I’m a 13-Year Old Girl (Or This Adolescent is Planning Another Baby Shower)

I love free food. (We’ve established this.) Yesterday I was choking down my chana masala, not really in the mood for it, when one of my coworkers mentioned there was leftover food in the kitchen. Obviously I ran down the hall to investigate. When I entered the room, I discovered brown paper boxes lining the counter. I grabbed the box labeled “Spicy Italian Sandwich” and returned to my desk with my salami swag.

Upon opening the box I discovered an entire lunch had been packed inside. “There are chips in here!” I exclaimed gleefully. I was happily unpacking the other contents of the box when my coworker asked, “Anika, is your father still around?”

“He is.”

“You must bring him endless joy… because there is a part of you that will always be a 13-year old girl.”

“That’s probably why he has so many shotguns,” I replied, picking the tomato slices off of my sandwich. I wasn’t really sure where he was going with this train of thought, but my first reaction is usually to make a joke if I can.

“Well, I don’t know about that, but the way you got so excited about the chips… it was adorable. Tell him the dad in the office said so. He’ll know what I mean.” At this point I was about fifteen shades of crimson, because I’m a WASP and genuine, heartfelt statements like this make me blush. But it was sweet. And I have to admit he wasn’t wrong. I will probably always be a bit of a kid inside.

That’s why it’s hard for me to take down my Christmas decorations every year. I hate the idea of shoving all of that pretty, sparkly stuff into some dark closet. I absolutely had to force myself to do it last weekend. I mean, I think I died a little inside when I had to take the Cynthia Rowley sweater off of my vodka bottle.

photo-319

He was so cute and toasty in his sweater.

Now he’s naked. And Ordinary.

And my polar bear bearing candy?

photo-320

So generous. And regal.

He’s back in a closet. Crying ‘cuz he’s not handing out licorice in my living room.

But it’s time to move on. I get that.

I know I can’t hang on to the season that has past or I might miss what the new season has in store. I honestly don’t know what this spring will bring because absolutely everything in my life is up in the air, but I do know I’m planning a baby shower for one of my best friends. And that’s pretty awesome.

It involves elephants. For real.

See?

invitation

Photo courtesy of Paperless Post

I’m trying so hard not to do this to the dessert table.

jude-perry-st-0067-mld108634_vert

Photo courtesy of Martha. Obviously.

We’ll see if restraint preveals, ‘cuz this is all kinds of cute, right? (Plus it brings back polar bears.)

If you want to see what else is percolating in my party planning brain, you can check out this pinterest board.

Soon we’ll discuss my bedroom situation because I decided arson wasn’t the answer.

I Have an Ice Cube Problem (Or There’s a Titanic in my Gin and Tonic)

I’m a sucker for wacky things. Like, I see a bottle opener shaped like a shark and it takes all of my self-control not to purchase it. It’s not like I need another bottle opener, but you should hear the arguments I make in my mind for its utter necessity. Never mind that the item is not even an anatomically accurate representation of a shark….

How could I live another day without this? Photo Courtesy of Amazon.

Sometimes, my rational side loses the argument and I buy completely frivolous items — particularly when there’s a theme party involved. Like the skull and cross bones ice cube tray I just had to have for my Peter Pan Birthday Party last summer.

Or my Gin and Titonic ice cube tray. In my defense, that ice cube tray was a gift — from a lovely person who obviously gets me. Gin and Tonics are one of my favorite cocktails, and they’re so much more fun when I can drop a few iceberg and ship shaped ice cubes into them.

See? Fun.

If I liked the movie Titanic, this would be the perfect cocktail for a Titanic movie night with the girls, but I don’t. Incidentally, if I were entertaining company with G&Ts, I would probably buy Fever Tree Tonic instead of the more pedestrian Schweppes, and I might even substitute a more complex gin like a Hendricks instead of my go-to Bombay Sapphire, but I digress….

If I’m being honest with myself, I’m much more likely to host a Star Wars party, though. I think that means I neeed to get these Han Solo in carbonite ice cubes. I mean, these things are so amazing. I die. (See how the rationalization starts?)

Come on. I need these, right? Photo courtesy of Amazon.

While we’re on the topic of movie theme parties, I probably need these Batman ice cube trays so I can throw a Dark Knight Rises party in honor of the DVD release on December 4.

