2014 Recipe Favorites

Happy (almost) New Year! I hope 2014 was great for you. I say this every year, but I just can’t believe how fast it went by. It’s like time speeds up the older I get. I can’t wait to share more recipes with you this year, but before I do, let’s take a look back at our favorites from 2014.

Your favorite cake: Vegan Vanilla Birthday Cake
This was the winner by a landslide! I’ll definitely be making more vegan cakes in 2015.


My favorite cake: Chocolate Chip Layer Cake
The cake that happened by accident turned out to be my favorite! I love the combo of the chocolate frosting and whipped cream, and mini chocolate chips make everything better.

Chocolate Chip Cake

Your favorite cupcake: Nutella Bomb Cupcakes
What can I say? You have good taste. This one comes in a very very close second for me, too.

Nutella Cupcakes

My favorite cupcake: Spiced Apple Walnut Cupcakes with Goat Cheese Frosting
Because goat cheese frosting always wins.

Apple Walnut Goat Cheese Cupcakes

Your favorite non-cake dessert: Vegan Chocolate Pudding with Peanut Butter Whipped Cream
Peanut butter whipped cream!!!

Vegan Chocolate Pudding

My favorite non-cake dessert: Dark Chocolate Olive Oil Cookies with Sea Salt
Another vegan recipe. Just goes to show that you really don’t need eggs or dairy to make a great dessert.

Olive Oil Chocolate Cookies

Before I go, I just want to say thank you to all of you who have read this blog, made a recipe, left a comment, pinned on Pinterest, liked on Facebook, or followed on Instagram. It means the world. Here’s to a great 2015!

Spiced Apple, Walnut, and Goat Cheese Cupcakes

Apple Walnut Goat Cheese Cupcakes

Apple Walnut Goat Cheese Cupcakes

These cupcakes were inspired by pizza. I know that sounds weird, but we like to make our own pizza at home, and Aaron and I both love a pizza that is topped with thinly sliced granny smith apples, toasted walnuts, and big globs of goat cheese. Sounds strange, but it works.

The cupcake epiphany happened as I was drizzling honey on leftover goat cheese and spooning it into my mouth and thinking how good the combo would be as frosting. I wish I could explain to you how much I love this honey goat cheese frosting. Maybe someday in the future, food blogs will offer a tasting feature, but for now, you’ll just have to make it. I think I’m going to start adding goat cheese to all of my cream cheese frostings from now on, because it really adds something special. It would be pretty great on pumpkin, carrot, or even red velvet cupcakes, but I liked the fact that these apple cupcakes were slightly different from the standard cupcake fare.

Since these cupcakes have cream cheese and goat cheese in the frosting, you shouldn’t leave them at room temperature for more than a few hours. However, the frosting doesn’t get too firm in the fridge and the cupcakes don’t dry out too easily, so you don’t need to bring them to room temp before eating them. Instant gratification = :) Most cupcakes are best when they’re fresh, but I actually liked these better on day 2 and even 3. I can’t tell you how long they keep after that, because they disappeared pretty quickly.

Apple Walnut Goat Cheese Cupcakes

As for the sugared walnuts, make sure you separate them while they are cooling on the parchment. Otherwise, you’ll end up with walnut clusters that look kind of antlers. But hey, they’re festive, right?

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Lemon Berry Angel Food Cupcakes

Angel Food Cupcakes

Angel Food Cupcakes

My wedding is 2 weeks from tomorrow. Wow, that snuck up on me so fast! I’m just now realizing how behind I am on everything. For example, I should have started a Pinterest board the day after I got engaged (does a cake pinterest board count?) or maybe I should have though about how I want to wear my hair before now. And I probably should not have waited until this week to start my wedding diet. Does angel food count as diet food? Probably not. I’m pretty much the worst bride ever.

Luckily, these angel food cupcakes are easy enough for even a stressed out bride to be. Believe it or not, this was my first time making angel food cake. I was a little intimidated by the folding of the egg whites, but it’s easier than you might think. I’ve added a link to a tutorial just before the recipe in case you’re not sure how to do it. Also, if you don’t have superfine sugar, you can easily make your own by putting granulated sugar through the food processor. Don’t skip this step- your cupcake will have a better texture.

For those of you who like the not too sweet frostings but don’t want to mess with European style buttercreams, this frosting is for you. I first blogged about this sturdy whipped cream frosting in one of my very early blog posts (please ignore the pictures!) but haven’t posted about it since because some people wrote me and told me that they had trouble getting it to work. However, I’ve made it quite a few times since then and I’ve adjusted some things as well as come up with some troubleshooting tips.

First, make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature and whip it until it’s really smooth. It’s difficult to incorporate the heavy cream otherwise. You heavy cream should be really cold when you add it into the whipped cream cheese. You’ll want to drizzle it in SLOWLY while beating at the same time and you should end up with a light and fluffy frosting that holds up much better than regular whipped cream and is slightly tangy from the cream cheese and lemon. Also, be careful not to over whip, or you’ll end up with a curdled mess. If you’d rather, you can also whip the heavy cream and cream cheese separately and then fold them together, but I just hate to dirty two bowls.

