Showing posts with label holiday recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holiday recipes. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blue Velvet Cupcakes and a Cupcake Menorah for Hanukkah Week from Cleo Coyle

Like red velvet cake, blue velvet carries a wonderful hint of cocoa. This is a beautiful cupcake for birthday parties and baby or wedding showers. Because blue is also the color for Hanukkah, I used this recipe to make a cupcake menorah for the first night of Hanukkah this past Saturday evening--and, no, unlike the oil, they did not last eight days! My husband and our friends ate them all on the very first night.

As for the recipe, I'm passing on an easy one to make. It even uses a cake mix as a starter, but there are some tricky aspects, which is why I’m sharing some tips, too.

Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Yule, I send you the warmest wishes for these cold, dark months...

May your own holidays be bright!

~ Cleo Coyle 

Cleo Coyle's 
Blue Velvet Cupcakes 
Basic Buttercream Frosting 

 To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Makes about 16 cupcakes


For the cupcakes

1 box of white or vanilla cake mix (with pudding in the mix)

4 teaspoons natural, unsweetened cocoa powder 

1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)

3 eggs (lightly beaten with a fork)

1 cup whole milk + ¼ cup whole milk (add separately)

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1-2 teaspoons Royal Blue food coloring gel or paste (also called Icing Color)

For the basic buttercream frosting

10 tablespoons butter, softened

3 cups confectioners’ sugar (aka powdered or icing sugar)

3 tablespoons whole milk (+ maybe a little extra)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Royal Blue food coloring gel paste (also called Icing Color)

*Important Note on the food coloring: Because of the brown cocoa powder in this recipe, your cupcakes will end up turquoise in color (or even greenish) instead of blue if you use the wrong kind of food coloring or the wrong amount. To get the beautiful shade of blue in my photos, be sure you do two things: (1) Do not use water-based food coloring such as McCormick’s brand. Use a gel paste coloring. I used Wilton Royal Blue Icing Color gel paste. Michael’s stores carry it in their baking supplies section, but you can also buy it online; click here to see. (2) My other piece of advice is to use enough of the food coloring. Don’t skimp. Start with 1 full teaspoon, at least. You made need up to another full teaspoon to see your batter turn the shade of blue you like best. (Some bakers add a very small amount of violet gel paste to help achieve a deep, royal blue. Give that a try, if you like, but I did achieve a pretty blue color using only blue gel paste.)

Directions - For the...


Step 1: First preheat your oven to 325° F. Place the vinegar in a measuring cup and fill to the 1 cup line with whole milk. Set aside for five minutes.

Step 2: Into a large mixing bowl, combine the box of cake mix, cocoa powder, vegetable or canola oil, and eggs. Add the sour milk from Step 1 and an additional ¼ cup whole milk. Beat with an electric mixer for about a minute until a smooth batter forms. (Be sure to scrape down the bowl as you mix.)

Step 3: Measure out 1 teaspoon of the royal blue gel paste and add it to the batter. Mix well and observe the color. You may need to add up to 1 more teaspoon of gel paste to achieve the depth of blue you want.

Step 4: Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Take out the ¼ cup container in your measuring set. Use it to measure out the batter for each cupcake. This will keep the size consistent.

Bake in your preheated 325° F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes (exact time depends on your oven). Cupcakes are done when the top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a test cupcake comes out free of wet batter. Transfer pans to a cooling rack and allow the cupcakes to cool in their pans at least five minutes before removing.

Directions for the...


Notes for success: Canned icing doesn’t come close to comparing to the wonderful taste of homemade buttercream. It’s easy to make. Just be sure to: (1) Start with softened butter. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to cream it. (2) When adding milk start with the lowest amount possible and add it in very slowly until you achieve a smooth, spreadable icing. If you throw in a large amount of milk, you will end up with watery frosting—at that point, even if you whip more butter into it, the frosting may remain grainy. (Ask me how I know.)

Step 1: Into a mixing bowl, cut the softened butter into pieces. Measure in the vanilla. Using an electric mixer, cream these ingredients until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer.

Step 2: Add in the confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons of milk. (No more!) Beat until the sugar is completely incorporated. If the frosting is still too thick, add in a very small splash of milk and beat again. Add in more milk this way, a little at a time, until you get a smooth consistency that’s easy to spread on your cupcake tops. (Try a test frosting of one cupcake to be sure.)

