02 February

Rose Tea Cupcakes

February 14: Valentine’s Day

“Everything’s coming up roses” on Valentine’s Day! Make something sweet for someone sweet by baking some rose-flavored cupcakes. The ingredients include rose tea and rosewater and the cupcakes are topped with rose-shaped candies.

Roses have long been a symbol of love. Among roses lining the aisle, we were married at the Mystical Rose Oratory at Islander’s alma mater in Hawaii. The name of this chapel with a glorious view of iconic Diamond Head is named after the Blessed Mother Mary. Devotionals to her, the Mystical Rose, are done with a rosary.

Although there are different colors and varieties of roses, red is associated with romantic love. So on this day when love is celebrated, we chose vibrant red candy roses to decorate our lovely cupcakes.

Happy Valentine’s Day! May all our blog readers be blessed with lots of love!


For the rose tea cupcakes

  • 2-3 teabags of rose-flavored tea (we used a jasmine-rose tea blend)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1-2 teaspoons rosewater
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup plain yogurt


Steep the tea bags in the boiling water and allow to cool at room temperature. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Stir in the rose water.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and pinch of salt. Gradually add this flour mixture to the above wet ingredients. Pour in the rose tea. Fold in the yogurt and mix until the batter is smooth. Scoop into 12 cupcake papers in a regular size muffin tin. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting the cupcakes.

For the rosewater buttercream

  • ½ cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon rosewater
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • green food coloring


In a mixing bowl, cream the butter. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and rosewater.

Add a pinch of salt. Thin to a desired frosting consistency with the heavy whipping cream. Frost the tops of the cupcake or pipe swirls (Wilton star tip 1M). Reserve a little frosting for the leaves. Tint with green food coloring. Set aside.

For the candy rose decorations

  • Red candy melts (Wilton brand)
  • Vegetable shortening (to thin, optional)


Melt the candy melts according to the package. Thin with a tiny bit of vegetable shortening, if necessary. Stir well and fill the rose mold. Refrigerate until firm. Unmold the candy roses.

Place in the center of the cupcakes. Use the remaining green frosting to pipe leaves (Wilton leaf tip #352) on the sides of each candy rose. Chill in the refrigerator to set. Bring to room temperature before serving the rose cupcakes.


  • Instead of rose-flavored tea in a cupcake, try rosé wine in a cake.
  • Rose water is a milder flavoring than rose extract. Be careful not to add too much to the recipe or it will be too fragrant and bitter.
  • Pretty in pink: Feel free to add a few drops of red food coloring to the cupcake batter and frosting to make a rose pink hue. Substitute red candy melts for pink ones as the rose topper. Use pink cupcake paper liners.
  • Try the apple roses recipe for another pretty presentation of puff pastry.
  • Search our blog for other Valentine’s Day recipes.

Big Easy King’s Cake

February: Mardi Gras Season

In our neighborhood grocery stores, king’s cakes—rosca de reyes and NOLA*-style knock-offs—have been on sale since Epiphany. Too bad they taste stale, look messy and are overpriced so we do not buy them for our celebrations.

We still like to serve something festive to our friends during Mardi Gras season. So we take the quick and “Big Easy” route by making a mock king’s cake using only a few ingredients: canned cinnamon roll dough (with the enclosed icing) and tri-colored sugars (gold represents “power”, green represents “faith” and purple represents “justice”). Everyone has fun wondering who will find the plastic baby in his or her slice of cinnamon roll cake!

Laissez les bons temps rouler! “Let the good times roll” and indulge in a simple, sugary “Big Easy” king’s cake on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras) before observing the solemnity and fasts on Ash Wednesday and Lent Fridays.



  • 2-3 cans of cinnamon roll dough (we used Pillsbury brand flaky layers with buttercream icing)
  • sugar sprinkles (yellow/gold, green and purple)


Line a baking pan with foil and mist with cooking spray. Open the cans of cinnamon roll dough and separate the pieces. Flatten slightly. Arrange the pieces in a ring. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, according to the package instructions. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Transfer the cake to a round platter. Insert a plastic baby among the slices. Stir the icing that came in the cans. Spread it evenly over the cake.

Generously sprinkle with the colored sugars, alternating among yellow/gold, green and purple. Decorate with plastic beads (optional). Serve immediately.


  • *NOLA = New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Some people bake the plastic baby in the cake but we think it might melt and be hazardous. So we place the plastic baby in the cooled cake before frosting and decorating it and let our guests know the tradition before slicing it. The plastic baby represents Baby Jesus hiding from King Herod. Whoever finds it in their slice of cake becomes the king or queen of the day, is blessed with good luck in the coming year and must host the next Mardi Gras party or provide the king’s cake next time.
  • Rosca de reyes is the Latino version of a king’s cake. It is a round, sweet bread decorated with colorful candied fruits. Galette de rois is the French version of a king’s cake. It is also round but varies within the country’s regions and can be filled with almond cream (frangipane) or apples. Try our easy recipe for the latter here.
  • For more recipes to observe the Epiphany-Mardi Gras season, see our list under Theme Menus.


