Thursday, August 29, 2013

Recipe Rave Review: Chocolate, Peanut Butter...& Pretzel Cupcakes

I love dessert and I know my TH does too. So, when the time finally came to have his fire fighter themed "you survived a year of probation" party at our new home, I knew I wanted to get baking.  Since my TH is a die hard peanut butter fan, I decided to go with the classic peanut butter/chocolate combo.  With so much to do the week before the party, I had to bake the actual cake and cupcakes days in advance so I could freeze them until the big day.  When this hostess-with-the-mostess has a party on her horizon, she knocks out one major task each day to make sure it all gets done.  First up on my list; baking!

Using the 'ole favorite,  Pillsbury traditional chocolate cake mix (purchased for the low price of $1 mind you), I whipped up 48 cupcakes and a two layer cake.  It took me most of the afternoon, but once you throw it in the oven and set a timer, you are pretty much done until the next batch is ready to go in.  Once I had completed all the baking, I set the cupcakes into my vintage Pyrex dishes and wrapped them nice and tight.  Going through more plastic wrap than should ever be used (yes, my heart was breaking as Mother Earth sobbed) I made sure I had at least four layers on those bad boys so they wouldn't get any freezer burn and would be ready for me in three short days.

The day before the party, it was time to whip up the frosting which would take these basic chocolate cakes to a whole new level.  After doing a little searching, I found a SUPER easy and quite delicious sounding recipe for peanut butter frosting, from  Now, his recipe called for peanut butter chips to be thrown in the cake batter, I chose to not do that.  I wanted straight chocolate topped with straight peanut butter.  His recipe also called for hot fudge to be drizzled on the top and while that sounded great and all, I wanted to swap that out for salty, crunchy pretzels.

I gathered the few ingredients I needed (butter, cream cheese, peanut butter, vanilla extract and powdered sugar), plugged in my hand mixer and got to work. 

To make one serving of this recipe you need:

- 1 (8oz) package of (softened) cream cheese
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) of (softened) butter
- 1 cup of peanut butter (crunch or smooth is up to you)
- 2 cups of powdered (confectioners) sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Now, I tripled the recipe as I had a lot of frosting to do and that single serving was only supposed to cover 24 cupcakes.  Well, I had 48, as well as a double layer, who doesn't love left over, homemade frosting!
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 1 cup peanut butter 2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 1 cup peanut butter 2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened 1 cup peanut butter 2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

First up, soften the butter...

Then add peanut butter to softened cream cheese...

Next, throw in the softened butter and get to mixing.  Once it is all combined, start adding the powdered sugar, one cup at a time and mix until smooth (make sure and keep that mixer pointed down or you will be coughing through a white cloud of sweetness!)

Keep mixing until nice and smooth...then either start frosting, or if you are me, let it sit overnight so it is ready to go the day of the party!

The morning of the big event, I took out the baked chocolate goodness, undid their horrifying (waste of) plastic wrap (oh don't worry, I did save it and reuse it later that night...) and let them sit to defrost. I also pulled out the frosting (which was hard as a rock) and placed it outside in the shade to speed up it's "out of the fridge" warming process...I needed to get to work!

Using my frosting bag applicator (which if you don't have can easily be done using a Ziplock and cutting the edge off a corner), I placed a nice round dollop of frosting on each cupcake.  For the cake, I smoothed it on the tops and sides, placed on the second layer and repeated.  Once all my baked goods were nice and frosted, I got to pretzel crushing. 

Taking a handful of pretzels, I threw them in a large Ziplock, then put that Ziplock into another one (once you start pounding on the bag it often gets a hole which make a mess).  Placing it on the counter, I got to fist slamming and watched those pretzels break into perfect little chunks.  Then, I took a handful and sprinkled them all along the tops of my perfectly frosted friends.

Since this was a themed party and all, I grabbed the great toppers my MIL had given me a couple years back and made these things even cuter than I could have ever imagined!  I nearly died over those mini fire hats!

I placed the cake in a display case as well as a few cupcakes and set the rest up on red and white plates on the dining room table for our guests to "oooohhhh" and "aaahhhh" at my handy baking work!  They were the cutest thing EVER and by far my proudest accomplishment!

Not only was the cake moist and rich, the frosting was absolutely decadent! I can't wait to make this recipe again as it was beyond simple and too good to be true!  The one thing I learned from all this, is those pretzels will get soggy as time goes on.  They are perfectly fine for about six hours, but as time goes on, they become not so great.  So, my advice is add pretzels to the ones you know you will eat at the party, and save a bag of crushed pretzels ready to go and add more as needed.  Otherwise, you will be stuck scraping them off the next day and adding more frosting to make up for what you lost (trust, I did it quite a few times the next day!)

Do you love chocolate and peanut butter...pretzels too?  Think you'd like to try this delish combo for your next sweet treat?  Please do and tell us how it goes!

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