It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

When attending a White Elephant gift exchange it's important to make sure you have the right gift. By that I mean, something horrible and cringe worthy. My mom favors terrible clocks. Clocks with peacock feathers, or reclining women holding bunches of grapes with the clock part in their belly. A friend of mine gives out Traditional Chinese Medicine, dried sea horse anyone? The dried sea horse is to be steeped for a bit in water and then the liquid drank like a tea. It is supposedly good for your complexion. I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. My gift of choice is a fruitcake. In the past few years there have been a number of fruitcakes that have been passed back and forth amongst our group of friends. Passed, shipped....abandoned at undeserving peoples homes, call it what you will. Those suckers need their own passports. I have a friend who used her husband as a mule to smuggle one of those fruitcakes back into Singapore from North Carolina. Yes, it is in my possession once again. I won't name names, but you know who you are. I have plans for that fruitcake, big plans. And I am a patient woman.

Last night instead of our yearly White Elephant gift exchange we switched things up a bit and had a surprise baby shower for a friend. Baby M got a lot of really great stuff, everything was fluffy and impossibly soft, no nuts or unidentifiable candied fruit peels to be found!
If you're looking for something to bring to a holiday party, be it the White Elephant or Baby Shower variety, these cupcake fit the bill. They are moist and chocolately and the buttercream is different from most. It is light, creamy and not too sweet.
Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Serves: 14-15 Cupcakes
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons brewed strong coffee
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together the butter and both sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl whisk all the dry ingredients until well combined.
On low speed add the buttermilk and flour mixtures alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Blend until just combined. Fold with a rubber scraper to make sure the batter is completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans filling each paper 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely before frosting.
Creamy Peppermint Candy Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough to generously frost 2 dozen cupcakes
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 Peppermint flavored candy canes crushed
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, whisking constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Spoon into a small bowl, and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Cool to room termperature.
Once the flour mixture has cooled, in a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter until very smooth and creamy. About 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat continuously for 5 minutes or until fluffy and all the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the vanilla extract and beat well.
Add the cooled flour mixture a spoonful at a time to the butter mixture. Continue beating until all the flour mixture is incorporated. Beat on high speed until very fluffy and noticeably whiter in color. Stir in crushed candy cane. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. No longer, no less than 15 minutes. Set a timer! Use immediately.

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