10 Recipes for Valentine’s Day

Here’s a roundup of 10 recipes that your Valentine–or Valentines–will love…some are healthy and some are not-so-healthy (but very yummy)!

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If you’re wanting something sweet for your Valentine breakfast, try these Strawberry Yogurt Muffins–the strawberries on top look like hearts, so they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day!

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Or if you’re wanting something healthy, try this Cranberry-Pecan Oatmeal, made with dried cranberries and chopped pecans. You can substitute dried cherries for the cranberries if you want.

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Or make this Cranberry Almond Oatmeal Bake if you’re feeding a larger group.

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You can also use your dried cranberries (or cherries) in these Cranberry Almond Breakfast Scones for a mid-morning or afternoon Valentine snack!

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Since you may be eating lots of sweets on Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to include a healthy salad in your lunch or dinner menu–this Apple Pear Pecan Salad has dried cranberries in it too, but dried cherries would be yummy as well!

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Savory Strawberry Salsa makes a great appetizer with tortilla chips, and it’s also really good served over grilled chicken!

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Now you need some dessert ideas…Strawberry Cupcakes are just the thing!

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But lots of people prefer something chocolate, and you can’t go wrong with these Chocolate Cupcakes with Fudgy Frosting!

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If you want a healthier dessert, you could always make this Healthy Chocolate Shake

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But, hey, it’s Valentine’s Day–if you want to splurge, make these Dark Chocolate-Covered Cherry Swirl Brownies!

Hope you get a chance to try out some of these treats! Do you have a favorite Valentine recipe?

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Owl Cupcakes

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Here’s a fun fall cupcake decorating idea–Owl Cupcakes! There are several different ways you can make owl cupcakes, and you may have already seen other ideas for these on different sites. I thought this idea from Recipe Snobs was one of the cutest and easiest–all you need are cupcakes, Oreos, and M&M’s!

Make sure you generously frost your cupcakes, because the frosting is what holds your Oreo “eyes” and “ears” in place, as you press the cookie halves into the top of the cupcake. Hope you have fun making these!

OWL CUPCAKES adapted from Recipe Snobs

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 12 chocolate cupcakes generously frosted with chocolate frosting (make your favorite recipe or try these yummy Chocolate Cupcakes with Fudgy Frosting–that’s what I used!)
  • 24 Oreo cookies (regular or Double-Stuff Oreos–I’ve used both; since I really like the cream filling, I prefer the Double-Stuff)
  • 36 M&M candies (I like using blue, green, brown, or red for the eyes, and orange for the nose)

Split the Oreo cookies in half crosswise, so the cream is all on one half and the other half is plain (the directions on Recipe Snobs say you can microwave 5 cookies at a time for 3-5 seconds to help keep the cream side solid; I didn’t try this, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re having problems splitting the Oreos. Also, you can use a frosting spatula or knife to help split the cookies. And you may need to use a small knife to scrape off small crumbs from the cream filling side or to smooth down the filling after splitting the cookies).

For the eyes: Press two of the cream filling cookie halves, with sides almost touching, gently into the middle of a frosted cupcake (part of the cookie halves will extend beyond the cupcake). Press the M&M’s, with the M side down, into the cream filling on each cookie half (refer to my photos for where to place the M&M’s).

For the ears: Use the plain Oreo halves for the ears above the eyes (they kind of look like eyebrows, too!). Score the flat smooth cookie sides with a small sharp knife down the center so you get a clean break for your two ears. OR, if you want thinner ears like I made on these cupcakes, score the cookie half on each side not quite to the center; this will leave you with an extra center strip of cookie (which you can eat or discard–I ate mine! :) ). Score and break all your plain cookie halves.

Take two of the “ears” that you’ve made from the plain cookie halves and press them into the frosting right above the “eyes,” slightly slanted downward and almost meeting at the upper center of the cupcake (the bumpy side of the cookie should be showing from the front).

For the “beak,” press an orange M&M (on its side) in the lower center, right below where the cookie “eyes” meet on the cupcake.

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There you have it! Enjoy eating these fun cupcakes!

What’s your favorite way of decorating cupcakes for fall?

Chocolate Cupcakes with Fudgy Frosting

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Chocolate cupcakes are a great dessert any time of year, and I was wanting to make something chocolatey. After trying several recipes that I thought were so-so, I went to Martha Stewart’s site and decided to make her Chocolate Cupcakes and Ultimate Chocolate Frosting with a few little changes. I’m so glad I did!

I really like these cupcakes! The batter is thick, smooth, and creamy. And the cupcakes rise and bake up so nicely with rounded tops. Best of all, they have a great chocolatey taste! The frosting is rich, thick, and definitely fudgy–much, much better than using a can of frosting!

CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES WITH FUDGY FROSTING by NancyCreative, adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s brand)
  • 3/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (or substitute sour cream)

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl or mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and blend well. Then add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour (if using a mixer, set the mixer to low speed for this).

Spoon batter into cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake at 350˚F for 20 to 23 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean (I baked my cupcakes for 23 minutes).

Cool cupcakes in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. After cupcakes are completely cooled, frost with the Fudgy Frosting.

FUDGY FROSTING 

Makes about 3 cups

  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup Half & Half (light cream)–or you can substitute milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sift confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder together in a medium-size bowl. Add butter, Half & Half (or milk), and vanilla. Stir ingredients until smooth.

Note: This is a very thick, fudgy frosting–if you want to frost your cupcakes with a decorator tip, thin frosting out a little by adding an extra 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Half & Half or milk.

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If you’re not big on lots of frosting, these cupcakes are great with a lighter amount, too–if you like to frost lightly, you could halve the frosting recipe.

Hope you enjoy the cupcakes! Do you have a favorite chocolate cupcake recipe?

Six of My Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

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Every autumn I get in the pumpkin-baking mood. Here are some of my favorite recipes I’ve posted before–if you haven’t seen them already, you may want to check them out!

Pam’s Pumpkin Sheet Cake (above)…a large, moist, yummy cake topped with rich cream cheese frosting!

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Pumpkin Cornbread or Pumpkin Cornbread Muffins…great for a fall breakfast or brunch!

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Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting…a great autumn cupcake!

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Pumpkin Bread with Pumpkin Buttercream…tastes great with or without the frosting–you can serve it for breakfast or brunch unfrosted, or serve it for dessert with the frosting!

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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bread…another pumpkin bread, with a delicious cream cheese filling!

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Double-Glazed Pumpkin Scones…a real treat any time of day!

Have you been doing lots of pumpkin-baking? Let me know if you try any of these out!

Linked to Foodie Friday.

Cupcakes for the 4th of July

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I’ve been seeing lots of fun patriotic-themed recipes the last few weeks, and here’s one I found at  Midwest Living that’s easy and festive…decorate white-frosted cupcakes with raspberries and blueberries for a yummy red-white-and-blue treat!

Are you making any special recipes for the 4th?

Have a safe and happy holiday!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

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This is the time of year I start getting out my pumpkin recipes, like so many of you. But one thing I hadn’t tried making yet was pumpkin cupcakes. Since I’m a big cupcake fan, I thought it was about time to try this out! So I did some experimenting and was very happy with the results! The cupcakes puff up nicely with a rounded top and taste great with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

If you love pumpkin-flavored goodies, you’ll want to make these! This recipe gives you 22 yummy cupcakes. And you’ll have plenty of frosting if you like frosting your cupcakes generously like I do. If you just want to frost them lightly, you can halve the frosting recipe.

PUMPKIN CUPCAKES WITH CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING by Nancy Creative

Makes 22 cupcakes

  • 2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 (15-oz.) can pure pumpkin puree (not canned pumpkin pie filling)
  • Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin pans (22 cups–you’ll have 2 less in one pan) with paper liners; set aside.

In medium bowl, blend the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In large bowl, blend canola oil, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, blending well after each addition. Stir in the milk and pumpkin puree and blend well. Add the flour mixture into this pumpkin mixture and stir until blended. Pour batter into muffin cups, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in pans for about 5 minutes, then remove to completely cool on a wire rack.

You can make the frosting while cupcakes are cooling…

CINNAMON CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

Makes enough to generously frost all your cupcakes! Halve the recipe if you want to frost your cupcakes more lightly.

  • 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese (regular or light), softened
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 7 1/2 to 8 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Blend softened cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add in vanilla and cinnamon, blending everything well. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar a cup at a time, blending mixture after each addition. Frost cupcakes when they have completely cooled. If you’re not serving these soon after frosting them, refrigerate until ready to serve (because of the cream cheese in the frosting).

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Have you made any pumpkin recipes yet? What’s your favorite pumpkin treat?

Linked to Monday Mingle, Full Plate Thursday, Foodie Friday.

Walnut Brownie Cupcakes with Nutella Frosting from Hello Cupcake!

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When I was asked if I’d like to review Hello Cupcake! by the publisher, I just couldn’t say no because I love cupcakes and cupcake cookbooks! Written by cookbook author and food stylist Leila Lindholm, the book is filled to the brim with sweetness and cuteness! The recipes are so yummy-sounding and the photos so delightful that I couldn’t wait to start baking! Some of the many cupcake recipes include Blueberry Lemon Cupcakes, Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Cupcakes, Sticky Pecan Upside-Down Cupcakes, and Rocky Road Cupcakes. Not only that, there are also some great whoopie pie recipes sprinkled throughout the book, too…like Ginger Raspberry, Chocolate Mint, and Banoffee whoopie pies. I decided to combine two of Leila’s recipes…I made the Walnut Brownie Cupcakes, but instead of topping them with whipped cream and fresh raspberries (which would definitely be amazing), I decided to try her Nutella Frosting that she had as part of her Easter Cupcakes recipe.

