The Baker Upstairs: November 2013


fluffy vanilla cupcakes with nutella buttercream


Another Friday, another fantastic cupcake recipe! These cupcakes are unreal. The cake is so light and fluffy, with a perfect sweet vanilla flavor. Of all the cupcakes I've made, I would say this recipe comes closest to vanilla cupcakes from a bakery! And the Nutella buttercream... well, you had me at Nutella. I whipped it until it was light as a cloud, and it made the perfect complement to the cupcakes.

I like that the cupcakes have a sort of untraditional method of adding the ingredients... the butter is cut into the dry ingredients before the wet ingredients are added. I think it really helps in making the butter evenly distributed and contributes to a perfectly textured cupcake. I love (as always) that they are made with simple, easy ingredients. I had everything I needed for these babies in the cupboard already! Gotta love one less annoying trip to the grocery store. These cupcakes are currently at the tip top of my "favorite desserts" list!

Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

adapted from Baking a Moment

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cold, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk (I used skim, and it worked fine)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Line two muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl or a the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and mix until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the milk and vanilla in a measuring cup, and add about half of the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Beat until well blended and smooth. Add the other half of the milk mixture, and beat until smooth. Fill paper liners 2/3 full and bake 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for a few minutes and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Nutella Buttercream
adapted from Krissy's Creations

1 1/2 cups butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup Nutella

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy. Gradually add the powdered sugar and salt, beating until smooth Add vanilla and beat until combined. Add Nutella and beat until light and fluffy. Frost cooled cupcakes and enjoy!


sweet and spicy slow cooker cider chicken


I got this recipe from my friend Jaimee at work, and it rocks! I have to say, one of my favorite things about my work is the many awesome people I get to work with. Jaimee is not only fabulous at her job and super organized, she's also awesomely crafty and makes amazing food. She's been talking about starting a blog lately and I'm so excited for her to be able to share her awesomeness with the world!

So back to the chicken... It is really easy to make, and so yummy! We had ours with coconut rice (the best rice ever!) and the two were really good together. Anything with apple cider flavor just screams fall to me, and this was a perfect easy fall meal!

Sweet and Spicy Slow Cooker Cider Chicken
adapted from my friend Jaimee

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (I used unfiltered, but I'm sure regular would work fine)
1/2 cup lemon-lime soda
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I used 1/2 teaspoon and it was too tame; Jaimee said she usually uses a lot more)
4-6 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons corn starch

Whisk together vinegar, soda, garlic, sugar, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. Place chicken breasts in a slow cooker and pour vinegar mixture over the top. Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours, or until the chicken starts to pull apart. Put the corn starch in a small bowl, and add a little water. Whisk with a fork until the corn starch is dissolved, then add to the chicken mixture. Stir well and cook 15-20 minutes, or until sauce has thickened. Shred if desired, and serve over rice. 


creamy orange smoothie


Lately I'm noticing that my Pinterest boards are full of delicious citrus treats... I feel like citrus is so refreshing! I know it's more traditionally associated with summer, but I love it all year round. This smoothie is really more of a dessert than a breakfast smoothie, but it's amazingly delicious. It took me less than five minutes to make, and it was like catnip for Lizzy when I shared it with her. She drank her own full smoothie and then whined at me for the rest of my smoothie. The original post said that this smoothie tastes like an orange push-up, but since I've never had one of those, I'd say it tastes a lot like an orange creamsicle. It will definitely satisfy that sweet tooth!

Creamy Orange Smoothie
adapted from Averie Cooks

1 can frozen orange juice concentrate (I used Hawaii's Own brand, which worked great)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar, to taste (you may need to add more if your orange juice is less sweet)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups ice

Add orange juice, milk, sugar, and vanilla to blender. Blend until thoroughly mixed and the sugar has dissolved. Add ice and blend until smooth. Makes about 3 cups. If you have leftovers, try freezing them in popsicle molds for a delicious treat!


pumpkin spice cupcakes


I realized this week that it has been almost two months since I made cupcakes. What the what? It's not like I haven't made desserts in all that time, but there's something special about cupcakes! These cupcakes are like the essence of fall baking. The combination of cinnamon and pumpkin is so homey and comforting!

