Potted Espresso & Salted Caramel Mud Cakes

Potted Espresso Cakes via Sweetapolita

Happy Fall! Kind of kooky time for me to be sharing a perfectly springy dessert, but this past weekend I did some desserts for a very special woman celebrating her 60th birthday. Kathy, my father-in-law’s wife and my close friend, is very passionate about all things garden. Her family threw her a huge surprise party, and I knew immediately that I would have to explore some sweet garden-themed treats. These potted treats were one of the the ones I was most excited about.

For a very brief moment, I thought I actually invented this concept–what a brilliant cakethrough!  See, I worked at an incredible restaurant in my twenties (so 16 years ago–ouch) where fresh bread was baked and served in full-size terracotta pots alongside whipped butters in an array of flavours. As I remembered this, it dawned on me that it would work for cake too! And it would be darn cute . . . then I realized that it’s been done before (by some woman named Martha, among others). Oh well, that wasn’t going to stop me. I knew Kathy (and hopefully guests) would love them. And I was relieved to see how simple Martha’s version with the mint sprig was, because it was the perfect solution to my needing something a little less time-consuming.

Potted Espresso Cakes via Sweetapolita

The potted cakes in these photos are actually the new & improved version since the weekend. There were a few things I wanted to change before I shared the recipe with you, taste-wise, so the girls and I grew a dozen yesterday. So what exactly is a Potted Espresso & Salted Caramel Mud Cake? It’s a double dose of cupcake batter baked in the pot, but just not quite all the way, then brushed with espresso syrup for starters. Not baking all the way creates a gooey chocolate (slightly muddy) centre and a convenient concave middle perfect for filling with oozing salted caramel, toffee bits and dark chocolate, slightly-salted glaze. Then we cover them with chocolate cookie crumbs and Chocolate Pebbles , then top them with small mint sprigs.

Potted Espresso Cakes via Sweetapolita

The inspiration for the flavour combination was lingering in my mind since I made these cupcakes, and I think the textures and taste are exactly what you would want a spoonful of earth to taste like (okay, that was weird). And don’t let the dry-dirt top fool you–underneath there is a rich, deep, gooey, crunchy, caramel-y and possibly religious experience. And cute all the while.

Potted Espresso Cakes via Sweetapolita

You can even cakelet-this-up by skipping the elegant mint sprig and espresso and burying a few gummy worms, a toasted marshmallow and chocolate pebbles (they taste like m&m’s) below the surface. Maybe add a bright green fondant sprout, or pipe a few cheery flowers on top. Wow, that sounds pretty awesome actually. Let’s add that to the week’s bake list!

Potted Espresso Cakes via Sweetapolita

So here’s the recipe just as I did these, but don’t be alarmed by all of the steps and ingredients. Truthfully, these are so easy to do and pretty straight-forward. If you really want to make these on the fly, they’d be pretty great with even the chocolate cakes with your favourite chocolate frosting under all of those crumbs & pebbles. Either way, play around and have fun with it–it’s almost impossible to not smile when you look around and see a roomful of adults eating dirt out of mini flower pots.

Good luck & enjoy!

Potted Espresso & Salted Caramel Mud Cakes

Yield: 12 Mini Cakes

Moist gooey chocolate mini cakes brushed with espresso syrup, filled with salted caramel, toffee bits, dark chocolate glaze and topped with cookie crumbs, chocolate pebbles and a mint sprig.

Ingredients

    For the potted cakes:
  • 1-1/2 cups (180 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups (300 g) white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) dark cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (6 g) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 2/3 cup (140 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • For the espresso syrup:
  • 1/4 cup (50 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) water
  • 2 teaspoons (9 g) instant espresso powder
  • For the salted caramel:
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) fleur de sel
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon (14 g) unsalted butter
  • For the dark chocolate glaze
  • 6 oz (170 g) best bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup (75 g) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) light corn syrup
  • pinch fleur de sel
  • For decorating
  • 1 cup (80 g) dark cookie crumbs (for dirt)
  • 1 cup toffee bits
  • Chocolate Pebbles/Stones
  • 12 small mint sprigs

