Hot Chocolate Frosting

2014’s Holiday Bake-A-Thon wasn’t as busy as previous years have been.  I didn’t have time to do a lot of research and test runs of new recipes, so I ended up making some crowd pleasers from past holiday seasons, including Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies, Green Tea Sugar Cookies, Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodles, and Furikake Chex Mix.  I did try out one new recipe for a chocolate cupcake with hot chocolate frosting – the perfect cold-weather themed treat!  I keep reposting my favorite Guiness Chocolate Cupcake recipe that is truly my go-to recipe, so I’ll spare you from that. Here’s the recipe for the frosting portion as adapted from Cookies and Cups!
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Hot Chocolate Frosting
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Hot Chocolate Frosting
I made this for a two different parties, one with and one without the peppermint and I did find some people just don’t like mint and chocolate together, while others just do.  If I made this again, I’d make half the batch with the mint and half plain.  I found the Cookies and Cups’ version to be a little too sweet, so the second time around, I added a wee bit of salt to mellow it out a little.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1/2 C butter, room temperature
  • 4 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 C dry hot chocolate mix (about 2 packets; without mini marshmallows)
  • 1/3 C + 1 TBSP heavy whipping cream
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a small saucepan combine hot chocolate mix and cream. Heat over medium until hot and steaming…not quite boiling, stirring consistently. You want the sugar in the hot chocolate to dissolve. Set aside to cool.

    Hot Chocolate Mix and Heavy Cream
    Hot Chocolate Mix and Heavy Cream
  2. In large mixing bowl cream butter until smooth.
  3. Add in powdered sugar and salt, and mix until combined. It will be very dry.

    Add Hot Chocolate Mixture
    Add Hot Chocolate Mixture
  4. Turn mixer to low and slowly pour in your hot chocolate mixture (I learned the second time around that it’s easier than throwing it all in and then mixing it together). Once all is added turn mixer up to medium and beat for about a minute until light and fluffy, scarping down sides of bowl when necessary.

    Ready for Spreading
    Ready for Spreading
  5. Spread or pipe on cupcakes.

    Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
    Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
  6. (OPTIONAL): If you want to make mint hot chocolate frosting, just pulverize some of your leftover candy canes in a food processor and sprinkle over the top.  I saw these pink mint-flavored marshmallows at Target and thought it sounded good but it didn’t look that appealing (see gallery).

It made for a great winter-y holiday treat!

Molten Mocha Cakes for Two

I finally just watched Chef, written and directed by Jon Favreau, which I was super excited to watch when I found out it would premiere and screen at South by Southwest last year.  I didn’t get a chance to watch it there, and then I somehow just forgot about it during it’s actual release a few months later.  For anyone that hasn’t seen it that loves Jon Favreau’s overall writing/directing/humor, chef Roy Choi, great editing, or just good ol’ fashioned food porn, do yourself a favor and see this movie as soon as you can.  For those that have seen it, yes, this post is about the “dreaded” molten lava cake.  You can find the trailer here, aaaand then I’m done shamelessly promoting. Sort of.  With this movie top of mind and Valentine’s Day being less than a month away, it’s the perfect time to share this recipe.

And yes, this post is from last year’s Valentine’s Day.  It’s always dangerous baking for two because most recipes will make at least 12-15 servings, and when you have the snacking discipline that we do, that doesn’t last very long for two people.  When thinking about a Valentine’s Day dessert, what is more stereotypical than a rich and chocolate-y lava cake?  Fortunately, Kevin loves chocolate too, and since I was charged with making V-Day dinner last year, trying out Martha Stewart’s Molten Mocha Cakes for Two recipe was a no brainer.  There is something so delicious about chocolate and coffee paired together, and these mini cakes were no exception.

This recipe is perfect for two people, or for a small dinner party.  If you double or triple the recipe, just add a couple minutes to the baking time.  Be sure to keep an eye on the cakes in the oven, and make sure not to overbake or you won’t get that amazing gooey center.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TBSP unsalted butter, plus more for ramekins (I don’t have ramekins so I used two 6-oz glass Pyrex containers)
  • 1/3 C confectioners’ sugar, plus more for ramekins and serving
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tsp espresso powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 3 TBSP all-purpose flour

    Ingredients
    Ingredients

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter two 6-ounce ramekins, then dust with sugar. Place butter and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high in 20-second increments, stirring after each, until melted. Let cool slightly.

    Whisk the Espresso Powder
    Whisk the Espresso Powder
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together egg, egg yolk, sugar, espresso powder, and salt. Add chocolate mixture; whisk to combine. Add flour, and whisk just until combined (do not overmix). Pour batter into prepared ramekins. (Recipe can be made ahead up to this point.)

