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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Pistachio Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)

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I’m just going to start off this entire post with the disclaimer that this recipe for zimtsterne is absolutely not traditional.  I’ve been known around these parts to bastardize traditional recipes, such as when I baked a “New York” cheesecake with mascarpone + amaretto or when I made tater tot poutine.  And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about the internet, it’s that people get actually upset when you don’t make a recipe exactly like their recipe.  It’s the precise reason that I probably will never post a recipe for goulash or huevos rancheros, and why I keep disclaimers on these posts in the first place.  But I digress…this is about cookies.

Ever since I went to Germany, I’ve been obsessed with Germany.  Like, all I think of is Five Elephant and eating schnitzel with fries + mayo.  And then yesterday, I went to a local bakery in town, Bavarian World, and honest to god it’s probably one of my favorite places in Reno.  On one side, there’s a bakery/market that has absolutely the best baklava and pretzel rolls, and pecan cakes.  And then on the other side is a restaurant that I’ve never eaten at, but I have secret dreams of going on a date there Fast Times at Ridgemont High style.  While I was in line waiting to buy my pretzel rolls and roast beef for Christmas-day lunch, I saw a package of zimtsterne, a star-shaped cinnamon cookie,  which I had never heard of before, but then I got really excited (!!!) because I literally stayed up the night before trying to think of a cookie I could make with pistachios.  And even though zimtsterne is usually made with almonds, I am having a love affair with pistachios almost always, so I figured I could add those too.  Yay Bavarian World!!!

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This past week, I’ve had approximately three or four different Christmas parties to attend, and I am partied tf out.  I have spent two too many mornings hugging a Gatorade and popping Ibeuprofen for my headache after an evening of Moscow Mules and late-night tacos.  Which is why I spent my Friday night listening to She & Him Christmas albums and making this cookie dough.  And it was perfect, because it has to chill for at least a few hours, and it was perfectly chilly by the time I woke up to bake them this morning!  Traditionally these cookies are made with a meringue, but there are two ways you can go about things:

1. If you’re a sinner, you can just add the egg whites straight to the dough (hi), which yields a denser, chewier cookie.

2. If you’re a traditionalist, you can whip up a meringue and fold the nut mixture into the meringue which will result in a cookie reminiscent of a macaron.

Out of sheer laziness, and because the last time I whipped egg whites ended in an epic failure, I went with the “adding the egg whites” option, and I love that the texture is somewhat biscuit-y and chewy.  However, next time I’m going to try it the meringue way, because I also love airy cookies.

Now, if I can just somehow get myself back to Germany ASAP I promise to try real-life, traditional, Christmasy zimtsterne.  Scout’s honor.

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Pistachio Zimtsterne
Makes 28 two-inch cookies

INGREDIENTS

100 g ground, unsalted pistachios (about 1 c. whole)
200 g ground, unsalted almonds (about 2 c. whole)
100 g (about 1/2 c.) powdered sugar
50 g (1/3 c.) flour
2.5 g (1 tsp.) cinnamon
Zest of 1/2 orange
4.2 g (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
2 egg whites

Glaze

200 g (about 1 c.) powdered sugar
30 g (2 Tbs.) orange juice
30 g (2 Tbs.) milk
2 g (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract

In a food processor, combine pistachios and almonds.  Pulse until they are finely ground, but be careful not to grind them too much, or they’ll turn into a nut butter!  In a bowl, combine the ground nuts, powdered sugar, flour, cinnamon, and orange zest.  Stir in the vanilla extract and egg whites until a crumbly dough forms*.  Using your hands, knead until everything is mixed together and the dough forms.  Flatten, and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill at least an hour, but you can make it up to 2 days in advance.

Preheat oven to 350* F (170* C).  After the dough has chilled, roll it on a powdered-sugar surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Using a star-shaped cookie cutter, cut out about 28 cookies, re-rolling as necessary.  I like to dip the cookie cutter in powdered sugar before cutting, because it prevents sticking.  Line on a greased baking sheet.  They can be pretty close together, because they don’t puff up much.  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are very lightly browned.  Let cool completely.

*Alternatively, for airy cookies, you can whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the dry mixture into the egg whites, add the vanilla, and finish the recipe as directed.

While the cookies are baking, combine the remaining powdered sugar with the orange juice, milk, and vanilla.  I start with 1 Tbs. each of orange juice and milk and add more liquid to get my desired consistency of icing.  After the cookies have cooled, dip each one in the glaze.  Add sprinkles if desired!  Let harden, and keep stored in tupperware.


