Friday, February 19, 2010

Loving chocolate cupcakes

A recipe collection isn't complete without one for chocolate cake. At times when you're at loss of what to bake for family, friends or occasions, always go back to a chocolate batter. It's bound to be a crowd pleaser.

There's just something about chocolate. Perhaps it's the sweet, tart and comforting, velvety taste. Or maybe it's the aesthetically pleasant deep and dark colour of whatever cocoa touches. could be the very nature of chocolate desserts themselves. Chocolate is a classic and it knows no cultural barriers. Heck, a bit of phenylethylamine doesn't hurt either. It's been found that chocolate contains 380 known chemicals. That compound and a few others are just the ones discovered to increase the level of happy chemicals (endorphin, serotonin) in our brains. Dark chocolate in moderation is good.

Dark chocolate in desserts is fantastic! But keeping in mind the downside of chocolate and sugar, it pays to search for the best chocolate dessert recipes. That way, the occasional indulgence won't go to waste.

After baking through 5 different chocolate cupcake recipes, I've finally arrived at one I am more than happy to keep. The taste of chocolate is just right (strong but not too sweet) and the texture is light and fluffy. My kind of cupcake. What I've noticed is that the chocolate flavour tends to come out stronger in recipes containing melted chocolate in addition to cocoa powder. Cakes with cocoa powder have a milder chocolate taste - or chocolate in the background as I like to call it. The original recipe makes 12 cupcakes but it's probably convertible into 2x20cm cake layers. Just bake the batter for 40-45 minutes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Baking: From my home to yours
makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
113g unsalted butter, room temperature
5/8 cup white sugar
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
150g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), melted and cooled

  1. Place muffin paper cups in a 12-hole muffin tray and preheat oven to 175C.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl until well combined. This step is to ensure you don't have discolouration or bursts of salt in your cupcakes.
  3. On medium speed, cream butter and sugar until well combined (2-3 minutes). They should turn pale and fluffy.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Beat in the egg and then the egg yolk. Beat until the batter has 'absorbed' the liquid.
  6. On low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.
  7. Pour the milk gradually and beat until well mixed.
  8. Still on low speed, mix in the rest of the dry ingredients, again until just incorporated, and finish off by folding with a rubber spatula.
  9. Fill the cups 2/3 of the way and bake for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  10. Leave for a few minutes, then unmold and place on a rack to cool to room temperature.
I came across 17 and baking a few weeks ago and have been inspired by Elissa's creations ever since. I stumbled across one of her older posts and thought that it was such a cute idea.

I used my favourite buttercream recipe and modified it to orange.

For a less creamy alternative, either glaze the cupcake with melted chocolate or dust cocoa powder and icing sugar.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

If you're celebrating Valentine's with that special someone and wondering about what to give him or her, why not something out of the box? Instead of the usual chocolates, bake your own cake and wrap it nicely :)

The good thing about this gift is that you can add your personal touch, suit his or her tastes and is an almost foolproof gift for someone who seems to have everything! (It's not only if he/she doesn't like cake...but hey, that's rare). Here's just one idea for the cake. Click here for another.

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend! Happy Valentine's Day:)

Almond Sponge Cake with Chocolate and Raspberry
adapted from Gourmet Traveller
makes a 20cm (8") cake

Almond Sponge Cake
50g almond meal
190g cake flour
8 eggs
220g caster sugar
80g butter, melted and cooled

  1. Butter and line 2x20cm round cake pans and preheat the oven to 160C.
  2. In a food processor, pulse the almond meal and flour until fine. Triple sift.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale and triple in volume (can take between 7-15 minutes depending on your mixer's speed).
  4. Fold in the flour.
  5. Fold in the melted butter.
  6. Distribute evenly among the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.
  7. Unmold and cool on a wire rack 
Raspberry Filling 
130g raspberry jam
1/2 cup raspberry
1 tbsp water

  1. Place jam, raspberries and water in a small saucepan over low heat.
  2. Stir until melted and well combined.
Dark-chocolate Raspberry Ganache
200g dark chocolate, chopped
50g raspberry filling
2 tbsp milk (can also be 200ml heavy cream)
  1. Place chocolate and raspberry filling in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Stir together until melted and combined.
  3. Add the milk and stir until smooth.
  1. Spread the raspberry filling on each of the cake layers.
  2. Place one layer over the other, with the filling between them.
  3. Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake.
  4. Top with ferrero roche, dust with cocoa powder.
  5. Place in the refrigerator to harden

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Quick fix

Life doesn't always give you what you want.

Yes, everyone knows that, it's a cliche. But what varies from person to person, and what's most important, is our response after we realize that what we've been working for and what we desire won't happen.

We're faced with three main options. We can sulk, scream, cry about, or argue our case until we get the result (which can be never). We can totally give up and let go of what we set out to do. Or we can find another way, maybe modify the goals, to still achieve the initial purpose. It depends on the circumstances but most of all it depends on you.

I find that the things eluding me can be the very simple or the very complicated, with most of the complicated events arriving later in life as tougher challenges accompanying work, relationships and age come along. This week though, luckily, I had a simple one. It was a matter of baking ingredients.

At first, I wanted to bake this hazelnut sponge cake filled with chocolate and raspberry cream. Due to the busier schedule this week, I had to postpone that recipe so I opted for white chocolate and raspberry muffins instead. After all, I was craving for something 'cakey' and with raspberries. 

Alas, when I arrived at the supermarket to buy the two star ingredients, there was none in sight. Fresh raspberries were currently out of stock and although the supermarket had a section specially devoted to Lindt chocolate, only one type of white chocolate was available...I'm finicky when it comes to chocolate now. It's just one of those ingredients that's quality over cost.

Either I have to choose another recipe with different ingredients or make do with what they have. Glad to say, I stuck by number two. I bought frozen raspberries and white chocolate toblerone. A good thing about the toblerone was it came with bits of waffles inside. They added an extra texture to the muffins.

Muffins belong to the family of sweets called quickbreads. Unlike their traditional bread cousins, they don't need yeast. Baking powder first makes the muffins rise when the dry and wet ingredients are mixed, and then when they come in contact with the oven heat. They are great bakes on occasions you're short on time.. The thing to remember is to mix the batter sparingly. It's okay if there are lumps and bumps. They give the muffins their famous open crumb texture.

I was also able to try out a streusel recipe with the muffins and it added a fantastic crunch to the muffin tops. Who could say no to that? Enjoy~ :)

Raspberry and White Chocolate Muffins
adapted from Baking from my Home to Yours
Makes 12

2 large eggs
3 tbsp honey
113g unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup whole milk (or buttermilk)
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup white chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup raspberries

  1. Place the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 190C. Line a muffin tray with paper muffin cups.
  2. Pour the milk into a medium bowl and whisk in the eggs, honey and melted butter. (I'd like to use a measuring jug, it's easier to combine with the dry ingredients later).
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  4. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and with a whisk or a rubber spatula, gently, but quickly stir to blend.
  5. Stir in the white chocolate and raspberries
  6. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.
  7. Sprinkle the streusel topping and press them into the batter (recipe see below).
  8. Bake for 22-25 minutes until golden and springy to the touch.

Streusel Topping
also adapted from Baking from my home to yours

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar (white also works fine)
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
5 tbsp (around 70g) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

  1. Whisk the flour, sugar and spices in a small bowl.
  2. Add the cold butter cubes and toss to coat.
  3. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the dry ingredients until they become irregularly shaped crumbs.
  4. Set aside in the refrigerator until you're ready to use them.


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