Dear world, I'm 18.
I haven't smoked, I'm definitely not engaged, and I missed voting by one day, but I'm 18. As far as high school drama and rough patches go, I'm more than ready to be here and have 15, 16, and 17 done with. But when it comes to the whole adult and going to college thing...well, does anyone actually feel ready for that when it hits?
Yeah, I'm just going with it.
16 was a year of disintegrating friend circles and adult mentors falling off the map. 17 was dealing with the aftermath of all that. 18? Brand new.
Around September I started thinking of my 17th birthday. I woke up to a cloudy sky, with a day off of school. My thoughts were stuck on a person I hadn't seen in months, and I was coming to terms with the fact that it would likely remain that way. I remembered my sweet 16 bonfire. Cake, friends, laughter. I'd never felt lonelier. My family was understanding and still got me nice presents, and it was nice seeing my good friend for a bit, but it was a day that couldn't end soon enough.
That couldn't happen again. I planned a party, and the amount of people I invited made my mother's heart skip a couple beats. But this was special to me, I didn't want to be a birthday downer again this year, and this would be one of the last parties I could throw at home before heading off to college. It was going to be done right.
I got the invites out just as October arrived, and I was sucked into the litany of working weekend after weekend. November hit before I could comprehend it, but somehow I got a menu put together.
I didn't want a full-fledged cake. Both because I prefer the more portable form, and because I had to assemble this thing the same weekend. I love cupcakes, I love oreos, and I adore cream cheese frosting. Let me tell you, even my oreo-hating mother couldn't get enough of these. An oreo half graces the bottom of each cupcake, the vanilla batter is full of chopped oreos, and this is all topped off with a mound of fluffy cream cheese frosting and, of course, another oreo for garnish. It realy can't get any better, it just can't.
My party was a lovely success. I rode off the high from it until the day of my actual birthday, where I could safely tuck into a peaceful day of being the introverted birthday girl. Nothing much was planned besides a cake, delicious lunch, and a doughnut outing, but I wasn't expecting (or wanting) much.
When late afternoon rolled around, I had exhausted the relaxing birthday girl activities. I was itching to do something, and was sort of regretting that my seasonal job had ended the week before.
But I kept quiet, and tried to keep content. Even if it was my birthday, I kept my hopes low.
The familiar vibration of my phone went off in my pocket while I was fiddling on the piano, keeping my fingers busy. One of my best guy friends and his sister wanted to buy me dinner, or did I already have plans that evening?
I know this doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but it was for me. Nobody outside of my family has ever troubled to surprise me like that. Even though the surprise was more due to spontaneous planning because they both happened to be in the area, it was still special.
Today, in the midst of some Sunday blues and gray skies, I wanted to sit down and remember the kind acts of some true friends, all while sharing with you a cupcake recipe that will blow your mind.
I'm a blessed girl. I thought that when I hugged everyone goodbye at my party, when my work friends put together a total cupcake-themed present and ordered me a cooking blow torch(!), when I admired a hand-crafted gift, when my dad drove 45 minutes with me to get Krispy Kremes, when my mom woke up at 5:30 and made me the house smell like chocolate cake, and when I pulled on my coat and followed my two good friends out the door to a dinner that I'll never forget.
When I bit into the last of these cupcakes, all that came flooding back to me. They're now a comfort food for more than one reason.
Yield: about 24 cupcakes
Ingredients for the cupcakes:
- 24 Oreo halves*
- 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 2/3 cup sugar
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 20 Oreo cookies, coarsely chopped
Ingredients for the frosting:
- 10 oz. cream cheese, chilled
- 6½ tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 3 teaspoons clear vanilla extract**
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Oreo cookie crumbs for decorating, if desired
- 24 Oreo cookie halves, for garnish
*You can do cookie halves with or without the cream filling attached. Either way, it gets baked into the cupcake! I cut each Oreo in half, doing my best to keep the cream on both parts.
**I know, imitation vanilla. Miss Makes Her Own Vanilla Extract here. But really, it seems to yield the best results with this cream cheese frosting reicpe. Both in how well it holds up and the color. Your choice though!
To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line the cupcake pans with paper liners. Place an Oreo half in the bottom of each liner (cream side up). In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugar and beat together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Blend in the egg whites, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Add the milk and beat just until combined. Add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing until just a few dry streaks remain. Add the chopped Oreos and fold together the mixture with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated, being careful not to over-mix.
Evenly divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Blend in the vanilla extract. Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat 1-2 minutes more. Add the heavy cream to the bowl and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated, then increase the speed to medium-high and whip for 4 minutes, until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Frost the cooled cupcakes as desired. Sprinkle with Oreo crumbs and garnish with Oreo halves. Keep in mind that the longer the Oreo garnishes sit on the frosting, the softer they get! If you want them crunchy, garnish just before serving.
Sources: cupcake and frosting adapted from Annie's Eats, cupcake originally from Beantown Baker