    Don't Over-Baked the Batter
    Don’t Over-Baked the Batter
  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted 1/2 inch from edge of ramekins comes out clean, and a toothpick inserted in center comes out wet, 10 to 12 minutes (Do not overbake – I can’t emphasize that enough!). Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Run a knife around inside of ramekins to loosen the cakes. Invert cakes onto serving plates. Dust with powdered sugar; serve immediately….preferably with ice cream!

    Molten Mocha Cakes a la Mode
    Molten Mocha Cakes a la Mode

I made a graduation dinner for one of my cousins a few months later and doubled the recipe to make 4 total (for three of us).  I didn’t have vanilla ice cream at the time, so I paired the cakes with some delicious matcha green tea ice cream that we had just bought.

Asian Version
Asian Version

Are molten lava cakes adventurous?  No.  But they were damned good.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

It’s pear season!  Ok – yes, it’s pretty much always pear season.  Thought I’d share this slightly outdated post from our housewarming party that happened…last February.

I’m not a big candy person, despite my sweet tooth.  But there is a dark chocolate pear & almond bar made by Whole Foods Market that I have been crazy about for years.  The mild acidity of the pear really balances the rich and bitter dark chocolate, while the crunch of the slivered almonds adds some great texture.  I’m craving it as we speak!  I always see so many great recipes out there that are perfect for serving hot out of the oven, but I usually bringing desserts  over to other people’s places.  With us hosting, I really wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to serve a freshly-made dessert.  I came across this recipe on good ol’ Smitten Kitchen and it really reminded me of the Whole Foods chocolate bar I love so much.  Here’s the recipe as adapted from Smitten Kitchen!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs, at room-temperature (room temp is important!)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 3 pears, peeled, in a small dice (I used ripe anjou pears)
  • 3/4 C bittersweet chocolate chunks (60% – on the brink of dark!)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs (leftovers from the kale salad ingredients?) and set aside.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, and set aside.
  3. Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick. (In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes; on a home machine, it will take nine minutes to get sufficient volume)
  4. While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (to prevent splatters outside the pan) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). Be sure to keep an eye on it.  It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
  5. With the mixer still on, add the sugar in a slow steady stream to the eggs and whip a few minutes more.
  6. Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir, and add the flour mixture and brown butter. Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume.

    Fold the Batter
    Fold the Batter
  7. Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes, or til a tester comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes and serve warm!

    Place Chopped Goodies On Top of Batter
    Place Chopped Goodies On Top of Batter

This cake was STUPIDLY delicious.  It is not, however, a cake I would recommend making while you’re entertaining a lot of people after all.  It requires a lot of attention, and there’s nothing really other than dry prep (pre-measuring all of your dry ingredients) that you can do ahead.  It’s also not a cake that is great for taking somewhere as you want to serve it warm while the chocolate is still gooey.

Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake
Bittersweet Chocolate and Pear Cake

I’d definitely make this again.  However, I’d time it so that I’m throwing it in the oven when guests arrive since the bake time is long.  That way, we still benefit from a freshly baked cake!

Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

It’s the 4th of July and I’ve been holed up at home for the last three days with a respiratory infection.  I hardly ever get sick but when I do, that’s usually what it is.  Up until today, eating has felt like I’m dining on sand sprinkled with glass shards sauteed in acid every time I swallow.  And it all just takes like hurting…there is no flavor thanks to the congestion.  Then, there is the phlegm.  It is absolutely amazing the varying shades of color that post nasal drip can trigger.  On the bright side, I do think I’m slowly on the mend, though my voice still sounds like it belongs to someone who has been chain smoking for 30 years.

So who’s hungry?!

I’m so bummed I’m missing out on all of the 4th of July party shenanigans (e.g., eating like it’s my last day on earth), and while I’m not contagious, I just didn’t want to be “that” phlegmmy coughy person at the BBQ or Kevin’s family’s lunch.  So here I am, drinking hot tea to soothe my throat in my eighty-five degree apartment…trying to get caught up on the backlog.

Kevin and I hosted a belated birthday dinner at our place for Alex’s birthday back in February (dinner recipe deets forthcoming) and had to make sure we had something kick-ass for dessert.  With Lingie as chief dessert decision officer, we came up with a great idea for a chocolate banana bread pudding.  My favorite bread pudding is from Nook Bistro, as are a few other recipes I’ve tried to recreate through the years.  The recipe I found on Denica’s Cafe sounded like it would yield something similar at the time, though now that I’ve made and eaten it, I’m convinced Nook’s uses way more fat and maybe even a brioche bread.

