Welcome to A Cuppy Cake Life

Follow me on my journey as I experiment with different types of cupcakes and the joy a simple little treat can bring.

Tricky Tuesday: Colored Sugar

Here is a quick tip for today: Never pay for colored sugar again! Put 1/4 cup white granulated sugar in a zip-top bag. Add about 5 drops of any color liquid food coloring. Close the bag and knead with fingers until color is evenly dispersed. Voila! Instant colored sugar in any color you desire.

March of Dimes Moment

Are you curious about what exactly the March of Dimes does? You know they help give babies a healthy start but how? Check out this sample of information, found on their website.

The March of Dimes Making A Difference
Our mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality. The March of Dimes carries out this mission through programs of research, community services, education and advocacy to save babies' lives.
March of Dimes researchers, volunteers, educators, outreach workers and advocates work together to give all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, low birthweight.

Parent Education
The March of Dimes helps pregnant women know what to worry about and what not to worry about when it comes to having a healthy baby. Through our Pregnancy & Newborn Health Education CenterSM women can get free one-on-one, confidential answers to their questions about pregnancy, preconception, newborn screening and related topics.

The Center also provides a wide variety of materials including mama, an annual magazine full of practical and important information for parents-to-be, are available. Contact the center.

Premature Birth
Each year, more than 460,000 babies are born too soon, some so small they can fit in the palm of a hand. Many of these babies must fight just to survive; others will struggle with lifelong health problems. No one knows what causes half of all premature births. No one is working harder than the March of Dimes to find out.

Genetic Research
Genetic birth defects leave our children unable to walk, to hear, to think, or even to fight off disease. March of Dimes investments in genetic research already are starting to yield results. Two March of Dimes-funded grantees have used gene therapy successfully in treating hemophilia and retinitis pigmentosa in the lab, giving hope that we are closer to a cure for these genetic birth defects.

Health Care
No parents should have to choose between feeding their child and buying the medicines he or she needs. Yet, this happens every day in America because more than 9 million children have no health coverage. For many of these children, this means they can't get preventive checkups, immunizations, or treatment for common childhood illnesses. The March of Dimes is fighting so that all babies, children and pregnant women get health insurance.

Help Us Save Babies
You can partner with the March of Dimes by becoming a volunteer or a donor. With your help, we can win the fight to save babies.

This is just a portion of what can be done to help our babies have a healthy life. Please consider a donation to the March of Dimes. You can donate to them directly using the widget in the left-hand sidebar or on my March of Dimes page. All money goes directly to them and is a secure donation through Paypal. Just think what a few dollars can do. If you would like to see how families have personally been affected, please check out Ella's story and Chelsea and McKenzie's story. Thank you in advance. This charity means a lot to me and I appreciate your generosity! If you have a story about prematurity that you would like to share, please email me at acuppycakelife@hotmail.com. I would be honored to feature you and your family.

Freedom Friday

This week I was lucky enough to be blessed with another award! This is the Versatile Blogger Award and I want to send a huge thank you to The Very Best Housewife for bestowing it upon me.

Here is the deal with this award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share seven things about yourself.
3. Pass this award along to fifteen bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason!
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.
Seven Things About Me:
1. My favorite book is Wicked by Gregory Maquire. The musical was based on it.
2. I love cats even though I am allergic to them.
3. I watch too many baking shows on TV - Cake Boss, Ace of Cakes, Food Network Challenge, Ultimate Cake Off, etc.
4. I am such a perfectionist when it comes to organization that if it can't be perfect I get overwhelmed and give up.
5. I love to craft but can never find the time!
6. I go on Facebook way too much! My excuse is it's the only way for me to keep in touch with everyone.
7. In junior high I was obsessed with the music group Boyz II Men.
And the Award Goes to...

I hope everyone has a great weekend! Please take the time to check out the blogs listed above. They rock!

Smart and Trendy Moms

Rocky Road Cupcakes

First I would like to beg your forgiveness for my pic this week. It is so humid here that my camera is not working properly. So humid that 90 degrees feels like 109 degrees with the heat index and tomorrow will be worse. I plan to thoroughly enjoy the AC!

These cupcakes were extremely messy. I accidentally overfilled the liners and when the marshmallows melted I had baked on goo. Please be careful so that you too won't have to soak your muffin pans in the bathtub!