Step 3: Finally, add a small amount of gel paste coloring to the frosting and beat it again. Add more gel paste to achieve the exact shade of blue that you’d like. My method of adding the gel paste is pretty basic—I dip the tines of a fork into the bottle to scoop out the gel and roughly mix it into the frosting before beating again. Frost your cupcakes and eat with blue velvet joy!

May your
holidays be bright!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on Twitter here

Learn about my books here

My new
Coffeehouse Mystery
has just released...

Now a Top-10
New York Times

And an Amazon and
Barnes & Noble
Mass Market Paperback
, nationwide!

A Mystery Guild
Featured Alternate

Publisher's Weekly: “Sprightly…and engaging.”

Kirkus Reviews:
“Jingle bells, beautiful displays, scrumptious treats:
Holiday season in New York City has it all,
including murder…Coyle’s coffeehouse series
captures the New York experience,
from high-society parties to gritty back-street deals.
The fine mystery is followed by some holiday
recipes that will even pack the pounds on readers
who are only browsing them.”

RT Book Reviews
"A fun mixture of family, romance, cooking and...
a perfect Christmas mystery. A treat..."

Holiday Buzz

The clock is ticking down
on some fun contests (links below).

* CONTEST #1 at Fresh Fiction

* CONTEST #2 at Latte Da!

* New Contest at Dru's Book Musings
Read a special excerpt from the opening of Holiday Buzz, leave a comment, and you will be entered to win a stainless steel NYPD travel mug, a personally inscribed copy of my new book, and my recipe card for Candy Cane Frosting. Contest ends Sat. Dec.15th - Click here to enter Dru's contest.

* New Contest at Lori's Reading Corner
Read a brand new exclusive excerpt from the book, a scene between Clare Cosi and her ex-husband Matt that I call: "Manhattan munchies, a tempting patty melt, and a clue to murder..." - Be sure to use Lori's entry form at the end of the post, and you will be entered to win a personally inscribed copy of Holiday Buzz and my recipe card for Candy Cane Frosting. Contest ends Sun. Dec. 23rd. Click here to enter Lori's contest.

Good luck
and have fun,

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Buzz Release Party Giveaway and a Cookie-palooza from Cleo Coyle

Behold my Chocolate Candy Cane Cookies, among the many cookies featured in Holiday Buzz, my new culinary mystery, just released today. To celebrate, I'm blogging at Fresh, where I'll tell you more about this 12th entry in my Coffeehouse Mystery series. I hope you'll drop by and say hello!

To jump there, click here

Leave a comment on my Fresh Fiction post this week and you'll be entered to win a personally inscribed copy of Holiday Buzz and a stainless steel NYPD travel mug (guaranteed to keep your coffee safe as well as warm). 

I'll have a new recipe for you next week. In the meantime, I'm happy to share some of the foodie photography from my Holiday Buzz Recipe Guide. You can download the complete, illustrated guide at my Fresh Fiction post, too, so be sure to look for the link to the Guide.

Now let's start that cookie party! First up...

Clare Cosi's New York Cheesecake Cookies
with Candied Strawberry Dizzle

(Both recipes and the ones below
can be found in Holiday Buzz.)

Janelle's Gingerbread
Crackle Cookies

Lemon Sugar Cookies (Madame's favorite)

Clare Cosi's Eggnog
Crumb Muffins 
(small batch version)

Okay, not a cookie. But the recipe is wonderful.
These are a favorite of  NYPD Detective
Mike Quinn's (and mine, too).
ender and sweet, they carry a hint of  nutmeg
and a lovely eggnoggy fragrance and flavor. 

(Yes, I invented the word eggnoggy. :))


And finally congrats to the winner of my Kona Coffee Drawing! The winning comment from my "Twinkie Cupcake" post (by random number generator) is...

Congrats, Wendy! I'll contact you
and get you the tasty prize!

And speaking of tasty...If you're wondering how that 
Thanksgiving Poll turned out, the results are below.

You were asked:
Along with your turkey, 
what single dish
makes your 
Thanksgiving complete?

44% of you said Stuffing
17% of you said Pumpkin Pie
15% of you said Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
14% of you said Cranberry Sauce 
6% said a Sweet Potato dish
4% said something else, including Sue F.,
who cited her sister's Pumpkin Soup
0% of you said Pepperoni Pizza. :)

To see some wonderful comments on the poll,
 jump to PollDaddy's site here.

