Dealing with life is a piece of cake.

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Welcome to the time of year where you are not only allowed, but encouraged, to pack your gut that you worked so hard to flatten for the summer, with butter, sugar, and booze. There’s a time-limit to this moment, though. It ends the moment you wake up on January 1st (for most people, anyway).

That’s right, I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions. Dun dun DUNNNN!

I took the liberty of looking up the most popular “commitments” people make at the beginning of each year.

Of course, the most faddish resolution is to “get in shape” and lose those elusive 15 pounds that seemed to creep out of nowhere and attached themselves to your innocent thighs. I’ve tried this resolution, and if I remember correctly, I ended up gaining weight because all I could think about was food that brings those pounds out of their hidden cave. Then I stuffed my face. That, and the fact that I write a baking blog. Um, duh.

Another popular resolution? Eat healthier. See above.

A third? Drink less alcohol. I think I always say this on the 1st. I blame the 31st.

One of the lists I read included “learn something new.” What? That’s ridiculous. If you’re not learning at least ONE thing every single day, you’re not awake. You’re probably dead. And I think I speak for the rest of the world when I say that we’re not quite ready for the zombie apocalypse yet. So wake up, and learn something, you scary, scary robot.

Am I talking about robots or zombies? Wait…what?

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What I’m getting at, is that these resolutions are so impersonal. I’ve made a short list of things I will commit to for 2013. Want to see? If you don’t…boo on you. Because I want to hear about yours.

1. Take more pictures. I feel like a lot of people say this. This doesn’t mean pictures of me and my friends, although I love those. I mean taking pictures of things I find beautiful around me — meaningful things that catch my attention. Trees do that for me. Call me weird, I don’t mind. This might even mean investing in a camera! Ooh, hello, idea lightbulb.

2. Get a piece of art for my apartment. My walls are bare. It’s kind of sad.

3. Take a trip with my roommate. We decided we wanted to go on a cruise. I fully support this idea, and I have every intention of executing it.

4. Drink a little less coffee. I’m not going to cut it out, but maybe ration myself to two cups a day. Or leave one shot of espresso out of my Americano. I should probably be more decisive on this.

5. Be more decisive about the coffee situation.

6. Bake more. I bake a lot, obviously, but I have a zillion ideas in my head that I need to make reality, like, NOW.

7. Tell you about these chocolate cupcakes.

Okay, the 7th item on the list is happening in 2012, but hey, nothing wrong with being ahead of the game, right?

These cupcakes would make Count Chocula blush. It’s serious business. I took my chocolate cake recipe, tweaked it a little, made my favorite chocolate buttercream recipe, tweaked that a little, and the next thing I know I have these chocolate cupcakes that are so rich, they make Donald Trump look like an orphan.

What did I do differently? More of the onyx cocoa powder, and more sugar. I intentionally made the buttercream slightly salty. It cuts the sweetness a little. Maybe next time I’ll add caramel.

Wait, did I just accidentally make a potential salted-caramel cupcake (also known as one of my all-time favorites)?!?

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Ohhhh 2013 is going to be good.

Salty-Sweet Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcakes:

3/4 cup cocoa powder
3 tbsp onyx cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup warm water
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with cupcake liners.

2. Sift cocoa powders, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. Beat eggs and vanilla until slightly fluffy, about 45 seconds.

4. Add dry mix, beat for 30 seconds.

5. Add oil and beat until combined.

6. Add cream in two portions, waiting until the first addition is blended in.

7. Add warm water and beat until smooth.

8. Fill liners 1/2 full and bake for 20 minutes.

Salted Chocolate Buttercream:

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp onyx cocoa powder
1 packet instant hot chocolate powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Beat butter and cocoa powders, and hot chocolate mix on high until thick.

2. Add salt and vanilla. Beat until combined, and then beat on medium for an additional 30 seconds.

3. Add powdered sugar and heavy cream alternatively in 3 additions, starting with the heavy cream, beating well between each addition.

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Bon appétit!

 

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Where has the year gone? Seriously. Are you hiding it? Or did I blink and it just completely disappeared into the universe?

Probably the later. If it’s the first one, you’re probably waaay too good at hide-and-seek.

The holiday season is upon us, people. It’s not just upon us, it’s straight up in our faces. And I am toootally not prepared. Well, sort of.

