Tag Archives: birthday

Chocolate Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Frosting

For Christmas, I was going to make the kids in my life crayons out of the letters of their names.  I purchased what I thought was an oven-ready mold, but when it arrived it was a tiny, plastic, chocolate mold.  My mistake, but rather than resell it I thought I would utilize the chocolate mold by making alphabet suckers in primary colors for Tommy’s 1st birthday party.


After a series of unfortunate events, such as me forgetting to spray the mold before placing what turned out to be too soft of chocolate in, I pushed my hand through the plastic breaking the alphabet into an uneven half. (Don’t worry, I’ll spare you the bloody picture). But, I was still able to utilize the yellow melted chocolate on top of the cupcake frosting.

To make the cupcakes:

To make the frosting:

  • 1/4 cup cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp. whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 fresh juice from lemon
  • Food coloring

To make the chocolate:

  • 1/4 bag white chocolate chips (a pricier brand, like Ghirardelli, will taste best)
  • 1 Tbsp. whole milk
  • Food coloring

Start by making the cake.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a mixing bowl, blend together cake mix, almond extract, oil, water, and eggs using an electric hand mixer.  Whirl around until smooth, approximately 2 minutes. Add in the chocolate chips and fold over with a spoon until they are well dispersed into the batter.

I chose to make mini cupcakes with mini, white paper cups.  If you are cooking these for yourself, you can eliminate the paper cups by spraying or Criscoing the muffin tin.  Fill each cup about 3/4 from the top. They will rise in the oven.

Place the pan in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes. To check if they are ready, simply stick a wooden toothpick in the center of a cupcake. If it comes out clean, they are done. If it has batter on it, they need more time in the oven.

In the meantime, you can start the frosting. With a clean electric hand mixer and bowl, combine together the cream cheese, lemon juice, whole milk, vanilla, butter and 1/2 cup of the powdered sugar. 

 Blend on medium speed until smooth, approximately 3-5 minutes, slowly adding in more powdered sugar, section by section, until you’ve used 1 1/2 cups (more if you like it a little stiffer for accurate piping, less if you like your frosting on the soft side). 

Finally, add in your favorite food coloring color (or multiple to make such colors as purple or orange).  I chose blue, using maybe 20 drops for a deeper hue.

Now is a good time to make the chocolate letters.  To make a double boiler, simply add in an inch of water to a large pan. Bring the water to a boil and place a smaller pan filled with your chocolate ingredients on the inside. Again, pick your favorite color to dye the white chocolate chips. Stir constantly, until the chocolate is melted enough to spread.  This method is a fool-proof way of not burning the chocolate. 

On parchment paper, create your letters by hand using a toothpick or small spoon.  Stick the parchment paper into the freezer for 10-15 minutes.


When your cupcakes are cool, frost them using a spoon, piping bag, or, like me, a cookie press that also serves as a frosting gun.

Pull the chocolate letters out and immediately peel them from the paper. If you take too long, stick them back in the freezer for 5 minutes and finish the remaining letters then stick them into your frosted cupcakes. 

Though my friend was excited for chocolate suckers, as someone else also brought cupcakes to the party, these minis were delicious and easy to pop in your mouth without feeling guilty after a high-fat, filling dinner of Portillo’s Beef Sandwiches.  I personally enjoy minis because they not only look cute; you feel you can eat more because of the size. This isn’t necessarily true, but comforting during the process.

The addition of lemon and vanilla into the cream cheese frosting was my personal favorite.  It was subtle, not overwhelming, but noticeably different in comparison to previous cream cheese frosting recipes.  The almond extract in the chocolate was almost invisible, so feel free to add in another teaspoon, but the chocolate chips definitely initiated a heavier cupcake.  They melted leaving little pockets of condensed, smooth chocolate.  Finally, the chocolate letters were a fun addition, clearly stating the purpose of the cupcakes (“Happy 1st Birthday Tommy”), that people could take off and eat.  Next time I will arrange to take more time on this part so each letter is consistent and easy to read.


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Tiki Terrace

Tiki Terrace in Des Plaines, IL was Sarah, my and her birthday dinner compadre’s latest find.  I had a hard time finding the place because it’s smashed in between a few stores, not facing the street, and has no sign other than above the small store front.  Upon entering we were hit with a sudden Hawaiian decor.  To our left, a stage with giant stone belly-heavy mongrels guarding the center with dried palm-grass holding up bongo’s and ceramic watering pots.  To the right, the bar decked to a T with more dried palm grass, lei’s, flowers, and of course everywhere you looked there was a pile of drink umbrellas.  Past the bar were more identical giant stone statue’s jutting from the wall with the biggest noses I have ever seen.  The music topped off the immediate chillax atmosphere with Israel “IZ” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” 

This month is $4 Mai Tai specials.  They come in hilariously funny glasses like “Tito,” pictured below, Sarah’s birthday mascot.  It was like Hawaiian punch in a glass with not even a hint of alcohol flavor. They were strong though, one is enough.   The best part, besides the cherry on top, is it comes with one of those distinct drink umbrellas that put your mind instantly in the sun and lying on a beach.


While we’re still on drinks, Sarah and I started with the Martiki-Tini’s before the rest of her crew arrived.  Sarah ordered the Vanilla Ginger Martini which was quite delicious. It initiated with the same pungency of vanilla syrup as vanilla coke used to have with that rich ginger coming out to your taste buds shortly after.  I ordered the Waikiki Beachcomber which was a sweet drink for a martini with a cherry at the bottom.  I’d purchase it again, but it almost seemed as though the pale yellow juice was there only to mask the aftershock of alcohol. 

Onto the meals.  Everyone else raved over the appetizers of calamari, chicken wings, and taro chips with fresh pineapple dip.  Sarah and I are dinner friends simply because we have the same exact taste buds and eat the same types of food, i.e. vegetarians, so we flip-flopped our food and tried each others.  She ordered the Aloha Tofu.  The tofu was grilled into thin triangles and smothered in a sweet teriyaki glaze and layered over a bed of tomatoes and onions with a large ball of rice on the side of the plate.  It was so good Sarah only gave me a bite.  The Ka’anapali Vegetable Pasta sounded delish because it had red chili-garlic mixed with fettuccine sauce, so I ordered it.  It came with a King’s Hawaiian bread roll, which if you’ve ever tried one, you know they are un-pass-up-able.  The pasta itself was thick, not to my liking because I am an angel hair pasta fan, but worked to hold the sauce and vegetables together.  It was hard to twirl around my fork though.  The sauce was as good as I thought it would be. Just the right amount of spice evened out by the fettuccine, olive oil, and vegetables such as broccoli and sugar snap peas.  The olive oil made it a little oily, and I had to wipe my mouth often.  It would probably be a better pasta with a protein included like chicken or tofu.  Everyone else fully enjoyed their meals, and we are considering trying the restaurant out again on a night that they have dinner and a show.

For dessert, they had this coconut cake and pineapple ice cream. The cake was so light that I could have eaten the whole thing by myself, and I was only tasting someone else’s.  It was a white cake base surrounded by a whipped frosting and topped with sweetened coconut flakes.  The pineapple ice cream was drizzled with a thick sweet golden syrup and lit up my taste buds with each bite. 

The weekday was pretty dead and they were out of a lot of their signature dishes.  Belly dancing shows. Enough said.

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