Summer Cocktail Cupcakes

It’s finally warm in Minnesota! I didn’t think we were ever going to warm up here. It’s been so nice to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Apparently Pinterest is in summer mode also because I have been seeing a lot of suggestions for summer cocktails. Reading the recipes made me think that it would be fun to make cocktail inspired cupcakes so, that’s what my daughter and I did today.

Below you can find the how-to’s of the three cocktail inspired cupcakes we created. They are all alcohol free and kid friendly. 🙂

For all three cupcakes I began with a simple yellow cake recipe but added a good full tablespoon of rum extract to the batter. I doubled my recipe which gave me enough batter for 4 dozen cupcakes. I then divided the batter into three different bowls.

Island Breeze Cupcakes

This cupcake was so good! Take one of the bowls of batter and stir in about 2 teaspoons of coconut extract to it. Place batter in paper lined cupcake tins. Bake as you usually would. Cool completely.

For the filling I sliced three peaches, placed it in a sauce pan with about two tablespoons of sugar. Cook on low, stirring occasionally so the peaches don’t stick to the pan. When the peaches are soft, stir in 1/2 tablespoon of potato flour or cornstarch to thicken. Cook about 2 or 3 minutes more. Place the peaches in a food processor with 1/2 cup of canned pineapple chunks. Process only until smooth. Fill your cooled cupcakes.

Frosting: As with the batter I made a double batch of my favorite Wilton Buttercream recipe. I divided it into three bowls. For the Island Breeze frosting I added about three tablespoons of pineapple juice. Frost the filled cupcakes and then garnish with coconut flakes. Enjoy!

 Mango Sunrise Cupcakes

This batter I baked with just the rum flavor. For the filling I had a mango peach preserve that we put in my little food processor to make smooth. This bowl of frosting was tinted neon pink with two teaspoons of orange extract stirred into it. We then frosted the filled cupcakes and sprinkled them with gold flakes for a golden sunrise. 🙂

Blueberry Freeze Cupcakes

My favorite of the three! To the batter we stirred in about two teaspoons of orange extract and about 1 heaping tablespoon of orange zest. After the cupcakes were baked and cooled we filled them with blueberry pie filling put through the food processor as we did with the other fillings. We tinted half of the frosting pink and the other half orange, to make a swirled frosting. We garnished the cupcakes with a slice of orange. So good!

Have a great summer!

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Easy One Pot Chicken Dinner

If you are looking for a quick and easy chicken dinner here’s a good one for you. I made it up a few days ago with items I found in the cupboard. It turned out really good and my hubby even took the leftovers for lunch the next day. Fair warning, I still cook like my house is full of people so this makes quite a lot. You might want to half it, or just enjoy the leftovers. 🙂

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You will need:

5 – 6 chicken breast halves (I used one of those bags of frozen chicken from Coborns.)
1/8 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
14 oz. chicken broth
1/2 chopped onion
1 cup chopped sweet peppers
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 heaping Tblsp. cumin
3 pkgs. quinoa and brown rice (Or you can use about 3 cups instant rice.)

Heat oil in a dutch oven or a deep skillet. Add the chicken, sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for 5 more minutes. Take the chicken out and place it on a plate to rest.3d33f7463c791ac8224c23b2d102a1fa

Stir the onion and sweet peppers into the remaining oil in the pot. Cook for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, black beans, broth and spices. Let it simmer about 5 minutes.

Stir in the quinoa and brown rice, (or instant rice). Slice the chicken and add this to the rice mixture. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the chicken and rice are totally done.

Goes great with a green salad. Enjoy!

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I Am Me

Lately it seems like everyone has to identify themselves in one category or another. There’s one movement after another, one cause after another. It feels like we are being forced to pick a label and conform to a certain stereotype within these labels.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I have come to the conclusion that people are not just labels and should never be labeled. People are so much more complex and amazing than a label.