I mean, I still have shopping to do, I haven’t listened to my all-time favorite Christmas music (Bing Crosby, in case you were wondering), and the fact that I WANT to work on Christmas day is probably a sign that I have not embraced the holiday spirit.

BUT! There are a few things that have brought me out of this funk.

1. I’ve been spending time with a lot of excellent, grade-A, top-notch people lately. I didn’t even realize how much I was running around until my roommate pointed it out to me. Which brings me to my second point…

2. My roommate. She’s been there for me every step of the way through a rough time. If I say “I don’t want to talk about it” she’ll totally respect it, even though she’s dying inside to know what’s going on, but she knows any second I’ll open my big mouth, like I always do, and spill everything. She’s wonderful. Love you Bri.

3. I didn’t have ONE Christmas decoration up…including a tree. I ALWAYS have a tree. 😦 How sad is that? Well after opening my big mouth, like I always do, I received a small tree as a gift the very next day. If that doesn’t take you from a Scroogasaurs to freakin’ Rudolph, I don’t know what will.

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My perfect Kate-sized tree. 🙂

4. I’m spending Christmas at my grandma’s house. I love her. She’s cool. It’s a plain, obvious fact. That alone will put me in a good mood. But there’s one more thing….

5. I made Tiger Butter!

In a world of jam-packed department stores, bumper-to-bumper freeways, and the complications of trying to get the stripes on the wrapping paper to match up perfectly, (…no? Just me?) what we all need is something simple. And this my friends, is just the trick.

Tiger Butter: Three ingredients. 1 hour. Lifetime of happiness.

Kind of like that “teach a man to fish” saying…

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Tiger Butter

1 1/2 cups white chocolate

1 (heaping) cup creamy peanut butter

1 1/2 cups milk chocolate

You can do this two ways. You can either melt the chocolate in the microwave, or use a double-boiler to melt the chocolate. If you choose the double-boiler, be sure to stir the entire time so you don’t burn it. I do it the microwave method, because I’m lazy and I want to eat this before I even begin to make it.

1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate in 45-second increments until smooth, being sure to stir thoroughly between increments.

3. Repeat with milk chocolate.

4. While the milk chocolate is melting and the white chocolate is still hot, stir the peanut butter into the white chocolate until completely smooth.

5. Pour the melted milk chocolate onto the prepared cookie sheet and spread evenly.

6. Drizzle the white chocolate/peanut butter mixture on top of the milk chocolate, being sure to reach the corners and edges.

7. Run a butter knife through the chocolate to create the swirl pattern. There’s no “right” way to do this, but if you go horizontally and then vertically you’ll probably get the results you’re looking for.

8. Refrigerate for at least 45 minutes. Once the chocolate is set, you may cut it, or just break it into jagged pieces. It all tastes the same – delicious!

9. Eat it all and don’t tell anyone. (No? Just me again? I should really learn not to open my big mouth…)

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Bon Appétit! (and Happy Holidays!)

Want to play a game? It’s the silent game. Whoever talks first, loses. Ready…go!

……..

Okay, I lose. I’m terrible at the silent game. Always have been, always will be. I’m an over-sharer.

Don’t want to hear my story about my windshield wipers? Most wouldn’t. And although I don’t really blame you, I’ll probably end up shoving that C+ story in your ears anyway.

The thing about me, though, is if you listen to my nonsense stories…like how a child in my neighborhood saw me, screamed, and ran away (for no reason…it was broad daylight!)…I’ll listen to your stories about the brand of mustard you used on the turkey sandwich you made for lunch yesterday. And if I love you…then I will actually care about it. Weird, I’m so, so weird.

But when I stop hearing about your turkey sandwiches, I’ll go into nonsense overload. I’ll ramble. I’ll end up telling someone else about the hilarious thing Kitten did a week and a half ago (she stared at a giant Hello Kitty balloon as if it was an impostor). They won’t care. They won’t acknowledge, tolerate, or humor the obsession I have with my cat. Why? Because they’re not you. And if I may be blunt here, their nonsense is nowhere as interesting as your nonsense.

“Kate…you’re rambling.” <– What you’re probably thinking.

And you’re right. I can’t even try to deny that. But my rambling is the infrastructure of the blog that is Sugar Therapy.

Well that, and these Brown Butter PB&J cookies.

