Dr. Pepper Cupcakes

An amazing co-worker has a birthday this week. He is brilliant and never lets our team down. More often than not, he comes to our rescue and is a “go-to” guy for our team and many outside our group. Not an easy feat in a demanding engineering environment. He deserves a sweet treat to celebrate with the office crew in honor of his special day. He is very healthy. He works out, eats right and stays in shape. I rarely see him eat anything sweet, but he does enjoy the occasional Dr. Pepper. I set out to create a cupcake that would echo one of his few indulgences.

This is a rather simple recipe, one that can be thrown together the night before and chilled for morning delivery to the office. It starts with a cake mix, what could be easier?

The addition of Chinese Five Spice powder may seem odd, but it amplifies the undernotes of the Dr. Pepper and is surprisingly complimentary to the chocolate and cherries.

Ingredients

For the cake
1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
1/2 cup Butter, melted
3 Eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper
1/2 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the frosting
2 Cups Whipping Cream
1 Cup + 1 Tablespoon Confectioner's Sugar
1/4 Cup Dr. Pepper Reduction (recipe below)
1/4 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice

For the Dr. Pepper Reduction
1 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Dr. Pepper

Optional Topping
Dr. Pepper Reduction
Maraschino or Bing Cherries

Instructions

  1. Line cupcake pan with paper or foil cupcake liners.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. With a stand mixer or hand mixer, prepare cake per package directions, substituting oil with butter, and water with Dr. Pepper. Blend Chinese Five Spice into cake batter.
  4. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full with cake batter. Bake for 15-20 minutes until toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Remove to a rack and cool completely.
  5. While cupcakes are cooking, make Dr. Pepper reduction by combining sugar and Dr. Pepper in a quart size sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until reduced to a thick syrup. Cool completely.
  6. Prepare whip cream frosting. Combine whipping cream and confectioner’s sugar in a chilled mixing bowl. Use all of the confectioner’s sugar to stablize the whip cream. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Add in Dr. Pepper reduction and Chinese Five Spice. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
  7. Spoon or pipe frosting onto cupcakes. If desired, drizzle with remaining Dr. Pepper reduction and top with a cherry.

Pina Colada Bundt Cake

A very special friend of mine loves my rum cakes, coconut and pineapple. Each year I make him a birthday cake. This year I decided to combine some of his favorites into a cake and realized I had all the basic ingredients for a classic pina colada.

I start with cake mix and instant pudding mix as this combo has been used by home bakers for years to make very moist bundt cakes. There are many takes on the way you can modify these cakes from simple to a little more complex. Cake mix gives you a leg up on the flour, sugar and leavening ingredients. Pudding mix holds onto moisture and makes a more dense, pound cake like texture. Perfect sized for the classic bundt cake pan. I have one in stoneware that I love, it creates a crispy crust that soaks up the glazes I use, yet keeps the cake moist and dense.

Ingredients

For the Cake
1 Box Yellow Cake Mix (I typically use Betty Crocker)
1 3.4 oz. Box Coconut Cream Instant Pudding Mix
1/2 Cup Coconut Oil (I used the fat
that rises in the can of coconut milk)
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk (liquid from canned coconut milk)
1/2 Cup 80 proof Dark Rum
1 1/2 teaspoons of Coconut Extract
4 Eggs
1 Cup Canned Crushed Pineapple, drained. Reserve juice.
1 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes

For the Glaze
1 Stick Butter
3/4 Cup Pineapple Juice (reserved from crushed pineapple)
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Rum

For the Icing
2 oz. Butter
8 oz. Cream Cheese
3 Cups Powder Sugar
1 tsp Coconut Extract
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

For the Topping
1 Cup Sweetened Coconut Flakes, toasted
12 Marachino Cherries, stem on, drained`

Instructions for Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour a bundt pan.
  3. Add coconut oil and coconut milk to a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer beat until well combined.
  4. Add four eggs and beat until fully incorporated.
  5. Add rum and coconut extract and beat until incorporated.
  6. Add cake mix and pudding mix. Beat on medium speed for 3 or 4 minutes until the batter lightens. The batter may still have some small chunks of coconut oil present, this is fine and will melt in as cake cooks.
  7. Add crushed pinapple and coconut flakes, stir just to blend in.
  8. Pour into prepared bundt pan.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes until golden and cake tester comes out clean.
  10. Invert onto a cooling rack and cool completely.
  11. While oven is still hot toast coconut for topping. Place coconut on a baking sheet and toast for 5 – 10 minutes until golden brown. Check frequently to avoid over cooking.
  12. While cake cools, prepare Glaze and Icing

Instructions for Glaze

  1. In a small saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat.
  2. Add sugar and pineapple juice and cook until sugar dissolves.
  3. Turn off heat and stir in rum.
  4. When cake is completely cool, poke small holes all over cake with fork tines and then slowly spoon glaze over cake a bit at time, allowing the cake to soak up the glaze between each addition until all th glaze is used up.
  5. Proceed to Icing the cake.

Instructions for Icing & Topping

  1. Add butter and cream cheese to a mixing bowl. Beat on high until blended.
  2. Add powdered sugar and beat on medium until smooth and creamy.
  3. Add extracts and beat until incorporated.
  4. Place icing in a pastry bag and pipe onto cake.
  5. Sprinkle icing with toasted coconut. Add marachino cherries in a ring if desired.