Chocolate Soufflé


February 28: National Chocolate Soufflé Day

While going out on “date nights”, we are always impressed when we see the waitstaff present a chocolate soufflé to couples sitting at other tables at a romantic restaurant. Then we want to order one, too, because 1) it is chocolate (duh!) and 2) it looks so light, fluffy and fancy! But we can enjoy that delicious dessert at home without paying the “fancy” price. Serve soufflés with fresh berries or à la mode (with vanilla ice cream) and that makes them extra special for someone special! Extend your Valentine’s Day celebration and make a chocolate soufflé on National Chocolate Soufflé Day and the end of National Chocolate Month.


(Adapted from Good Housekeeping)


  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or 4 ounces baking squares), melted
  • 1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 eggs, separated, plus 1 egg white (total: 3 eggs, minus 1 yolk)
  • powdered sugar


Spray small ceramic ramekins with nonstick baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy brand) OR generously butter the bottom and sides of the ramekins and sprinkle a little sugar in them. Set aside. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate chips according to the package instructions. Remove from the microwave and stir the chocolate with the condensed milk until smooth. Beat in two egg yolks (saving the remaining one for another recipe).


In a separate bowl, whisk 3 egg whites until medium-stiff peaks form. Gradually add the egg whites in thirds into the chocolate mixture and fold until just incorporated. Place ramekins on a baking sheet.


Sift about 1 scant teaspoon of powdered sugar over each of the tops. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 11-13 minutes or until the tops rise about half-to-an-inch above the rims of the ramekins. When done, remove from the oven and serve immediately while the tops are still risen.



  • Avoid over baking or the soufflés will have a cake-like instead of light and airy texture with moist centers. Also do not open the oven until the end of the baking time or the soufflés will fall (scroll down to see our deflated ego soufflés on our Food Flops page).
  • Check out our cheese soufflé recipe for a savory snack. 
  • Our date nights and “month-aversaries” are not always held at fancy restaurants. Sometimes we just go out to get a pepperoni pizza or try a new ethnic restaurant. The main point is to focus on us and on our marriage, especially when life gets too busy or complacent. As marriage sponsors, we always advise our church couples to have date nights—whether fancy or frugal!
  • Search our blog for other chocolate recipes.



Pistachio Pudding Cupcakes


February 26: National Pistachio Day

As the end of February quickly approaches, we look forward to marching on toward St. Patrick’s Day. During this time, we experiment with a variety of green-colored recipes before deciding what to take to potluck parties in celebration of the patron saint of Ireland. Although pistachio pudding cupcakes are not Irish, we like the subtly nutty taste and the soft shade of green from the frosting. They look festive at the food table for green-themed get-togethers and pistachio pudding cupcakes are perfect on National Pistachio Day.


(From an undated community cookbook)

For the pistachio pudding cake

  • ½ cup pistachio nuts, chopped
  • 1 box white or yellow cake mix
  • 1 box (3.4 ounces) pistachio nut instant pudding
  • 1 cup cooking oil (canola or vegetable)
  • 1 cup lemon-lime soda (such as 7Up)
  • 3 eggs


In a large bowl, combine the pistachio nuts, cake mix, pistachio pudding mix, cooking oil and lemon-lime soda. Beat in the eggs.


Scoop into cupcake papers. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until done. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.


For the pistachio pudding frosting

(Adapted from Food.com)

  • 1 box (3.4 ounces) pistachio nut instant pudding
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ½ cup vegetable shortening
  • 1+ cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • pistachio nuts, chopped (for garnish)


In a bowl, combine the pistachio pudding mix with the milk and stir until smooth. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the shortening. Gradually add the powdered sugar and mix well until creamy.


Blend in the thickened pudding mixture and beat until light and fluffy. Scoop into a piping bag with a decorator’s tip (we used Wilton tip 1M). Pipe swirls of frosting on top of the cupcakes. Sprinkle pistachio nut pieces on top.



  • Toast the pistachios to boost the flavor of the nuts in this recipe. In a small pan on the stovetop, heat the nuts over medium high heat, stirring constantly so the pistachios do not burn or brown too much. Remove the nuts from the pan and cool completely before using them in this recipe.
  • Optional: Sift out the pistachio pieces in the boxed pudding mix before using in the frosting recipe to make it smooth for piping out from a pastry bag.
  • Add powdered sugar a little at a time to the butter-shortening mixture in the frosting recipe and blend until it is a desired consistency for piping. Otherwise, the moist and soft frosting simply may be spread onto the cooled cupcakes instead.

