Editor's note: Sugar Buzz columnist Hannah H. Carroll makes easy dessert recipes, serves them to co-workers and writes about the result.
If you're still making that JELL-O flag dessert from the '90s (no judgment -- that thing is tasty), give it up this year. Celebrate Independence Day with a new take on patriotic treats -- the cupcake kebab.
Corn dogs, Popsicles, chocolate-covered bananas -- it's amazing how fun food becomes when you put it on a stick. Cupcakes are no exception. These Patriotic Cupcake Kebabs are pure fun. The ingredients -- miniature cupcakes, marshmallows, strawberries and blueberries -- are nothing special. But there's something about the presentation that just tickles people. My taste testers lit up when I handed them a skewer filled with treats, and I'm confident the kebabs will trigger the same response at any Fourth of July picnic.
Preparation: Making the kebabs isn't difficult, it just takes time. This is a project, one that could be made easier and more fun by involving others -- especially kids. Start by making 48 miniature cupcakes. I used Pillsbury Funfetti Stars & Stripes mix and icing (available at Target), but any white cupcakes with white icing and red and blue sprinkles will work. (When making 48 cupcakes, you will have extra batter. You could make more cupcakes to make more kebabs, but you'll need to increase the other ingredients, too. I baked a 9-inch cake to share with my husband.)
The most time-consuming part of the process is making the red, white and blue marshmallows. You have to dip each one in water, blot it on a paper towel and dip it in colored sugar ... twice. I suggest making them the night before your party, and employing help if you can get it.
It also takes time to assemble the kebabs. Be sure your fruit isn't wet so the sugar on the marshmallows doesn't run. Place large strawberries near the bottom of the skewer. If children are helping with assembly, beware of pointy sticks becoming weapons.
Taste: The seasonal fruit is refreshing and a nice pairing with the sugary marshmallows and cupcakes. This dessert isn't meant to break new ground on flavors and taste. The presentation and novelty of it are the stars.
The bottom line: People young and old will flip for these adorable, patriotic treats.
Hannah's rating: 4 stars
Overall rating: 4 stars
Straight from the taster's mouth
"The notion that something can only be as good as the sum of its ingredients goes out the window with these fun treats. The presentation makes it fun to eat and will make the kebabs a hit at your July Fourth cookout." Justin Jarrett, sports editor, 5 stars
"It's adorable and any 5-year-old's dream dessert, just a little too sugary for my taste." Amy Bredeson, features reporter, 4 stars
"The flavors and textures complement each other well. Where the dish is so delightful is in the presentation, as the task of deciphering how to eat it is a joy." Andy Carpenter, copy editor/page designer, 5 stars
The samplers: 17 employees of The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette
1 star = Ewww!
5 stars = Seconds, please!
Try it at home
We want to know what YOU think of Cupcake Kebabs. Make some this weekend and give us your rating at islandpacket.com/blogalacarte.
Patriotic Cupcake Kebabs
Makes: 24 kebabs
Prep time: 2 hours active
48 miniature cupcakes (suggested: Pillsbury Funfetti Stars & Stripes mix and icing), iced, decorated, liners removed
48 large marshmallows (from 2 bags)
Red colored sugar
Blue colored sugar
48 strawberries (2, 16-ounce containers)
120 blueberries (1 large container)
24 bamboo skewers
Tip: When baking miniature cupcakes, decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Marshmallows: Put red and blue sugars in two small, deep glasses or jars. Fill a shallow dish or lid with water. Place a few paper towels nearby. Line a large container with parchment paper.
Dip the end of a marshmallow in the water. Blot on paper towels to remove most of the moisture. The end should now be sticky, but not wet. Dip the sticky end into the glass of red sugar, turning to coat the edge with sugar. Lay on the parchment paper and continue with the rest of the marshmallows. Repeat the procedure by dipping the alternate end of the marshmallows in blue sugar, creating a striped effect. Store marshmallows in a sealed container until ready to assemble kebabs.
Prep: Rinse strawberries and blueberries; pat dry. Cut off the strawberries' stems.
Assembly: Leave two inches of space at the bottom of each skewer as a handle. Thread each skewer with the following pattern: three blueberries, cupcake, strawberry, striped marshmallow, blueberry, cupcake, strawberry, striped marshmallow, blueberry.
Hannah H. Carroll is the assistant features editor for The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, and enjoys making desserts for her family and friends.