Puppies and Kitties and Cupcakes! Oh my!

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

If you had of asked me a month ago if there was a way to make cupcakes even sweeter and more perfectly wonderful than they already are, I would have scoffed, shaken my head, and said attempted to utter the word “naaaahhh” through a giant mouthful of fluffy cake and rich, silky buttercream.

But boy, oh boy, was I ever wrong!  This year, I am so honoured to have been asked by the Ontario SPCA to be their champion for National Cupcake Day™!  Now in its sixth year, the nation-wide annual campaign runs throughout January and February, culminating on Monday, February 26 – the sweetest day of the year! 

In 2017, animal lovers across Canada raised over $600,000 in support of their local animal welfare societies and, this year, I’m hoping to help them surpass that number and add to the outstanding $2.45 million raised to date!

To get involved and “bake a difference,” visit www.nationalcupcakeday.ca to register to host a Cupcake Day Party on a date that’s convenient for you.  Plan your National Cupcake Day™ Party for home, work, school or anywhere you think people would enjoy eating cupcakes (so, literally anywhere!).

Invite your guests to donate through www.nationalcupcakeday.ca to help raise critically-needed funds for animals that are abused, abandoned, neglected or no longer wanted.  Proceeds from National Cupcake Day™ help the Ontario SPCA support our furry friends, big and small, who have been abused, abandoned, or are in need of help.

If you're in need of a little cupcake-y inspiration, give these little babies a try!  They are super chocolatey, rich, crazy simple, and oh-so perfect for any and all cupcake and kitty/puppy lovers!

Classic Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 24 large cupcakes (or 36 regular)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups good quality cocoa powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350F and line two or three 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Give it a bit of a stir to combine and set aside.

Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the sugar and oil together for 1 minute.  Add the eggs in one at time, beating well after each addition and continuing to beat for 2 minutes or until the mixture looks a little lighter in colour.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together the vanilla extract and espresso powder.  Add that to the buttermilk and set aside.

When the oil and sugar mixture is nicely creamed, add approximately a third of the dry ingredients and beat together until almost combined.  Add in half of the buttermilk mixture and, again, beat just until almost combined.  Continue with this wet/dry method, ending with the last third of the dry ingredients.  Be careful not to over mix after the last addition!  Over mixing will lead to peaked and potentially cracked cupcakes!

Scoop about ¼ cup of batter into each little cupcake liner and bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 20–25 minutes.  While cooling, whip up a batch of chocolate buttercream and get ready to decorate to your heart's content!


Chocolate Buttercream

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup good quality cocoa powder
5 cups icing sugar
½–¾ cup whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon espresso powder
½­­–1 teaspoon kosher salt

Beat together the butter and cocoa powder and gradually add in the icing sugar.  The mixture will be a little crumbly but that’s where the whipping cream comes in!  With the mixer running, slowly stream in the whipping cream, starting with ½ cup then increasing to ¾ cup if necessary.

In a small bowl, combine the vanilla extract with the espresso powder and add it to the buttercream mixture.  Beat in the salt and use immediately.

Elvis approved: Fool's Gold Cupcakes

Fool's Gold Cupcakes

Fool's Gold Cupcakes

There are some things in life that just shouldn’t go together.  Shellfish and chocolate cake.  Balloons and porcupines.  Perfect hair and a windy day.  Brussels sprouts and ice cream.  Cell phones and swimming pools.    

I have a friend who insists that a gin martini she once had while in Rome which combined musty vanilla bean with the briny funkiness of an anchovy is the best drink she’s ever had.  I’m not convinced but I’m definitely curious and slightly intrigued by this strange elixir…

And isn’t that the case for so many amazing things?!  Sometimes, in those very rare and strange instances, things that seem oh-so-wrong can be just about the best thing you never imagined.

It’s a classic trope in so many things from film to food and, for me, it just never seems to get old.  So, when I was contacted by the lovely people over at Reel Canada to develop a recipe for National Canadian Film Day this year, I knew I needed to somehow make my favourite Canadian romcom, The F Word, fit into this amazing “food in film” initiative!

The F Word tells the tale of Wallace (played by Daniel Radcliffe… and if you know anything about me at all, you’ll know I’m obsessed with all things Harry Potter), a lovelorn and burnt out 20-something who becomes fast friends with a girl named Chantry pretty much over a discussion of Elvis’ favourite sandwich.

My future may not lie in writing movie synopses but it is in this sandwich, also known as Fool’s Gold, that I found inspiration for my recipe.

Without further ado, here she is: Fool’s Gold Cupcakes.  If the shouldn’t-go-together part of your brain cannot be pushed aside, I’d suggest leaving out the grape jelly or the bacon.  But, believe me, it somehow works!  My hubs can’t get enough of the salty sweetness of these strange little guys.

You can find more recipes inspired by great Canadian films by clicking here!

Fool’s Gold Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs
2 ½ cups All-Purpose flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
2 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup creamy peanut butter*
½ cup cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp – ¼ cup whipping cream

¾ cup prepared grape jelly
6 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and finely chopped

For the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 350F and line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.

Using a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy then add the eggs one at time, mixing well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir to combine.  This is the dry mixture for your cupcakes.

In a glass measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk and stir in the vanilla.

Add approximately a third of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter mixture and beat together with the hand mixer until almost combined.  Blend in half of the buttermilk mixture, followed by another third of the dry, the buttermilk, then the rest of the dry, mixing after each addition.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, filling each cup about 2/3rds full, and bake for 17-20 minutes or until golden and set.

Set the cupcakes aside to cool and prepare the frosting.

For the frosting, beat the butter, peanut butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together in a large bowl with a hand mixer.  Slowly add the icing sugar and salt, being careful not to mix too fast or else you’ll have quite a mess on your hands.

Finally, beat between 2 tablespoons and ¼ cup of cream into the frosting to make it light and fluffy.

To decorate, use a teaspoon to scoop a little well out of the centre of each cupcake.  Fill that with about 1 ½ teaspoons of grape jelly and cover the top of each cupcake with a good helping of the peanut butter frosting.  To finish the cupcakes, sprinkle the chopped bacon over the top and dig in to probably one of the most weirdly delicious desserts you’ve ever had!


Note: Be sure to use traditional peanut butter as the all-natural variety will make for a thin frosting.