So I thought about it, if I were to label myself, which label would I be? I don’t want to be labeled as just a “woman”, I really don’t like the way a lot of women act. I don’t want to be labeled as a “mother”, even though being a mother and grandmother is one of my chief joys in life, this is not all of who I am. Christian? Well, not really. My beliefs are way more than that of a stereotypical Christian and besides, most Christians aren’t very Christ like. American? I am and proud of it but I am also an Israeli, and proud of that. I am more than just a wife, general consultant, baker, lobbyist, and even though these are many things I do, they are not who I am.

I could go on and on but the point is that we are more than just labels and shouldn’t be placed in a category. If we all saw each other for who we really are as individual unique beings, rather than the labels we place on each other, we would all be so much more tolerant of each other and the world would be a much nicer place.

When I look at someone I see more than just a label. I am so much more than just a label. I am me.

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Oznei Haman ~ Purim Cookies

A long time ago, about 2,500 years ago, there was a really bad guy named Haman. He was the adviser to the King of Persia. As with many politicians the advise Haman gave the King was mostly for his own personal gain and he would manipulate the King into getting things to work his way.

One day Haman got mad at a Jewish man named Mordecai sitting by the palace gate because Haman didn’t feel that Mordecai was respectful enough to him. So he talked the King into signing a contract saying that all of the Jews in Persia should be killed and he drew lots to decide what day the massacre would happen. That’s where the word Purim comes from.

What Haman didn’t know was that the King’s beautiful wife, Queen Esther, was not only Jewish but also Mordecai’s cousin. She talked to her husband and asked him why he wanted to kill her people and the King was pretty mad when he realized Haman had tricked him. In the end Haman and his sons were hanged and the decree to kill the Jews of Persia was cancelled. The people rejoiced and celebrated their deliverance. You can read the whole story in the book of Esther in the Bible.

When my children were young they had so much fun celebrating Purim in Israel. They would dress up in costumes, eat lots of Purim cookies called Hamantaschen (Haman’s Pocket) in Yiddish or in Israel we called them Oznei Haman (Haman’s Ears). They would make gifts called Mishloach Manot filled with cookies, chocolate, candy and nuts and give them to their friends. They had parades and walked around with noise makers in case anyone said the name Haman.

As with most holidays the food is the best part and Purim is no different. Even though my kids are adults now they still wait all year for me to make Oznei Haman, the traditional Purim Cookie. In Israel the cookies are usually filled with strawberry jelly, chocolate, poppy seed or date fillings. I always make some of those but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t endeavor to change things up a bit. This year my daughter Dani and I decided to see how a candy filled center would be. We used Mini Snickers, Reese’s Eggs, and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. We also made some filled with Blackberry Cardamom jam, and a Raspberry Cocoa Cinnamon concoction made from Raspberry pie filling. We always have to make some with Nutella and Poppy Seed fillings. In all we had 8 different flavors and all of them had to be taste tested. We didn’t eat lunch that day. 🙂

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A few days later my daughter Rivka and grand-daughter came over and we made some more Oznei Haman. These were mostly Nutella filled and I also made some raspberry filled dipped in chocolate with green and white sprinkles in honor of St. Patrick’s day.

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Ingredients for Oznei Haman

5 cups all purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup oil
1 Tbsp. rum extract

Fillings: Nutella, favorite jams, poppy seed filling, date filling or whatever your imagination comes up with. 🙂

Step 1: In the bowl of your mixer beat the eggs until they are lemon colored. This may take a few minutes but you want to be patient until the egg looks like a fluffy lemony cloud.

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Step 2: Beat in the sugar, oil and rum extract.

Step 3: If you have a paddle attachment for your mixer, now is the time to switch to it.  Stir in 4 to 4 1/2 cups of flour until well combined and a soft ball forms. (If you don’t have a paddle attachment use a wooden spoon and stir in the flour until a soft ball forms.)

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Step 4: Lay a piece of parchment paper on your counter and place the ball of dough in the center of it.  I then fold the paper around it and place it in a Ziploc bag. Chill for at least 3 hours or overnight.