Instructions

    For the potted cakes:
  1. Wash and dry a dozen 3-inch terracotta pots. Cut out 12 parchment circles the same size as the bottom of the pots. Preheat oven to 350° F. Brush the bottom of each pot with oil, line with the parchment rounds, then brush the circle with more oil, and oil about 2/3 up the sides and dust with cocoa powder. Place all of the pots onto a baking sheet, and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift all dry ingredients.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients to bowl with the dry ingredients and mix for 1 minute on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer) and pour into prepared pots, about 1/2 full (6 tablespoons of batter each). *Batter will be liquidy.
  4. Bake for 17-19 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out gooey. Try not to overbake. Remove the tray from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Cakes will fall in centre, once removed from oven, making room for the filling. Brush with warm espresso syrup while cakes are still hot.
  5. For the espresso syrup:
  6. In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, bring ingredients to a boil and let boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat.
  7. For the salted caramel:
  8. In a small, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, water, lemon juice and salt. Brush the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush to ensure there are no sugar crystals. Boil (with no stirring) until the mixture turns a medium-dark amber colour, swirling occasionally.
  9. Remove from heat and carefully and swiftly whisk in the heavy cream (be careful--the caramel will steam up abruptly!) until caramel is smooth. Stir in butter until incorporated, and then return to the heat.
  10. Boil until a candy thermometer in the caramel reads 240°F (116°C).
  11. Allow the caramel to cool completely before using. Any remaining caramel can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
  12. For the dark chocolate glaze:
  13. Place the chocolate, butter, corn syrup, and sea salt in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Be sure the water in the pot does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Mixture will thicken as it cools.
  14. Assembly of the Potted Espresso & Salted Caramel Mud Cakes
  15. After the potted cakes brushed with espresso syrup have cooled, filled each "hole" in the middle with a spoonful of cooled salted caramel. Top with toffee bits, and then a spoonful of dark chocolate glaze.
  16. Sprinkle the cakes with enough cookie crumbs to completely cover the tops. Add a handful of chocolate pebbles.
  17. Right before serving, pierce a small hole in the top of each finished cake and insert a small mint sprig. Potted Cakes can be kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. (Be sure to add fresh mint sprigs if you don't serve right away.)
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Each potted mini cake is the equivalent to 2 chocolate cupcakes, so can be either 1 or 2 servings.
  • For a fun serving idea, tie 1 or 2 wooden forks to the side of each pot using rustic twine.
  • For a simpler (and quicker) version, you can simply bake the potted cakes and top with your favourite chocolate frosting or glaze, and then finish off with the cookie crumbs, pebbles and mint.
  • For a super-fun kids’ version, hide a few gummy worms in the cake, stuff a toasted marshmallow inside and finish with bright green fondant “sprouts” in place of the mint (or even piped buttercream flowers).
  • Be careful to not add too much chocolate glaze–if there’s too much glaze pressed against the inside edges of the pots, the oil in the butter will start to leave marks on the outside of the pots.
  • For a garden-themed party, serve these cakes on round iron plant stands (they look like cake plates with wheels), or place them in a tray filled with more chocolate pebbles.
  • For a garden-themed party, serve these cakes on round iron plant stands (they look like cake plates with wheels), or place them in a tray filled with more chocolate pebbles.
Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Well, that was crazy. Were you starting to wonder if I’d thrown in the pink polka-dotted towel? If I’d escaped to Emerald City in search of the Wizard? For those who tag along for my Instagram snippets, you probably figured out that it’s been a busy few weeks for us, as we moved last weekend. Not far, just the neighbouring town, but I spent countless days organizing, purging and packing our stuff for the move. I got really nest-y and couldn’t stop organizing. I think with any big change comes the incentive to make other small changes, and it was so rejuvenating once it was all done. I did shed a few tears as I looked back at my cakelets’ keepsakes, baby clothing, etc. Moving was a much more emotionally draining time for me than I expected, but with so much productivity and order, it was all worth it.

In a flurry of ridding old treasures, I actually welcomed one new one a few weeks ago–the most exciting birthday gift of all time from Mr. Sweetapolita: a pink KitchenAid mixer! The truth is, I have several mixers, mostly because I usually have 2 going at all times, but I’ve always wanted a Pink Mixer. As I said on facebook, if I was a mixer, I would definitely be pink (and I loved reading all of your answers too!). The loveliest part about this mixer is that it is one of the products included in the KitchenAid Cook for the Cure program, so it was a win-win. Because mixers are typically a long-term purchase, though, I had sort of given up on having a pink one, at least for a few eons or so. That’s what made this feel-good gift a true surprise! I actually have even more fun baking now . . . if you can imagine.

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

When I set up my mixer in the new kitchen, and made enough space through the towering boxes I still need to unpack, I decided that my first baked good would be a batch of luscious light double-vanilla cupcakes. Perhaps you’re wondering how I can possibly blog about another vanilla cake/cupcake recipe, but I made a few changes this time that I felt made this batch my idea of a vanilla dream. After using Dorie’s party cake recipe as a base for my Cherry-Vanilla Delight Cake, and loving the texture so much, I decided to turn them into cupcakes, with some changes.