Angel Food CupcakesAngel Food CupcakesAngel Food CupcakesAngel Food Cupcakes

I topped these cupcakes with berries because the 4th of July is coming up and ’tis the season for fresh berries! Plus, I just can’t be trusted with food coloring right now.
Click here for a link to the folding tutorial.
Also, don’t forget to wipe down your bowl and utensils with vinegar before making your meringue. A greasy meringue is a weepy meringue!

Lemon Berry Angel Food Cupcakes

Yield: 16 cupcakes


    For the Lemon Angel Food Cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup (57 grams) cake flour
  • 3/4 cup (85 grams) powdered sugar
  • 5 large egg whites or 140 grams liquid egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) superfine or caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • For the Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 8 ounces (227 grams) of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Assorted berries for topping


    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Place 16 muffin cups with paper liners.
  3. Sift together cake flour and powdered sugar into bowl and repeat the this process 2 times.
  4. Beat egg whites and salt on medium high speed until frothy.
  5. Add cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.
  6. Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time and beat until stiff peaks form.
  7. Add the vanilla extract and lemon zest and beat to combine for an additional 10 seconds.
  8. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over egg white mixture 1/4 cup at a time and fold in after each addition.
  9. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups and bake at for 16-18 minutes or until very lightly browned.
  10. Cool the cupcakes completely on a wire rack before frosting.
  11. For the Frosting:
  12. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese (use the whisk attachment for a stand mixer) until smooth.
  13. Add the sugar and beat to combine.
  14. With the mixer running on medium speed, drizzle the heavy cream in slowly until it is completely incorporated.
  15. Continue whipping until stiff peaks have formed.
  16. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat for an additional 20 seconds.
  17. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and top with fresh berries.

Cupcakes adapted from MyRecipes.com
Frosting adapted from Allrecipes.com

Salted Bourbon Butterscotch Cupcakes

Butterscotch Bourbon Cupcakes

Butterscotch Bourbon Cupcakes

Coming up with a butterscotch cupcake that tasted butterscotchy enough proved to be a challenge, but I believe I’ve finally done it! These cupcakes are a butterscotch triple threat- a butterscotch cupcake filled with butterscotch sauce, topped with a brown sugar and butterscotch swiss meringue buttercream, and topped with more butterscotch sauce. I finished off both the butterscotch sauce and the frosting with fleur de sel, because if you think salted caramel is good, salted butterscotch will rock your world.

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Nutella Bomb Cupcakes

Nutella Cupcakes

Nutella Cupcakes

The original title of this post was One Bowl Cupcakes with Nutella Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting, but per my fiancé’s request, I went with a more interesting title. Actually, his exact words were, “These are my favorite cupcakes you’ve ever made. Can you please not name them something boring?” Other reactions included, “Holy @#%! these are good,” and “It’s like a Nutella bomb went off in my mouth!” Hence, Nutella Bomb Cupcakes were born.

You may be thinking that there is entirely too much frosting on these cupcakes. That’s where you’re wrong. Swiss Meringue Buttercream is a magical concoction of which there can never be too much. Unlike American Buttercream, it’s not super sweet, and there’s no powdered sugar involved. Personally, I think a one to one ratio of frosting to cake is perfect.

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Funfetti Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes


I was deprived of Oreos as a child. I know that sounds ridiculous, but I feel it manifesting itself on my blog in the form of cupcakes like these and these. And now I’ve added Birthday Cake Oreo Cupcakes to the mix.  You see, my mom was convinced that certain foods were the devil when I was growing up, and one of those foods was Oreos. She took one look at the list of ingredients, and decided that they would not be allowed in her house. Oreos, along with soda, Kool-Aid, Twinkies, and other sugar-laden and highly processed foods had no place in the Merchant household.

Even though I wasn’t a fan these rules growing up, for the most part, they’ve stuck with me. I rarely drink soda, and I can’t remember the last time I ate a Twinkie. It’s not that I don’t eat sugar now, but  I just cancel it out with things like greek yogurt and coconut oil (that’s how it works, right?). Anyway, I really really like Oreos, so I know I just can’t buy them. When I do, they must immediately be turned into cupcakes and shared with friends, or they don’t stand a chance around me.


So what are Birthday Cake Oreos, you ask? They’re Oreos, but better, if that’s even possible. After one bite, I knew that cupcakes had to happen sooner rather than later, since my willpower would be no match for them.


I wanted to use a vanilla cupcake base for these cupcakes, and since I tend to get stressed out about vanilla cake (I know, my life is hard), I decided not to over think it this time. I wanted to try a new recipe, so I googled vanilla cupcakes and picked the easiest recipe I could find. I fully expected them to be a fail and thought I would have to spend the evening searching yet again for the perfect vanilla cupcake, but these were really good. Despite the mixed reviews, I thought they were the perfect base for a funfetti cupcake- light and fluffy, but still sturdy enough not to fall apart, and they are really easy to make! Just keep a close eye on them at the end so as not to overbake. I plan to use this recipe a lot in the future, and I hope you like it as much as I do.

