German Chocolate Cupcakes

March 30, 2012
German Chocolate Cupcakes ~ chocolate cupcakes topped with creamy chocolate frosting and the ever-classic German chocolate cake coconut-pecan topping.  They're a delicious mix of chocolate cake, scrumptious chocolate frosting, and ooey-gooey coconut-pecan topping in every bite!

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Sshhhhhhh ... don't tell my husband ... I think I have a new love. 

Well, it's just a chocolate love, so maybe he'll be okay with it.

When a friend of mine made German Chocolate Cupcakes for a Cupcake Bar our teacher-team hosted a couple of weeks back, I immediately fell in love.  I love, love, love German chocolate cake ... especially the ooey-gooey coconutty topping ... but I never thought of making it in cupcake form.

German Chocolate Coconut-Pecan Topping

Why not?  What is wrong with me??  I'm happy to say that this lapse in thinking has been corrected.

To make these amazingly fabulous German Chocolate Cupcakes, my friend first just bakes up chocolate cupcakes.  You can use any ol' chocolate cupcake recipe you'd like, or whip 'em up from a cake mix.  Whatever fits your fancy.  I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook, which I've included below.

Then she tops the chocolate cupcakes with that ever-classic German chocolate cake coconut topping.  But wait!!!!  Before that, she frosts the cupcakes with chocolate frosting!  So, yes, you get a delicious mixture of chocolate cake, creamy chocolate frosting, and ooey-gooey coconut topping in each bite.  G-E-N-I-U-S!!!  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  It's soooooo good.

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Here again, you can use any chocolate frosting you'd like so if you've got a favorite, go with it.  For the coconut topping that's the hallmark of German chocolate cupcakes, you can buy that pre-made.  Personally, I think it tastes soooo much better to make it homemade ... and it's pretty easy.  So, if you've never made it homemade, I strongly encourage you to give it a whirl.  I used my Mom's recipe, which I've included below.

Hmmmmm.  So, to tell or not to tell my husband about my new German Chocolate Cupcakes love?  That is the question.
German Chocolate Cupcakes
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German Chocolate Cupcakes
Source: Chocolate cupcakes & frosting adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook; Coconut topping from my Mom

Chocolate Cupcakes:
  • 3/4 c. + 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 3 T. cocoa powder
  • A scant 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. whole milk (I also tried it with 2% milk, and it worked fine)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. Put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt, and butter in mixing bowl. Beat on slow speed until everything is combined and you have a crumb mixture with a sandy consistency.
  2. Whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Slowly pour about half the milk mixture into the flour mixture. Beat on low speed to combine. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat for just a few seconds to remove any lumps.
  3. With the mixer back on low speed, pour in the remaining milk mixture. Beat until all ingredients are just incorporated. Beat for about another 30 seconds to one minute until the batter is smooth. Do not over mix.
  4. Spoon batter into muffin pan cups lined with paper cupcake liners, filling cups 1/2 full. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool slightly in the pan before removing cupcakes to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting.
  5. Frost with chocolate frosting and top with coconut-pecan topping.

(NOTE: This recipe makes 12 cupcakes. And it really does make 12! Fill your cups only 1/2 full, as this batter rises quite a bit. When I divided the batter between only 10 muffin cups, I had several that rose over the sides of the cups way too much. If you're like me, you'll feel like there's not enough batter to stretch to 12 cupcakes ... but there really is.  Also, I know the mixing method seems a bit unconventional ... but trust me, it really works and creates a wonderful cupcake!  I talk about the mixing method in my The BEST Vanilla Cupcakes post.)

Chocolate Frosting:
  • 2 1/3 c. confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 6 T. unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 T. milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  1. Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. Reduce speed to low and add sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for about 15 seconds between each addition. Add cocoa powder and beat for 15 seconds. Increase speed to medium and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add salt, vanilla and milk, beating on low speed to combine. Increase speed to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down sides once or twice. Pipe onto cupcakes.

Coconut-Pecan Topping:
  • 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. evaporated milk
  • 8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 1/4 c. sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 c. chopped pecans
  • Pecan halves for tops of cupcakes (optional)
  1. Combine evaporated milk, egg yolks, butter, sugar, coconut, and salt in a medium saucepan. Stir until combined.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until thick, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract and chopped pecans. Let cool to lukewarm.
  3. Top each frosted cupcake with a bit of coconut topping. Place a pecan half on top (optional).


