What Can I Say? It's a Gift!

No, I'm not talking about my baking skills (those I had to work for!), I'm talking about the amazing cookbook that my Grandma Lynn sent me in the mail!  I came home this week to find a mysterious package at my door, and I opened it to find an AWESOME book called "The Craft of Baking" by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox.  Okay, just to reiterate, this book is amazing!  Recipes for donuts, cakes, breads, puddings, everything!  And believe me...I want to try everything!

So my first foray into the book was for a night out at our friends Beth and Justin's house.  We had an awesome dinner with them of pot roast, broccoli, and delicious red skin mashed potatoes.  I brought dessert that was supposed to be in the form of "Devil's Food Cupcakes with Cream Filling" (much like a Hostess cupcake!), but unfortunately my icing tips weren't quite strong enough to get the cream into the cake.  No matter, though.  The cupcakes with the ganache were delicious enough!  They were so rich and chocolatey, and went perfectly with the (many) glasses of red wine we had with them (and the hilarious rounds of Mad Libs with new friends Hanna and JP!).  I would definitely recommend making the cream filling work for you if you aren't a fan of very rich chocolate desserts.  The cream would very much lighten it up. 

The most important part of this baking experience? Not overcooking the cupcakes!


I have learned the hard way that cooking chocolate cupcakes for too long creates a dry, tasteless cupcake.  If you can perfect your baking time, it doesn't matter WHAT you put on top of them!

On to the recipe!!

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Cream Filling
from "The Craft of Baking" by Karen DeMasco and Mindy Fox

For the Cupcakes:
  • 3/4 C plus 1 1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 C cake flour
  • 2/3 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 C plus 2Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 C plus 2Tbsp buttermilk
  • 3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a standard 12 cup muffin tin (I actually used two...must have made my cupcakes smaller) with paper liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and 1/2C plus 2 Tbsp warm water to form a paste; set aside.

In another bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar with the butter on medium speed until they are well combined with no pieces of butter visible.  Add the cocoa paste, making sure to use a spatula to get all the cocoa paste into the mixer bowl.  Once this is well combines, add the egg and egg yolk.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  In three additions each, add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, alternating with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them 3/4 full (I really like to use a zip-top freezer bag for this, with the corner cut off.  Really easy to control, and one less thing to clean!).  Bake, rotating the tins halfway through, until the cupcakes spring back to the touch and a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20-25 minutes*.  Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up, and let them cool completely.

*I actually recommend removing them when the toothpick comes out when there are still a few crumbs on it.  If it comes out totally clean, they're usually overcooked.  Also, these took me 17 minutes, but again I made 24 cupcakes instead of 12...12 would have been some LARGE cakes!

 For the Cream Filling:
  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
To make the filling, combine the cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Beat on medium speed to soft peaks, about 4 minutes.  Put the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a small piping tip.  Using a paring knife, make a small cut in the bottom of each cupcake, through the paper, to insert the tip of the pastry bag.**  Insert the tip of the pastry bag about 1.5" into a cupcake.  Gently squeeze the bag while holding the fingers of your other hand over the top of the cupcake.  When you feel a slight pressure on the top of the cupcake, stop filling.  Repeat with each cupcake.

**Okay, me again.  I don't know about you, but it drives me CRAZY when I read a cookbook, and get to a step like this where they just assume that everyone keeps crazy kitchen gadgets like piping bags and tips in their kitchens.  I like to bake, and I've made some crazy investments in things like piping bags, tips, bench scrapers, etc...but most people don't! SO.  If you would like to do this, do as follows:

Take the paper liners off your cupcakes. Using a small paring knife, cut a small circle into the bottom of your cupcake, only to the middle-not all the way through.  Gently pull out the cake circle (SAVE IT! DON'T EAT IT! Yes I see you ready to pop that in your mouth...sneaky sneaky!) and set it aside.  Put your cream filling into a zip-top bag (a sandwich bag will work) and cut off a small tip in the bag.  Insert your brand new fancy piping bag into the hole you just made in your cake and fill.  Take the circle of cake, cut off the end  so it's about 1/4" long.  Now, "plug" your cream center with the bottom of the cake, and voila!  You're ready to frost.  And you didn't have to break the bank at Sur La Table for new gadgets that you'll only use once a year!  Just be careful, as you now have a hole in your cupcake.  Be gentle! Don't use your kung-fu grip on them when you dip in the ganache. 

For the Ganache:
  • 4 oz  semisweet chocolate, chopped (I just used chips, unchopped. Mini chips would be even better)
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a small mixing bowl.  Combine the cream and the corn syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Pour over the chocolate right away, and stir slowly until  all of the chocolate melts and the ganache is silky and shiny. (It takes a while! Be patient and keep stirring, it will get there!)

Dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache, tapping gently to remove the excess.  Return the cupcakes to the wire rack to let the glaze set up, at least 30 minutes.

The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refridgerator for up to 3 days.

SO delicious! I would totally make these again.  Especially because I'm not a huge frosting person.  Ganache fits my taste much better.  Thanks to our wonderful friends Beth, Justin, Hanna, and JP for being my taste testers, and as always to my husband for being a good sport and always telling me everything I cook tastes good (last night it was in the form of "Get me another cupcake woman!" ;) what a gentleman.).  Enjoy!!

Lost my marbles...

Holy snow day Batman!!

So if you haven't heard, the DC area is being HAMMERED by snow this week.  We're talking day number FOUR tomorrow of this week where my office has been closed.  What does this mean for me?  Well, it means that I've been living solely off of the contents of my pantry and fridge (slim pickings friends...seriously).  The good news?  I've lost 5lbs in the last week (YAY!).  The bad news?  I feel like if I don't have something sweet soon I might just trek the 10+ blocks through knee deep snow to the obliterated grocery store and scarf a donut or something.

Here's what I made instead...Marble cake!  Infinitely better than some crappy donut or an Oreo creeping around in my pantry!

Oh man, this stuff is so delish.  I've made it before as a birthday cake with vanilla bean frosting, which was good.  This is just as awesome on it's own, though.  It's from one of my favorite cooking blogs, Alexandra's Kitchen.  It's in the oven as I write this, and I literally don't know if I'll be able to make it until it's cool enough to eat!!  I'm so excited.  Like Ali, I didn't make this with chocolate chips (I also don't think you need them, the chocolate batter is so deliciously rich). 

Okay, on to the recipe!

Buttercake Bakery’s Marble Cake
Total time: 1½ hours
Servings 12 to 16
2½ cups sugar, divided
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup light corn syrup (I used brown rice syrup)
2½ teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature is ideal)
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips (optional — I did not use them. This cake really doesn’t need them.)
powdered sugar for dusting
1. In a small saucepan, whisk together ½ cup of the sugar, the cocoa powder and syrup with ½ cup hot water. Bring just to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Add ½ teaspoon of vanilla off the heat and set aside.
2. Heat the oven to 350ºF. Butter and lightly flour a 12-cup bundt pan. (I never flour anymore — it always burns for me. I coated the bundt pan with cooking spray.)
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer), cream the butter with the remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly incorporated, then whisk in the remaining vanilla.
4. Whisk about a third of the flour mixture into the batter, then a third of the milk. Continue whisking in the flour mixture and milk, alternately and a little at a time, until everything is added and the batter is light and smooth.
5. Gently fold in the chocolate chips. (I really think the chocolate chips are unncessary, but that’s your call.) Divide the batter into thirds. Pour a third of the batter into the prepared bundt pan.
6. Whisk the chocolate syrup with another third of batter, then pour this into the bundt pan. Pour the remaining third of batter over this, lightly swirl the batters with a wooden skewer or knife to give a “marble” effect and place the pan in the oven.
7. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and the cake springs back lightly when touched, about an hour. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack. Invert the cooled cake onto a serving platter and dust lightly with powdered sugar.

And voila!  Next time you're craving something sweet, give this a go.  Enjoy!
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