I didn't know how much flavor the marshmallow buttercream would actually have since it is made with vegetable shortening instead of butter but it turned out really well. You could also top these with the marshmallow meringue that I used on the s'mores cupcakes. I dusted the tops of these with cocoa powder to finish them off.

Please let me know how yours turn out and which topping you prefer. Enjoy!

Make sure you check out Hoosier Homemade and It's A Blog Party!

Rocky Road Cupcakes
(makes approx. 24 regular cupcakes)

1 ½ cups mini marshmallows
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. Add 5 mini marshmallows to each one followed by 2 teaspoons of walnuts. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan combine butter, cocoa powder and water. Stirring constantly, bring mixture just to boiling and remove from heat. Add the chocolate mixture to the dry mixture and beat on high until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, buttermilk and vanilla and beat for another minute. Carefully pour the batter over the marshmallows and walnuts stopping ¼ inch from the top of the liners. Do not overfill.

Bake for 13 – 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the cake part comes out clean. Run a sharp knife between the liners and the pan to loosen any marshmallow that may have spilled over. Let cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Marshmallow Buttercream

1 cup vegetable shortening
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
10 ounces marshmallow crème
1 ½ cups powdered sugar

Beat the shortening and vanilla with an electric mixer until smooth. Add marshmallow crème and beat until fluffy. Slowly add the sugar. When thoroughly incorporated beat on high for 5 minutes until desired consistency is reached.

Look What I Found!

Are you a fan of the Food Network show Ace of Cakes and the featured bakery Charm City Cakes? If you are you need to check out the new Duff products at Michael's. Created by the bakery owner, Duff Goldman, these products offer endless decorating opportunities. From fondant and icing to sprinkles and tools, you will have everything you need. There are even boxes of cake mix.

Here are a few more items:

Cake Tattoos

Decorating Sets

Spray on Color
Head to your local Michael's Craft Store to check out these products. I know I will! Let me know what you get and how you use it!

Tricky Tuesday: Buttercream

This week we will be chatting about buttercream. There are many different variations on buttercream. Some contain eggs, some contain granulated sugar, and still others contain no butter at all.

You may have noticed that most of my buttercream recipes don't call for butter. This is for a few reasons. First, butter needs to be refrigerated. If it is on your cupcakes, they too need to be refrigerated. I don't know about you, but my fridge is prime real estate. I don't have room for cupcakes in there! Secondly, vegetable shortening (which I use instead of butter) makes the icing the perfect consistency for decorating and it is easy to make it thicker or thinner depending on your preference. Thirdly, shortening is white and will keep your icing true to any color you add to it. If you use butter you will have a cream-colored icing, not white.

The main buttercream recipe I use is extremely forgiving. You can substitute different flavorings and liquids. You can add color or chopped nuts. Just play around with it! Here is the recipe for Vanilla Buttercream:
Vanilla Buttercream

½ cup vegetable shortening
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar
½ cup milk

In a large bowl, mix together shortening, salt, vanilla, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Add in remaining sugar, 2 cups at a time and alternate with milk. Add more milk to thin and more sugar to thicken the icing, if needed. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes until light and fluffy.

When you make buttercream, pay attention to heat and humidity. If the air is very dry, you probably won't need all of the liquid. If it is very humid, be prepared to use more powdered sugar. Also, if you want the icing to be thinner, add more liquid a teaspoon at a time. For thicker icing just add more sugar. Get it the consistency you want before you add color. Gel coloring works best as it doesn't add any more liquid to the recipe and it only takes a little bit to get a vibrant hue.

If you don't want to use vegetable shortening there are other options. Simply replace all or a portion of it it with butter or cream cheese. Because these are softer you may need to adjust the amount of liquid and powdered sugar in the recipe to get it just right. You will also need to keep the icing refrigerated.

If you need a super stabilized icing for making flowers and other embellishments that doesn't require refrigeration, you will want to add meringue powder to your recipe that uses vegetable shortening. Most cans of meringue powder have a recipe on them to help you along.

I hope these tips help you out! Just remember that it isn't an exact science. Play around and have fun!

I've been featured!

If you didn't notice, last Friday I was featured at Follow Friday. I was lucky enough to be randomly chosen for the #8 spot.

Today my blog button (and blog) are being featured at Twelve Crafts Till Christmas. Please go check it out!

I hope everyone had a great weekend! Don't forget to check back tomorrow for Tricky Tuesday!