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

So, anyway, this is how my mind works. And this is how I spend $50 I should probably just put in my savings account….

Lemon Cupcakes for the Critics and the Crazies (Or How to Make Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Filling)

My grandmother is a perfectionist. She can make a perfect pie and find fault with it. She’ll be serving slices to guests while grumbling about some perceived imperfection no one else notices. I’m the same, really. I can’t write, cook, paint, draw, or do an arm balance without thinking about how I could improve it next time. Or how it doesn’t measure up. I am capable of criticizing anything I do. (Obviously, the disease runs in the family.)

When my mother asked me to make my grandmother’s birthday cupcakes this year, I knew I would have to practice first. There would be no trying a new recipe on nana’s birthday.

My grandmother loves lemon, so I decided to make lemon cupcakes with a lemon curd filling. On my first attempt, I frosted them with a seven-minute meringue frosting but decided it was too sweet.

If I’m being honest, I kinda hate seven-minute frosting.

After some deliberation, I finally settled on a lemon cream cheese frosting instead. I was initially afraid that would be too much lemon, which is why I tried the meringue first, but a slight hint of lemon flavor in the frosting was the perfect way to tie it all together.

Here’s my nana with my creation, sitting beside my uncle who is being strange.

My gene pool is rife with crazy, so I fit right in.

My grandma told me they were the best cupcakes she had ever eaten, so I guess my practice paid off. Even I was slightly pleased with myself for once.

The recipe is below.

Lemon Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes

2 ½ C flour
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ C unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¾ C sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 ¼ C whole milk
2 T lemon zest

Preheat oven to 375. Place cupcake liners in pans.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Add half of the flour mixture, followed by the milk, and the remaining half of the dry ingredients, mixing to blend after each addition.

Add lemon zest and mix to blend.

Transfer batter to cupcake liners and bake at 375 for 16-18 minutes, or until the tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Lemon Curd Filling

3 T cornstarch
1 C cold water
1/2 C sugar
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
3 T cold butter, cut into small cubes
1 T lemon zest
4 T lemon juice

Whisk cornstarch into 1/3 cup of water. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan and whisk in the remaining 2/3 C of water. Add the sugar and cook over medium heat, until the mixture bubbles and thickens to a gel-like consistency, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low.

Stir a few tablespoons of the hot cornstarch mixture into the slightly beaten egg yolks, a few drops at a time, whisking constantly. (This will prevent the yolks from cooking.) Whisk the yolk mixture into the remaining cornstarch mixture and cook over low heat, about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in cubes of butter until they are melted. Next, add lemon zest and juice, whisking to blend. Transfer to a bowl and chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Note: this makes too much filling for 24 cupcakes, so I might make 2/3 of the recipe next time. The original recipe is from foodess. I modified it slightly.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2, 8 oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
½ C butter, room temperature
2-3 C powdered sugar
2 T lemon juice (or 1 tsp of pure lemon extract)

Cream butter and cream cheese. Mix in vanilla. Add 2 C of powdered sugar and add remaining powdered sugar by ¼ cupfuls until you reach the desired consistency. Add 2 T of lemon juice. Chill the frosting until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

After the cupcakes have cooled and the curd has thickened, transfer the curd to a pastry bag (or a freezer bag with a corner cut off). You can either inject the lemon curd into the cupcake directly or you can remove some of the cake with the end of a straw to make more room for the curd. (I prefer the latter approach. I usually poke the cupcake a few times with a straw to remove some cake from the center.)

After you have filled the cupcakes, frost, and serve.

Yum.

What if Baby Connor Doesn’t Like Owls? (Or How to Throw an Owl Themed Baby Shower)

Even though the owl shower is on hold for now, I  figured I’d tell you how we’re going to do it. And hopefully Connor likes owls, ‘cuz the guest of honor is now attending his own shower, which is actually kind of awesome.

Menu

Mint and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches

These simple sandwiches are oh so delicious. And easy to make.

I recommend using Persian cucumbers because I think they’re more flavorful than English cucumbers. I also think the sandwiches are better open faced because the bread can be too overpowering otherwise. The recipe is here.

Albacore and Artichoke Sandwiches

Albacore and artichokes are awesome with basil. Really.

Canned albacore in oil is a great substitute for Italian tuna in this recipe. Though the recipe calls for lemon juice and lemon zest, it’s also nice with lime. You can check out the recipe here.

