a celebration of ‘hearts’

authors note:Thank you Paula (@ vanillabeanbaker) for helping me out with this project :0)  Adding the cocoa powder to your recipe was uber successful – thanks for sharing!

Anne: “Lynne… would you be able to make 8 dozen mini cupcakes for October 15th?”

me: “Sure – no problem.  What’s the occasion?”

Anne: “It’s the 2nd anniversary of my husbands heart attack, and I like to mark the day by sending something to all the doctors, nurses and volunteers at the Ottawa Heart Institute who saved his life.”

me: “Consider the cupcakes done!”

How flattered was I to be asked to bake Anne’s “thank you” gift!?  Pretty darn flattered! I loved the idea of thanking everyone who saved Hugh’s life and helped him with his recovery.  And I love how thoughtful Anne is to have started this tradition.  Amazing.

Since the cupcakes were going to the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, and were being gifted for saving a man after his heart attack; I knew without a doubt I wanted to include something heart shaped in my baking.  That’s when I realized, this would be the absolute perfect opportunity to bake my cookies and cream cupcakes – a cupcake base, rich, thick vanilla buttercream, topped by a sugar cookie – but not just any sugar cookie – a chocolate heart shaped sugar cookie.  AWESOME.

It actually didn’t take me very long to bake these babies; 1 batter of my super duper moist vanilla bean cupcakes ended up as 8 dozen mini cupcakes.  Half a batter of sugar cookie dough rolled out into 8 dozen mini heart shaped cookies… and finally 1 large batch of vanilla buttercream frosting was piped atop each cupcake – creating the perfect base for which to lie the cookies on.

Three simple steps.  And aren’t they just too darn cute?!!!

First things first – baking the cupcakes.  I decided to stick to a recipe I know stays moist; I was going to be delivering the cupcakes in the morning, and wanted to make sure that they would still be tasty throughout the day.  It was also super awesome that one batter resulted in 8 dozen mini cupcakes :0)

This recipe is actually based on the happy baker chick’s cupcake recipe… I kinda changed the flavour – but used the base as my basis.  It’s a really incredible recipe:  these cupcakes always turn out moist.  Always.

super duper moist vanilla bean cupcakes


2 c. sugar

2 c. flour

1 tsp baking powder

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 vanilla pod, seeded

2 eggs

3/4 c. vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 c. buttermilk

1 c. boiling water

Preheat your oven to 350 F and line your cupcake pan with liners – remember, this recipe will make you 8 dozen mini cupcakes, or 2.5 regular cupcakes.  Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, combine the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla seeds, and salt.  Turn off the mixer and add the eggs (both at once), oil, vanilla extract and buttermilk.  Beat everything together – increasing the speed to medium, combining everything really well – you want it to be smooth and silky.

Decrease the speed of your mixer and slowly add the boiling water (the mixer should be running).  It’ll look like you are drowning your batter… don’t worry… it’ll start to thicken up as you continue to beat it.  Once well blended, turn off your mixer.  I let it sit for about a minute – it continues to thicken, making it easier to scoop into the cupcake liners.

Bake for 12 minutes (if mini – 16 minutes if regular).  Remove from heat and cool on a wire rack.

Cupcakes done!

My second order of business was finding the best sugar cookie recipe I could.  That’s where The Vanilla Bean Baker comes in (if you’ve checked out her blog you’ll understand why I asked Paula for her assistance).  I emailed Paula for some advice – and she came through.  Our recommendation is that you use your favourite sugar cookie recipe.  I added an additional 3/4 c. dark cocoa powder to the recipe – it produced a not too sweet cookie; the perfect balance to the sweet vanilla bean cupcake and buttercream.

Cookies done!

Finally, the third step was to whip up a fluffy vanilla buttercream.  Super easy recipe to boot!

sailor jerry’s vanilla buttercream


1/2 c. salted butter, room temperature, cut in cubes

5 c. powdered sugar, sifted

3 tsp of vanilla extract (I used my homemade extract – made with some sailor jerry’s rum…hence the name of my buttercream)

1 – 2 tbsp milk

In the bowl of your stand-mixer, beat together the butter and powdered sugar.  Increase the speed as the butter and sugar start to combine.  Add the vanilla, continue to beat (medium-high speed).  Slowly drizzle the milk into the buttercream – adding as needed.  Increase to about a 6 on your kitchenaid mixer – whipping everything for about 10 minutes… you want a super fluffy buttercream.

Buttercream done!

Time to assemble.

Grab your buttercream, place it in a piping bag with a large star tip (or whatever large tip you feel like using).  Pipe the buttercream atop each mini cupcake – the very best part of this… I was able to pipe with one hand!!! From being afraid of piping buttercream to only needing to use one hand… incredible!!! (yes… I was smiling broadly to myself as I piped 96 mini cupcakes).

Then pull out your heart shaped sugar cookies, placing them on top of each pillow of buttercream – gently pressing them in so that they stay put.

That’s it.  Simple eh?  But they look so good.  I hope everyone at the hospital hearts them as much as I do! :0)


6 thoughts on “a celebration of ‘hearts’

  1. Everything turned our wonderfully. You are braver than I to add cocoa to sugar cookies! Your daring paid off, they look super and your cupcakes do look very moist. I’m sure the staff at the Ottawa Heart Institute are gonna to love you for having baked these. No doubt your Anne is super pleased as well.

    Thank you for the mention and the link (wasn’t necessary but very much appreciated). Guess what?! I’m trying your buttercream recipe this afternoon. Made cupcakes and cookie pops for my grand-daughter’s 1st B.Day tomorrow!

  2. What a great way to share your baking talent. By the way, another “small world” coincidence ~ Alan Neal used to come to the school I teach at to interview children for a broadcast on “What kids want for the holidays”!

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