Freedom Friday

I have been exhausted this week and I don't know why. I am hoping to be able to rest up a little bit this weekend although we have some fun things planned! Today I am going to a play date at the mall with some local mommies. Tomorrow should be a lot of fun as well. The library is having a carnival to kick off the Summer Reading Program. And on Sunday we are going out to my father-in-law's (FIL) house to celebrate Father's Day.

Now I have to admit, I won the lottery when it comes to in-laws. We usually get to my FIL's house every Sunday and he always has a huge home-cooked meal for us. We get to visit with him in the "country" and just relax and enjoy nature. He is a very kind and generous man and we are blessed to have him in our lives. He is a great father and grandpa and I hope that he has a great, laid-back Father's Day!

What are your plans for this weekend and Father's Day? Do you have any traditions? My hubby insisted that he get a tie, even though he hardly ever wears them. According to him they are the "official" Father's Day gift. I hope he likes the one I picked out! It's a lot more on the fun side instead of professional.

To all the dads out there - have a WONDERFUL Father's Day! Take time to enjoy your family and be blessed! I hope everyone has a great weekend and be sure to make all the dads in your life feel special!


Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

"Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Dana! Happy Birthday to you!"

In case you were wondering what all of that was about, yesterday was my best friend's birthday. We are hundreds of miles apart so I couldn't celebrate with her or even surprise her with cupcakes. So instead I am dedicating these cupcakes to her. Since they are virtual, they are super healthy and fat-free. Of course I am posting the non-virtual recipe, which is slightly less healthy.

These are ice cream cone cupcakes - the cupcake recipe of your choice baked right in an ice cream cone and topped with icing to look like the real thing. I chose to make chocolate chip cupcakes with a chocolate buttercream. Any recipe will work, just know that it will take almost twice as long for them to bake since they are not in direct contact with the pan. Also, if you would like to make this recipe without the cones, start checking to see if they are done around 15 minutes.

Don't feel like you can't make these if you don't have decorating tools. Just use a spatula and make the icing look like scoops of ice cream. If you use the chocolate buttercream be aware that it is very soft. After it is made you may want to let it chill in the fridge for a few minutes and work quickly while decorating. Since it contains butter, any cupcakes that are not immediately consumed need to be refrigerated. Allow to come to room temperature before eating. If you need any tips for melting chocolate, check out this post.

I hope you enjoy these! I also found that they are pretty tasty even without the icing. You can top them with anything you like - sprinkles, nuts, grated chocolate, even a cherry. Just have fun!

Check out Cupcake Tuesday and It's a Blog Party for more ideas.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
(Makes 24 Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes)

2/3 cups butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk
1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put ice cream cones into muffin tins and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add flour mixture, a third at a time, alternating with the milk. Beat well after each addition. Fold in the chocolate chips until well distributed.

Pour the batter into the cones until it is a ¼-inch from the top. Bake for 24 to 28 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream

1 cup butter, very soft
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon milk
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar

In a medium bowl, beat the butter on high until creamy. Add the milk and mix until smooth. Add the melted chocolate and beat well. Mix in the vanilla and beat for 3 more minutes. Gradually add the powdered sugar. Once everything is incorporated beat on high until light and fluffy.

Look What I Found!

Do you need a beautiful place to display your cupcakes? What about a nice dish for some candy to offer to guests? Well there is no need to look any farther. Sweet Plates has what you need! They can match any style and are currently exhibiting in several locations in Utah. Don't worry if you don't live in Utah. A Sweet Plates online shop will be opening in the very near future. I hope you enjoy the designs of this mother-daughter team as much as I do! Please go check them out and let them know I sent you. I haven't told them they are being featured today!

Tricky Tuesday: The Basics

This week I am going to help you make sure that your cupcakes turn out exactly like mine. I will let you in on what ingredients I use and how they are measured. I'll even show you the easiest ways to change up the recipes if you are interested.

All of the recipes I post call for all-purpose flour unless otherwise noted. I use bleached all-purpose flour and I always buy generic. I have found that the only difference in name brand baking ingredients and the generic ones is the price. To measure the flour, I use the spoon and level method. I take a smaller measuring cup and "spoon" the flour into the correct measure. I then level it off with the back of a butter knife. Do not tap it or pack it in as you will have too much flour.

