Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mini Dark Chocolate Cupcake Bites

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”   
-  Bob Hope

My favorite time of year! It's not just Christmas coming very soon, but my birthday is December 11th, this upcoming Wednesday. So needless to say, this is the best time of year for me! Combined with December being a month that is filled with baking and shopping, well you could say I'm in heaven.

I used a combination of a dark chocolate bar and these chocolate chips. If you use chocolate chips make sure they are good quality. These Guittard ones are my favorite. They come in extra dark, semi sweet, milk and white. I think they are some of the best chocolate chips out there.

Christmas is a time of yummy sweet treats. There are always lots of cookie parties, office parties, and open houses that are filled with confections and goodies of all kinds.

Chopping the chocolate
If you have one of these holiday parties to attend, I recommend making these chocolatey morsels of goodness. They will certainly be the star of the party!

All of my ingredients ready to go. This recipe is quite easy, no mixer needed.

These little cupcakes are based on the Chocolate Friands recipe from the famous, Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Friand means a small rich cake. The idea is if you are going to eat something rich and decadent, it better be good, especially if it's just a few bites. So why not have the best, most gratifying and delectable mouthful of your life?

Adding the hot butter to my chocolate

They say these are “satisfyingly extra rich and moist." And they're right. They aren't as dense as a brownie. They are very chocolatey, like a brownie, but the texture, while not like a typical cake, they are sort of a cross between a brownie and a cake. The texture is light and moist and really melts in your mouth.

My melted chocolate

I topped these with candy canes since it's Christmas time. But you don't need to top them with anything other than the ganache icing. Or you can use sprinkles, for a festive touch without the taste of peppermint. The candy canes add a bit of crunch to the tops as well as the minty flavor. If you are a chocolate mint lover, you could even add a teaspoon of pure peppermint extract to the batter to bring home the peppermint flavor.

My batter is ready

I use dark chocolate for the recipe. I recommend using the best chocolate you can get your hands on. Or use some good quality chocolate chips. Since this recipe is simple, and doesn't have a lot of ingredients, the flavor of the chocolate really shines through. So if you splurge on some great chocolate, it will pay off here. You can really taste it. And the aroma while these are cooking? Oh, it's heavenly.

I accidentally used the silver cups on the right. I realized later that they are much smaller than a regular mini muffin cup. The ones on the left is the traditional size of a mini cupcake. So I made a lot more smaller cupcakes than I set out to make.

This is a really special time of year, not just because of the reasons I gave above. It is a time of friends and family, and of communion.  I will be traveling to Orange County, California to visit mine in the beginning of January. I am grateful for them. I love seeing my dad, and my sisters, and my friends. My oldest sister has the cutest and sweetest little boy ever, and I miss him. I miss them.

Filling my cups
Merry Christmas to you all! Happy Holidays! I wish you a peace filled season that is abundant with joy and love.

Just out of the oven

One more thing I want to let you know. Something I've been working on a lot lately. I've opened a second Etsy shop, called, Coco's Kitchen. I named it after our beloved dog, Coco, just as House of Lucien is named after our Papillon, Lucien.  At this shop I'm selling vintage cookbooks and vintage kitchen items, as well as a few pots and pans. Even a vintage Le Creuset set of pans, before they were Le Creuset, they were called Cousances. I've been adding items to it daily, and will continue to do so in the upcoming weeks and months. So if that's your thing, please favorite my shop, share it with your friends and come back soon! I don't even have a banner for it up yet, but that is coming soon as well.

Don't these look great? They are very chocolatey, but not as dense as a brownie. They really melt in your mouth. The perfect bite of chocolate. These are deliberately small, since most people only want a small bite of something so rich, making these little morsels perfect for parties.

I decorated my pot rack for Christmas. I collect different pots and pans. My favorites are the copper pots from France, and the silver plated pots. One of the copper pots is silver plated, it was made in Denmark, probably around mid century. Silver is an even a better conductor of heat than copper and it's food safe unlike copper. They don't make them anymore, since metals are so much more expensive than they used to be.

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!" 
-Hamilton Wright Mabie

There's our little Coco, sitting on the ottoman.

“Christmas is doing a little something extra for someone.”
- Charles M. Schulz

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace."

    -Agnes M. Pahro

My ganache is ready for frosting the cupcakes

A just frosted gem. I used a spatula for frosting, but you could just dip them in the ganache.