One of the things I added was 1/2 cup of soft-peak whipped cream, a trick I read about on The Kitchn a few weeks ago. You simply whip it and fold it into your cake batter, any cake batter, before dividing into cake pans or cupcake tins–needless to say I was intrigued! It had been on my mind since then, and I was dying to try this, so I thought classic vanilla cupcakes can never be too velvety, or too moist, so why not? I did notice a difference and these cupcakes were of the best I’ve ever made (toot, toot!).

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Since I was feeling all whipped-creamy and such, it dawned on my that clouds of vanilla whipped cream would be a welcomed change from buttercream. The second-best part about Whipped Cream Frosting? It takes only minutes to make and has no butter or icing sugar. I tinted it a very pale turquoise and sprinkled the cupcakes with pink sanding sugar for sweet crunch, you know, since pink was in the air . . .

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

And by air, I think I mean the gale-force wind that busted through my wide-open front door while I was photographing the cupcakes. It came out of nowhere, knocked over my white board (it might be time to stop MacGyver’ing my photo shoots), which consequently knocked over my trio of small plastic bottles and turquoise paper stripey straws that I was so excited to use. As disappointed as I was that my shoot was ruined, how could I possibly cry over pink spilled milk? So forgive the fact that I don’t really have any close-ups on the poufs of vanilla clouds and the inside of the luscious cupcakes–maybe I’ll make these again . . . you know, for you. I’m good like that. ♥

Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes

Yield: 24-28 standard cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes

Moist, fluffy white whipping-cream-infused vanilla cupcakes topped with airy whipped cream frosting and sprinkled with sanding sugar.

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 2-1/2 cups (275 g) sifted cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (5 g) salt
  • 1 cup (237 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 2 large egg whites (60 g), at room temperature
  • 1 whole egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.75 ml) Pure Vanilla Extract (or 1 teaspoon –5 ml–, if you aren’t using vanilla sugar)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.75 ml) Pure Almond Extract
  • 1-1/2 cups (300 g) vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1 stick (115 g)(8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (119 ml) whipping cream or heavy cream, cold
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 cups (711 ml) whipping cream or heavy cream, cold
  • 6 tablespoons (95 g) vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) Pure Vanilla Extract; use 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) if you're not using vanilla sugar
  • pink sanding sugar for sprinkling, optional

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and center the oven rack. Line 2 muffin/cupcake pans with your favourite standard-size cupcake liner, and put the first cupcake pan on a baking sheet. (You will place the second cupcake pan on the same sheet in the oven once the first tray is baked.)
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment (I used the whisk), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  4. With the mixer still on medium speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 dry additions, 2 wet), beating after each addition until incorporated. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Chill a clean stainless mixer bowl in the freezer for 5 minutes, and then beat whipping cream until soft peaks form (don't beat until stiff). This is where a second mixer bowl comes in handy, as you can simply wash the whisk and use the stand mixer to whip the cream. If you don't have a second mixer bowl, you can use a hand mixer or even transfer the batter to another bowl, wash the bowl and whisk then whip the cream with your stand mixer. Fold whipped cream into cake batter.
  6. Divide batter evenly among your cupcake liners--about 2/3 full--and bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs only, about 16 minutes.
  7. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool on wire racks. Repeat with second tray.
  8. For the Frosting:
  9. Chill a stainless mixer bowl and whisk in the freezer for at least 5 minutes (or refrigerator for 20 minutes).
  10. Pour the cream into the bowl and whisk on medium-high (I used #8 on my KitchenAid mixer) until the cream begins to thicken. Gradually add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, and continue whisking until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla extract and whisk until the frosting becomes stiff, but be careful to not over-beat, or the frosting will become grainy.
  11. Add a drop of turquoise gel colour, if desired and gently mix in with a spatula.
  12. Best used right away.
  13. Assembly of the Whipped Vanilla Dream Cupcakes:
  14. Fill a medium Piping Bag fitted with pastry tip of your choice (I used a plain Large Round Tip) about 1/2 full with Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting and pipe a generous swirl on top of the cooled cupcake. Holding the piping bag directly above the cupcakes, put pressure on the bag while guiding the frosting in a circular swirl pattern beginning on the outside and working your way up and in, about 3 times, then releasing pressure.
  15. Top with pink sanding sugar for a lovely, sparkly crunch!
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[cupcake portion loosely adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours]

 Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • Lately I use vanilla sugar for almost all of my baked goods, whipped cream and cooked frostings–I keep a scraped vanilla bean with pod buried in my sugar canister at all times. Once your vanilla bean is scraped and seeds and pod are buried in your airtight sugar container, you will have vanilla sugar in about 1-2 weeks. The longer it sits, the more vanilla you will taste. I typically add pure vanilla extract to recipes as well, but usually a little less than I normally would. Vanilla Beans are a bit pricey, but I sincerely feel it makes a difference–nothing beats the authentic flavour of vanilla bean.
  • For filling cupcake liners, I always use this Stainless Steel Scoop–perfectly consistent cupcakes every time.
  • I always use Pure Vanilla Extract and Pure Almond Extract.
  • As with any vanilla cake or cupcake recipe, feel free to get kooky and toss a handful of sprinkles into the batter for a funfetti version!
  • As with Dorie’s cake recipes, I went ahead and placed a baking pan under the cupcake pan while baking–I like this because the bottoms of the cupcakes don’t get brown.
  • Whipped Cream Frosting is best used within a few hours of whipping, and best made and enjoyed on the same day. Once on cupcakes it keeps in refrigerator overnight, if necessary.
  • For sprinkling, I used Pink Sanding Sugar.
  • Avoid keeping undecorated cupcakes in airtight containers, particularly vanilla, as the cupcake liners tend to pull away from the cupcake (this is so disheartening!). I usually place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper on top of them if I have to leave them out overnight.
Good luck & enjoy!



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Highway to Heaven Cupcakes {and Sugar Cube Winner!}

Happy Monday!

Here is the winner of the The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet book giveaway:

#8 NanaBread (Jeanne): “dark chocolate & salted caramel is at the top of my list, along with coconut & chocolate, strawberry & cream cheese, and anything with cherries”

Congratulations! (I will be also notifying you by email.)

And thank you to everyone for sharing their favourite flavour combinations!

See you soon. ♥

The Giveaway:

When I was asked to be part of the Sugar Cube Blog Tour to celebrate the newly released The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet, it sounded like my kind of party, but I hadn’t heard of the book or the adorable Portland, Oregon food cart before. But, upon first glance I fell in fast love with everything about Kir Jensen’s delicious sugared world, and after first read and taste, the book is now in my leave-it-out-because-I-use-it-so-much collection. I had such a hard time deciding what to make first, and what to share with you, but when I set eyes on Highway to Heaven Cupcakes adorned with shards of Ruffles and read that she’s built her entire reputation on this particular cupcake, I knew that these had to be my first Sugar Cube experience.

So what’s this book all about (aside from its undeniably adorable cover)?

This covetable cookbook is a greatest-hits collection from Sugar Cube, a tiny pink food cart in Portland, Oregon, that is thronged daily by hungry hordes craving voluptuous sweets intensified with a spike of booze, a lick of sea salt, or a “whoop” of whipped cream. Sugar Cube founder and baker Kir Jensen left the fine-dining pastry track to sell her handmade treats on the street. Recipes for 50 of Kir’s most enticing cupcakes, cookies, tarts, muffins, sips, and candies are made more irresistible (if possible!) by 32 delicious color photographs. Sassy headnotes and illustrations that resemble vintage tattoos liven up this singular boutique baking book.

And they do not lie–this book is everything they say it is, and more. It is really special. What I love is how Kir really pushes the boundaries of classic and comforting treats in a gourmet and innovative way (think Vanilla Bean Risotto, Coffee Mallow Meringue Pie, Cream Soda Ice Cream and more). The recipes are easy to follow and the flavors and textures almost leap straight off of the page. I am sincerely excited to make each and every recipe in her fabulous book, and I’m also excited that 1 lucky reader will win their own copy! But, let’s talk more about the recipe I made to share with you, these Highway to Heaven Cupcakes . . .

But don’t be fooled: What makes these cupcakes so incredible isn’t just the fact that there are salted caramel drizzled Ruffles chips on top, because that’s simply an added bonus (a sweet & salty, crunchy, heavenly bonus, that is), because there’s so much more depth and decadence to relish in here. The cupcakes are a moist super-chocolatey delight that are brushed with coffee syrup, injected with homemade salted caramel sauce, topped with a rich sexy bittersweet ganache, drizzled with more salted caramel sauce and then, if you love double-wowing the crowd, spears of caramel-drizzled potato chips, of course. As far as cupcakes go, it just doesn’t get any sexier.

These were so enticing in all of their dark, glossy, drizzled, crunchy goodness that I couldn’t stop taking Instagram photos while I was making them. When you’re trying to decide where to start in the flurry of decadent treats in this book, I can safely say this is an ideal place to start. (It’s also safe to say I’ll be making these cupcakes at least *once a month* for years to come.) Girls, who’s with me?