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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by She & Him

 

Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing

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While Insta has proven to me that the ~hip~ people of the world have been spending their weekends partying in bunny costumes, I have spent mine doing laundry, petting my hedgehog, and watching Stranger Things.  *raises the roof*.  I just got back from Toronto, where my friend Stephen took me to all kinds of breweries, Niagara Falls, aaaaand (!!) I had poutine for the first time!  Where can I get poutine in Reno??  I need it more frequently in my life!  Usually when it comes to deep-frying foods at home, I dodge it like it’s hot (the messssss), but for poutine, I might be willing to pull out all the stops.  Or maybe I can rig it with some extra-crispy tater tots right out of the oven?  Canadians: would that be sacrilege??

On another note, I will be spending my Halloween night eating white chili with my cousins and taking the kids trick-or-treating!  I found an amazing vintage 1960s dress at a thrift store the other day that I was planning on utilizing in my costume, but now that I’ll be walking around in the cold weather, I’m thinking of pulling out my classic Rosie the Riveter costume and calling it a day.  It’s almost a tradition at this point after all.

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A couple of weeks ago, I surprised my parents for their birthdays by coming home from London a week earlier than I told them.  (Although, they did end up going on vacation for their birthdays, so I had to pretend I was still in England for a few extra days yikes!).  I showed up at their front door and rang the doorbell cake-in-hand.  They were so excited, we went to a delicious steakhouse for dinner, and then we celebrated with this cake for dessert!  It was exactly what I wanting, and they loved their birthday present (me, obvs).  This cake was the perfect addition: a lightly sweetened pumpkin cake with a touch of sage flavor and a sticky brown sugar icing that tastes faintly of caramel and butter.  It’s the perfect fall dessert and makes a great addition to a Halloween party or even a Thanksgiving dessert table (it has sage in it after all!).  Plus, you can decorate it like a pumpkin or turkey or something if you really want to make it festive.  Obviously, I went the easy way with a few sage leaves and a rustic ‘happy birthday’ sign.  Have a spooky night!


Pumpkin + Sage Cake with Brown Sugar Icing
Serves 6-8

*Cake is for High-Altitude baking.  Please refer to alternative measurements if you do not live at high-altitude!*

Cake Ingredients

1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 c. + 6 Tbs. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder*
1/2 tsp. baking soda**
1 egg
1/2 c. Tbs. buttermilk
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350* F.  Grease and flour two 6-inch cake pans.  Combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.  In a medium bowl, cream the brown sugar, sugar, egg, buttermilk, pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract.  Add half of the flour mixture and half of the milk.  Then add the remaining flour mixture and milk.  Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake the cakes for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted toothpick shows a few crumbs.  Let the cakes cool.  Meanwhile prepare the icing (below).  Level each cake, and cut each cake in half so you have 4 even layers.  Spread frosting between each layer, stacking them until there are 4 cake layers.  Frost the outside of the cake.  Decorate as desired.

* Use 3/4 tsp. baking powder for regular-altitude recipes.
**Use 3/4 tsp. baking soda for regular-altitude recipes.

Icing Ingredients

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
1 3/4 – 2 c. powdered sugar

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add brown sugar.  Boil over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Cool to lukewarm – add milk.  Gradually add powdered sugar, and beat until thick.  If it becomes too stiff, add a little hot water to thin.  Frost over cake!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the day: Atmosphere by Joy Division

 

 

Cherry Coconut Macaroons

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Every once in a while, I actually get my life together enough to provide a seasonal recipe before the season actually ends.  Most of time, I end up making the recipe, taking about half the pictures, running out of time to finish taking the rest of the pictures, and decide I will keep them around until the next year when I can post that recipe.  And by the time the season rolls around again, I a. forget about it completely, b. have decided the recipe needs to be improved, or c. hate the pictures I’ve taken from the year before.

And the cycle continues.

But!  This year, I was actually responsible and got it all done, and now we have a springtime cookie recipe!  Eeee!  Also, not even kidding, I was able to get a couple of branches of the springtime cherry trees flowering a mere two. days. before they turned into dark purple leaves.  It was meant to be.

