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Work Party on a Budget: DIY Magnolia’s Cupcakes

Magnolia Bakery’s famous “Vanilla Vanilla” cupcake goes for $3.25 a pop, but with this DIY recipe we dug up in the Cooking Channel archives, you’ll spend only about 43 cents per cupcake. The low cost makes it perfect for a work party (or any party, for that matter), plus it’s simple, delicious and easy to tailor to your theme — should you choose to splurge on decorations. We tried this recipe for April’s Lab Week (Erika is a pathology resident at a nearby hospital), so we went with science-themed toppings (in case you were wondering about those strange-looking toppings above).

Below is a breakdown of the recipe steps, along with some tips we discovered through some admittedly rookie mistakes. We’re bakers in progress, so if you have any sage cupcake wisdom to share, please do so in the comments!

Step 1: Mix the batter.

Tip: Don’t have self-rising flour? Create your own by adding baking powder and salt to all-purpose flour.

Step 2: Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees F (our cupcakes took the entire 25 minutes) and cool on wire racks.

Tip: Allow cupcakes to cool completely, or risk melted frosting! (More on this below.)

Step 3: Make the icing.

Tip: Add enough confectioners’ sugar to ensure your icing isn’t runny! We used about 7 cups, and probably could have used the full 8.

Step 4: Ice and decorate!

Tip: This is your time to shine! As mentioned, our cupcakes were for Lab Week, so Erika created science(!)-themed decorations that her doctor colleagues would be sure to appreciate: periodic-table elements (mini shortbread cookies and icing), molecules (Lemonheads), beakers (melted white chocolate chips), chromosomes (also made with melted white chocolate chips) and the science symbol (sparkly gel icing).

Final Thoughts: As you can see, we had some icing runnage, particularly on the cupcakes’ right side. In the future we will remember to exercise patience during cooling time to prevent melting, and use enough confectioners’ sugar to ensure a nice thick texture for sculpting. But even if your icing doesn’t take perfect shape, it’s still pretty darn good (we promise).

More: Bourbon French Toast on a Budget

Brunch on a Budget: Grilled Bourbon French Toast

Cost Breakdown

If you’re looking for an affordable brunch dish to feed your friends and family this spring, try Michael Symon’s Grilled French Toast. In this recipe he creates aluminum “ovens” to cook his fruit topping alongside French toast on the grill for a delicious smoky flavor. We tried it out for ourselves with a few tweaks (see below), and broke down the cost above. We served six, so the total came to about $4 per person (counting the addition of maple syrup and powdered sugar, which we strongly suggest!).

Tips:

– Use bananas instead of more expensive berries for your topping.

– Bourbon! (Add it to both the bananas and the custard before grilling.)

– Use whole-wheat bread and milk — instead of cream — for a healthier dish.

– Pay attention to your grill, because that toast will burn fast! An ideal char:

Mmmm Char

– But if you do burn your toast, simply cover it with lots of topping and powdered sugar, and your guests will never know:

Final Product

Also, we have to give a special thanks to our friends Bill and Justyna for hosting and letting us experiment on their grill!

7 Cute Farm Animals to Improve Your Week

On this week’s Extra Virgin (Wednesday at 9pm ET), Gabriele Corcos will restore the old chicken coop on his land and finally fulfill his dream of living on a farm. Debi’s more of a city girl at heart, but who can resist looking at these snuggly sweethearts? Plus, she gets to make a farm-inspired feast to celebrate. Scroll through the rest of the cuties after the jump and get more of your farm fix on a new Extra Virgin, Wednesday at 9pm ET.

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Watch the Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers’ Premiere Online

Rev Run has a mission to bring all his kids who have moved away from home back to the dinner table — and he’s using food as bait. On last night’s Season 2 premiere of Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers, Rev had been dreaming about his favorite bait: pizza. Naturally, he decided to bake up his first pie. In order to do it right, he spent time at his local pizzeria to pick up some tips. Watch the full episode after the jump (no cable provider required).

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Why Cooking Channel’s Logo is Blue

Light It Up Blue for Autism

If you turn on Cooking Channel or Food Network today (or visit our Facebook and Twitter pages), you’ll notice our logos have turned blue. Today is World Autism Awareness Day, so we’re participating in a unique global initiative to help shine a light on the growing public health concern.

