Easter Extravaganza Bark

I think it’s safe to say that treat-wise, Easter is my best-loved time of year. The endless chocolate, the bunnies of all shapes and sizes, pastel marshmallows, Peeps, candy-coated eggs, cream-filled eggs, pastel everything, sprinkles and more–all of the flavours and colours make me giddy. I’ve seen some pretty colourful Easter Candy Bark on Pinterest, but I decided to create my own version and go a little crazy with the toppings. There’s something so delightful about full, but small, peanut-butter filled bunnies, bunny marshmallow and peeps bound to swirls of Callebaut Dark Chocolate 53.8% along with Callebaut white chocolate, and then surrounded by a flurry of mini treats and sprinkles. I incorporated Rice Krispies into the bottom layer of the bark because those crispy chocolate bunnies were my favourite as a little girl, and I’d say even still.

And while I think it makes perfect sense to use leftover Easter candy, I can’t help but feel that this sort of treat is so much more appealing right before or during Easter time. I just feel that it’s kind of the last thing people want to see after a few days of indulging in all things Easter, you know? And since it takes almost no time at all, it’s a simple way to bring the unexpected to Easter celebrations without spending hours in the kitchen (you know, I’d never recommend that . . . ahem. #letsmaketoweringcakes).

I also think this would be such a great addition to any Easter basket–my girls’ eyes were as big as saucers when they came home and saw this Easter sugar explosion in the kitchen. And why not include your cakelets and make it an Easter weekend activity–you layer the chocolate, and let them do all of the toppings? Or even let them come shopping and decide what’s going to land upon the sea of chocolate bark themselves.

So when I decided to create this Easter Extravaganza Bark, I headed for the Easter section of Target for inspiration and to pick up an array of toppings, and then I tied that in with some of the sprinkles and sugar decorations I had here at home. I went with a few Marshmallow Peeps 60th Anniversary Vanilla Creme marshmallows (these are amazing, and I fear only around for a short time), Wilton Silhouette Bunny Icing DecorationsReese’s Easter Mini Peanut Butter Reester BunniesM&M’s White Chocolate Easter CandyCadbury Mini EggsDare Marshmallow Rabbits, and then just some white sugar pearls, pink nonpareils and jimmies.

Afterwards, I realized that I had wanted to use my all-time favourite Easter candy: Whoppers Easter Mini Robin Eggs. I love the speckled candy coating and I’m a Whopper (similar to Maltesers) fanatic. Forgetting to include them may have had something to do with the fact that the almost-empty bag was in my, um, purse. While I usually resist most candy on daily basis, I cannot resist anything malted-milk related. I’m going to make another batch and include those along with a few jelly beans and mini cream eggs. Oh yes.

When I make bark of any kind, I temper the chocolate. You’ll probably notice that in many bark recipes the instructions simply call for melting the chocolate and then storing the bark in the refrigerator. While this does work just fine, I tend to love to gift my bark, so I prefer to temper the chocolate first, which takes no extra time (when you do it the easy way, in the microwave) and gives the chocolate that gloss and snap we all love (I also much prefer to eat chocolate at room temperature). Once tempered, the bark can stay at room temperature and makes it a little prettier with its sheen and snap.

For the marbling, I tinted the Belgian white chocolate a pastel shade of teal (even pink or yellow would be amazing) using a bit of AmeriColor Flo-Coat mixed with AmeriColor turquoise gel paste (see Sweetapolita’s Notes), because while using colourful candy compound melts would be a fraction easier, I like to keep the quality of the bark the best it can be, since it’s all about the chocolate when it comes to bark. An alternative would be adding a few coloured candy melts to the white chocolate before melting/tempering for the same effect.

Since no two batches are ever the same, I’d love to see what Easter Extravaganza Bark creations you come up with! Share them on my Sweetapolita Facebook page or even send me a photo via email. I’d love to hear from you!

Easter Extravaganza Bark

Dark Belgian chocolate and Rice Krispie bark covered with swirled dark & white and topped with a medley of Easter chocolate, candy, sprinkles, marshmallows and more.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound plus 2 ounces (600 grams) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped or callets
  • 2 cups (50 grams) Rice Krispies (or other puffed rice cereal)
  • 6 ounces (180 grams) best-quality white chocolate, chopped or callets
  • About 8 turquoise candy melts (such as Wilton brand), chopped, OR few drops AmeriColor Sky Blue gel paste colour plus Flo-Coat (see Sweetapolita's Notes)
  • Variety of Easter candy (such as mini filled chocolate bunnies, marshmallow bunnies, white chocolate m & m candy, candy-coated mini eggs, Peeps, etc.)
  • Sprinkles of choice

