The Manhattan Cupcake

Rich chocolate cupcakes with a hint of orange bitters, topped with a smooth, velvety, bourbon-infused buttercream frosting and a maraschino cherry – these cupcakes are a take on the classic Manhattan cocktail and are perfect for a celebration. My partner’s favorite drink is the Manhattan, so I made these cupcakes for his birthday last month, but these are also really great for a rich post-dinner dessert, the holidays, or any kind of celebration. You can add a few more dashes of bitters to the batter if you want something to cut the richness of the cake and the frosting, but the frosting has a strong and distinct bourbon flavor already, which will be very hard to miss. I’d also suggest whipping up a Manhattan for yourself as you are baking this, so you know what sort of flavor profile to aim for.

These are best eaten the day of so that the cake does not dry out. But if you want to serve them later, I would recommend making the frosting later so that it still has the right consistency when you serve it. Or you could do what I did, which is whip an entire batch, and then use the leftovers for some much-needed energy boost, which was pretty useful as we packed furniture as part of our move from Charlottesville to New Haven (more soon on some of the lovely places that I will miss eating at in Charlottesville). For now, here’s the recipe to convert a classic cocktail into a beloved dessert.

The Manhattan Cupcake | Who Needs a Diet

Ingredients (makes 10-11 cupcakes)

Chocolate cupcake:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup cold brewed coffee
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tsp bitters (optional)


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioner sugar
  • 2 tbsp good Bourbon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Maraschino cherries


For the cupcake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a muffin pan or put cupcake liners into the pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the eggs, coffee, buttermilk and oil. Mix until smooth; the batter will be thin. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.

For the topping:

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the confectioner sugar together until light and fluffy – about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the bourbon and vanilla and beat until icing is thick and smooth.
  3. If the icing seems too thick, add in more bourbon, a tablespoon at a time until it is the right consistency.
  4. If it is too thin, add in more confectioner sugar, 1/4 cup at a time until it is the right consistency.
  5. Transfer the icing to a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Once the cupcakes are out of the oven and have cooled, ice the cupcakes (the icing will start melting if you try to top hot cupcakes). Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry.

Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

I finally got to use a KitchenAid stand mixer, and it was no less than the Professional 6000 HD! It made the mixing process super-easy and I finally understand what it means to have a light and fluffy batter, and how it is possible to make such light buttercream frosting. It worked like a dream and I can’t wait to own one when I can afford one and have enough counter-space to store an appliance as huge as this!

And I’m glad that I was able to use this to make a lemon creation, these cupcakes are not too sweet and the taste and aroma of Meyer lemons make this a perfect light dessert, in a season that’s normally full of heavy desserts.  This recipes yields about 24 cupcakes and the frosting was enough for me for about 24 cupcakes. However, I neither put *too much* frosting on every cupcake, and nor did I put too much sugar in the frosting. So if that’s not your style, you might want to adjust the frosting accordingly.

If you’re only looking for gluten-free lemon cupcakes, then see this recipe of lemon-poppy seed muffins and use the recipe for the lemon buttercream frosting given below. Enjoy!


Recipe adapted from une gamine dans la cuisine – Yields 24 cupcakes


For cupcakes

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 tablespoons grated lemon zest (about 4-5 lemons – I used Meyer lemons since they’re the most flavorful)
  • 1 cup ( that’s 2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 room temperature eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk (allow it to sit at room temp. for about 20 minutes)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the frosting

  • Slightly less than 1 cup (that’s one full stick and 3/4 of another stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temp.
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (have an extra 1/2 cup on hand, just in case because I don’t like sweet frosting, so I used lesser sugar)
  • 1/4 cup half & half cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


For cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Line muffin tins with paper liners (this recipe will make about 24 cupcakes).
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand-mixer (or any large mixing bowl if you’re using a hand-held), combine the sugar and lemon zest. Use your finger tips to rub the zest into the sugar until it’s moist and fragrant. Add the butter and, using the paddle attachment, beat on med-high until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for about 1 minute per egg. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the almond extract.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and lemon juice.
  5. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared tins (about 3/4 full for each).
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or the tops spring back when lightly touched and a small knife inserted into a center cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and put the muffins out on a wire rack to cool completely before putting on the frosting.

