Hot Chocolate Frosting

2014’s Holiday Bake-A-Thon wasn’t as busy as previous years have been.  I didn’t have time to do a lot of research and test runs of new recipes, so I ended up making some crowd pleasers from past holiday seasons, including Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies, Green Tea Sugar Cookies, Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodles, and Furikake Chex Mix.  I did try out one new recipe for a chocolate cupcake with hot chocolate frosting – the perfect cold-weather themed treat!  I keep reposting my favorite Guiness Chocolate Cupcake recipe that is truly my go-to recipe, so I’ll spare you from that. Here’s the recipe for the frosting portion as adapted from Cookies and Cups!
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Hot Chocolate Frosting
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Hot Chocolate Frosting
I made this for a two different parties, one with and one without the peppermint and I did find some people just don’t like mint and chocolate together, while others just do.  If I made this again, I’d make half the batch with the mint and half plain.  I found the Cookies and Cups’ version to be a little too sweet, so the second time around, I added a wee bit of salt to mellow it out a little.
  • 1/2 C butter, room temperature
  • 4 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C dry hot chocolate mix (about 2 packets; without mini marshmallows)
  • 1/3 C + 1 TBSP heavy whipping cream
  1. In a small saucepan combine hot chocolate mix and cream. Heat over medium until hot and steaming…not quite boiling, stirring consistently. You want the sugar in the hot chocolate to dissolve. Set aside to cool.

    Hot Chocolate Mix and Heavy Cream
    Hot Chocolate Mix and Heavy Cream
  2. In large mixing bowl cream butter until smooth.
  3. Add in powdered sugar and salt, and mix until combined. It will be very dry.

    Add Hot Chocolate Mixture
    Add Hot Chocolate Mixture
  4. Turn mixer to low and slowly pour in your hot chocolate mixture (I learned the second time around that it’s easier than throwing it all in and then mixing it together). Once all is added turn mixer up to medium and beat for about a minute until light and fluffy, scarping down sides of bowl when necessary.

    Ready for Spreading
    Ready for Spreading
  5. Spread or pipe on cupcakes.

    Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
    Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
  6. (OPTIONAL): If you want to make mint hot chocolate frosting, just pulverize some of your leftover candy canes in a food processor and sprinkle over the top.  I saw these pink mint-flavored marshmallows at Target and thought it sounded good but it didn’t look that appealing (see gallery).

It made for a great winter-y holiday treat!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

In my early years at IMAX, I had many a heated debate with several coworkers about whether pineapple was a key ingredient in carrot cake.  I pretty much don’t order or eat a piece of carrot cake unless I know it has pineapple in it.  There is something about the pineapple that just adds moisture along with a little something special, and I think most bakers look to raisins to do this.  I LOVE cooked raisins, but I just don’t think they belong in carrot cake!

Carrot Cake Cupcakes - Cross-Section
Carrot Cake Cupcakes – Cross-Section

The IMAX Annual Thanksgiving pot luck is usually my opportunity to try out a new recipe on my office guinea pigs colleagues, so I thought I’d try to make a carrot cake cupcake.  Obviously after all the pineapple talk, I wasn’t about to try a recipe that didn’t have pineapple in it. Paula Deen’s self-proclaimed Best-Ever Carrot Cake Cupcakes sounded promising.  I loved the cake so much that I made these several times – for the aforementioned potluck, the 2013 Annual Kawasaki Family Christmas Party, Kevin’s friends Christmas party, and once for Christmas lunch with Kev’s family.  The cupcakes were well-received across the board, but I think it was best with a bit of toasted coconut on top.  A lot of cupcakes make great minis but I don’t know if I loved these as minis (I tried that, too).  The batter is a bit chunky, so the dough doesn’t cook consistently in each cupcake.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Carrot Cake Cupcakes

As much as I loved Paula’s cupcake recipe, I also didn’t love the cream cheese frosting recipe.  It just seemed a bit bland and liquid-y for my preference. I changed it up a bit, adding more powdered sugar to stiffen it up a bit and some extra butter to add some creaminess.

Here is the recipe as adapted from Paula Deen’s (original recipe here):

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS (Paula’s version):

  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 8-oz. can of crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Small pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 cups grated carrots (or more!), grate with a food processor to make your life easier

    Fresh Shredded Carrots
    Fresh Shredded Carrots


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 C powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Fresh coconut, shaved and toasted for garnish (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, oil, apple sauce, sugars, pineapple and 2 teaspoons vanilla.
  3. Mix in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and small pinch of ground cloves.
  4. Stir in carrots.
  5. Fold in pecans.
  6. Pour into muffin tin lined with beautiful paper or foil liners.
  7. Fill each liner 3/4 full.
  8. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-20 min.
  9. Let cupcakes cool completely. While cooling, prepare frosting.

    Ready for Frosting
    Ready for Frosting
  10. In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
  11. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

    Cream Cheese Frosting
    Cream Cheese Frosting
  12. Pile the frosting high on the cooled cupcakes and garnish with the toasted coconut if desired.

