Spicy Chocolate Cupcakes

A quick peek at my decision-making process…

Having decided I wanted to make a less dense cake than my usual, I spent some time looking into sponge cake recipes. But sponge cake/angel food cake has always been a little too light for my liking. So I decided to try out a Victoria Sponge cake instead, because at least it has butter in’t. And also because it’s the simplest formula imaginable: equal ratios (by weight) of flour, sugar, butter, and eggs.

Then, having decided I wanted to try out an Aztec/Mayan/Spicy chocolate cake, I decided to make a spicy chocolate Victoria Sponge.

And then, since I wanted to be able to sample this concoction before foisting it off on anyone else, I decided to make cupcakes rather than cake-cakes.

And Then, since I still had egg yolks left-over from the last baking project, I decided on a white chocolate “french buttercream”* (sprinkled with cinnamon) to go on top.

And then…

cinnamon choco cupcake

I used two tsps of cinnamon and 1/2 tsp of cayenne. The cayenne definitely creates a tickle in the back of the throat. I wasn’t sure how that would go over, but I took the cupcakes into work and even the fellow who doesn’t like icing ate his all up.

Cupcake recipe

Measure out wet ingredients:

– 220 grams of butter
– 220 grams of sugar

Cream these together. Then add:

– 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition
– 2 tsp of vanilla.

Measure out dry ingredients:

– 55 grams of cocoa powder
– 2 tsp ground cinnamon (fresh ground is probably best, but only if your spice grinder’s better than mine and doesn’t leave large-ish chunks in)
– 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (was going to use chili powder but changed my mind)
– 165 grams of flour
– 2 tsp baking powder
– 1/4 tsp salt

Whisk these together, then sift. Fold dry ingredients into wet.

Drop them into baking cups (about 15 of them, in my case) and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.

French Buttercream recipe

Dione Lucas’s Chocolate Buttercream (from Chocolate Cake by Michele Urvater):

– Beat 4 large egg yolks until light. (I used 5 medium.)

– Heat 3/4 cup corn syrup to a simmer, stirring constantly, then let it boil unstirred until it reaches soft ball stage (around 236 degrees, according to the recipe).

– Once the syrup’s temperature reaches about 230 degrees, start beating the egg yolks again.

– Once the syrup reaches 236 degrees, pour the syrup into the egg yolks in a constant stream, beating until the mixture is “light, fluffy, lemon-colored, tepid.” (This is where an extra pair of hands comes in handy if you’re using a hand mixer.)

– Mix in 2-1/2 sticks (10 oz) of softened butter, in portions.

– Mix in 6 oz of cooled melted chocolate (white, milk, or semisweet)

* I put this in quotes because the recipe seems to be a modification of a french buttercream, rather than a pure version. Rather than creating a simple syrup and boiling it to soft ball stage, it calls for corn syrup boiled to soft ball stage. (The author of the book guessed this might have been the frosting creator’s way of Americanizing a recipe that calls for glucose syrup, which is/was commonly used in French pastry kitchens but not so easily found in American supermarkets.)

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Blackberry (mango) Tarts

A tarty experiment

Last week, or maybe a couple of weeks ago, I saw this post on Smitten Kitchen: Rustic Rhubarb Tarts.

Instantly, I was in love and determined to make them as soon as possible. However, I had no cornmeal, corn flour, rhubarb, vanilla bean, or cream and was pretty much not up for shopping. So, I improvised.

On Sunday, I rummaged through the freezer and found a bag of marionberry blackberries and another of mango chunks from my smoothie phase. I thawed them overnight, then threw them in a pot with half a cup of sugar, a teaspoon of ginger, half a teaspoon of anise, and a sprinkle of cinnamon (and a capful of lemon juice). I’m not sure whether the additions made much difference. I can say that after 30ish minutes of boiling there was something tasty in the pot. I mixed in some cornstarch and stirred quickly for a few minutes more, then turned off the stove and let things cool off.

I’d intended to make a pie dough yesterday evening and finish making the tarts then, but [a butterfly fluttered its wings at my periphery, I turned my head, and was thus distracted].

This morning, I found myself awake at 5:00am, so decided to proceed with the crust. I borrowed the pie crust recipe from the Smitten Kitchen site, but subbed shortening for half of the butter and whole wheat flour for half of the regular. Despite my ambitions, I am not skilled at working with dough, so by the time the dough was made and formed and filled (over-filled, really) with the compote, I did not have time to bake them. Into the freezer they went. (Some of them, hand-shaped, were placed on a cookie sheet; others, shaped by pressing them into the cups of a muffin tin, stayed in their cups and were frozen that way.)

Finally, yesterday, some of the tarts made it into the oven. As pretty much more or less entirely expected, the mango flavor was not apparent. The blackberry flavor was so present that I could barely taste the crust, even. So next time, less filling.

The crust did seem nicely flaky, but next time no whole wheat (just doesn’t seem fitting for this filling–maybe would work better for a nuttier/crunchier filling). Either that or make a cookie dough* (the flavor of which might stand up better against the filling) and turn these into jam cookies. Jam spice cookies. (Jammed spice cookies?)

Even with their flaws, though, I’m pretty fond of these tarts. And they didn’t last long at all. Here’s a pic for posterity:

* Or, it occurred to me later, a proper tart dough, which is made more cookie-like than a regular pie dough by the addition of more sugar and of eggs or egg yolks. So I’ll try this same recipe again, but add 1/4 cup sugar (rather than a tablespoon) and an egg.

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Chocolate-Orange Cake

This weekend’s baking mission: revamp the recipe I have for Mayonnaise Chocolate Cake.  After doing some reading for inspiration, I decided to enhance it with an orange flavor.  Here’s how it looked at the beginning of the night:

And after the event, a small potluck, was over:

This version of the mayonnaise cake came out a lot better than my first attempt. (More acidic elements and/or slightly more sugar = no residual taste of baking soda.) Everyone had a large slice, and kept sneaking more nibbles as the evening wore on. 🙂


– 1 cup sugar (I used dark brown sugar, but white sugar works too.)
– 2 cups flour (I used cake flour, but all-purpose flour also works.)
– 4 (level-ish) tbsp cocoa powder
– 2 tsp baking soda
– pinch of salt
– 1 tbsp orange zest (that’s an estimation; I zested two medium-sized oranges.)

Sift together dry ingredients. Mix together wet ingredients. Combine dry ingredients with wet, then add:

– 1 (scant-ish) cup mayonnaise
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/2 cup orange juice (and if you’re me you add a dash of lemon juice just because)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract

Line two 8″ cake pans with parchment paper, split the batter between them, and bake for 20-25 minutes at 350.

For the topping, I made a chocolate buttercream frosting and added an orange flavor to this element as well by adding 1-1/2 tsp orange zest (i.e. the zest of half a large orange) and 3 tbsp of orange juice (the juice of half a large orange).

End result:

Thumbs up.

I’m also practicing making brownies and blondies. Haven’t mastered them yet, but here’s a picture of a couple of early prototypes.

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