Yikes!  How did I let January (and half of February) slip away from me like this!  We had a great holiday in the states and have been busily tending to things back here in Skopje.  We got together with Violeta and whipped up some traditional Macedonian sarma…recipe to come over the weekend.  We had celebrated the birthday of a good friend with these unbelievable chocolate mint cupcakes.

Before we left for the states, we got together with these fine folks for a gingerbread house making extravaganza.

And what an extravaganza it was!  Check out our swell ingredients and our final creations!

When we got to the states, we were busy squeezing a year’s worth of visits into only a few weeks.  We did manage to take a break and relax on this quaint sleigh ride at Red Tail Canyon Farm.

So, we had a great holiday.  Ironically, we did a lot of eating…but almost no blogging.  Finally, we’re back.  I know people were hoping for more traditional recipes this year, and I am trying not to disappoint you.  Like I said, sarma is coming up and we’ve been harassing Aleks’ mom for more traditional recipes…unfortunately, lately she has been making tacos and stir fry…  In the mean time, try out this recipe for mint chocolate cupcakes that I found over at Simply Recipes.  Think thin mints, in a cupcake. Let me just say, we took them to a birthday and by the end we were all licking the pan.

Chocolate Mint Cupcakes Recipe

(Makes 12 cupcakes)

Ingredients

8 Tbsp butter

1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons mint extract  (The quality of your mint extract will make all the difference here…i.e. you’ll probably have to go state side to find it, as there is none in MK.)

1/2 cup sour cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line cupcake pan with paper or foil liners.

In a medium bowl, combine butter, chocolate and cocoa.  Set the bowl over a small sauce pan with a few inches of water simmering in the bottom.  (For those of you fancy pants out there, just break out your double boiler…)  Stir the ingredients together until they are melted and combined.  I find it works best to stir continually, that way I don’t leave the ingredients over the heat any longer than I have to.  Once the mixture is smooth, remove from heat and set aside until cool to touch.

In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients, either by sifting or with a whisk.

In a medium sized bowl, beat eggs.  Beat in salt, sugar, and mint extract, then slowly pour in chocolate mixture and continue mixing until combined.

Using a large spoon or spatula, stir in half of the flour mixture.  Then gently stir in the sour cream. Add the rest of the flour and stir until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly into cupcake pan  (I often use a 1/4 measuring cup for this).  Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Once you remove the cupcakes from the oven, set the pan on a wire rack and let the cupcakes cool for about 15 minutes.  Then remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely on the wire rack before frosting.

For the frosting, Elise recommends either a mint buttercream (pretty sweet) or a cream cheese based frosting (with a little tang). Since I didn’t have cream cheese, but wanted a to cut the sweetness a little, I made the buttercream frosting and added about 1/4 cup sour cream.  In my opinion, frosting is one of those things that each person must adapt to their own taste.  I have yet to find a frosting that I didn’t either add a little more/less sugar, a pinch of salt, or a splash of something to spice it up a bit. So, if it’s too sweet, add some sour cream like I did.  If it’s not minty enough, add more mint.  If you like it sweeter, add a bit more sugar.  Same goes if you like your frosting thin…hold back a bit on the sugar.

7 Tbsp butter, room temperature (1 stick, 4 ounces)

1 Tbsp milk or 2-3 Tbs sour cream

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract  (If you don’t like it very minty…hold back a little and add 1/4 tsp to start out with.)

2 cups powdered sugar

1 small pinch salt

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until creamy.  Beat in milk and mint extract.

With the mixer on low or using a large spoon, slowly add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Adjust sugar/mint/salt to taste.