Holiday Cookbook Roundup: Cupcake Your Heart Out!

There are so many amazing cookbooks to pick up this season for yourself or for a loved one. Way too many to list, so I'll just supply a small, heavily edited list of favorites:

Of course we already covered Jessie Oleson's CakeSpy Presents Sweet Treats for a Sugar-Filled Life, but it's worth repeating. Perfect for all your unicorn-loving friends and family.

Next up, a gorgeous (and hefty) hardcover, perfect to find under the Christmas tree or receive for Hanukkah is John Besh's beautiful and heart-warming My Family Table: A Passionate Plea for Home Cooking. I am particularly impressed with the Black Forrest Cupcakes and the Brown Butter-Molasses Cupcakes. Easy enough for a child to participate in creating and scrumptious enough for everyone to love. A winner for seasons to come, guaranteed.

Besh's Brown Butter-Molasses Cupcakes. Recipe:

Makes 24

1 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt

1⁄3 cup (2⁄3 stick) butter
3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325˚. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the whole eggs and yolks and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with a handheld mixer until fluffy, then add the sugar all at once and continue creaming until light and fluffy. Add the beaten eggs a little at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Once the eggs are well blended, add the milk and vanilla, mixing well. Fold in the flour
mixture by hand, using a rubber spatula. Don’t worry if the batter has a few lumps.
3. Fit 24 muffin-tin cups with paper liners and spray with non-stick oil. Pour the batter evenly into each cup. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool.
4. For the caramel, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, then allow to brown into a nice hazelnut color. Add the sugar, cream, molasses, vanilla, and salt and boil, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. For the icing, heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until brown; remove from the heat. Add the powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla and whisk
until smooth.
6. To assemble the cupcakes, cut a quarter-size hole into the top of each cupcake and fill with the brown butter caramel. Spread the brown butter icing over the tops.

(Reprinted with permission by publisher
Andrews McMeel.)

Another happy treat-filled book, is, of course, The Treats Truck Baking Book: Cookies, Brownies & Goodies Galore.  Kim Ima put together a lovely, pretty, and easy-to-use book filled with recipes for all sorts of sweets. I'm partial to their Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes (page 100)!

Marketed to men, but also suitable for women, is Butch Bakery's new cookbook. Boozy butch tough cupcakes. Grrr! Perfect for handling any holiday stress (it's a cupcake and a cocktail!). Check out The Driller:


A Maple Cupcake frosted with Milk Chocolate Ganache and Butch’s Bacon Bits

Makes 12 cupcakes

For the Maple Cupcakes:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

11/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (11/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3 large eggs, broken into a small bowl

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup whole milk

1/3 cup pure maple syrup

For the Milk Chocolate Ganache:

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter

1 cup heavy cream

11/2 cups milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch salt


3/4 cup Butch’s Bacon Bits (recipe follows) or crumbled crisp bacon

Plan of Attack:

Make the Cupcakes: Place a baking rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 6-cup jumbo-size muffin pans with liners and set aside.

Place a strainer over a medium mixing bowl and sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and brown sugar until well combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add half of the flour mixture and the milk, beating to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and the maple syrup, and continue to mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Fill each prepared muffin cup with a rounded 1/3 cup batter, about 3/4 full. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through, until the tops are just firm to the touch and a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 24 minutes. Leave the cupcakes in the pan on a rack to cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire rack to cool completely before frosting, about 1 hour.

Make the Ganache: In heavy 2-quart saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the cream and heat until very hot but not boiling. Remove from the stove and stir in both kinds of chocolate chips until smooth and glossy. Stir in the vanilla and the salt. Transfer to a medium-size mixing bowl, and cool to room temperature. Chilling the mixture in the refrigerator will take about 1 hour. Beat the ganache on medium-high speed until thick and creamy, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Cupcake Construction: Get out that ice cream scoop (2 to 21/4 inches) and top each cupcake with a generous rounded scoop of frosting. Sprinkle 1 rounded teaspoon of the bacon bits on top of each cupcake. Cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container, or frozen for 1 month.

If You Like:

You can shine them up a bit before you sprinkle on the bacon bits by taking a butter knife (no serrated edges, please) and pushing the frosting down to about an inch high, flattening the top, and then taking the knife and making a flat 45-degree angled edge all the way around the side of the scoop of frosting.

Optional Frosting Suggestion:

The milk chocolate ganache can be used when warm, too. Just spoon it over the cupcakes as a glaze and let cool on the cupcakes. You won’t get as much frosting on top, but you’ll be able to eat them much sooner - with no mixer to clean!

Butch’s Bacon Bits:

Makes about 3/4 cup

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

10 to 12 slices of regular-cut bacon (1/2 pound)

Preheat the oven to 400°F and adjust the rack in the upper half of the oven. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a similar-sized wire cooling rack inside the pan.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar and pepper. Add the bacon strips and toss in the mixture. Lay the strips in one layer on the rack and top with any leftover sugar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until browned. Cool slightly before finely chopping. This will keep for 1 week stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

(Photo and recipe reprinted with permission by Wiley.)

More holiday-happy cookbooks on the way. Anyone have any favorites you care to recommend??