Quintessential Chocolate Cupcakes

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Quintessential Cupcakes by twocarolines.com


I’m introducing you to the most perfect party companion ever.  These cupcakes are always so moist, rich and chocolatey with a bit of sour for balance and the most perfect springy texture, they are consistently amazing and so easy it’s embarrassing.  Of course this recipe works great as a layer cake, in a bundt, or just poured into a 9X13, just be sure to check doneness instead of bake times.  I made this batch for a sweet baby boy’s 1st birthday and thought it would be more fun to have two kinds of frosting for the kids to choose from, I will post both but I only made half of each for 24 cupcakes.  If you don’t feel like making frosting I’m sure you’ll enjoy them with a little ganache glaze or even just sprinkled with powdered sugar.

 

Chocolate Cake:

1 box pillsbury devils food cake mix
1 3.4 oz box jello instant chocolate pudding (not the fat/sugar free)
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs lightly beaten (room temp works best)
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup chocolate chips

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting: 

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 a box) room temperature
5 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: 

1/3 cup butter
2-3 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (might need a bit more if frosting is too thick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

  1. For the cake.  Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cupcake pans then spray the very bottom so your cakes come out clean.
  2. Lightly mix together the cake mix and pudding mix then in a separate bowl mix your eggs water, oil (or butter) and vanilla well until all the eggs are incorporated.  Add the wet mixture into the cake mix making sure to mix it thoroughly for a few minutes, and then add the sour cream blending until no white streaks remain.  Last add the chocolate chips and just fold them in with a spatula so they are evenly distributed.  The batter is quite thick, but it bakes up really nice so don’t get scared.
  3. Fill muffin tins about 2/3-3/4 tall depending on how tall your want your cupcakes.  You might have a bit extra.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 19-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (bake times vary for 9″ pans, bundts etc. so check doneness with a toothpick before taking out).
  5. For the vanilla buttercream – mix butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until well combined and a little fluffed up.  Add sugar and milk alternating, then vanilla.  I usually end up adding a little more sugar or milk until I reach desired texture.
  6. For the chocolate buttercream – melt butter and mix with cream cheese until well combined.  Add about half the milk to this mixture then start to add your cocoa and sugar in alternating batches ending with sugar.  Add vanilla and salt anytime.  Put in the rest of the milk and make sure you scrape down the sides of the pan often and just like the vanilla buttercream have extra milk and sugar on hand to get to your desired texture.
  7. I think it’s easiest and pretty to pipe on your frosting for cupcakes.  I use these handy Wilton disposable piping bags and I just cut them and put in my large frosting tip then put the bag into a tall vase with the edges pulled over the top to fill it up and pipe it on to my cupcakes.  So easy, and looks pretty good for someone who’s not the worlds best decorator.

-CK 2.0

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Cake recipe adapted from “A Gathering of Friends” cookbook.  Vanilla Buttercream from Martha Stewart Cakes cookbook.  Chocolate Buttercream I made up.

Swedish Sticky Cake – Kladdkaka

Two Carolines Swedish Sticky Cake.JPG

One of the things I miss the most about living in Berlin is my little group of amazing friends. From that group comes one of my favorite people in the world—we’ll call her Girl Swede. She and I used to bake together a lot and she taught me so many of her Swedish traditions and makes the most amazing Swedish treats. This Sticky Cake was the first thing she ever made for me and I was hooked! Girl Swede correctly explained that it was such an easy and quick treat to make and it is commonly enjoyed during Fika (a Swedish coffee break that is accompanied by delectable pastries). So, if you are wanting a super simple but decadent, chocolatey, chewy, kind of sticky treat–make this. I guess you could also invite others to join you, instead of hoarding this all to yourself but, I’ll let you decide…

Swedish Sticky Cake, a.k.a. Kladdkaka

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch salt
  • eggs
  • 1 1⁄3cups white sugar
  • 1tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1⁄2cup butter, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Lightly grease an 9-inch cake pan.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside. Stir the eggs into the sugar until smooth. Add the flour mixture, and stir until combined. Pour in the vanilla extract and butter; stir until well combined. Pour into prepared cake pan.
  3. Bake on the lower rack (important!) of the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until the center has slightly set. Allow cake to cool for 1 hour in the pie plate. The cake is equally delicious if served warm or cold, find your sweet spot! Also, this can be good garnished with ice cream or whipped cream or powdered sugar dusted on top—I like how this is like a brownie and I’m a purist, so I served it plain.