Easy Caramel Sticky Buns


February 21: National Sticky Bun Day

We have seen some sticky buns served at social gatherings and potlucks but usually avoid them there because they are really gooey and messy to eat while mingling with people. So we bake them at home quickly and easily on the rare occasion when we want to indulge our sweet tooth and can freely make a mess of ourselves! The recipe we use features a refrigerated can of buttermilk biscuits as a shortcut to making the dough. The topping on these buns really live up to its name and are very sticky and super sweet!!! Chew on some gooey goodness on National Sticky Bun Day and make easy caramel sticky buns.


(Adapted from Pillsbury)

For the topping

  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped

For the sticky buns

  • 1/3 cup sugar, granulated white
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 can (7.5 ounces) canned buttermilk biscuit (Pillsbury)
  • ½ cup butter, melted


In the bottom of an ungreased 8-inch round pan, combine the melted butter with the brown sugar and corn syrup. Mix well. Sprinkle the chopped pecans.


In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the cinnamon. Remove the dough from the can and separate the biscuits. Dip each biscuit into the melted butter on all sides. Then dip that biscuit entirely into the sugar-cinnamon mixture.


Arrange the biscuits in the pan over the topping, making sure the sides touch. Bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for a couple of minutes. Invert the pan onto a serving plate and spoon the remaining caramelized drippings over the buns. Serve warm.


Tourin (French Garlic Soup)

tourin soup

February 18: Feast Day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes (France) [also April 16]

As a newly-professed religious brother, Islander’s sibling, K, had to go to France to learn about the 200-year history of his congregation and its founder. Along with his fellow brothers and sisters from all over the world, they met in Bordeaux for an ongoing program of formation to learn about their roles as young missionaries. They were also fortunate to have made a pilgrimage to nearby Lourdes, the hometown of St. Bernadette, who had incredible visions of Mary, the Immaculate Conception, in 1858.


St. Bernadette’s life story, apparitions and journey to sainthood have been chronicled elsewhere so we are not elaborating here. However, we are providing a peasant’s recipe from the Midi-Pyrénées region where she grew up as a poor girl. Tourin is a French-style soup made of sautéed garlic thickened with a little flour and egg. It is very flavorful for those who love garlic like we do!

So celebrate with simple soup on the Feast Day of St. Bernadette of Lourdes today or on April 16.


(Adapted from Southwest Story)


  • 6 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 cups water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • croutons (optional garnish)


Slice the garlic cloves thinly. In a small soup pot, sauté in olive oil over medium low heat until brown (about 5 minutes). Stir in the flour quickly to make a roux. Slowly pour water while constantly stirring and dissolving any clumps of flour. Boil on medium low heat for 20 minutes for the garlic flavor to develop. Season with salt and pepper.


Meanwhile, separate the white and yolk of the egg. Mix the vinegar with the egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of the boiling soup water. Pour this mixture back into the pot. Stir well. Whisk in the egg white quickly. Allow the soup to thicken for another 5 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with croutons. Serve hot. Yield: 2 servings.



  • February 18 is when the locals in Lourdes and traditional congregations in France observe the Feast Day of St. Bernadette. Others celebrate on April 16, the date of her death in 1879.
  • Thanks to Islander’s brother who brought back a bottle of Lourdes water from the grotto’s spring as a souvenir. It is pictured in the final food photo above next to the garlic bulb. Learn more about Lourdes water, St. Bernadette, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the place for pilgrimages from the Sanctuaire Notre-Dame de Lourdes website.

Lincoln Cake


February 12: Birthday of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln (1809)

We have been to Washington, D.C., on several occasions for business and pleasure. One of the many monuments we have visited was that of the 16th American president. A huge statue of Abraham Lincoln sits peacefully within his stately national memorial—we hope his expression reflects that we, too, could have peace across the land that he loved.

Speaking of which, here is a cake recipe that Lincoln loved. His wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, supposedly made this almond-flavored confection while they were courting and throughout their marriage. As First Lady, she also made this comforting cake while in the White House. Bake this as a birthday cake in honor of one of America’s most popular presidents—Abraham Lincoln.


(Adapted from Parade)


  • 2-3 ounces blanched slivered almonds, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • ½ cup sugar, superfine (caster sugar)
  • ¾ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • ¼ cup flour, sifted


Chop up the almonds finely to resemble coarse crumbs. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks until they are thick with a pale yellow color (about 3-5 minutes).


Gradually beat in the sugar until blended well. Stir in the almond and lemon extracts. Mix in the almonds.


Stir in the flour. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites into the flour mixture until lightened. Then gradually fold in the rest of the egg whites.


Pour into an ungreased tube pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool upside down. Carefully remove the cake from the pan. Slice and serve.



  • Our final food photo above features lots of Lincoln pennies (unfortunately, we do not have enough five dollar bills!). Look on the back of the penny. Some one-centers have different designs on the back, from the old wheat, Lincoln Memorial and other commemorative bicentennial images to the current Union shield.
  • This cake does not rise as high like an angel food cake. But it is still light, fluffy and delicious for a snack.
  • Search our blog for other patriotic recipes.

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