I added candy canes and red sprinkles, since candy canes alone didn't read as candy canes, it seemed like there wasn't enough red on them, so I added the red sprinkles on top. 

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You don't need to top these with candy canes, you could just add sprinkles.

Vintage Chrome 2 Tiered Cake/Cupcake Stand available at my Etsy Shop, House of Lucien.

Small Sterling Silver and Glass Vintage Cake Stand, Wm Rogers Silverplated Vintage Cake Stand, Vintage Pressed Glass 2 Tiered Stand, and Vintage Grey Damask Tablecloth available at my Etsy Shop, House of Lucien.

Mini Dark Chocolate Cupcake Bites

This recipe is adapted from the Chocolate Friands Recipe from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, Ca.

Makes about 24 Miniature Cupcakes

Ingredients for Cupcakes

6 oz. (170 g.) good quality dark chocolate, chopped or good quality dark chocolate chips

1 cup (228 g.) butter

1 1/2 cups (275 g.) white granulated sugar

3/4 cup (102 g.) all purpose flour

2 Tablespoons cornstarch

1/2 tsp. salt

4 eggs

Ingredients for Ganache Icing

4 oz. (113 g.) good quality dark chocolate, chopped, or good quality dark chocolate chips

2/3 cup (157 ml.) heavy cream

For Topping

about 5 standard size candy canes, chopped

red sprinkles


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4. Line 2 mini muffin pans with mini cupcake liners and set aside.

Start making the cupcakes. In a large heatproof bowl, place the chopped chocolate. In a small saucepan melt the butter until it's very hot. Pour the butter over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, cornstarch and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the melted chocolate and whisk until all is incorporated. Add 2 of the eggs and whisk, then add the other 2, whisk again, until it's mixed together. Don't overmix the batter, just mix it until it's all incorporated.

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups till they are 3/4 full. Bake about 15 minutes, until the tops start to crack. Let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, and then remove from tins and let cool on racks.

When the cupcakes are cool, make the icing. You can't frost them until they are cool, and you don't want the ganache sitting too long, since it hardens has it sits. So wait until they have cooled to make it. Or make the cupcakes the night (or day before) and store them in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

To make the Ganache Icing -  Place the chopped chocolate or chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until it just starts to boil. Don't bring it to a full boil. Pour it over the chopped chocolate, (or chocolate chips.) Let it sit for 2 minutes or so to melt the chocolate. Stir it together until the cream is completely incorporated into the chocolate and the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. Top the cooled cupcakes with the ganache by spreading it on, or dipping them into it. Then add some chopped candy canes and sprinkles while the frosting is still wet. Let them sit for about an hour to set up.

These are best served the same day they are made. Or you can make the cupcakes the night or day before (as mentioned above) and frost them the day they are served. When they have set up, they can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a few days.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do!

Happy Baking!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Best Pumpkin Pie Recipe

"Thanksgiving is the holiday of peace, the celebration of work and the simple life... a true folk-festival that speaks the poetry of the turn of the seasons, the beauty of seedtime and harvest, the ripe product of the year - and the deep, deep connection of all these things with God. "

-Ray Stannard Baker (David Grayson)

It's almost Thanksgiving. That time of year where we feast! There's turkey, and sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and pie. Stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and green beans. Festivities abound! It's also the time of year where we give thanks for all we have. A time to enjoy our friends and families on this beautiful day.

Getting the crust ready to be filled
The pie that comes to mind during this sumptuous time of year, is of course, pumpkin.
My husband and I are pumpkin pie aficionados. You see, my husbands favorite dessert of all time is pumpkin pie. He asks for it instead of cake on his birthday in March. I mean, he really likes pumpkin pie. You know me, I love all desserts. Pumpkin pie included.

If you are using my pie crust recipe you need to keep the edges inside the rim, or else they might hang over while cooking.

For years I hosted a Thanksgiving feast at my home for friends since I don't live close to family anymore. I always wanted it to be really fantastic. I wanted the food to be amazing, extraordinary. A banquet like no other. Where every luscious bite that you take is so scrumptious, so enjoyable and mouthwateringly delectable, that you'd never forget it.