Here are the details and how to enter this giveaway:

1. Leave a comment and tell me, “What is your favourite dessert flavour combination?”

2. For an extra entry, tweet: “I want to win a copy of @TheSugarCube’s book from @Sweetapolita!” Simply come back here and leave a comment telling me you tweeted.

3. Contest ends Sunday, May 20th, 2012 at 11:59 pm (EST) and winner will be selected using random.org and notified by email and announced here on the blog. You must leave a valid email address (will not be displayed) in your entry.

4. One entry per person, please (or two, with tweet). *Your comment may not appear at first, but it’s there.

*Prize courtesy of Chronicle Books. Contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

Good luck, everyone!

Now, here’s the recipe, shared with permission and as written in the book: The Sugar Cube: 50 Deliciously Twisted Treats from the Sweetest Little Food Cart on the Planet

highway to heaven cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes

ingredients

cupcakes

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 cups warm strong-brewed coffee or french-pressed coffee
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

coffee syrup

  • 1/2 cup strong-brewed coffee
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 recipe sexy bittersweet chocolate ganache

1 recipe salted caramel sauce, at room temperature

instructions

  • To make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, eggs, vanilla, and vegetable oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk just until incorporated and there are no lumps. (It’s a thin batter, but it will bake up beautifully.)
  • Divide the batter equally among the muffin cups, leaving about 1/4 inch room at the top. Bake until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.
  • To make the coffee syrup: In a small saucepan, combine the coffee and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil for 1 to 2 minutes more to concentrate the mixture.
  • While the cupcakes are still hot, brush the tops with coffee syrup. (You’ll use most but not all of it. Just discard the rest or use it in a cocktail.) Let the cupcakes cool completely before filling and frosting.
  • Place the caramel in a squeeze bottle. Insert the tip into the top of each cupcake and squeeze in some caramel. (You’ll see them plump up a bit, but don’t fill them with so much that the cupcakes split.) Dip the tops in ganache, then tilt to shake off the excess. Let the chocolate set (it will be glossy but not runny) for about 30 minutes before drizzling with more salted caramel to serve.

sexy bittersweet ganache

makes about 2 cups

ingredients

  • 12 ounces chopped good-quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, but into cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoons good sea salt, such as fleur de sel
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

instructions

  • In a medium metal bowl, combine the chocolate, butter, salt, and corn syrup. Put the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and heat, stirring, until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove from the heat.
  • Use as a glaze for cakes, or let cool until spreadable and use as a frosting or filling. Ganache can be refrigerated for 1 week. To gently rewarm, heat it in a microwave on 50 percent power or put it over a saucepan of barely simmering water and give it a good whisking.

salted caramel sauce

makes about 2 1/2 cups

ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fleur de sel
  • 2 cups heavy cream, warmed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

instructions

  • In a deep heavy-bottomed pot, combine the sugar, water, and salt and stir until well mixed. Cook over high heat until the sugar starts to color around the edges of the pot, swirling the pan to promote even caramelization of the sugar. (Do not stir or the sugar will crystalize, that is, harden.) Continue cooking, swirling occasionally, until the caramel is very dark mahogany is color and lightly smoking (it should be on the verge of burning), 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Immediately remove the pot from the heat, and while stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon, add the warmed cream in a steady stream. (Since you’re taking the caramel to the dark side, you have to work quickly and being adding the cream right away to stop the cooking process. But you don’t want to add it all at once, so pour it in a continous, steady stream. Be careful: The mixture will steam and bubble up furiously. (I recommend wearing an oven mitt on the hand that’s stirring in the cream.) Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Stir in the vanilla and let cool at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Refrigerate, uncovered for several hours to thicken.
  • Whisk before using or transferring to an airtight jar for longer storage. It will keep refrigerated for at least 1 week.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • I followed the recipes for each of the components exactly, and they were a success.
  • I served and tasted several of these sans potato chips, and just drizzeld in the caramel sauce, and they were incredible too.
  • As with some of my other favourite chocolate cake recipes, the coffee in these cupcakes simply enhances the deep chocolate flavour–they don’t taste coffee-ish, I promise.
  • As Kir explains, the sexy bittersweet ganache goes on super glossy and dries with a nice sheen.
  • I used Fleur de Sel for the salted caramel sauce and the sexy bittersweet ganache, Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder for the cupcakes, and Callebaut Dark Callets and the ganache.

Good luck & enjoy!


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La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Today’s Weather Forecast: A sweet mix of sunshine and clouds. Probability of celebration is 100%.

