Vodka and a glass jar to store the homemade vanilla extract.
Getting the vanilla beans ready. (I did not use all of these!)
Cut the beans…
…then scrape the pulp and seeds out.
Put the beans in the jar along with the pulp and seeds.
Pour in the vodka.
Shake it up and then let it sit in a cool, dark place. Occasionally give the jar another shake.
I got really interested in trying to make my own vanilla extract, so I read up on how to do it and found out that you really only need three things: A glass bottle with a stopper, some booze (vodka, rum or bourbon will do), and vanilla beans. I got my bottle and my beans from Beanilla.com and used up some vodka that we’ve had here at the house for quite some time. The ratio of vanilla beans to liquor is 2:1 according to Martha Stewart. I’ve also seen others suggest a 3:1 ratio. Basically, all you do is put the beans in the vanilla, place it in a cool dark place, and let it sit for 3-5 months or more. You can slice the bean and scrape the seeds if you’d like too, but not everyone says to do this. I’m coming up the 3-5 months of sitting now and will have to report back when I start using my homemade vanilla extract!
Trent and Loden hosted a baby shower for Caroline and Danny this past weekend. Loden asked me to bring a dessert, so I searched a little bit online for ideas and came up with these candy pacifiers.
The pacifiers are so simple to make (instructions below). All you need is Lifesavers, jelly beans and royal icing.
I made the candies one night while watching a marathon of Breaking Bad episodes (great show!) streaming on Netflix. Then the next day, I made double vanilla cupcakes and decorated them with one candy on the top of each cupcake.
Alternatively, you could serve the candies in a candy dish at the baby shower.
I have even seen photos online of people who put a ribbon through the candy pacifiers and made them into necklaces or bracelets for a Forbidden Word game. (The Forbidden Word game is played by choosing a word that people can’t say, like the word “baby.” If someone says the word, they get their necklace/bracelet taken away. People can win them back by catching others saying the word. The person at the end who has the most necklaces/bracelets wins.) We didn’t play this game, but I could see how the candy pacifiers would be a fun way to do it.
How to Make Candy Pacifiers
1. Buy a package of jelly beans and a package of white Lifesavers (usually these are peppermint or wintergreen).
2. The Lifesavers come individually wrapped, so unwrap all of them. This is not the fun part.
3. Separate out the jelly beans that you want to use. I chose orange because I thought they were the most realistic, but I’ve seen others online say to use pink or blue, depending on the sex of the baby. I knew I was making blue frosting and didn’t want the candy to blend in.
4. Get your royal icing “glue” ready. Royal icing is used because it dries quickly, it dries white, and it dries hard. It works great as glue for this project. I used a royal icing recipe from Joy of Baking. There’s a video there too, if you need further instruction. Note: Don’t make a lot. I had a lot of leftovers using their smallest recipe. Also, I like to use a pint glass like this to hold up my frosting bag when I’m not using it. It’s also handy for filling the bag. Just put your tip in the bag and put the bag in the glass. Take the part of the bag sticking out of the glass and fold it around the edges of the cup. Then spoon the frosting into the bag. The cup will hold it open and make it easier! Also works good for scraping a spatula of frosting against the bag/glass. And, yes, I still have a ton of things with Google logos on them!
5. Lay out half of the Lifesavers on tray (I lined mine with waxed paper so I wouldn’t have to clean it later). Pipe a small amount of frosting into the center of the laid out candy. Top with a Lifesaver positioned vertically. Note, at this time I also used the icing to repair a broken lifesaver. Since the icing is white and the Lifesaver is white, you could barely tell it had ever been broken.
6. Keep doing this until you run out of Lifesavers. I worked a few at a time. Pipe the icing on a few, top with a few, pipe the icing on a few, top with a few. I didn’t want to do all of the icing first and then have it dry out before I could top it with the second candy. Also, when I was all done, I went back to the first ones and wiped off any excess frosting the may have been bulging out. After you do this, go watch an episode of Breaking Bad to let them dry for a bit.
7. Come back and put some icing in the other side of the Lifesaver then stick in the jelly bean. Again, work with just a few at a time to make sure the frosting doesn’t dry out before you stick the jelly bean in.
8. Go watch another episode of Breaking Bad to let them dry for a bit.
9. Tada! One bag of Lifesavers made 24 candy pacifiers. I had a few leftover orange jelly beans. This seems like a lot of steps, I know, but it really is simple and relatively quick to make (not counting drying time). Here’s a video I watched before making the candy pacifiers, if you want further instruction:
On to the cupcakes…..
I liked this recipe and would probably make it again, but heed the warning about overbaking. I was looking for the golden brown described and I think I overbaked my cupcakes a minute or two too long. Take them out before you think they’re golden brown enough! Also, I barely had enough frosting, so if you want your frosting to tower, double the recipe.
Double Vanilla Cupcakes From: Simply Recipes Makes about one dozen cupcakes.
1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean (or one whole bean if you can spare it)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While the oven preheats cut open and scrape out the seeds of a vanilla bean. Place the seeds, empty bean, and the milk into a small saucepan. Heat to just under a simmer for a few minutes being careful not to scald the milk. Remove from heat and allow the milk to steep and cool. (Be sure to remove the bean after it cools. Wash it and then place it out to dry so it can be used again.)
Beat the butter for about 3 minutes on medium speed, then add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat for 30 seconds. Add the egg whites, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds each.
In one bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In another whisk together the vanilla steeped milk, vanilla extract, and sour cream.
Add the flour mixture and the milk mixture to the butter sugar egg mixture in alternating additions (dry-wet-dry method), starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just combined being sure to not overbeat.
Divide the batter into cupcake papers in a muffin tin and bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes or until slightly golden brown. Be sure to rotate the cupcakes after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking. Be sure to keep a close eye as these can get overbaked quickly. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Frost when cooled.
Beat the butter and slowly add in the powdered sugar. Scrape the seeds out of the vanilla bean (or vanilla extract if using) and beat in.