4th of July Cupcakes

Independence day!

As the wife of a man that spent 5 1/2 years on active duty serving his country in the U.S. Army, the 4th of July has taken on new meaning since I met him. I understood phrases like the "cost of war" and the "price of freedom" on a conceptual basis, but hearing his first-hand account of what it's actually like to fight for your country has given me an entirely different appreciation for what the members of the U.S. military sacrifice on a daily basis to protect the freedoms we enjoy. 

As put by Franklin D Roosevelt - "Freedom, in its truest sense, cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved." 

Achievements - especially those achievements that are most difficult or come at a high cost - warrant celebration. The greater the achievement, the greater the celebration should be - and therein lies the reason that the 4th of July is such an awesome holiday! 😉 

If you're like me and my family, celebrations usually involve food - and it's really fun to have themed food on the day of a celebration like the 4th of July! If you're looking for a fun and easy way to 'Murica-theme your dessert table - I've got you covered! 😉 Recipe below 🙂  

Cupcakes
1 white/vanilla boxed cake mix
½ c butter, melted
4 egg whites 
1 c water
1 ½ t clear vanilla extract
Red and blue food coloring (I used liquid coloring, but liquid or gel food coloring would work)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line cupcake pans with paper wrappers. 
Combine eggs, water, and melted butter in a mixing bowl, and blend in cake mix, mixing for 2 minutes until smooth. Divide into 24 cupcake liners. Add 1-2 drops of red food coloring to 9 cupcakes and 1-2 drops of blue food coloring to another 6 cupcakes, stirring each gently to marble in the food coloring. Leave the last 9 white. Bake for 10-18 minutes (depending on your oven). 

Cool completely on wire racks. 

Ganache:
2 c (12 oz) chocolate chips
1.5 c (12 oz) whipping cream

Meanwhile, make your ganache. Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. Place whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring almost to a boil over medium/low heat. Pour over chocolate chips and let rest for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth and silky. Chill until thick enough to pipe into cupcake centers, but don't let it solidify completely. 

Once the cupcakes have cooled, you're ready to core them. There are a few ways you can do this....you can buy a cupcake corer, you can try using the non-business-end of a large piping tip,  or....you can do what I do and cut a cone-shaped core out with a plastic knife. Up to you 😉 I haven't the foggiest idea why cupcake crumbs don't stick to plastic knives like they do regular knives, but the plastic knife's been working too well for me to feel the need to invest in any fancy corers 😉 Pipe your ganache into your cored cupcakes - it doesn't have to look pretty, so I often use a zip-lock bag for this part. 😉 

Once your cupcakes are filled, you're ready to frost and decorate them! 

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
2-4 Tablespoons milk
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
Red and blue food coloring
2 T cocoa powder (if desired, for coloring)

Additional decorations
1/4 c white fondant 
Star-shaped cookie cutter 
white sprinkles 

Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.

Reserve about 1.5 c of frosting to color blue (or however much you'd like to use to frost 6 cupcakes) and divide the remaining frosting in half. Color the first 1.5 c dark blue, and one half of the remaining frosting deep red. I used Americolor food gel (purchased from Amazon.com), which came in really bright colors, so I used a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder to tone down the brightness of colors just a bit. 

Arrange your cupcakes in a 6-by-4 rectangle, with the 6 blue cupcakes to the top left, and the remaining cupcakes in red and white stripes. Frost your cupcakes to match the cupcake colors, and add fondant stars and white sprinkles to the blue ones. 

And you're done! You'll have an awesome-looking cupcake display.....right up until they all get eaten! 😉 Enjoy! 

 Note -I had a little bit of extra frosting after I finished these, and some extra blue fondant from another project. I also had a spare box of brownie mix.....so I made mini 'brownie cupcakes' and decorated them with the extra frosting. Options! 😉 

 

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