For the frosting:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).
  2. Slowly begin adding the sugar, and beat until well combined. Beat in the cream, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Once combined, turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat for about 3 minutes straight. Turn the mixer down to low and add the lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat for another 3 minutes until the frosting is fluffy and light. [Note: If the frosting looks too thin, add that extra 1/2 cup of sugar. If it’s too thick, add a splash of cream, and beat to combine.]

    Beating the lemon buttercream frosting until it's light and fluffy

    Beating the lemon buttercream frosting until it’s light and fluffy

  4. Decorate the cooled cupcakes as desired!


Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

This weekend I decide to make some chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting for a friend’s birthday. Why not a cake? Well, because another friend decided to make a carrot cake, so I wanted some variety, but still wanted something with chocolate since birthdays are incomplete without chocolate! Since this friend’s a celiac, I decided to look for a gluten-free recipe that did use flour. This is because whenever I’ve made flourless chocolate cakes/brownies on previous occasions, I’ve found them to be quite heavy and therefore, not fit for everyone’s taste.

What kind of flour should I use?

I used Hodgson Mill’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour, but similar flour from King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill will also do. My only suggestion would be to look for a mixture of flour that doesn’t have a high amount of chickpea flour, since that can make cakes have a slight garbanzo taste. And that’s weird.

Is using vegetable oil necessary?

No, vegetable oil can be substituted with canola oil since it is actually a healthier substitute for vegetable oil. It doesn’t affect the taste at all.

What if I don’t have buttermilk?

You can always create substitutes by using a combination of milk or yogurt with some lemon juice or vinegar. For suggestions on how to substitute buttermilk in recipes, follow this link.

Recipe adapted from 52 kitchen adventures. It makes around 20 cupcakes.


  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp guar gum
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners. Additionally, you may spray a light coating of cooking spray over the surface of the pan, or use a paper towel to wipe a thin film of cooking oil over the top. This will help keep the tops of your cupcakes from sticking to the pan if they rise above their liners.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cocoa powder, flour, guar gum, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a different bowl, add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Mix this and add it to the dry ingredients. Mix the batter until it is smooth, but do not overbeat it. (Note: The batter will be quite liquidy as compared to other cupcake recipes)
  4. Fill the cupcake trays somewhere between 1/2 to 2/3 full of batter, as this mixture expands a lot in the oven. Bake for around 25 minutes, but keep a check after 20 minutes to see if it’s done. Stick a fork or a knife into the cupcake and if it comes out without any crumbs, your cupcake is ready!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting!

Happy birthday Lupe!

Easy Desserts I: How to satisfy cravings the fast and cheap way

One of my new year’s resolutions was to post more on my blog and try out many new recipes. Unfortunately, that resolution is failing in the face of a super-demanding semester. So the last time I shopped for food, I decided to look for things that wouldn’t take time to make and also didn’t cost me a bomb. Strangely, I managed to find a combination of super-cheap and easy to whip up desserts. Here are some of these ideas:

1. Yellow Cake – Banana Muffins

Main Ingredient: Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow Cake Mix costing  just $1

  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Prepare yellow cake mix according to package directions. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Mash the bananas with the baking soda and stir into the cake mix batter. Pour batter into one greased and floured 9×13 inch baking pan/muffin trays
It took me 5 minutes to prepare the batter and around 15 minutes for my cupcakes to bake. Just keep checking yours with a fork – if the fork comes out clean and the batter’s not runny, then your cupcakes are ready! I personally prefer them refrigerated.
You can use walnuts and chocolate chips as well (though depending on your cake mix, your batter could already be pretty sweet, so you might stay off chocolate chips or similarly sweet frosting).
Alternatively, if you’re making these cupcakes for a fancier occasion, you can try putting this awesome lemon glaze on your cupcakes:

Yellow Cake Mix Cupcakes

2. Parfait

Main ingredient: 1-2 cups of yoplait light/fat free yogurt costing 60 cents each!

I only recently discovered Yoplait’s many flavors and their fat free/light flavors are absolutely delicious. My favorite ones are: Strawberry-Banana and Blueberry. The Red Velvet and Blackberry are also decent, but the Boston Creme Pie is a bit of fail.

So if these yogurts are not enough by themselves, go ahead and whip up a parfait! Most of us have granola, different kinds  of berries or bananas always lying at home. It makes  for a delicious, filling and a healthy snack.

Berry Parfait













Some other ideas include:

1. Toasted Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich (though I personally would not add maple syrup to this):

2. Chocolate-covered strawberries (

3. Grilled banana-nutella panini (