Other sandwiches to complete the finger sandwich menu might be:

Roast Beef Sandwich with Horseradish Mayonnaise
Recipe here.

Turkey Sandwich with Cranberry Relish and Blue Cheese Butter
Recipe here.

I’d also throw in some prosciutto, mozzarella, and melon skewers as well as a salad.

Drinks

Mimosas
Lavender lemonade
Recipe here.

Desserts

Owl cupcakes. (Tutorial here.) For the base of the cupcakes, I would use these banana cupcakes.

These owls are blue and yellow because baby Connor was basically a Michigan Wolverine at conception.

Chocolate Ganache-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes with Seven Minute Meringue Frosting
I have made these many times, and Connor’s mom, Jody, digs them. They are amazing. The recipe is here.

Shower Gift

Owl Sachets. (Tutorial here.)

These lavender-filled owl sachets smell better than they look. For real.

You can get really elaborate with the decorations and go with a woodland-inspired rustic look for the cupcake stands as well as the flowers or you can keep it simple. If you’re looking for more owl baby shower ideas, you can check out this board I created specifically for Jody’s shower.

And this board includes a ton of owl ideas for a shower, a birthday, or a sorority party. (Fun fact: both Chi Omega and Kappa Kappa Gamma have an owl mascot.)

Peter Pan Party Wrap Up (Or Here’s Everything in One Place)

OK, this is it. The final Peter Pan Party post. The everything-in-one-place post. The you-never-have-to-hear-about-it-again post.

These Peter Pan Partygoers are eager to wrap this ish up.

See, I’m saving you from digging around my blog to piece together a Peter Pan Party the way I used to rummage through piles of black capris and halter tops on my floor in college just to find two matching Steve Madden platforms. (Note: I do NOT wear Maddens anymore. This is because I no longer think it’s acceptable to be hobbled by cheap footwear.)

Invitations
I used Paperless Post because I’m into saving the planet by saving some trees. And also because their designs are like the perfect storm of affordable and attractive.

Photo Courtesy of Paperless Post.

If you’re not into this design, here are a few more pirate-y options.

By the way, PP now offers a charity stamp option. They donate $0.05 to Amensty International, Red, or the ASPCA if you choose the charity stamp instead of the default option. Naturally, I went with the ASPCA puppy stamp. Since we had 142 people on our guest list, we bought a little bit of kibble for homeless pets just by inviting people to drink with us at our party.

Flowers
Here’s the work in progress post, complete with ordering info on the vases and sprinkles.
And this is the reveal.

Neverland Map
I explain how to age paper for a treasure map or Neverland map here.

Other Assorted Decorations
This is the decoration wrap up, complete with product ordering information.

Appetizers
Spicy Eggplant Dip
Truffle Popcorn

Taco Bar Main Course
Cola Carnitas
Slow Cooker Chicken (Note: I didn’t handle this part of the party, but if I had, I probably would have tried this recipe.)
Salsa
Salsa Verde

Dessert Bar
Sprinkles Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting
Banana Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting
Glazed Lime Cake
Chocolate Stout Cake
Skull and Crossbones Sugar Cookies

And now… bacon wrapped meatloaf, because everything is better when it’s wrapped in bacon. Truth.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 9 (Or Here’s the Peter Pan Party Decoration Download)

It’s probably time to talk about the rest of the decorations at my party. Then I really will wrap this up. I promise.

I’m ready to move on from the boy who refused to grow up to Jaws anyway.

Tonight Discovery Channel’s Shark Week is airing a special called, “How Jaws Changed the World” and OBVIOUSLY I set my DVR for that. Plus I have the champagne to pop ready because I looooove Jaws.

And sharks.

They’re sort of my thing.

On Thursday I promise to write a post entitled, “How Jaws 3 in 3-D Changed My Life” complete with a shark cupcake tutorial, but until then…

Peter Pan and the decorations.

This is my quick watermelon carving of Hook’s Jolly Roger, complete with the menacing croc. I wish the windows were level, but alas… I was rushing.

I did a freehand sketch for the sign, and it’s a quote from J.M. Barrie’s novel. I wanted to include it just in case people didn’t understand why there was this weird crocodile lurking around Hook’s ship.

