Graduation Cupcakes

ImageCollege graduation season.  What I would give to be back on Penn State’s campus, roaming around the mall, enjoying a Tea from Cafe and listening to a local band JR and Natalie. I have to credit my roommate at the time, Susan, who really got me into baking. Had it not been for her, this blog would probably not exist. Those four years were truly the best of my life.

I know there are still a lot of haters out there of Penn State post the recent scandal with Jerry Sandusky.  All I can say to those people, like many other alumni have articulated, is that yes it was a horrible thing that happened and people should be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof.  In my personal opinion though, I believe the way the media and school treated Joe Paterno was disgraceful. When he passed, I think Phil Knight of Nike captured the sentiment best in saying I lost a hero. I can’t tell you how many people made snide remarks to me about my school. They couldn’t wait to rub it in my face since they knew how much pride I had for Penn State. They all asked my thoughts on the matter but more often than not, did not care what I had to say.

I learned quickly, that unless you spent four years of your life there, experienced the campus, classes, early Saturday morning tailgates, televised night games, THON, The Waffle Shop, Arts Fest, Blue White, Fall Friday farmers market, College Pizza, Cafe, The Student Bookstore, The HUB, late night Blue Loop rides, the Creamery, Go Go Gadget, McLanahan’s, JR and Natalie, Tantos, Teas, and the student section in Beaver Stadium filled with 110,000 people – you won’t understand so there is no reason for me to waste my breath trying to convince you otherwise.

But enough of my Penn State pride rant, and back to the main reason for the post, cupcakes 🙂

A coworker of mine asked me to bake some cupcakes for her daughters graduation party from UCONN. I knew that she wanted half Red Velvet and half Chocolate with some of those having vanilla and chocolate frosting but I really wanted to figure out some fun garnishes for them.

I should of taken step by step pictures but was trying to get everything done and forgot so I will do my best to describe everything.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (from Sylvia’s Family Soul Food Cookbook)

For the cake – 

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla


  • 2 8oz packs cream cheese softened
  • 1 stick unsalted butter softened
  • 1 tbls vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar


  • Pepperidge Farm Fudge Filled Pirouette cookies
  • Strawberry lace candy


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line your cupcake pans with baking cups
  3. Sift the cake flour in a medium bowl and re-measure to ensure you are using the correct amount
  4. Sift the flour again but this time include the cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt and set aside
  5. In a standing mixer, cream the sugar and butter together
  6. Beat in the eggs one at a time
  7. Alternatively add flour mixture and buttermilk
  8. Beat in food coloring and vinegar, then add the vanilla
  9. Divide the batter between the cupcake tins
  10. Bake 20-30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean
  11. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then place onto racks to cool completely
  12. For the frosting, cream together the cream cheese and butter
  13. Add in vanilla
  14. Slowly beat in the confectioners sugar, scraping down the sides to ensure it all blends
  15. After the cupcakes are cooled, spread/pipe the frosting to desired amount
  16. To make the scrolls, I cut the Pirouette cookies into thirds and then tied the strawberry lace around to resemble a diploma

Chocolate Cupcakes (from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)

For the cake –

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3 tbls vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a mixer
  3. Beat on low speed until just combined
  4. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  5. Divide batter between pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes.
  6. Let cool for 15 minutes. Turn out from pans. Transfer to wire racks. Let cool completely.

Frostings –

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (from Martha Stewart Cupcakes)

  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Combine sugar and egg whites in mixer bowl, and set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth to the touch.
  2. Transfer bowl to mixer; whisk on medium-high speed until whites are fluffy and cooled, about 10 minutes. Continue to whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form.
  3. Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter by the tablespoon, whisking well after each addition.
  4. Whisk in vanilla.
  5. Switch to a paddel attachement and beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth

Chocolate variation:

  1. Fold in 4 1/2 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled, into buttercream mixture in step 4, along with the vanilla extract.

Paw Prints:


  • 1 bag vanilla chocolate wafers
  • 1 bag vanilla blue colored wafers
  • 1 paw mold (I got mine from Party Depot)


  1. Melt the two types of chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second intervals until smooth
  2. Using a painting brush, paint the blue paw prints within the mold staying in the lines as much as possible (I learned less is more so no need to overdue it)
  3. Place in the freezer for 2 minutes
  4. Remove and fill the rest of the mold with the white melted chocolate
  5. Place back in the freezer for 10 minutes
  6. The molds should pop right out and repeat for however many you need

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