A few weeks ago I introduced you to Amber, a hilarious friend with a hot new parenting blog called Parenting. Illustrated with Crappy Pictures. You may recall, we met years ago on a message board. Today you’re going to meet Julie, a mutual friend Amber and I met in the same place, at the same time. As it happens, Julie’s also a newly-minted parenting blogger, at Freckles & Fickle Take Over the World. And she’s also hilarious. (Quite the hotbed of talent, that board.) She’s here today to share a holiday tale about her younger son, Liam, along with a recipe that knocked my socks off when I tried it. It combines three of my favorite “C” words: cupcakes, candy corn, and caramel.
My younger son Liam has inherited what my husband lovingly refers to as the “holiday disease.” As the carrier, I will note that the mutated gene responsible for a bizarre obsession with all things seasonal and festive is dominant. Very dominant. It’s lights and sequins and Halloween costuming strategy sessions in late July. It’s decorating (Oh the decorating!) and entire weeks devoted to cut out cookies.
We’re learning that Liam’s case may be particularly severe, and that the first fall temperatures tend to be his trigger. When I deposited him in his room on Labor Day with construction paper, tape, and a few glue sticks, I returned a half hour later to find three empty glue sticks and this on his bedroom door:
Yes, that would be on September 5th. When I took him to a St. Louis Cardinals event at Busch Stadium the weekend after, his first and only comment about the outing was, “Maybe the Cardinals will have Halloween stuff.” For a kid who is also pretty obsessed with baseball, it appears that once fall arrives he is far more Nate Berkus than Lance Berkman. Sorry Lance, heredity is a mighty beast.
Because Liam and I live with two other people who are, um, normal and not ready to ring in Halloween on August 31st, we have to adjust. This is far more challenging for him than it is for me. I suspect this is because I just have a lot less energy than he does, but also because he’s five and still measures the days until Halloween in number of “sleeps.” Fifty or sixty more sleeps until Halloween can seem like forever for both of us, so we have to look for ways to get our fall on that won’t be too irritating to outsiders.
Boo! Did someone say Salted Nut Roll cupcakes? These caramel cupcakes are topped with an easy caramel buttercream, candy, and peanuts for a subtle-ish early nod to Halloween, and they give me an excuse to buy candy corn as soon as it hits the shelves. Talk about a win-win.
Like most cupcakes, these are pretty fun to decorate and I like to leave that part for the kids. I generally make the cakes the night before (or even days before and freeze) and let my boys take on the icing and beautifying. I’m sure there are awesome brave people with big kitchens and cleaning staff who sift with children, but I’m not one of them. I’m always looking for sanity-saving tips like that, which is why I cannot WAIT for my pre-ordered copy of Debbie’s book, Parents Need to Eat Too,to get to my door February 21st (that’s a lot of sleeps, so I’m antsy as hell). If you haven’t ordered yours yet, psssst . . . it’s time. Think of it not only as a way to try some amazing new recipes, but also the best way to look like one of those really pulled-together moms who maintains a spotless home and whips up healthy, delicious meals in between triathlons and saving kittens from fires.
Salted Nutroll Cupcakes
Makes 16-20 cupcakes
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
Caramel Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
About 1/2 cup candy corn
About 1/2 cup peanuts
Coarse sea salt (if desired)
To prepare cake:
- Preheat oven to 350° F (175 deg C) and grease or line cupcake tin.
- Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream together sugar and butter until fully combined. Add eggs and vanilla and beat again.
- Add half the flour mixture, then the buttermilk, then the remaining flour mixture, and beat until just combined.
- Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with batter, and bake 15-18 minutes or until cakes are golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from pan to cool fully before frosting.
To prepare frosting:
- Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low and cook for two minutes.
- While still stirring over low heat, add cream and return to boil.
- Remove saucepan from heat and allow caramel to cool. When it is lukewarm, gradually stir in confectioner’s sugar. Add sugar and/or milk/cream as necessary to reach desired consistency.
Frost cupcakes and decorate with candies and peanuts. Sprinkle with sea salt to finish if desired.