Aren’t fourth pregnancies supposed to be predictable? I thought by now that maybe, just maybe, I would have this pregnancy thing figured out, but I most assuredly do not. I’m reasonably sure this little one will be the biggest “little” one to date, given its ability to kick me up under the ribs while simultaneously ravaging all my lower organs and still poking out body parts basically in my back. I am completely out of space, and not entirely sure how the next 20 days can see any more growth without me literally splitting open.
One thing I notice more than ever before is the effect this assault has on my appetite. While I’m definitely the biggest and heaviest I’ve ever been, my stomach capacity is virtually non-existent. As someone who loves to eat, and is only really motivated to cook and bake for this reason, this is a strange and unwelcome new phenomenon. It’s hard to believe my kids when they tell me they’re hungry when I am so definitely not hungry, and hard to think stocking the freezer with meals would be a good idea when the idea of a chicken breast is enough to make me want to lie down.
Somehow, though, this problem doesn’t seem to extend to the realm of snacks (wait a minute…writing that out makes me think maybe that’s the reason for the excessive expansion this time around…)
Whoever said Cranberry Bliss is just for Christmas was just plain wrong. One of my dear friends had a birthday a while back, and I had the fun of hosting a party for her. Her husband and I tried to think of some of her favourite things to include on the menu. Knowing her love for the Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars, I wanted to create a cupcake that captured all the same flavours with birthday flair.
The bars are dense, chewy, buttery, and incredibly moist, so for the cupcake I started with a relatively dense, moist cupcake base with a good ol’ cake mix doctored up with some sour cream, vanilla, orange zest, and white chocolate chips. Then an eggless cranberry white chocolate cookie dough is stuffed into the centers, and it’s all topped with a cream cheese buttercream frosting, more cranberries, and a little white chocolate drizzle. The only thing I left out was the candied ginger I believe is in the bar version. I wish I’d thought to take a picture of the inside for you, but they were gone too fast!
These were a perfect balance of sweet and tart, with the surprise filling making them extra special and getting the cranberries into the centre without risking having them dry out the cupcake, as cranberries are wont to do to cake. That same filling also made them pretty heavy for a cupcake, not to eat, but physically – these have some serious weight in the hand! My sister works in a fancy cupcake shop and taught me the handy trick of filling cupcakes: rather than painstakingly scooping out all the centers, simply jam your thumb down the center of each. This makes a perfect, uniform hole in each in a matter of seconds, and is just kinda fun to boot.
Next time you need a party treat sure to please kids and adults alike, I highly recommend giving these a try. To make it less of an all-day production, it’s nice to make the cupcakes the day before and fill and ice them the day you need them. Store any leftovers in the fridge, but let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving for the best texture and flavour. Do you have any favourite “Christmas” treats you like to eat year round?
- 1 box French Vanilla cake mix + ingredients called for on box (usually eggs, oil, and water)
- ½ cup sour cream
- 1-2 tsp grated orange zest
- ¾ cup miniature white chocolate chips
- ⅛ cup (2 Tbsp) butter, softened
- 3 Tbsp lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 tsp orange zest
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ⅓ cup + 1 Tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup miniature white chocolate chips
- ½ cup butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 6 cups powdered sugar/icing sugar
- 1 tsp orange juice
- 1 tsp milk or cream
- ½ tsp vanilla
- Tiny pinch of salt
- ¼ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup white chocolate chips melted with ½ Tbsp butter
- Prepare cake mix as directed on package, adding sour cream and orange zest once blended. Stir in white chocolate chips. Bake as directed, adding a couple minutes to cooking time if needed. The cupcakes should bake up nice and flat, or with a slight dip in the middle - this makes it easy to frost them than a domed top.
- For filling, blend butter, brown sugar and orange zest with an electric mixer. Add flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla and blend until smooth (it will be quite thick). Stir in cranberries and chocolate chips.
- To fill cupcakes, poke your thumb down the center of each to compact it into a hole (you can also scoop out holes, but the thumb method is much faster!) Fill each hole with about a teaspoon of filling, or as much as you can fit.
- For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add half the powdered sugar and beat to combine. Add remaining icing icing sugar, orange juice, milk, vanilla and salt and mix until smooth and creamy. Add more milk if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
- Frost cupcakes as desired and top immediately with chopped cranberries.
- Melt white chocolate and butter gently in the microwave and drizzle over cupcakes. To do this, I put it in a Ziploc bag and snip off a small corner to squeeze out the chocolate evenly.