4th of July Cupcakes

1.  Buy a package of Jolly Rancher snack size candy stix!  Take out all of the red and pink candies!  The red and pink both looked the same color once they were melted.   

2.  Unwrap a piece of candy and place on a greased piece of foil over a baking sheet.  I only had one star cookie cutter, so I had to do one at a time.  If you have multiple cookie cutters, you could melt as many pieces as needed.  One candy was perfect for one star.  Place in a preheated 350 degree oven until melted, about 2-3 minutes.   

3.  Remove from oven and press your greased star cookie cutter into the melted candy.  Let harden, a few minutes.  (A faster way to go about it is to have two pieces of foil and when you take one out of the oven and press the cookie cutter in to it; set it aside and let harden for a few minutes, while you melt another piece on the 2nd piece of foil.  By the time the new piece is melted the first piece will be hardened).  

4.  Peel candy off of foil and break off excess pieces.  Gently press star out of cookie cutter and set aside.  Repeat with remaining candy.  Don't worry if some of the edges break off the star, you can just stick the broken side into the cupcake.  The better your cookie cutter is greased, the better the stars come out.

Decorate as desired!  I would add the stars only a few hours before serving, because if they sit too long in the frosting, they will start to "melt" into the frosting and you end up with watermelon or cherry flavored frosting.   

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

adapted from: Good Thymes and Good Food

3 c. cake flour

1 Tbl. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise

16 Tbl. unsalted butter, softenend

2 c. sugar

5 large eggs, room temperature

1 1/4 c. buttermilk, room temperature

1 Tbl. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.  Combine cake flour, baking powder and salt; whisk and set aside.  Add the butter to an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the bowl.  Beat on medium-high for 3 minutes, until light and creamy.  Scrape down the bowl and beat one more minute.  Add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating one minute after each addition, mix in eggs, one at a time until incorporated.  Combine the buttermilk and vanilla.  With mixer on low, add dry and wet ingredients alternately, mixing just until incorporated.  Scrape bowl and mix a few more seconds.  DO NOT OVERMIX.  Divide batter between liners, filling 2/3 full.  Bake 18-22 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Frost cooled cupcakes.  Yield: approximately 30 cupcakes.

Jenn's Notes:  I made a half of a batch of these cupcakes.  The batter is thick and creamy and they bake up beautifully, perfectly round on top.  I baked mine for 20 minutes.  With half a batch, I got 19 cupcakes.  The first night, they were extremely light and fluffy and had amazing flavor.  The 2nd day, they were slightly more dry, but with the frosting on top, they were still delicious.  They have really really good flavor.  I used vanilla bean paste instead of a vanilla bean. 

White Frosting

from: Jenn@eatcakefordinner

1 c. shortening

2-3 tsp. clear vanilla extract

1 tsp. butter extract

1/4 tsp. almond extract   

pinch of salt

4 Tbl. of water or more if needed 

5 c. powdered sugar

Beat shortening until fluffy.  Add vanilla extract, butter extract, almond extract and salt and beat until blended.  Slowly add powdered sugar, one cup at a time, and beat until combined.  Add water as need, to reach desired consistency.  Beat until smooth and fluffy.  The amount of cupcakes this will frost depends entirely on how much you put on each cupcake.  I tend to put a lot of frosting on my cupcakes and I can get about 24-30 cupcakes frosted.  If you end up with 36 cupcakes, you might be slightly short and you might want to add one more cup of powdered sugar to be safe (or just use less frosting per cupcake).