Cupcake Friday Project

A one-woman test kitchen meets nano-bakery

Sour cherries, summer baking, and food writing

Table Matters Tarte Diem post

It’s been nearly a month since I last posted … yikes.

Since then, I’ve road-tripped to Asheville with Ray, picked sour cherries, wrote about sour cherries, baked cookies, made caramel corn, and baked a bunch of cupcakes.  All in the heat of Philly’s summer, which let me tell you, is not the most pleasant when your kitchen is tiny and very far away from the AC window unit.

Summer has also drained away some of my baking inspiration, which has been sort of eating away at me. But, my somewhat monthly writing gig for Table Matters has been pretty awesome, and helps me stir up some baking mojo.

Cherry Cheese Pie Recipe for Table Matters

My post about sour cherries was the first that was photographed by their staff photographer, and wow. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen my desserts look this good before!

Rosemary Sour Cherry Galette recipe for Table Matters

And those cookies I mentioned? Well they turned out divine; I think I have a new base I can use for everything from chocolate chip to dried fruit cookies. Look for a post in the next week or so!

And I think once the weather cools off and the busyness of summer calms down, I’ll be back in the kitchen and telling you all about it.

Fried & True: Stepping away from the oven and up to the skillet

Fried and True

Though it’s not baking related, I HAD to share this new book, Fried & True by Lee Brian Schrager and Adeena Sussman (with a sassy and thoughtful foreword by Whoopi Goldberg). The big pull for me, I have to admit, was that this book contains THE recipe for some of the most amazing fried chicken I’ve ever eaten, from Federal Donuts in Center City, Philadelphia.

The book contains more than 50 recipes for fried chicken, and yes, if you didn’t think it was possible to make fried chicken 50 different ways, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find out how wrong you are.

Fried & True is broken up into the following sections:

  • Southern Inspiration
  • American Originals
  • Pacific Rim
  • Sandwiches, Wings, Li’l Bits, and Special Diets

And it offers a little something for everyone, including delicious side dishes such as biscuits, hash brown casserole, smothered cabbage, as well as recipes for rubs, sauces, brings and more.

I was happy to see that the book doesn’t skimp on food photography … almost every other page has a stunning photo of fried chicken and sides. Of course, excellent photography adds to the visual appeal of flipping through a book, but I also think it’s extremely helpful to be able to look at food photos for guidance. Does my chicken look like that? Yes? Ok then … time to eat!

The front of the book, even before diving into the recipes, has a full photograph tutorial showing how to break down a full chicken, as well as a spread explaining the variety of fats and oils that can be used (I totally geeked out while looking through the book for the first time on the couch with Ray, exclaiming, “Ohmigod, it includes the smoke points!!!” I’m such a nerd.)

My only criticism is that paperbacks don’t always make for the best cookbooks because they’re hard to keep open without weighing them down with something, and then things can become awkward. But if that’s the only beef I have with this book, then I can look past it.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Pecan pie caramel corn

Pecan pie caramel corn

I realize that pecan pie is more of an autumn dessert, but I couldn’t resist! That, and I had a bag of pecans I wanted to use up, so it made sense to craft this delectable caramel corn.

When looking up pecan pie recipes, however, I didn’t see any of them using spices, which perplexed me. So I decided to use cinnamon and cloves, since I felt like those two spices would support the molasses and pecans best.

And I was right!

Pecan pie caramel corn

Yield: Approximately 26 oz


1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp molasses
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups pecans


Heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large dutch oven, combine the olive oil and popcorn kernels over medium high heat. Put the lid on, and pop, shaking the pot from time to time. When the popping stops, remove the popcorn from the heat.

Sort through the popcorn, removing the unpopped kernels. Return the popcorn to the dutch oven, and set aside.

To make the caramel, melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Once melted, add the brown sugar and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the molasses, then turn the heat up and boil the caramel for 2-3 minutes until a deep amber.

Add the salt, cinnamon and ground cloves, stirring to combine.

Add the baking soda, stirring until dissolved (the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color).

Add the vanilla, but be careful. The caramel will sputter when a liquid is added. Stir to combine.

Pour in the pecans, stirring to coat.

Pour the caramel over the popcorn in the dutch oven and stir to coat.

Pour the caramel corn onto the parchment paper, spread out, and place in the oven.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 20 minutes.

Once done baking, cool on a rack for 5-10 minutes before enjoying. Store in an air tight container to keep the popcorn fresh.

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Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie butter frosting

Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie butter frosting

Another month, and another cupcake taking its inspiration from a dessert. This time? The humble sugar cookie, which, when done right, is delightful on its own, with tea, or dressed with a simple icing.

For the cake, I kept it simple, using my tender and fluffy vanilla cake. This recipe bakes up beautifully and fills the entire house with the alluring scent of vanilla. Then, I used a secret weapon in the frosting: cookie butter spread. Some know it as Speculoos, or Biscoff Cookie Spread. I know some people who SWEAR by Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. “But what the heck is it?” you ask.