This Dark Muscovado sugar really makes this recipe special. Muscovado sugar is an unrefined sugar made from the juice of sugar cane by evaporating it and draining off the molasses. It can be found at Whole Foods, or a fancy grocery store, such as Bristol Farms, or some well stocked natural foods stores. Or it's available online at Amazon. But try to find it locally, since it's quite pricey on Amazon. I paid only about 5 bucks for mine at a natural foods store. I highly recommend you use it, but if you absolutely can't find it, substitute brown sugar, plus add another tablespoon molasses.
I mean if I'm going to go to the effort, why not go all the way? Why settle for less? I feel it is also having a respect for my guests. Showing reverence by way of food. They took the time to come over and share my table during this precious time of year. Paired with the fact that most people rarely take time to cook from scratch. Takeout, restaurant food, frozen food and packaged foods is what most people eat when they sit down to dinner. On this great day I want it to be different. I want them to eat a well prepared, wholesome, homemade meal.

Those soirees, combined with our love for the pie, led me on a quest for the absolute best pumpkin pie around. After years of baking different recipes, this pie rose above all others. It's been my go to pumpkin pie recipe for a few years now.

The base of this recipe is adapted from Bobby Flay. His recipe calls for Bourbon Maple Whipped Cream and a crunchy topping. I've made it according to the recipe, and myself and our guests didn't care for the topping. We all loved the pie in a more simple form.
This recipe has molasses in it as well, which gives it a deep flavor.

This recipe is richer, and has a deeper, warm flavor, than a traditional pumpkin pie. It calls for more eggs, and heavy cream instead of the typical evaporated milk, usually called for in pumpkin pie, which makes it even more decadent. This is something I really like, since I prefer the taste of cream to canned milk. I mean if I don't like evaporated milk, why am I going to like it in pumpkin pie?

I like to strain the filling, just in case there are some bits of the muscovado sugar that didn't get dissolved.

What really makes the flavor of this pie stand out is the dark muscavado sugar. It has a  deep, rich, bold flavor that I'd never experienced before finding this recipe. It compliments the pumpkin pie wonderfully, it's just excellent. You will find a lot of tasty ways to consume the remainder of the package. In oatmeal, ice cream, brownies, or even try your hand at sticky toffee pudding. Anywhere you would use brown sugar, you can substitute dark muscovado sugar.

Brushing the crust with an egg (or an egg white, either way) gives the bottom a barrier, so it is less likely to get soggy from the filling. Also it makes the crust nice and golden brown.

The great thing about this recipe is that it takes only slightly more work than any ordinary pumpkin pie. Don't you just love a recipe that is easy but gives a big payoff? Me too.

Baking the pie on a preheated cookie sheet gives the bottom crust a head start in cooking.
During this time of Thanksgiving, I want to express a big Thank You! To you, my readers. I love hearing about how your cupcakes turned out, and how they've made you a superstar at home. Or how you've added your own signature touch to one of my recipes. Sometimes the ideas are so good, I use them myself. The feedback touches me and makes sharing recipes so much more gratifying.

I wish you and your family peace and happiness this holiday season!

Some of my Thanksgiving decorations. That's Romeo on the right, I miss him so.
 "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."
-Melody Beattie 

Our fireplace. Mickey reminds me everyday that magic is indeed everywhere.

This is my pantry door in the kitchen.

A plaque that hangs in the kitchen this time of year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

"May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!"


-Grandpa Jones

This is almost enough whipped cream for me and my piece of pumpkin pie.

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Silverplated Footed Butlers Tray, Vintage Stainless Cake Server, Vintage Old Ivory Syracuse China plates, and the Tan Cloth Damask Dinner Napkins, available at my Etsy shop, House of Lucien.

The Best Pumpkin Pie Recipe

This makes one deep dish 9 or 10 inch pie


Pie crust - deep dish 9 or 10 inch - Frozen or homemade, may I recommend my Best All Butter Pie Crust recipe, it's amazing. If you use it you only need half of a recipe. Either freeze the other half, or just halve it.

3 large eggs

3 large egg yolks

3/4 cup (165 g.) Dark Muscovado Sugar, packed - see note above about this

1/4 cup (54 g.) brown sugar, packed

2 Tablespoons molasses

1 - 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree - NOT pumpkin pie filling

1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/2 tsp. fine salt

1 cup (8 oz. or 236 ml.) heavy cream

1/2 cup (4 oz. or 118 ml.) whole milk

3 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

an egg or egg white, beaten with a splash of water (either way, it works, I just happened to have an egg white in the fridge so I used it.) - For brushing on the crust


Have your pie crust ready in a deep dish 9 or 10 inch dish, glass or Pyrex is best. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 6. Put a cookie sheet in the oven to preheat in the bottom third of the oven.

