buttercream icing

Coconut Cake

Coconut Cake

I've gotten used to my afternoon slice of cake with a cup of tea. I'm not sure I will attempt to make another cake for a while. I'd like to remember this one for just a bit longer. The moist coconut cake layers in between sweet velvety buttercream frosting, sprinkled with fresh sweet shredded coconut.

Mini Candy Cane Cupcakes

Instead of having glitter adhered to my fingers and hair, and two feet stuck in the middle of a giant glitter party, I've got tiny shreds of candy cane stuck to the bottom of my slippers causing my to feet to cling to the floor when I walk. The dog has random bits of candy cane stuck to his fur, and he doesn't even know it. In the same manner, candy lies snug in the cracks and grooves of the table, stuck for another year or two until it becomes a permanent part of the structure.

I mention glitter, because in the past I have painfully attempted to make the following, a) glittered Christmas ornaments, b) sparkly martini's (with edible glitter, of course), and c) sparkly cookies. As we speak, pinterest is turning into a giant(!)

DIY glitter party

, and I suspect that I won't be the only one feeling mildly skeptical about it this year.

Glitter and crushed candy cane are similar in that they are delightful to look at until you get them all over the floor, and then they stick to everything, and you're never quite able to fully erase their existence from your home. I was doing pretty good this year, until I started to set up today's photo shoot. I'm a pretty messy photographer/cook/baker/stylist to begin with. Dishes piled all over the kitchen, fabric, wood boards, and food props scattered throughout the house. You can usually catch me standing on the table, balancing carefully, trying not to break my neck or step in a hot bowl of soup. I have white boards balanced on vases, and white sheets pinned to the venetian blinds - which are probably doing them no good. So it's no surprise that, when I started sprinkling candy cane, I missed the cupcakes and hit the dog and floor instead.

You're probably wondering what my dog was doing underneath the photo shoot, and I often wonder that myself. Cleaning up was an event in itself! I gave up half way through, partly due to boredom and partly due to annoyance, and then went shopping instead. So it's decided that I am now sticking to online shopping during the holidays and avoiding recipes that involve tiny bits of sticky candy. I'm placing them in the glitter pile, a pile that should be swept away somewhere out of reach. It's much safer that way.

It took me a few days to come up with a recipe for my first holiday post. I tossed and turned on a few ideas. Cookies, cakes, and squares were all contenders, but I am a natural born lover of cupcakes, so putting a festive(!) twist on an already delicious dessert only seemed fair. After all, everyone could use a little more cupcake in their life - which isn't to say that I don't have a few cookie recipes up my sleeve and a Christmas cake also in the works. With all of the holiday baking in the next few weeks, and a household of 2.5, I have managed to pawn off at least 3/4 of what I've baked, which puts me a few steps ahead of the game. Without a doubt, if it's sweet, delicious and in the house, I will eat it!!! Except for the rest of the Pot of Gold. I am so over it. 

I used one of my favorite cupcake recipes from a local cupcake shop here in Seattle -

Trophy Cupcakes

. (if you're ever in Seattle you need to try!!) I found it on the

Martha Stewart website

a while back, and it pleased-me-to-no-end knowing that I could make them at home. This recipe calls for standard cupcake ingredients - flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, etc. Mixing the wet and then mixing the dry, combing them together, and then adding a 1/2 cup boiling water. This can all be completed in under 10 minutes with a couple of bowls, measuring cups, and a wire whisk. The batter is quite thin, thus using a liquid measuring cup to pour the batter into the cups will prevent a mess. 

It is handy to fill the cups 3/4 full, or the batter will bake over the edges. This is a purely aesthetic and not practical, so if you end up going over, no bigs - that just means a little more cupcake with each bite. After baking, the cupcakes have a light and airy texture, so pairing them with a light and airy frosting seemed reasonable. Still a bit terrified of raw egg whites, I steered away from the Swiss and Italian buttercream and stuck with my old standard buttercream - butter, icing sugar, and milk. I added a tsp of peppermint extract, and sprinkled candy cane on top - which we are all pretty aware of by now. After sitting overnight, the candy cane lost it's crunchy-ness and melted into the frosting, so sprinkling before serving is probably a better idea.

If you've been around here for a while, you're likely familiar with my love for tiny foods. Granted, when it comes to cupcakes I like them in all sizes - feel free to make these cupcakes using a standard cupcake pan, if you want a little more cake to icing ratio. Happy baking, and stay tuned for more upcoming Christmas recipes and trials and tribulations from the Hands' kitchen!



recipe adapted from

Trophy Cupcakes via Martha Stewart

makes 28 - 30 mini cupcakes

notes: These cupcakes can be easily made in standard size. Add the crushed candy cane just before serving, or it will melt into the icing. 


1 cup + 3 tbsp white granulated sugar

1 cup all purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

3/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/3 cup boiling water


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/2 cups icing sugar

3 tbsp milk

1 tsp peppermint extract

crushed candy canes

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a mini muffin pan with cups.

Boil some water and set to the side.

Place a few small candy canes into a plastic bag. Roll over them with a rolling pin to break them into small pieces. You may need to bash them a bit to break up the large pieces. Set to the side.

In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium size bowl, combine the egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla with a hand blender until combined, or if you don't have one, combine with a wire whisk.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and combine with a hand blender on low speed for 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and continue to beat for 2 minutes. This can also be done with a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.

Add the boiling water and stir.

Pour the batter into a wet measuring cup and then use to fill each muffin cup. Place the tray into the oven and bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and let cook on a wire rack.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter. Beat with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy - 3 minutes. Slowly add a 1/3 of icing sugar at a time, followed by 1 tbsp milk. The icing sugar should be fully incorporated before you add the next 1/3 cup. Add the peppermint extract. Continue to beat the icing until light and fluffy - 2 minutes.

Scoop the icing into a piping bag and ice the cupcakes - I used a Wilton 1M tip. Sprinkle with some crushed candy cane. Store in an airtight container for one week.