I Love to See Ya Smile

I enjoy making people smile.  I’m an only child which means I don’t like conflict and am generally a pleaser.  I hate seeing people I love (and even those that I just like) dealing with difficult circumstances.  I want everyone to be happy.  Life is too short not to be.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of that.

I think this is also one of those things that I truly love about food.  Food, in our culture is the catalyst for many happy moments.  It has enormous power in our world.  This can be both good and problematic.  But in the right circumstances, food can be a powerful weapon against sad, troublesome times.  I enjoy being able to wield that power from time to time.

When friends are going through difficult situations, choosing the right recipe can be much like choosing a proper greeting card.  Sometimes you want to provide comfort, sometimes an escape, sometimes you want the effort to just say, “I love you”.  And sometimes, you want your food to do more than all of these things.  Sometimes you want to use your food to make people laugh.

This is the situation I found myself in last week.  I had friends going through a tough, yet not dire event.  They were tired, worn down and no doubt stressed but it was obvious that everything was going to be okay.  Levity was needed and certainly appropriate.  I wanted to make a treat for them that would do more than feed them well and make them smile.  I wanted to make them laugh.  I decided to make Chocolate Potato Chip Cupcakes.

I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t an original concept.  There is truly nothing new under the sun and this is especially true when it comes to recipes.  Salty and sweet are a popular combination.  How many of us would (and maybe still do) load up our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with potato chips?  I know I’m not alone in this.  The crunch is music to ones ears and the saltiness of the chips makes the sweetness of the peanut butter dance on our tongues.  The concept in a cupcake is no different.  In fact….. my attempt at PB&J Potato Chip cupcakes may be just around the corner.

I began with a standard but delicious recipe I use for chocolate cupcakes.  I’ve made it over and over again with continuous success and requests for recipes.  I wanted a touch of the saltiness to the present in the cake so I filled each one with about a teaspoon of salted caramel (another passion of mine).  I then topped each cupcake with a basic chocolate buttercream and then rolled them in crushed Lay’s Potato Chips.  Each cupcake was then garnished by a Ruffle’s potato chip that had been half-dipped in melted chocolate.

The result was perfect.  When the cupcakes were unveiled….. everyone laughed and then whole-heartedly ate.  Because silly as they sound, they were truly delicious.  Fun food, sometimes is just what the doctor ordered.  So when someone in your life is feeling down, consider these.  You’ll be giving more than a delicious treat.  You’ll be giving a smile.

Chocolate Potato Chip Cupcakes with Ooey Gooey Salted Caramel Centers

the cake

1 box (18.25 oz.) plain German Chocolate Cake Mix (no “pudding in the mix”)

1 package (3.4 oz.) chocolate instant pudding

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Line 24 standard-sized muffin cups with paper liners.  Set pans aside.

Combine all ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Blend on low for 30 seconds.  Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more.  The batter should be thick and well-combined.

Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each prepared muffin cup, filling it 3/4 of the way full.

Bake 18-20 minutes or until cupcakes spring back with lightly pressed with your fingers.  Remove from oven when done and place on a wire rack to cool.

salted caramel filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 tablespoons salted butter, cubed

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons heavy cream

Melt the sugar over medium high-heat in a large pot.  Whisk the sugar constantly as it melts until it becomes a deep amber color.  Add butter and stir until melted.  Pour in heavy cream (mixture will foam) and whisk until you reach a smooth consistency.

Cut a small round piece out of the tops of each cooled cupcake and pour in 1 teaspoon of salted caramel sauce.  You’ll be tempted to put in more… but don’t.  Replace the cake piece and set cupcakes aside.

chocolate buttercream frosting

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3-5 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Place butter and cocoa powder in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Blend on low speed until mixture is soft and well-combined.  Stop the machine and add confectioners’ sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk and vanilla.  Blend on low speed until sugar is incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and blend until light and fluffy – about 1 minute.  Add 1-2 tablespoons more of milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

Frost cupcakes, roll edges in crushed potato chips (I prefer Lay’s non-ridged for this) and top with chocolate dipped potato chip.  Stand back and watch the smiles.


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