Tag Archives: chocolate

Baking With Booze

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

It’s a risky title, but I’m going with it. Normally, I save my baking with alcohol until around St. Patrick’s Day. Admittedly, this is when I baked these cupcakes for the first time. Since this excursion into baking with booze, I have been seeking out opportunities to use alcohol in my baking.

I find it rather exhilarating to add a little element of naughty into something so sweet and innocent such as cupcakes. You should see people’s eyes light up when you mention there is beer or liquor in the cupcake they are about to partake. It’s as if they were 16 and sneaking a sip of their daddy’s forgotten beer.

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

The delightful addition to these chocolate cupcakes is Irish Cream and coffee. The flavor of the Irish Cream is not strong (I will probably add more next time). I do plan on using a bit of coffee in all of my chocolate cake or cupcake baking in the future. The addition of the coffee, really accentuates the chocolate flavor. Next time you’re baking, add a quarter to half cup of coffee. I promise, it will be amazing.

I plan to tweak the recipe I followed to make these particular cupcakes just a little bit for personal preferences, but that’s not going to stop me from sharing the source. They are quite good. I followed the recipe posted here for Irish Cream & Coffee Cupcakes.  

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

The one change I did make was with the frosting. I left the coffee out of the frosting. I don’t like a strong coffee flavor. Instead, I increased the amount of Irish Cream I used and added a little bit of milk. When using alcohol to create frosting, you will need to add more liquid that when using straight milk. I imagine it has something to do with the alcohol not moisturizing, but I have not done research on the topic. I just know I need to add more than 3-4 tablespoons to get the consistency I need to pipe frosting.

Irish Cream Coffee Cupcakes

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Birthday Baking

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

This year, I decided to try something new for my birthday treats. Yep, I still make birthday treats for myself. All my co-workers appreciate it. Then again, we are teachers and get birthday treats on a regular basis. Since those treats are store bought, I like to add a little homemade goodness to the mix.

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

I’ve seen stacked cupcakes featured on a few blogs and thought I would give them a try. Rather than try to bake something already round, I opted to bake the cake mixture as a flat sheet. I used a jelly roll pan that is 15 x 11 inches. By baking the cake in this manner, I ended up with a 1 inch thick cake. I then used a 2 in circle cutter to cut out my circles (I think next time, I’ll use a sharper edged cutter as the edges were a little rough).

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

I used a basic buttercream frosting. To make it interesting, I used variegated shades of pink, starting with white. After completing a layer of filling, I added a little more food coloring paste to darken the pink. (I’ll have to do this again as I didn’t take photos of each step.)

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

They turned out amazingly! The cake was fudgey. By using thin layers of frosting, I managed to avoid them being overly sweet.

Pink Layer Cup Cakes

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Sugar-Free Chocolate Pavlova

Normally, I wouldn’t bother with making something sugar-free. I usually have no need to limit sugar intake. However, when a request is made, I will do my best to create something that is just as wonderful had I used sugar. This means deciding on the perfect recipe and then researching how to modify it in just the right way.

I, of course, would choose one of the only desserts that must have sugar; a pavlova. For those who don’t know, a pavlova is a meringue based dessert named for the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. The dessert was created in New Zealand during one of her tours. The best way I know to describe it would be to call it a meringue cake. When baked properly, it has a crisp outside and a soft inside. (Information found on Wikipedia.)

My basic understanding of making meringue is that the egg whites react with the sugar to create the crisp outside and the soft inside. There is not yet an artificial sweetener that can yet react exactly the same way sugar does with egg. So the pavlova will look amazing before going into the oven, but instead of rising and becoming crisp, it flattens a bit and becomes a spongy, cookie-like disk. Though it still tastes quite good.

After much research and finding claims from a few blogs that they had found the way to make a sugar-free pavlova, I decided to give it a try. I used Truvia as my sugar replacement since it was touted as the best substitute. I added a bit of cream of tarter. In one version, I even added corn starch as suggested. None of my three attempts came out quite right. Though we still ate two with gusto! The third was like a flat sugar disk.

The first attempt was the most successful. While it didn’t have the crisp crust, it did maintain the most body (it stayed nearly 2 inches thick).  Since the first version wasn’t perfect, I decided to tweak the recipe a bit a few weeks later. The second version was a disaster! I added corn starch and the thing flattened like a pancake. It came out of the oven not even an inch thick! There was no was I could serve this version, so I quickly whipped up a third. For the third attempt, I lowered the amount of Truvia, and added in some real sugar. I don’t know that this helped any. This version was slightly thinner than the first version and a bit spongier.