In a large bowl, add the eggs, egg yolks, both sugars and the molasses, whisk it together. Add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt and stir it all together with a large spoon. Whisk in the heavy cream, milk, and vanilla. Strain the mixture through a strainer set over another bowl. Whisk in the melted butter.

Brush the entire crust with the beaten egg or egg white. This forms a barrier between the filling and the crust, so it's less likely to get soggy. Also brushing it on the edges of the crust makes them nice and golden brown.

Remove the cookie sheet from the oven. Place the pie crust on the preheated cookie sheet. Now pour the filling inside the pie crust, place back in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Then turn down the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit, 150 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 2 and bake another 60-70 minutes. It's done when the center is set and it's no longer jiggly in the middle.

Let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. Serve slightly warm, room temperature, or cold, topped with freshly whipped cream, if desired. Cover and refrigerate the leftovers.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do! Happy Baking!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Frosting

"Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
 -Lauren DeStefano - Wither

It's fall! Thanksgiving will be here before we know it. Where does the time go?

My mashed sweet potatoes
As a child, one of my favorite foods at Thanksgiving was the sweet potato casserole. You know the kind. Mashed up sweet potatoes loaded with brown sugar and butter, smothered with those little marshmallows.

My dry ingredients on the right, waiting to be mixed with in with everything else.

These cupcakes are my homage to that classic dish.

Before going in the oven - I used mini panettone cups instead of cupcake cups, whatever cups you use, greaseproof is best.

Moist and fluffy cupcakes are loaded with sweet potatoes, filled with yummy, warm, fall spices. The cake tastes like a cross between pumpkin cake and spice cake. The sweet potatoes in the cupcakes aren't used just for flavor, they happen to add to the cakes lightness and moisture level. White potatoes are often used to give baked goods these qualities. I even made a delicious Chocolate Farmhouse Cake that is filled with white potatoes.

The frosting recipe calls for cream of tartar, it helps the meringue become meringue. If you can't find it, it's o.k. to leave it out.
The frosting is a fluffy, light and sticky marshmallow frosting, that is broiled for a toasty marshmallow flavor. This kind of frosting is sometimes called a 7 minute frosting.

To make the frosting you need to have the bowl of your stand mixer sit over a saucepan filled with a few inches of water.

Seven minute frosting gets it's name because it takes about 7 minutes to whip egg whites into meringue, basically what the frosting is. I really like this frosting. It's actually something I use often since I always have the ingredients on hand, basically just egg whites, sugar and vanilla.


I used my handy point and shoot thermometer to make sure I got my mixture to the correct temperature, you don't need a thermometer for this recipe, you just cook it until it's hot. But I love using this thing, I highly recommend getting one if you do a lot of cooking. It's a breeze to take the temperature when making a caramel, or when frying to get the oil to the correct temperature.

I also like it because it can be whipped up quickly, and it compliments most cake recipes.

Beat the meringue until glossy, stiff peaks form - Note - this picture is showing a half recipe of frosting, a full recipe will fill the bowl.

It doesn't need to be toasted, but for this recipe, I highly recommend it. The toasted sticky marshmallow frosting and this cupcake just go amazingly together.

You don't even really need to toast these if you don't want to. If you leave them as is, they will be a fluffy marshmallow frosting or sometimes called a 7 minute frosting, because it takes about 7 minutes to beat.

These would sure compliment a Thanksgiving dessert table nicely. The classic combination of nostalgic flavors will make your guests smile.

Nice and toasty right from the oven.

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Beige vintage fall leaves tablecloth, Anchor Hocking amber cake stand circa 1960, Paragon "Melanie Rose"fine china vintage plates, tan damask vintage dinner napkins, Fenton Silver Crest milk glass candle holders, and Noritake M "The Vitry" teacups circa 1918, available at my Etsy shop, House of Lucien.

Take 20% off anything at House of Lucien by using coupon code, ALCHEMY at checkout!

Sweet Potato Cupcakes with Toasted
Marshmallow Frosting

Makes about 24 cupcakes

An original recipe by me, Melissa aka The Alchemist

** Note** These cupcakes after being frosted need to be served the same day. This type of frosting doesn't keep well. Serving them within a 3-4 hours is best, so plan accordingly. The cupcakes, unfrosted can last longer, as I noted below in the recipe.

