Sunday, February 24, 2013

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcake with Dreamy Peanut Butter Frosting

Difficulty: Easy
Time Consuming: The cake doesn't take very long to whip up, then I baked four 6-cupcake trays at once for 24 minutes.

I don't know why, but I don't have a great go-to chocolate cupcake recipe.  I have a great chocolate cake recipe, but converting the cooking time to cupcakes wasn't something I felt like doing.  I stumbled across Martha Stewart's one bowl chocolate cupcake recipe and it seemed legit.  And I'm not gonna snub my nose at any recipe that dirties less dishes than required for actually eating it.

I was so happy when I took these out of the oven and saw they all puffed up beautifully.  Well, except one, and I can't even begin to explain that.

Waiting for them to cool was killer, but I dove in as soon as it was safe for my mouth.  I've recently been trying to curl my hair with a styling wand and have more burns on my left hand than I can count.  I did not need to add a burned tongue or palate to that list.  But I digress.  These cupcakes were dense in a perfect way.  I know dense usually means bad, but I wouldn't describe these as "light and cakey", but rather "rich, moist, dense, heaven-in-my-mouth." I had to show some serious will power and only go half-sies on one cupcake with my husband.  And all this emotion before we even get to the frosting.

If you love peanut butter, then this is the butter cream for you, baby.  It has a distinct peanut butter flavor that becomes so silky and smooth against the foundation of cream cheese and butter.  And on top of these chocolate cupcakes......oh man.  The chocolate-peanut butter combination hits you and everything around you falls away while you savor the party in your mouth.  When you fall back to reality, I hope you have the strength to save a cupcake or two, you know, for your kids, husband, best friend, neighbor.  I know I definitely went back for more ;)

I altered the ingredients in the cupcakes ever so slightly by adding instant espresso powder, since coffee just deepens and enhances chocolate flavor.  You could also use equal amounts brewed coffee.  I also changed the baking time and temperature based on a picture I saw on Pinterest about baking cupcakes....I know, a legit and credible source, but what can I say, it worked for me.

The Recipe
yields 18 or so cupcakes (Martha says you can get 18-24, I got 19)

Chocolate Cupcake
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 3/4 cup warm water; or 3/4 cup brewed coffee; or 3/4 cup water
3/4 cup buttermilk; or 2 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar mixed with scant 3/4 cup milk (let sit for a few minutes so that the mixture curdles - this is a cheater buttermilk that I use all the time)
3 tablespoons canola oil (or vegetable or safflower)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. 

Peanut Butter Frosting
2 sticks butter, room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese (I prefer Neufchatel), room temperature
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup all creamy peanut butter
2-3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream (optional)

Chocolate Cupcake

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners, set aside.

2.  In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, sift/whisk together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

3.  Add eggs, water/coffee/espresso, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla.  Mix with a hand mixer low-medium low or stand mixer (Kitchen Aid speed 2-4) for about 3 minutes, until the batter is well mixed.  You made need to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl during mixing.

4.  Divide the batter evenly into the baking cups, filling about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full.  Put pans in the oven, decrease the oven temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for 23-25 minutes.  The cupcakes are done when the tops spring back when touched.  If you need to rotate your pans during baking, I would not do so until16-18 minutes - if you rotate too early, you may end up with caved in cupcakes.

5.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Peanut Butter Frosting

1.  In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until white and fluffy.  Add the cream cheese, vanilla, and salt, beating until well incorporated.

2.  With the mixer on low speed, add 1 cup of powdered sugar and beat until well incorporated.  Repeat with the remaining 3 cups of powdered sugar.  If the mixtures appears to be too thick, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time and mixing until you reach the desired consistency.  After all the sugar has been add, beat on high for 2 minutes.

3.  Add the peanut butter and mix until fully incorporated.  Spread on top of cupcakes.

And if by all odds you have extra frosting, it's great sandwiched between chocolate icebox cookies.

Cupcake from Life in a Peanut Shell

The recipe from Martha herself.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Soft Lemon Sugar cookies with Raspberry Icing

Difficulty. Easy
Time consuming: about 10-15 minutes to make the dough, then an overnight chill in the fridge, then rolling out the dough and baking batches for 8 minutes at a time.

I made some sweet treats for the sweet teachers at my school this Valentine's Day. With the overload of chocolate around every corner on this holiday, I opted for a fruitier treat that was very well received.  

The cookies are soft and bursting with bright lemon flavor.  The citrus note in the cookie complimented the raspberry frosting which resulted in the perfect sweet and tart flavor combination that was out of this world!