These cupcakes are moist but still light, and hold together well. Plus the sweet pumpkin flavor is amazing! I mentioned in this post that I'm not a huge fan of sweetened cream cheese, but I absolutely adored the cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It is seriously incredible! I whipped it until it was light and airy, and it was the perfect complement to the pumpkin cupcakes.

These cupcakes would be perfect for a Thanksgiving dessert, or just a fun treat to celebrate fall! 

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes
adapted from Savor Home

for the cupcakes:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs

for the cinnamon cream cheese frosting:
6 tablespoons butter, softened
4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar (more as needed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a muffin tin by lining with paper liners. Whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine pumpkin puree, brown sugar, sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs, and mix until well blended. Mix in flour mixture until combined. Scoop into prepared muffin tin, filling 3/4 full. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove and let cool on a rack. 

For the frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar slowly and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and cinnamon. If necessary, add more powdered sugar until the frosting is firm enough to hold its shape but still light and fluffy. Frost the cooled cupcakes and enjoy!


skinny fruit and nut granola


Hooray for another fun DIY recipe! I have to admit that I've tried to make granola more than once, and have never really succeeded, which is a total shame. Granola is one of my favorite breakfasts, especially paired with some greek yogurt and fresh fruit! I was so excited when I found this recipe because 1) it looked (and was!) super easy to make, and 2) it had much less fat than a traditional granola recipe, since there is no oil! I'm definitely not a stickler for making everything low fat, but I'd much rather save my fat calories for an awesome dessert as opposed to my breakfast cereal. :)

This granola recipe is a perfect starting point for any number of variations. I think any variety of dried fruit or nuts would be delicious, and you could healthify it even more by throwing in some flax seed. (I would have done that but I didn't realize I had flax seed until it was too late...) I love that the syrup is so simple and easy to make, and the flavor from the cinnamon and vanilla is amazing! Abby has declared this her new favorite breakfast, and I have to agree. Yum!

Skinny Fruit and Nut Granola
adapted from Cooking Classy

4 cups old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300. In a large bowl, toss together oats, almonds, pecans, and coconut. In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, whisk together brown sugar, honey, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil and let boil for one minute. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and baking soda, until the mixture is foamy. Pour over oat mixture and toss until evenly coated. Spread the mixture in a silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 25-30 minutes, tossing the mixture after 10-12 minutes so it will brown evenly. Remove from oven when lightly golden brown and toss with raisins. Let cool and store in an airtight container.


soft and buttery pull-apart dinner rolls


These rolls are just plain amazing. I love bread (as I'm sure you know by now) and I'm always up for trying a new recipe, and this one blew me away! The rolls look just like any other roll, but they taste like nothing else. They are so light and tender, with the most delicious buttery flavor and a hint of sweetness. They are amazing slathered with butter and jam, dipped in soup, or just eaten as is! I love that they are so easy and quick to shape (as opposed to, say, cloverleaf rolls or crescent rolls) and are pretty low-key as far as effort goes. I've been trying to decide which rolls I should make for Thanksgiving this year, but I think I've found my winner!
Soft and Buttery Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls
adapted from Lulu the Baker

1 tablespoon yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water, divided
1/3 cup powdered milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
4 cups flour, more or less as needed

In a measuring cup, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar. While the yeast is dissolving, mix remaining warm water and powdered milk in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer until dissolved. Add yeast mixture, sugar, butter, salt, and egg. Add 3 cups of flour and mix until blended. Add remaining flour, a few tablespoons at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is slightly sticky to the touch. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Punch down and roll out on a lightly floured surface to about one inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or a cup, cut the dough into 2 1/2 to 3 inch circles. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet, barely touching (you should be able to fit all the rolls on one sheet, and it's okay if you have to squish them a little). Cover and let rise another 30 minutes to 1 hour, until nearly doubled. Preheat oven to 350. Bake rolls 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Serve warm. Makes 16-20 rolls.

* As a side note, the original recipe made 6 dozen rolls, which would be awesome but also way too much for my family. I've scaled it down to a more manageable size, but feel free to double or quadruple the recipe depending on the size of your crowd!