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Step 5: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll out on a lightly floured counter about 1/4″ thick. Use a glass to cut rounds. We like larger cookies so I use a glass with about 3 1/2″ diameter. Place 2 heaping teaspoons of your filling in the center of each circle. Pull up the side and pinch into 3 corners to shape the cookies leaving the centers exposed. You make have to brush the inside edges of the dough with water to make it stay in place.

Step 6: Place the cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets and bake about 25-30 minutes until a light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. I often sprinkle mine with powdered sugar or when cool drizzle with chocolate. Enjoy!

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My Creations of 2018

Can you believe it’s March 11th? It’s almost spring and I haven’t blogged anything in ages. I think it’s time to share with you some of the things we created last year, before this year is finished!

2018 was very full of election campaign duties, (sadly our guy lost); birthdays, (my 55th among them); baby showers, bridal showers, many visits from family & friends and of course the holidays. In the midst of all the excitement of living my crazy busy life I find my quiet place in the kitchen, coming up with new flavors and ideas brings me peace and sometimes a few more calories to the waistline. 🙂 Luckily I have a huge group of people who appreciate being my taste-testers. Have a great 2019!

If you would like to order one of my 2019 calendars just send me a message on my Facebook page, Sweet Eats by Shelley. I have a few of them left.

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For information about purchasing one of my cakes and other baked goods please check out my website: Sweet Eats by Shelley

 

Why I Support Rep. Jim Newberger For US Senate

For most of my life I was never really interested in politics. Growing up I watched politicians come and go and came to the conclusion that if you were in politics you were probably a power hungry person, willing to say anything to be elected and then promptly forgetting everything that you’d promised to the very people who had voted you in. I had adopted that self-righteous indignation a lot of people who sit on the sidelines have, complaining about their politicians, but never really doing anything about it because, well, that’s just the way it is, right?

My husband always told me that it was important to be involved in politics because it takes everyone to make a difference. I’d tell him fine, you go make a difference. That was until the day I was personally inconvenienced by the laws that some politicians had decided to pass. Yes, it’s pretty sad. We’re all sideline politicians until something directly impacts us and we can no longer sit back and criticize. It’s a shame that unless something touches us directly, we really don’t care.

That was the day a phone call to the Department of Health made me aware that it was illegal for me to sell the cakes and cookies that I loved to bake and share with others from my home. I never knew that such a law existed. People did it all the time. We were all breaking the law. I called my husband and he said, “Well, you’re not going to like it but now is the time for you to take action and change the law.” I said, “Okay, how do I do that?” He said that I had to write letters, get supporters, and work to get the law changed. It would take time and patience but if enough people were involved, sooner or later, we’d get it done.

In the summer of 2011 I began my campaign. I wrote letters to everybody I could think of. I did a lot of research. Found and teamed up with a lady who had already begun a Facebook page and petition to get the law amended. Then I met Jim Newberger.

Jim was a young medic who had seen firsthand while traveling overseas the effects communism and socialism can have on a country. He was determined that, as long as he was able, he would fight to insure that such a fate didn’t happen to his own country.

Jim started his journey by first running for Representative of District 15B. My husband had met him and was impressed by his kind spirit and passion for Minnesota and joined his campaign team. My husband told Jim about my Cottage Food struggle and he promised that if he was elected he would help to get the bill amended.

From the day he was elected, no matter how busy Rep. Jim Newberger was with everything else, he never forgot his promise. He kept pressing forward, even when I was giving up. Finally in 2015, with bipartisan support from Senator Dibble our bill was passed and we were legally allowed to sell cottage foods from our homes, farmer’s markets, and at other community events.

I don’t believe in big party politics, I don’t believe in big religious organizations, I don’t believe the majority is always right, but I do believe in good people, I believe in compassion and I believe in honesty.

I don’t know Mrs. Klobuchar personally. Maybe she really is a nice person, maybe not, but when I look at what she’s voted for and against, I don’t believe in her. When I hear the things she says and the promises she doesn’t keep, I don’t believe in her.

