In my search for the ultimate chocolate cake, I have tried countless recipes. My idea of a luscious chocolate cake is one with a deep dark flavour, almost bitter with just a hint of sweetness. The consistency has to be dense and moist, not crumbly. I have only come across one cafe that sells such a cake. I have tried but I can’t for the life of me duplicate that recipe.
Last weekend, after a long hiatus, I decided to indulge in some chocolate cupcake baking. I had a particular friend in mind throughout the project. She is the biggest chocolate lover I know. I was determined to make her day (or week depending on how many helpings she has!).
It was fortuitous then that my local shop had just stocked up on lots of Baker’s and Ghirardelli chocolate and Hersheys special dark. Bliss.
The cupcake was lovely, moist and dense. The ganache was just the right consistency, not runny and not brick hard. Perfection. The taste… I had an inkling it would be too sweet despite the majority of commenters declaring that it was just right. To each his own, I suppose but many of my guinea pigs agreed that it could do with a little less sugar. Even the chocolate lover extraordinaire.
Now I have to confess, although I personally would prefer the ganache made entirely of dark chocolate chips, at the very last minute before I melted the chocolate, I decided to use half dark and half milk. The reason was that I was afraid that non-chocolate aficionados might not be able to appreciate it and all these cupcakes (27 tiny ones) would go to waste.
I would definitely attempt this recipe again but would either cut down the sugar (to 1/2 or 3/4 cup) or replace half the chocolate syrup with unsweetened cocoa powder and some sour cream. I would also make the ganache as it was meant to be made with entirely dark chocolate chips.
The search for that ultimate chocolate cake recipe continues…
I saw this idea online about making savoury breakfast muffins in advance for the week. All breakfast would then entail was to take one (or two) of these babies out of the fridge and pop them into the microwave and tadaah… Breakfast! The idea was captivating. So I tried it.
Lots of recipes out there with variations of ingredients but the main one is egg. It’s basically a muffin-shaped omelette and you can choose whatever you want in it. I’m hungry just writing about it!
My choice for this maiden voyage were turkey slices, spinach and mushrooms. The problem with the site I got this recipe from was that it didn’t specify amounts of salt and pepper. It’s a personal choice, I suppose, but it would be helpful to have a rough idea. Absolutely no offence to the author.
I based my muffins or quiche on the recipe but played around with it and added my choice of ingredients. It was fun to make and the anticipation of having breakfast so conveniently ready in a neat package was a delight.
I may have used too much oil because my muffins turned out rather oily every morning when I heated them up. They were rich in flavour. Quite filling too with a cup of coffee. On hindsight, I wish I had used liners instead of going au naturel. Would have been much less stressful removing the muffins from the pan. When will I ever learn?
Would definitely make these again, maybe using that intriguing quinoa recipe. Definitely makes breakfast a doddle.
When I was in uni, a dynamo of a classmate of mine, Claire McTiernan, gave me her ever-so-simple recipe for banana bread. It was fantastic. Simple and always a hit. Everybody fought for the crust. I’ve lost it or it may be somewhere in my recipe book (remember those times before iPads?).
I decided to revisit the humble banana bread but add a little twist to it and I chanced upon this recipe at The Novice Chef.
Truth: I never got to eat any so I can’t really tell you the verdict first hand. No muffins left though, so I’m guessing they were passable 😛
A while ago, I made my first trip to Australia to visit some friends. We did the usual koala picture-taking, hiking, visits to museums and parks. Visiting Australia doesn’t quite seem like being in a foreign land, partly because there is no foreign language to fumble through and all signs are in English. The food too is not a great departure from what I get at home. What I did fall in love with were their pies. Absolutely loved them. So on my return home, I decided to try my hand at making some.
I got the recipe from BBC’s Good Food website. The recipe called for ale but I omitted that and replaced with more broth. Tasted good enough without it so I won’t know what I’m missing!
Can I confess that I cheated on the pastry? There, I have. I wanted short crust. I love short crust but I am simply not a pastry person. And with all those ready made vegan ones available in the market, why would I slave through knead-fold-refrigerate cycles again? I do realise the irony of writing “vegan” there when I’m talking about beef pie. I meant that there are options when making desserts for my vego friends.
