Cupcakes in Disguise

Prepare these Jimmy Buffett-inspired cupcakes made to look like mini-cheeseburgers for your summer picnic and your guests will be in - dare we say it? Paradise.

The good news is that the Pittsburgh Marathon was back this year, bigger and better than ever. The bad news is that my son and I had to take a 20-mile detour to get back home after church because of all the road closures. The good news is that the detour put us within a few blocks of the Oakmont Bakery. The bad news is that when we got in the door, the dazzling array of cakes, pies, pastries, breads and cookies overloaded my son’s circuits, and he simply could not decide what we should bring home to sample.

What caught my eye was the elaborate collection of cupcakes decorated to represent cartoon characters, animals and sports-team mascots.

In the last few years, a number of stores specializing in cupcakes has burst onto the local scene – stores like Vanilla Pastry Studio, Dozen Bake Shop and CoCo’s Cupcake Café. These miniature confections are the perfect way to sample ingenious combinations of flavors and textures without investing in an entire cake. And because of their size, these minisweets allow bakers the liberty to be more inventive and frivolous.

Last year, a friend of mine asked me to make something special for her to take along to the annual Jimmy Buffett concert at the Post-Gazette Pavilion in June. Taking inspiration from one of the artist’s most popular anthems, "Cheeseburger in Paradise," I made up a couple of dozen cupcakes to look like cheeseburgers with vanilla cake standing in for the bun, chocolate brownie in the center for the patty and orange icing for the cheese. The illusion is completed with a few sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

Enjoy, also, my recipe for margarita-flavored cookies. They have the same citrus tang and crunchy rim of an actual margarita – minus the hangover.

"Cheeseburger" Cupcakes  


1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Orange juice and sesame seeds for garnish

Mix the flour and butter, then add in the sugar. Add the eggs, milk and finally the vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Fill the muffin tins half-way. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until the tops are light-brown. Remove from the tins and cool. While the cupcakes are still warm, brush the tops with orange juice and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

"Cheeseburger" Brownies  


1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Hershey’s Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix the melted butter and sugar. Add the vanilla extract and eggs, and beat until smooth. Mix together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add gradually to the wet mixture while stirring gently. Spread into a 9-by-13-inch pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Let cool in the pan and then turn out onto a wire rack.

"Cheeseburger" Icing  


1/3 cup shortening
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons milk or cream
Food coloring

Mix with a hand mixer on low until smooth then beat on high until fluffy and easy to spread. Add yellow and red food coloring to make the icing orange.

Cut each of the cupcakes in half. Cut the brownies with a round cutter. Put a brownie round on the bottom layer of the cupcake, top with a dollop of icing and then top with the other half of the cupcake.

Margarita Cookies
Makes 4-6 dozen, depending on cookie size


3 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch salt
2 sticks butter
2 tablespoons tequila
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Zest from 1 lime
Zest from 1 orange
Large-crystal sugar

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter and then add the tequila, eggs and zests. Mix well. Cut into 4 pieces. Roll out each piece into a log and roll each log in the crystal sugar. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut the log into 1/4-inch-round cookies and bake on a parchment paper lined sheet for 10 to 15 minutes or until the cookies are just barely brown on the bottom.

Categories: Eat + Drink Features