Kirsten, a former professional designer and builder of global networks, may have at some point in her career been instructed to take a Meyers Briggs personality test by her employer and one day perhaps, one or all of her sons may be asked to do the same. Future employers would do well to save the time and money determining the character traits and work habits of her boys and simply read her engaging post on the study of their backpacks. Not only does this busy Mom of four understand what makes her children *tick* but she knows that her long-standing family tradition of home-cooked comfort foods is the stuff that they will be raised on. Comfortably Domestic is exactly what Kirsten is since saying good-bye to the corporate world on the arrival of her first-born. Deciding approximately 16 months ago to begin share her family life living in the picturesque rural *Cherry Capital of the World* is a choice readers of her blog are happy to follow along with. Expressive and honestly written stories of her family, friends and community are deliciously interwoven with her baking *obsession* and the hearty fare she lovingly prepares. Her detailed and beautifully photographed step-by-step recipe tutorials tempt the reader to pre-heat the oven and get busy cooking and baking! Living a rural life at the 45th parallel does not come without the occasional hazard and comprimise, not to mention an entire new way of speaking (!) but it is a life that Kirsten and her family feel blessed to have. Readers will enjoy vicariously sharing in those blessings with her. I am delighted that Kirsten is here today sharing her story and recipe with us. You can follow her on Twitter @ComfortDomestic
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Growing up an only child, I always wished for a brother or sister. I yearned for the bond that siblings share; to have someone that would always be my buddy, ally, and friend. Finally, at age 14, I was blessed with a brother. Thrilled isn’t a strong enough word to describe the feeling I had when my Dad called me in the middle of the night to give me the joyous news: I had a brother! I couldn’t have asked for anything more, and yet two years later, I was blessed again– with a sister. I wasn’t bothered in the least that I was so much older than they were, or that we lived two hours apart. I didn’t care that they were my “half” siblings. What is half a sibling, anyway? They were all mine. I had siblings, and we had a lifetime ahead of us to get to know each other.
By the age of 20, my siblings and I were definite buddies. I saw them as often as I could during my first two years of college. I picked them up for overnight visits at my house, and spoiled them rotten. I looked forward to watching them grow up, go to college, get married. My brother was the moon and the stars to me. My sister was my little ray of sunshine. Her smile could light up a room.
I talked to my dad often, so I thought nothing of him calling me late one night. We had just had the largest snowstorm our state had seen since I was in kindergarten. So much snow fell so fast, that the weather forced my state university as well as local freeways to close. I figured my Dad was calling to see how I was weathering the storm.
The minute I heard his voice, I knew this was a different kind of call. He told me that my younger sister Cheryl had a touch of the flu, but became unresponsive during the night. The rushed her to the local emergency room and were told that she had suffered a stroke. A stroke?! That diagnosis didn’t make any sense. She was 4 ½ years old! As it turned out, my sister had leukemia. Her body had released a massive amount of white blood cells that congregated near the base of her brain, causing the stroke. Dad said the doctors were cautiously optimistic that she would pull through. I immediately ran out of the house with my car keys in hand. Then I froze. The roads were impassable. I wasn’t going anywhere. I called my Dad back and told him that I couldn’t come. He promised to keep me updated.
The next morning I was determined to drive the 140 miles that separated me from my sister and family. I was heading out the door when my Dad called with an update. He was sobbing. My sweet little sister was not going to pull through after all. I was stunned. She was kept on life support long enough for the family to get there. I was able see my sweet sister one more time, braid her hair, tell her how much I loved her. Cancer had taken her from us so suddenly, without giving us the chance to fight back.
My sister Cheryl would have been 24 years old this year.
In retrospect, I am glad that if cancer was meant to take my sister, that it did so quickly. She did not suffer. She went to a better place, pain-free, and surrounded by her extended family who loved her. I couldn’t have asked for more grace for her.
When I first heard of Frosting for the Cause, I knew that I had to be a part of it. I know that if we had been given the opportunity to fight my sister’s leukemia, we would have fought valiantly and tirelessly until she was cured. Therefore, I chose St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital for my donation. St. Jude does extensive research into childhood cancers, and no child is ever denied treatment due to their family’s inability to pay. I pray that my donation contributes to another family winning the battle with childhood cancer.