    Topped with Toasted Coconut
    Topped with Toasted Coconut

Thanks, Paula Deen!

Furikake Chex Mix

In thinking about some of my posts from the last year, I realized that I have really just gotten all about the food and less about…anything else!  Time to sit, reflect, and put pen to paper has definitely dissipated greatly but I fully intend to get back into it and soon!

But for now, another food post.

I made this as part of the 2013 Holiday Bake-A-Thon to give away as packaged gifts, and munchies for a housewarming get-together Kev and I had recently and the Super Bowl.  The sweet and savory flavors make this snack seriously addicting, and it makes a huge batch that is perfect for gifting or sharing.

Shirley sent me the original recipe a few years ago, and I’ve adapted it as such:


  • 1/2 C light corn syrup (I used Karo brand)
  • 1/2 C of sugar
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 T soy sauce


  • 2 bags of microwavable popcorn (I used kettle corn)
  • 1 box of Rice Chex cereal
  • 1 box of Corn Chex cereal
  • 1 lb bag of mini pretzels
  • 1 lb mixed nuts (optional)
  • 1 bottle of Furikake

You can also sub half of both of the chex cereals for a box of honeycomb, or whatever combination you like. It’s totally customizable to whatever cereal, popcorn, chips, etc. you feel like throwing in.  Just make sure you’re not overdoing it with the dry ingredients, or there will be too much for the wet ingredients to coat evenly.

Dry Ingredients
Dry Ingredients


  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Heat and melt the first 5 ingredients above in a pan or small pot. A nonstick pan or pot will make clean-up easier.

    Melt the Wet Ingredients Together
    Melt the Wet Ingredients Together
  3. In two extra large aluminum pans (or two large roasting pans if you have them), divide and mix all the dry ingredients together EXCEPT the Furikake.
  4. Pour a fourth of the wet mixture over the cereal in both pans and mix well.  Then divide and pour the rest of the wet ingredients and mix well.
  5. Place both trays in the oven for an hour, mixing about every 10-15 minutes.  After the first 10 minutes, divide and pour the Furikake over the cereal mix and mix well.

Happy snacking!

Furikake Chex Mix
Furikake Chex Mix

Martha Stewart Cookie Boxes – 2012


The packaging for the tea-themed cookies I made for last year’s Holiday Bake-A-Thon totally slipped my mind.

I picked a new design for my holiday cookie boxes, which the Earl Grey Tea Shortbread, Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle, Glazed Lemon Cookies, and Chocolate-Mint (Nightmare Before Christmas) Pinwheel Cookies were boxed in.

Only the Earl Grey Shortbread cookies had actual tea leaves in them.  The rest of the cookies were just flavor-inspired, and I paired them with Stash brand tea bags in Peppermint Herbal Tea, Chai Spiced Black Tea, Earl Grey Black Tea, and Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea.

What's Inside
What’s Inside

While this box was far more festive than last year’s cookie boxes, I think last year’s were more my style.

All Wrapped Up!
All Wrapped Up!

However, I think for the individual packages, this year’s tagline is about on par with last year’s cheesiness.

Brew Up Some Fun, and Have a Tea-riffic Holiday!
Brew Up Some Fun, and Have a Tea-riffic Holiday!

One more post, and then I’m DONE with the Holiday Bake-A-Thon from 2012!

Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel

Not a lot of time but severely backlogged on posts, so here’s a quick one!

I made this as part of Christmas dinner dessert (yes, very late on these posts) for my dad and I as the final round to my Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012.  He’s diabetic and while I’ve tried to make diabetes-friendly baked goods before, they just aren’t the same.  So, I found a dessert recipe on Smitten Kitchen with relatively low sugar in it.

Add Butter and Sugar
Add Butter and Sugar

Most of the sweetness comes from the apples.  I picked Fuji for this batch since they’re naturally a bit sweeter than Granny Smith. I also cut down on the amount of sugar that the recipe called for to be sprinkled on top of the tart prior to its first round in the oven. This tart wasn’t that hard to make, but it was definitely tedious making every thinly sliced apple layer perfect within the visual masterpiece.  While the tart was baking, I started the salted caramel in the last 10 minutes of baking time.

Salted Caramel Glaze
Salted Caramel Glaze

This was my first time making anything with puff pastry, though I’ve eaten my fair share of homebaked goods entailing aforementioned flaky layered goodness… enough to know there are a lot of bad puff pastries out there. I used DuFour puff pastry for this and don’t recommend anything less – it’s the best stuff money can buy and worth every penny!  Smitten Kitchen recommends it too!

Ready for Glazing
Ready for Glazing

My dad and I ended up eating about 2/3 of the tart after our hearty dinner (which I’ll post about eventually!).  It was so addicting hot out of the oven, and would have been absolute heaven with some cinnamon ice cream on top!

Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel Glaze
Apple Mosaic Tart with Salted Caramel Glaze

I also made this again for the Annual Sho-Yu Holiday Party we have every January along with a batch of Samoas Cupcakes, the official team cupcake.

Plenty more updates coming!  Until next time!