I cook things, photograph them, and put them on this blog so you can make them too, if you want. I have a master's in food studies, hate the word "authentic," and love pierogis. I also run Chicago Food Bloggers.


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coffee cake cupcakes w/ brown sugar buttercream

What if they made an episode of Law & Order where, instead of solving the crime, they went to an amusement park for the day. Instead of pounding the pavement, grilling comically uncooperative convenience store clerks ("I don't have time to talk about the woman who was gunned down on my stoop, I have to unload these hamburger buns."), they went to Coney Island and rode some rides and had a Nathan's hot dog or two. "I had forgotten how fun ferris wheels are, Mariska Hargitay." That's a line from the show I'm imagining. And, when they got to the end of the episode, they were kind of taken aback when you wanted to know who the killer was. "Um, we've been playing ring toss all day. How should we know?" Hahaha, what a terrible imaginary show.

Have you watched the show The Killing? It is on AMC, which stands for American Movie Classics, but AMC is to movie classics as MTV is to music, if you know what I mean. You know what I mean. So instead of classic movies, or really movies at all, they play very good shows, like Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Walking Dead. Critics are always acclaiming these shows! And a lot of people watch them! Although not nearly the number who watch The Bachelorette 57.

Anyway, so a lot of people thought The Killing would be good too. You know how it is, a network has some good shows it has all good shows. And it looked brooding and it was based on a Danish series that people in England really loved, so it was like, how can this not be good? That's a classic formula for being good - be something Danish that English people love.

I'll tell you how it can not be good. It can not be good if it was basically that joke of a Law & Order episode I described earlier (remember earlier?), but what if you did it for the entire season? What if you wasted hours and hours of my important time that I could be using to turn breakfast pastries into cupcakes? I'm going to complain about this show at length, so if you don't care about this show or television in general or you are tired of people complaining about this important problem that is the the end of The Killing being bad (it's been all over the internet this past week - ALL OVER. It's basically the most important thing happening, at least in the United States), just scroll down to the recipe. I'll only be mildly offended.

So basically the whole show is about this high school student who is found murdered in the trunk of a car and she was just a nice and innocent teenager and why would anyone want to kill her? But wait a minute, was she really so nice and innocent? No she wasn't.

So there are these two detectives, one who is trying to get to California to marry her fiance but she just has to solve this ONE LAST CASE and she schlumps around Seattle with these ridiculous frowny faces the whole time, it's like her face is slowly melting, probably from all of the rain and being on a bad television show, and the other who is basically a crack addict who says things like, "Homey please, we ain't need no evidence." And they are the two worst detectives in the history of the universe. They hit all sorts of dead ends, they chase wild geese, they get people nearly killed, they steal evidence, they make promises they of all people can't keep ("Of course we will solve this case."), they cut off interrogations right when they get interesting, they spend entire episodes looking for Schlumpy's kid who has gone missing (he was just hanging with his Dad!) and, despite this surely being the most important and high-profile case in the city, the sergeant just kind of grumbles every once in a while and says, "Stop screwing up." Meanwhile, imagine every fourth scene just randomly cutting to the victim's Mom about to cry or crying or just about to cry and then crying.

So in the first episode you learn about the murder and get to know all of the characters. And then it's off to Coney Island. They spend whole episodes leading up to crazy cliffhangers only to drop them at the very beginning of the next episode. Someone will drown and then the beginning of the next episode it turns out he had water wings in his pocket. To give Schlumpy and Crack the benefit of the doubt, I guess it would be hard to solve the crime when EVERYONE remotely connected to the victim has some insane secret he or she is trying to keep, even when keeping it a secret makes no sense. "Ahhh, just our luck, the victim's teacher also happened to be hiding a young Somali girl in a meat freezer to protect her from female circumcision. That really threw us off the trail we were definitely on." Sure. Also, the teacher is so good at keeping it a secret that he just about loses his job, faces murder charges and actually does get beaten nearly to death by the victim's dad (who has mob ties, of course, but only uses them to secretly buy a house for his family, awww, lovable mobster) because he won't tell anyone. Good secret keeping!