If a recipe calls for sugar it means white, granulated sugar. Again, go with the generic brand. I always let you know if you need brown sugar, powdered sugar or a sugar substitute. I measure granulated sugar and powdered sugar the same way that I measure flour. Brown sugar needs to be firmly packed in the cup to get a correct measure. I push it down with the back of a spoon as I spoon it in the measuring cup.

Butter is always unsalted "sweet cream" butter and eggs are always large unless the recipe specifically calls for something different. If you only have salted butter don't add the salt in the recipe. Don't try to substitute eggs sizes. It will cause problems.

When a recipe calls for vanilla extract there are a few ways you can go. You can use vanilla flavoring, pure vanilla extract, or clear vanilla. For cupcakes and most icings I use vanilla flavoring. With the amount of vanilla I go through I can buy large bottles and it is more cost-effective. I save the pure vanilla for special occasions. When you don't want to alter the color of your icing (or cupcake) use clear vanilla. It is great for making a true white and won't affect the way other colors turn out when added to your icing.

For the most part, all nuts in these recipes are interchangeable. Obviously if something is specifically "peanut" or "hazelnut" you will have a different cupcake. If the nut isn't the star of the show choose your favorite or whatever you have on hand.

Chocolate chips are pretty forgiving, too. I usually choose semi-sweet chocolate chips but feel free to use milk chocolate, white chocolate, or anything you want. The chocolate chips (along with the nuts) are a quick, easy way to change things up.

When it comes to dying the cupcakes or icing I have found that the gel food coloring is the easiest option. Since it is concentrated it requires much less and you don't have to worry about your icing becoming runny due to the liquid. Just start off slow because a little goes a long way. I use Wilton gel colorings. You can find them at almost any craft store and even Wal-Mart. They are fairly inexpensive and you can buy them individually or in packs.

I hope that these basic tips will help you to make your cupcakes. If you follow these tips they will turn out right every time!

Freedom Friday

This week has been all about food for me. More specifically it has been about what food or foods cannot be eaten. It's not fun!

I just found out that I have high cholesterol. I have been told to avoid red meat, shellfish, eggs, butter, cheese, and ice cream. I also need to change up the way I exercise (I usually walk). I am overweight but I don't over eat. My metabolism has died. I have had tests done and everything is normal. So I now must watch what I eat. Here's the thing: I don't eat very much of the foods I am supposed to avoid. At the most I have red meat and eggs once a week. Same with cheese. I hardly ever eat ice cream anymore and I mostly use olive oil instead of butter. I don't like seafood so that isn't a problem and I only allow myself one cupcake a week. I don't quite understand what the problem is. I go back to the doctor in three months to get my cholesterol checked again. Wish me luck!

I have also been concerned about what foods my one-year-old daughter can and cannot eat. We have thought for a while that she either was lactose intolerant or allergic to the protein in cow's milk. She has been on an amino acid based formula since she was four months old. This past Tuesday we had an appointment with the allergist. She has always had eczema which can go along with food allergies and since she has been unable to successfully eat any dairy our pediatrician suggested we get her tested.

We arrived at the children's hospital with an already cranky little girl. She was scheduled for a consultation and a skin test. Wouldn't you know that minutes before she was supposed to have the skin test her eczema flared out of nowhere. I mean I have never seen it like this before. It was all over her back and forearms - the only two places they can do the skin test. We were given a prescription for an ointment for her and rescheduled to come back at the end of the month. At least they were able to do the blood test portion. We were also given a prescription for an Epi-Pen. According to the allergist, if you even suspect that your child has an allergy you should have one. She also said that this probably is a true dairy protein allergy. Meaning no milk, cheese, ice cream, etc. She is also getting tested for allergies to soy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg whites, fish, shellfish, and wheat. At least I know she isn't allergic to wheat as she has had plenty of it and not a single reaction.

Since the appointment I have been trying to figure out how we would/will handle an allergy to any of these things. The milk allergy is not life threatening so it is just more of an annoyance. But what if she is allergic to peanuts? Or fish? Do we home school her to avoid any possible problems? How do we adjust everything? I know I will feel better after our next appointment. We will have the results and we will be able to form an action plan. I LOVE having a plan! I don't function well without one.

Do you have any suggestions either about my "diet" or allergies? If so I would love to hear from you! Also if you have any dairy-free recipes for any meal please let me know.

Smart and Trendy Moms


The Girl Creative


Savory Breakfast Cupcakes

Not all cupcakes have to be sweet. Although many prefer the sweet ones, savory cupcakes are becoming very popular. If it freaks you out to eat this, just think of it as a personal-sized breakfast bake. Leave the cupcake part out of it.