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Vegan Mini Vanilla and Chocolate Swirl Cupcakes (and how to make mini cupcakes)


I don’t post a lot of mini cupcakes on here, which is a shame, because I make them quite often. Whenever I bake for an event, people almost always request the mini variety, but I’m usually in such a rush to get them out the door, I don’t get a chance to take pictures before I have to pack them up and take them to an event. This time, I made sure to set aside a few moments to take pictures of what has to be one of my very favorite mini cupcake recipes.


It’s a good idea to know to turn any cupcakes recipe into mini cupcakes. Generally, any regular cupcake recipe will yield approximately 3 times as many mini cupcakes. The original vegan chocolate cupcake recipe, which is from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, makes 12 standard cupcakes, and I usually get between 36-40 of the mini version. I find that this cookie scoop makes it easy to divide the right amount of batter for mini cupcakes into the pans. Also, the baking time for mini cupcakes is usually around 9-11 minutes, but it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on them near the end of the baking time, since it can be a minute between being done and overbaked.


The swirly frosting was really easy to make. I filled one 16-inch decorating bag with vanilla frosting, and another one with chocolate frosting, making sure that neither was much more than half full. Snip off about an inch off the end of each bag, and place them both side by side in another 16-inch decorating bag that has been fitted with a piping tip (I used Wilton 4B). Close off the top of the bag with a rubber band or twisty tie, and pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes as usual. It’s a good idea to pipe some icing onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper to test it out the swirly effect before piping directly onto the cupcakes.


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Simple Vanilla Cupcakes and My First Blogiversary!

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

Is it June already? These past couple of months have gone by way too fast. So much has happened in Cake Merchant Land. I got engaged, adopted a puppy, bought a house, and moved! Needless to say, things have been a little crazy around here. My first blogiversary has come and gone. It was actually May 20th, but I still wanted to do a belated blogiversary post and share some of the things that I have learned this year.

Vanilla Cupcakes

First, I have to say how much I love blogging. It has been such a fun creative outlet for me, and I’m convinced that nothing relieves stress like a freshly made batch of cupcakes. Thanks so much to everyone who has been reading and for all of your supportive comments. Your thoughts and opinions mean a lot to me. My goal for the second year of blogging is incorprate more healthy dessert recipes into the mix, since several readers have asked for it. I think it will not only be good for the blog, but for my waistline as well.

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I’m slightly terrified of vanilla cake. I find it to be rather unforgiving, and after a few vanilla cake fails in my early baking days, I pretty much stopped making them from scratch. One of my blogging goals was to find a great vanilla cake recipe without using a mix. What I found was that is was not only the ingredients that made a good recipe, but the mixing method as well.

There are a few things that have changed the way that I make (and view) vanilla cake. The first is The Cake Bible. In fact, this book has pretty much changed the way I bake altogether. If you’re new to baking, or even a seasoned baker, I would recommend getting your hands on it and reading it cover to cover. The Cake Bible introduced me to a method of mixing called the reverse creaming method. Instead of creaming the butter and sugar together first, the fat (butter or shortening) is beaten with the dry ingredients along with part of the liquid. The remainder of the liquid is then beaten into the mixture in installments, which results in a lighter crumb.

Simple Vanilla Cupcakes

So the question is, can you reverse cream any recipe? That’s what I wanted to find out. I took a traditional vanilla cake recipe (from Sprinkles cupcakes) that I used all the time, and just changed the order of how I mixed the ingredients. Did it work? Yes and no. There are a few keys to success that apply to all cakes and cupcakes, but especially when using this method.

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Mocha Chocolate Chip Espresso Cupcakes

Mocha Chip Espresso Cupcakes

Have I mentioned how much I love my Bouchon Bakery cookbook? I got it for my birthday back in February, and even though I’ve spent hours staring at the lovely photographs (it’s my new coffee table book), I’ve hardly made any of the recipes. I’ve been dying to try the devil’s food cake, since it’s one of my very favorite desserts ever, so I was really excited to try Thomas Keller’s version. You might remember the devil’s food cake I made for my birthday this year, which I absolutely loved, so I wanted to see how this would compare.

Mocha Chip Espresso Cupcakes

The recipe differs quite a bit from the Baking Illustrated version. There’s no melted chocolate, and mayonnaise is used instead of milk or sour cream. I know what you’re thinking. Mayonnaise? In a fancy French cookbook? I thought the same thing. Chocolate mayonnaise cake was popular in during World War 2, when certain ingredients were in short supply and people had to get creative. If you think about it, it makes sense. Mayo is made of egg, oil, and vinegar, which are all common ingredients in cakes anyway.

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