- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Easter is just around the corner, and these are the cutest cupcakes imaginable to serve at brunch or at an egg hunt party.

Instead of baking them in the usual cupcake paper liners, the batter is poured into ice cream waffle bowls sold near the ice cream section of the supermarket.

While the cupcakes bake, pull out jelly beans to resemble eggs and tint shredded coconut to look like grass. For a special presentation, decorate the cupcakes with yellow marshmallow Peeps and arrange them on a long white platter with wheat grass surrounding the little baskets.

The basic frosting is delicious on these cupcakes and many others. For a slightly lighter color, use unsalted butter and beat it several minutes with the electric mixer to lighten it further before adding the sugar.

Flavor the frosting if you like — for almond buttercream, add 1 teaspoon pure almond extract instead of vanilla and for coconut buttercream, add 1 to 2 teaspoons coconut flavoring instead of vanilla.

Easter basket cupcakes

CUPCAKES:

1 box (7 ounces) waffle bowls (10 to a box)

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain white cake mix

1 package (3.4 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix

½ cup milk

½ cup vegetable oil

2 large whole eggs

2 large egg whites

1 tablespoon coconut flavoring

Buttercream frosting (see recipe)

BASKETS:

3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

2 to 3 drops green food coloring

Assorted jelly beans

10 strawberry-flavored Twizzlers (9½ inches long)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wrap the outside of each waffle bowl in an 8-inch aluminum foil square, carefully tucking the edges of the foil just inside the top of the bowl. Place the bowls on a baking sheet and set aside.

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, egg whites and coconut flavoring in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.

Fill each waffle bowl with a heaping ½ cup of batter. Place the baking sheet in the oven.

Bake the cupcakes until they are lightly golden and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 24 to 27 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Gently peel off the aluminum foil and allow the bowls to cool to room temperature, 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the buttercream frosting (see below).

For decoration, place the coconut in a plastic bag with 2 drops of the green food coloring. Shake well until the coconut turns green. If the color isn’t strong enough, add another drop of color and shake again.

To assemble, place 2 heaping tablespoons of frosting on each cupcake and spread it out smoothly with a short metal spatula or a spoon, taking care to cover the tops completely. Immediately sprinkle on coconut to resemble grass and place a pile of jelly beans on the coconut to resemble eggs.

To create the basket handle, insert one end of a Twizzler in one side of the cupcake near the edge, then bend it over the cupcake and insert the other end on the opposite side. The cupcakes are ready to serve.

Store these cupcakes for up to 1 day at room temperature. After a day, the cake will begin to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 to 4 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of the milk and the vanilla. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Add up to 1 tablespoon more milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

Anne Byrn is the author of the popular Doctor series cookbooks, including “The Cake Mix Doctor” and “The Dinner Doctor” and “Cupcakes From the Cake Mix Doctor” (Workman Publishing). To share favorite cooking tips and ask questions, and to see her free online newsletter, go to www.cakemixdoctor.com.

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