I must admit that I wasn't a huge fan of these. I felt like they were bland and needed more flavor. Other people really enjoyed them though so tell me what you think. Next time around I will probably do sharp cheddar instead of Parmesan and green onions instead of shallot. I could even do pepper jack and salsa for a kick. You can also substitute bacon for the sausage if you prefer. Just fry six pieces in a skillet and drain off half of the fat.

Don't forget about Cupcake Tuesday and the Delicious Dishes Blog Party!

Savory Breakfast Cupcakes

(makes 12 regular cupcakes)

2 red potatoes, peeled and grated
2 shallots, finely chopped
6 links breakfast sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
12 eggs, beaten
1 Roma tomato, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin with vegetable oil spray. Set aside.

In a skillet over high heat, cook the sausage, breaking apart and crumbling with wooden spoon as it cooks. Cook until brown and no longer pink.

In a large bowl mix together grated potato, shallot and Parmesan cheese. Add sausage and it's grease. Mix together thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin.

Add the salt and pepper to eggs. Pour over potato and sausage mixture filling muffin tin to just below the rim.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until eggs are set. Remove from oven and place tomato slice on top. Turn oven to broil and put the cupcakes back in for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned. Let sit in pans for a few minutes before removing to tray.

To remove cupcakes from pan, use a sharp knife to go all the way around the edge to release it. Then use to spoons to lift it out. Serve warm.

Look What I Found: Decorating How-To Videos

I was browsing the web this past weekend for some cupcake ideas when I stumbled upon this site. She has an entire "Cupcake Inspiration Index" full of decorating how-to videos for everything and anything you could ever imagine! I was in awe. I saved it to my favorites because it could take days to watch all of them in one shot. I must say that I love her owl cupcakes. I am considering an owl-themed party for my daughter's birthday next year and they would be perfect. Please go check her out and be inspired!

Tricky Tuesday: Chocolate

This week I am going to tell you a little bit more about one of my favorite subjects – chocolate. I mean really, it’s hard not to love. There are so many types and uses that you could eat it a different way every day.

Speaking of the different types, there are eight different kinds of chocolate. Check them out and what they mean to your recipe:
Unsweetened Chocolate – This is a basic chocolate that is very flexible in recipes because it does not contain sugar. Don’t attempt to eat this by itself as you will be very disappointed!
Semisweet/Bittersweet Chocolate – This is unsweetened chocolate with some sugar added. The amount of sugar varies based on the brand.
Milk Chocolate – Unsweetened chocolate with sugar and milk powder added. The color is lighter and it has a milder flavor than dark chocolate.
Sweet Chocolate – This is stronger than milk chocolate and has a lot of sugar added.
White Chocolate – This isn’t really chocolate! It is a mixture of cocoa butter, milk and sugar.
Coating Chocolate – This is made from vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter. It’s easier to work with but don’t expect the same chocolate flavor.
Unsweetened Cocoa – This is also known as cocoa powder. It is the powder residue left when the cocoa butter is pressed out of unsweetened chocolate. It can be found in two varieties, natural and Dutch-processed. They cannot be interchanged in a recipe.
German Chocolate – This is not actually from Germany. It was named after Sam German, the Baker’s Chocolate employee who developed it.

Chocolate does not like heat and it HATES water! This can make melting it and using it in a recipe a little tricky. To melt chocolate use a sharp knife to chop it into small pieces. This will reduce the amount of time it has to spend over the heat. Never use direct heat to melt chocolate! Place it in a glass or metal bowl above a pot of simmering water. Make sure that all of your utensils and the bowl are completely dry. Even a single drop of water will cause the chocolate to seize and you will have to throw it away and start all over again. Also make sure that the bowl fits snugly on the pot so the steam can’t sneak around the edge and get in the chocolate. Don’t cover the bowl as any condensation that may form can drip into your chocolate. As chocolate melts it keeps its shape. Be sure to stir frequently and remove from the heat as soon as it is melted. Allow to cool before adding to your recipe unless otherwise stated.

Chocolate can be melted in the microwave. Please be careful doing this since microwaves vary so much. Chop your chocolate and put it in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high for 30 seconds and then stir. Continue heating at 15 second intervals and stirring each time until melted. Watch it closely as you don’t want it to scorch.