What I also did differently was to cook the stew in my pressure cooker to cut down the cooking time and to make the meat soft and succulent. I let it cook for about 30 minutes after pressure was reached. I did have to thicken the stew afterwards with a corn flour slurry as pressure cooking retains the fluids unlike normal simmering.
This was a special request from my sister (“When are you making that pie for us?”). The family loved it. Eat warmed up with some gravy and mash.
What attracted me to these muffins was not their name but their appearance. A casual search on Pinterest led me to these beautiful strawberry-filled muffins. They looked positively delectable, how could I not try them out?
Cream cheese is always a joy to work with and very fulfilling in terms of outcome and flavour. Fruit of any type just tricks us into thinking the dessert is more healthy than artery-clogging. It’s a win-win situation, really.
Batter followed by strawberries, then cheesecake mix and finally my lumpy streusel.
Confession: I did not adhere strictly to the recipe. I didn’t want to use only half of the 8 oz block of cream cheese and store half of it only to be forgotten in the bowels of my fridge, so I used all 8 oz. I also failed to read the assembly instructions properly (in my unfounded fear that the batter would not be sufficient for 12 muffins) and instead of layering batter-strawberries-cheesecake-streusel-batter-cheesecake-strawberries, I did batter-strawberries-cheesecake-streusel. I’m not sure if this made any difference to the flavour but I think it made the muffin less interesting-looking. UPDATE: They did make the cupcakes bottom heavy with the batter at the bottom and cream cheese on top. It would have been far more interesting in terms of gustatory enjoyment and presentation to layer it as advised. Another problem I encountered was that my streusel came out sticky and clumpy and not resembling coarse wet sand at all! I tried adding more flour. It made it less sticky but still not the consistency that I wanted. I’ve since read up a bit and some websites suggest refrigerating the streusel. I suspect heat had dissolved the brown sugar and made it clump.
These muffins all disappeared in one go! Some shared a muffin, others refused to (!) but the plate was all but clean within a few minutes of being presented. They loved it (hey, cheese and strawberries were involved here – a magic combo). So A for taste and C+ for presentation (my fault).
Frosting is the perfect accompaniment for cupcakes. Indeed, would cupcakes be cupcakes without them? But buttercream frosting has always been a little too sweet for my taste. A delightful treat when you’re a child but not so healthy as you get older.
I only knew of 2 frostings before this: American buttercream and cream cheese frosting. The former, just too damned sweet. The amount of sugar in a recipe is just crazy BUT reduce it to your frosting’s detriment. The sugar is necessary for the frosting to maintain its pipeable consistency.
Cream cheese frosting was an alternative which allowed for less sugar since the cream cheese could contribute some firmness to the frosting but the consistency was too unstable and required constant refrigeration.
Then I discovered Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. If you google “swiss buttercream”, chances are you’ll find The Woodland Bakery Blog. I love how raw and unscripted Gretchen Price’s videos were in the old days. And I find the interaction between her and Jason, the cameraman, just hilarious. She gives good advice and her instructional videos are really informative to a novice like me.
Gretchen also gave me (well not me personally but on her blog) one valuable advice, “I make it a rule not to ever change a recipe before I have had a chance to try it”. Fair enough. So although I was sceptical of the additional icing sugar in the recipe, I stuck to the recipe the first time. Then the next time, I omitted the icing sugar.
The consistency of the swiss meringue is just perfect. The swirls are well defined and keep their shape. Beautiful.
By the way, I added melted chocolate in the basic swiss meringue recipe for these vanilla cupcakes.
The verdict: The consistency of this frosting is perfection. It is easy to pipe, the shapes come out firm and stable. Too sweet with the icing sugar (not just for me but many of my guinea pigs at work agreed) so omit it if you want to live longer. The running joke I tell when colleagues thank me for the cupcakes is that I am actually trying to kill them one at a time with sugar so I can ultimately be the boss.