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.

Hello Kitty Rainbow Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

img_2416My firstborn recently turned 7 – and like most 7 year old girls she is a big “Hello Kitty” fan.  I came across a cute hello kitty cake pan on wilton.com and decided to whoop it up as a special  birthday surprise.  I filled it with a rainbow cake and it looked so small and sad all alone that I made another rainbow cake which made it into a much more substantial and fancy rainbow layer cake.  I’m not talented as a decorator, my strengths are in making the most delicious cakes, not the most beautiful, but I’ve been working on it, and I’m going to go ahead and say this cake turned out super awesome!  I have to give Wilton credit because I just looked on the packaging that came on the pan as inspiration for how to frost the cake, but I did a few things my own way that paid off big time in the flavor department, which is obviously the most important!  You can fill it with any cake you like, but I’m going to give instructions for my easy delicious rainbow cake and cream cheese frosting.  And believe me, cutting into a double rainbow cake is such a fun and dramatic reveal – girls of a certain age are guaranteed to go nuts when you pull out the first slice!

For the cakes: 
2 boxes white cake mix – I use pillsbury classic white cake mix
1 cup butter melted (separated 1/2 cup or 1 stick per cake)
2 cups water (separated 1 cup per cake)
6 eggs (separated 3 eggs per cake) room temperature works best
food dye

For the Frosting: 
12 ounces cream cheese room temperature
10 tablespoons 1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (sifted)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons whole milk or cream (if needed to thin a little)
black decorating gel
red or pink food dye
yellow food dye

  1. For the cake.  Prepare your pan by spraying it with baking spray or coating in butter and patting flour into the pan.  I find it works best to make one cake at a time.  I also think it’s helpful to use paper bowls for the colors, much less mess and they are easy to pour with.  Line up 6 bowls, spray them lightly with cooking spray so your batter dumps out easily.

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    rainbow caking in the making by twocarolines.com

  2. In a large bowl mix 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup melted butter, and 3 eggs, add the cake mix.  Pour batter as evenly as you can between your 6 paper bowls (if you want to go all out you can weigh them but I found it quite easy to eyeball it).  In the first bowl put yellow food coloring until you achieve desired color and do the same for orange, red, purple, blue, and green.  Pour each color into your cake pan in order from the center.  Just pour one over another ending with the green.  Give it a good smack on the counter and without mixing your colors make sure the batter is in the ears of the mold.
  3. Bake for about 27-33 minutes, focus on doneness rather than bake time.  Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean and your cake has started to barely pull from the sides of the pan.  Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes or so then turn out on to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Once cool cut off the round top (treat for later!) and place kitty face side up on to your cake board, stand or serving plate.
  4. To make your next rainbow cake repeat steps 1, 2, and 3.
  5. To make the frosting, cream the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla then add the sifted powdered sugar.  If your frosting seems too thick put a teaspoon of whole milk or cream in with it.
  6. To frost the cake.  On your first cake that is cut side down, kitty side up, plop a fairly generous (3/4 cup or so at least) heap of frosting on the top and spread evenly touching your spatula to the frosting only and not the cake.  Take about 1/2 cup frosting and mix with red or pink food dye to make the bow color.  Take about a tablespoon or two and mix with yellow to make the nose color.  I used a parchment piping bag for the yellow and put the pink into a piping bag with a small star tip – wilton recommends tip 16, but I eyeballed it and it worked out.  Place the second layer and now go step by step for the kitty frosting detail.
    1. First fill in the inside loop of the bow, I used the star tip and smoothed it out with my spatula (not a perfectionist obviously).
    2. Outline the inside and outside loop of the bow and the knot with the black decorating gel.
    3. Fill in the rest of the stars with your pink frosting.  Be sure to apply even pressure and lift the bag off only after you’ve stopped pushing or your stars will be weird and pointy.
    4. Use a parchment bag, a plastic bag with a hole cut or even just your frosting spatula to fill in the yellow nose and smooth it out
    5. Use the black decorating gel to fill in the eyes.
    6. Use the black decorating gel to fill in the whiskers
    7. Fill a large piping bag with a small star tip – wilton recommends 16 (I pull the sides up over a tall vase to fill it then fold them over) with all the rest of your white cream cheese frosting.
    8. Pipe stars all over the head of your kitty trying not to leave too many gaps (as you can see if you compare, mine had way more gaps than wilton’s, but it still looked awesome).  This takes a minute, but it’s not to hard.
    9. Once I had piped out the stars I filled in the black a little better here and there.
    10. To frost the sides of your cake, either take what’s left in your bag and spread it onto the sides with a frosting spatula, or pipe it evenly around your cake.  I tried this, but couldn’t keep my hand steady enough so I ended up smoothing it with the spatula after I piped it and it looked great.  Enjoy!
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rainbow layer cake by twocarolines.com