In any event, none of that (and a whole lot more) has anything to do with anything. I could have watched Yo Gabba Gabba instead of episodes 2-12 and I would know just as much as I know now. It turns out the whole thing is actually related to the political campaign the show has been following closely the whole time. Hmm, no wonder the show has been following this political campaign closely the whole time.

Only who knows if it does. At the end of the final episode it turned out the victim was a prostitute, the probably-next-Mayor, Darren, who has campaign posters that look like the covers of straight-to-DVD crime dramas, was her client, Crack is whack now because he faked a photo of probably-Mayor Darren at a tollbooth which is the cops' basis for arresting him at his campaign rally, but right before Darren is placed in the cop car a friend of the victim's family pulls a gun on him. Season over. You know nothing about anything.

It was RIDICULOUS. Besides the fact that all of this was just squeezed into the last episode and a half because they spent all of the rest of their time following a crazy terrorist conspiracy (oh yeah, there was a crazy terrorist conspiracy), I'm sure they'll just ignore it all when it starts up again next season. "Haha, nevermind, the cameras were working and that guy's gun jammed. Anyway..." They'll probably be like, "It was a random trucker from out of town! Surprise!"

So I'm sure this was all very important to you and you are also equally angry about this show WASTING MY IMPORTANT TIME. Anyway, the whole show takes place in Seattle (although only in the dankest, dirtiest, coldest, rainiest parts of crappy Seattle. That look like Vancouver). And Seattle has a lot of coffee. Here are some coffee cake cupcakes.

These are basically what they sound like - coffee cake in cupcake form. This is the type of coffee cake that you are supposed to eat with coffee, not the type of coffee cake that has coffee in it. Don't get confused! They have a brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream with streusel topping. They taste good. Make them. Or pretend like you are going to make them, then do something else for 11 hours, and when people are all excited and you are going to unveil the cupcakes, be like, "Broccoli casserole! Or is it?"

Note: I like dark brown sugar for almost everything and that's what I had on hand. I'm sure you can use light brown sugar and it will be fine. And the fact that the cupcake batter and streusel topping use both dark brown sugar and regular granulated sugar means you can probably just use light brown sugar and meet halfway, but the recipe below is the way I made it.

coffee cake cupcakes w/ brown sugar buttercream

ingredients for the coffee cake cupcakes
+ 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
+ 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
+ 1/2 cup granulated sugar
+ 2 large eggs
+ 1 cup sour cream
+ 2 cups all-purpose flour
+ 1 teaspoon baking powder
+ 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
+ 1 teaspoon kosher salt
+ 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
+ 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
+ 2 tablespoons maple syrup 
+ 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

recipe for the coffee cake cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners or grease with butter and coat with flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the 10 tablespoons butter, 3/4 cup dark brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar together until creamed and fluffy. Add the 2 eggs and 1 cup of sour cream and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, stir together the 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon until well-combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

Add the 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, 2 tablespoons maple syrup and 1 cup of walnuts, if using, and beat a few times just to combine.

Pour the batter into the muffin tin cups, filling about 3/4 of each cup, and bake until a tester comes out clean - about 18-20 minutes. Cool completely.

To assemble, top each cupcake with some of the brown sugar buttercream (recipe below) and sprinkle with the streusel topping (recipe below). Ideally you want a large chunk or two of streusel topping in the center of each cupcake.

ingredients for the brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream
+ 4 large egg whites
+ 1 cup dark brown sugar
+ 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
+ 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cut into chunks
+ 1 teaspoon vanilla 

recipe for the brown sugar swiss meringue buttercream
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the 4 egg whites, 1 cup dark brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Whisk until just combined.

Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of water just to the simmer over medium heat. Place the bowl with the egg mixture over the pan, making sure the bowl does not touch the water, and cook while continuously whisking, until the mixture has reached 150 degrees F.

Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until it is a shiny meringue, doubled in volume and cooled. This can take as long as 15 minutes.

