Soft chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time, in fact this is only my second post since my wonderful son was born in early October.  Although I’ve still been baking and cooking up a storm, I just haven’t found the time or energy to write a post.  It seemed fitting that this be my first post in a long while as this cake is one of my mainstays.  It’s everything a chocolate cake should be, but often isn’t: moist, incredibly chocolatey, but not too sweet.  I’ve been making it for years and it’s become one of my husband’s favourites.  I make variations of this recipe, sometimes using chocolate milk or liquor (Khalua) in place of the coffee depending on who my audience is.  I’ve even added pureed raspberries to the mix which gave a delicious fresh fruitiness to the cake.  This cake is delicious with chocolate chips added, however they often sink to the bottom because it is so moist.  My favourite way to serve it is with my incredibly rich cream cheese icing (from my Moist Spiced Carrot Cake recipe).  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 cup cold brewed coffee
1 cup buttermilk (I just use a cup of milk and a tsp of lemon left to sit until it curdles)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
Kitchen mixer (or a large bowl and whisk)
Muffin pan
Muffin papers

First, preheat your oven to 350 F and line your muffin pan.  Sift together your dry ingredients then make a well in the center of your mix.

IMG_8517

Add your wet ingredients into the well in the center.

IMG_8518

Mix well.

IMG_8520

Pour your batter into the muffin papers, being careful to leave some space at the top: this recipe expands in the oven.

IMG_8522

Bake about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted.  Transfer immediately to a cooling rack while you prepare your icing.

IMG_8523

1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ½ cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat your cream cheese and butter on high until smooth then reduce the heat to low and slowly beat in the icing sugar and vanilla.  Add your icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time to avoid a mess.  Increase the speed to high and continue to beat until your icing is smooth and fluffy.

 IMG_8526

I was making these particular cupcakes for a birthday so I decided to colour the icing.  Whenever I colour any icing I use Wilton gel food colouring; you only need a few drops and it doesn’t thin out the icing.  I always add the colouring after the icing is finished, adding a little more until the desired effect is reached.  I’m definitely not a cake decorator and value taste over aesthetic, but it is nice to see a little swirl of colourful icing on top of a yummy cupcake.

The final result!

IMG_8527

Raspberry chocolate ripple cheesecake

I made this cake for my Mother’s birthday by combining three of my favourite things: cheesecake, chocolate and raspberries.  The basic recipe for the cheesecake is my Mom’s: she’s been making it since I was a child and I’ve always loved it.  I changed it up a little bit when I started making it a few years ago: instead of the usual graham crust, I make mine a bit spicier with ginger snaps, cinnamon and nutmeg.  I decided to add fresh fruit to the cake because it’s summer and it seemed appropriate, but you could just as easily switch it up or omit the fruit all together (the way my Mom normally makes it).  The final touch is the chocolate ripple, it’s a very easy technique that I’ve been helping with since I was little but it makes your cheesecake look beautiful and taste delicious.
2 cups ginger snap cookie crumbs (I like ShaSha Co. brand cookies when I can’t find a traditional Swedish brand)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup melted butter
3 packages of Philadelphia cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp almond essence
3/4 pint raspberries
2 ounces semi sweet chocolate
Sauce pot
Stove safe bowl
Spring form pan
Baking pan
Food processor

First, pulse your cookies in the food processor until they are fine crumbs.  If you don’t have a processor, you can always place the cookies in a ziploc bag and roll over them with a heavy rolling pin.  Mix your cookie crumbs in a bowl with the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until thoroughly combined then press into your spring form pan.  Refrigerate while you prepare the cheesecake filling.

IMG_8072

Next, beat the cream cheese until smooth then add your sugar, eggs, vanilla and almond.  Continue to beat until there are no lumps, scraping the sides occasionally.

IMG_8074

Rinse your raspberries and carefully fold them into your cake mixture.

IMG_8079

Pour your cheese cake filling over your prepared crust and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 325 F.  Melt your chocolate over a bain marie (half fill your sauce pan with water and bring to a boil with the stove safe bowl on top).  Once your chocolate is melted and silky, drizzle over your cheesecake.

IMG_8080

Using a butter knife, carefully draw an abstract design through the chocolate and cake: as much or as little as you’d like.  The key to a beautiful cake is a light hand; you want to just barely break the surface of your cake with the tip of your knife.  Once your design is finished, place your spring form on a baking tray to catch any cake drippings.

IMG_8082

Bake your cake for 70-75 minutes until firm, then cool on a wire rack until room temperature.  Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

Enjoy!