Please enjoy these other scrumptious cupcakes from The Kitchen is My Playground ...


Spring Cupcake Bar

March 24, 2012

Spring has sprung!  And what better way to celebrate than with a cupcake bar?

At our school, we have an after school teacher get-together every couple of months or so called 'Downtime.'  It's a time for us teachers to just chill out a little bit and enjoy a time of fellowship together.  You'd be surprised how little we actually get to talk to one another!  Our attention during the school day ... as it should ... goes to our students - not to one another!

Well, this time around the 1st grade team (of which I'm a part) and 4th grade team were our Downtime hosts.  And our Downtime day just so happened to fall on the first day of Spring.  In honor of the first day of Spring, we chose to host a Spring cupcake bar as our Downtime treat.  And what a fabulous treat it was!

I can take absolutely zero credit for the idea ... the kudos for that go to my friends and teammates Dana and Shelley.  They and some others did all the work on the cute decoration stuff and set up of the event.  I did what I do best ... baked cupcakes!  I whipped up a batch of Coconut Cupcakes (click to see the recipe post) and Neapolitan Cupcakes (not yet posted - I'm still tweaking the frosting ... it's just not quite right yet).

Now, here's the crazy thing that happened with me on the day of the event ... I almost didn't make it to attend the cupcake bar!  I came squealing in with my cupcakes and serving dishes literally 15 minutes before the event started.  Why?  Well, because I had spent that night in the emergency room with my husband who was passing a kidney stone.  After a *bit* of pain and patience, he's now totally fine ... but it was a looooonng night.  We got home and got him settled just in time for me (and my cupcakes!) to make it to the event.

In the midst of the craziness of the day, I ran out of the house without my camera.  So, the following photos from the event itself are taken with my friend Shelley's phone camera.  I then brought some of the cute stuff home with me and took more pictures with my regular camera.

So just check out this adorable Spring cupcake bar!  It was set up in the library of our school.  The cupcake bar itself was on top of one of the bookshelves, and we used the library tables for seating.  So ... this idea can work about anywhere!

Here's the cupcake bar itself ...

My friend Andrea wrote the names of each cupcake, in her beautiful handwriting, just on the tablecloth paper itself.  Those are my coconut cupcakes, and German chocolate cupcakes made by my friend Pat.  I'll be making those soon ... they were delicious.

We decorated with lots of Peeps and other Easter candies.  Isn't the Peep peeping out of the dish of robin eggs cute?  And take a look at the pineapple upside-down cupcakes my friend Andrea made!  She's giving me that recipe soon ...

The tables were decorated with Peeps, jelly bean daffodils, and butterflies.

And just look at these Spring-decorated water bottles!  So cute.

Now here are some photos I took once I got back home so I could share more details with you.  The decorations were so cute! 

First up - the butterflies.  Shelley simply cut butterfly shapes from decorative scrapbook papers and then slipped them onto a plastic fork so they'd have some 'height' and a little 'look of flight.'

You just position the fork so that two tines are on the back of the paper butterfly ...

... and two tines are on the front.  Easy sneezy!

Next up - the jelly bean daffodils.  Again, Shelley cut daffodil shapes from decorative paper.  Then she glued a mini cupcake liner in the center ...

... and filled it with jelly beans.  These were just so adorable on the tables!

And finally - the water bottles.  The water bottles were decorated with strips of pastel paper cut with decorative scissors.  Then, Spring embellishments were attached with glue pop dots.  So sweet!

Such a fun event!  I can't wait to make Pat's German chocolate cupcakes and Andrea's pineapple upside-down cupcakes.  I'll definitely be adding those two recipes to my line-up.

Happy Spring everyone!

Decorations Pinspired by:
Jelly bean daffodils - Martha Stewart's Daffodil Candy Cups
Decorated water bottles - The Creative Party Place

Spicy Tomato Bacon Spaghetti

March 20, 2012

I love spaghetti!  So, when this month's Crazy Cooking Challenge came around with the challenge of spaghetti with red sauce, I was stoked.  (Yes, I did grow up during the 80's, in case you were wondering ... ya know, with my cool use of the word stoked and all.)  So many spaghetti possibilities!!!  In my search for my challenge entry, I found way more than one spaghetti dish of interest.  For the challenge, I went with Pizza Spaghetti Bake, but that wasn't the only spaghetti dish whipped up in my kitchen during my challenge preparations.  Nope.  I also fell in love with this Tomato Bacon Pasta from Just One Cookbook.  Delicious.