Eat (and read) with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 

A Mystery Guild Featured
Alternate Selection

A Barnes & Noble
Holiday Mystery Pick 

Publisher's Weekly
“Sprightly…and engaging.”

Kirkus Reviews
“Jingle bells, beautiful displays, scrumptious treats:
Holiday season in New York City has it all,
including murder…Coyle’s coffeehouse series captures
the New York experience, from high-society parties
to gritty back-street deals. The fine mystery is
followed by some holiday recipes that will
even pack the pounds on readers who
are only browsing them.”

RT Book Reviews
"A fun mixture of family, romance, cooking and...
a perfect Christmas mystery. A treat..."

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


Happy Holidays
and Happy Reading! 

Friend me on facebook here
Follow me on Twitter here

Learn about my books here

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Copycat Starbucks White Chocolate Mocha that Elf would Love by Cleo Coyle

New York City dazzles in December. The Big Apple is sparkling, magical...and a little coconuts

The crowds, the lines, the traffic...all of it can feel overwhelming, but then so are these little moments of happy surprise, like a Buddhist monk who digs the shopping at Macy's... 

Check out this smile...

In the middle of a crazy, busy, cell-phone yapping public, here is this sweet man, sharing a moment of joy...and that is what I hope each of you finds this season.

If you're having trouble finding it, I recommend a viewing of Will Ferrell's Elf. The film acknowledges our Age of Alienation but undercuts the snarky cynicism with humor, surprise, and a character so filled with innocent joy that it's impossible to dismiss him. (Okay, maybe some people dismiss him, but then some people are snark monsters, and I wouldn't let Elf get closer than hawking distance of them, anyway. :))

In the clip below,
Elf (Buddy) "Discovers" New York

...including the
"World's Best Cup of Coffee"


Which brings me to today's recipe. It may not be the world's best copycat Starbucks recipe, but it's pretty darn good; and, given Elf's love of drinking sweet things (especially syrup), I can't help but think he'd recommend this heavenly drink to the big man himself.

Cleo Coyle, who thinks
we should just say no to
"Bah! Humbug!", 
is author
The Coffeehouse 
Cleo Coyle's
Copycat Starbucks
White Chocolate Mocha

This is one amazing cuppa joe. It tastes like a rich, warm, coffee-infused milkshake--perfect for a snowy winter night. 

If you're a reader of my Coffeehouse Mysteries, you might also recognize this drink as one of the many recipes that I included in my yuletide culinary mystery Holiday Grind. To learn more about this book, click here. To learn more about my entire series, click here.

Enjoy the season, everyone!
~ Cleo

To download a free PDF of this recipe that you can print, save or share, click the link below:


½ cup milk
¼ cup white chocolate, chopped;
    or white chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1–2 shots hot espresso or double-strength coffee
      (*see my note at the end of this recipe)
Whipped cream (optional)
White chocolate curls (**see my note below on how to make these) 


Step 1: Combine milk and white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan about one-third full of boiling water. (The water level should be under the bowl and not touching it.) Stir constantly until chocolate is melted. 

Step 2: Whip in the vanilla using a whisk, hand blender, or electric mixer. Continue to whip about a minute until the warm mixture is loosely frothy. 

Step 3: Pour the espresso into a large mug. Add the steamed white chocolate milk and stir to blend the flavors. You can top with whipped cream and white chocolate shavings, but it’s just as delicious without.

**Cleo Note: To create chocolate curls, start with a block of room temperature chocolate. (If you want to grate chocolate, chill or freeze it; but if you want to create curls, room temp is the ticket.) Using a simple vegetable peeler, scrape the block and you'll see curls of chocolate peel away (truly a thing of beauty). 

*Cleo Note: For double-strength coffee, simply make a strong version of your regular cup. For instance, in a drip coffee maker, instead of using 1½ - 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water, use 3 – 4 tablespoons and...

Drink with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of

My December Newsletter will be going
out this week! 
To subscribe, 
e-mail to 
that says Sign me up. All subscribers are
entered automatically in my
weekly drawings 
for a free package of my monthly Coffee Picks.

To download more of my recipes 
or learn about my two national
bestselling mystery series, visit my
online coffeehouse at: 


Congrats to my
Penzeys Spice winners!