I hope you enjoyed these fun facts and tips about chocolate. Just typing this makes me want to go eat some Hershey’s kisses!

March of Dimes Moment

Time for another March of Dimes Moment! For those of you who don't know about the March of Dimes, they are an amazing non-profit organization working to give all babies a healthy chance at life. Be sure to check out their website!

A few weeks ago I shared our story about our daughter Ella. If you missed it you can see it here. We had it pretty easy compared to most people who have a baby prematurely. Please consider helping us support the wonderful and important work of this organization. There is a widget in the left-hand side bar where you can donate. Any amount helps!
This week my best friend Dana is sharing the story of her twin daughters, Chelsea and McKenzie. I hope it touches you like it has so many others.

Chelsea & McKenzie's Story
(as told by their mother, Dana)

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is. -Albert Einstein (fellow preemie)

We displayed this quote over our premature twin daughters, Chelsea and McKenzie during their five week stay in the NICU. For my husband and I we choose to believe that everything is a miracle, especially our girls. From the beginning we knew this wasn’t going to be a normal pregnancy. The girls suffered from a rare condition known as Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome. This is where both babies share one placenta and there is an imbalance of blood flow and nutrients between them. One baby receives all the nourishment from the placenta while the other starves. Along with the nourishment, the recipient baby also receives all the fluid, causing her tiny heart to work harder than it should. After learning the risks I was referred to a team of specialists for monitoring and weekly ultrasounds. At 29 weeks the condition had become worse. An amnio reduction was performed to remove two liters of excess fluid from around McKenzie. After the procedure I went into preterm labor. I was given medicine to stop the contractions and steroid shots to help speed up the development of Chelsea and Kenzie’s lungs. A week later an ultrasound showed the fluid around McKenzie had reached a dangerous level. Her heart was becoming weak from having to work harder to pump the extra fluid. The doctors decided an emergency c-section was our best option.

Chelsea was born weighing 2lbs 12oz and McKenzie was born a minute later weighing 4lbs 5oz. Both were immediately taken to the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit. I got to see my little girls a few hours later when I left recovery. They were so tiny and fragile. It was hard seeing my sweet little girls hooked up to so many tubes and wires and not being able to hold and comfort them. The next day Chelsea received a blood transfusion and both girls received light treatments for jaundice. Thanks to the steroid shots I had received their lungs were developed and they could breathe on their own. After spending five weeks in the NICU they were able to come home from the hospital with apnea monitors.
September 28, 2010 Chelsea and McKenzie will be turning three. They are the sweetest little chunky monkeys! No one can believe that they were preemies. We thank God everyday for our precious little miracles and the support of The March of Dimes that gave our story a happy ending.

And the winner is...

Heather! You are the lucky winner of the Wilton 12-piece Cupcake Decorating Set. Please contact me with your address within the next three days. You can email me at acuppycakelife@hotmail.com. Congrats and thanks to everyone for participating!

Freedom Friday

Starting this week Fridays are my free days. I am free to write about anything I want, whether or not it relates to cupcakes. Who knows what topics you may see here!

This week I wanted to tell you a little bit more about myself. I have a short blurb in the "About Me" section but I wanted you to be able to know me better.

I am a 28-year-old wife and mother living in Norfolk, VA. My husband Frank and I have been married since February 2008. We met at church when we were 14. Although we were good friends we fought like crazy! We never even considered each other in a romantic light. I dated his best friend and he had a crush on mine. We lost contact for a few years but started talking again online in 2006. The rest is history!

Our daughter Ella just celebrated her first birthday. She brings us such joy and laughter every day it's unbelievable! She is stubborn and funny and absolutely adorable. We want to add several more children to our family. Hopefully sooner than later!

I am currently a stay-at-home-mom although I have worked in all sorts of places. I have been a party host at a children's play place, the "housekeeper" for a welding shop, a youth and children's minister at a church in Chicago, an ear piercing professional, and management at a retail clothing store. I hope I never have to return to work. I wouldn't mind working from home but I always want to be available to my children. If the time came, I would love to go to school to become a pastry chef. I would open my own bakery and of course there would be cupcakes.

I have never had any formal training or classes for baking (unless you count Home Ec in junior high). My experience is from baking with my Nana for many years and pure old trial and error. I love to bake everything - cakes, bread, pies, cookies, etc. If it can be put in the oven I am all for it - even more if it is sweet! I am not quite sure where my love of cupcakes came from. I am pretty sure I began making them out of necessity. There is no way my hubby and I could eat an entire 9-inch round cake. I wanted to bake and experiment and the cupcake was the perfect outlet. They are much prettier to share with family and friends than a large slab of part of a cake!

