Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

We all know pumpkin is a fall flavor.  Sure, you can buy cans of it year round, but eating pumpkin in summer is like eating a strawberry in January.  You can do it, but it just feels weird…unless you’re my daughter. 

The kids wanted cupcakes instead of layer cake for the wedding, and there’s a local cupcake shop that makes them gluten-free once a week.  For a while, Codi was a Bella Cupcake Wednesday regular.  When it came time to place the wedding order, the one flavor she was absolutely sure about was pumpkin chai.  Thankfully, Bella was accommodating and agreed, even though it wasn’t pumpkin season for them.  Out of the four flavors, it ended up being the most popular.  Well, being the experimenter that I am, I decided to attempt my own version.

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First of all, let me say I cannot compete with Bella Cupcake.  I didn’t get a chance to try one of theirs (like I said, popular) but I already know these don’t taste the same.  However, for an amateur, starting-with-boxed-mix version, these are delicious. 

I made these gluten-free, but you could certainly use a regular cake mix.  Just adjust the amount of eggs and water to reflect what’s required on the box.

Pumpkin Chai Cupcakes

  • 1 box of vanilla cake mix
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup instant black tea
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 3/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper

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Dissolve the instant tea in the water.  Mix all of the dry spices into the cake mix.  Add the butter, eggs, pumpkin and tea/water.  Continue with the mixing and baking instructions on your box for cupcakes.

I had to try this recipe three times before I had one with the flavor I was looking for.  For the first attempt I replaced some of the water with liquid chai concentrate, and they were very pumpkinish and had very little chai coming through.  It was all we could do to scarf down the whole batch.

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The second time, I referred to my Spiced Chai drink mix for the spices to add.  I went a little light because I didn’t want them to be too overpowering.  They were good, but it was still hard to taste anything but pumpkin.  When I read the drink recipe a second time, I realized the number of servings was nearly the same as my cake mix, so I went all-out and added the same measurements for the spices.  You can even see the difference in color between the two batches.

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Bingo!  These are definitely spicy, but a good dose of cream cheese frosting on top tones them down just enough.  I’m pretty sure nothing has ever said fall quite as loudly as these do.

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Quick and Easy Pumpkin Muffins

It’s no secret that I love to cheat and start with a mix when making baked goods.  I’m capable of cooking from scratch, but that doesn’t mean I always have time to do it.  These muffins took me less than half an hour to make, and that includes gathering the ingredients, cooking time and cleaning up.  That’s almost faster than my son can inhale them.  Almost.

Pumpkin Muffins

1 17.5 ounce box blueberry muffin mix (I like the fat free Krusteaz)

1 15 ounce can pumpkin

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds, no shell

2 tablespoons vanilla turbinado sugar

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Set the can of blueberries from the muffin mix aside for another use.  I use it to double the berries in blueberry muffins.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the muffin mix and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the pumpkin and mix until combined.  Spoon into a greased muffin pan.  Spread the batter so it covers the bottom.  Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds evenly over the tops.  Repeat with the sugar.  Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool.  Makes 12 muffins.

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If you’re wondering about the vanilla turbinado sugar, I keep a container of raw sugar with split vanilla beans in the pantry.  I just add more sugar when it gets low.  It adds a crunch to the top of muffins and is great in hot tea.

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These muffins are dense and a little chewy.  Mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top would be delicious instead of the sugar.  Hmm…that might be breakfast tomorrow.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes

I almost hate to say this, because I know there are MANY people out there who disagree, but I like boxed cake mix.  It can be used to make lots of things besides cakes and comes in so many delicious flavors.  We’ve been making a big effort to eat healthier around here lately, but I believe in moderation rather than deprivation, so sometimes cake makes its way in there.

I came across this recipe from Big Red Kitchen this morning, which was the catalyst for everything to follow.  It sounds delicious as is, but my mind immediately spun toward one of my husband’s favorites – carrot cake.  He finished my living room today (yay – photos to follow after I mop the floor!) so I was happy to be able to show my appreciation through sugar-loaded baking.