Original Swedish recipe found here.
This American version was found from here and very slightly adapted.

-CK 1.0

Chocolate Granola Pie

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Chocolate Granola Pie by twocarolines.com

I shared this pie almost a year ago as a guest post on one of my friends blogs, but I’ve shared it MANY times with friends for various events and just whenever I want to eat one of the most delicious bakes in my arsenal.  I had to post it here today because so many friends have been asking for the recipe with Thanksgiving less than a week away! This pie not only checks all the boxes, crunchy, chewy, chocolatey, nutty, sweet, salty, mouth melty…it also makes the people you serve it to think you’re a total genius in the kitchen.  The cool trick is that it’s one of the easiest pies I make, and honestly, the only pie that competes with this for my favorites is chocolate cinnamon mousse, but that’s a much more involved pie so granola pie has become my go to.  It’s really good served warm, but I think it’s even better served cold, it’s amazing on it’s own, but heaped high with whipped cream or ice cream and you are winning all the pie awards this year.  I implore you to add it to your Thanksgiving line up and share this recipe with your pie loving friends!

Crust: unbaked 9″ Traditional pie crust – ours is easy and always delicious! I sometimes make this in a deep dish pie pan in which case I just go heavy on all the ingredients – you can’t really mess it up I promise!

½ cup butter
½ cup brown sugar
¾ cup light corn syrup
⅛ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs (beaten)
4 nature valley oat’s n’ honey granola bars (2 pouches) crushed
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup oats (quick or old fashioned)
½ (rounded) chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

  1. Prepare pie crust by pressing into pan and crimping as desired. I usually put my unbaked crust in the freezer while I prepare the filling which makes it extra flakey. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In large Microsoft waveable bowl melt butter, stir in brown sugar and corn syrup until blended.  Beat in salt, vanilla and eggs.  Stir in crushed granola bars, walnuts, oats and chocolate chips.  Pour into crust lined pan.
  3. Bake 40-50 minutes or until filling is set and crust is golden brown.  During last 15-20 minutes of baking cover crust edge with strips of aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning (if you don’t want to bother, it’s not a huge deal). I use a pie shield that’s handy for pies that have a long bake time.  Cool at least 30 minutes before serving.  Tastes great warm, room temp or chilled with whipped cream or ice cream.  Cover and refrigerate any remaining pie, but remaining pie is unlikely.

Recipe adapted from Pillsbury Bake Off winner 2004 Oats and Honey Pie (which I literally watched the winner announced on Oprah back in 2004 and I’ve been making this pie ever since!)

Striped Citrus Meringue Cookies

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Striped Citrus Meringue Cookies by twocarolines.com

While sitting with my 3 year old on the couch I did a quick browse on my Instagram and a video popped up on my Wilton feed with these beautiful little Meringue cookies – Millie excitedly said “Mom! They are like rainbow chocolate chips, we have to make them!” fullsizeoutput_657cObviously I am not capable of denying a face like this so we spent the afternoon making these beautiful cookies and then had a blast delivering them to friends.  Millie felt very strongly that they needed to be pink with stripes, so we put a touch of red food coloring in our stiff peaks, but you can do these so many ways.  They are the perfect cookie for any occasion that calls for “cute” such as a baby shower, childrens birthday or even a fun wedding.  I thought they were pretty but was not expecting them to taste too exciting, and I’m happy to report, they were just delicious!  Bright and sweet with a beautiful texture and nice vanilla lemon flavor.  They really are a joy to make and to eat! -CK 2.0

