Wednesday, December 17, 2014

happy face

Each year, the kids perform in their school's Christmas concert, and it's a busy week of rehearsals, costume preparations and a flurry of activity on the last week before the Christmas break.

This year, it felt like time rushed past us a little too quickly, as it seems like we were just adjusting to the new school year.  Now that the children are more and more involved with extracurricular activities, it becomes more challenging to dedicate what little precious time we have left, to prepare for the holidays. In the past, it is during this time of preparation...the baking, the decorating, when we participate as a family and talk about our year ahead, our year behind, or just about what we want to do during the holiday season.

Even though there is constant travel between regular school and work activities along with holiday events, I've found that we now have even more family conversations.  It is during our commute when I hear the funniest jokes, odd curiosities or reflective tales, spoken freely without intention or judgement, but rather just a casual chat to occupy the time while Mom is focused on driving the car.

Although we will continue to enjoy our some of our Christmas traditions...making gingerbread houses, baking cookies, ice skating at the local rink, I won't worry that we aren't "doing enough activities" with the kids this Christmas. Even on those days when we're not doing anything "special", we will choose to be present and in the moment during those precious times we have together...laughing, singing or just chit-chatting.  And watching their happy faces is special enough for me.

Cinnamon Infused Vanilla Cupcakes with Cinnamon Frosting 
(& gingerbread cookie topping)

These are cinnamon bun inspired cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting.  I made these for a party, and topped each cupcake with a gingerbread cookie for decoration {recipe, found here}, although these are pretty sweet without it.


For the cupcakes:

  • 1 and 2/3 cups (210g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (300g) granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick or 115g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (60g) yogurt
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) milk
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Time saving alternate:
You can use pre-made white cake mix.  If you follow the instructions, replace the water with milk. )

For the cinnamon frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • ¼  cup heavy cream (milk works too)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
Time saving alternate:
You can use pre-made frosting.  Just mix in some of the cinnamon/sugar mixture into vanilla frosting, and add 3-4 tbsp of cream cheese to the whole frosting can.  Mix well.  (it tastes similar to cream cheese frosting for cinnamon buns).

Cinnamon Sugar topping/layer:

  • Mix ¼ cup of sugar with 1 tsp. of cinnamon.  (double the quantity if needed).

  • Preheat oven to 350F degrees. 
  • Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 
  • In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. 
  • Whisk in 1 cup of sugar.
  • Stir in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined. 
  • Slowly mix in dry ingredients until no lumps remain. 
  • Spoon about 2 tbsp. of batter into each cupcake liner.  
  • Sprinkle 1 tsp. cinnamon sugar mixture on top.
  • Top another tbsp. of cupcake batter on top of the cinnamon sugar mixture or until the liners are about 3/4 full.
  • Top each cupcake with 1 tsp. of cinnamon sugar.
  • Bake the cupcakes for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting.
Cinnamon Frosting:

  • Beat softened butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. 
  • Add icing sugar, cream (or milk), and vanilla extract.  Continue to mix.
  • Increase to high speed and beat for 3 more minutes or until really creamy.
  • Add more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or more cream if the frosting is too thick.   
  • Add 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon and beat until combined, about 30 seconds.
  • Frost each cupcake.
If you wish, top with gingerbread cookies for decoration, or just serve as is.  Store cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days and in the refrigerator up to 5 days.


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