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The original recipe above only uses two ingredients.  I used both of those, but added a few more of my own.

Easy Carrot Cake Cupcakes

1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Super Moist French Vanilla, because it’s what I had)

2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground ginger

15 oz canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 cups shredded carrots

1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the dry ingredients, then add the wet.  Mix until combined.  Pour into a muffin tin or 12 small canning jars, sprayed with pan spray.  The batter is very thick, so you’ll want to spread it out a bit.

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Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes if you’re using jars.  It will probably take less with a tin.

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I originally planned to sprinkle these with powdered sugar and stop there, but I knew the family would like them better with cream cheese frosting.  Unfortunately, or fortunately as it turns out, all I had was a tub of pineapple cream cheese.

Pineapple Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz tub pineapple cream cheese

2 cups powdered sugar

1 – 2 teaspoons almond milk (any liquid will do)

Combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar with a mixer, adding milk as necessary to gain the desired consistency.  Frost cupcakes.

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I can’t even begin to tell you how good these are.  They’re a little sweet, so next time I’d probably use plain cream cheese, but the pineapple flavor with the carrot cake is worth it.  It also makes them rich enough that one is enough, which is a good thing when it comes to desserts.  I put them in the refrigerator a couple of hours before anyone ate one, and they’re especially good cold.

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I’m anxious to try these with some other flavors and fruit.  Chocolate and banana anyone?

Friday Favorites–Halloween

Instead of always falling on October 31st, I think Halloween should always be on a Friday.  How much fun can you have on a Monday?  Even with candy!  In the spirit of the holiday, we’ll give it a try anyway.

I don’t know that this Cutout Skully Tee from Cut Out + Keep was intended for Halloween, but it’s perfect anyway.

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If you’re in need of some great Halloween party food ideas, look no further than Our Best Bites.

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I love this little Ghostie Garland from Ginger and George.  It reminds me a little of Pac-Man, but cuter.

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I have a couple of plug-in plastic light-up pumpkins, but this Jack-O-Lantern Pumpkin Lamp Light from Ragdoll722 on Etsy is definitely a step up.

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My son was REALLY into bats for a while when he was younger.  He would have loved these Bat Party Invitations from One Charming Party.

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This Pumpkin Art from Eighteen25 manages to be modern and a little vintage at the same time.

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I have so many giant spiders living on the outside of my house right now I don’t need to add any decorative ones, but if yours is spider-free try these Balloon Spiders from Martha Stewart.

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This Halloween Spook Banner from Organize & Decorate Everything is so simple and clever!

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Candy Corn Halloween Monster from Wonderstrange.  Just ‘cuz.

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It’s usually getting cold around here by Halloween.  These Fleece Halloween Hats from Fleece Fun would be perfect right about now.  The pattern is available for download in Baby, Child and Adult sizes.

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I’m off to try and find some early Halloween fun!

Fleece Pumpkins

One of my favorite things about autumn is pumpkins.  I like to eat them, look at them, stomp through the mud to pick some out for jack o’lanterns and roast the seeds.  The only thing I don’t really care for is carving.  But, if someone wants to carve one for me to display, I’m all over it.  Since it’s a little early for that this year, I made some instead.

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To make these, you’ll need about 1/4 yard of 60” wide fleece, a small piece of green fleece or felt, about a yard of cord or string and  a small bag of fiberfill.  You’ll also need this pattern.  For my pumpkins, I printed one at 100% and scaled the other two to 75% and 80%.  Cut two pumpkin pieces from each size.

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Lay pieces right sides together and stitch around the sides and bottom, leaving the straight edge at the top open.

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Turn right side out.

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Stitch lines from pattern through both layers, stopping 1 1/2” from top edge.  I eyeballed it, but you can mark the lines from the pattern if you’d like.  Just know, I eyeballed those, too.

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Stuff the channels with fiberfill.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, fiberfill, sometimes called polyfill,  is the fluffy stuff to the right in the photo above.  It’s used to stuff pillows, plush animals, etc.  It takes a while to fill these, but I found it helped to push it in with the blunt end of my favorite tool – the Pointy Stick.

