Posts tagged chocolate
Monday, September 20, 2010

project wedding cupcakes – one-bowl chocolate cupcakes

dark (and brooding)

Let me not beat around the bush and just be out with it – I’m making a hundred cupcakes for a friend’s wedding. One. Hundred. Cupcakes. Deep breaths. I’m clearly trying to challenge the notion that only home-scale baking can come out of a home-scale kitchen. We’ll just see about that. Deb has already successfully tackled a wedding cake, and she’s proof that you can create a large-scale, beautiful cake in a tiny New York kitchen. This is a test of will, patience, and excellent math skills. We’ll see how well I can multiply.

i keep my eggs in a bowl now

In case any of you are wondering how I managed to get involved in this project (because a demanding job in finance and maintaining this blog clearly aren’t keeping me busy enough), let me give you a brief history. Tight budgets are something that are familiar to most of us, especially, those of us living in New York, and particularly in light of the recession. Never mind that the second you mention the word “wedding” to anyone providing a service, they automatically charge you at least twice the regular amount. Want to get a hundred cupcakes from a bakery? That amount alone will probably spike up the price as you’re putting an additional constraint on a bakery that operates to capacity in what is most likely to be a tiny kitchen. Flower arrangements are pricey enough, but wedding flower arrangements are in a pricing category of their own. It’s hardly fair, I think, given how expensive weddings can run. In short, when I found out that my friend India was looking to do a wedding on a shoestring budget, I decided to make these cupcakes for her as a gift.

whisk the dry ingredients...

The advantage of cupcakes over cake is that because there is no cake to cut, guests (that means you, potentially) get their dessert faster. And given my views on dessert, I’m always in favor of eating cake sooner, always looking forward to the cake portion of the meal, in hopes that it will blow me away, and make me believe that really great tasting wedding cake is out there, somewhere. But so far, nothing has stood out, and perhaps that is because most weddings cakes are draped in loathsome fondant (seriously, am I alone in hating the stuff?), offering little besides cloying sweetness. Cupcake, on the other hand, don’t have any fondant (imagine having to drape a teeny cupcake in it) – and thus automatically, the problem falls away.

So, in the next few weeks, you’ll see the project unfold before your eyes. I’ll tell you of my butter-cream woes, and how I learned to “tame the beast”. If nothing else, at the end of this, I will emerge a better baker, and India will get her hundred cupcakes. Hopefully, they’ll be pretty, though my last buttercream adventure has left me nervous freaking out. Practice should, in theory, make perfect.

one. bowl. no. gimmick.

I had to, first, decide on what kind of cupcakes I was going to make – that was the easy part. Almost immediately I decided upon dark chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream frosting. I ran the idea past India and she loved it. The next step was to decide which chocolate cupcake recipe was goingt o win out in the end? I started to look for recipes for testing, making calculations of what ingredients I might need to have enough for recipe testing.

And just as I was ready to start playing around with recipes, I received a tweet from a lovely friend who generously offered to send me some Scharffenberger chocolate so I could test my chocolate cupcakes to my heart’s delight. An amazing coincidence, as I was going to be using Scharffenberger anyway!! Every week, I buy a few dark chocolate Scharffenberger bars at Whole Foods, and Andrew and I devour them. We’re nothing if not fiercely loyal to the brand. I love eating it and cooking with it. And I certainly didn’t expect to get a windfall of the very product on which I’m very happy to spend my own money. A few days later fifteen (fifteen, people!) pounds of chocolate showed up at my apartment. I expected a few chocolate bars, maybe a can of cocoa, but fifteen pounds!!

chocolate one-bowl cupcakes - wedding

I tested a few batches, from various recipes, adding and subtracting some ingredients, and finally settled on Martha Stewart’s “one bowl” recipe, which I have to say, is downright perfect. Martha really got this recipe down. Outside of scaling down a bit of sugar, you should change nothing here. And it’s got some serious dark-chocolate taste. Oh and the one-bowl part? One bowl cake recipes are New York apartment bakers’ wet dream. Don’t own a mixer? It’s okay – the one bowl cupcakes are mixed by hand with a spatula! Don’t have any counter space? No problem – you just sequentially add ingredients one by one into a, you guessed it, one, single bowl. Can I get an amen?

salted caramel buttercream experiment

And really, the one-bowl thing left with only fewer dishes to wash, for which I am endlessly grateful. If that’s not a thing of beauty, I don’t know what is. And the best part – when the time comes to make nine batches of these babies, I’ll be grateful I have fewer dishes to wash.

