Raspberry and Chocolate and Ganache, oh my! Ever since I made my ‘Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes,’ I’ve been dying to try another recipe using tart fruit and bittersweet chocolate. Since it also happened to be my cousin Kara’s 30th Birthday weekend, I thought something pink would simply be fabulous.

Raspberries seemed to be the perfect fit J Plus, she’s the kind of girl with a teeny tiny sweet tooth and I didn’t want to overwhelm her with something overpowering and sugary. 

The richness of the dark chocolate is balanced out perfectly with the tart raspberry frosting and the drizzle of bittersweet ganache. The cupcake is airy and pairs wondrous with the thick, tangy buttercream. 

Happy Birthday, Kara! Hope your birthday was as sweet as you :)
The Ingredients…*
…Recipe by: Martha Stewart
Makes 12 (I doubled this)

For the Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream 
 
For the Raspberry Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4-6 cups powdered sugar (depending of your sweetness level & desired consistency)
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
Splash of pure vanilla extract
Dash of sea salt, for taste

For the Chocolate Ganache Drizzle

…Recipe by: Martha Stewart
Makes 1 ½ cups---you will have leftovers!
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon coarse salt
The Instructions…*
First up, Prepare the Cupcakes:
(1) Preheat oven to 350° F; Line 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners.
(2) Into a medium bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
(3) Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each, then beat in vanilla.
(4) With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour.
(5) Pour batter into cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
(6) Cool in pan 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Next, the Raspberry Buttercream:
(1) Using the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and raspberry jam at a low speed, until light and fluffy. Add in vanilla and salt.
(2) Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until you reach a consistency that you desire.
(3) Pipe, or frost onto cupcakes, as desired.
Finally, the Chocolate Ganache:
(1) Coarsely chop chocolate (serrated knife works best for this)
(2) Bring cream just to a boil over medium-high heat. Pour over chocolate, and add salt. Let stand for 10 minutes (don't stir -- doing so will cool the ganache too quickly, making it grainy).
(3) Stir with a whisk until smooth and shiny to break up any pieces and emulsify cream and chocolate.
(4) Chocolate will often settle on the bottom or sides of the bowl. Scrape dish with a rubber spatula to incorporate all of it.
(5) Once desired consistency is reached, use a fork to drizzle chocolate lightly over tops of cupcakes.
Now, the best part: the taste test. I'll admit it. I had to taste a couple to make sure the taste was consistenly carried throughout the entire batch ;)
 
 
Lofthouse Sugar Cookies…*
Costco cookies. Cloud cookies. Crack cookies. You name it. These famous Lofthouse originals are recognizable at every social gathering I’ve ever been to. There’s always the one person who signs up to bring the dessert and shows up with a case of these bad boys—or wait, was that always just me? :/ 

Either way, I know I’m not the only person in this world that has a secret crush on Mr. Lofthouse. These soft pillows of sugary dough are topped off with a dreamy, creamy vanilla frosting and loaded with rainbow jimmies that get stuck in your teeth. I love ‘em. They taste just like a classic vanilla cake—soft and crumbly in all the right spots. ;)
 I dare you to stop at just one. In fact, I'll give you a prize if you have the willpower to do so...because I'm pretty sure it's next to impossible.
The Ingredients…*
…Recipe by: Eat Live Run  
For the Cookies:
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
5 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the Vanilla Frosting:
…Recipe by: Martha Stewart
4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened
6 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
The Instructions…*
First up, Prepare the Cookies:
(1) Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large bowl, combine together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
(2) Using an electric mixer (or your hand), cream together the soft butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat for about three more minutes until well combined.
(3) Alternate adding the buttermilk and the flour to the mixture, starting and ending with the flour.
(4) Add the vanilla and beat on medium until everything is combined and the batter is smooth.
(5) Pipe out (or scoop out) the batter onto a lined baking sheet, leaving about two inches of space between each cookie. 
(6) Bake for about twelve minutes or until the edges start to turn golden.
(7) Let cookies cool completely; meanwhile, prepare the Vanilla Frosting…
Next, the Vanilla Frosting & Sprinkles:
(1) Put butter in bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes.
(2) Reduce speed to medium; add sugar 1/2 cup at a time, mixing well, about 5 minutes total.
(3) Add vanilla and salt. Raise speed to medium-high; beat until smooth, about 1 minute more.
(4) Divide evenly among small mixing bowls; add food coloring drop by drop until you reach desired shade.
(5) Frost and cover with rainbow jimmies…and enjoy!
Oh, and Happy Birthday to my big brother bear, Joe Joe—shipped all the way to him in Greensboro, North Carolina from little ol’ me in Chicago :)
 
 
Thin Mint Truffles…*
It’s that time again….it’s GIRL SCOUT SEASON! I know I’m not the only one out there that occasionally makes a meal out of Thin Mints or Tagalongs. There’s something about helping out a good cause that cancels out any ounce of guilt that may trail overindulgence. 

Believe it or not, I waited 365 days to make this recipe. I had the blog post saved as a draft and the recipe book marked to my favorites. The only thing I was waiting on was a single box of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies (….which by the way, cost $4.00/box nowadays...!?!)

Add a scoop of cream cheese and a bag of Andes chocolates to your box of Thin Mints,  and you have yourself a truffle that’s too good to resist. This mint chocolate flavor combination enhances the already decadent Thin Mint cookie, and makes for the perfect St. Patty’s Day celebratory treat. 
I really wish they would just make Girl Scout Cookies available year round—my life would be so much easier; but since the chances of that happening are slim to none, I will have to survive on homemade Girl Scout Cookies, like my peanut butter-packed-Tagalongs and toasted-coconut-topped-Samoas that I made last year. Something tells me that a batch of homemade ‘Do-Si-Dos’ are in my near future… :)
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The Ingredients…*
…Recipe inspired by Gilly Cakes
1 box Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 bag Andes Baking Chips
Sprinkles, cookie crumbs, or green candy melts for decorating

Note: You can always use the regular size Andes Chocolates and cut them up if you can’t find the baking chips.
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The Instructions…*
(1) Put both sleeves of cookies into food processor, process until finely chopped crumbs are formed (or do as I did, and crush them up inside a plastic Ziploc bag)
(2) Pour crumbs into a bowl and add softened cream cheese
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(3) Mix together with a fork
(4) Roll into truffle sized balls (≈15-20 depending on size)
(5) Refrigerate for an hour (or freeze for 30 minutes)
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(6) Melt Andes Baking Chips in double boiler (or microwave, using 30 second intervals)
(7) Carefully cover each truffle in chocolate and tap off excess
(8) Place each truffle on wax paper on a cookie sheet (top with sprinkles or drizzle with candy melts before chocolate sets)
(9) Refrigerate until chocolate is firm and enjoy! :)
Thin Mints are taken to a whole new level with these crunchy cookie truffles!
By the way, if you are wondering where you can buy Girl Scout Cookies, use this ‘Cookie Locator’ to find the location nearest you!
 

little shortcake...*