RumChata Cupcakes!

It’s my friend Brittany’s birthday today, known mostly to you readers as the genius who came up with the RumChata Ice Cream challenge to which I valiantly arose during my graduation party.

That giant bottle of RumChata that I bought to make the ice cream has been hanging out in my refrigerator ever since, just waiting for the opportunity to become some other sort of alcoholic dessert. I’d say that a 30th birthday is a good enough occasion to break it out again, yes? Yes.

2015-11-07 920

Now, Brittany has a deep appreciation for all things cinnamon, including Fireball and RumChata. Don’t believe me?

2015-11-07 727

I wasn’t the only one who thought that it would make a good gift.

2015-11-07 300

Shots of RumChata are a something of a tradition with us.

2015-11-07 509

She’s also a bit of a cupcake connoisseur, so it seemed like the perfect idea to conjure up some RumChata Cupcakes to bring to the party.

There’s plenty of alcohol in the actual cakes themselves, plus extra brushed on top, and then mixed up into the buttercream frosting, too, as well as a great deal of cinnamon.

RumChata Cupcakes
adapted from Betty Crocker’s Starlight Yellow Cake and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Makes 24 cupcakes

Ingredients:
Cupcakes:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups RumChata liqueur (plus about 1/4 cup extra for brushing)
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large eggs
1 heaping tsp. cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)

RumChata Buttercream Frosting:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2-3 tbsp. RumChata liqueur

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.

In large bowl, beat all cupcake ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds, and then at high speed for about 3 minutes, until smooth and custardy. I like to start with the sugar and butter first, then the eggs, then everything else, but whatever works best for you.

2015-11-07 058

Whatever you do, don’t trust the lid on the baking powder, no matter how well it seems to be attached.

2015-11-07 401

Divide the batter evenly into the 24 cupcake liners, being sure to only fill each between 1/2 and 3/4 full.

2015-11-07 904

Put your face really, really close to the pan and get in a really good sniff of that cinnamon-y goodness before you have to put it in the oven.

Bake the cupcakes for approximately 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the tops spring back when touched lightly in their centers. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

2015-11-07 622

While the cakes are cooling, it’s frosting time!

In a medium bowl, beat the powdered sugar and softened butter together on low-medium speed until well-incorporated, then add the vanilla and 1 tbsp. of the RumChata.

Then, gradually add in enough RumChata, by drops, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. I lost track of exactly how much I put in there, but I don’t think that I went more than 4 tbsp. You’ll know when you get there.

2015-11-07 521 (2)

Now, take your cooled cupcakes and poke some holes in the tops with a toothpick.

2015-11-07 648

2015-11-07 521

Be sure to notice that your cats are up to something over in the corner, and have a balanced, logical discussion with them about how they shouldn’t try to eat cobwebs.

2015-11-07 603

2015-11-07 606

Then, brush on a generous layer of RumChata and allow it to soak in a little bit.

2015-11-07 855

2015-11-07 908

If you don’t let them dry a little bit, the tops of the cake will rip right off when you try to put the frosting on, so be patient if possible.

2015-11-07 257

I did end up having a tiny bit of RumChata left over after brushing all the cakes. You can guess what I did with that.

2015-11-07 704

If you said drink it straight from the measuring cup, you are correct.

Get a nice heaping scoop of frosting on a flat spatula and smear it on top of your cupcakes in a rustic fashion.

2015-11-07 447

Or, if you want to get fancy and pipe it on, go right ahead. However, this frosting recipe gives you just barely enough to get the tops done this way, so if you want something more elaborate, you should probably double the recipe.

2015-11-07 954

Then, with all your pretty little cakes in a row, sprinkle a touch of cinnamon on top of each one.

Pretty!

Now, what do these taste like? Here we have a stop-motion reaction shot, courtesy of the birthday girl.

2015-11-07 857

2015-11-07 900

2015-11-07 902

2015-11-07 904 (2)

When they’re baking, they smell like butter and cinnamon and rum and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, all of the good things in the world. They taste that way, too, let me assure you.

Later on in the night, Brittany told me that they were the best thing that she had ever put in her mouth, and then she reminded me again later on Facebook. I’m not sure if I would go that far, but yes, they are definitely something special. They might be worth buying another giant bottle of RumChata for.

Advertisements

Frozen Yogurt for Breakfast

My birthday was about two weeks ago, and I wanted to be sure that I had something interesting and delicious to eat for breakfast on that special day.

