These Southern Comfort treats are perfect for Valentine’s Day
To set hearts aflutter, Mackenzie Finklea recommends these decadent chocolate cupcakes with Southern Comfort frosting as a Valentine’s Day treat.
“The recipe is so good,” Finklea said. “Just so delicious and nothing like a store-bought cupcake. I originally made them for a family friend whose favorite flavors are chocolate and Southern Comfort. Now I make them for special occasions, and they’re always a real crowd pleaser.”
Finklea, a Galveston resident, is something of a cupcake fanatic whose passion for the baked treats began in middle school when she had a cupcake decorating party for her birthday, she said. Soon after, she made cupcakes that looked like the cartoon character Perry the Platypus for her younger brother’s birthday, and this led to her making cupcakes for neighbor’s children and her friends.
A church fundraiser for which she made 200 cupcakes followed and then, when Finklea was in high school, she launched her own cupcake business complete with website and business cards. Kenzie’s Cupcakes, which specialized in personalized cupcakes, did well, she said.
“I made all sorts of designs, like one for a rock climber with candy rocks and fondant ropes,” she said. “I did a giraffe-themed design for a really tall friend and realistic watermelons with green frosting for another because it was her favorite fruit.”
After a good run, Finklea shut down the business so she could concentrate on her studies, she said. She has a degree in anthropology from the University of Texas and is fascinated with all aspects of human culture, from museums to internet memes, she said.
Finklea works for Tom’s Galveston Real Estate as an executive assistant and as lead publishing coach for New Degree Press, advising independent authors on marketing and fundraising. She coaches from her own experience as the author of “Beyond the Halls: An Insider’s Guide to Loving Museums.”
Finklea enjoys cooking and is influenced by her parents, who instilled a love of fresh flavors and international flair, she said.
“We always made our own dressing — never store-bought — and I often take a plate of crudites and a homemade Caesar dressing to parties as people often forget to cater vegetables,” she said.
Her mother makes creative salads and her father is known for steaks, while always adding to his repertoire.
“On a family trip to Spain, he became obsessed with paella,” Finlea said. “When we find a recipe worth making again and again, my dad will always say that it’s a keeper.”
Cupcakes still are a sentimental favorite for Finklea, she said. Of all her different designs and flavors, the chocolate cupcakes with Southern Comfort frosting are her go-to and they’d be her pick for the perfect end to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.
She discovered them on Pinterest on mybakingobsession.com’s page and likes that they combine the convenience and consistency of a packet mix with added extras.
“I get a lot of cooking inspiration from Pinterest,” she said. “Often, the recipes are from ordinary people and not chefs. Baking is a real science, and this takes the guesswork out of it.”
Southern Comfort Cupcakes
Yields: 24 cupcakes
1 (18.25-ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9-ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
½ cup warm water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
4 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 pounds powdered sugar
4 tablespoons Southern Comfort
For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 F and line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs, water and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
Evenly divide the batter amongst the prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch. A small divot might appear in the center of the cupcake, no worries though because you’ll cover that with frosting. Cool cupcakes thoroughly on a wire rack.
For the frosting: Cream the butter in the bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Add vanilla extract and salt.
Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, add in the Southern Comfort, and mix until light and fluffy. If frosting is too thick, slowly add in a little more Southern Comfort (1 teaspoon at a time) until you reach the desired consistency.
Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Decorate with Crackerjack caramel popcorn and a drizzle of melted chocolate.