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These cherry macaroons were loosely inspired by smitten kitchen’s raspberry macaroons, which are 10/10, but I was looking for something a little different that had more of a “spring” vibe.  I always think of cherries when spring rolls around, because the cherry trees bloom like crazy around Reno once it hits March.  We also have these absolutely gorgeous trees that bloom little white flowers (as seen in a post from last year), and I absolutely loooove them, except I just learnt a dirty little nickname for them (prompted by a certain smell they give off) that I will keep off my family-friendly PG-13 blog, but let’s just say it rhymes with sum-trees *insert blushing-face emoji*.  If you really need more information, there’s a very entertaining article about it here.

The more you know.  I guess that’s what they mean when they say “Spring is in the air!”.  Thanks internet!

But anyways, is this really a topic we should be discussing in the presence of innocent, delicate, spring-time cookies that summon images of blossoms, bunnies, and little chickies popping out of eggs?  No.  But it is me after all, and this is just the kind of thing we can expect on SSL.

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One of my favorite aspects of these macaroons is that they are not quite as crackly as most macaroons I have tried in the past.  Luckily for us, Cooks Illustrated solved all of our coconuty-problems with one simple solution: just puree the coconut in a food processor!  Yay!  Also, I loooove that I don’t have to whip egg whites for 20 minutes, which is traditional in most macaroon recipes.  so. much. easier!

Lastly, while I think this is the perfect recipe for Easter-fun, I also just discovered that this is a kosher-approved cookie for my friendies celebrating Passover!  Macaroons for all!

Oh wait, P.S. I highly recommend drizzling some of these with chocolate and a sprinkle of chopped pistachios.  I used semi-sweet, but white chocolate or milk chocolate would work too!

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xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: The Next Time Around by Little Joy

Matcha Kettle Corn

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I know that St. Patty’s Day is not a super celebrated holiday in the U.S. (and probably we don’t really celebrate the correct way), but I’ve always felt drawn to it purely based on the fact that my favorite color is green.  As a little girl who was obsessed with green, I thought it was the coolest that there was a holiday where everyone wore my favorite color.  And now, I’m planning my trip for Ireland, and guuuuyyyyyys.  I’m crushing hard on Ireland.  Based on pictures, I’m pretty sure I’m utterly in love.

I’m a little bummed about this St. Patty’s Day this year, because I’m having surgery the day before, so no beer or corned beef for me wah wah 😦  But then!  I was innocently going about my day, and god knows why, but I started thinking about kettle corn (do I really need a reason?), and then suddenly without hesitation, matcha kettle corn popped into my brain, and what better way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day than with green kettle corn?!

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Remember in elementary school when we would have parties for all the holidays, and without fail, at every single celebration, someone’s mom would make those sweet popcorn balls with shit tons of Yellow 6 and Red 40 and Blue 294u304889?  I have a vivid memory of trying my damnedest to bite into one, but it was absolutely impossible, and why did no one’s mom just think to make regular kettle corn?  Anyways, the point is that matcha popcorn is essentially an adult-friendly throwback to green-colored sweet popcorn balls except without the poison, so you’re welcome !!

Notes: As for the matcha part of this kettle corn, I would say you have to be a pretty big fan of matcha to enjoy this, but did I’m sure you already figured.  If you want a light coating, start with about 1 tsp. of matcha (or less if you want a reeeeally light coating), and then add another 1/2 tsp. if you want a little more flavor.  I liked it with 1 1/2 tsp., but I’m a matcha nut.  Also, I believe that the kettle corn is perfectly sweet with 1/4 c. of sugar, especially to balance the earthiness of the tea, but feel free to use less if you don’t like sugary kettle corn.  My dad, who doesn’t like super sugary kettle corn, told me that it was the perfect balance of sweet, so take that as you will.

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XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Abducted by Cults

 

Salted Caramel Sauce + Brownie Party!

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Over the weekend, I came to the conclusion that I have a brownie problem.  I think that brownies have the potential to be super delicious or super not delicious, but I seem to never turn them down either way, so who am I to judge?  It’s just really hard to avoid making brownies, when my recipe tastes like damn fudge and only takes 15 minutes to mix together.  I think the brownies themselves are really inhibiting my creativity and motivation to try new goodies on the weekend, because why try a recipe that miiiight be good when I know my brownies will turn out flawless regardless?  Also, I have a list of recipes to try, and I just get overly excited about all of them that it turns into overwhelming anxiety about all the things I want to try in the world.  Someone please tell me this also happens to them?

