Classic Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

The baking bug really hit me hard in the days before the semester began. I was home from work by 4pm, and I had the rest of the afternoon and evening at my disposal. I also had a roommate who really loves baked goods. Solution: cupcakes! I found this recipe on Annie’s Eats and quartered it for my purposes. It is originally intended as a cake, but I wanted cupcakes instead. But there’s a very important lesson to be learned from this.

You always dream of the perfect recipe that will result in flat-topped cakes without having to slice off the rounded portion. This is ones of those recipes. But that’s a problem, you see, because with cupcakes you want domes, domes, domes! A domed cupcake this is not. Lesson: do not use a scratch CAKE recipe for CUPcakes. It’s not the end of the world though, because the flatness just means you can use the remainder of the wrapper to support a gigantic pile of frosting, beyond what is physically possible to heap onto a beautifully domed cupcake.

Aside from not doming, this yellow cake recipe is a keeper. The flavor combination was delicious, and the frosting was so rich and perfect, and definitely not sickeningly sweet. I’m always on the look-out for a good yellow cake and chocolate frosting combo that doesn’t require nearly a dozen egg yolks, so I’m glad I found this one. It’s such a classic combo and I get cravings for it at the most random times, so it’ll be nice to have a relatively low-maintenance recipe to fall back on. The large quantities of chocolate might pose a problem from time to time, though.

I also used this baking time to practice my frosting technique. I bought myself a small spatula at Michael’s when I was home, and I tried my best to replicate the technique I learned when I baked cupcakes at Butter Lane. It’s been a few months, but am I still “the best froster ever!”?

Goodbye Vacation

Winter break is officially over after this weekend, and I don’t know if I’m ready to get back to the grind quite yet. This break hasn’t been as productive as I wanted it to be, especially in the book-reading department. I had a list of books I wanted to get through, but I just couldn’t make it through all of them. I was only able to finish The Cupcake Diaries series (a cute little kids series from Simon Spotlight) and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Oh my, The Night Circus was absolutely amazing. It actually took me a bit less than two weeks to read it, but it was worth every second. I had been itching to read it since August, but timing was never right and The Strand never had a used copy available.  I finally got my hands on a copy, though. When I first heard about this book months ago, I believed it to be a YA novel, but then I read that the author is very adamant about the fact that it is not. The length of time it took me to read it is also a testament to the fact that it is very much a work of adult fiction; I can usually get through a considerably long YA book in a matter of a weekend, but The Night Circus has so many details and intricacies to it that I was forced to slow down in order to even try to take it all in. The tendency to jump between years in each chapter was a bit troubling at first, but by the end of the book I was able to get the timeline straight.This book is definitely something I would not hesitate to read again, because I am sure that I missed at least a few things, especially in my moments when I was half-asleep reading. The characters are well-developed and the plot is not so predictable that reading becomes boring.

I’m also in love with the book’s physical design. If I may say, it’s very classy. The jacket is wonderful with its black, white, and red coloring (the same palate as the circus itself), and the actual cover is beautiful with silver designs inlaid on a black background. I’m a sucker for a beautifully designed book, and these colors all come together in a wonderful way. The only way to describe it is that it’s classy, pure and simple.

Okay, enough about The Night Circus. On to my most recent batches of doughnuts!

Unfortunately I have no pictures of my improved chocolate doughnuts. They were just too good to wait for natural lighting so I could take proper pictures. Instead, I just have the recipe I came up with, which was inspired the Lara Ferroni recipe I used before.

Baked Dark Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

*Makes 9 delicious doughnuts*

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                           3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              5 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate, shaved/chopped

Steps:

1.) Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray a doughnut pan with non-stick spray.

2.) Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda so it is all evenly incorporated.

3.) Add the sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir to evenly incorporate.

4.) Add the melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and egg to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

5.) Carefully stir in the finely chopped chocolate.

6.) Fill each doughnut well 1/2 to 3/4 full. I used a spoon. Don’t overfill the wells, or the holes will get baked over. That would be sad.

7.) Bake for about 8 minutes, until the doughnuts spring back when touched. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

8.) Once cooled, glaze if desired (1 cup powdered sugar, slowly add buttermilk or milk until it reaches your desired consistency, add a splash of vanilla).

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The doughnut-making didn’t stop there. I made those ones a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist making one more batch of doughnuts this morning. But this time I went with the Baked Glazed Doughnuts from Iowa Girl Eats, and I spruced them up with a dark chocolate glaze. I love me some dark chocolate!