To find out more about autism, the Light It Up Blue campaign and easy ways you can participate, visit AutismSpeaks.org/LIUB.

How to Eat Like a Pizza Master

If you’ve watched Pizza Masters, you’ll agree that Fran Garcia and Sal Basille are Italian comfort food experts. They run Artichoke Pizza in New York which many claim to be the city’s best pizza (therefore, in turn, the world’s best pizza). They learned their craft the same way as many great Italian-American chefs, by generations and generations of nonna’s teaching them the way around a kitchen. They’ve taken this history (and great, funny stories) and turned them into quick and easy recipes in their new book (out today!) called Staten Italy: Nothin’ but the Best Italian-American Classics, from Our Block to Yours. You can expect authentic comforts that go way beyond pizza — like Eggs Pizziaola, Pork Cutlets with Hot Peppers and Vinegar, their famous Cauliflower Fritters and much more.

Get it here.

Bracket Battle Round 2 of the March Madness of Food

It’s time for round two of our March Madness campus eats tournament. Here are two head-to-head battles for Friday night’s Sweet 16 showdown.

Game 1

Gonzaga University COG Cookies vs. UCLA Ice Cream Sandwich

Gonzaga University COG Cookies

COG, or Center of Gonzaga, cookies come right from the university and make an appearance at all sporting events. Basketball fans look no further: A fresh-baked chocolate chip cookie is waiting for you at the stadium.

UCLA Ice Cream Sandwich

A trip to UCLA without getting an ice cream sandwich from Diddy Riese’s would be a worse crime than missing a free throw. Mix and match with 10 cookies and 12 ice cream flavors for the ultimate dessert.

Game 2

Michigan State Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich vs. University of Oklahoma Chili Con Queso

Michigan State Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich

The ice cream cookie sandwich from Michigan State’s Melting Moments is the perfect way to celebrate your team’s victory. Keep the party going with bourbon-spiked vanilla ice cream stuffed between irresistible chocolate chip cookies

University of Oklahoma Chili Con Queso

The chili con queso from the University of Oklahoma’s The Mont is an awesome game-day snack. With four melty cheeses and spicy sausage, this dip will have your guests licking the bowl clean.

Check out all the best campus eats and get recipes to make them at home.

Review: Game of Thrones Three-Eyed Raven Beer

Game of Thrones’ fifth Season premieres April 12, and the latest Ommegang beer collaboration with the show comes out April 6 to help subdue your anticipatory nerves (without Jaime Lanister shoving you out a window). Here’s how the new Three-Eyed Raven-themed saison stacks up:

It’s thematically on the beak because it looks very dark and ominous — you’d expect it to taste thick and full, stout-like — but it turns out to be light with floral roots. That’s so three-eyed raven! The label art, an aspect of beer consumption that, for better or worse, never gets much recognition, uses concept art from the show and is worth checking out on its own. On the downside, everything we’ve heard speculates the three-eyed raven won’t play a part in any Season 5 storyline. But that’s not enough of a fault to keep this ale from taking flight.

The Kids in the Hall’s Bruce McCulloch on His Love of Sandwiches

Yesterday, Bruce McCulloch of the Kids in the Hall participated in an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. He answered a lot of fans’ questions about his creative process and future projects, but his most enlightening feedback came in response to whether or not he liked sandwiches:

“i love sandwiches. they are trustworthy. you tell a sandwich a secret – it will stay a secret. Some people think they taste good. I don’t know about that – i just keep them around as my ‘secret keepers'”

Get our best secret keepers like the ever-dependable sausage, pepper and onion and 33 other sandwiches.

Bracket Battle of Campus Eats: The March Madness of Food

March Madness brings out the best rivalries in college basketball. But college rivalries go far beyond the court’s end line. Check out our top picks for college town eats as rival dishes go head-to-head.

UCLA Ice Cream Sandwich vs. UC Berkeley Top Dog Frankfurter

UCLA Ice Cream Sandwich

Diddy Riese’s ice cream sandwiches are a must-have at UCLA. Select your starting ice cream sandwich roster from the best lineup of cookie varieties and ice cream flavors.

UC Berkeley Top Dog Frankfurter

This New York classic has become a favorite in Berkeley, Calif. Top your favorite frankfurter or knockwurst with tangy sauerkraut and homemade Russian mustard, and you’ve got a winner.

Check out more tournaments after the jump.

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