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Anyways, the whole reason for the brownies is that I decided this past weekend was Galentine’s weekend which means I had my friends over to eat mac n cheese, drink rosé, and of course, have a brownie party!  However, since I’m currently a single lady, this week will also be spent celebrating Galentine’s, because yay for lady love!  The Galentine’s party consisted of lots of food plus spending a solid 2+ hours talking about uteruses and weird men we meet at bars, so it was a fairly solid girls’ night if you ask me.  Also!  I made homemade caramel sauce for the first time in forever, and it didn’t even take me a million tries to get it right!  The Galentine’s goddess was looking down on me, and I’ve been blessed.

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Here’s a guide to throwing your own brownie party!

  1. Start with my homemade 15-minute brownies, because they’re just perfect.
  2. Make a few yummy fillings!  I had chocolate pudding and whipped cream.  You don’t need a ton of fillings, because it’s really all about the toppings!
  3. Lots of toppings is key.  I had animal cookies, pretzels, PB cups, mini M&Ms, chocolate kisses, and Oreos!  Oh, and salted caramel sauce!
  4. Have some cute little cups for assembly.  I used my candlewick teacups and other glass mugs I had laying around the house, but you can use anything.
  5. Have everything prepared before people come over, so you can just put everything on the table when it’s dessert time.  Otherwise, you’ll be placing pudding in bowls when you could be talking about uteruses and dumb men (aka the important stuff).

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Have a beautiful day celebrating love.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song by Jim Croce

 

Fairy Bread Muffins

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Happy Monday!!

If you’ve been on Instagram any time recently, and you have some American friends, you’ve probably noticed a couple of trends within our posts:

  1. Women are really stepping up in our political climate (woo!!), and
  2. We’re obsessed with rainbow foods

While the first trend makes my heart soar, the second one is a big “meh” from me.  Although rainbow food is probably the happiest food ever, and it look really nice on Insta posts with a NYC cityscape in the background,  I don’t know if I could handle eating something with those colors.  Does anyone know if those dyes do something funky to your insides?  Do all those foods taste like chemicals?  The amount of food coloring added to get those vibrant colors just has to be astonishing…

However, my opinion has insufficient impact on the subject, because people are rainbow-ing literally everything they can get their slippery food coloring into.  U.S. restaurants and bakeries are a unicorn’s freaking dream – try as I might, I can’t get away from it.  And what do you do when you can’t beat them?  Join them!  And what do you do when you refuse to add entire bottles of dye in your food?

SPRINKLES!!!

– which is a totally acceptable and subtle form of rainbow-ing food.  (I would know.  I have an expansive sprinkle collection).

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Once the rainbow-food-trend got exponentially out of hand, and we Americans claimed it as our own, Australians were kind of like, “yo, wtf?”, because it turns out they’ve been eating a colorful treat called fairy bread basically this whole damn time.  In case you missed it, fairy bread is strictly just white bread + butter + sprinkles, and oh, it also has the cutest name everrrrr.  Anyway, I decided to do some extensive research on the subject, because these are the things that I care about, and I’ve learned a few tips from multiple articles that I have read – basically, Americans have a few things wrong:

  1. It’s never been called fairy toast, it’s fairy bread – a very important aspect.
  2. It’s not eaten as a snack or breakfast – it’s used as a birthday cake replacement at children’s parties.
  3. When making this treat, artisan breads, hand-rolled butter, and organic sprinkles are unwelcome.  Seriously, it’s just white bread, a pat of butter, and nonpareils.

However, many Australians are really being good sports about it all, even complimenting some of the quirks we’ve added to our fairy bread in America – fancy sprinkles, thicker toast, and one article even mentioned that they think eating fairy bread for breakfast is GENIUS.  So, I guess it’s not all bad.

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After hearing about fairy bread, I felt the sudden urge to write a blog post about it before realizing that, hey, you guys are probably smart enough to figure out how to slather butter on some Wonder bread followed by a handful of sprinklies.  And then I realized that muffins are a totally acceptable form of breakfast food and thought “Why not merge the two?”

Basically, I made a dense, slightly sweet muffin, filled it with sprinkles, and added a buttery glaze with extra sprinkles on top.  Is it fairy bread?  No.  Is it inspired by fairy bread?  Absolutely.  Is it just an excuse for me to eat funfetti for breakfast in a socially acceptable manner?  You bet your sweet ass it is.

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Do you know any fun foods that are not well-known?  Comment below, I’d love to hear!

XO Sara Lynn

*Song of the Day: Favorite Song by Kaiser Cartel