Stay tuned for adventures in frosting mishaps. And if any of you have any practical frosting advice to give, please do! I’ll share whatever I learn from my mistakes, but if you have any pointers, I’m all ears!


Oh, and I’m sorry for making you look at washed out, crappy pictures! The original ones have vanished, somehow, and all I got stuck with were rejects! To make matters worse, Picnik totally broke this morning, and I couldn’t even edit the baddies. Forgive me, it won’t happen again.

Continue reading project wedding cupcakes – one-bowl chocolate cupcakes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

nutella ice cream

Nutella Ice Cream

We are a household that respects its dessert. To me, it’s the period at the end of the sentence, a conclusion of sorts. You wouldn’t want all your sentences to end in ellipses, would you? Well, lack of dessert, even something as small as a morsel of chocolate, leaves me feeling unsettled as if my meal is incomplete. Like forgetting my cell phone at home – I feel a little disoriented when that happens. That “period”, the conclusion so to speak is missing. Andrew, thankfully, is of the same dessert persuasion. We revere our dessert, and we rarely turn it down. During our first dinner together, despite being full, we still decided to share our dessert, an apple cobbler, thus cementing our commitment to that portion of the meal.


So, here’s how this all went down with this Nutella ice cream. Labor Day Monday, while Andrew and I were perusing our respective RSS feeds (nerds!), I David’s post about Fenocchio’s ice cream in Nice, the very same place I wrote about when I made the ice cream that might still be the finest frozen creation to emerge from the Sassy Radish kitchen. I told Andrew about my trip through France after graduating college, making my way down to the French Riviera, walking around Nice and discovering Fenocchio entirely by accident. I showed him David’s pictures, “Should we find ourselves in the South of France, you know where we’ll be going.” Andrew wasn’t really paying attention, his eyes were fixed on a particular picture, “Yeah, I would be all over that Nutella ice cream.”

yolks, sugar

A light bulb went off in my head – why wait until we go to France (which, let’s face it, might not be be for awhile – suppressed sob), when we can make our own Nutella ice cream tonight – just in time for dessert? Why else would you bother having your ice cream bowl permanently hanging out in the freezer, taking up precious space, if instant gratification is not to be entertained? Lucky for me, Andrew puts up with my whims of cooking frenzy, and willingly eats and suggests future cooking projects. It works out rather well – I get to play in the kitchen, and he’s always ready to sample whatever experiments (good or bad) to come out of there.

pale yellow

Twenty minutes later, the custard was cooling in the refrigerator. Which brings me to the following: homemade ice cream is within anyone’s reach. While might sound silly to take up precious freezer space with a giant bowl, if you like ice cream and buy it regularly, it’s worth trying to make ice cream at home. decent ice cream makers are fairly affordable, and with minimal hands-on time, you could be making your own. I promise you won’t believe your taste buds – the flavors will be cleaner, brighter, stronger; the texture – creamier. And there’s no end in sight to how many combinations you could create!

gently pour custard almost ready

Also, there’s something lovely and old-school about making your own ice cream. It’s almost a journey back in time when things were simpler and a little slower. A time when we weren’t drowning in email, social media, and a thousand television channels. When burgers and bagels were smaller, and “super-sized” meals didn’t exist. Homemade ice cream, somehow, reminds me of that time. Funny thing is, I don’t even eat that much of it, but when I do, homemade beats store-bought by a landslide.

hazelnut evil

The custard takes only a few minutes to come together; chilling time, of course, takes longer – but if you have half an hour to kill in the morning, you can make this and forget about it until dinnertime. Right before you make dinner, pour the custard into the ice cream bowl, affix your machine parts, and turn the machine on. It’ll purr, hum, and make satisfied growling noises until your ice cream is ready. And when you scoop that ice cream into your bowl, your dessert is no longer a period – it’s an exclamation point.

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

This cake was frosted while standing on one foot. With the other foot held in the air. Lest you think I am an acrobatic baker, let me get right to the point: I had to hold the other foot off the ground because I couldn’t put any weight on it due to two stress fractures. But I didn’t know it at the time. I was just in a lot of pain, but there was an unfrosted cake staring me in the face and a birthday party an hour away. What’s a girl to do?

