For some it’s Julia Child. For others it’s James Beard or Martha Stewart. Some people’s favorite chef is Giada (although I suspect that’s mostly just men who like bobble-headed skinny ladies, who you should never trust your cooking to).
My cooking hero is The Cake Mix Doctor, otherwise known as Anne Byrn. I have four of her books and I cook out of them religiously. A few years ago I happened to see that Anne was visiting a local bookshop for a signing for her latest book on potluck dishes. And sure, I bought the new book at the signing, but like a supreme dork I brought along my oil/spice/flour stained copy of The Cake Mix Doctor hoping she’d sign that instead.
She looked at my ragged copy with a tad bit of disgust, and then she flipped to the front section where the pictures of all the cakes are (so you can easily find each recipe) and she said, “God, I hate the pictures in this first book”. I told her how she’d made me look like a fantastic baker with that book and how much I loved it. She then signed with a flourish and pointed me toward some snacks in the back that were made using recipes from the new book.
Odd as that interaction was, I am a true fan. The recipes in all her books are not from-scratch recipes. You always start with something already available (cake mix) and then add to it until you’ve made something so impressive that people start to think you’re an amazing baker. Suckers.
It’s no surprise that when I mentioned her Cupcake book as a possible Christmas gift to Ryan, the book showed up from Amazon 3 days later. The boy wanted cupcakes. My first recipe from this book, the Cherry Cheesecake Cupcakes, was to die for. The almond extract is the key, I think. Ryan loved the vanilla wafer on the bottom. They’re so moist (ick, hate that word) that they almost fall apart, and I also liked that they didn’t have frosting, because I’m not talented at frosting at all. Plus, they look gorgeous and Ryan reports that the entire batch hardly lasted a day in the fire station.
|Cherry Cheesecake Cupcakes|
- 1 package (8oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 package plain yellow cake mix (this means Duncan Hines)
- 1 package (3.4oz) vanilla instant pudding mix
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 28 vanilla wafers
- Vegetable spray, for misting a spoon
- 1 can (21oz) cherry pie filling
- Powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Line 28 cupcake cups with paper liners.
- Prepare the filling: Place the cream cheese in a small mixing bowl and blend with an electric mixer on low speed until the cream cheese has softened, 15 seconds. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla and continue to beat on low until the ingredients come together, 1 minute. Set the filling aside.
- Prepare the cupcake batter: Place the cake mix, pudding mix, milk, oil, eggs, and almond extract in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.
- Place 1 vanilla wafer in the bottom of each cupcake liner. Spoon or scoop 1/4 cup batter on top of each vanilla wafer. Gently dollop 1 heaping teaspoon of filling on top of each cupcake. The cup will be nearly full. Do not shake the pans. Place the pans in the oven.
- Bake the cupcakes until they are golden and spring back when lightly touched, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the pans from oven and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Lift cupcakes from pans and place on wire rack to cool for 15 more minutes.
- Mist a teaspoon with vegetable oil spray and use this to press down on the cupcake to create an indentation. Place a heaping teaspoon of cherry pie filling in the well of each cupcake. Sprinkle with powdered sugar