Valentine Series: Natalie’s Cupcakes

I am excited to share a second guest post today from an old friend as part of my Valentine Series.  Natalie was one of my best friends when we were in lower/middle school.  We both lived in Lewisville – way out in the country- so I’m sure our mothers loved that we could have play dates in the neighborhood. Natalie and I lost touch when she moved away from North Carolina but have reconnected in the past few years, both attending law school and baking/cooking along the way.
These pictures are from 1992 when we were in second grade at a Valentines party – thank you Natalie for digging these up!  She is in an adorable white pinafore and bow while I’m in a more questionable turtleneck/sweater combo.  I’m clearly pretty pumped to be at the party – always a big fan of Valentine’s Day!
i’m far left, in the sweet turtleneck

natalie in ruffles and bows!

Natalie and her cute husband, Seamus, got married this past May in New Orleans.  You can find her great blog Wife Life, here.  Natalie is now clerking for a judge while she studies to take the bar exam but I think you’ll agree with me after you read below, that her true calling is in a bakery! Check back for another post from Natalie about their Valentines day later in the week.

N: Hi everyone, Natalie Whelton here.  Valentine’s is one of my favorite holidays for the sole reason that I can eat an inordinate amount of chocolate and candy without judgement 🙂  I love to bake and I have been dying to make these cupcakes http://sweetopia.net/2011/01/how-do-you-store-royal-icing-and-how-long-can-you-keep-it/ so when Sally asked me to be a guest blogger I had a legitimate reason to make them.  While it was a bit time consuming, the finished product made it so worth it!  Click on the links for my supplies (mostly Michaels and Sur la Table)
Enjoy!

Cupcakes: (Barefoot Contessa’s Coconut Cupcakes minus the coconut http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/coconut-cupcakes-recipe/index.html)

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
24 muffin liners: http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-676957/Pink-Polka-Dot-Bake-Cups

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner 3/4 full. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 cups of Confectioner’s sugar
2 drops of red food coloring
Witon’s sanding sugar (http://www.wilton.com/store/site/product.cfm?sku=pg_sparklingsugars)

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extracts, and food coloring. Add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.  Top with frosting then dip in the sanding sugar.

Fondant Hearts:
Pink fondant: http://www.michaels.com/Pink-Fondant-8oz/bk1002,default,pd.html?start=8&cgid=products-bakeware-duffgoldman
Heart cutter: http://www.surlatable.com/product/PRO-1658/Ateco-Small-Aspic-Cutters

Roll fondant out to about 1/2 thick.  If it is too hard to roll out, put it in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.  If it sticks, use confectioner’s sugar.

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