Libby Dodd of


My Overnight Oatmeal Cookies
(no butter, no flour, but lots of tasty flavor)!
Click here to get the recipe.
Libby and Tamara left comments on my Overnight Oatmeal Cookie Brittle blog post and were chosen as winners by random number generator. Thanks to all of you who entered my contest and stay tuned for tasty new comment-to-win contests in the near future! ~ Cleo

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The PENZEYS Week Kick-Off: No Crust Cranberry Pie

Welcome to Mystery Lover's Kitchen's special Penzeys week! At this time of year, it seems like dishes call for spices and herbs even more than usual. The Mystery Lover's Kitchen bloggers are friends and discovered that we all use Penzeys spices. Each of us has our favorites, of course, so we thought we would dedicate a special week to our favorite spice store. For those of you who haven't heard of them, Penzeys has stores all over the country, as well as a lovely catalog and an online ordering site.

All cooks have their favorite spices and for Ella Mae LeFaye, nothing beats the fresh, pure tastes of Penzeys spices. This is the time of year to she loves to fill her Charmed Pis Shoppe kitchen with the scents of vanilla, orange, cloves, rosemary, thyme, and more.

Today, Ella Mae wanted to share a very simple no crust pie with you. That's right, you don't have to mess with a crust and with cake-like nature of this pie, you won't miss it! Tart cranberries blend with crunchy pecans and are flavored with Penzeys spices.

This is the pie for folks who don't normally like pie. Enjoy!

    Charmed No Crust Cranberry Pecan Tart
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup white sugar
    2 cups fresh cranberries
    1/2 cup chopped pecans
    1/2 cup butter, melted
    2 large eggs


¼ teaspoon PENZEYS pure almond extract
¾ teaspoon PENZEYS pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon PENZEYS ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon PENZEYS ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease one 9-inch pie pan.

Combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Stir in the cranberries and the pecans, and toss to coat. Stir in the butter, beaten eggs, vanilla and almond extracts. Add cinnamon and cloves. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. It will look more like cake batter than pie filling.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve warm. A scoop of vanilla ice cream or real whipped cream tastes great on this pie.

Do you have a favorite spice? The one you love to uncap and sniff before sprinkling it over your food?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crime Writers' Cookie Swap and Congrats to Krista Davis!

Release day is a huge one for any author and today  is that day for my fellow crime-writing cook Krista Davis! Congratulations, Krista!!!

THE DIVA COOKS A GOOSE is the 4th mystery in her award-nominated Domestic Diva culinary mystery series and this one has a very special holiday theme. If you haven't seen her book trailer yet, you're in for a treat.

Click the arrow in the window below to view the fun video. (Krista beautifully narrates it herself.)

You can find The Diva Cooks a Goose at all the major bookstores, your favorite Indie store, and online, too. Pick up two! One for your own stocking and one for a friend, who is sure to thank you for the introduction to this wonderful culinary mystery series...

Join me in congratulating Krista
on her Release Day for

Crime Writers'

Cleo Coyle, baker of
non-poisonous cookies
and author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries
Because we have so many new blog followers and so many people getting ready for their own cookie swaps, I'm using today's post to share some favorite cookie recipes previously posted by my fellow crime-writing cooks.

Bake with joy,
and not with poisons!

~ Cleo

P.S. Do you have a favorite holiday cookie recipe (sans poisons)? Send it to Krista Davis! She's having a contest. If she bakes and posts your recipe, you'll win a fun prize (along with bragging rights!). Click here to learn more. Or send your recipe to Krista (at) KristaDavis (dot) com.

Cranberry Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookie

from author
Krista Davis

Click here for
Krista's recipe.

Candy Shortbread

from author
Riley Adams/
Elizabeth Spann Craig

Click here for
Riley's recipe.

Candy Cane Cookies

from author
Avery Aames

Click here for
Avery's recipe.


from author
Julie Hyzy 

Click here for
Julie's recipe.

The Hooligans’ Sugar Cookie Recipe

from author
Jenn McKinlay

Click here for
Jenn's recipe.

Below are a few of my own recipes.
Just click the links below to download them
in a free, PDF format.

Little Chocolate

Click here for
author Cleo Coyle's
free recipe PDF


Click here for
Cleo's free
recipe PDF

Eggnog Cookies
(2 ways)

Click here for
Cleo's free recipe PDF.

Bake with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Holiday Grind
Now a
Publishers Weekly

To get more of my
recipes, sign up to win free coffee, or find out
about the books in my Coffeehouse Mystery series, visit my virtual coffeehouse at...