Speculoos/Biscoff/Cookie Butter is a spread made with Belgian cookies that have been baked, crushed, and then mixed with oils to create a spread. The flavor is a little caramely, with hints of cinnamon, and it’s delightful. If you haven’t tried it before, I highly recommend picking up a jar.

As with most spreads, this whips into the buttercream beautifully. Definitely taste in-between sugar additions—you don’t want a sickeningly sweet frosting.

The garnish—in this case, actual sugar cookies that are about 1 1/2-inches wide, finish off the cupcake. You can either purchase your favorite sugar cookie, or bake some yourself, using this base cookie recipe. You’ll only use about 1/4 of the dough for the cupcake toppings, but you can easily freeze the rest of the sugar cookie dough for another time. Shape the remaining dough into a 1-inch disc, then wrap twice in plastic wrap—the dough will keep for at least 2 months if wrapped up well.

Sugar cookie cupcakes with cookie butter frosting

Yield: 12 cupcakes


Vanilla Cupcake Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/8 cup (6 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 tbsp vanilla

Cookie Butter Buttercream
1/2 cup (1 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cookie butter spread (like Speculoos)
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cream (as needed for texture)

Sugar cookies as garnish


Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line pans with cupcake papers.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and gently mix to combine. Set aside.

Cream the butter with the sugar, beating until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to combine.

Alternate the dry ingredients and milk, and mix until combined.

Add the vanilla extract, mixing to combine.

Divide the batter between 12 wrappers in the cupcake tins and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

For the cookie butter frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add a 1/2 cup of sugar gradually, beating until combined.

Add the cookie butter spread and vanilla extract, then add the remaining sugar in 1/2 cup increments to your own taste. Check the texture ... if it's too stiff, add the cream, then whip until fluffy.

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Strawberry shortcake 3 ways

Table Matters Strawberry Shortcake piece

Strawberry shortcake is one of those desserts that I have a strong memory link to … I always think of summer and the long drive up to LaFayette, NY when shortcake season hits.

Lucky for me, I’m able to share this memory, as well as the whole debate of Team Biscuit vs. Team Cake in my very first article for Table Matters! I had a lot of fun writing for them (and should be doing so regularly now), and crafting 3 recipes:

  • My traditional strawberry shortcake using biscuits
  • Strawberry shortcake with vanilla pound cake (confession: this was the first pound cake recipe I’ve written and baked)
  • Strawberry shortcake cookies (for when you need a portable shortcake)

So pop over to Table Matters, give my article a read, check out the rest of this wonderful site, and then make yourself some shortcake!

Slow burn sriracha peanut butter cookies

Slow burn sriracha peanut butter cookies

In an effort to keep some of my favorite people stocked up, I’ve been baking cookies every month, and now that I’ve baked some of my favorites, I’m exploring new territories. And you know how much I love sriracha!

I’ve seen this recipe around a lot, and adapted mine from The Sugar Pixie. I used a commercial brand sriracha instead of some from my homemade stash because mine tends to have a stronger fresh pepper flavor, whereas the commercial stuff has more kick—I also find the thicker consistency is better for baked goods.

So who is this cookie perfect for? Anyone who enjoys the traditional peanut butter cookie, but also likes things with a kick! I almost thought I hadn’t used enough sriracha when I sampled a cookie … however, 30 seconds in to chewing I was awarded with a pleasant slow burn that lasted for the rest of the cookie. Success!

Unfortunately, Ray is allergic to peanut butter, so he didn’t get to try any, but he did say they smelled amazing while they were baking. So now my plan is to make the recipe again, using either homemade almond or cashew butter so he can try some.

If you don’t want 5 dozen cookies (yeah, that’s a lot), this recipe cuts in half pretty easily. Enjoy!

Slow burn sriracha peanut butter cookies

Yield: Approximately 5 dozen cookies


3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
2 eggs
4 tbsp sriracha
1 tsp vanilla
Approximately 2-3 tbsp of sugar to dip the cookies in before baking
Granulated sugar for dipping dough balls into.


Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Using a standmixer, cream the butter, sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the peanut butter and vanilla, and beat to combine.

Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition.

Add the sriracha, 1 tbsp at a time so you can taste to check the heat. The suggested 4 tbsp in this recipe creates a nice, slow burn about 30 seconds into the bite, but it isn't too spicy.

Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing to combine. The dough should be a little tacky, but not wet.

Chill the dough for an hour.

Once the dough is finished chilling, heat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or baking silicone.

Scoop the dough with a medium cookie scoop and shape into 1-inch balls. Dip the tops into the extra granulated sugar.

Arrange on the cookie sheet sugar-side up, then, using a fork, press into the dough balls twice in a criss-cross pattern to flatten them.

Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden, then cool on wire racks.

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