Here are some random facts about me:
*I love Broadway theatre.
*I am somewhat obsessed with all things Snoopy.
*I have bipolar disorder.
*I have been to Romania, Moldova, Singapore, El Salvador, Puerto Rico, and Ecuador - all with various church groups.
*I want to have a big family - at least 4 kids.
*I hate doing dishes.
*I am terrified of needles and singing in front of people.
*I am the clumsiest person you will ever meet.
*Don't go to a craft store with me. I can browse the aisles for hours.
*I would kill for some hibachi steak, veggies, fried rice, and shrimp sauce right now. Who am I kidding? I could eat that for every meal!
*I am allergic to cream cheese and down feathers.
*I love collecting old hardcover books.

Well I hope you can get a better picture of who I am. Tune in again next week to see what random topic will pop up!

Don't forget that the giveaway ends at 11:59 pm tonight! The winner will be announced early next week. Have a great weekend!

The Girl Creative

Smart and Trendy Moms

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes

This past weekend my family and I went to Cullipher Farm Market in Pungo. If you live any where in Hampton Roads, you must visit this family farm. Not only do they consistently have the best produce and prices, they are amazingly helpful, courteous, and genuinely nice. We love stopping by there on the way to visit my father-in-law.

While we were at Cullipher's, I bought a few containers of strawberries. I also bought a giant zucchini for a future post. These cupcakes don't have an overwhelming taste of strawberry. I would have preferred them with homemade sweetened whipped cream but I forgot to buy heavy cream at the store. These were topped with vanilla buttercream and garnished with a strawberry in syrup.

Looking at the picture you can see that I decided to go with a simple, casual look this week. Not everyone has decorating tips and piping bags. I used a spatula to spread on the icing. My husband very politely let me know that these cupcakes were not up to my usual standard of decorating. I tried to explain to him that there is nothing wrong with a homemade look but he didn't get it. It's the thought (and the taste) that matters. I believe he even told me that after the "Leaning Tower of Pisa Banana Cake" incident. Oh well. I hope you enjoy the laid back approach. If you are one of the many sweet lovers that doesn't have decorating tools, please check out the giveaway going on now. You only have till midnight tomorrow to enter for your chance to win.

Don't forget about Cupcake Tuesday at Hoosier Homemade and the new Blog Party site!

Strawberries and Cream Cupcakes
(makes approx. 24 regular cupcakes)

2/3 cups butter, softened
1 ¾ cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cup half and half
2 cups sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins and set aside.

In a food processor or blender, puree the strawberries until they are almost smooth but some small pieces are still visible. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add flour mixture, a third at a time, alternating with the half and half. Beat well after each addition. Add strawberry puree and mix just until blended.

Fill liner ¾ of the way with batter. Bake 15-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 3 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream

½ cup vegetable shortening
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 cups powdered sugar
½ cup half and half

In a large bowl, mix together shortening, salt, vanilla, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar. Add in remaining sugar, 2 cups at a time and alternate with half and half. Add more half and half to thin and more sugar to thicken the icing, if needed. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes until light and fluffy.

Strawberry Garnish

6 medium strawberries, quartered
2 tablespoons sugar

Place quartered strawberries in a bowl. Stir in the sugar. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, at least 1 hour. Add strawberry garnish to cupcake just before serving.

Look What I Found: Cupcake Sets

About a year ago I discovered Fancy Flours. I was searching for some cookie cutters and stumbled across their site. I was in love instantly. Not only did they have cookie cutters, but cupcake liners and a million more things I would love to buy.

Today I opened my inbox and there sat the Fancy Flours newsletter. I am always excited to see what new things are happening over there. Well let me just tell you, I think I stopped breathing for a bit. They now have really cute cupcake sets from Meri Meri. All sorts of occasions and themes - just waiting for you! Each kit comes with fun cupcake liners and coordinating cupcake picks. Just look at how adorable they are!

Can't you picture a fun birthday party for your son or daughter with these?

Or what about these?

Just think of all the fun you could have! There are other kits and many more
items to browse. Head on over and check them out!
Don't forget about the giveaway! Only 2 mores days to enter!