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Show-Stopping Holiday Cupcakes

Guest Post by Martha Thompson

For years, cupcakes have been the ultimate treat just for children. Now, cupcakes are popular with people of all ages and come in all sorts of grown-up flavors. Two of my favorite holiday cupcakes are Gingerbread and Red Velvet. Whether you are hosting an intimate informal gathering or a big celebration, a beautiful array of delicious cupcakes will make your next holiday get-together a success. It’s the perfect “serve yourself” dessert because no silverware is required!

Gingerbread Cupcakes With Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

You are bound to get “oohs” and “aahs” with these beautiful Gingerbread Cupcakes. When it comes to decorating these cupcakes, I think of it as “putting on the glitz!” I swirl the icing on with a decorator star tip, size 1M. Then I add a small homemade gingerbread man, lightly brushed with honey and sprinkled with gold pearlized sugar sprinkles. To finish them off, I dust each cupcake lightly with extra sprinkles. (The icing tip, small gingerbread cookie cutter, and pearlized sugar sprinkles can be found in the baking section of most craft stores. You can also use a cookie mix for your gingerbread man.)

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Ingredients:

1 box yellow cake mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
1/3 cup molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, beat together cake mix, water, oil, eggs, molasses and spices until blended, about 2 minutes.
3. Divide batter evenly into muffin tins, filling cups about two-thirds full, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely while you prepare the frosting.

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting:

Two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened, no substitutions
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
One 1-pound box of confectioners sugar (about 4 cups)

1. Beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla until blended, about 3 minutes.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until a stiff but spreadable consistency is reached. Add cinnamon and beat for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.

Red Velvet Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

Everyone seems to enjoy Red Velvet Cupcakes covered with swirls of cream cheese frosting. While these are a year-round favorite, their red and white color scheme makes them particularly popular at Christmas. Red Velvet Cupcakes have a mild chocolate flavor that comes from adding unsweetened cocoa powder to the cake batter. I swirl the icing on with a decorator star tip (size 1M), and then top off each cupcake with white chocolate holly leaves (directions below) and small pearl sprinkles to give them that special holiday touch. (The icing tip, small holly leaf cookie cutter, and white pearl sprinkles can be found in the baking section of most craft stores.)

Ingredients:

1 stick of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups plus 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans with 24 paper liners.
2. On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
3. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
5. Reduce the mixer speed to low again, and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.
6. Divide batter evenly between muffin tins, filling cups about two-thirds full, and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool completely while making your icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Two 8-ounces packages of cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened, no substitutions
One 1-pound box of confectioners sugar (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Beat together cream cheese and butter until blended (about 4 minutes), scraping the bowl down as necessary.
2. Gradually add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, beating until a stiff but spreadable consistency is reached. Add vanilla and beat for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.

To make holly leaves, simply melt a cup of white chocolate chips in a microwave-safe dish, stirring until completely smooth. Pour the chocolate about a half-inch thick on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Dip a tooth pick in red food coloring and swirl through chocolate to give a marble effect. Chill chocolate in the fridge until it sets (about 10 minutes). Using a holly leaf, candy cane, or other miniature holiday cookie cutter, gently press to cut out shapes to top your cupcakes.

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