Did I mention that I have a bit of a thing for clouds these days? Yummy ones, that is (you may remember these cloudy sweets). Maybe it’s a subconscious need to escape the everyday, or to float above reality to la la land for awhile, but every time I bake (it’s been known to happen) clouds are on my mind. A little while back I woke up with an undying need for something lavender & lemon, which has also been known to happen, so I made some Lavender & Lemon Shortbread cookies — these little things are so delightful. I love the kind of shortbread that just melts in your mouth with all of its buttery goodness, and the recipe I use is one I’ve adapted from Joy of Baking–it never disappoints. I cut little L&L clouds and felt that they were just too cute to be gobbled up and long forgotten. So I decided to create some cupcakes to perch them upon, to celebrate the awesomeness that is Lavender & Lemon even further.

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

And it’s to not say that these cupcakes need to be cloudy, because are pretty special all on their own–the cupcakes themselves are light, tender, citrusy Lemon Buttermilk Cupcakes, topped with tangy homemade Lemon Curd and topped with Whipped Lavender Frosting. If you’ve never baked with culinary lavender before, you’re in for a real treat–the lovely flavour of the lavender doesn’t come across floral, but rather compliments the sweet vanilla and lemon flavours like a dream (you just don’t want to overdo it by adding too much — less is more).

I also thought it would be neat to make my own cupcake wrappers for these, because I wanted something pastel and lavender with a cloud-like scalloped edge. I found a scrapbook paper that I loved and went ahead and cut out some wrappers — this is so easy! For the template, you can check out this simple post from Skip To My Lou. I snipped the tops with the “cloud” style (I didn’t make that up) scallop scissors from the craft shop and secured the backside with a glue stick. Once you learn this simple trick of making your own wrappers, the possibilities are literally endless. Sometimes the liners that we bake the cupcakes in look so cute and, unless they’re really thick, they absorb a lot of the grease of the cupcakes and a lot of the colour is lost. I can see making these little wrappers becoming a wee bit addictive!

I think these cupcakes would make the cutest and yummiest addition to any spring or summer party, shower, dessert table, picnic, birthday or, of course, a lovely Mother’s Day treat. I just adore this flavour combination, and it’s always fun to watch someone’s face light up when you tell them that they just ate lavender–suddenly they feel pretty fancy. It’s hard to not smile when you take a bite of summer.

Even if you stopped at making the Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Clouds, well I’d be okay with that too. They are such a tasty little treat and look pretty darling alongside a cup of tea. With only a handful of ingredients, they’re also pretty quick and easy to make. To make this cutter, I used a simple small flower cookie cutter and gently squished it into a cloud shape — it works!

Lavender & Lemon Shortbread via Sweetapolita

Or you can always whip up some Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Unicorns and call it a day — the world will forgive you. (For those who will want to know more about this fancy cutter in particular, it’s made by Tovolo — I just don’t see it on their website anymore. Sorry!)

Or you can do as I do, and make the L&L Shortbread Unicorns, eat and share most of them before you can actually photograph and blog about it, then make another batch of the shortbread, turn them into clouds, make the following recipes, stack it all up and watch them beam . . .

Lavender & Lemon Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Escape to La La Lavender & Lemon land . . .

La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes

Yield: 18 standard cupcakes

Moist, fluffy lemon buttermilk cupcakes topped with zingy lemon curd, whipped lavender frosting and topped with lavender sugar cookie clouds.

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (8 oz) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (230 g) cake flour, sifted
  • 1-1/4 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (8 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 g) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon (2 g) salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) (115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Finely grated lemon zest (rind) of two medium-large lemons
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks (340 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3.5 cups (400 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) whipping cream (35% cream), or whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon dried Culinary Lavender
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare two standard muffin pans with your favourite baking liners and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine and stir the eggs, 1/4 cup of buttermilk, and vanilla. Set aside.Sift the cake flour 3 times.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients, including the sugar, together on low speed (I use the “stir” setting on my mixer) for 30 seconds.
  4. Add the butter and blend on low speed for about 30 seconds, then add remaining 3/4 cup of buttermilk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes.
  5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg/milk mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Stir in the lemon zest.
  6. Divide the batter into your prepared liners, no more than 2/3 full.
  7. Bake until a toothpick comes clean when inserted into the center of the cupcake (~15 minutes). Be so careful to not over-bake. Place hot baking pans on wire racks, then carefully (they’re hot!) remove the cupcakes from the baking pans immediately to let cool. Let cool completely before frosting.
  8. For the Frosting:
  9. In a small bowl or glass, stir the dried lavender into the whipping cream (or milk); cover with plastic wrap overnight (or for at least several hours).
  10. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  11. Strain the lavender cream and add to butter, along with all remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  12. Add a few drops of Violet gel colour (I used Grape Violet by Sugarflair and a drop of Americolor Electric Purple ) and mix until blended.
  13. Assembly of the La La Lavender & Lemon Cloud Cupcakes:
  14. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon curd on top of each cupcake and gently spread (be careful to not put more than this, or it will ooze).
  15. Fill a small pastry bag fitted with pastry tip of your choice (I used a plain large round tip) about 1/2 full with frosting and pipe a generous swirl on top of the lemon curd.
  16. Top with a Lavender & Lemon Shortbread Cloud. Finish with a scalloped cupcake wrapper or design of your choice
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[cupcake batter recipe adapted from Canadian Living]