The Walnut Brownie Cupcakes are rich and chocolatey, with chunks of dark chocolate, and the Nutella Frosting is pretty amazing too! The ingredient amounts in the recipe are written in ounces and grams, so I did have to make some conversions into cups and I’ve included my conversions below. The recipe also says it makes 12 cupcakes, but I ended up with 15, which was definitely a good thing, because these are so yummy! :) I also filled my baking cups a little more than the recipe instructed, so my baking time was a little longer, and I’ve noted that below also.

Here’s the recipe…enjoy!

WALNUT BROWNIE CUPCAKES with NUTELLA FROSTING from Hello Cupcake!

Makes 12- 15 cupcakes 

  • 200 g (7 oz) walnuts, or 1 3/4 cup
  • 175 g (6 oz) butter, or 3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 150 g (5 oz) granulated sugar, or 3/4 cups
  • 150 g (5 oz) light muscovado or brown sugar, or 3/4 cups, packed
  • 150 g (5 oz) good-quality cocoa powder, or 3/4 cups  (I used Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa powder)
  • 50 ml (1 3/4 fl oz) golden syrup (substitute honey or light corn syrup) or 3 1/2 Tablespoons
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 g (5 oz) all-purpose flour, or 1 1/4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 200 g (3 1/2 oz) good-quality 70% dark chocolate (I used a 4 oz Ghirardelli bar of 60% dark chocolate)

Preheat oven to 175˚C or 345˚F.

Toast the whole walnuts in a hot and dry frying pan (I skipped this step).

Whip the butter, sugar, and brown (or muscovado) sugar until creamy. Add the cocoa, syrup, and salt. Whisk in one egg at a time.

Mix the flour with the baking powder and sift it into the other ingredients. Coarsely chop the chocolate and add it and the whole walnuts to the batter.

Line muffin tin(s) with paper cup liners  and fill the cups 2/3 full with the mixture (I filled mine closer to 3/4 full, and I still ended up with 15 cupcakes instead of 12; if you fill them 2/3 full, you may get 16 or 17).

Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 15-20 minutes (if you fill your cups 3/4 full like I did, your baking time will be 25-28 minutes). Test cupcakes with a toothpick; they should be a little sticky in the middle. Remove from oven and cool completely.

You can either garnish these cupcakes with whipped cream and fresh raspberries or top them with Nutella Frosting (see recipe below)

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NUTELLA FROSTING

  • 100 g (3 1/2 oz) Nutella, or 1/3 cup
  • 400 g (14 oz) icing (confectioners’) sugar, or 3 1/2 cups
  • 4 Tablespoons good-quality cocoa (I used Hershey’s Natural Unsweetened Cocoa powder)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150 g (5 oz) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon coffee

Mix the Nutella, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and cream cheese until creamy (I think it works best to blend the Nutella and softened cream cheese first, then add the other ingredients). Add the coffee and whip until fluffy (this is a thick frosting; if you’d like it thinner you can add a little more coffee). I went a little lighter on the frosting and had a good amount left over, so feel free to frost these heavier–you should have plenty to do that!

I love chocolate cupcakes, and these brownie cupcakes are a new favorite of mine! What’s your favorite cupcake flavor?

Linked to Sweets for a Saturday.

Desserts for a Sweet Fourth of July

Here are a few yummy desserts I found over at MarthaStewart.com. All of these great photos are from Martha’s site, too. Some of these don’t involve any baking, so even if it’s really hot out you can still make some yummy no-bake treats! The Red, White, and Blue Berry Trifle (shown above), is one of the no-bake desserts, and it’s so fun and festive, even without the sparklers! (The sparklers shown are special cake sparklers, recommended for outdoor use only!)

I love these Flag Cupcakes, decorated in a simple and easy way with piped blue buttercream dots and red licorice stripes!

These Pretzel Sparklers are a lot of fun, too! All you do is melt 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate, then coat the top third of each pretzel rod with the chocolate, using a pastry brush. Cover with sprinkles, stand upright in a glass and refrigerate about 5 minutes, or until firm. You could also use white chocolate instead of semisweet chocolate and add some edible glitter to make them more sparkly if you want.

Here’s another Red, White, and Blueberry Trifle…this one is made with cream cheese; the other trifle (the first photo in the post) is made with mascarpone cheese.