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For the stems, cut one 5” by 3 1/2”, one 4 1/2” by 3” and one 4” by 2 1/2”.  Also cut 1/4” strips perpendicular to the selvage edge.  Cut 3 for each pumpkin in varying lengths, none longer than the pumpkin is tall.  Set the strips aside.

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Fold the stems right sides together.  Stitch the side and one end.  I decided to angle the top edge of two of them, so I stitched the end at an angle and trimmed away the excess fleece.  Turn right side out.  Stuff with fiberfill, stopping about 1” from the open end.

Turn the top edge of the pumpkin to the inside approximately 3/4”.  Stitch close to the inside edge, leaving a 1/2” opening in the back.  I won’t lie, this is pretty tricky, especially around the side seams.  You can hand stitch it if you’re more comfortable with that.  The casing doesn’t have to be perfect.

Lay the three strips, then the stem, so the edges are inside the pumpkin in the front.  Stitch through strips and stem, following and stitching over the original casing stitching line, to secure them to the pumpkin.

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Feed a piece of cord through the casing.

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Pull to gather the pumpkin.  Tie the ends tightly and push the ends and knot to the inside.

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Now for the best part – grab the ends of the skinny strips and pull tight, just not to the point of breaking.

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Let go, and they should twist and curl a little, just like tendrils on a pumpkin.

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These can be stood on a mantle, like mine are right now, or you can sew a little loop on the back and hang them up.

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Happy fall!

 

You can also see this project here:

Fabric Bows and More

Skip to my Lou

Tip Junkie

Sew Much Ado

Running With Glitter

Ladybug Blessings

 

 

 

 

Friday Favorites – Halloween

I’m going to try something new.  I am constantly coming across things that make me say “Wow!” and I’d like to share them with you.  We’re going to shoot for Fridays because nothing else sounds right with “Favorites.”  There might be a running theme in my list, or it might be a collection of randomness.  I’m looking forward to it, and I hope you are too!

If your project is featured, please feel free to grab a button to your right.  If you’d like to be considered for a future Friday Favorites, just send a link to craftystaci@gmail.com.  I’d love to hear from you.

Since Halloween is this weekend, I’m going to start there.  Fasten your seatbelt!

What I really like about this pumpkin ornament by Christine & Co. is the fact that it looks like a little quilt, but it’s actually paper.  And Mod Podge, which makes everything more interesting.

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Next up is Sweetest Kitchen’s Dulce De Leche Cupcakes.  There is never anything wrong with a recipe that includes sweetened condensed milk.  Ever.

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Subway art is everywhere right now, but it really seems to fit for Halloween.  I think Green Eyed Girl Crafts did a great job with this one.  I’ve gotta get one of those vinyl cutting machines.

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Just Drops in the Bucket’s display of poison bottles manages to be elegant and a little freaky all at the same time.  Perfect.

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I don’t know if I even need to say anything about Esmerelda, the Ribbon Witch from Life on the Ridge Side.  I’ll let the photo speak for itself.

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I know this is weird, but we are talking about Halloween.  And seriously, how can I pass up a knitted skeleton?  Sitting on top of a stack of sweetened condensed milk cans?  Knitted by a guy?  Did I hook you yet?  Visit The Art of Ben Cuevas for more info and photos.  The close-ups show how amazing the detail is.

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I love a simple, low-material outlay project.  These spiders from Visions of Sugar Plums would be so fun to make with little kids.  And they’re big enough to actually see them among other decorations.

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Here’s a great idea from Sugar Bee to save for AFTER Halloween.  You know, when you’ve got all those candy wrappers to hide, uh, I mean dispose of.

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So, maybe you’ve got some grown-ups coming over for dinner for Halloween?  I hear it happens.  These tube pumpkins from Expect Moore would make fabulous little napkin rings!

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I just love this shirt and hat by Therapeutic Crafting.  ‘Nuff said.

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Happy Halloween!!!