First Birthday Smash Cake

This was a fun project, my first mini-cake made for smashing! I made cupcakes for the guests with toppers to match the theme.

Smash Cake

The one-year-old boy presented with this cake, though, just would not smash it! Let’s see how he does on his 2nd birthday.

Raccoon Cupcakes


Note to self, perfect cupcake frosting is not the same for smoothly icing a cake.

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Watermelon Cupcakes

Watermelon says summer to me.

Watermelon Cupcake by Amélie

A last minute request for watermelon-flavored cupcakes meant I didn’t have much time to research or shop. Fresh watermelon seemed risky, and I could not find extract, so I used what I could find in a hurry.

Jelly Belly Watermelon Syrup–I bought my bottle at Michael’s—is meant for making snow cones and popsicles, but I gave it a try in my cake batter and frosting. I reduced it to make it more concentrated, but it gave only a faint flavor.

Jelly Belly Watermelon Syrup

I would recommend using Pure Watermelon Extract for those wanting to bake better watermelon cupcakes than I produced! The cupcakes were still good, but they mostly just tasted like vanilla.

At least they looked pretty. I was making Minecraft cupcake toppers with gum paste (stay tuned for Minecraft Cupcakes, Round 2!), so I created some watermelons while I was at it.

Gum Paste Minecraft Watermelons

The Jelly Belly Watermelon Syrup did make a kid-pleasing soda when added to seltzer (approved by a 7-year-old expert).

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Baking in Grandmother’s Kitchen

My grandparents built their house in 1954, and much of the original kitchen remains. I always loved the many built-ins, like the cabinet for the stand mixer. A quick pull up and out, and it’s ready to go.

Glo's 40s Mixer - Hamilton Beach Model G

During a recent trip south, I used the mixer—a Hamilton Beach Model G made in the 1940s—for the first time, to bake cupcakes for my grandmother and other lucky family members. Though we baked together often when I was a child, I was not allowed to operate the dangerous machinery. My grandmother handed it over easily this time, with only a mild warning of possible electric shock. (Wait… What?) Apparently, those pretty metal edges have been known to give a little jolt.

Mixing with 1940s Hamilton Beach Model G Mixer

Creaming butter with white and brown sugar

It was fun to use but different than using my own mixer which locks the bowl into the base and uses a single wide beater, sometimes one with a flex edge that does the scraping mostly itself. (Spoiled by modern conveniences…) This one required much more attention!

I baked chocolate cupcakes, of course. If you know her, you know my grandmother loves chocolate. I made classic vanilla frosting to balance it out.

Chocolate Cupcake By Amelie

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Sansa’s Lemon Cakes

Candied Lemon Cupcakes

In 2007, I wrote a post about Harry Potter and mentioned my current fantasy favorite as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. I noted that “I won’t run into too many people reading it on the subway.” Boy, was I wrong about that! Little did I know that these books would become a hugely successful HBO series. Almost everyone is familiar with Game of Thrones now, even if they do not watch the show.

I watch with some friends, and we tend to wait to view 2-3 at a time after the premier. I haven’t seen Episode 2 of Season 6 yet, please don’t tell me the Big Things that happened! I can tell this will be a tough season to delay watching.

Last year, I baked a castle cake for the premier. This time, I decided to make a version of the go-to Game of Thrones dessert, the lemon cakes Sansa Stark adores. Sadly, she has not gotten to enjoy any lately.

There are a lot of recipes out there for this Westeros treat. (If you are a fan of the series, you should check out Inn at the Crossroads.) My interpretation of a lemon cake is a lemon cupcake with a candied lemon on top. Since I have a tried and true Lemon Cupcake recipe, I didn’t mess around trying any others.

Lemon Cupcakes with Candied Lemon

To prepare the lemons, I cut them into 1/8″-1/4″ inch slices and removed the seeds. I tried to use a mandoline, but it did not work well for me. The blade caught on the rind—possibly a problem with my technique or the mandoline itself—squeezing the fruit too much before slicing. I had better luck carefully cutting with a knife.

I cut enough to get 12 complete rings of similar size, keeping the smaller ends of the lemons for juicing. I blanched in boiling water for 1 minute, then chilled in ice water. I dissolved 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water in a large pan, brought it to a simmer, then added the lemon slices in one layer. They simmered for an hour before I took them out to cool and harden on a wire rack.

I did not let the lemon slices dry completely before I put them on top of my cupcakes, so they would stick to the cakes. They remained moist, which was fine for my purposes. For real candied lemons, let them dry overnight.

I removed the cupcake liners before serving. I don’t think they have such things in the Seven Kingdoms!

Lemon Cakes from Game of Thrones

Recipe: Lemon Cupcakes

Makes 21 cupcakes

1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
4 oz. cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 extra large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.

Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar at medium speed, then reduce to low. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the lemon juice and vanilla extract.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon zest to the flour mixture. Incorporate the dry ingredients gradually into the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins with an ice cream scoop or the method of your choice (about 3/4 full). Bake for a total of 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Once cupcakes are room temperature, frost or dust with powdered sugar. (Lemon, raspberry or other fruit-flavored icings are all good choices, or get fancy with a candied lemon!)

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Tasting Tour NYC: Mia’s Bakery

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

Mia’s Bakery
139 Smith St

Salted Caramel Cupcake - Mia's Bakery Brooklyn

I lived in Cobble Hill until recently and had noticed this bakery preparing for its opening before my move. The spot used to be Coco Roco, a Peruvian place whose roasted chicken with rice and beans is a favorite of mine (their Park Slope location is still open, go get some).

I stopped by recently and tried the Salted Caramel cupcake and a cappuccino. The cake was light, like angel food cake rather than a typical vanilla cupcake. It made me feel less guilty about the thick frosting (buttery, not too sweet) with a generous dollop of salty-sweet caramel.

Mia's Bakery - Salted Caramel Cupcake

A lopsided beauty

With ample seating both indoors and out, Mia’s is perfect for a shopping break, a leisurely afternoon, or a dessert date. The bakery offers coffee, a wide array of sweets, and a few savory breakfast options. Mia’s Brooklyn is open until 11pm on weeknights, 1am on weekends.

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