With a generous dose of crushed red pepper simmered in the sauce, this dish is in line with the flavors of a spicy Pasta Amatriciana served at one of my favorite local Italian restaurants.  I'm excited to now know how to prepare this at home!  But with the addition of bacon, I think this version may even kick the restaurant dish's pa-tooty!

I cooked up some applewood smoked bacon and combined it with lots of chopped onion, some garlic, diced tomatoes, and crushed red pepper ...

... and let that simmer together to become a beautiful bacon-y red sauce.

Then I added cooked spaghetti and lots of fresh parsley, tossed it all together ...

... and topped it off with freshly grated Parmesan and more parsley.  The result?  A dish that's both delicious and beautiful.  As we say at our house, it's a keeper!  Most definitely.

Spicy Tomato Bacon Spaghetti
1/2 of a 13 or 14 oz. package spaghetti  (I used whole wheat)
8 slices applewood smoked bacon, chopped  (you could use regular bacon just fine)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. red chili pepper flakes
2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 c. reserved cooking water from cooking the pasta
1/2 c. chopped fresh parsley
Sea salt & freshly grated black pepper, to taste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Additional chopped fresh parsley

1.  Cook spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions.  When spaghetti is cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Drain spaghetti and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, cook bacon in a large skillet until just browned, about 5 minutes; drain.  Add onion and garlic to the drained bacon; cook until onion is translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes.  Add red chili pepper flakes, diced tomatoes with juice, and reserved pasta water.  Stir to combine.

3.  Bring to a simmer and then cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

4.  Add the pasta and 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley; toss to coat.  Top individual servings with grated Parmesan and additional chopped parsley.



Shrimp and Grits Casserole

March 15, 2012
A creamy and comforting Southern staple in casserole form ~ delicious Shrimp and Grits Casserole.

Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Shrimp and grits.  It's totally a southern-tradition dish with which I was absolutely unfamiliar until I moved to North Carolina.  I'll admit, I was afraid to try it at first. And now?  It's one of my favorites!

Now, a lot of shrimp and grits dishes are spicy - this one certainly is not. It's a very mild-flavored, cheesy, shrimpy grits casserole-style dish, without the typical spice.  

Shrimp and Grits Casserole

To whip up this Southern favorite, start by cooking up your grits. I've learned from my Southern friends, who've grown up cooking grits, that the secret to good grits is to add the grits to the liquid mixture very slowly. Whisk them constantly while you're adding the grits, and cook them until they're very thick.

When you're just starting they'll look like this: ...

Making Shrimp and Grits Casserole

... and will look nice and thick like this when they're done:

Making Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Once your grits are cooked, stir in some Parmesan, cream cheese, chives, parsley, shrimp, and other good stuff.

Making Shrimp and Grits Casserole

Bake it up ...

Shrimp and Grits Casserole
... and serve up a big ol' plate full.  Then dig in to this creamy comfort food.  I like mine with a side of lima beans or sauteed cabbage.

Yuuuuuuuum.  It's total comfort on a plate. 

Shrimp and Grits Casserole
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Shrimp and Grits Casserole
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine
(Printable recipe)
  • 2 c. milk {I use whole milk, but any 'slimmer' variety is fine too}
  • 3/4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. quick-cooking grits
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. butter
  • 4 oz. cream cheese {less fat Neufchatel-type is fine}
  • 2 T. chopped fresh chives {or you can use dried}
  • 3 T. chopped fresh parsley {or 1 T. dried parsley}
  • 1 T. lemon juice
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 lb. peeled raw shrimp, roughly chopped
  1. Bring milk and chicken broth to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually add grits and salt to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly.
  2. Remove grits from heat. Stir in Parmesan, butter, and cream cheese until melted; then stir in remaining ingredients.
  3. Spoon grits mixture into a 11x7" baking dish generously coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until set and the top is just starting to get some golden brown areas.