Now switch to the paddle attachment. On medium speed, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, until all of the butter has been incorporated. The meringue will curdle at one point before coming back together and forming a smooth, glossy buttercream. Set aside until ready to use.

ingredients for the streusel topping
+ 1 stick unsalted butter
+ 1/2 cup dark brown sugar 
+ 1/4 cup granulated sugar
+ 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
+ 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
+ 1 cup all-purpose flour 

recipe for the streusel topping
In a large saucepan, melt the 1 stick of unsalted butter. Turn off the heat. Add the 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon. Use a wooden spoon to mix and press the mixture until it is well-combined. Add the flour and mix until completely incorporated. Set aside to dry and clump together. When the mixture has dried a bit, break it up into medium size chunks.

makes about 12 cupcakes

Reader Comments (9)

OK. So I'm a total Law & Order addict. Basically, if Dick Wolf has produced it, I have seen it. No joke, this has been going on for the past 21 years. I can't stand amusement parks, so I'm going to stick with what I know. Also, I watch TCM for movies, rather than AMC. They're unedited, and are pretty terrific. In terms of European detective shows getting adapted into English, I'd suggest you check out the Wallander series on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS. They've actually just made some new ones for the fall season. Can't wait. So yup, that's everything I watch on television: Dick Wolf productions, Turner Classic Movies and PBS. I know, I sound super cool. In terms of this recipe, I can only imagine myself making a bowl of butter cream frosting and streusel topping and eating it during some L&O marathon on TNT or USA. Yup, super cool.

June 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly

Hi Molly! I love TCM movies. You can pretty much watch whatever movie they happen to be playing and be entertained. I have been wanting to watch Wallander. I've heard nothing but amazing things. Have you seen The Inspector Lynley Mysteries? It's my favorite TV show of all time. I also never miss Miss Marple or Poirot. I wonder if Wallender is on Netflix. The buttercream frosting is so good. It's light and fluffy and not crazy sweet.

June 24, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Kostyo

lol... "Broccoli Casserole!"
The extent of my crime show knowledge starts and stops with Dexter, but the extent of my cupcake knowledge is vast and these look GOOD. You can't go wrong with butter and brown sugar.

June 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Elizabeth

I know more than a few people who are obsessed with Dexter. I started watching it and couldn't really get into it, but maybe I will try again. Thanks, Sarah!

June 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Kostyo

You are hilarious. I was just looking for a garlic scape pesto recipe and stumbled onto your blog. I have now been reading for an hour, laughing my head off, and making a grocery list so I can start cooking like 10 things I just read about. Thanks so much for posting all of these incredible recipes and photos (and witty banter...wait can you still call it banter if there is only one person involved? Oh well.). I'll be sharing the link with the CSA I am a part of here in Michigan (where I have never gotten a morel from a roadside stand, incidentally).

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Thanks, Katie! I've had a lot of people visiting the blog looking for garlic scape recipes! Thanks for reading my blog! I hope your CSA likes it. I can't believe you've never had a morel from a roadside stand. I know they definitely have them in the southwestern part of lower Michigan. I miss them! People out here keep their foraging locations secret. Ina Garten has a recipe for chicken with morels that is amazing. Again, thanks for reading and the ridiculously nice compliments.

July 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Kostyo

Much like Katie....I stumbled upon your site when thinking how tasty coffee cake cupcakes would be.....Love it!! I may be out of my league since I'm still working on acquiring my first "standing" mixer, and my best cupcakes are still boxed......I am, however, sharing this delicious sounding recipe with friends in hopes that someone will make them for me. Thanks for the 411 on "The Killing"....saw the previews, thought it sounded interesting and am tickled to know I didn't miss anything. Happy Cupcaking......

July 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Hi, Michelle! You can certainly make them using a hand mixer or, if you are feeling energetic, a whisk. And you aren't missing anything at all when it comes to the Killing. You know just as much as I do about anything going on with that show.

July 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterMike Kostyo

So I made some pumpkin cheesecake cupcakes. And when I tried to decide what frosting to use, I started wondering if you could make Swiss meringue buttercream using brown sugar instead of white. Thank you for answering that question, definitively and deliciously! WOW! The frosting absolutely delicious. (I'll try the cupcakes next.) And thanks for the hilarious story as well. I can't wait to read more.

September 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz T.

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