Happy (belated) Valentines Day, everyone! What kind of sweet treats did you get to enjoy?

 The Recipe:
 yields: 18 medium heart-shaped cookies and 28 small heart-shaped cookies

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (or 2 teaspoons if you want an even fluffier cookie)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter (10 and 2/3 tablespoons), room temperature
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
zest from 1 lemon
juice from one lemon (about 1/4 cup of lemon juice)

1/3 cup butter (5 1/3 tablespoons)
 3 cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons Raspberry Melba Sauce (more to taste, I probably used closer to 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons milk (optional - if you need to thin the frosting, but the raspberry sauce will do this, too)


1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

2. Cream butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy.  Add sugar and beat until well combinedAdd eggs and lemon zest and mix until well combined.

3.  Add half of the flour mixture and mix until combined.  Add lemon juice, mix.  Add the remaining of the flour mixture and mix until well incorporated.

4.  Turn dough out onto plastic wrap, smush into a disk shape, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

5.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Take half of the dough out and let sit at room temperature for a few minutes - just enough so that it can be rolled out without breaking or cracking too much.  Roll dough out to 1/4" thick on a well floured surface (I used a combination of flour and powdered sugar), cut into desired shapes, transfer to a baking sheet.

6.  Bake for 8 minutes.  The cookies will not spread a lot in baking, so maybe leave a 1/2" between cookies.  Cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  The tops of the cookies will be lightly colored and the bottoms just barley mottled with a light brown.

7.  Repeat step 6 with the remaining dough.

1.  Cream the butter in a stand mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time.  It will seem impossibly thick and clumpy - if this happens, either add a tablespoon of milk or a few squirts of Raspberry Melba sauce until it starts to just barely come together.  Once all the sugar has been added, add raspberry sauce and beat on high until fluffy.  If the mixture seems too thick after all the raspberry has been added, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the desired consistency has been reached.

2.  Using an offset spatula or knife, spread onto cookies.  Let cookies sit for a few hours until the frosting is set.  If you are going to add sprinkles, do it sooner than later, because when the frosting starts to dry, the sprinkles won't stick as well.

Of course, if after you've frosted all of your cookies and find that you have some frosting left, sandwich with vanilla wafers or some homemade chocolate wafer cookies.

And I need to thank my friend Katie from grad school who shared the base of this recipe with me :)
Katie is awesome, she was doing her clinical rotation at a nursing home and wanted to share a treat with the residents that they would not have trouble eating - a lot of the people there were on restricted diets (like mechanical soft foods only) and she wanted to share something soft that the majority of folks could eat.  Of course, I helped her eat the leftovers, because that's what good friends do.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Raspberry Melba Sauce

Difficulty: easy
Time consuming: not at all

Raspberry Melba sauce is great in so many ways. It's tart. It's smooth. And it's bursting with tangy raspberry flavor that compliments so many dishes.

Recently, I've used it to top vanilla ice cream. The sweetness from the ice cream and the tartness from the sauce makes a great treat after dinner. My mom uses it to drizzle raspberry deliciousness on peach pie. My husband drizzled the rich red sauce on vanilla cheesecake. Last year, my mom and I whisked it into buttercream and used it to sandwich between macarons.

Which brings me to now. I made up a batch of sauce (which yields about 10 ounces) to flavor some buttercream. The Melba sauce gives buttercream a rich, sweet and tangy, raspberry flavor that is far from artificial. Another perk to using raspberry Melba sauce instead of preserves is that it strains out all the seeds so the resulting frosting is nothing but silky smooth.

The recipe

10 oz frozen raspberries, thawed; or 1 cup fresh raspberries
1/2 cup Red currant jelly(this is what the original recipe called for, but I bet it would be equally as tasty using raspberry, strawberry, or another jelly)
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1. Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl or cup to make a slurry. Set aside.

2. Combine raspberries and jelly in a medium sauce pan. Set over medium heat and stir until raspberries break down.

3. Add cornstarch slurry to raspberry. Continue to cook and stir until sauce is thickened.

4. Either refrigerate until cool then strain through a fine wire mesh sieve set over a bowl or glass measuring cup. Or if you're impatient like me, strain it immediately, just be careful because its hot. Strain sauce from seeds by stirring gently in sieve.

I stored my sauce in a squeeze bottle I bought for flooding iced sugar cookies so that I could sauce cakes, pies, and ice creams easier.

See how I used this sauce for cookies in a few days! You won't wanna miss it!!