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101 Posts- Let's Celebrate with Cupcakes (and a cupcake-ish giveaway)!

Yes, I had originally planned to have a giveaway to celebrate my 100th post...but I wanted to squeeze my wine post into June, so I made it 101 instead. It's hard to believe that it has been just under 5 months since I joined the blogging world with My Manhattan Clam Chowder...which is sitting there in all of it's green glory, un-commented on...but still delicious and making me want a big bowl right now! I didn't really know what I was doing. I had just discovered this strange phenomena called a blog. And now that I'm here, it's so hard to believe that there are people out there who don't have a clue what blogging is...it is so addictive...it's a great release...source of creative outlet...and source for meeting great people! So here I am, writing my 101st post here on girlichef and I want to say thank you to everybody who has read, commented, emailed or even mentioned me over this beginning leg of my journey...you rock and are a constant source of motivation and inspiration to me! That being said...let's talk cupcakes!! A few months ago, I was at the library, doing my regular perusal of the newly released cookbooks and I found one called (simply) Cupcakes... Luscious bakeshop favorites from your home kitchen. The author is Shelly Kaldunski (a freelance food stylist and baking and pastry consultant in No. California. As a pastry chef, she baked in restaurants before becoming a food editor at Martha Stewart Living. She was the food stylist for and a contributor to Martha Stewart's baking handbook....or so says the book jacket). I set out to my normal task...reading through the book and marking the pages of the ones I wanted to make. Funny thing, and it happens a lot...I had marked a ridiculous number of pages! Looking at the book from the top, it was hard to separate the pages from the markers. So, instead of photocopying the whole book, I decided I better just order. Heck...why not order 2 copies so that I can give one away? So, I've saved the other copy and had it tucked away until the time came to give it to someone...guess what...NOW IS THAT TIME!! More at the end of the post...now let's look at a few of the cupcakes from this book.

Salted Caramel Cupcakes, Tres Leches Cupcakes, Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes...oh my! Now, I'm the kind of gal who likes to show those hardworking folks like Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker and the Pillsbury Dough Boy some love by using those cake mixes and frosting they so painstakingly...make that... lovingly assembled just for our convenience. I'm more of a pie type of gal, but I do like a good cake or cupcake now and again. Every once in a while I will make one from scratch. It was quite the exception for me to make 3 kinds (all in the course of a couple of days) and the frosting all from scratch. It was pretty fun...and they all turned out pretty tasty if I do say so myself. And I do. Whipped Cream frosting is more up my alley...and I'd say most everybody knows how to make it (whip the cream and add some sweetness). This was only the oh, maybe 3rd or 4th time I actually made Butter cream from scratch, so I'll share the recipe from this book with you.

Basic Butter cream

makes about 2 c.

3 large egg white, at room temp.

3/4 c. sugar

pinch salt

1 c. unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, at room temp.

(after the basics, you can add flavorings of your choice if desired)

In a large, clean heatproof bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Set the bowl over (but not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat the mixture, whisking constantly, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is very warm to the touch (about 160 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer), about 2 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the saucepan. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the egg white mixture until it is fluffy, cooled to room temperature, and holds stiff peaks (the mixture should not look dry), about 6 minutes.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the salt and the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, 3-5 minutes more.

Add the flavorings of choice and beat until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Use right away. (Or make in advance and refrigerate in a airtight container for up to 5 days. Bring to room temp. and beat on medium-low until smooth before using).

I know this is already becoming a long post, so I'm not going to post the recipes for all 3 kinds of cupcakes...I'm just going to show you the highlights of each type of cupcake...

I chose the Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes because I love Mexican Chocolate, and I just happened to have a few tabs around the kitchen. HOMEMADE Mexican Chocolate that a friend of mines mother brings up from Mexico when she comes to visit. She and her sister actually make it and it is still kind of soft when I get it. I really want to know how to make it one day! If you've ever bought Mexican Chocolate from the store, you know that the tabs are pretty hard and crumbly and taste best when made into something. Well, not these! I mean yes, they taste great made into something, but I also have a major self-control issue with them...I have to control myself from just eating them as is. They are amazing. So, some grated Mexican chocolate goes into these cupcakes and is sprinkled over the frosting before serving, also.

The thing that drew me to the Salted Caramel Cupcakes was...well, the salted caramel garnish! Salt and caramel are such an awesome combo for the salty-sweet lovers out there! My Farmer's Market has a great little shop which has been a firm fixture there since the time it opened (I believe that's what they said) and they make the most delicious, soft caramels! I melted some chocolate and dipped the bottoms, then before serving, cut them in half and placed them on top of the frosting (butter cream w/ cajeta...Mexican Goat's Milk Caramel...swirled in), then sprinkled them with big flakes of Sea Salt. The third type I chose to make were Tres Leches Cupcakes. It's hard for any birthday to pass by in my family without a Tres Leches Cake, and these mini-versions actually turned out to be my favorite of all the types I made. The cake portion is airy and spongy...pricked with holes...then drenched in the "3 Milks" mixture. It's simplicity at its finest...and topped simply with sweetened whipped cream. Ahhhh. And now you say... But girli! I don't have that cookbook and I MUST make those cupcakes! Never fear my friends, this is where my wonderful planning and insight comes into play. To celebrate my 101st post, I'm having a giveaway! Yay...a brand new copy of this book Cupcakes by Shelly Kaldunski could be yours. And that's not all! Two friends of mine have generously donated some fun things to sweeten the pot. First off is the loverly, creative, wacky and silly Lady P of Madly Creative. If you've never read of her crazy, law-evading knit-up adventures, I insist you go over for a good laugh immediately! Once upon a time, I saw her knitting up some cupcakes and knew I must have one for myself...so I did get one for myself AND she threw in one for my giveaway (plus some fun cupcake cards...not pictured)! Another friend of mine, Charmane from SALT has given me a delicious package of Fleur de Sel (Organic French Grey Sea Salt) to add to the fun! If you know me at all, you know I have a slight addiction to all types of sea salts...this one is pure, unadulterated goodness and the one I used in the baking of all of these cupcakes! Plus, I found some cute cupcake liners and decided...why not throw those in, too!

Now for the details...I only ask 1 thing of the winner...please bake something from this book after you receive it with a link back to girlichef! That's it. I mean, you were probably going to try at least 1 recipe from the book anyway, right!?

How to enter:
1. For 1 entry into the giveaway: Simply leave me a comment and tell me something, anything about cupcakes. Your favorite kind...one you'd like to try...You love them...You sort of like them...ANYTHING ABOUT CUPCAKES! If you want to say something, but don't want to enter...just let me know you do not want to enter the giveaway (but it's free!!).
If you simply MUST be the winner, here are some more ways to earn more entries:
(for 2 additional entries each)
2. Mention this giveaway on your blog and link back to this post. Then come back and leave me another comment letting me know you've done this.
3. Tweet about this giveaway with a link back to this post. You guessed it, come back and leave me another comment to let me know.
And if you ABSOLUTELY need to win, here are some final ways to earn more entries:
(for 3 additional entries each)
4. Go visit the SALT website. Come back and tell me which kind of Sea Salt/Fusion Sea Salt you really, really want to try in a separate comment.
5. Go visit Madly Creative then come back and tell me what you'd like Lady P to knit-up for you (hypothetically).

Please have all entries in by Midnight on Saturday, July 11 (Eastern time). I will announce the winner on Monday July 13.

**Remember...in order to actually win, I need to know how to contact you! If you are a follower, I can just follow that back to you. If you are not a follower, please make sure I have a way of letting you know!**

GOOD LUCK!