Orange Liqueur Cupcakes + Marzipan Buttercream

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In high school, I went to a baking and pastry high school and to make a little extra money, I would sell homemade cupcakes.  Some of my bigger projects were for weddings and bridal showers, and I also did smaller events like 9 year old’s birthday parties.  I actually won third place next to a bunch of professional pastry chefs at a couple of competitions, which was my crowning achievement at the time.  I was famously known for my marshmallow buttercream that people used to call “crack frosting”.  Obviously I lived that rockstar life back in the glory days of my youth.

Honestly though, going to my high school taught me invaluable lessons about food and the melding of flavors.  It helped me land my first job in the industry that eventually led me to my coffee-career and love for food blogging.  In a way, it was kind of like a weird, food version of Glee, but I got to do cool things like meet Vic Vegas and work in a bunch of kitchens in the casinos on the Strip.  I think going to my high school gave me the confidence to actually start this food blog like, almost 6 years ago?!  And luckily, I’ve come a long way since my first post, because *wow* I did not know how blogs worked 😬  I still have memories of having a mental breakdown, because I couldn’t figure out how to make an “About Me” page.  I’m still not quite sure why I couldn’t just have a Tumblr page like every other 16 year old in the early 2010s.

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I haven’t been making cupcakes “professionally” for a while, but of course, I still love to bake, especially now that I’ve gotten more adventurous with my flavor profile.  So when a few weeks ago (well, before Christmas) Molly Yeh posted a recipe for marzipan buttercream, I diiiiiied.  Marzipan buttercream is everything I dream about.  Plus anytime I make anything with almonds, I immediately have the instinct to shove oranges in there somehow.  And (!) since I’m not still in high school, I added orange liqueur, because boozy cupcakes = the best cupcakes.

This recipe is adapted for high altitude, because as I’ve mentioned in the past, for some reason I have to use high-altitude recipes for cakes and nothing else ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  I’ve been celebrating extra hard, because I *finally* figured out how to adapt my fave cupcake recipe to high-altitude almost five years after moving to Reno!!  If you need me, I will be celebrating with extra orange liqueur.


Orange Liqueur Cupcakes + Marzipan Buttercream
Makes about 16 cupcakes

Ingredients

1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1 c. sugar*
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 Tbs. orange liqueur (I used Triple Sec)
1 tsp. orange zest
1/3 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. flavorless oil
3/4 c. whole milk**

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Preheat oven to 375* F***.

Beat the butter and sugar together until thoroughly mixed.  It will likely remain grainy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely.  Add the vanilla extract, orange liqueur, and orange zest.  Stir in the buttermilk and oil.

Mix in half of the flour mixture and half of the whole milk.  Repeat with the remaining flour mix and milk, stirring just until combined.

Using a scoop, fill cupcake tins about 3/4 of the way with batter.  Bake, checking for doneness at 15-18 minutes.  Cupcakes are done when an inserted toothpick has a few crumbs stuck to it.

Let cool and frost with Molly Yeh’s marzipan buttercream (1/2 recipe).  Top with sprinkles!!

*use 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder for sea-level
**use 2/3 c. whole milk for sea-level
***bake at 350* F for sea-level


xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Misty Morning by Travis Bretzer

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Spice Cupcakes with Penuche Frosting

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Merry merry merry merry merry merry Christmas!  Yesterday, I spent the entire day making Christmas treats with my mom.  This year we made my grandma’s butter cookies with walnuts, snickerdoodles, nut caramels, sugar cookies, and I also made a new recipe I’ll be posting about soon!  After all the baking commenced, we went to look at a huge Christmas light display held in Reno every year, and then we grabbed beers and burgers  for good measure.  It was the perfect way to celebrate my day off after my last final exam!

Although I will not be active over the next couple of days due to Christmas, I wanted to post one last recipe if you’re looking for yet another thing to bake for neighbors and friends (:  Around the holidays, I get a little cookied out (okay, sugared out in general), but every once in a while, I want to grab a piece of bread or pudding or something instead of another cookie.  This year, I decided to make spice cake with my grandma’s penuche frosting.  If you’ve never had penuche frosting before, 1. Um, why?, and 2. It’s this amazing, brown-sugar, caramely flavored frosting you make in 5 minutes on your stovetop.  It’s a frosting I never remember to make enough, and when I do, I’m transported back into family dinners as a little kid, eating this frosting but not knowing quite what it was.  And now I present it to you as I share some of my family nostalgia!

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As I’ve shared in the past, Reno is higher-altitude, so I made my high-altitude cake recipe, but I also have adjustments to make it at sea-level.  I like to use a different combination of spices each time in my cake, depending on what I have in my pantry at the time, but cinnamon always makes an appearance, because, well cinnamon.  Feel free to add spices if you like reeeally spicy cake, or cut back if spices aren’t your thing.  I love adding ginger, but you could always add a few grinds of black pepper and some cardamom for a chai-spiced cake, or you could add a little cayenne if you’re really feeling really crazy*.  Do what feels right.

*Clearly, my idea of getting crazy is disappointing, but if you add a little whiskey or wine to your holiday-baking spree, I’d be supes proud.