I do know Jim Newberger personally. I know that he has always listened to his constituents and voted accordingly, even when it made his fellow legislatures mad. I know when he becomes Senator that he will do everything in his power to listen to and help the people of Minnesota and I know he won’t back down. I know this because he did it for me and every other person in Minnesota that can now legally call themselves a Cottage Food Producer.

If we want changes in our government we have to get off of our couches and vote. We can’t be sideline critics. We have to vote for good people who really care.

Early voting begins in Minnesota on September 21st, 2018. Just go down to your government center, no long waits or lines, and vote. It’s that easy.

I’ll be there, and I will be voting for Jim Newberger for US Senate.

Jim Newberger for Us Senate

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Meeting Jim Newberger, July 2012

Let Freedom Reign

This year the 4th of July is a little different for me. We didn’t have the big family barbecue. No picnic, boating or fireworks. Today I went to Princeton, Minnesota to see The Vietnam Veterans Memorial – The Moving Wall. I have always wanted to visit the wall. It holds deep meaning for me as it was a large part of my childhood, indeed it has impacted my entire life.

My father went to Vietnam when I was five years old. I was old enough to understand that he was gone to fight in a war far away. That he flew in helicopters to help the sick and wounded soldiers. Old enough to know that he was gone, and that he might not ever come home. But I was one of the lucky ones. My daddy came home.

I was too young then to hear about all the anti-war media reports or to even know that a lot of people didn’t think our soldiers were the heroes I knew they were. I’m sure my mom kept that from us. But as I grew older I began to hear more. To see the way the vets were treated and to hear the media reports. They didn’t have a clue to the reality. They didn’t even care or understand that so many lives were being ruined by their false rhetoric. They didn’t care that my friend didn’t even know if her dad was dead or alive. He was MIA, Missing In Action. I will always wonder if he came home to his little girl.

Today I was honored to stand in front of The Moving Wall surrounded by many of the Mille Lacs County Vietnam Vets. I heard a true patriot and Vietnam Vet named Tom Newman tell about his time there. He was there in 1968, about the same time my dad was there. He spoke of how Hollywood sensationalized the war, about how the media didn’t bother to tell the truth and how the newspapers gave only parts of the story for maximum effect. He wasn’t telling us a story. He was just telling us how it was.

My father never really liked to talk about the war or his experiences with us, and I understand that. I only know a few of the things that happened to him. So it was good to hear Mr. Newman talk about what really happened. But even better was to understand why it happened. Our soldiers did not fight in vain. If you really want to understand Vietnam, forget the movies and all the other fictional stuff. Talk to a real live Vietnam Vet.

I left the fairgrounds with a renewed sense of faith in the future of this country as I watched a young boy, about 14 years old walk among the crowd. He went from one Vet to another, shaking their hands and thanking them for their service. I was touched by how many people were there. I was moved to tears as each solider was finally, after fifty long years finally honored with an official welcome home handshake and tribute for their service. I left with renewed determination to do my part to never let communism and socialism destroy this wonderful country where, whatever faults it may have, we are still free.

Senator Andrew Matthews’s beautiful words touched my heart as he spoke, “Jesus said that there is no greater sacrifice than for a man to lay down his life for his brother. Behind me stands a wall filled with the greatest love.”

Amen

 

My Tim Tam Adventure

One of the things I enjoyed most about growing up in the military was the ability we had to travel the world and visit so many different countries. The world is a beautiful place and like my dad always said, “To have a friend you must be a friend”, and he always managed to find friends everywhere we went. But as wonderful as we found the people and scenery of each nation, the thing we remember and talk about the most are all the wonderful things we ate in each place. You can find good food every where!

When I grew up and had my own children I wanted them to also have that same sense of culinary adventure. Even though we didn’t have that ability to travel as before, we lived in a country filled with people from all over the world. Not to mention that I love to cook and tried many new recipes. The rule was that they had to take at least one bite of whatever was served and if they didn’t like it that was OK, but at least they tried it. They actually liked most of what they ate and to this day trying new foods and restaurants are a big thing in our family.