Remember when you were in first grade, and your mom packed your lunch? The contents were typically of the following:
– a good ol’ PB&J
– pudding cup
– veggie sticks
– Capri Sun
– a note, that for some reason, all the girls at the lunch table wanted to hear every day. No? Just me?
Perhaps that’s where my need to share things came from…

These cookies taste like Mom’s peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’m not exaggerating. They’re childhood, in the shape of two-and-a-half inch circles.

I had a “take 2” moment while making these. First batch…meh. While they came out the way I imagined: small, bite-sized, and delicious, I decided to add 2 tablespoons of water to moisten the cookies so they would spread a little.

Twas a good decision indeed. I’m sure you’ll agree when you make them and taste for yourself.

Relive your first grade lunch. Tell someone a meaningless story. Eat these cookies. Then tell someone about them, because, you know, that’s what we do.

Brown Butter Peanut Butter and Jelly Cookies

1 1/3 cup flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup smooth peanut butter
3 tbsp water
Jam of your choice. (Strawberry is always my choice.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a cookie sheet.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a saucepan, heat butter over medium-high until it begins to turn golden in color. Once simmering, allow to continue for about 30 seconds, stirring consistently so the butter doesn’t burn.

4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars until combined.

5. Beat in egg, vanilla and peanut butter until combined.

6. In two portions, add flour mixture and beat on medium high until combined.

7. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time to moisten.

8. Form 1 1/2 inch balls of dough, and create an indentation with your thumb.

9. Bake for 11-12 minutes and let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes to set. Transfer cookies to cooling rack.

10. Once cooled, dollop jam in the middle of each cookie.

11. EAT!

Bon appetit! 

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Change is good. But at the same time, change is bad.

Okay, maybe not bad, but difficult…no, challenging. (I’m sometimes indecisive.)

I haven’t updated my blog for awhile, if you haven’t noticed. Life has been nothing short of crazy. I had a birthday, then I got sick. Then…

…I made margarita cupcakes, which were incredible. I’d share the recipe with you, but oh wait, that’s right, I lost my recipe. It disappeared into the universe. Sad.

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I made a wedding cake. I got PAID. Someone paid little ol’ me to make their wedding cake! That was huge step in the right direction. 🙂

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I moved into a cute little two-bedroom apartment in Huntington Beach. Another huge step in the right direction.

I baked 120 cupcakes for a 100th birthday party. Again, I got paid! Surreal. Yet another step in the right direction.

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My life’s GPS is seriously on point lately.

I did mention that change is difficult, though. That wedding cake? Yeah, for three days I barely slept, had a few breakdowns, and was covered head-to-toe in flour.

The apartment: Our move-in date was changed 3 times, we had a constant battle with the leasing office, and we still don’t have a couch or internet…almost a month later.

The cupcakes. 120 really wasn’t that much, but in a kitchen that is an appropriate size for a Keebler elf, it felt like I was being buried alive in red velvet.

I needed something simple. Something that I could make with the simplest ingredients (because let’s face it…I’m broke and didn’t have any fancy ingredients.) Cake scraps. But that seems so…barbaric. So I made cookies! Cake scrap cookies.

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They aren’t pretty. They aren’t fancy. They’re simple. And you can totally get away with eating a few without feeling like a free-loading, bottom-feeding, sweet-toothed creep. It works out.

Well with all of those challenges, what is a little baketress to do?! Well, I took a shower and washed off the flour. I moved into the apartment with an awesome roommate. I settle with watching Friends on the living room floor (for now), and I’m writing this blog directly from my iPhone (thank goodness for 3G!) And then I utilized every square inch of space to make the cupcakes work. I powered through. I conquered!

Mwahaha, watch out world, I’m taking over! And it only gets better from here.

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Cake Scrap Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 sugar
1 1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp onyx cocoa powder (serious stuff)
1 1/2 tsp espresso powder
2 eggs
1/4 cup cream cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, espresso powder, and both cocoas in a medium bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until pale and fluffy.

4. Add vanilla, then eggs, one at a time until blended.

5. Beat in cream cheese until smooth.

6. Add flour mixture in three parts, beating on medium high until just blended each time. Once the final portion is added, beat for 30 seconds.

7. Place 1-1 1/2 tbsp globs of dough on a prepared cookie sheet.

8. Bake for 11 minutes. Let the cookies set for 1-3 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

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Bon appetit!