.IMG_8093

 

Caramelized peach upside down cake

I recently offered to bake for a friend’s baby shower.  When I asked her what dessert she’d like me to make, she replied that she had been craving fruity pastries instead of chocolate.  I decided to make this cake because it’s deceptively straightforward despite looking impressive.  Even though peaches weren’t exactly in season when I made this cake, the process of caramelization brings out the sweetness of the fruit.  In fact, slightly under ripe peaches are ideal for this recipe as they hold their shape better in the pan.  You have the option of blanching and peeling the peaches before slicing, but I prefer the look of them whole.  If you are making this cake for someone with a nut allergy, you have the option of substituting additional vanilla extract for the almond.  I prefer the taste of almonds with the peaches but it’s your choice.

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 peaches, pitted and cut into 6 wedges each
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 Tsp vanilla extract
2 Tsp almond extract (or 1 tsp extract, 1 tsp Almond Cream liquor)
3/4 cup milk
Spring form pan
Baking pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly butter your spring form.  Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium skillet over medium heat then add 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water and cook, stirring occasionally, until smooth and deep golden brown, approximately 8 to 11 minutes.  Remove your mixture from the heat as soon as it caramelizes.

IMG_7943

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and tilt to coat the bottom.

IMG_7948

Arrange the peach wedges snugly in the bottom of the pan in a single layer, cutting to fit if needed.  I like to start at the outside with the peaches facing in one direction, then move inside, turning them to the other direction for aesthetic effect.

IMG_7949

Next, combine your flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.  Beat the remaining 7 tablespoons butter and 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.  Add your eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition then beat in the vanilla and almond extracts. Finally, beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches; alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat in each addition until just incorporated.

IMG_7950

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake with a pan underneath in case of drips.  Bake until golden, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

IMG_7954

Transfer to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes then invert onto a plate and let cool completely.

Enjoy!

IMG_7964

Sinfully delicious flourless chocolate torte

This torte is not for the faint of heart or someone who just ‘likes’ chocolate.  The cake is so rich and chocolatey you won’t be able to eat more than the smallest piece.  That said, it is absolutely delicious and will freeze beautifully for those times when you just need an indulgent treat.  Not only is this dessert incredibly rich and indulgent, it also is one of the easiest cakes that I make.  This is one of my mother’s recipes and has always been a go to on Pesach when leavened foods are forbidden, however I have made it for birthdays and special occasions as well.  The vanilla whipped cream is optional, but I find the slight sweetness really compliments the almost bitter chocolate flavour of the torte.

1 lb semi sweet chocolate (I like using Baker’s, 2 boxes)
1 cup milk
Small sauce pan
Glass bowl
Spatula

Preheat your oven to 350 F and butter your spring form pan.  Next, break up your chocolate into chunks and melt it and the milk in a double boiler. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and let cool for 5 min.

IMG_7587

Pinch salt
1 ½  cups butter, must be at room temperature
6 large egg yolks
Mixing bowl
Spring form pan (I use a large pan to ensure the cake with be thin because it’s so rich)
Baking pan

Once your chocolate has cooled, pour it into a mixing bowl.  On low, mix your chocolate and alternate tablespoons of butter and egg yolk until thoroughly mixed.  Make sure your batter is completely smooth, the last thing you want is to bite into a tiny blob of butter during dessert!

IMG_7588

Butter your spring form so your cake won’t stick.  Next, pour your mixture into the prepared spring form and bake for 25 minutes until glossy but still jiggly.  Make sure to place your spring form on a baking sheet to prevent the oil from dripping onto the oven elements.  Your cake won’t look quite done but don’t worry, it will set in the fridge.  Let cool for several hours at room temperature then chill overnight.

IMG_7589

Small carton of whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add your vanilla to your whipping and beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.  Do not over beat your cream or you’ll end up with a buttery substance instead of delicious fresh whipped cream.

Delicious!

IMG_7608

Moist spiced carrot cake with cream cheese icing

Some friends were visiting us from out of town recently and my husband and I offered to host them for a meal.  It turned out that they weren’t available for dinner so we decided on lunch instead.  I wracked my brain trying to figure out how to make a great meal for lunch (without making a stereotypical quiche).  Despite my husband’s suggestion that we could just serve dinner but at lunch time, I wanted to offer some (slightly) lighter fare.  My husband thought I was crazy when I told him I had every intention of making a dessert for our ‘light’ lunch.  I was torn, most of my usual desserts are incredibly rich and often chocolate filled.  For some reason, a chocolate dessert seems inappropriate for lunch (I have no idea why) so I decided I would make a cake instead.  I narrowed it down to this carrot cake, and a cheesecake that is always popular.  My husband requested this cake, he especially loves the icing.  This is my mother’s recipe, I’ve just changed the icing and adjusted quantities of the spices.  Despite the fact that it is by no means low calorie, this cake feels less heavy than others because it uses oil, not butter, and loads of freshly grated carrot and spices.  You could, of course, reduce the calories by serving it in loaf form without the icing but where’s the fun in that?

4 eggs (large)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups grated carrot (you could do this by hand or in a processor, I personally like buying matchstick carrots for simplicity)
1 cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, with juices
1 tsp almond extract (if you are making this for someone with nut allergies, you could substitute for lemon juice)
Springform pan (you can use a regular cake pan, but it makes it more difficult)

Preheat your oven to 350 F.  Lightly grease your pan.  In a small bowl, beat your eggs then add your sugars, almond extract & oil. Continue to beat until your mixture becomes light & creamy.

IMG_5807

In a large bowl, sift your dry ingredients together.  Next, switch your bowls and fold your liquids into the sifted dry ingredients.  Add your carrots and pineapple and beat until blended, avoid overmixing.

IMG_5808

Pour your batter into the prepared baking pan and bake 30-40 min until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool until room temperature on a wire rack.  If you want a layered cake, simple use 2 baking pans and divide your batter evenly.

IMG_5810

1 lb cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3 ½ cups icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Beat your cream cheese and butter on high until smooth then reduce the heat to low and slowly beat in the icing sugar and vanilla.  Add your icing sugar 1/2 cup at a time to avoid a mess.  Increase the speed to high and continue to beat until your icing is smooth and fluffy.

IMG_5814

Invert your cake on a platter to ensure the top will be flat.  Ice your cake with a very thin layer of frosting and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.  This is the ‘crumb layer’ and does not need to look good.  If you have decided to make a layered cake instead, ‘glue’ your halves together before spreading your ‘crumb layer’.

IMG_5817

Finally, frost your cake with the remainder of the icing and refrigerate 1-2 hours until set.  This cake is most delicious at room temperature so remove from the fridge 20-30 minutes before serving.

IMG_5827

Delicious!

IMG_5831

Rich and creamy tiramisu

My husband and I recently hosted a dinner party where I served pasta (with basil pesto for the vegetarians and bolognese sauce for the carnivores).  The natural ending to the Italian inspired dinner was a light, delicious Italian dessert.  I decided to make a tiramisu: it’s the perfect combination of a rich indulgent dessert while still remaining light and airy.  I used to make tiramisu regularly because it is easy to prepare and can be done in advance of whatever event you’re hosting or attending.  You can substitute a different type of liquor for the not-so-traditional Khalua I use (traditionally, tiramisu includes Tia Maria).  You can, if you really want to shirk tradition, also use sponge cake or a different soft cookie in place of the savoiardi.  Granted, this will result in your tiramisu becoming more like a trifle, but it will still include the traditional raw eggs and marscapone.  In fact, last Pesach (Passover) I made a matzo cake meal sponge cake, sliced it and used the pieces in place of savoiardi.  The result was a delicious, kosher for Pesach tiramisu inspired dessert.

2 cups freshly brewed espresso, cooled to room temperature
1/4 cup Khalua (obviously this is not traditional but I like the taste with the coffee)
Several packages of savoiardi (I prefer the savoiardi that have a slight crunch and sprinkle of sugar on top but they are hard to find)
500g mascarpone (a delicious, sweet Italian cream cheese)
5 eggs
5 tbsps sugar
Cocoa for sifting between layers and on top
Semi sweet chocolate, shaved for on top of the finished cake (if desired)

Separate the yolks from the whites into two different mixing bowls (larger for the yolks). In the bowl with the yolks, add your sugar and beat with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add the mascarpone cheese and mix thoroughly with your yolks and sugar until the smooth.

IMG_5592

In the other mixing bowl, beat egg whites until they turn into fluffy white peaks.  This is easiest if you allow your whites to reach room temperature before whipping them.

IMG_5596

Carefully fold the egg whites into the creamy yolk mixture.

IMG_5600

In another bowl, mix together espresso and Khalua. I find pouring my coffee mixture into a shallow dish makes it easier to dip the savoiardi.  Dip cookies in the coffee mixture for a few seconds, making sure they are wet on the outside but still somewhat dry in the middle. Arrange dipped cookies in one tightly packed layer on the bottom of a cake pan.

IMG_5607

Pour 1/2 of the cream on top of the cookies and spread evenly.  Sift cocoa over the cake.  Add a second layer of savoiardi.  This time, soak each cookie until saturated but not soggy.  Place the cookies in a tight layer on the cake.

IMG_5615

Spread the remaining marscapone mixture evenly over the savoiardi.  Sprinkle more cocoa over the cake.  Cover the tiramisu with plastic wrap and leave it to rest in the fridge for 4 hours to overnight.  Before serving, sprinkle the tiramisu with chocolate shavings if desired.

IMG_5618

Delicious!

IMG_5623