Here is the recipe for the Lemon Curd.

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

Yield: 20 small-medium cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) (227 g) good quality unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) confectioners' sugar (powdered sugar/icing sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) good quality pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) dried culinary lavender
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) grated lemon zest (rind)
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (75 g) cornstarch (corn flour)
  • 1/4 (2 g) teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my KitchenAid mixer) the butter until it is smooth and very creamy, about 1-2 minutes.
  2. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, then stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest.
  3. Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until they are incorporated. Make a ball of the dough and seal in plastic wrap. Once in the wrap, flatten the dough into a disk and chill for one hour (at least--can be longer).
  4. When you're ready to roll and cut the cookie dough, preheat oven to 350°F and place the oven rack in the middle position. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or two baking mats.
  5. Roll the dough 1/4" thick on a lightly floured surface or between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut desired shapes, place on baking sheets and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for about 15 minutes.
  6. Bake until very light golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Let cool on cookie sheets on wire racks.

Notes

Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week, or can be frozen.

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[cookie recipe adapted from Joy of Baking]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:
  • Some of the items I used to make these cupcakes are Stainless Steel Scoop for measuring perfectly-even cupcakes, Culinary Lavender, and Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract).
  • To get frosting super smooth (no air bubbles), use a silicone spatula and in an aggressive side-to-side motion, pushing the frosting back and forth against the sides of the bowl (you will hear a sort of paddling sound). Do this every so often while you use the frosting–it keeps it super smooth. You can also add a few drops (just a few!) of water for ideal spreading/piping.
  • Just a note about purple–all purple gel colours will yield a very different colour by nature, for example, Americolor Violet is much more blue than purple (when compared), and Americolor Electric Purple is more magenta than blue. Those differences in addition to the fact that you’re adding it to an ivory base (this butter frosting), can really alter the look of the finished cupcake, so you’ll want to play around with small frosting samples in bowls before tinting the entire batch. (I ended up making the frosting all over again to achieve the shade I liked best). Just be careful not to go too far with these concentrated colours, because it can get too intense quickly.
  • You can find a wonderful cupcake wrapper template at Skip To My Lou.

Good luck & enjoy!



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Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting

Cupcakes galore! I think it’s safe to say that this layer-cake bakin’ girl has never before made so many cupcakes or used so many sprinkles in such a short span of time. Actually, maybe it’s not so much that I haven’t made so many in such a short time, but that I’ve never blogged about so many. The thing is that so often when I bake, I then eat, share, deliver…all with no time left to photograph or write about the recipes. This was going to be one of those times, but then after sharing a few Instagram shots of the cupcakes and receiving a flurry of requests to share what these cupcakes were all about, I thought I’d switch things up and do an all-iPhone shot post and go ahead and share!

So, a close friend of mine, Janin, was celebrating her birthday this past weekend, and we had a super-fun girls’ night on Friday night at her house (Birthday Cake Shooters, anyone?). Since she’s a relatively new friend (I just discovered how incredible it is finding such true friends at this stage in life.), I hadn’t yet met several of her hometown friends who were coming in to celebrate, so when trying to decide what birthday treats to make for the occasion, I figured if there’s anything that speaks to a gaggle of girls, it’s chocolate and sprinkles–lots of chocolate and sprinkles. You know, one thing I’ve learned over the past few years, is that sometimes keeping things classic and decadent can be as much of a crowd-pleaser as super-fancy, fondant-covered treats. You probably know by now that I am passionate about those as well, but I just feel that it totally depends on the situation. I used to feel that I had to go crazy decorating for days in order for birthday desserts to have wow-factor, but I’ve since discovered that’s not true.

