Happy Birthday Katherine!

katherineandme

While most of you are probably busy wrapping (or buying) last minute presents, I have a special place in my heart for Christmas Eve for several different reasons. Not only is it my parents’ anniversary (27th this year!) but it’s also my friend Katherine’s birthday!

Happy Birthday Katherine! I hope it’s the best yet xo

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For her early birthday this year, I made Katherine these strawberry cheesecake cupcakes. Her favorites are strawberry and cream cheese frosting (as coincidentally are mine) so these were the perfect surprise birthday treats!

And if you know Katherine, you will know she is THE sparkle, glitter, sequin queen. So in lieu of topping them with strawberries or graham cracker crumbs, I sprinkled some edible silver glitter and colored sugars on top. They were incredibly delicious and fun!

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{cheesecake + cupcake: best of both worlds}

I adapted the proportions of this recipe quite a bit as it made way too much graham cracker crumbs and cream cheese frosting. The recipe below is how I would suggest the cupcakes should be made– this is now one of my favorite cupcake recipes!

Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
adapted from Joylicious

  • 2 sleeves of graham cracker crumbs (about 18 whole crackers)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream/Greek yogurt
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and coarsely chopped (and more for garnish)
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe below

(1)  Preheat oven to 350° F and line 20-22 muffin tins with cupcake liners. 
(2)  Mix graham cracker crumbs with butter using a food processor.  Sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of the crushed graham cracker into the bottom of each prepared muffin tin.  Press down using a ¼ measuring cup and bake for 3-5 minutes or until slightly browned.  Remove immediately from oven and set aside to cool.
(3)  In a medium bowl beat the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks appear, about 3-4 minutes, be careful not to overbeat. Set aside.
(4)  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
(5)  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and then add the vanilla.
(6)  Next, add half the flour mixture and incorporated on low speed until it’s almost all incorporated.
(7)  Then mix in the sour cream/yogurt. Add the remaining flour and mix until just blended. Don’t over mix.
(8)  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter until combined, do not over mix the egg whites or the cake will fall flat. Add remaining egg whites and fold in the chopped strawberries.
(9)  Fill each muffin tin almost to the top and bake for about 20-22 minutes depending on your oven. You can test to see if they are done by sticking a toothpick through the center and seeing if it comes out clean.
 

Cream Cheese Frosting 

  • 1 block (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

(1)  In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth.
(2)  Add the sugar slowly in small batches, beating on low speed until incorporated. Once all sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy.
(3)  When ready to serve, spread icing on cupcakes or use a pastry bag with a star tip. Garnish with freshly cut strawberries and graham cracker crumbs and serve.

Makes about 20-22 cupcakes

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have a holly, jolly (Lincoln) Christmas!

2011 has been the year of my first grown-up Christmas. The first year I got my own Christmas tree in my own apartment with my very own golden pinecone star! Sexy Sallie (the name we bestowed on our tree) is the first real pine tree I’ve ever had and I have to say, the smell of a real pine tree is unmatched. Look at Sallie in all her glory…

Another first for me this Christmas was my first holiday work party. And lucky for me, I had not just one holiday party but two! The first was a lovely lunch last Friday hosted for the entire staff and volunteers of the museum. It was a wonderful affair held at the Temple of Dendur with entertainment provided by staff members (!!!).  Now, the second party was a smaller, less formal affair for our department planned by the PPC (Party Planning Committee) of which yours truly is a member. Here is the invitation we sent out for our holiday party:

Now I know what you’re probably thinking… ‘Umm, are they having a Lincoln-themed holiday party?’ I can feel your jealousy burning and let me explain.

(1) It’s actually a Civil War-themed holiday party, thank you very much
(2) Our Vice President of External Affairs is a pre-eminent Abraham Lincoln scholar and we were all hoping the theme would inspire a certain holiday bonus (still waiting on that btw)
(3) think Little Women. The soundtrack alone sold me.

Most of the staff outside of the PPC were still skeptical about the theme but once party time arrived, everyone got into the 1864 holiday spirit!

Our (Gingerbread) House Divided

wonderful members of the PPC (minus Christopher Gorman)

As a representative of the South, I thought it would be fitting to bring something with true southern roots. So I made these delicious red velvet bars. Exactly the same as red velvet cake but more portable and party-friendly sized. So yummy, just like anything slathered in cream cheese frosting.

Red Velvet Bars

  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder 
  • 1 ounce red food coloring (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

(1)  Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan.
(2)  In a small bowl, slowly stir together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and vanilla into a thick paste until no lumps of cocoa remain. Set aside.
(3)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
(4)  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
(5)  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color. (Be careful not to get ‘red-handed’!)
(6)  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored red batter.
(7)  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

(1)  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and cream cheese until soft and fluffy.
(2)  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar ½ cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next ½ cup.
(3)  Once all of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
(4) Frost brownies in the pan, cut into 12 bars, and serve, or remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, frost, and serve.

Oh how I love the holidays! And tomorrow evening I will be heading to the best place to spent one’s holiday season… HOME!!! I am just so excited. Because as much as I love my grown-up Christmas, there’s nothing like being a kid on Christmas morning!

xo Margaret