Chatfield's Patches and Ina's Pumpkin Cupcakes (Revisited)

It's been a few months since we've taken the boys down to Chatfield-- a satellite of the Denver Botanic Gardens that's not too far from Littleton, Colorado. You can visit anytime of year and the grounds are generally pretty mellow, but there are a few special events that draw big crowds. The Pumpkin Festival is one of them. I heard on the radio that the festival was going to be enormous--with about 35,000 pumpkins. We were totally going...
When we got to the festival it was much more elaborate than I thought it would be. An amusement park had been set up on one of the large fields and hay rides were added to the garden's regular features -- which include a play area for kids, a chicken coup, an historic farmhouse and a barn that houses a few goats and ponies. The kids held up for most of the 4 hours we were there...with only one memorable tantrum right before we got inside. 
Which brings me to my motherhood-struggle of the moment (not including the "penny-fiasco" whereby Otis decided to swallow 2 pennies that were earmarked for an automated pony ride at the checkout line of our local supermarket. That story will be for another post...):
Otis (the older) has been having tantrums. They aren't too terrible, but they are bad enough to garner looks of pity and sympathy from perfect strangers. I never experienced the "terrible twos"-- which I had braced myself for throughout his first year of life. But man, are we in the midst of experiencing the "terrible threes." Otis has been pitching fits for a few months now, and they usually come out of nowhere. He goes boneless and I pretty much have to drag him out of the store/supermarket/farm/museum and evacuate the premise immediately. Now it doesn't happen all the time, but it doesn't really happen infrequently either. That said, the great moments with Otis are some of the best I've ever experienced, so I supposed you have to take the good with the bad and the ugly! And throughout this, our parenting philosophy has pretty much remained the same: carry on. And that's exactly what we did.
Twenty minutes after the first tantrum started we were back on track. Theodore, who is in the "golden spot"-- sleeping through the night and never fussy or tantrum-prone-- was happy to join his brother and spend some time with our other friends who met us at the garden. We had a great time.

After working our way through the barns and the historic part of Chatfield, we made our way to the festival. There were tons of pumpkins (pumpkin day-care included, obviously), carnival rides-- and food trucks too.
Growing up I think we only carved a pumpkin once or twice, but it's a tradition I'd love to start doing annually. 

Feeling inspired by all-things autumn (and the festival), I'm hoping to make pumpkin wedges this weekend. They would be a great accompaniment to a butternut squash farro risotto that's been on my recipe list. This triple-fennel and spelt salad looks healthy and delicious. Maybe a pumpkin-chocolate bread for Saturday morning? I'm pretty convinced that I'll make this pumpkin and black-bean chili because temps are supposed to dip below freezing (but this is Denver, so the cold-snap will only last a few days and then we'll be back in the 60s and 70s). And I'm positively certain that I'll be opening a few cans of pumpkin puree-- because these (below) are my favorite  cupcakes to make this time of year...
Since this weekend also marks the celebration of Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican chocolate cake and some Rancheros Tostadas might be in order too. Margaritas, anyone? So little time, so much to make! Feel free to chime in with your suggestions.
Happy week. xo
Ina's Pumpkin Cupcakes with Heath Bar Crunch Topping and Maple Frosting 
(Courtesy of Ina Garten @ House Beautiful)
Makes 10 cupcakes
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup canned pumpkin purée (8 ounces), not pie filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Maple Frosting (recipe follows)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped Heath bars, for serving (2 1.4-ounce bars)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush or spray the top of 10 muffin tins with vegetable oil and line them with 10 paper liners.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin purée, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vegetable oil. Add the flour mixture and stir until combined.
3. Divide the batter among the prepared tins (I use a level 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely.
4. Spread the cupcakes with the Maple Frosting and sprinkle with the chopped toffee bits.

Maple Frosting (Adapted)
Note: This makes a lot of frosting and could probably even top 2 batches of cupcakes!
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Maple Syrup
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Birthday Perfection: Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

There's something really summery-sounding about "Pink Lemonade Cupcakes." When I think of summer, sipping lemonade and hanging out on the beach come to mind. But since we live in land-locked  Colorado, at least for now, we'll have to settle for the lemonade-bit alone...this recipe hits the spot.
Our friend Rachel made these cupcakes for her daughter's birthday party a little while back. They were really good. They are also really sweet, so if sweet isn't your thing then this recipe isn't for you. But personally I kind of think that's the point of pink lemonade cupcakes, no? I thought they were the perfect topper to the birthday celebration. 
Happy birthday to the birthday girl! Now, can I have another one?! 

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes (Courtesy of Real Mom Kitchen)
  • 1 package white cake mix 
  • 1 small package vanilla instant pudding 
  • 3 Tbsp sweetened pink lemonade drink mix (like Country Time Pink Lemonade mix) 
  • 1 cup sour cream 
  • 2 tsp lemon zest 
  • 3/4 cup water 
  • 3/4 cup oil 
  • 4 whites eggs 
  • 6 drops of pink food coloring

  • 1 cup butter, softened 
  • 1 cup shortening 
  • 1/2 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed 
  • 2 tablespoons milk 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla 
  • Zest from 1 lemon 
  • 2 pound package or 7 1/2 cups confectioners sugar 
  • 3 drops of pink food coloring 
Decorations: (Optional)

  • 24 lemon slice candies or grapefruit slice candies
  • 12 colored flexible drinking straws
  1. In a large bowl, whisk cake mix, pudding mix, and drink mix together.  Add sour cream, lemon zest, water, oil, and egg whites to the dry mix. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed for about two minutes. Use a strong mixer, this batter is thick.
  2. Scoop batter into 24 lined muffin tins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until cupcakes don’t look wet and a toothpick inserted in one comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.
  3. Prepare the frosting by creaming butter, shortening, and lemon zest together. Then add lemonade concentrate, milk and vanilla with a mixer. Beat until smooth.  Then gradually add the sugar, mixing well until light and fluffy. Beat in the food coloring.
  4. Pipe frosting onto the cupcakes.  (You will have plenty to pile it on.  I had over 1 cup leftover.  Leftover frosting is good sandwiched between two graham crackers).      Optional: Place a lemon candy wedge on top of each cupcakes.  With the straws cut the top 1/3 of the straw off just below the flexible part.  Discard the tops.  Then cut the remaining straw pieces in half.  Place one straw piece in each cupcake to resemble a drink.
Cupcake recipe is a Real Mom Kitchen Original, Frosting is adapted from A Little Loveliness
A note on the cupcakes: Rachel followed the recipe except she took another person's advice and substituted the powdered lemonade mix and the 3/4 cup water in the cake with 3/4 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate. I recommend making the substitute.
I'm not sure how many this recipe yields, but it's a lot-- you can make small, medium and large cupcakes! 

Dorie Greenspan's Lemon Poppy Muffins

Talk about starting your day off right...these muffins are like a little burst of sunshine.  I'm a huge fan of Dorie Greenspan (in general) and these muffins (in particular). Their taste is somewhere between lemon cake and sour cream cake, but with poppy seeds (which I love, love, love).   

This is the first recipe I've made from Baking: From My House to Yours (A James Beard Winner). It's lighter than most of the muffin/cupcakes I bake, which tend to have lots of chocolate and butter cream frosting on top, so it's nice to have a lighter, lemony bite for a change.  

The batter yields 12 muffins and trust me, they will go fast.  Was it Pringles who coined the slogan, "once you pop, you just can't stop?" Well this is like that, only with muffins. I almost ate the whole batch while watching Arrested Development...a fantastically funny show that I just started streaming on Netflix.I know, I'm a little bit behind the curve on that one. 

Anyway, while these are best eaten day-of, they can be stored in an air tight container at room temperature for an additional day. But I can promise you, they won't last that long... 

Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins
(Courtesy of Dorie Greenspan, Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Yields 12 muffins
For the Muffins:
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
For the Icing: 
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

To Make the Muffins:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan, which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, rub the sugar and the lemon zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and hte fragrance of the lemon strong. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whish the sour cream, eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and melted butter together until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough-a few lumps are better than over-mixing the batter. Stir in the poppy seeds. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold. Cool the muffins completely on the rack before icing them.

To Make the Icing:
Put the confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl and add about 1 1/2 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Stir with a spoon to moisten the sugar, then add enough additional lemon juice, a dribble at a time, to get an icing that is thin enough to drizzle from the tip of the spoon. You can then drizzle lines of icing over the tops of the muffins or coat the tops entirely, the better to get an extra zap of lemon.

Happy Cakes

I've had a sweet tooth for as long as I can remember.  I love good quality sweets.  I never really nosh on over-the-counter candy like candy corns, skittles, Twix bars or Peeps. I go for super decadent desserts like rich Italian pastries, speciality cupcakes, freshly made ice cream and chocolate molten cakes.  Lucky for me I live right in between two of Denver's best bakeries-- Happy Cakes and My Sweet Bakery.  
The other day I found myself walking down 32nd Street in Historic Highland Square.  I decided to pop into Happy Cakes and try out one of their weekly specials-- a Mexican Chocolate cupcake.  It was so fantastic that I went right home and searched (somewhat unsuccessfully) for a recipe that was similar to the cupcake I had just consumed.  The cupcake had a spicy chocolate butter cream and got great heat from the use of cayenne pepper.  It really was fantastic.
I found myself back at Happy Cakes on Friday to pick up dessert for a "Thank You" dinner party we were having for our friends Mizzy and Teo (Mizzy was instrumental in finding us our rental house.  We absolutely could not have done it without her help).  I had a full menu planned and I really wasn't sure if I'd have time to whip up my own dessert.  I *knew* that Happy Cakes would make a cupcake worthy of our dinner guests.  And they did...
I'll be back at the bakeshop this week for I've got to try their Colorado Bulldog and Chocolate Pumpkin.  Oh cupcakes, you are good to me!
{Pictured: Cherry Coke, Classic Pumpkin, Happy Together, Happy Together Too}

Pumpkin: Patches and Cupcakes

I was dragging my feet.  Were we or weren't we going to go to the Isabelle Farm/Growe Foundation fundraiser?  I really wanted to check it out because: 1. I have never been to an actual, functioning organic farm; 2. it was a fundraiser and I was feeling altruistic; 3. there was cookie decorating and hayrides (whoops, that's 3 and 4!); and 4. the food promised to be delicious.
But we didn't know if the outing was going to line up with our household's nap schedules.  Well, long story short, we decided to go and I'm so glad we did.
The trip was about 30 minutes from our house.  We pulled into the parking lot and there were bales of hay and tons of pumpkins.  The inner farmer in me was super excited.  
The fundraiser was held on an 12 acre plot a few minutes away from the 'Big Farm.'  There were several varieties of pumpkin (Cindarella is the one to buy if you want to make pie), tons of squashes, beans, corn, beets, arugula, lettuce, carrots, celeriac and eggplant.  There were probably more vegetables being grown, but that's all I can remember from the farm tour. 
There was face painting and all sorts of games for the kids...and the food was delicious.
I ate my body weight in sweet goodies from the Tasterie Truck-- pumpkin whoopie pies, chocolate brownies and some tasty frosted cupcakes.  
There was brick oven pizza from Antonio Laudisio, a renowned Boulder chef, and the margherita was terrific (as was the white pizza).  Hosea Rosenberg, of Top Chef fame, was also putting out some great dishes.  One that stood out was the grilled watermelon with pomegranate, pomegranate reduction and topped with mint.  Yowzah! His Apple Slaw was also really light and tasty.
It was a great day.  
Below are some shots from the event and a great recipe for Pumpkin Brown-Butter Cupcakes.  For another amazing pumpkin dessert, click on Ina's Pumpkin Cupcake with Maple Frosting.  

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Nothing says autumn like pumpkin cupcakes...
Pumpkin Brown-Butter Cupcakes (From Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)
Makes 15-18
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for tins
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, cut into chiffonade (optional-- I didn't use sage)
 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
Brown Butter Icing (Recipe follows)
1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Brush standard muffin tins with butter; dust with flour, tapping out excess. In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the sage, if desired, and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns golden brown. Skim foam from top, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind; let cool.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In another bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, both sugars, eggs, and brown-butter mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined.
3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
4. To finish, dip top of each cupcake in icing, then turn over quickly and let set. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are glazed, keep at room temperature until ready to serve. 
Brown Butter Icing
Makes 1 cup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk, plus more if needed
1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling pan occasionally, until nut-brown in color, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and pour butter into bowl, leaving behind any burned sediment.
2. Add confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons milk to brown butter, stir until smooth. If necessary, add more milk (up to 2 tablespoons) a little at a time, just until icing is spreadable. Use immediately.

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And here's one of the new baby...