So I made two types of cupcakes, the first was Janin’s all-time favourite, banana cake with chocolate frosting (I ended up making that frosting a la Nutella), and the second was classic dark chocolate cupcakes with the same chocolate frosting, sans Nutella (an amazing option for the non-Nutella fan). When one of the girls took a bite and said, “Whoa, the frosting is like a chocolate cloud!” I knew I had to put that down on paper. Chocolate clouds? What my dreams are made of. The truth is, it really does have a billowy cloud-like texture, and as a girl very concerned about texture, particularly frosting texture (not to mention enticing baked good names), “chocolate cloud” spoke to my very core. Add the rich, satiny awesomeness that is Nutella to the mix, and I’m blogging an otherwise unblogged delight.

The cupcakes themselves are a classic, one-bowl dark chocolate cupcake recipe that never disappoints. It’s only slightly different than this recipe, but I love it (love them both–I just have a thing for experimenting). The frosting is a modified version of this previous frosting I posted, but the Nutella gives it this incredible taste and adds to the already creamy texture. Even if you don’t like Nutella, you can simply omit it for a classic chocolate cloud frosting.

Such a classic birthday treat! Did I mention how well they pair with Chocolate Whipped Cake Martinis & Chocolate Banana Cake Martinis?

Oh yes, they do. Just sayin’.

Here’s the recipe:

*Product notes: The Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark (my favourite) cocoa powder is what makes this chocolate cupcake recipe so incredible.

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes with Nutella Cloud Frosting

Yield: 12 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup (95 g) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark cocoa powder (I use Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (3.5 g) cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup (60 mL) brewed coffee or espresso, hot
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • For the Nutella Cloud Frosting:
  • 1 cup (227 g)(2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but cool
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) icing sugar (confectioners’), sifted
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (125 g) premium bittersweet chocolate, chopped, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/3 cup (100 g) Nutella
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F and line a muffin/cupcake pan with your favourite cupcake liners.
  2. In the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cornstarch and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, coffee, oil, egg and vanilla.
  4. Add liquid mixture to dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes on medium speed (you may need the plastic splashguard that comes with mixer), Divide batter among (2/3 full or just less) liners. Batter will be liquidy, and cupcakes will rise.
  5. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until toothpick or skewer comes out with a few crumbs. Try not to over-bake. Carefully remove cupcakes from the pan immediately (it's hot!), and place them on a wire rack until completely cool.
  6. For the Nutella Cloud Frosting:
  7. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and butter and beat on low speed (I use #2 on my KitchenAid mixer) for about 1 minute.
  8. Add vanilla, and beat on low speed until well combined. Add the melted and slightly cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my KitchenAid mixer) until smooth, about 2 minutes).
  9. Add the Nutella, milk and pinch of salt, and beat on med-high speed for another minute.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Cupcakes:

  • For evenly-sized cupcakes, I always use a 50mm cookie scoop (it’s a bit trickier with this runnier batter, but it’s worth it).
  • You can substitute the Cacao Barry Extra Brute cocoa powder, but be sure to use a quality cocoa powder (Dutch-processed).
  • To see the baking ingredients, equipment and tools that I used for this recipe, check out my shop.
  • Even if you dislike coffee with a passion, please trust me–it simply enhances the rich chocolate flavour!
  • For tips for baking better cakes, check out this previous post.
  • This recipe is easily doubled or tripled.
  • Unlike vanilla cupcakes, these stay incredibly moist for several days, so I often bake them a day before I need them (unfrosted) and frost on the day I am serving them, but you can also frost them and keep them in an airtight container for up to 3 days, for convenience (if they last that long!).

Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Nutella Cloud Frosting:

  • For the purest at heart, you can make your own Nutella by following Stella’s Homemade Nutella recipe.
  • You can omit the Nutella and you have an incredible “classic chocolate cloud frosting.”
  • It’s ideal to make this frosting right before you need it, because you’ll find it’s an ideal consistency for piping and decorating, but once it’s on the cake or cupcakes, it stays perfectly smooth and fluffy for up to 3 days.
  • You can add small increments of more milk, if too thick, and blend until smooth.
  • If you find the frosting starts to get air bubbles while sitting (during the decorating process), use a rubber spatula to knock the air out of it, by stirring it with a back and forth paddling motion.
  • To frost the cupcakes in the photo, I inserted a large, plain round icing tip into an 18″ pastry bag and filled it with the frosting. I piped a large swirl starting from the outside of the cupcake, and, moving in a slow circular motion, worked my way to the center, and gently pulling the bag up and away from the cupcake. Then, using the underside of a small spoon (I used a baby spoon), I put slight pressure on the very top of the swirl and pull the spoon up and away. This creates a well for the sprinkles and gives the cupcake a classic but not-so-perfect look. Top with confetti quins or sprinkles for a fun birthday finish!

Good luck & enjoy!


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