Also you may need to double the frosting recipe to get as much frosting as I have on each cupcake. But! You can only make one batch at a time, because that is how much frosting can fit in the bowl of a stand mixer. Just be prepared and know you may need to make a second batch. If you use less frosting this amount may be enough.

Ingredients for Cupcakes

32 oz. sweet potatoes or yams (to equal 2 cups (536 g.) mashed after cooking)

2 3/4 cups (377 g.) all purpose flour

4 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup (190 g.) white sugar

1 cup packed (185 g.) brown sugar

1 cup (237 ml) vegetable oil

1 cup (216 g.) yogurt - I used Greek yogurt, full fat or low fat is fine, don't use nonfat

4 eggs

3 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for Frosting

10 large egg whites

2 cups (380 g.) white granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar - This helps with the stability and volume of meringue, if you don't have this, or can't find it, it's o.k. to leave it out, but I do recommend it, especially if you are new to making a meringue.

1/8 tsp. salt

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions for Cupcakes

First cook the sweet potatoes. You can do this step a day or up to 3 days in advance. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, 200 degrees Celsius, or Gas Mark 6. Wash and scrub the sweet potatoes and pierce them a few times with a fork or a knife. Bake them in the preheated oven until they are soft, about 1 hour. Alternately, you can cook them in the microwave. Wash them and pierce them, and cook them for 8-10 minutes or until tender, turning them over once during cooking. Let them cool, then peel and mash them to equal 2 cups mashed or 536 g.

Start on the cupcakes - Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, 180 degrees Celsius, Gas Mark 4.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, the flour, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in another large bowl with a hand mixer, mix together the 2 cups of mashed sweet potatoes, the oil and the white sugar and brown sugar, beat it until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in between each addition. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla and the yogurt and beat it until everything is incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and beat until it is mixed together well, without over beating.

Fill cupcake cups 2/3 - 3/4 of the way full. I used miniature panettone cups I bought at Sur La Table. Whatever type you use, the greaseless cupcake liners are best, since all of my recipes have a high liquid and high oil content, if you use regular cupcake papers they may be greasy or oily on the bottoms, if you use the greaseless kind, that becomes a non issue.

Bake for 22-28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes before frosting them.

Cupcakes can be stored unfrosted for 2 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Or freeze them by wrapping them in plastic wrap then placed in a ziptop bag that is airtight. They can be frozen for 6 months at least, if wrapped well.

Directions for Frosting

Place the broiler on your oven on high and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Or alternately, you can use a kitchen torch, if you are using a torch, obviously don't preheat your broiler.

Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer. The saucepan needs to be a size that hold the bowl of your stand mixer on top of it, like a double boiler. (I have this pictured above.) When it starts to boil turn it down to medium. Put the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in a clean bowl (the bowl needs to be very clean, there can't be any bit of grease in it or your meringue won't work) of a stand mixer and whisk by hand to combine. Place the bowl over the saucepan (make sure the water doesn't touch the bowl) and cook, whisking constantly until the sugar has dissolved and it is hot to the touch (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit, 48 degrees Celsius) on an instant read thermometer, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium for 2 minutes then turn up the mixer to medium high and beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes more. You need to beat it on medium first, if you were to just beat it on high for the entire time the meringue can become dry, so it's best to gradually bring it up to the medium high speed and not just beat it on high the entire time. Add the vanilla and whisk until it's incorporated.

Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes.

Broil the tops to make them toasted. If using a kitchen torch, torch the tops until they are slightly brown and toasted. If using the oven, place the frosted cupcakes onto a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Place it on the middle rack of the oven. Broil them for 20-30 seconds, or just until they get brown and toasty. *** THIS IS IMPORTANT*** These can go from being done to burnt in what seems like a second. so don't walk away. Just stand there, even if you hold open the door to the oven slightly, to see what's going on, or you can set a timer for 20 seconds, then check them and see if they are toasted. Toast them until the tops are toasted lightly. It's better to keep checking them, than having them burn and have to start over.

Serve them within 3-4 hours of making them. If you must store a few cupcakes overnight, do so at room temperature in an airtight container. The trouble with storing them is, if you trap a moist cupcake in an airtight environment it's going to make the meringue which needs to be kept dry, wet. So overnight or the next day, the meringue will start to "sweat" or weep, get moist and start to fall off the cupcakes. Or if you were to keep them out in the open with air circulation, the cupcakes will dry out.

I hope you love this recipe as much as I do! Happy Baking!