Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Vanilla Honeycomb Cupcakes (and a little Bee-wisdom!)

Today, I was looking through my old iPhone pictures and found some cupcakes I had made a while ago. 

These cupcakes were for a poem project in college. We had to pick a poem and reenact it through some form of art. I chose the art of baking, of course, and my classmates seemed to like that idea too! The poem I picked was Emily Dickinson's Number 97:

                                    To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee—
                                    One clover, and a bee,
                                    And reverie
                                    The reverie alone will do
                                    If bees are few.

I like this poem because it reminds me of baking too--all you need are the right ingredients and PLENTY of patience. So, to test that patience, I made a beehive out of cupcakes. I made little vanilla, honey-soaked cupcakes with jelly bean and almond bumblebees and boy were they GOOD! I got an A... I really needed that A, too.

Remembering those little candy bees today got me thinking about one of my favorite books of all time, "The Secret Life of Bees." 

I found these two quotes from the book and they rang true to me more so now than ever (especially the first quote.) I guess being a newlywed makes this extra funny to me! (Franklin doesn't sting though.. he's just a stinky boy and I'm learning A LOT living with a boy... Still, it's the most wonderful thing to love him and to be loved by him!!)

"Women make the best beekeepers, 'cause they have a special ability built into them to love creatures that sting. It comes from years of loving children and husbands." 

"The world is really one big bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places: Don't be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don't be an idiot; wear long sleeves and long pants. Don't swat. Don't even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates, while whistling melts a bee's temper. Act like you know what you're doing, even if you don't. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved."

So here is my recipe for you to use to feed that husband or child in your life (and in turn, feed your heart with LOVE!)


Yellow cupcake liners
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cupcake Toppers:
Sugar cookie dough
Vanilla Icing
Black gel Icing
Yellow food coloring
15 Black jelly beans (the bigger the better!)
1/4 cup thin-sliced almonds
4 large eggs, at room temperature
Yellow granulated sprinkles
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 (1/2 cup-12 capacity) muffin tins with yellow cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. 
With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended. 

Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

While these are baking, roll out the sugar cookie dough. Take a cup (I used a plastic cup... I wanted the circle to be just larger than the top of the cupcakes) and create about 15 circles (you want more than 12 in case some break!)

With a pairing knife, cut the outsides of the circles into hexagons, following the cup's lines so that they will all look even. Once you've cute the outsides, go back and mirror the same angles on the insides (keep the dough no more than 1/2 inch thick, as it will grow in the oven--I didn't do this and wish I had!!) Now you've got your honeycombs ready for baking.

Remove the cupcakes from the oven when they're complete and put the cookies in.

Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

Mix the vanilla icing with several drops of the yellow food coloring (I needed about 10-12 drops to get to the yellow I wanted!)

Once the cupcakes are cool enough, being to put a thin layer of icing on the tops. You want is thick enough to look yellow, but thin enough for the honey to soak into the cake. You want the icing to be as smooth as possible in the center too. Save the leftover icing for the bumblebees.

When the cookies are done, let them cool. Pour the sprinkles into a bowl. Melt the butter and paint it on top of the cookies and dip them into the sprinkles until they are well coated. Place them on top of the cupcakes.

For the bumblebees: 
Take the remainder of the icing and put it in a ziplock baggy and seal it 3/4 of the way. Draw a zigzag shape on the jelly beans. With the black gel icing, put a dot on both fat sides on the bean and a bigger dot on the back end (this is the stinger, so pull the gel away from the bean before you stop squeezing.) Take two almond slices (about the same size) and push them against the two side gel dots to create the wings. Place the bumblebees on the honeycombs and you're almost done!

*This is my favorite part.* 

Take your bottle of honey and fill the insides of the honeycombs up. Be careful that they don't overflow. I generally don't like honey, but I have to say that when it has soaked in, the cupcakes taste AMAZING!!!!

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