add dry ingredients and vanilla and mix.  Add milk, one tablespoon at a time until frosting is spreadable.
  2. After frosting, keep covered in the refrigerator – this helps retain the moistness and the frosting stays pretty.

Chocolate Almond Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups half and half
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons sifted cocoa powder
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 ounces finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cups Marcona almonds, coarsely chopped

Directions:

  1. Mix cream, half and half, salt and cocoa powder together in a heavy saucepan over medium or medium-low heat. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Heat until bubbles appear around the edges.
  3. While the cream mixture is heating, beat the egg yolks and the sugar together until the yolks turn lemony yellow.
  4. Take about 3/4 cup of the hot cream mixture and pour slowly into the egg mixture, whisking briskly. Pour the egg cream mixture back into the cream and half and half mixture.
  5. Continue stirring and cooking as the mixture thickens.  When it coats the back of a wooden spoon and you can draw a line that doesn’t disappear through it, remove from heat.
  6. Add the chopped chocolate and continue stirring until the chocolate melts.
  7. Refrigerate over night to chill completely.  The colder it is when you put it in the ice cream maker, the creamier it will be.
  8. Process in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  About a minute before the ice cream has completed processing, add the almonds and let them get completely incorporated.
  9. Freeze for at least 2 hours before eating.

 


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