Sugar-Free Chocolate Pavlova

(adapted from Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova with suggestions for sugar-free baking)

  • 6 large egg whites (room temperature)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
  • 1 cup Truvia Baking Blend
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate (cut into chunks) – I used a 60% cocoa candy bar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. On a piece of parchment paper, trace a 9 inch circle with pencil. Place the parchment paper pencil side down (you will still be able to see the circle).

In a clean mixing bowl, begin to whip egg whites and sprinkle in cream of tarter. When egg whites form peaks, begin to sprinkle in Truvia a spoonfull at a time. Then beat until shiny, about 5-8 minutes.

Gently fold in baking cocoa, red wine vinegar, and dark chocolate chunks. Make certain to mix cocoa in completely.

Carefully mound the pavlova onto the parchment inside the circle. Shape the pavlova to the size of the circle. Smooth the top.  Alternatively, you could also make 6 individual pavlovas.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 300 degrees. Place the pavlova in the oven and bake for about an hour. When done baking, the pavlova will have a little give in the middle. DO NOT REMOVE FROM OVEN YET! When done baking, turn off oven and leave in oven until cool. Because of the delicate nature of the dessert, it needs to cool very slowly or it will collapse completely. I found the best results when leaving it in the oven overnight, but 3-4 hours will suffice.

I usually top the pavlova with homemade whipped cream and raspberries.

 

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake…I Mean Bread!

After cookies, quick breads are one of the first memories I have of learning to bake. My dad had a banana every day. Sometimes, his weekly bunch of bananas would turn too brown for eating before he got to them. My mum would stick them in the freezer until we collected enough to make a couple loves of banana bread.

My love for making quick breads has stayed. It’s almost like healthy baking because there is nearly always fruit or nuts in the recipe. I am always on the lookout for new variations on quick breads. I found one on Simply Recipes a few weeks ago that I knew I had to try. She posted a recipe for Chocolate (already have to try it) Zucchini Bread. This recipe doesn’t use just one or two cups, it calls for four cups of freshly grated zucchini. She even stated that fresher in-season zucchini will make a moister bread.

Within a couple of days of spotting this recipe, I picked up a pile of zucchini from the local grocery store. I think we are a little past zucchini season here in Florida, but I had to try out the recipe. My first question came as I was preparing the zucchini. Did I need to peel the vegetable, or could we eat the skin? Good thing google knows all the answers. The zucchini was grated washed skin and all! I did cut the ends off. As instructed, I left the gratings in a sieve over a bowl, but I didn’t have an excess moisture (which led me to believe it’s not quite zucchini season).

Despite the fact that my zucchini wasn’t dripping excess moisture, the bread was amazing! I honestly felt as if I was eating cake for breakfast. The chocolate wasn’t overpowering, but the darkness nicely hid the flecks the zucchini would have left a lighter bread. I have every intention of using this recipe for my next chocolate cake! I highly doubt anyone will notice.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread
(Simply Recipes)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups grated zucchini (from about a pound and a half of zucchini)
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (use natural unsweetened cocoa, NOT Dutch processed)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (12 Tbsp or 1 1/2 sticks), melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Grate zucchini into a sieve over a bowl to catch any excess moisture.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F, with a rack in the middle. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans with baking spray or butter.
  3.  Vigorously whisk together the flour, unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk until there are no more clumps and the ingredients are well combined.
  4. In a separate large bowl, beat together the sugar and eggs until smooth, about a minute. You can do this with an electric mixer on medium speed, or by hand with a wooden spoon. Add the melted butter, instant coffee granules, and almond extract and beat until smooth.
  5. Mix the shredded zucchini into the sugar egg mixture. Add the flour to the zucchini mixture in 3 additions, stirring to combine after each addition.
  6. Work quickly, and divide the batter between the two prepared loaf pans. (Work quickly because once the dry ingredients have mixed with the wet ingredients, the leavening has begun.) Place into the oven. Bake for 50 minutes at 350°F, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean and easily. Remove to a rack. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then run a blunt knife around the edges to separate the bread from the pan. Remove from the loaf pans and let cool completely on a rack.