  • 6 large egg whites (fresh work best)img_4557
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • zest of 1 lemon, orange or lime (I used lemon and loved it!)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or pure vanilla extract
  • food dye of your choice
  1. Prepare 2 cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper.  I ended up having leftover even after filling 2 cookie sheets so you might need another or you can just discard or eat your leftover meringue.  Preheat oven to 200
  2. put your 6 egg whites in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer (you can use any heatproof bowl and a hand mixer too – but stand mixers are nice for meringue because stiff peaks take a while).  Add a pinch of salt and whisk it up a bit to break up your whites.  Next add your sugar and whisk all of that for a minute then put it over a pot of boiling water.  Continue whisking until your mixture is a little warm and the sugar granules are dissolved so you don’t feel them between your fingers.  Once the sugar is dissolved, take off the heat and add your 1/8 teaspoon of cream of tartar.  Set in your stand mixer with the whisk attachment and whip on a high setting until your get nice glossy stiff peaks. Once you have pretty stiff peaks add your citrus zest and vanilla.  We also added a touch of red coloring at this stage so our base color would be pink.
  3. Take a few dots of meringue and use it as glue between your parchment and cookie sheet so the parchment paper doesn’t try to come up while you pipe out your cookies.  To prepare your piping bag, find a tip that’s about 1/2 inch round – I used the Ateco 808 which worked perfectly.  I also used Wilton disposable piping bags, which are so handy, but you could fill any bag and I think it would work fine.  You could also use a star tip, but make it a large one.  Next, cut the hole in the bottom of your bag, make sure your tip is a tight fit, then paint with any paintbrush (or even your finger if you don’t have one) stripes down the sides of the bag of whatever color you want to pipe out.  We used blue and purple in ours which was really pretty, but suit yourself.  The color might not show up until you’ve piped out a few cookies FYI.  I put my bag into a tall vase and fold the top over all the way around.  This way I have a hard surface to scrape off and push down the meringue filling, but I can still get a clean twist at the top to squeeze with.  Piping out the cookies is easy, just apply a little pressure from the top with your tip close to the cookie sheet then stop pushing before you pull it up in a little twist.  There are lots of shapes you can do – have fun with it!
  4. Bake in a 200 degree oven for a good hour and a half.  Rotate somewhere in the middle of that and to let the cookies cool, just turn off the oven and let them cool in the oven.  They will be crisp, come off easily, but not brown.  I used tongs to put them on plates for friends because they did stick to my fingers a little.  Enjoy!

 

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striped lemon meringue cookies by twocarolines.com

Recipe adapted from Renee Conner – I got it from her youtube video that had some other fun videos too – check it out!

 

Pear Plum Pecan & Apple Crisp

pear plum and apple crisp

Pear Plum Pecan and Apple Crisp by twocarolines.com

Fall fruits have never been in a more delicious setting than bubbling with cinnamony juices and topped with a crumbly crunch top in this delicious pear, plum and apple crisp!  I am missing the bounty of summer, but honestly there is no summer dessert that can make your house smell like this, and not only does this crisp taste outstanding warm, but it’s life altering cold and completely over the top with a scoop of legit vanilla ice cream.  This recipe is very versatile.  It’s my own creation loosely based on the Joy of Cooking apple crisp.  I’ve made it with apples and blackberries, rhubarb and blueberries, any number of stone fruits or just with apples, and the topping is begging to be messed with too!  This time I added oats as I almost always do and chopped some pecans into it which was heaven, but you could add any number of yummy things like coconut, dried fruit, or nuts of  just about any kind.  This is the ultimate in easy desserts which is also handy for this busy time of year, but despite the small effort, anyone who eats it will be convinced you’re a genius in the kitchen!

2-2/12 lbs fruit – either apples, or apples and a combination of other fruit – it comes out to about 7-8 medium sized apples.  Peel and chop apples, pears and plums.
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oats (old fashioned work best)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup cold butter cut into small pieces

  1.  Prepare a 2 quart sized baking dish by spraying the very bottom.  You don’t have too, but I think it helps with clean up.  Preheat oven to 360 (original recipe is 375, but I find that burns my nuts so I keep it a bit cooler).
  2. Spread fruit into dish and in a separate bowl combine everything but the butter then cut the butter in with a pastry cutter or forks until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.  Scatter the topping evenly over the fruit.  Bake until the topping is golden brown, the juices are bubbling and the apples are tender, about 45-50 minutes.  I usually tent mine at the end just to make sure things don’t get too brown, but you don’t have too.
  3. Serve hot or cold with whipped cream, sour cream or ice cream…or just by itself because it’s seriously incredible on it’s own.  Refrigerate leftovers, which will be good for at least 4-5 days but they will be long gone before then!

Recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking Apple or Fruit Crisp 2006

Dense Chocolate Pound Cake

This perfect little pound cake has become my go-to when I’m in need of a SERIOUS chocolate dessert that feels decadent and fancy, but isn’t going to take me all day.  I love to serve it to friends, it has an unassuming air then you take a bite and realize you’re rapidly slipping into a blissful chocolate coma.  I made it this week for a friend and fellow chocolate lover who recently had back surgery and needed some dessert therapy.  She also happens to be one of our first followers and is such a twocarolines.com supporter that I will rescue her with chocolate sweets anytime she wants.  She called to report that she LOVED this cake and described it as absolutely “scrumdillyotious” and insisted I post the recipe ASAP because she needs more.  This ones for you Linda!

1 cup room temperature butter
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
4 ounces best bittersweet chocolate, melted (I use the Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 78% dark chocolate that’s imported from Belgium)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

  1.  Preheat oven to 375, grease and line a loaf pan.  The lining is important as this is a very damp cake, so I cut parchment to line the sides and the middle, then sprayed my parchment just a bit too.  To melt your chocolate, chop it up, and either melt in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boling water, or do the easy way, heat in a pyrex in your microwave on defrost, or in 20 second increments, because if you let it get to hot, it will burn your chocolate.  Just melt until  you can whisk it smooth.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well.  Next, fold in the melted (and now slightly cooled) chocolate, blend well, but don’t over-beat.  You want the ingredients combined, but you don’t want a light airy mass.
  3. Mix your baking soda and flour, then gently add the flour mixture, alternately bit by bit with the boiling water until you have a smooth fairly liquid batter.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of flour over your chocolate chips and add those in last, then pour into your lined loaf pan.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, turn down the oven to 325 and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.  The cake does not need to be completely set, but it should be mostly set.  If it’s too squiggly in the middle, it won’t totally set.  I like to tent the top with foil for the last 15 minutes just to insure I don’t burn my chocolate on top, but I get a cake that is baked all the way through the middle.  A cake tester will come out with moist crumbs when done, not liquid batter.
  5. Place loaf pan on a rack and leave to get completely cold before turning out.  Don’t worry if it sinks in the middle, that is to be expected.  Turn out carefully, I trace the edges with a knife first.  Serve with powdered sugar, ice cream, caramel, whipped cream or Nigella even loves it with cream cheese (no clue how she does that – maybe brits keep their cream cheese at room temp?) However you serve it, the cake is so delicious and I think it’s brilliant just on it’s own.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

 

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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double chocolate chunk cookies by twocarolines.com

These came about when I wanted to bring a treat to my daughter’s soccer practice, but needed to mindful of a nut allergy and the fact that 7 year olds are kind of lame sometimes about awesome stuff like coconut and oatmeal.  These cookies were a huge hit with the Huntington Beach “Kickers” and it’s no wonder with their perfectly chewy texture, and loads of rich chocolate flavor.  I am continuing to fuel the team with baked sweets because it’s working, we are UNDEFEATED!  And I’m sure double chocolate chunk cookies have a lot to do with that, because practice etc. really pales in comparrison to the power of an epic dessert.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (you can also use natural Hershey’s or whatever you have on hand)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces good-quality milk chocolate or dark/semi-sweet, 4 ounces coarsely chopped, 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks.  Chunks are delicious and add to the texture, but chocolate chips will work great too
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Melt coarsely chopped chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.

  2. Transfer chocolate mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla; mix on medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chunks.

  3. Scoop batter using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop; place 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces begin to crack, you still want them looking shiny and undone in the middle, about 11-13 minutes. Transfer on parchment to wire racks. Let cool 5 minutes.

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Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies