Browsing articles from "February, 2013"
Feb 17, 2013

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

From the kitchen of:  Makes: 20-22 cupcakes
Total time: 30-45 min to prep, 18-20 min to bake


I can’t believe that it’s been a year since my nephew Kiernan was born. It seemed like yesterday I held his little 8 pound body in my arms. Now, he’s trying to walk! Why can’t they just stay small forever? To celebrate his first birthday, my sister invited many friends and family to their home for a nautical themed birthday. She is obsessed with all things nautical. She recycled items that she had from her baby shower, but added some new décor. Of course, she asked me to make 60 cupcakes for his birthday party which was definitely a fête. A single batch of cupcakes I can do, but making three batches was something I’ve never really done before. So I scoured through Pinterest to find a recipe for a simple, but flavorful Vanilla Bean cupcake. The morning of the party, I woke up at 8am and literally baked for 3.5 hours straight. I will NEVER try to make that many cupcakes in such a time crunch. Lesson learned. It was a challenge for me, but luckily everyone enjoyed the cupcakes especially the star of the event, Kiernan, who devoured it. He definitely has a sweet tooth like his Momma. The only thing I changed in the original recipe was the amount of powdered sugar in the buttercream. I dialed it back because it was wayyyy to sweet for my taste. Otherwise, it was a moist and sweet cupcake. The vanilla bean flavor definitely stood out. Enjoy!

for the cake
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup whole milk, room temperature
4 egg whites, room temperature
1 stick of butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
seeds from one vanilla bean
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

for the buttercream
3 sticks of butter, softened
seeds from one vanilla bean
2 teaspoons clear vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons whole milk

1. Dry ingredients.
First, preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Tip: Sift dry ingredients onto parchment paper to make it easier to pour into the batter in step 3. 


2. Wet ingredients. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites. Tip: to separate the egg white from the egg yolk, crack the egg on the edge of the bowl. Carefully, open the egg and allow the white part to fall into the bowl. Gentle move the yolk back and forth while using the sharp edge of the egg shell to separate the white part.


3. Batter. In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean seeds at medium speed until butter and sugar become light and fluffy. Tip: Be sure the butter is soft and at room temperature to achieve correct fluffiness. Add in the pure vanilla extract and one third of the flour mixture. Mix together. Beat in half of the milk/egg white mixture and then beat in half of the remaining flour mixture. Add the rest of the milk/egg white mixture. Mix well. Then add the last of the flour mixture and mix well until you reach a smooth consistency.




4. Bake cupcakes. With an ice cream scooper, scoop the batter into lined cupcake tins. Fill each cupcake two thirds full. Bake cupcakes for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Once cupcakes are ready, remove them from the pan and allow to cool on baking rack.



5. Frost cupcakes. To make the buttercream, beat softened butter and vanilla beans until fluffy. Slowly add sifted powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add in clear vanilla extract and milk. Blend on low speed until combined. Scoop buttercream in a piping bag and frost all cupcakes. Tip: I used a piping tip #809 that I found through Etsy. It has a large opening. I also found the clear vanilla extract at Michael’s.



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Feb 7, 2013

Fiddle-leaf fig tree love

I have been in love with the Fiddle-Leaf Fig tree (aka Ficus Lyrata) since I first laid eyes on it through Pinterest. They are certainly one of the most beautiful and most dramatic plants I’ve ever seen. This tree is an indoor plant that resembles sculptural works of art. They bring life into a room with it’s large and shiny green fig leaves and over-sized structure. With some research I’ve learned that Fiddle-Leaf Figs are easy to care (my kind of plant!), loves the sun (our living room is the perfect spot) and requires minimal watering (good, because I tend to forget). These three aspects made me realize that even with my lack of a green thumb, I couldn’t screw this one up (right?)

Well, considering I don’t have much experience in plants, I didn’t want to take the chance of purchasing a mature Fiddle-Leaf Fig and having it die on me. I would have wasted over $100. So, I purchased a starter tree for a mere $14 ($7 for plant and $7 shipping). Lets take a look at my little starter:


Standing at nearly 10 inches tall, this starter arrived in the mail nicely packed. It was nestled in peanuts and was seating on a disposable warming pad since it was traveling through cold climate. The leaves were bright, everything was intact. Overall, it was definitely shipped with care.


“Can grow 15-30′” WHAT? Seriously? I bought a indoor plant that can potentially grow up to 15 feet?! Oh s***.


Just so you know, this plant is poisonous. Most ficus plants are apparently. I honestly did not realize this before placing my order. So, you probably don’t want it near any dogs that enjoy eating leaves and such, and that’s why I’ve placed my plant on the second shelf in the living room. For now, it’ll just live there until I figure something out. It gets some sun from the nearby window. So far, the tree has been doing quite well.



If I take care of this starter, I hope that after some time this little guy will grow into something like this that I found on Making It Lovely blog:


I just worry about the climate here in Virginia since these plants like their sun. But I’m taking a chance and if my little starter doesn’t do so good, oh well. I’ve only wasted $14. Here are a few more inspiring photos of what I hope my tree will become. Thanks, Pinterest!





I’ll certainly keep you posted on how my fiddle-leaf fig tree is doing! I’ve been advised to leave it alone during these winter months and when it gets warmer, to re-pot. If you have any suggestions/advice on how to take care of these kinds of plants, please leave me some love!

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