Remember that time I made treats for my son’s teachers all year, and then about a month before the end of the school year learned that one of them was allergic to almonds. Which, of course, happened to be included in all of the aforementioned treats. Yeah, I do too. Major fail.
With but a week standing between me and summer break, I set out to make something delicious and beautiful for the teachers, now armed with the knowledge that they were not to include almonds or honey. I had been on a major cookie roll so I decided a switch to cupcakes was in order.
While a single beautiful cupcake design is lovely, there is something about a trio of cups that just can’t be beat. The extra flavor offerings ensure something for everyone, and the visual appeal can’t be denied. Nobody has time for three scratch batters, though. Am I right or am I right?! So why not start with a single *box mix* (oh snap, I went there!) and add a variety of flavors to create several unique cupcakes. I threw caution to the wind and set out to make my trio of cups:
- Chocolate dipped strawberry
- Citrus and pineapple with toasted coconut
- Chocolate and peanut butter buckeye
You can see all of the added ingredients I threw into the batter, here:
For the citrus cupcake, I pureed some fresh pineapple (but only used a bit for the batter so as not to add too much liquid!) toasted some coconut flakes, and added the zest of one lime. For the chocolate buckeye cup I added cocoa powder and mini semi-sweet chips. And for the chocolate dipped strawberry I tossed in some pureed strawberries, a few drops of strawberry emulsion, good vanilla extract, and drop or two of pink food coloring.
I filled my liners using a melon baller to make sure they were all about the same size, and baked as directed on the box.
While the cupcakes cooled, I set about making a unique filling for each variety. For the fruit fillings, I mixed fruit puree with a touch of sugar and cornstarch (used for thickening) and heated in a sauce pan on low heat until bubbly and delicious.
- PRO TIP: The amount of sugar you use in a fruit filling is purely up to your taste and the flavor you are going for. I always, however, use about half as much cornstarch as I do sugar. Mix the cornstarch and sugar in a separate bowl prior to adding it to your sauce pan, and continually stir your filling once over heat to avoid any clumps of cornstarch.
For my pineapple and strawberry fillings I also added fruit zests (lime with pineapple and orange with strawberry) for a touch of acidity to offset all that sweet. I threw in some coconut in my pineapple filling as well, just because.
Moving on to my chocolate cupcake, I set out to make a peanut butter filling reminiscent of my favorite homemade candies… the peanut butter buckeye. You know, these delicious balls of goodness. I used a stand mixer to combine a healthy dose of peanut butter and powdered sugar with a touch of softened butter and vanilla extract. Ummmm… totally crave-worthy, y’all.
For the cupcake toppings I decided to make two base recipes, a simple chocolate ganache along with a basic buttercream, and use them in a few different ways. I spooned the ganache onto my chocolate covered strawberry cakes prior to whipping up the remainder to be piped along side some extra peanut butter filling for my buckeye cakes.
The pineapple filled cakes were topped with plain buttercream laced with lime juice and zest. I finished with a garnish for each cupcake… toasted coconut for my tropical cake, gold nonpareils on my buckeyes, and cute little chocolate dipped strawberry atop a dollop of strawberry buttercream on my chocolate dipped strawberry cakes.
And… Viola… three bakery-style cupcakes from one *shhh* box. I think the teachers will be pleased!
So what do you think? If you had a boring old box of white cake mix in your pantry and an afternoon to spare, what would you throw in your cupcakes to make them all your own? Won’t you please share an idea or two with me in the comments below? I’d love to give your ideas a go!