These Red, White, and Blue Parfaits look cool and refreshing with their red and white striped layers!

I like the idea of using raspberries and blueberries to decorate these Fouth of July Cupcakes…such a simple and easy idea, and so pretty!

These are just a few of many ideas at MarthaStewart.com…there are 30 fun and patriotic ideas for you to take a look at!

Wishing you a sweet Fourth of July! What kinds of treats will you be making for your celebration?

Fun Springtime Treats from Martha Stewart

I always find great ideas on Martha Stewart’s website and thought I’d share some really fun, yummy-looking decorating ideas I saw the other day (all photos are from marthastewart.com). These treats are perfect for Easter and all through the spring season. Maybe you’ll have a chance to try some of these ideas out this weekend!

From the top, right to left, there are cute Butterfly Cupcakes with pretzel wings, candy-coated chocolate heads, and licorice antennae; Lollipop Cupcakes with mounds of buttercream covered in sprinkles, taffy leaves, and lollipop flowers; Chrysanthemum Cupcakes with beautiful buttercream flowers; Coconut Nest Cupcakes with chocolate egg candies; and Spring Cupcakes decorated with flowers using jellied citrus slices for the petals. And I had to include these bunny-shaped sugar cookies…I thought they looked so cute with the ribbon tied around each bunny’s neck!

If you don’t have time to bake, here are a few fun ways you can package candy…

…make these fun Envelope Bunnies or Jelly Bean Carrots! So cute!

I just had to include this item too…it’s not edible, but it’s definitely eye candy and very pretty…

Delicate flower arrangements in eggshells…really sweet!

Hope these ideas have inspired you! What’s your favorite Easter or springtime treat?

Carrot Cupcakes from 150 Best Cupcake Recipes

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Have you ever noticed that cupcakes seem to make just about everyone smile with delight? Kids and adults alike can’t seem to resist these cute and tasty treats! That’s probably why there are so many popular bakeries that specialize in cupcakes…like Sprinkles, Magnolia Bakery, Primrose Bakery, and Polkadots.

Whether or not you live near a cupcake bakery, it’s always fun making your very own cupcakes. That’s why I wanted to review 150 Best Cupcake Recipes, by celebrity chef Julie Hasson…how could you not get excited about 150 yummy recipes to try out? :) This softcover cookbook includes some full-color photos that will make you want to start baking cupcakes right away! There are all kinds of flavors to choose from…Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes, Apple Crisp Cupcakes, Cherry Almond Poppy Seed Cupcakes, Cappuccino Cupcakes and more, in addition to 25 delicious-sounding vegan recipes. I thought I’d try out the Carrot Cupcakes because I love carrot cake and the book mentions that this recipe “…has all the wonderful attributes of a large cake packed into a pint-size treat.” And that is very true…eating one of these Carrot Cupcakes is like eating a cute little miniature carrot cake…they’re very dense and moist, and topped with a super-yummy cream cheese frosting. Because the cupcakes are rich and dense, the tops aren’t very rounded…

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…but that’s nothing a scoop or swirl of cream cheese frosting can’t take care of! :)

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I recommend making these in a non-stick muffin pan, since the cupcake edges rise enough to touch the rims of the muffin cups–a non-stick pan will make it easier to remove the cupcakes without breaking any of the top edges of the cupcakes.

Hope you get to try this recipe out…happy cupcake-making!

CARROT CUPCAKES from 150 Best Cupcake Recipes

Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (8-ounce/227 mL)) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained well
  • 1 cup (250 mL) packed grated carrots
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) loosely packed sweetened flaked coconut*
  • Cream Cheese Icing (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350˚F (180˚C). Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, and eggs until smooth. Add pineapple, carrots, and coconut, beating until mixed. Add flour mixture, beating just until blended.

Scoop batter into prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 22 minutes or until golden brown and tops of cupcakes spring back when lightly touched. Let cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on rack. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.

NOTE: These cupcakes freeze well. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

*VARIATION: Substitute 1/2 cup (125 mL) raisins for the coconut.

CREAM CHEESE ICING

  • 4 ounces (125 g) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 1/4 cups (550 mL) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, sifted

In a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat together cream cheese, butter, and salt until creamy. With mixer on low speed, beat in confectioner’s sugar, 1/2 cup (125 mL) at a time so that the sugar doesn’t fly all over the place. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy.

Spread frosting over cooled cupcakes and refrigerate until ready to serve, or for up to 1 day.

NOTE: Because cream cheese is perishable, be sure to keep your frosted cupcakes refrigerated until you’re ready to eat them.

This frosting will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Before using, let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to soften enough to spread.

Do you bake a lot of cupcakes? What’s your favorite flavor?