2014-06-22 123

What? You don’t eat ice cream for breakfast? You should really sort out your priorities.

While I agree that it’s probably not the best practice for everyday life, birthdays are special days where general eating rules should be able to go out the window. Plus, it’s frozen yogurt, so let’s just pretend that makes it more acceptable.

2014-06-22 042

I had never made frozen yogurt before, but I knew that Jeni would be able to guide me through it with flying colors. Plus, I knew that I was going to have to draw on a reserve of patience that I normally do not have when it comes to frozen treats. Making frozen yogurt with a fruit sauce takes 2 solid afternoons worth of work, and you need to be fairly precise about what you’re doing.

2014-06-22 043

At first, I was considering just going with the plain lemon frozen yogurt, but when I saw this suggestion, I knew that blueberries had to become involved. Both recipes are from the first book: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, and I have a feeling that I will not feel truly complete until I have made at least one batch of everything in it. Then, I’ll move on to the second book. Let’s hope there’s not a third because I might never find true ice-cream-related emotional fulfillment. (Just kidding. I would buy it immediately, if only for the opportunity to leaf through the pages and sigh wistfully.)

2014-06-22 005

The first step in making frozen yogurt? Draining yogurt. The first time I ever heard of this concept was in a post years ago from everybody likes sandwiches about this amazing-sounding orange yogurt. I have always kept this concept in the back of my mind, but never got the opportunity to practice it until this day. I have a feeling that my local grocery store employees would have looked at me funny if I asked them where they kept their cheesecloth (It is still a major moment of confusion for them when I pull out my own shopping bags. One step at a time.), so I decided to go with the coffee filter option, which seemed to work beautifully.

2014-06-22 013

That yogurt needs to drain for several hours, so overnight was the best option. Next? The blueberry sauce. I figured that making it during the day before was a good idea, although I wasn’t anticipating the delicious smell and the way that the idea of fresh blueberry sauce sitting in the refrigerator would taunt me the rest of the day.

2014-06-22 022

Blueberries and sugar get tossed together and heated up over the stove until the whole house smells like you’re baking blueberry muffins.

2014-06-22 030

Blueberry sauce might be the prettiest purple of all the purples.

2014-06-22 033

The draining yogurt and cooling blueberry sauce sit in the refrigerator for a day, waiting for their ultimate destiny.

2014-06-22 045

2014-06-22 047

The next day, lemons take over your whole kitchen. You zest them into big long strips.

2014-06-22 049

You juice them up.

2014-06-22 052

You make lemon syrup.

2014-06-22 063

And then you boil up that zest with your milk and cream and sugar and all of the other white things in your kitchen.

Speaking of white things…

2014-06-22 057

How did that yogurt do? How much liquid can really be in there anyway?

2014-06-22 055

I think I actually gasped. This moment was on a par with the time that I finally got to squeeze out shredded zucchini. So much unexpected greenish liquid. It was weird. But again, so worth it. Getting rid of that extra stuff helps to make the frozen yogurt base incredibly silky and smooth, with as little incidence of ice crystals as possible.

2014-06-22 061

Check out my mise en place. I’m getting so much better at this.

After things are boiled up, the various whiskings begin.

2014-06-22 067

You whisk in cornstarch slurry. You whisk in cream cheese.

2014-06-22 070

You whisk in that lovely thick yogurt.

2014-06-22 073

You whisk in your homemade lemon syrup.

Your arm gets tired.

2014-06-22 078

You let things chill out. (You do some dishes now, because to wait until you’re finished has previously proven to be a bad idea.)

2014-06-22 080

You strain out those pesky lemon zests.

2014-06-22 083

You get this amazing silky concoction, that, if I were I lesser woman, I would have eaten straight from the bowl with a spoon like lemon curd without a care in the world. However, one of the few things that I am willing to sacrifice for is the prospect of having ice cream, so I kept that impulse in check.

2014-06-22 088

You spin it up, and then do some more dishes. It’s a good idea to make ice cream so that you have an excuse to do some dishes, really. Let’s keep telling ourselves that.

Then, the assembly begins. I think that I’ll just let this go by like a stop-motion movie. You guys know what’s up.

2014-06-22 090

2014-06-22 091

2014-06-22 092

2014-06-22 094

Such pretty stuff, with all those alternating layers of the lightest yellow and deep purple.

2014-06-22 095

Seal it up, and let it go. That’s right. More waiting. At least four hours, or if you’re like me, until your birthday.