My youngest daughter, as well as being a fantastic cook, loves to watch YouTube and discover new things to try. One day she came across something called a Tim Tam Slam. Tim Tams are a cookie made in Australia, the slam part you kind of have to see for yourself. Click the link: Tim Tam Slam. Of course once she saw the video we had to go shopping and find Tim Tams. We found some at Target and had a great, if not somewhat messy, time doing the Tim Tam Slam ourselves.

When we first set out to find Tim Tams there was only the original flavor in our Target but recently we went there and found three more flavors. Of course we had to take them home and try them all.

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As we were enjoying our taste testing, my favorite is the caramel by the way, we came up with the idea to make cupcakes based on each of the four Tim Tam flavors, and so the Tim Tam Cupcake was born.

If you’ve ever tasted a Tim Tam you will notice that the cookie in the center has a soft easy to crumble texture. In order to replicate this as closely as possible we used the chocolate cupcake recipe from the Belly Feathers Party Blog. I’ve made these cupcakes in the past and they are so good! Here’s the link: Chocolate Cupcakes.

Than we frosted each cupcake with with buttercream frosting in their designated flavors. It was fun and they turned out so amazingly good! Just a word of advice, you definitely need a strong cup of tea or coffee to go with them, they are very sweet.

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Milk Chocolate Tim Tam Cupcakes
For this cupcake we frosted it with chocolate buttercream frosting. I used the Wilton’s Chocolate Buttercream recipe but I added an additional 1/4 cup of dark cocoa to the recipe. We crunched up some of the original flavored Tim Tam cookies and sprinkled them on top. Then we drizzled milk chocolate over the entire cupcake. For the drizzle: Melt about 1/2 cup of milk chocolate chips in the microwave. I usually melt it right in my decorating bag, then snip the top for drizzling.

Caramel Chocolate Tim Tam Cupcakes
This cupcake is amazing and oh so sweet! We frosted it with the same chocolate buttercream frosting as above. Then crunched up some of the Chewy Caramel flavored Tim Tam cookies and sprinkled them on top. Then we drizzled caramel ice cream topping over the entire cupcake. Next time I think I’ll make my own caramel for a thicker drizzle but we were too impatient to wait for that. 🙂

Dark Chocolate Tim Tam Cupcakes
This cupcake is probably my favorite as it doesn’t seem quite as sweet. Frost the cupcake with dark chocolate buttercream frosting. I used the Wilton’s Chocolate Buttercream recipe but I added an additional 1/2 cup of dark cocoa to the recipe. We crunched up some of the dark chocolate flavored Tim Tam cookies and sprinkled them on top. Then we drizzled dark chocolate over the cupcake. For the drizzle: Melt about 1/2 cup of  bittersweet chocolate chips in the microwave.

Dark Chocolate Mint Tim Tam Cupcakes
Just as the mint flavored Tim Tam is very lightly flavored, we kept our cupcakes the same. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract to about two cups of the dark chocolate buttercream frosting from above. We crunched up some of the dark chocolate mint Tim Tam cookies and sprinkled them on top. Then we drizzled dark chocolate over the cupcake. For the drizzle: Melt about 1/2 cup of  bittersweet chocolate chips in the microwave.

We hope you enjoy making these as much as we did! G’day folks! 😉

 

We the People of 2018

I couldn’t sleep last night. My mind just kept going around and around. The 2018 Legislative session is about to get going and I’m still working to better my Cottage Food Law bill. Of course one thought led to another and I started to think about the upcoming precinct caucuses which will be taking place on February 6th and how important they are to us as a people.

There was a time that I didn’t want anything to do with politics. I wrote about that journey in my blog We the People. I never realized until I really wanted something to change how the process works. Now that I know and have been involved in the political system for a while now, it makes me even more upset to see how little our people really understand about the power they hold.

It is We the People who vote our representatives into place. It begins at the caucuses and what happens there has a direct impact on our everyday lives. How many of us even know what our representatives vote for in session? Do you just vote the person you like best into a position and then go on your merry way thinking this is enough? Do you just vote for someone because of the party they are affiliated with but never really have knowledge of what this person stands for? This is a very dangerous thing to do.