If you want to get yourself a cool croc, I found that guy on Amazon here. It’s not the cheapest croc online, but it’s the best looking, and let’s be honest: that matters. A lot.

This is my (bad) attempt at a papier mache version of Hangman’s Tree. Hangman’s Tree is a departure from J.M. Barrie’s original story (there were multiple entrances into the Lost Boys’ home under the ground).

It was easier to do one tree and explain it on my Neverland map than to get into the whole passage about how Peter fits boys for their own trees, so that’s why I went this route.

Here we have lipstick on the proverbial pig with pearls hanging from Hangman’s Tree.

The entire skeleton of the tree was made with painters’ tape and twisted newspaper. If I had it to do all over again, I’d probably use a few real twigs and maybe even a little chicken wire. For the final layer of the papier mache, I used paper towels. I found posts online saying that makes it easier to cover the piece with paint.

I was in a hurry so I turned on the oven to dry out the tree. It’s probably a fire hazard or whatever but I kept an eye on it and didn’t let the dogs investigate it with their faces.

In retrospect, I think white tissue paper would have been better because I could have achieved a look more like this:

Photo Courtesy of Ultimate Paper Mache

And what would be a Peter Pan party without a little Tink?

I hate Tinkerbell, but you can’t really leave her out of your Peter Pan Party.

She is a scheming bitch, but she’s essential to the story.

The lantern is this little ditty from Ikea. I made Tink out of pins and tissue paper from Target.

At one point I considered hanging the lantern from a ribbon in the yard and surrounding it with green and white suckers, but I decided to reign myself in a bit.

My menu was another freehand sketch, but you could easily trace the silhouette and keep it simple. (Simple is something I SO need to learn.)

Here’s the Peter Pan Party menu situation.

I promise I’ll write my full wrap up post, so we can really fly away from Neverland. Forever.

Not that I’m going to grow up or anything….

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 6 (Or Babies and the Best Banana Cupcakes Ever)

Banana Cupcakes, mateys.

If you’ve been reading my little bloggy for a while, you know I was prepping for a baby shower as well as my birthday party last week. And if you’re starting to feel like I’ve been a total only child by only writing about my Peter Pan Party, let me take you back to last Friday for a moment.

Picture this: It’s August 3. It’s 5 am. And it’s my birthday.

A certain puppy’s plaintive cries rouse me from my sweet birthday slumber. I decide to stay up even though it’s still dark outside because I’m absolutely up to my eyes in sewing owl sachets and baking and whatnot.

We never wake you up before dawn and go back to bed. Ever.

After walking the baby beasts, I settle in with my latte and tear into my stack of birthday presents like a wild dog. After the requisite calls to thank thoughtful family members (who were all in the eastern time zone, where it wasn’t OBSCENELY early), I settle in to do battle with the bobbin on my sewing machine. More on that later….

After sewing 19 owl sachets I decide to switch gears and begin baking the banana cupcakes that would be the base for these owl cupcakes.

I am just about to pour the banana cupcake batter into the owl cupcake liners when I get a phone call from my friend and co-host of the shower saying, “Stop everything! Jody’s water just broke.”

True story.

It was five weeks before our friend’s due date, so we thought we were totally in the clear holding the shower on August 4. Nope.

I pull out my lime green polka dotted liners and decide we will be having banana cupcakes at the Peter Pan Party instead of chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes with seven minute meringue frosting.

See, I had planned to make the chocolate ganache-filled cupcakes for the shower and since the recipe makes 24 cupcakes and is not easily halved, I was going to split the confections between the two parties. (Obviously I was going to wait to frost the second dozen until the next day with a fresh batch of frosting because the frosting looks way heinous if it sits out.)

Change of plans.

I totally switch gears from baby shower prep to birthday prep and go about my day hoping everything is going smoothly for my friend over at Cedars-Sinai, where absolutely everyone has their babies.

A few of my friends join me later for low-key take out and drinks and I force them to watch the Twin Peaks pilot like the spoiled birthday brat I am.

Then the news comes that Connor has arrived. On my birthday.

The funny part is both of his parents went to Michigan with me, and we’re all a little obsessed with Michigan football — like someone should probably check us in for treatment — obsessed. (I should mention Connor’s uncles and grandfather also went to Michigan, and so did the co-host of the baby shower. When you get all of us in the same room together, it’s a little frightening.)