2014-06-22 113

And then again, if you’re like me, deny yourself the pleasure of digging right in on your birthday morning so that you can take pictures first because you are absolutely ridiculous.

2014-06-22 122

But this beauty needed to be documented. The lemon frozen yogurt is super smooth, tart, and bright, much lighter than its traditional lemon ice cream counterpart. The blueberry swirl is sweet and fresh, with the tiniest bit of iciness and chewiness from those whole berries. The whole things just screams summer. And when your birthday is on the first day of summer, could there be anything better?

Now get inside from that crazy heat and stand over a hot stove and make yourself some frozen yogurt. It’s totally worth it. And your dirty dishes will thank you for it.

Mr. Izzard, I Made You a Squirrel (or…Jeff the Squirrel)

2014-06-22 138

I love Eddie Izzard. I’m not sure when I saw or heard him perform for the first time, but it was love at first sight/listen. He is the funniest man alive. Everytime I hear someone say that they did something absolutely insane (or when I catch people sleeping in the big squishy chairs at the bookstore), I hear his “like you do” in my head in that wonderful lilt. I also hear his voice whenever I say the word “jam.” I offer “cake or death” at every opportunity. I like my coffee covered in beeeeees. I have declared that the mouse is under the table, the cat is on the chair, and the monkey is on the branch.

Those who aren’t in the know don’t realize that this stuff is hilarious. Story of my life.

Dan gets it, though. He even got me a birthday cake covered in beeeeees.

102

See?

My brother also knows about my deep-seated love, and he surprised us with tickets to go and see him in Austin this weekend as my birthday present this year. I may have danced a little when he told me. More than a little. I then concocted a plan that seems extremely similar to a plan that I had last year around the same time: I would knit Eddie Izzard a squirrel and present it to him in some way at his show, just for him to have for no reason. Like you do.

2014-06-22 137

This little guy is named Jeff (obviously) after Jeff, the god of biscuits, Jeff Vader, Jeff Jeffty Jeff, and all of the other strange Jeffs that find their way into Mr. Izzard’s wonderful stories. (Oh my god, I just saw that they sell an “I’m Jeff Vader” t-shirt on his website. Waaaaaant.)

2014-06-22 142

He has been interrupted during his frantic acorn eating with distressing thoughts as to whether or not he left the gas on.

Fabulous.

eddie_izzard2014-06-22 134

Twins, yes?

2014-06-22 145

The pattern for Jeff the Squirrel came from the adorably titled Knit One Squirrel Two by Rabbit Hole Knits, purveyor of all sorts of knitted cuteness. His acorn came from the Spiffy Little Acorn pattern by Revati Poole, also so tiny and adorable. (Ravelry links all, by the by.)

2014-06-22 148

I think that knitting and sewing on those teeny tiny little ears was my absolute favorite part.

2014-06-22 153

Making his slightly worried facial expression runs a close, close second.

2014-06-22 146

And that huge fluffy tail was a great deal of fun as well, even with the ridiculous amount of tiny knots and unwinding of yarn strands involved. The tutorial for this is located here. I had some trouble finding it at first on the main site, so I figured that anyone else who wanted to join in the fun shouldn’t have to waste time searching for it, too. All you need for it is a pipe cleaner and a good movie to watch while you make knots.

2014-06-22 151

Whenever I see this picture, all I can hear is, “That squirrel is looking at me,” in my best Brian Fellows voice.

This little guy was just a joy to work on, and I was more than a little sad to finish him up. However, I know that he’ll bring joy (or at the very least, delighted confusion) to an all-around fantastic person, which more than makes up for it.

2014-06-22 156

The only trouble is…how do you manage to give a squirrel to Eddie Izzard? With my David-Sedaris-owl-giving, there was a book signing involved, which made the whole hand-off of the adorable knitted item a lot easier. This is a whole different type of event, a stand-up show in a big theatre…I have no idea how to present him with his squirrel. Ideas have been tossed around like waiting out at the backstage door after the show, speaking to security guards and having them pass it along, passing it hand-over-hand (crowdsurfing the squirrel!) until it reaches the stage…All equally weird and seemingly likely to fail. I’m thinking that I might just send him a tweet linking to this post? I have no idea. I would like to just come off with as little of a hint of stalkerishness as possible.

All I want is for an awesome person to have a handmade gift. And how could you say no to this face?

2014-06-22 155

You’re right. You can’t.

