These mini rays of sunshine were bright treats for the two year anniversary of Tuesdays Together NYC (Rising Tide Society).

Recipe: Lemon Cupcakes

Makes 14 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 1/2 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!)

Frosting Recipe

I’ve baked cupcakes for my friends’ son each year of his life (all 8 of them). This year he requested cherries and chocolate!

I pitted and chopped a cup of fresh cherries, which I added with mini chocolate chips to vanilla cake batter. For the tops, I grabbed a jar of maraschino cherries, the ones every Shirley-Temple-loving kiddo knows best.

Inside the Cherry Chocolate Chip Cupcake

I used cocoa candy melts to make the chocolate sauce, so my dribbles would harden à la Magic Shell. I liked the look, and it was less messy than chocolate syrup.

Kids and adults alike seemed to be fans! There was one boy who pulled the cherries off five otherwise untouched cupcakes, so I guess at least the cherries were a hit. Ah, to be 8 years old…

Recipe: Cherry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Makes 36 cupcakes

2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
16 oz. sour cream
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
1 cup chopped fresh cherries
1 cup mini chocolate chips
maraschino cherries (for tops)
Optional: Wilton Cocoa Candy Melts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).

Cream butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium-high.

Lower speed and add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla. Mix on medium until light and fluffy.

Sift together the baking powder, salt and flour.

Add half of the flour mixture, followed by sour cream, and then add the rest of the flour mixture. Mix until combined.

Add the chopped cherries and mini chocolate chips, mixing on low or by hand.

Scoop cupcakes into liners and and bake for 20 minutes, turning halfway through.

Frost with vanilla buttercream, and top with maraschino cherry.

Optional: Heat Wilton Cocoa Candy Melts (or similar) to drizzle over frosted cupcakes.

For my husband’s birthday treat, I baked cupcakes using hazelnuts and Rigoni di Asiago‘s Nocciolata, an Italian hazelnut-cocoa spread. I could eat this stuff by the spoonful, but I restrained myself and saved it for baking!

Nocciolata Hazelnut Spread and Ground Hazelnuts

I ground hazelnuts in our small food processor and combined them with the other dry ingredients. I ground them rather fine with some slightly larger bits, but you could vary depending on how “nutty” you wanted your cake.

Hazelnut Cupcakes

The frosting involved more Nocciolata mixed together with butter, powdered sugar, and milk. (Again…just give me a spoon!)

Recipe below!

Nocciolata Cupcakes

Thank you to Rigoni di Asiago for providng me a sample of Nocciolata! The Italian company offers products exclusively from sustainable, organic farming. In addition to the hazelnut spread, they produce honey, fruit spreads, and a sweetener derived from apples. Learn more at www.rigonidiasiago.com.

Recipe: Hazelnut-Cocoa Cupcakes

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup ground hazelnuts
1 1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
3 ounces Nocciolata Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa
FROSTING:
1 stick butter
6 ounces Nocciolata Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa
pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 pound powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk

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

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

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix together with ground hazelnuts.

While mixing on low, add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl, then the milk, then another 1/3. Add the Nocciolata before the rest of the dry ingredients.

Scoop batter into lined muffin tins with an ice cream scoop. Bake about 18 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.

Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan, then move to racks to cool completely.

For frosting: Beat the butter and Nocciolata until smooth and add the vanilla extract. Slowly add the powdered sugar, then the milk. Add a little more milk if frosting is too thick or not smooth. Add more powdered sugar if the frosting is too runny.

Frost the cupcakes once they reach room temperature. Top with a whole hazelnut, if you so desire!

I had the opportunity to help bake cupcakes from Sarah Michelle Gellar’s new cookbook, Stirring Up Fun with Food yesterday. The book is full of fun recipes from S’mores Parfaits to Asparagus Fries (one of Sarah’s favorites) to Green Eggs & Ham, but I was delighted that the Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes were the pick.

Ingredients for Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes
These cupcakes are based on Foodstirs cake mix plus lemon pudding, poppy seeds, and lemon zest.

The former star of Buffy has been focusing on food these days, starting her organic baking kit company Foodstirs in 2015.  She wrote this book with Gia Russo to highlight being creative in the kitchen. Having fun with food is a great creative outlet for everyone, and a good way to spend time with children while teaching them–and yourself–to be fearless cooks.

Sarah Michelle Gellar zests a lemon.
Sarah likes to zest a whole lemon, using half for the cupcakes, half for the frosting.

These cupcakes smelled so good while baking, it was almost distracting from the rest of the event! I love lemon cupcakes, and these tasted great. Using a quick-from-scratch method (ie. starting with Foodstirs cake mix) was nothing like using a typical mix. The taste was all homemade.

I can’t wait to delve deeper into the book. Stay tuned for future posts, as I have a chance to test more of the recipes and food crafts like Grilled Cheese Dippers and Palm-Size Cherry Pies.

Amelie baking in Good Housekeeping's Test Kitchen
Thank you, Good Housekeeping, for hosting this event. Baking in your test kitchen was a real treat!

Stirring Up Fun with Food, by Sarah Michelle Gellar and Gia Russo, is available today from Hachette Book Group. See page 88 for this cupcake recipe.

I participate in the Rising Tide Society‘s Tuesdays Together NYC group for creative entrepreneurs, and I have been known to bake treats for meetings. These wee chocolate cupcakes seemed necessary for a hot chocolate and goal setting meet-up!

Chocolate Mini Cupcakes
Can’t beat a classic like chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting. (Alhy Berry Photography)

I used my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe for these. It’s a sure thing! For the frosting, I started with a basic vanilla buttercream, adding a bit of cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate syrup. Not quite a recipe, I really just added ingredients until it looked–and tasted–right to me.

Amelie hold tray of Chocolate Cupcakes.
Serving Chocolate Minis at Tuesdays Together (Alhy Berry Photography)

These cupcakes had an adventure getting to the meeting. There had been an incident on the subway, which was more crowded than I’ve ever seen it. A cupcake carrier takes up an unwelcome amount of space when you are packed in like sardines. This is how I discovered a unique solution.

Cupcakes in Transit
Bet you didn’t know that the L Train has overhead bins.

Thank you, Alhy Berry, for the cupcake photos. Alhy is a wedding, engagement and portrait photographer based in New York. “I don’t want to simply ‘freeze’ the moment in a documentary way,” she says. “I want to convey a sliver of history, a little piece of immortality.” See Alhy’s portfolio and learn more at www.alhyberryphotography.com.