Connor’s dad had been teasing me earlier in the day on Facebook about my love of Tom Brady, the Super Bowl MVP and former Michigan quarterback, with whom I share a birthday. And now his son shares a birthday with him too, which seems absolutely appropriate for the ultimate Michigan Wolverine baby.

So, anyway, the good news is everyone is happy and healthy, and my friend got to skip five weeks of pregnancy while it’s like 100 degrees in LA. Plus the people at my birthday party loved the banana cupcakes even though they weren’t on the original menu.

And now I have a new birthday buddy to add to my list that already includes two of my closest friends – plus Tom Brady, Martha Stewart, and Tony Bennett.

So, here’s the recipe for the banana cupcakes. It’s adapted (err, mostly stolen) from this recipe for the most amazing banana cake ever that I bake absolutely all of the time.

May the cupcakes make your friends go into labor too. Or something.

Banana Cupcakes

2 1/4 C cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about two large bananas)
1/4 cup buttermilk*
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature

Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting 

1/2 C butter, room temperature
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 oz mascarpone

Sliced bananas for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place 16 cupcake liners in cupcake tins.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing to blend after each addition. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat the mixture until just blended. Next add the banana mixture, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, just barely beating after each addition.

Pour the batter into cupcake liners. (Do not fill the cupcake liners to the top. You need to leave a little more room in the liners than you would ordinarily. This is because these cupcakes rise more than regular cupcakes.)

Bake until the tester inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, and the tops of the cupcakes have begun to change color, about 18-20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes completely on wire racks.

For the Frosting

Cream butter and cream cheese with the paddle attachment of your electric mixer. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and mix to blend. Gradually add sifted powder sugar and mix until fluffy. Add mascarpone and carefully mix the frosting. (Mascarpone can curdle if it is whipped too much, so this last step is a bit delicate.)

If you want to skip the mascarpone altogether, just use 8 oz of cream cheese instead.

Place the frosting in the refrigerator until it’s the proper consistency for spreading, about 10-15 minutes.

* I don’t buy an entire container of buttermilk when I only need ¼ C. It’s a colossal waste. I make my own buttermilk instead. You can do this by adding a few teaspoons of vinegar to whole milk and allowing it to sit and curdle, about five minutes. If you don’t have vinegar, lemon juice works as well.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 5 (Or Here’s a Simple Salsa Verde Recipe)

This simple salsa verde is super yummy.

Sometimes you need to reach into the music vault and bring back a song you’ve neglected for a while. Today it’s Y Control by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. While I don’t love the entire album, I do dig this song. It played a part of my past in many ways.

Example?

I happened to be singing it in my car when I found myself sitting in traffic next to an ex. When I heard the song today, it brought me back to that moment.

I’ll spare you the gory details of all that except to say LA is enormous and I run into him more than any other human on earth. And have for years. It wasn’t a particularly long relationship. Or a particularly heinous break up, but it made its mark.

I see him now and I feel an enormous sense of relief it didn’t work. I know it wasn’t supposed to — for a lot of reasons — not the least of which being that I needed to have many more adventures and more career success before settling down. I needed to do this thing on my own without being lulled into complacency by his success in showbusiness. Or his money.

So, anyway, we should talk about cilantro instead of boys because I like it better anyway.

Being spared a life that was too small and stifling for me  — and cilantro — are probably the best evidence of a benevolent God I can think of.

Come to think of it, so is salsa verde.

And just so I don’t bring you down too much, you should know I’m now listening to We Built this City at an unacceptable volume and getting close to dancing in my kitchen.

Salsa Verde

2 lbs tomatillos, husks removed
1 C diced onion
5 garlic cloves, minced
2 T fresh oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp kosher salt
2 C water
1/4 -1/3 C diced jalapenos (to taste)
1/3 C cilantro

Pour water into pot with tomatillos, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin and salt. Bring water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium high and simmer until tomatillos are tender, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add cilantro and jalapenos.

Carefully blend the mixture in batches until smooth. If you’re like me, you may want to add a little more chopped cilantro so you have bigger bits in the salsa verde. If you don’t like cilantro, I feel truly sorry for you. (Kidding.)

Once I’m done with this self-absorbed birthday madness I’ll put together a rundown of the projects and the menu in case you want to replicate the mess. Then I’ll try not to mention it again because I kind of want to forget this birthday ever happened.