We All Scream for Making Ice Cream. At least, I think that’s how it goes.

For my birthday this year, I treated myself to a bit of an indulgent book purchase.

2013-07-02 141

Not that the book itself is indulgent, but the amazing things inside of it are. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams are true to their name, absolutely splendid. It took me a few weeks to even be able to decide on which one to start with on my ice-cream-making adventure. We all know that I’ve had some success with my ice cream maker so far this summer. However, that was with coconut milk and minimal cooking effort. I figured I was ready for the big guns. For boiling milk and cream and the slightest hint of danger.

I mean, that milk could curdle, you guys! It’s downright nerve-wracking.

2013-07-02 105

Hard decisions got made, and Lemon Cream Ice Cream it was. It’s definitely not hard to get me on board with lemons, especially if zesting and juicing is involved.

2013-07-02 106

Zest! Hooray!

Now, proper ice cream making, especially with Jeni’s fantastically detailed method, requires all kinds of planning. Something for which I am not usually known. However, I was up for the challenge here. Lots of pre-planning went down in this kitchen.

2013-07-02 119

And bowls. Lots of bowls. That’s the key to everything here. You need bowls for each separate step and ingredient, and you need to be able to coordinate your bowls with the temperature changes required. And you need a Ziploc bag.

2013-07-02 124

Plus, you need to fold over the edges of your bag so you can pour in your ice cream base. I never remember to do this. I am so proud of myself.

2013-07-02 122

Then whole milk, cream, and sugar got boiled together with lemon zest goodness.

Then there were various mixing steps (obviously not pictured) that required quickness and even more boiling and whisking. This new professional-ice-cream-making Jinger knew better than to try to take pictures and mess it all up. Or maybe I just forgot. Either way.

2013-07-02 125

I even poured my base into that bag without spilling. Amazing.

2013-07-02 131

Then things got spun up. Again, with the nerve-wracking. There’s always the possibility that bad things will happen, and then that there will suddenly be no ice cream. That would be incredibly sad after all this work. And all this mess that had already been made.

2013-07-02 132

2013-07-02 129

That’s another thing. You will make a mess. Unless you are better at things than me.

All that work and pre-planning and mess-making paid off, though, because this beautiful stuff came out of the ice cream maker.

2013-07-02 135

Hooray!

2013-07-02 136

Smoothing out that tangy lemony goodness with your trusty spatula makes you feel pretty dang awesome.

2013-07-02 137

I even remembered the parchment paper step in order to keep our new baby ice cream from freezer burn.

Now. Four hours of freezing means mess-cleaning time.

2013-07-02 140

But it’s all totally okay when you get rewarded for your efforts with this.

2013-07-05 044

Tangy, creamy, lemon amazingness. Jeni is doing something right. This ice cream tastes like pool parties and angel food birthday cake. Picnics and lemonade. Late night strolls and fireworks.

2013-07-05 051

With a smidge of self-satisfaction.

Hooray for ice cream makers and summertime! The only issue here is that I may make this stuff a lot faster than we can eat it. Maybe that’s not really a problem.

Early Birthday Musings, with bonus further Owl Updates! (In short, David Sedaris is the goddamn man.)

“It is sad because you would like to believe that everyone is unique and then they disappoint you every time by being exactly the same, asking for the same things, reciting the exact same lines as though they have been handed a script…All of us take pride and pleasure in the fact that we are unique, but I’m afraid that when all is said and done the police are right: it all comes down to fingerprints.”

– David Sedaris, from “The Santaland Diaries,” Holidays on Ice


I turn 31 tomorrow. 31 isn’t really an exciting age to turn, unless you’re like me and constantly think about ice cream and realize that 31 is the Baskin & Robbins flavor number.

In my 30th year, my main challenge has been facing the task of my first year of nursing school, balancing work and school and clinicals and attempting to uphold the sanity of the boyfriend, friends, coworkers, and cats surrounding me. And I’m pretty sure that even though I may have developed some deep-seated anger problems during the process, I kicked some major ass. Like all up and down the street.

We kept ourselves safe during a crazy hurricane and ate a ridiculous amount of Swedish Fish. I baked countless cakes and pies, learned how to make ice cream, and held my own during numerous Scrabble games. I wrote thousands of words about Jean Watson’s caring theory, spontaneous pneumothorax, and necrotizing fasciitis. I wore all white all day for several days, tempting the gods to make me spill coffee all over myself. We rode our bikes all over the goddamn place until they got stolen out of our backyard. (I know, right? Bunch of savages in this town.) I dressed up like Moaning Myrtle, a Storm Trooper groupie, and a girly teenage vampire with pink hair, all for the sake of the little children.