Please enjoy these other creamy & comforting casseroles from The Kitchen is My Playground ...


No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert

March 9, 2012
With layers of graham crackers and fluffy vanilla pudding, this classic No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert is creamy, delicious, and comforting.  And it's ALWAYS a big hit!

Creamy & delicious No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert Image ~ always a HUGE hit.

 I've actually posted this deliciously creamy, comforting No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert before.  Back in the first couple of months of the blog.  When I had like 2 followers.  And I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  (Not that I really know what I'm doing now, either ... but I have learned at least a little bit in the past year!)   So since this is one of my all-time favorites, I decided it was worthy of posting again.

And now back to our No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert.

I mean seriously, can you say comfort food? And super easy? And super yummy? And chocolate-y??

Well, all those things are wrapped up together in this one creamy dessert.

With layers of graham crackers and fluffy vanilla pudding, this classic dessert is creamy, delicious, and comforting.  And it's ALWAYS a big hit!

This is one of those been-around-forever recipes.  Somehow, though, I didn't learn about it until just a couple of years ago.  I was introduced to it by my mother-in-law, and after just one bite, I knew exactly why it's been around forever. Because it just plain tastes so good!

Just look at those gorgeous, creamy layers.  And a fudgy chocolate topping sure doesn't hurt.

No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Cake Image

Now, I love to bake, and I certainly don't shy away from complex dessert recipes. But sometimes I want something tasty that just so happens to be easy, too.

This creamy dessert sure fits the bill when it comes to the easy category.

For this No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert, you simply start with graham crackers, instant vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip . Mix the pudding and Cool Whip together - then resist the urge to dive in with a spoon and eat it all up at this point ... wait for the final product ... it's worth it, I promise. 

I love to bake, and I certainly don't shy away from complex dessert recipes. But sometimes I want something tasty that just so happens to be easy, too. This creamy dessert sure fits the bill when it comes to the easy category. 

Then layer this fluffy pudding mixture with the graham crackers. You just lay the whole graham cracker sheets in the pan and spread them with the pudding. How easy is that?

Making Pudding Layer for No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert Image

Once you're done your graham cracker and pudding layers, boil together some sugar with cocoa and milk, and then add butter and vanilla.

Pour all that chocolatey yumminess over the top graham cracker layer.

Making Chocolate Topping Layer for No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert Image

Now lick the spoon ... and the pudding bowl ... you deserve it.

Refrigerate the dessert over night, and then dig in!

How to Make No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert Image

You'll be surprised how yummy and satisfying this super-simple concoction is.  It's totally fabulous for pot-lucks.  

And in our house it's not at all relegated to dessert ... Mark says it makes a great breakfast.  I certainly wouldn't know what he's talking about on that, though.  Okay, okay ... I may be fibbing about that ...

No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert photo
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Watch us make this delicious dessert:

No-Bake Chocolate Eclair Dessert
Source: My Mother-in-Law
  • 1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/2 c. butter {1 stick}
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. FOR THE FILLING:  Combine dry pudding mix and 3 cups milk; beat until well mixed. Stir in Cool Whip.
  2. Place a layer of graham crackers in the bottom of a 9x13" dish. Spread 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the graham crackers. Repeat with another layer of graham crackers and pudding; then top with a final layer of graham crackers.
  3. FOR THE TOPPING:  In a medium-sized saucepan, bring cocoa, milk, and sugar to a full rolling boil; boil about 1 minute, stirring very frequently. Remove from heat and cool one minute. Add butter and vanilla; stir until butter is melted.
  4. Pour chocolate topping over the top layer of graham crackers. Spread evenly to completely cover graham crackers.
  5. Refrigerate over night.

**PLEASE NOTE:  As of October 2016, I have heard from some readers that the size of the pudding package has changed.  CHECK your package size!!  You may need to buy an extra package of pudding to be sure you have a total of 7 ounces of dry pudding mix ... if you don't, the filling may be soupy and not set up.  (Or, you could reduce the amount of milk proportionally to the "new" amount of pudding you have if your packages are smaller ... but then you would have less filling.)

Enjoy!  (Seriously, enjoy! ... this stuff is soooooo good.)

Enjoy these other scrumptious no-bake desserts from The Kitchen is My Playground ...

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