November 26, 2014 12:00 PM

Food Network star Ellie Krieger introduced her daughter Isabella to cooking at an early age. “Since Bella could sit up, I’ve had her with me in the kitchen,” Krieger says. “At the beginning there’s flour all over the floor, and it’s a mess.” Now 12, Isabella sometimes takes the reins. “I bake with my friends,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a complete fail, but sometimes it turns out really good. When I bake with my mom, it’s much better.” Krieger, author of five cookbooks including Weeknight Wonders, gives her seventh grader a few extra lessons in math and science when they cook together in their New York City kitchen. “Baking teaches a lot of skills in terms of measuring. It’s like chemistry,” she says. Also,”if you can make it a little healthier without sacrificing, why not? Making a few swaps in a traditional recipe makes a big difference. These Candy Cane Cupcakes are still rich and chocolatey without being a huge pile of buttercream.” Still, Krieger says, “you don’t want to be on any diet around the holidays. You can absolutely make room for the richest cake or Grandma’s cookies. Just make sure you slow down and really savor them.”

ELLIE KRIEGER’S

CANDY CANE CUPCAKES

½ cup whole-grain pastry flour

½ cup cake flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa

¾ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup reduced-fat sour cream

¼ cup low-fat buttermilk

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup dark brown sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg white

1 tsp. peppermint extract

½ cup confectioners’ sugar

1 tbsp. nonfat milk, more if needed

1½ oz. dark chocolate, chopped

¼ cup crushed candy canes

1. Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°. Place cupcake liners in 8 sections of a cupcake tin. Whisk together first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine sour cream and buttermilk in a small bowl. Combine butter, oil and brown sugar in a bowl. Mix on high speed until sugar has dissolved. Beat in egg and egg white. Stir in peppermint extract. Add 1/3 of flour mixture, then 1/3 sour cream mixture, mixing well after each addition. Repeat with remaining dry and wet ingredients. Distribute batter evenly among cupcake liners. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to wire racks to cool.

2. Combine confectioners’ sugar and milk in a saucepan over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Add chocolate. Stir until icing is the consistency of thick pancake batter. Add more milk if necessary. Top each cupcake with 1½ to 2 tsp. warm icing. Sprinkle with candy canes.

Makes: 8 Prep time: 20 minutes Cook time: 15 to 17 minutes, plus cooling time

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