Beef and chicken tacos, with beans and rice, chicken tortilla soup, and a caesar salad.  Topping it off with homemade chocolate cupcakes (from scratch) smothered with a homemade cream cheese frosting.  The tacos were just your regular Ortega taco mix with the fixins’, and my mom made the salad and the soup.  The cupcakes were for Ellie’s birthday and our friend Lindsey gave me the recipe.  She’s a bit of a pro when it comes to making desserts.  I’ve never made cupcakes or frosting from scratch, so this was my first experience at melting chocolate and whipping sugar into butter.  I’m not really big on chocolate, but dang, these cupcakes were great even without any frosting.  One word, BUTTER!  I think I gained 5 pounds just looking at them.  But butter makes everything better.

RECIPES:

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Caesar Salad w/ Homemade Dressing

Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake (or Cupcakes!!)

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sat
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk (may need a smidge more if the mix seems dry…)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I put in closer to 8 ounces)

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

* If you are making a cake – Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

* If you are making cupcakes – One batch of these makes about 23 cupcakes.

To Make the Cake: Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking sola and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs one at a time, then the yolks one by one, beating for full minute after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 portions and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); mix only until each new batch is blended into the batter. Note: I ended up adding a couple more splashes of buttermilk as I was blending… So feel free to add a smidge if the batter seems like it needs it. Scrape down the bowl and, add the melted chocolate, folding it in with a rubber spatula.

* If you are making a cake – Divide the batter between the cake pans. Bake for 26 to 30 minutes, or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans.

* If you are making cupcakes – Use a 1/4 cup measuring spoon to scoop the batter into each cupcake hole. Bake for about 17 minutes, and then check for ‘doneness’. Stick a toothpick in the center – should come out clean, with a bunch of moist crumbs sticking to it. Let cool completely before frosting them!

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:
2 bars cream cheese (room temperature)
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup powdered sugar (add more if sweeter frosting is desired)
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* A teaspoon or so of half and half if needed, only if the frosting seems too thick at the end.

Cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, and completely blended, at least a few minutes. Add the vanilla. Add the powdered sugar a bit at a time, all the while mixing away with your stand mixer or hand mixer. Add the half and half if needed…

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