Posts Tagged ‘chocolate


Haunted Forest Cake (Happy Birthday, Northern Army!)

October 27th was local design agency Northern Army‘s first birthday, and I was asked to make them a cake to commemorate the occasion, ideally incorporating their logo. I’d recently been toying with the idea of a spicy black forest cake, and this seemed like the ideal opportunity to finalize the recipe.

I made 3 square cake layers using the recipe below. The icing was a similar combination to the one I used for my Cupcake Camp Cupcakes – I find it eliminates the chalky mouthfeel I get from using a simple buttercream. I layered the cake with thick layers of frosting (next time, I’m making the icing batch bigger so I can get a better ratio of cake to icing). I printed out the Northern Army letters at about 320 pt Helvetica Bold, cut them out, and laid them on rolled-out white fondant. I cut the letters out of the white, then rolled out a full tub of Duff’s Black Fondant that I got at Michaels. I covered the cake, then cut the letters out of the black. I laid the white letters where the black cutouts were to make a relatively flush surface. To make it shiny, I brushed the cake all over with kirsch.

Haunted Forest Cake with Cherry-Kirsch Frosting

3/4 cups cocoa, sifted

1 1/4 cups hot water

2/3 cup sour cream

3 cups pastry flour or type 00 flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tbsp instant espresso powder

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/4 cups butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 325º F. Grease 3 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa and instant espresso powder. Add the hot water and whisk until smooth. Add the sour cream and stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Whisk to ensure ingredients are combined.

In a large bowl, cream the softened butter. Add the granulated and brown sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla bean paste.

In 2 or 3 additions, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the cocoa. Begin and end with the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans. Bake at 325º F for 35 to 40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the centre of each cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove cake from pan to cool completely before frosting.

Cherry-Kirsch frosting

Adapted from Demolition Desserts

1 cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons whipping cream

5 cups sifted icing sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons kirsch, divided

3 egg whites, at room temperature

pinch salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons invert sugar

1 cup cherry jam

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter until creamy. Add the whipping cream and mix. Reduce speed to low and add icing sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Mix in the salt, vanilla, and 1 teaspoon of the kirsch. Set buttercream frosting aside.

In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk together the egg whites, salt, granulated sugar and invert sugar. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Using a hand mixer, mix for seven minutes, or until white, glossy, and thick. Remove from heat and add kirsch. Let cool slightly.

Purée cherry jam until smooth. Mix into the buttercream frosting until thoroughly incorporated. Fold the seven-minute frosting into the buttercream mixture until combined.

Use this mixture to frost the haunted forest cakes. Garnish or decorate cakes as desired and serve.

Makes 1 3-layer cake or 6 dozen mini cupcakes.


Frangelico Balls

For a recent Fancy Party, I wanted to make rum balls. However, I wanted to make them taste a little more nuanced and elegant, so I decided to base the flavour profile on hazelnuts and spices. For the liquor, I used Frangelico, and I replaced the usual vanilla wafer or Oreo crumbs with Speculaas crumbs, using a delicious recipe from Baked. I think gingersnap or gingerbread crumbs would also work well here.


Frangelico Balls

1 cup Speculaas cookies, chopped to crumbs in a food processor

1 cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts, chopped

1 cup sifted icing sugar

2 tbsp Dutch process cocoa

1/4 cup Frangelico

1 1/2 tbsp invert sugar, honey, or corn syrup


chocolate sprinkles, ground hazelnuts, or other coating

In a food processor, pulse together the Speculaas crumbs, hazelnuts, icing sugar and cocoa until uniform.

In a small bowl, whisk together the Frangelico and invert sugar. Add to the bowl of the food processor and pulse until a dough comes together. Cover the dough and chill the mixture for at least 4 hours.

Place some water in a bowl and the coating in a shallow dish. Form the dough into 1-inch balls. Dunk in the water, then roll in the chocolate sprinkles. Repeat until all the dough is rolled.

Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes about 70 Frangelico balls.


S’mores cupcakes – recipe 1 from Cupcake Interview on Local Tourist Ottawa


I recently had the great fortune to be interviewed by Ottawa’s Hilary Duff, who is on a delicious quest to find Ottawa’s best cupcakes for the Local Tourist Ottawa blog. I’ve been avidly reading Hilary’s research since her hunt began, so I was quite thrilled to make some cupcakes for her.

The first flavour I decided on was S’mores. A while back, while sipping some Laphroaig, I got it in my head that the campfire qualities of a nice, peaty Scotch would go brilliantly with marshmallows and, by extension, s’mores. I had a hypothetical cupcake in my head, and now I had a reason to develop it. The cupcakes would have to have enough whole wheat flour to impart the graham flavour. The tricky bit would be finding the right combination of sweeteners to achieve that nostalgic flavour of store-bought graham crackers. I first attempted the cupcakes with a combination of honey and molasses but found that the molasses imparted too much of a gingerbread flavour.

The next step was to decide on the filling. Would the cupcakes be filled with chocolate and dressed with marshmallow, or vice versa? It was an easy decision to sort out. The marshmallow had to be on the outside so that I could use my brulée torch (which I will make any excuse to use on a dessert) and get a roasted marshmallow flavour. Though I attempted to make a Scotch-based marshmallow fluff, it wound up being too runny and the flavour didn’t stand out enough against the sweetness of the frosting. Instead, I opted to paint the filled cupcakes with Lagavulin, then frost the cupcakes and torch the marshmallow.

The chocolate filling, I think is a matter of personal preference. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe for hot fudge sauce from his book The Perfect Scoop. However, I think any recipe for ganache or chocolate sauce would work quite well. I personally enjoy a deep, dark, chocolatey flavour in s’mores over the traditional milk chocolate – I find the milk chocolate flavour to be too cloying for me to enjoy the combination.


Graham cracker cupcakes

1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

1/2 c. whole wheat flour (freshly milled, if possible – Castor River Farms at Lansdowne’s farmers’ market has fantastic, milled-on-the-spot flour)

1 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/4 c. plus 1 tbsp granulated sugar

3/4 c. honey

2 eggs

3/4 c. buttermilk

1 – 2 tbsp. Lagavulin or other peaty Scotch, divided

1 recipe chocolate filling of your choice.

1 recipe marshmallow frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together all-purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk in the whole wheat flour and salt. Set aside.

Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt, stirring occasionally. Let the butter cook until the foam begins subsiding and most of the bits on the bottom of the pan begin turning reddish-amber. The butter will give off a heavenly, nutty aroma.

Pour the butter into a jar or heatproof container (125 mL mason jars are my favourite kitchen accessory for things just like this). Cover and refrigerate just until cool, 30 minutes to an hour. Pour the browned butter into a bowl. Whisk in the sugar and honey. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the Scotch.

Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir until just combined. Divide batter evenly among the lined muffin cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted in a muffin comes out clean.

Makes about 12 cupcakes.

When cupcakes are cool, fill with your choice of chocolate filling using your preferred method for filling cupcakes. Using the pastry brush, paint each cupcake with the Lagavulin

*note: for Hilary’s interview, I piped in the filling. This did not give a satisfactory amount of chocolate filling in the cupcake, so for the batch pictured above, I hunted for techniques around the web until I found this one, which gives a nice truffle-sized amount of filling.

Marshmallow frosting

4 egg whites

1/2 cup invert sugar

seeds from 1 vanilla bean

1 1/2 cups sugar

Set a small pot of water to a simmer. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and set the bowl over the simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Whisk constantly, checking the temperature from time to time (or by attaching a candy thermometer to the side of the bowl). The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will grow lighter and more opaque in colour. When the temperature reaches 235º 160º F, remove the bowl from the pot and replace it in the stand mixer. Using the whick attachment, mix on high for about 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture has cooled, turned bright white and considerably increased in volume. Scoop the marshmallow frosting into a piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice and pipe onto the filled cupcakes.