Frosting recipe Martha Stewart Cream Cheese Frosting from Martha Stewart Cakes book.  Cake pan and decoration technique by wilton.com.  Go to this Hello Kitty Cake Pan instructions link for more professional detailed decorating info.

 

Chocolate Truffle Cake

FullSizeRenderI am a purveyor of sweets in general, but when it comes to things of the chocolate cake variety, my love runs deep.  There are a number of chocolate cakes I make on the regular, and most of them are quite easy, but for this craving I let my 6 year old daughter pick whichever cake she wanted from my Martha Stewart Cakes book – the result was this beast of a beauty that tastes even better than it looks and was so fun to make with my littles.  As per usual Martha doesn’t make things simple, but she does generally make things quite delicious.  Often “from scratch” cakes are not as springy and moist as I want them to be, but this one had the perfect crumb and was layered with a ganache filling that made it all so decadent. I choose to use my own frosting because her super pretty glossy “rich chocolate frosting” would have required me to chop ANOTHER pound of chocolate, and seriously, even for a chocolate hoarder like me, 2 pounds of good chocolate is hard to part with for one recipe.  I used my always good chocolate buttercream, and I’m going to go on ahead and say it turned out about as delicious as a cake can get.

Cake – 

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature (plus more for pans)

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder plus more for pans

(tip: I marble my cocoa with dark cocoa at a ratio of about 3 to 1 so any recipe that call for cocoa powder gets a little ride on the dark side)

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water

3/4 cup milk

2 1/4 cups cake flour (she says to sift it, but who has time for that noise)

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 large eggs lightly beaten

IMG_9294Whipped Ganache filling – 

1 pound bittersweet (or semi-sweet if you prefer) chocolate finely chopped

2 1/2 cups heavy cream

 

Frosting – 

3/4 cup butter melted

1 cup unsweetened cocoa

4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup milk

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

 

For the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line with parchment rounds, and butter (or spray) parchment.  Dust with cocoa, tapping out excess.  Sift cocoa into medium bowl.  Stir in the boiling water until smooth; gradually whisk in milk.  Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  With an electric mister on low beat butter until fluffy, 3-5 minutes.  Gradually beat in sugar, scraping down sides of bowl a few times.  Beat in vanilla.
  3. Add eggs in 3 batches, beating well after each addition.  With a mixer on low speed, add flour mixture and reserved cocoa mixture a little at a time in alternate batches, starting and ending with the flour; beat until just combined.
  4. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula.  Bake rotating halfway through, until a cake tester comes out clean, 20-25 minutes.  Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 15 minutes.  Turn cakes out on racks to cool completely.
  5. With a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes to level.  Place bottom cake layer on a cake stand or platter, and spread evenly with about 1 1/4 cups whipped ganache; top with second layer and 1 1/4 cups ganache.  Top with third layer.  Spread remaining whipped ganache over top and sides of cake to form a crumb coat; refrigerate until ganache is firm, about 30 minutes.
  6. Spread chocolate frosting over top and sides of cake, using an offset spatula to create large swirls.  If you have chocolate curls they make a pretty decorate topping – I didn’t have any and it still looked pretty and tasted great.

For the Whipped Ganache

  1. Place chocolate in a large heatproof bowl.  Bring cream to a boil over medium-high heat; pour over chocolate, swirling to cover completely.  Let sit 10 minutes.  With a flexible spatula or small whisk, gently stir chocolate and cream until combined.
  2. Refrigerate ganache, stirring every 5 minutes or so until mixture is cool to the touch.  Whisk ganache until it just barely begins to hold it’s shape and is slightly lighter in color.  Do not over-whip, or mixture will become grainy (ganache will keep thickening after you stop whisking) use immediately.

For the Frosting

  1. Melt the butter.  Stir in cocoa.  Alternately add powdered sugar and milk beating to a nice spreading consistency.  You may need additional powdered sugar or milk to achieve the right texture.  Add salt and vanilla and mix well.

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Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cakes cake book.