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 4 (Or I Like My Flowers With a Side of Sprinkles)

If you’ve been following my flower saga, you know arranging flowers is not my thing. One of my best friends usually does my birthday flowers, but she’s living in Cabo at the moment. So not only did she miss my birthday festivities, but she also couldn’t arrange my flowers this year. (Tragedy. Twofold.)

So, I was on my own and wanted to do this ditty with peonies and hydrangeas.

Yeah, well, it turns out peonies are out of season. Peonies are my absolute favorite, and I was so tired and just generally overwhelmed that I almost cried at the florist when I learned this. Now before you think I’m just a silly, emotional girl you should know I don’t often cry unless there’s a really good reason. I’m usually really good at being a robot and stuff, but there’s just a lot happening at the moment, and the peonies were sort of the last straw.

The selection at the first florist also just generally sucked, so I had to find another florist. At this point I had been in the car for about two hours picking up spare crock pots and whatnot, and I did not relish heading deeper into the valley to hit up another florist. But I also hate ugly… so I did it anyway.

The second florist had a much better selection and the woman behind the counter was so sweet that she gave me a few free snapdragons (love!) and a birthday rose (double love!). She really turned my day around, and that was absolutely awesome.

I don’t have great photos of the final arrangements, but here they are in action and stuff.

People have to lean around my enormous flowers to be sociable. A small sacrifice for aesthetics, really.

If you want to do something similar, you can see a breakdown on the sprinkles and vases here — and you can order the suckers here.

Here’s a close-up of the flowers before I steadied them by stuffing all kinds of paper towels into the inner vase.

Here’s the Leaning Tower of Lilies before I fixed it with wads of paper towels.

And thus ends my flower saga. Until next time….

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 3 (Or How to Make Strawberry Cupcakes)

You must make these cupcakes. I speak the truth.

There are few things on earth I love more than cilantro and strawberries. Not necessarily together, mind you, though that might be worth trying….

As a kid, I ate strawberries right out of our garden – even when they were slightly green. (I was weird. Still am.) When given a choice of ice cream flavors, I’d pass up chocolate every time and pick strawberry. I still do.

OK, you get it. I dig strawberries. So, for my totally out of control birthday dessert bar (err, round table — there was an incident), obviously I had to make strawberry cupcakes.

I need to get photoshop so I can fix my food photos — Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition style.

To make sure I actually got to eat one at my party, I carried that sweet little confection around for an hour until I was ready to eat it. It went everywhere with me as I table-hopped like that stupid garden gnome in Amelie.

So, here’s how you make these round bits of heaven:

The strawberry cupcake recipe can be found on Martha Stewart’s site here. (I recommend following the instructions precisely — especially when it comes to sifting the flour and using eggs and butter at room temperature. It makes a big difference.)

The recipe is actually from Sprinkles, the famous Beverly Hills bakery that Barbra Streisand frequents. (True story.) Since I don’t necessarily care for the sweet butter cream frostings they often use (or any butter cream for that matter), I invented my own strawberry mascarpone frosting.

The recipe is below.

Strawberry Mascarpone Frosting

1/3 C strawberries, finely chopped
1/3 C powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
pinch of kosher salt

4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 1/4 C powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 oz mascarpone

Blend strawberries, 1/3 C powdered sugar, salt, and lemon juice in food processer. Allow the mixture to sit for ten minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the cream cheese and butter with the paddle attachment of your mixer. Add 1 1/4 C of powdered sugar and blend completely. (Sifting the sugar prevents large clumps from forming in your frosting. It’s worth the extra effort.) Add vanilla and the strawberry puree. Mix to blend. Add the mascarpone and blend on low speed. (You have to be careful not to beat the mascarpone too much because it curdles if you do.)

Place the frosting in the refrigerator until it is the proper consistency for spreading. (About 15-20 minutes.)

Note: Because the recipe calls for strawberry puree, the frosting cannot sit out too long or it will lose some of its firmness. It’s best to frost the cupcakes shortly before serving or keep them covered and refrigerated.

Tomorrow I’ll hook you up with the banana cupcake recipe — and my salsa verde recipe — so you can see my love of cilantro in action.

And now back to my thank you notes because this spoiled birthday brat got lots of loot.

Drills, booze, flowers, and aprons. People get me.