I developed this recipe in honor of my sister Cheryl–our little ray of sunshine. A girly girl who loved dresses, tulips, and blueberries.
Cheryl’s Blueberry Cupcakes with Lemon-Tea Infused Frosting
For the blueberry cake, you’ll need: cake flour, fresh blueberries, granulated sugar, milk, eggs, salt, vanilla extract, and baking powder. I find that using in-season blueberries gives plenty of blueberry flavor, and a nice, natural purple hue to the batter. If you prefer a brighter color, a few teaspoons of blueberry gelatin can be added for color. (I never add gelatin, but some may prefer more vibrantly colored fruity cakes.)
I wrestled for months trying to figure out a way to infuse an intensely blueberry flavor into the batter, which would result in a distinctly cake-like flavor, as opposed to a blueberry muffin. In the end, my brother came up with the idea to make a blueberry sauce, much like you would make a cranberry sauce. Genius! Kind of fitting that my brother was the one to solve my flavor dilemma, eh?
Make a blueberry sauce by combining the blueberries, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and a little water into a small saucepan.
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir again.
Upon initial boil, the blueberries will begin to burst open, much like cranberries do when making cranberry sauce.
Allow the blueberry mixture to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. The blueberry sauce will be a deep purple color, and most of the berries will have burst open.
Pour the hot blueberry sauce into a blender, and puree for 3 to 5 seconds.
Allow the blueberry puree to cool to room temperature before beginning to make the cake batter.
Once the blueberry puree has cooled, preheat the oven to 350° F. Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until well incorporated between each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Measure the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a fine mesh strainer set over a large sheet of waxed paper (or parchment paper.)
Sift the dry ingredients through the mesh strainer onto the waxed paper.
Add about a third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, stirring until blended.
Gradually pour in half of the milk, mixing until fully incorporated. Then mix in another third of the flour mixture, then the rest of the milk, and finally, the last of the flour mixture until batter is well blended.
Pour one cup of the cooled blueberry puree into the batter, stirring until the puree is fully incorporated into the batter.
The blueberry cake batter is such a pretty shade of purple!
Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way full with batter, being careful not to over-fill, or cake will rise over the liners and onto the pan during the baking process.
Bake cupcakes in the preheated 350º F oven for 18-20 minutes, or until cupcakes are set. A toothpick in the centers should come out clean. Cool cupcakes for 3 minutes in the pans before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. I chose a lemon tea-infused cream cheese frosting for the cupcakes because tea has always been very calming to me. Besides–lemons and blueberries were made for each other! And this frosting? Makes these cupcakes! So stay with me here–this frosting is not as complicated as it sounds.
You’ll need powdered sugar, Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea, butter, vanilla extract, and cream cheese. I used Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea because it has a very strong lemon flavor that I knew would shine through the cream cheese and powdered sugar.
(Insert Steeping Tea Photo Here)
Put the butter in a microwave safe bowl, and place it in the microwave. Heat the butter on 60% power for 50-60 seconds, or until butter is just melted. (This can also be done in a saucepan.) Submerge 3 tea bags into the melted butter, and continue heating in the microwave for 5 minutes, on 20% power. Remove the bowl from the microwave and allow the tea to steep in the hot butter for 3 more minutes. (Or simmer in the saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes total.)
Squeeze the tea bags to wring out any butter that was absorbed. Don’t be shy! We want all the flavor squeezed right out of those tea bags and into our butter.
The deep amber color reminiscent of sun spots is the tea infusion. Taste a bit–it’s wonderful!
Allow the infused butter to cool to room temperature and re-solidify.
Blend the room temperature infused butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl.
Mix in the powdered sugar, one-half cup at a time, until smooth.
Add a dash of vanilla extract, and stir to combine. (I used clear vanilla so that it wouldn’t tint the frosting a slight beige color.) This frosting has a very soft consistency. If you prefer a stiffer consistency, add more powdered sugar one-half cup at a time, until the desired consistency is reached.