Despite the temptation, wait until the bread has cooled completely before slicing or it gets all crumbly. After a couple of days, I had stuck the loaf in the fridge. Keeping the bread this cool gave the bread a slightly fudgey taste. It took me a little over a week to eat the entire loaf (restricting myself to only breakfast). Even on the last day, it was still moist.

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The Cake is a Lie!

Since the release of Portal 2 in April of last year, I have been dreaming of making a cake inspired by the game. For those that don’t know, Portal and Portal 2 are first-person, puzzle-platform video games. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, check out the Wikipedia articles for Portal and Portal 2. You can also check out the official website hosted by Valve, the company who released the game.

In the game, you are guided by GLaDOS. Throughout the game, GLaDOS offers a cake as a reward for solving the puzzles. The cake pictured in the game is designed after a black forest cake from a bakery near the development offices. Sadly, this happens to be in Washington as far away from Florida as you can get without leaving the Continental United States. They also don’t deliver. This fact didn’t worry me in the least, I was ready for a baking challenge.

This challenge was made a bit easier by The Geeky Chef. She (or he, the blog doesn’t say) already made the cake and was wonderful enough to share the recipe. I was delighted with the results. The cake was moist and fudgy, without being too dense or brownie-like. I also discovered that using powdered sugar when whipping cream turns our much better than using granulated sugar. Why did I never know this before?

Let’s begin with the cake. Due to the disappearance of my round cake pans, I used my 9-inch spring form pan. Going this route made it necessary to make two cake batters in order to have the four layers the cake deserved. It was delightful to make such a tall cake!

Black Forest Cake:

1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup Kirsch (cherry liqueur). I used cherry syrup instead of liqueur.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans, or line with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, the cocoa, the baking soda and the salt. Set this aside. Beat the shortening and sugar together until they are fluffy. Add the eggs and beat thoroughly. Add vanilla. Slowly beat in the flour mixture, occasionally alternating with the buttermilk. Beat until combined. Pour the batter into the cake pans. Bake for about 35 or 40 minutes (or until a fork or a wooden pick comes out clean when inserted into the cake. Because of my pan, I baked it nearly an hour.) Let the cake cool completely. The cake will be easier to cut if you keep it in the fridge for a few hours before cutting.
The Filling:
¼ cup Kirsch (I used cherry syrup.)
2 cans sour cherries (I only used one can)
3 cups heavy whipping cream (I used 4 cups since my cake was going to be larger.)
¼ cup confectioners’ sugar (I used 1/3 cup.)
3 tablespoons cocoa (I used 4 T cocoa.)
After the cake has cooled, cut each layer in half (horizontally) to make four total layers. Sprinkle the layers with the 1/2 cup of Kirsch. Drain the canned cherries in a colander to remove most of the juice. Beat the whipping cream with confectioners’ sugar until it thickens to desired texture. Put a small amount of the cream/sugar mixture aside for garnish. Mix the cocoa powder into the remaining majority of the whipped cream frosting. Place one cake layer on the serving dish you wish to use. Spread about one 6th of the whipped cream on the layer, and strew a third of the cherries on top of the whipped cream. Add the second cake layer on top of the first. Spread one 6th of the whipped cream on the second layer and 1/3 of the cherries on top. Add the third cake layer. Spread 1/6 of the whipped cream on that and add the remaining cherries. Top with the last cake layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake with remaining frosting.
The Garnish:
1 semi-sweet chocolate bar
 At least 8 maraschino cherries (no stems)

One white candle

Use a potato peeler on the chocolate to create thin shaves. Gently pat the chocolate shaves on to the sides and top of the cake, completely coating it. Use the whipped cream you set aside earlier to place eight small circles around the top of the cake. Place your non-stemmed maraschino cherries on each one. place white candle in the center and light.

As you can see from my photos, I gave up on the chocolate shavings with only the top completed. I had forgotten that we have a micro-plain that would have made the shavings much easier.

 

The game itself offers a recipe for a cake. It begins with a box cake mix and continues with semi-normal ingredients for some time before veering into the absurd throwing in such items as rhubarb, ethyl benzene, and sediment shaped sediment.  A few people have made this cake. Someday it might be interesting to try without the crazy additives. For now, I am delighted with the cake!

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