Like many families, in our home we participate in quite an array of different traditions. Whether we're talking about annual events attended with friends and family, family recipes that bring back memories, or traditions surrounding the holidays, it's important to us to set aside some time and attention to make these things special and memorable. In the case of birthday celebrations, the tradition I most enjoy is that delicious opportunity to create a special request birthday cake for the person whose special day we happen to be celebrating. Well, a week ago Alex celebrated his birthday, and his special request cake had me trying out a new creation I'd like to share with you today.

If there are two things you need to know about Alex they are:

  1. His cake requests are not your ordinary selections for an adult
  2. He could survive solely on his favorite food of all time, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. 

When it came time to request his birthday creation, he knew just what he was in the mood for. Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes!

While I have a pretty extensive repertoire of cupcake endeavors, ranging from holiday-inspired red velvet with peppermint frosting to Irish Car Bomb cupcakes, I've never tackled a PB&J-like cupcake. But I'm not one to shy away from culinary challenges. Heck, I even created a Star Wars butter cookie topped cake one year for my nerdy darling husband, so why couldn't I pull this one off?

I quickly accepted the challenge, and started thinking about what would preserve some of the qualities of Alex's favorite sandwich, and how I could modify them as a birthday dessert. There would be no boxed mix that could fulfill this birthday wish, no tubs of icing that could make this dream a reality. Instead I'd need to get creative when it came to assembling this year's annual right of passage masterpiece.

I decided to embrace the whole idea of a sandwich when it came to building this cupcake. The cake itself would represent the bread, I would add some peanut buttery icing, and in the middle I would place some sweet jelly filling.

Though this creation felt more like one that would have come out of Dr. Frankenstein's kitchen, I had confidence that it would be delicious for not only my PB&J loving husband, but also for the guests who would be celebrating with us. And you know what? I was absolutely right!!

If you're interested in creating this extra special dessert, you can follow my relatively simple recipe.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted room temperature butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 3/4 cup milk

Filling

  • 1 jar of natural fruit preserves (your flavor of choice)

Peanut Butter Buttercream

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted room temperature butter
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • small pinch salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin pan with paper liners.

In large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Beat in the eggs, one egg at a time, and then add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, and salt). Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture and mix well. Once combined, slowly mix in the milk until the batter is smooth.

When all is combined and smooth, spoon batter into the prepared muffin tin. Tip: I like to use an ice cream scoop to transfer the batter, because it minimizes drips and helps to ensure each liner receives the same amount of cake batter.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the cupcakes are set in the middle (you can tell if they spring back to the touch) and are slightly golden on top. Oven cook times vary, so I like to keep a close eye on the cupcakes, checking them every few minutes while I clean up and prepare to start on the next steps.

Once the cupcakes have baked and are fully cooled, the next step is to prepare the cupcakes for the filling. Using a large cake decorating tip I had on hand, I turned it upside, and while rotating it in a circular motion, I pressed down to carve a small area out of the cupcake. 

After completing this process on each of the cupcakes, I used a small spoon to scoop out the small section of cake and placed them off to the side for my birthday taste tester to try out. One item to note about the cake that you can really see in the photo below is that it's not light and fluffy, but more of a textured dense cake that isn't too sweet. While I don't know if I'd like it as a frosted white cake, it was just what I was going for to balance the sweetness of the filling and to have it resemble a slice of white bread in a PB&J sandwich. Alex said that the cake alone actually reminded him of a fluffy sweet corn bread.

After the cupcakes are prepped, they're ready for the filling. While I've made berry fillings from scratch, I wanted to stay true to the concept of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in this aspect as well. I simply chose an all natural jar of preserves, in this case an organic strawberry fruit spread, and spooned it into a disposable Wilton piping bag without a tip. 

Tip: I like to use disposable pastry bags and Wilton tips. This is a little something I splurged on years ago, and I've never looked back. If you like to decorate cakes or cupcakes, it's definitely worth it to pick up a set.

If you don't have these supplies on hand, a great substitution is to spoon frosting into a large food storage bag. Snip one of the corners off the bag with scissors, and squeeze frosting through the hole.

After snipping off the tip, I filled each cupcake center with the jam.

I popped the cupcakes into the refrigerator to chill slightly while I started on the peanut butter buttercream frosting. 

To prepare the frosting, cream the room temperature butter and peanut butter together until smooth, and slowly add in the confectioners sugar until well combined. In this case I didn't use natural peanut butter, and I'm not exactly sure how that would have turned out. However, if you use natural peanut butter, you may want to add a more sugar to the icing to account for the lack of sweetness in natural peanut butter (and also let us know how it turns out).

After the sugar has been thoroughly mixed and the peanut butter mixture is completely smooth, slowly add in the heavy cream and pinch of salt with the mixer on low.

After the cream is slightly incorporated, beat on high until the buttercream is light, fluffy, and slightly lighter in color. For a more decorative frosting application, spoon the frosting into a Wilton disposable frosting bag, this time with a cake decorating tip of your choice. (For a more homemade look or if you don't have decorating tips or bags, simply spread the frosting onto the cupcakes.)

f

All in all, the cupcakes were beautiful and delicious.

And the best part? Alex absolutely loved them, and I'm sure they'll go down in history as one of his favorite birthday treats.

Do you have a favorite cake you like to make or enjoy on your birthday? Perhaps you have a favorite food that could be modified to make it into a sweet treat? Maybe a tradition that make your birthday special? If so, I'd love to hear all about it!

Comments 10

Comments

Kathy Bonelli Cox
11/18/2013 at 12:14 PM
These look amazing - I might have to give them a try!
karen
11/18/2013 at 5:41 PM

Love your recipes. The white chocolate and pretzel bark (I added some crushed peppermint sticks) was a real hit last Christmas.

Wendy
11/18/2013

Thanks, Karen! Mmm...peppermint sticks? Sounds like a delicious addition!

Jan
11/19/2013 at 11:23 AM

Happy birthday! Will have to try these cupcakes for my PBJ-loving guys. They don't have a favorite birthday cake, but I do ... angel food! Some years plain, with fresh strawberries (perk of being born in May), sometimes with a tunnel of chocolate (sort of as in this recipe,but with the excess cake torn into small bits and mixed into the choc pudding filling. http://www.kraftrecipes.com/recipes/chocolate-tunnel-cake-64894.aspx). I used to do the decorated Wilton Mickey Mouse cakes for my son when he was little. It was a great diet method--after decorating one of those cakes, my hand was so cramped, I couldn't pick up a fork for days, ha ha!

Wendy
11/21/2013

Mmm. Angel food. I'm a May birthday as well, and love the fresh produce that comes with the season.Alt smile

Jan
11/21/2013 at 10:06 AM

Had to come back to say that I made cupcakes last night (chocolate, for the marching band), and using a scoop for batter is the Best. Idea. Ever! Thanks so much for that tip. Normally I use a gravy ladle and a small spatula, and end up with batter dribbles all over the cupcake tin. Used a cookie scoop-->no dribbles!

Wendy
11/21/2013

That's great, Jan! So happy to hear you found it helpful.Alt smile

JC
11/24/2013 at 7:11 PM

Happy belated birthday Alex! This reminded me of my ex-co-worker who (no joke) had a peanut butter sandwich for lunch every day (with very few exceptions) for at least the past 12 years.

Alex
11/29/2013

Thanks, JC. I could get on-board with then PBJ a day idea. I never tire of them.

Kathleen Zarske
2/17/2014 at 2:43 PM

Hi, How many cupcakes does this recipe make?

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