P.S. As I mentioned, this is coming straight from my iPhone…so if the pictures don’t look quite right, or something else is funky, just…ignore it. Well don’t ignore it. Read it, make some cookies, and take some pictures of your own! 😉

Let’s play a game.

It’s called “Where Is This Blog Post Being Written?”

Here are the rules:

Guess where this blog post is being written. Complicated.

Don’t cheat. (If you do, that just means you’re a creepy stalker. I don’t think you want to live with that.)

I think you’ll do fine.

So, here goes.

I have a (free) mimosa in my hand.

Tiny ear buds are humming Frank Sinatra’s voice into my head.

I’m in a pretty comfortable leather seat.

I’m looking at tiny blips of white surrounded by large areas of green and brown thousands of miles beneath me.

There’s also a layer of mashed potatoes underneath me.

Not too far behind me is a small child, who initially decided to scream its head off, but then (smartly) ceased.

Where am I?

In the air!

If you guessed anything but an airplane, I’d like to know your answer and then pick at your brain.

I’m well on my way to Seattle, Washington to visit one of my very best friends in the world. Yay!

I feel like I’m on Cloud Nine right now. The past week at work was not only tolerable, but I generally had a good time. What?! Cray. I know.

Last night I was lucky enough to enjoy a late-night after-work IHOP run with my darling boyfriend. I (shamelessly) scarfed down some blueberry pancakes. I was also told I have giant eyes. Whatever that means.

I woke up this morning, got dressed, put my face on, had a nice little conversation with a coworker, and headed to the airport. Did I mention I’m flying First Class?

Yeah, I’m flying First Class. I’ve never done it. The best part so far, aside from the complimentary mimosas the stewardess is throwing at me, is the line cutting! Mwahaha. I must have saved about an hour of waiting because of this “First Class” status.

When things like this excite me, does that mean I’m getting old? I mean, first I’m overly stoked about my new car having amazing gas mileage, and now I’m excited about short lines?

Stewardess! I need another mimosa. This is too much to handle. I’m not old…yet.

 

Speaking of getting old, my birthday is soon. Which, ehh, I’m not overly excited about. But it does make me think back to when I was a kid. Sleepovers, Back-to-School Nights, Poptarts for breakfast…ahh to be a child.

One thing I vividly remember as a child, is lemonade stands. My next-door neighbor and childhood BFF, Jessica, and I used to have one every year. I mean EVERY year. Tradition. It always seemed to be right after the gardeners overly trimmed the trees. I’m sure the majority of our sales came from our parents and other close neighbors, but it didn’t matter. It was fun. We were fun. We were cool kids.

Some smartypants friend of mine suggest Pink Lemonade Cupcakes to me a few weeks ago. GENIUS!

The cake has a slightly tart taste, and paired with the cream cheese frosting (infused with lemon-lime soda) and you’ve got yourself a lemonade stand in a cupcake wrapper. That can’t possibly be wrong, right?

Enjoy, my fellow childhood lemonade-standers. Reflect on the goofy memories. Smile.

In the meantime, I’ll be frolicking in Seattle, being fabulous as I take a huge bite of a much-anticipated Trophy Cupcake and laughing over God knows what with an amazing friend. “She’s good for your soul,” says my mom. I must agree.

MAKE THESE CUPCAKES!

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour minus 6 tbsp
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1 tbsp vanilla
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup milk
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp baking soda
1/2 cup sweetened instant pink lemonade

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with cupcake wrappers.

2. Sift flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and instant lemonade in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Beat butter until fluffy and pale.

4. Add sugar and beat until smooth.

5. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

6. Add vanilla and strawberry cream cheese. Beat well.

7. Alternately add milk and flour mixture, beating well between each addition.

8. Bake for about 20 minutes and let cool before frosting.

Lemon-Lime Cream Cheese Frosting

2 8oz packages cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup lemon-lime soda
5-6 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

1. Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth.

2. Add vanilla and beat until well-combined.

3. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, until completely blended.

4. Add soda and lemon juice and beat until just combined.

5. Allow the frosting to set. It will initially be runny.

6. Frost them cupcakes! Then shamelessly shove it in your mouth.

For instructions on how to candy the lemons, see this recipe for Grapefruit Cupcakes and you’ll be all set. 🙂

Like what you see? Check out the Pink Cake Party Kit over at Event Blossom!

I think they complement these little beauties quite well. 😉

Bon appétit!