By now the cupcakes should be cool, and ready to frost!
I find that it is much faster to frost a bunch of cupcakes with a piping bag. Scoop about a third of the frosting into a piping bag, fitted with the tip of your choice. I was kind of going for a blueberries and cream feel for these cupcakes, I used an circular shaped open tip to give the frosting a soft and creamy look.
Pipe frosting onto the cooled cupcakes, refilling the piping bag as needed. Now the cupcakes look dreamy all on their own, but since blueberries and cream was the theme, I thought I could do one better.
So I added a few blueberries to the top. Much better!
Thank you for letting me share the story of my sister here on Frosting for the Cause. I hope that these cupcakes make you smile.
Here are the printable recipes:
Cheryl’s Blueberry Cupcakes
Makes 30 Standard Size Cupcakes
For Blueberry Puree:
1 pint (2 cups) fresh blueberries
¼ C. granulated sugar
4 Tbs. water
For Cake Batter:
½ C. unsalted butter, softened
1 C. granulated sugar
2 ¼ C. cake flour
1 ¼ tsp. salt
3 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 C. + 2 Tbs. milk
1 C. blueberry puree (see ingredients above, method below)
1 recipe for Lemon Zinger Tea-infused frosting
For the blueberry puree:
- Place blueberries, sugar, and water into a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Allow the mixture to continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.
- Pour hot blueberry sauce into a blender, and puree for 3-5 seconds. (It won’t take long.)
- Refrigerate the puree for 30 minutes to cool.
For the cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. For cupcakes: line 30 muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Stir in eggs, one at a time, until they have been well blended.
- Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder over a large sheet of parchment (or waxed) paper.
- Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, mixing to incorporate.
- Then, with the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in ½ of the milk mixture, stirring until blended. Scrape down sides of bowl, as needed.
- Repeat the additions by adding another 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the milk, and ending with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, stirring well between each addition.
- Pour the vanilla extract and cooled blueberry puree into the batter. (The puree must be completely cooled!) Mix on low speed until puree is fully blended into the batter.
- Fill the prepared cupcake cups 2/3 full of cake batter using a large scoop. For best results, use level scoopfuls of batter to avoid overflowing the wrappers when the cake rises during the baking process.
10. Bake cupcakes in the preheated 350 degree oven for 18-20 minutes, or until the cupcakes are set. A cake tester inserted in the centers should come out clean.
11. Cool for 2 minutes in the pan before removing cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely.
12. Frost cooled cupcakes with Lemon Tea-Infused Frosting, or your favorite Buttercream.
Lemon Tea-Infused Frosting
Makes About 4 Cups
½ C. (8 Tbs.) butter
3 Celestial Seasonings’ brand Lemon Zinger tea bags (or ¼ C. loose tea)
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
3 ½ C. powdered sugar (or more, depending on desired consistency)
½ tsp. clear vanilla extract
To Infuse Butter:
- Melt butter in a small saucepan set over low heat. (Or in a microwave safe bowl for 1 minute on 60% power.)
- Submerge tea bags to the melted butter, and continue to simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. (or microwave on 20% power for 5 minutes, then steep for 3 more on the counter.)
- Remove tea bags, and squeeze them well to release all butter from the bags. Or if using loose tea, strain tea out of butter by pouring it into a mesh strainer that has been lined with cheese cloth. Squeeze the cloth to get all the butter out of it.
- Let butter cool to room temperature. Butter will re-solidify, but remain soft. Stir the softened butter before using.
To Make Frosting:
- Cream together cream cheese and infused butter until fluffy.
- Stir vanilla extract into the creamed mixture.
- Sift or whisk powdered sugar to aerate.
- Stir powdered sugar into cream cheese mixture, 1 cup at a time, until well blended.
- Makes enough to generously frost a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan, 24-28 cupcakes, or an 8-inch layer cake.
- This makes a soft consistency frosting.
- For a stiff decorator frosting: add more powdered sugar, ½ cup at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Be aware that more powdered sugar will dilute the tea flavor of the frosting.
Other flavors of tea may be used to infuse the butter. Fruit or spice tea varieties taste the best.