I did make a few tweaks to Denica’s recipe though.  Chocolate chips usually have less cocoa butter than bars do, so they hold their shape in moderate oven heat.  That way, they retain their texture and shape in cookies, muffins, and other baked goodies without looking melted melt (even though the cocoa butter has melted). I wanted a big gooey swirly chocolatey mess with my bread pudding, so I chopped up a chocolate bar (dark instead of semi-sweet, simply out of preference) into chip-sized pieces.  If I were to make this again, I’d utilize bananas that are a day or two more ripe than what Denica recommended too, again for that gooey bread pudding texture.

Here is my rendition:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 loaf (16 oz) firm white bread or French loaf, cut into 1 1/2″ chunks and left out uncovered overnight
  • 3 ripe but still somewhat firm large bananas.  Use bananas that are a little ripe than what’s pictured below. Brown spots are fine!

    Key Ingredients
    Key Ingredients
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1/4 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 2/3 C chopped dark chocolate chunks (I used bars of Cote D’Or)
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Peel and slice bananas into 1/2 inch slices.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk eggs, half-and-half, and sugars until blended.  Gently stir in bread, bananas, and chocolate chunks to combine.  Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight, pressing down bread occasionally to absorb cream mixture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9″ round springform or cake pan that is at least 2 inches deep.  The pan will be very full.
  4. Bake bread pudding, covered loosely with foil, 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake 45 minutes or so longer, or until knife inserted in center of pudding comes out clean.  Cool pudding slightly on wire rack before serving.

    Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding
    Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

Check out that gooey swirl!  We served it a la mode, and I think it went over well with the birthday boy and fellow dinner guests!

 

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

I’m still terribly backlogged on posts, but thought I’d throw a more recent baking project into the mix. I’m going to be 30 this year and have really noticed my body’s growing inability to process sugar and junk food in the last year.  I’ve been forced to be more selective about what I consume now, both in quantity and quality. Maybe eating seven tacos at our annual Cinco de Mayo lunch at work isn’t the best approach to a healthy life, or finishing Kevin’s food and along with the extra food we were hoping to use as leftovers for lunch the next day won’t help my cause either even if it’s healthy food. My skinny jeans just aren’t as easy to put on or get off anymore, though I suppose they never were thanks to these God-given giant calves of mine. But there are certain homemade-type sweets – ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, anything with a good pie crust, or a good cake – just get me every time. One of those things is this chocolate cupcake recipe.

My contribution to Kevin‘s family’s Mother’s Day celebration was a chocolate cupcake with espresso buttercream frosting. The chocolate cupcake recipe is a reliable recipe that I first fell in love with when making my Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes for St. Patty’s a couple of years ago, and it’s still my favorite.  There is something about the Guinness and sour cream in it that just adds an extra special chocolatey decadence without making the cake feel overly rich and heavy.  Here is the recipe for this fantastic duo, as adapted from two different Brown Eyed Baker recipes (cupcake and frosting).

CUPCAKE INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C Guinness stout
  • 1 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ C Dutch-process cocoa powder  (MUST be dutch-process!!!)
  • 2 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 C granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp baking soda (use fresh baking soda less than 6 months old to get a good rise from your cupcakes)
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C sour cream

CUPCAKE DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring the Guinness and butter to a simmer in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the cocoa powder and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool. Original recipe says cool slightly, but definitely cool it down til you can touch the pot with your bare hand.
  2. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl to combine. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream on medium speed until combined.

    Always Sift Your Dry Ingredients Together
    Always Sift Your Dry Ingredients Together
  3. Add the Guinness-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine. Reduce the speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat briefly. Don’t overmix!!!  Using a rubber spatula, fold the batter until completely combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 16-17 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on a rack.

FROSTING INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ C powdered sugar
  • 1½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ tsp espresso powder (use more if you want a stronger coffee flavor)

FROSTING DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix the espresso powder into the vanilla until dissolved; set aside.
  2. Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it is mostly incorporated before adding more. Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl and increase the speed to medium-high and whip until fluffy, about a minute or two.
  3. Add the espresso and vanilla mixture and continue to mix at medium-high until it is completely incorporated, scraping the sides as necessary.

    Espresso Swirl - Mix All the Way In
    Espresso Swirl – Mix All the Way In

It’s been a while since I’ve actually baked anything, so it was nice to get back into it. The frosting is a lighter buttercream and I think could be somewhat volatile in hot weather, hence some aggressive driving getting to the valley on a HOT Sunday afternoon.

Time to Frost
Time to Frost

It’s definitely not the thick Sprinkles style frosting. Just add more powdered sugar or subtract a little of the butter if you do like it that way.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting
Chocolate Cupcakes with Espresso Buttercream Frosting

I was definitely keeping tabs on Kevin’s family members to see if they were into the combo since Kevin told me last minute that no one really drinks coffee in his family, but it went over well and a couple people went back for seconds. RELIEVED.