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The Great Pumpkin Cupcake visits early and more!

Alexis' pumpkin cupcakeThis is a cupcake-packed week! Sunday I pulled a full-day shift at Sweet T’s, filling in wherever I was needed, whether it was finishing the top layer of a cake, cleaning out the fridge or doing dishes. It calmed down by early afternoon, so I was able to make my first batch of chocolate batter in the large mixer and hand mixed some chocolate chip cookie dough (hand mixing cookie dough is SO therapeutic, and a workout).

Yesterday, I brought in cupcakes from the bakeshop (one of the best sellers, cinnamon dolce, and vanilla with chocolate chip cookie dough buttercream–a recipe I introduced to Sweet T’s) to my taste testers as a little thank you present for their support. If it wasn’t for them, as well as all of you who read and bake along, I’d be doing this alone. And that wouldn’t be any fun.

Last night, Ray went to get his tattoo touched up by the extremely talented and charming Lee Cramer at Headlight Tattoos, and I had him bring one of the extra apple cider cupcakes I had tucked away in the fridge. Lee appreciated the treat, and after one nibble of the frosting said, “You could make money with these!” One day, Lee. One day.

Today, taste tester Alexis brought in her favorite pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting! She shared the recipe and some baking tips last year around this time, but I thought I would re-share the links to the recipes she likes to use.

This is a great treat for me, since I’m usually the cupcake bringer, not the cupcake receiver. Alexis picked a winner of a recipe to work with … the cake is moist and pumpkiny, with the right balance of spices. Her cream cheese frosting is also excellent, and I can appreciate that she doesn’t pile it on, like some people do. This way the cake and frosting shine through together.

And of course, I have something fun up my sleeves for this Friday.

So, what are some of YOUR favorite pumpkin recipes (cupcakes, breads, pies … anything goes!)? Share your favorites in the comments below!

Recipe for cupcake above: Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing (a.k.a. Heaven in a Baking Cup) from Patent & The Pantry

Putting down the oven mitts for vacation

Lake Minerva

Life has been … tough lately. We’ve moved, work is nuts, life is nuts. And, luckily, I have a vacation on my doorstep.

In a little over 24 hours I will be checking into a log cabin at Minerva Lake, NY. Nestled into the Gore Mountain region of the Adirondacks, I plan on relaxing with Ray, swimming, reading, hiking, and a whole lot of grilling. (Fun Fact: Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom, poetry, medicine, commerce, weaving, crafts and magic and is equivalent to the Greek goddess Athena.)

There have been things I’ve wanted to write about–Cupcake Smash, Bloggers Bake for Hope–but I haven’t had much more energy than what’s needed to come up with a new cupcake of the week, bake it and write about it. I’m hoping that things will change, post-vacation.

So enjoy your Memorial Day weekend holiday, and I’ll see you in a week!

Photo courtesy of Morningside Camps and Cottages

Insomnia cure: Cupcake gaming galore

Cupcake gamingCupcakes are still riding the trend du jour train, and while that’s good for me in some ways, it’s annoying when it brings out all the haters. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seem like a lot of bakeries, t-shirt companies and everyone in between really cares if some people think cupcakes have jumped the shark: people are still buying this tasty portable treats and so they make money off of them.

I’ve seen some ridiculously cute cupcake t-shirts out there (Hello, Johnny Cupcake?) But more surprising, at least to me, is all the online game options, not to mention the bevy of options in the iPhone app store. It’s like an insomniac’s dream come true!

Curious about what’s out there? Jump down the rabbit hole:

• Betty Cupcake: Help Little Miss Betty win a cupcake contest by busting out your mad decorating skills.
•Jessica’s Cupcake Cafe: If you dig time management games, this one is for you: cook up colorful cupcakes and save a family bakery in Jessica’s Cupcake Cafe.
•Cupcake Queen: Serve a hungry crowd of customers! Make money to pay rent! Sounds like business as usual, right?

I was kind of surprised that I didn’t see any online cupcake bingo games out there, though, especially since bingo seems to be one of the more popular online gaming options. But now that I’ve mentioned it, there will probably be a plethora of sites that pop up.

And as for what’s available on the iPhone/iPad app store, there are a lot of options. Want to build your own pretty cupcakes? Check out Cupcakes! or Cupcake Maker. Or if you’re in the mood to throw around rolling pins, maybe Angry Cupcakes is the game for you.

As for me … well, I’ll leave the gaming to you. I have cupcakes to bake!

Happy Pie-giving!

Dutch Apple Pie and Pumpkin Spice Pie
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours! For the holiday, Ray and I are driving north to celebrate with his family, and we’ll have Dutch Apple and Pumpkin Spice pies in tow.

Ray used the All-Butter Pastry Dough from Gourmet (via Epicurious) for the crusts, which are delectable … so buttery! His pumpkin pie recipe comes from Cooking for Engineers, while I used the The New Best Recipe cookbook’s recipe for Dutch Apple pie. Both look great, and I can’t wait to dig into them after dinner!

Baking up passion

Mel in her owl apron for Cupcake SmashI don’t think I’m long for this publishing world—I enjoyed studying English in college and then publishing in grad school mainly because I love books and magazines and, simply put, I’m good at what I do. But looking back, I can see it wasn’t enough of a challenge. I picked the easy route—something I could succeed at with minimal effort or risk of failure, when instead I should have taken the very scary jump into something else. Maybe forensics (my love for science and the macabre) or better yet, the culinary arts, specializing in pastry.

While many years of education would have been required for a career in forensics, I still think I can rise to the challenge of a culinary career through the avenues of self-teaching, a handful of classes and perseverance. Not to poo-poo a traditional culinary career—you learn practical skills, meet the right people and have a front row seat to the pressures of this extremely creative and competitive field. But it seems like if you have the drive, the capital and the ideas, a self-taught chef or baker can succeed just as well.

Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself. Grow my baking skills. Create a solid set of recipes that are consistent. Pull together capital, a business plan and bake for whoever is willing to place a special order just to get my name and baked goods out in front of more people.

The big decision I will face eventually is whether to steer my baking business down the avenue of catering and supplying other cafes and bakeries, or to go balls-out and get a store front. Then, if I take that very very scary jump (trust me, it is), am I take-out bakery? A sit-down bakery? A full service cafe with a $2000 espresso machine and fully-caffinated baristas? It’s a lot to consider, and some days it makes me a little freaked out. Other days, I feel blissed out at the thought of turning a passion into a living. I guess this is what most soon-to-be small business owners feel.

Travel cakes

CUPCAKES!I’m taking a 4-day weekend to trek over to southwestern Ohio to celebrate the graduations of two of my cousins: One from Kent State and the other from high school. But don’t worry, there will be baked goods—my aunt asked me to make my caramel cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream, so I’ll be whipping those up Friday or Saturday.

I’ll see you on Tuesday … have a good Memorial Day weekend!

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