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P.S. This recipe is not exclusive to Christmas – it’s good year-round, especially in the fall!  I just posted it at Christmas, because I’m missing my grandparents (:  One of my favorite memories is making lefse with my grandma around the holidays for our traditional Norwegian dinner on Christmas Eve!  This year, I didn’t get around to making any, so if you’re a fellow Norwegian (Norski?  Norwegianite?) and have some laying around, send it my way!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Must Be Santa by She & Him

High-Altitude (and Sea-Level) Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream

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My life of late has been one big mess of a situation, and normally when that happens, I like to revert to simplicity rather than complicate things with multiple different factors.  Aside from a number of other difficult life events happening, last week I lost my grandmother unexpectedly.  Don’t worry though, this isn’t going to be a gloomy post :).  While of course I am incredibly sad, I also have some amazing memories of my grandma, growing up visiting her ranch out in Washoe, Nevada and riding horses.  My grandma loved Native American history and traveled around Nevada for archaeological digs. She had a huge passion for animals, particularly horses and dogs, and she loved making large, comforting meals for the family – and the dogs.  True story.  One time, my aunt had a friend over, and when she learned that the 2 roasted chickens resting peacefully on the counter were for the dogs, she may have lost her faith in humanity.

However, that was my grandma.  She was quiet, but she always made me laugh with her simple, non-obvious sense of humor.  Before we went shopping one day, we were walking out the door, and she raised her fist in the air and said with passionate spirit, “Let’s go kill something!”.  She could go to Sephora and spend $400 on just eyeshadow and nail polish.  She loved going to restaurants and talking to me about my plans for my education and travel.  She taught me to never take no for an answer.

And yellow cake with chocolate buttercream was her favorite cake.  She passed that on to the whole Hunt family, and aside from a special recipe for chocolate cake, this was always a family favorite that I associated with my grandma.

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Going back to simplicity, I think yellow cake with chocolate frosting is one of those classic recipes that everybody has some kind of connection with.  I love when food has a story behind it, and I definitely can think of happy memories behind this recipe.

Since moving to Reno, I have not been able to make a normal cake without it sinking and turning crusty.  I can make any other type of baked good, and it comes out beautifully, but cake does not come out ever.  I have since resorted to using high-altitude cake recipes, which at first I was sad about, because I have a perfect sea-level cake recipe, but luckily, I was able to find an amazing high-altitude cake recipe that I have tweaked to my liking.  It’s super easy, delicious, simple, and adaptable.  (But no worries!  If you live at sea-level, I have those adjustments for you also).

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*Adapted from Good Life Eats

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Sea-level adjustments: Use 1 Tbs. baking powder, 1 1/4 c. buttermilk, and 1 1/2 c. sugar.  Bake at 350*F for 14-16 minutes.

Cheers to an amazing lady.  I love you Gram!

XO SaraLynn

*Song of the Day: Songbird by Fleetwood Mac

How to Shrink TOMS and Why Tuesday is Not my Friend

This title may sound weird but it is definitely true.  Tuesday is not my friend.

But not just this Tuesday, every Tuesday.  Tuesday to me is the Monday to most people.  If that makes sense.  Why do I despise Tuesdays so much you ask?  Because on Monday, I can accept that I have to get up at an ungodly hour, try to put on my makeup still half asleep, eat a breakfast I’m not hungry for, and then spend 4  hours at school before completing the numerous tasks I have to do at home.

But then I have to do it again on Tuesday?!  Ughhhhhhh.

If I could choose the events that occur throughout my Tuesday, it would include these activities (in no particular order):

Eat Chinese food (preferably for breakfast)

Blog.

Have somebody bake me a cake that is not myself.

Buy clothes.

Stare at my ceiling.

Eat Chinese food.

Eat cake.

Eat ice cream.

Make a craft I’m not obligated to make.

Write a song.

Eat Chinese food.

Sleep all day.

Watch “Friends”

I wish life were like that.  However, since it’s not like that I try to make the best out of my Tuesday.

Things I found particularly good that made my Tuesday a little better:

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Making these confetti cupcakes.  They were so delicious (sorry, no recipe.  Then there would be no reason for my cupcake business ;))

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My piano.  Because I love my piano.

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Running shoes.  Because even though the thought of working out makes me cringe, I feel so much better afterwards.

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And lastly, the summer weather.  Only about 14 days of school left and I’m ready!

Clearly, this is my new attempt to make the hard days a little better, so if I post these once in a while, just work with me here.  Okay, now what you came here for.  How to shrink TOMS!

This year for Prom I decided to wear TOMS with my dress.  I bought them but when I tried them on they slipped right off my feet like flip flops 😦

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Sorry about the pictures.  They were taken at night time.

I wanted to shrink them in the wash, but I guess that will tear them to pieces.  Which I expected.  I mean, come on, handmade shoes won’t hold up being thrashed around in a medal cylinder.

Here’s how I shrunk my TOMS the easy way!

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Rinse your TOMS with hot water trying to avoid the leather part.  This will be really hard to do, and you will probably stop caring and give up.  It’s okay, it will dry.  They might stink a little though, so use some odor powder to rid of that!

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Set them out where it is hot!  Since I’m in Vegas, that was not difficult.  Next time though, I will dry them outside.  I just did it in the garage, and it was not as hot as I expected.

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When they’re dry, put them on!  They should shrink about 1/2-1 size.  If they are any bigger than that, return them.

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Here’s a picture of my and my boyfriend on Prom.  You can’t see my shoes but this is the dress they went with.  I’m so excited to see the pictures taken by our photographer!  Really can’t wait.

Also, it’s already 107 degrees in Vegas.  IN MAY!  This is getting crazy.  If you’ve never been in extreme heat like that, then you know why I’m so distraught.

Hope you all have a wonderful Tuesday 😉

XOXO Sara