Until I got involved I never knew how often our representatives just vote down party lines and never even read the bills they are presented with. I never realized how often representatives will say what you want to hear and then vote for what they think is best for you. Because they are in the government they suddenly think they know what’s best for their constituents, never hearing what the constituents, who elected them, really want.

Do you know what your representatives vote for and why? Do you know that our tax dollars get thrown around these committees like it’s their weekly allowance with never a thought to what We the People need or want? I do. I’ve sat in their committee meetings. I’ve seen firsthand how they become judge and jury. I’ve seen the games they play and quite frankly where my tax dollars are going makes me really angry. It should make you angry too.

When a representative can swear to watch over the interests of We the People, and then give our tax dollars to immigrants for free housing, vacations, etc. and there are still so many homeless people on our streets, this State is not spending our tax dollars correctly.

When an immigrant can get totally free health care but my friend, a born and bred Minnesota gal who has served her country can’t even get help with her kidney medication; there are big problems in this State.

And before you call me racist which seems to be the answer to every political agenda that someone disagrees with these days, really honestly think about it. And before you point fingers at this party or that party, believe me they all do it. That’s your money. These representatives are supposed to work for you. Can you really say this is happening?

All I want is for our representatives, all of the representatives, to remember who they work for and take care of ALL the people of Minnesota. This will not happen until We the People wake up, attend the caucuses, and vote for the representatives who are going to quit playing the political games and really hear and stand for their constituents.

To find your caucus area you can click this link, 2018 Caucus Locations 

Please educate yourself, listen to the candidates and really become a part of your community. Don’t just listen to what these people are saying but check out their actions.

You can see what your Legislature is voting for and discussing every day. They have alerts from the Session Daily news, a Facebook page, Twitter  & Youtube videos of their committee meetings. The Minnesota State Legislative website has even more information there about your Senators and House Representatives.

I challenge you to find out exactly what your representatives are doing and if you really are happy with how they are working for you. Because at the end of the day We the People are responsible for what we stand by and let happen.

 

Mmmmm Worms!

Recently I took my granddaughter to the newly opened Mills Fleet Farm in our neighboring town. They had just put out the Halloween candy so she decided we needed to bake cupcakes with gummy worms. We spent a few days discussing how these amazing cupcakes should look. She takes her cake designs very seriously. She already has a very elaborate idea in mind for her birthday cake, which is still over a month away. I’ll be sure to show you when the time comes. By the way, I also have a my own baking business called Sweet Eats By Shelley. You can follow me on Facebook or check out my WordPress website, Sweet Eats By Shelley.

Anyway, we finally had time to bake our cupcakes this weekend. We baked my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, and then frosted them with Chocolate Marshmallow Buttercream. I love Amanda from “I Am Baker” and I follow her on Facebook. Her videos are a delight to watch and she always has fun ideas. I saw her recipe for Marshmallow Buttercream in some cookies she made and it looked really good. I thought if I added some cocoa to that recipe it would be perfect for our cupcakes. It was perfect and really good!

We used my cupcake corer to take out a small circle from the center of the cupcakes. Then we stuck the ends of 2 or 3 gummy worms into the hole. We then piped chocolate marshmallow buttercream over the worms to make it look like they were coming out of the ground. Another worm was place on top of the buttercream. We added crushed thin chocolate filled Oreos on top for dirt and finished the whole thing off with fall leaf sprinkles. It was so much fun!

Chocolate Marshmallow Buttercream
1 cup soft butter
1/3 cup cocoa
½ tsp. almond extract
1 Tbsp. water
4 cups powdered sugar
13oz container of marshmallow fluff

Whip the butter until fluffy. Add the cocoa and flavoring then beat until smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides of your bowl every so often as you work.  Add 2 cups powdered sugar and the water, beat until smooth. Add the remaining 2 cups of powdered sugar, beat until smooth. Add the marshmallow fluff and beat until fluffy. This will frost about 2 dozen cupcakes.

Happy October you all!

 

 

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