I followed the recipe for the most part, but instead of using the cinnamon it called for, I replaced it with my new favorite baking spice: nutmeg! I used a little more than 1/4 teaspoon of that glorious doughnut spice.

For the chocolate glaze, I shaved 3 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate. Then I added about a teaspoon of milk and melted it all in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Then I mixed it vigorously to melt the remaining bits. I added 1 cup of powdered sugar and a bit more milk to the chocolate and mixed it all together until smooth. As it was there was a distinction between the chocolate and powdered sugar, so I added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Perfection!

I cooled the doughnuts before dipping the tops in the chocolate glaze. Then I put them aside to further cool and set up. I may or may not have put each doughnut in one of the wells from my muffin top pan. A normal plate was too small to fit all six doughnuts, but the six over-sized wells were a perfect fit. It was fate.

I only hope I’ll be able to share the remaining doughnuts with my three roommates and a friend who are coming back to the city tonight. But if not, it’ll be a great excuse to make them again. The glaze really is perfection. I could swim in a vat of it. I especially like how it sets up and becomes a thin but fudgey blanket over the doughnuts. Yum!

I’m In Love With My Muffin Top Pan

Along with my doughnut pan, I also recently got a muffin top pan. I’ve been seeing these two specialty pans everywhere online, and I really wanted to jump on the bandwagon. How can you not want to when you see so many delicious things that you can’t replicate without specific types of bakeware? I have to say that baked doughnuts and “muffin tops” are two trends that I am more than happy to follow.

I have to admit that I did not use my muffin top pan for muffin tops. . . . Instead I made DEEP DISH COOKIES! I have also been seeing these everywhere, and, while I know they can be semi-replicated with a regular baking pan, I wanted the full effect, and boy did I get it.

I used Picky Palate’s XXL M&M Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I had made a conscious effort to save my Christmas candy for baking purposes, and I’m glad I did. The cookies had a bit of a late Christmas theme because my M&M’s were from the Christmas candy cane containers. I didn’t have quite as many as I wanted, but I made up the difference by adding some extra chocolate chips.

Overall the recipe was good, but definitely NOT like my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. I hate to say that, while these cookies certainly made a statement with their sheer size and appearance, they were lacking in the taste department. I think they could have used a little bit more sugar, and certainly some more salt.

I still thoroughly enjoyed them, though. This pan makes for the perfect size “giant cookies.” They are not so overwhelmingly large that they can’t be consumed by one person.

I think my next venture with the pan will be with my regular chocolate chip cookie recipe. My mouth is watering already, and I’m just thinking about it.

Baked Chocolate Glazed Doughnuts

Last year I was crazy busy beyond belief, and I can’t say that I’m sorry 2011 is over. This semester seems like it will be a bit calmer, but I have to say that I’m definitely going to miss interning at Little Simon. My time there was such an experience and I learned so much that I can actually apply to my future career. But, new year, new endeavors, new experiences. Bring it on!

Speaking of new things, I ordered a doughnut pan during winter break and broke it in this morning. I have been looking for the perfect recipe with which to christen this pan, and Lara Ferroni’s Baked Chocolate Doughnuts fit the bill perfectly. Everything came together very quickly and easily. I had to substitute milk and vinegar for the buttermilk, and I don’t think the final results suffered one bit. I also replaced the yogurt with my “buttermilk,” as I’m not sure if Greek yogurt would have worked properly in this recipe.

With these doughnuts, I finally did realize that it IS the nutmeg that MAKES the doughnut taste. I’m coming around to this particular spice, especially with this recipe.

I didn’t use my buttermilk substitute for the glaze, but I think it works with just plain old milk. I did add a bit more milk than I should have, so I didn’t get the thicker glaze/frosting that Lara’s had. It’s fine though. This one reminds me more of the Dunkin Donuts glaze.

When I next make chocolate doughnuts, I think I might use my brand new dark cocoa powder. I would like to have a chocolate-ier flavor, more akin to a chocolate cake/cupcake. I know that pretty much defeats the purpose of making doughnuts–I mean, why not just make cake–but I want to somehow replicate the DD’s chocolate glazed doughnuts. So good!

I think next week I’ll try a plain vanilla doughnut and jazz it up with a chocolate glaze. After that, the options are absolutely endless. Reese’s Cup Doughnuts, anyone?