Using a brulée torch, toast the frosting until golden in most places and very slightly burned in others – this uneven toasting, for me, really gets the campfire feel across. Alternately, you could set the cupcakes under a broiler on high for 2 – 3 minutes, or until the frosting is toasted to your liking.


Cupcake Camp Cupcakes!

I went to Cupcake Camp this weekend. It was held at City Hall here in Ottawa, and photos from the event can be found here. I entered the Amateur baker category and submitted my cupcakes in the Tastiest Twist on Traditional category. To my sheer and utter delight, they won! So here it is, my recipe for 5-spice chocolate cupcakes filled with tamari caramel and topped with wasabi (yes, wasabi) frosting.


5-spice Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes about 2 dozen

2 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 scant tsp. 5-spice powder

1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)

1 c. demerara-style brown sugar

1 c. 2 tbsp. white sugar

4 eggs

1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 c. light coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 325º F and line muffin tins with paper liners, or grease and flour the muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and 5-spice powder. Whisk in the salt to blend.

In a stand mixer on medium speed, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the demerara and white sugars and mix to blend. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.

Whisk the vanilla into the coconut milk. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the coconut milk to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until flour mixture is fully incorporated; do not overmix or cupcakes will get tougher.

Portion the cupcake batter into muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 325ºF. Check that a tester comes out clean to see if they’re done, but err on the side of underbaking them. If overbaked, they will be too dry.

Tamari Caramel

Makes about 1 1/2 c.

Adapted from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts

1/4 c. water

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

1 c. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. corn syrup

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 c. heavy cream

1 tbsp. tamari

1/2 tsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine water, cream of tartar, corn syrup, and sugar. Mix to moisten sugar. Heat saucepan, covered, on high. Cook until caramel comes to a full rolling boil. Remove the lid and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook until caramel is slightly lighter than the desired colour (I went for a medium red-amber, which gives the sugar a lightly toasted flavour). Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the tablespoon of butter and stir until melted. Slowly and carefully pour in the cream, as there will be a hot column of steam that arises. Place the pan over medium-low heat and stir until smooth and the mixture is slightly bubbly. Remove from heat and stir in tamari and reduced-sodium soy sauce. Decant into a mason jar. Let sit until jar comes to room temperature, then refrigerate until caramel is chilled and thick. Overnight works well.

Add to a piping bag fitted with a filling tip or add to a squeeze bottle. Insert the piping tip into each cupcake and squeeze until it feels as though the cupcake has taken on weight. Continue until all cupcakes are filled.

Wasabi Frosting

I found the buttercream on its own to taste too starchy, and the egg white frosting tasty but too thin to pipe, so I combined the two.

Adapted from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts

Buttercream portion:

1 c. unsalted butter, softened

2-3 tbsp. orange juice

5 c. sifted icing sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. wasabi paste

Icing Portion (you’ll only need half of this)

3 egg whites

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

3/4 c. granulated sugar

2 tbsp. corn syrup

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. wasabi paste

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy. Add the orange juice and mix to combine – it may not fully incorporate. Add the icing sugar, one cup at a time. Stop adding icing sugar if the icing becomes too thick for your liking. Add wasabi and vanilla and beat on high until the buttercream is light, fluffy, and blended. Set aside.

In a medium heatproof bowl, combine egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar, and corn syrup. Place over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Using a hand mixer, beat the frosting until glossy white and thickened to the desired consistency. Add the vanilla and wasabi paste and beat just a bit longer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add about half of the icing mixture to the buttercream and beat until thoroughly combined. Add frosting to a piping bag and pipe onto filled cupcakes. If icing is too stiff to pipe, add more of the icing mixture to the buttercream until desired thickness is achieved.