Monday, September 24, 2012

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing & Bell Granola

This weekend was my Hubby's birthday.  As mentioned subtlety before, he's not a huge sweets fan.  That's not to say  he has a few very special desserts in his repertoire.  They are few but specific and I couldn't resist indulging him on his special day. 

On most endeavors of the sweet kind I would go 100% homemade.  You know me to approve of an occasional shortcut, because, well, I sincerely believe that like most people, I have times in my schedule where I cannot feasibly make everything from scratch.  What I do think is important is to have some element of the dish homemade, and often it's enough to elevate something from nearly store-bought to from the heart.

Two of Hubby's faves: French Silk Pie and anything combining peanut butter and chocolate.

I started with a ready-made crust and opted to make the filling and whipped cream from scratch.  All I can say about it is that it looked great, but the shortcut on the crust was honestly an epic fail.  I thought that I could trust a basic frozen pie crust and I was wrong.  It crumbled, did not hold together and tasted stale.  Lesson learned.  Luckily, I had decided on a partner for the pie ahead of time.

A Looker.  A Deception.  Moral?
I wasn't sure one pie would be enough for our birthday celebration guests, so I decided to have a pie sidekick, as it were.  I elected some quick box-mix triple chocolate cupcakes but went for the gusto with peanut butter icing, a favorite go-to recipe from the goddess herself, Ina Garten.  I have never gone wrong with this one, folks.

Because I had done it before, I wanted one new element on these cupcakes to really say "special."  Sprinkling homemade sweet-salty granola on these cakes gave them a birthday lift, and seriously, made them look and taste like they came from a gourmet cupcakery.  The granola recipe was a gift passed along through family members, originating from family friend Joy Bell.  I was so thankful that Joy would be okay with me posting her recipe for your enjoyment - because - it's so. very. good.  Thank you, Bell Family!

Sometimes it's okay to take a shortcut, and sometimes it will fail.  But often times the homemade part of the dish more than makes up for the loss.  That's why I'm sharing the wins from Hubby's birthday.  I hope they become the dog-eared recipes in your box, too!

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing:
from Ina Garten  Barefoot Contessa at Home
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (note: we are a Jif family)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.
Bell Family Granola:
courtesy of Joy Bell
Lovely eaten out of hand, atop ice cream, yogurt, or cupcakes!  Mix into hot oatmeal or atop pancakes for a special treat!  I love that my 3 year-old was able to help me split the pecans with her little butterknife, too!
  • 3 cups rolled oats  (not quick)
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup pecans (cut in half lengthwise)
  • 3/4 cup shredded sweet coconut
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil *plus a bit more on your hands for mixing
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, combine the maple syrup, oil, and salt.  Whisk until thick.  Pour the wet mixture over the dry mixture and toss together until well combined (*oiled hands help here).  Spread out on a baking sheet.  Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Start checking at about 45-50 minutes.  Once it is a light golden brown, lift with a spatula and break into bite sized pieces.  Continue to bake the remainder of the time, turn off oven, and leave the granola in the oven to completely dry.  Store in an airtight container.



  1. Wow, delicious looking treats, Heather! I can't wait to try that granola. Too bad about the pie crust, but it happens. I use those refrigerated roll-out pie crusts all the time, but they are only slightly better than frozen.


  2. Such beautiful pictures as always! I think I can pull off these cupcakes here in China. The frosting looks delicious!


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