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frostingchocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

Let me make no apologies here – this is a post a year in the making. Somehow, this cake, this lovely offering of espresso, chocolate and mascarpone, got left behind and I found the pictures while organizing the digital mess on my laptop. What’s even more embarrassing, is that this cake was made for my friend Bill’s birthday last year, and guess what is rolling around in a few days? Funny how birthday return every year on the exact same day. And guess who is making Bill this year’s birthday cake? That’s right – this lady over here! I promise not to take a full year to get around to it. In fact, I already started writing about it, so there’s more cake coming your way. Thrilling stuff, I know.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

You might be wondering how I came to be frosting a cake with a broken foot. Well, the day of Bill’s birthday party, I ran a race. Not a huge race, mind you, but a race nonetheless – a 10k. I had baked the cake the night before, froze the layers for easier frosting and set up my frosting mise en place for the following morning, knowing that I will have to rush home after my 10k, shower, change, grab the cake and dash to make the birthday brunch. Except, I managed to injure myself in the process (did not anticipate that happening!) What I knew was this: somewhere around the third mile, my foot began to throb every time I applied any kind of pressure on it, which, if you’re running, you’re doing quite a bit. If any of you out there reading this are runners, you also know that runners possess the “must-finish-the-race-at-all-costs” mentality and also brush of whatever possible injuries might be occurring as a simple “muscle spasm”. “It’s no big deal,” I told myself, “stop being a wimp and just finish the race already!” I hobbled the rest of the race, but I finished.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

By the time I met up with the rest of my team, I couldn’t walk. And since no one suspected this could be a stress fracture (and I had never sustained one before) I thought this was a sprain that would dissipate in a couple of days. I decided that if I ice my foot as much as possible, and stay off it – it’s as good as problem solved. So I hobbled home, showered and changed, frosted and boxed the cake and hobbled to brunch, cake in tow. The cake was met with wild enthusiasm and I went home after to ice my foot and rest.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frostingchocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting
chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frostingchocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

The next day, in horrible pain, I took myself to the ER where they cold me I had not one but two (!) stress fractures from overuse (I guess running those three half marathons in a month and a half was a bit much). I was told to stay off my feet as much as possible, given crutches and sent home. Being on crutches put a damper in my cooking routine, and then shortly after the injury, I moved to Brooklyn and then promptly got distracted with cooking things like ice cream and pies and meatballs and cupcakes. You know how I am by now: show me shiny and I am all distracted!

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

Better late than never, though, right? If you like mascarpone, coffee and chocolate – a cakier version of tiramisu, so to speak, then this cake is for you. I was slightly confused by the picture that the magazine (and online link) showed. Dark, glossy frosting is not what I wound up with, and it makes sense too. When you add mascrapone to your dark chocolate, the resulting color is not dark chocolate (comments in the link reflect the same dilemma!) – but something lighter, milk-chocolate-like. So if you do make the cake and find your frosting lighter than the picture – do not despair, as you are not alone in this. But should you really want to challenge yourself, you may want to frost this cake, standing on one foot, trying to keep your balance. You can lick the spatula at the end as your reward.

chocolate espresso cake with chocolate mascarpone frosting

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Friday, February 19, 2010

ultimate chocolate chip cookies

ultimate chocolate chip cookies

Friends, I think I finally got it – I finally feel totally and wholly American, and it’s taken me twenty-one years (minus two weeks) of living in the U.S. to achieve that. The moment arrived over the Super Bowl. On this most American of weekends, I did the single most American culinary thing–I made these chocolate chip cookies. You would think that I’d have felt this way after getting naturalized at eighteen, but I didn’t. You see, a piece of paper is different than a rite of passage. And making these cookies has been a rite of passage spanning many many years.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009



Well, it’s Christmas Eve. And when they say “not a creature was stirring” they really do mean it. The subways this morning were empty, almost abandoned. On my way to work, the city streets were quiet, and the air just hung still. For the first time in a long time, we have snow in New York on Christmas. It feels very appropriate.

bright, pretty oranges

I don’t care what anyone says, but I’ve been listening to holiday music since Thanksgiving ended. I can’t help myself. I also can’t get enough of these orangettes; I’ve been eating them as fast as I’ve been making them, which poses a problem since I was planning to give them away as gifts. Come January 1, I’ll have to draft some resolutions: and eating fewer sweets will certainly be one of them.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

white chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream-cream-cheese frosting

white chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate buttercream frosting

I often joke that my friends no longer allow me to attend their parties without baked goods in tow. Cupcakes – to be more specific. Cupcakes topped with frosting generously slathered on, or piped in tiny dots, or with semi-Impressionist-looking flowers. But cupcakes in their most shining glory – a tiny, single-portion cake made just for you. It’s cake – personalized and it doesn’t get better than this. Somehow, in its miniature form is just that much cuter than its bigger cousin, but then again, baby anything is much cuter than its adult version.

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