For once the universe was listening, and it granted me some birthday gifts a little early.

270

Dan and I got to go camping at the beach for a weekend, and even though Florida was actively trying to murder us with its heat, aggressive sunlight, thrashing surf, and angry mosquitoes, we had a fantastic time.

284

156

St. George Island State Park made us feel like we were on our own abandoned desert island, which was a welcome respite from my usual overly-stimulated-but-still-yet-somehow-phenomenally-humdrum life. There was tons of sand, lots of playing with glow sticks in the pitch-blackness outside of our tent, and the eventual triumph of primitive camping skills when we finally had ourselves a fire to make s’mores. My first ever fireside-camping-type s’mores. Hooray!

164

It was freaking great, totally worth our souvenirs of strategically-placed uncomfortable sunburns and mosquito bites.

Shortly before leaving on this weekend adventure, another early birthday present made its way to my mailbox.

owl1

Oh yes, my friends. It is what you think it is.

owl2

And it is hilarious and adorable, everything it needed to be. As I opened the mailbox and saw that owl looking up at me, I executed a spontaneous happy dance on the curb outside my house (accompanied by involuntary squealing), and basically skipped back into the house to show Dan that David Sedaris kept his promise.

That is such a crazy sentence that I never thought I’d be able to think, much less write down, in this lifetime. David Sedaris kept his promise to me.

A famous grown man living in this world picked out the perfect postcard (although I think my owl was slightly cuter, yes?), put pen to cardstock to deliver a real sentiment, and then put a stamp on it and stuck it in a mailbox. This is something that, myself included, has suddenly become very hard for us as humans to do in our current world, for no really good reason that I can surmise. Mr. Sedaris proved himself wrong (from his quote up there, obviously) by showing himself to be a refreshing change from the flaky, ridiculous, empty-promise people that we have all become. He is unique now in his sincerity. What a refreshing change.

People will probably think that I am reading much, much too far into this, but I don’t care one bit. I am inspired. I am going to take this 31st year and use it to hang out with friends. To make more presents for people. To work on my own sincerity. To make my word mean something. To not let the conflicts of school and work and the need for sleeping turn me into an angry person. To calm down and face the world with grace.

122

To just be better.

Here’s hoping.

New York Recap (or alternately titled…holy crap, you guys got to do what now?)

So. There’s this thing called Broadway Across America. And there’s this brother I have who’s a crazy person who gives ridiculous gifts. And there’s a little thing called a thirtieth birthday that I have coming up that needed to be celebrated in style.

2012-06-11 152

In New York City, there are a ridiculous amount of things to do, but we kept it limited to a very select few activities:

We saw some amazing shows…

2012-06-11 056

2012-06-11 177

2012-06-11 204

…looked fabulous…

(And for those of you that know me in person, you know that this can be a struggle for me. So many skirts and high heels.)

2012-06-11 015 2012-06-11 262

2012-06-11 259 2012-06-11 193

…sometimes to the point of being amazing models.

2012-06-11 367

2012-06-11 370

I just know that our modeling contracts are on the way as we speak. Type. Whatever.

We saw some amazing old friends.

2012-06-11 171

2012-06-11 428

(Seriously, guys. I miss you all so much already.)

And before anyone asks, yes, there was yarn shopping. I may have dropped some cash at Habu Textiles and bought something awesome that I have no idea how to use. Stay tuned.

We ate a ridiculous amount of good food.

2012-06-11 275

2012-06-11 199

So much food. There was definitely not enough photo-documentation of the food because I was busy putting it into my face. iPhone photos from my 365 Project caught a tiny bit of it.

365 2012-06-09

365 2012-06-11

We met some famous people.

2012-06-11 214

2012-06-11 230

We had some moments of quiet introspection.

2012-06-11 306

2012-06-11 315

2012-06-11 348

And we were completely unapologetic tourists the whole time, much to New York City’s chagrin, I’m sure.

2012-06-11 113

2012-06-11 125

2012-06-11 373

2012-06-11 374

2012-06-11 375

2012-06-11 377

We did not want to leave.

2012-06-11 447

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, Jarrod. Thank you, New York City. Thank you, old and new friends. Even though I haven’t gotten quite started on it yet, I think that turning 30 is going to work out just fine.