Instructions

  1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, heat 10 ounces (300 grams) of the dark chocolate in 20-second bursts, stirring well after each interval, until the chocolate is almost melted but still has some solid pieces. Stop heating and stir until smooth--this can take a few moments (see Sweetapolita's Notes). Stir in the rice cereal until combined, and use a small offset palette knife to spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet in a very thin layer. Let sit until slightly firm, about 30 minutes. In the meanwhile, prepare your candy toppings (unwrap foil-covered chocolate, etc.).
  3. Using the same tempering method, heat the remaining dark chocolate and stir until smooth. Spread the chocolate overtop of the first layer. Temper the white chocolate (this only takes about 50-60 seconds), including the candy melts if using. If using gel paste to colour, combine the Flo-Coat and gel paste in a small bowl and stir into the tempered white chocolate. Pour the tempered and tinted white chocolate into a few lines across the dark chocolate, and swirl with a toothpick.
  4. While the dark and white chocolate are still soft, add all of your candy toppings. Let sit until completely set, about 2 hours, and then cut into wedges using a large, sharp knife. Store at room temperature.
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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • To learn about how to temper chocolate the “easy way,” in the microwave, check out these simple instructions from Callebaut. In addition to those steps, if you have a digital candy thermometer, just be sure that your dark chocolate never exceeds 32-33°C (90°F), and 30°C (86°F) for white or milk chocolate. If this does happen, simply add a handful of chocolate callets or chopped chocolate, and stir well to until smooth. Heat for a few seconds if necessary, but again not exceeding those ideal temperatures.
  • I use AmeriColor Flo-Coat when colouring white chocolate, which is a candy-oil used for making water-based gel-paste colours compatible with chocolate. If we add the gel-paste colours straight to the white chocolate, it causes it to seize. To use the Flo-Coat, mix 6 drops for every 1 drop of colour, and combine before adding to the tempered chocolate. For this recipe, I used 18 drops of Flo-Coat with 3 drops of AmeriColor Sky Blue gel paste. Alternatively, you can add a small handful of chopped coloured candy melts (such as Make & Mold or Wilton) to your white chocolate before melting, and that will tint your chocolate a pale turquoise.
  • As you’ve probably guessed, absolutely anything goes when it comes to what you add to this candy bark–jelly beans, malted milk eggs, mini creme eggs and so much more would be incredible additions!
  • Wrap a few slabs of bark in a crystal clear cellophane bag tied with some festive pastel ribbon for a whimsical addition to any Easter basket or for gifting.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake with Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Glaze

Well, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining, and Easter is just days away, so I really don’t have a reasonable explanation as to why I would feel the need to create such a dark and intense dessert followed by moody and borderline-ominous photos.  The thing is, that just seems to be my frame of mind these days: well, not moody and ominous, but dark, rich, and chocolate-loving. In this case, my inspiration for the flavours of the cake came solely from a jar of dark chocolate covered espresso beans (the ones in the photos) that I bought a few weeks ago because, well, as you may have guessed if you follow my tweets on twitter, that I am often yearning for good coffee, chocolate, and caffeine in general. Sure, some may call that an addiction, but I prefer to call it a deep and passionate love affair. The style and photo inspiration came from a gorgeous blog I found a few months back through Pinterest, from this photo here, taken by John Cullen. The photo and cake are from designer Nikole Herriott‘s blog, who happens to be a local talent. She, among many other wonderful things, creates the most stunning and unique wooden pedestal plates. You can see them here. Let’s pray I can someday be the proud owner of one!

So, as any self-respecting chocolate and coffee addict would do, I decided to go ahead and try a chocolate espresso bundt cake and top it with a dark chocolate cinnamon glaze. If you happened to catch my recent post about the Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake with Vanilla Bean Glaze, you’ll remember that I am quite taken with bundt cake pans, even though my collection was pretty sad at a whopping 1 pan. Since then, I’ve added 2 more bundt pans to my collection, and couldn’t wait another day to get bundting. In this case, it’s actually an official Kugelhopf pan, which I really love, but the final cake took on a slightly less intricate shape, simply because the batter didn’t fill up the entire pan. I really didn’t mind, since it appears a bit more simple.

The cake itself is a rich, deep dark, chocolate cake kept moist with butter and sour cream. The method of warming the butter and cocoa on the stove first, then whisking in the remaining ingredients, was a first for me, but I feel it was a success, and it was kind of a welcomed change. I decided to add some cinnamon to the dark chocolate glaze because I love the combination of espresso and cinnamon; it’s reminiscent of my beloved triple-lattes sprinkled with cinnamon, but it also adds a neat, almost Mexican, dimension to the cake.  I should add, though, that the flavour of the espresso powder and cinnamon in the glaze is subtle, and really just boosts and enhances the amazing flavour of the dark chocolate, both in the cake and glaze. 

That’s also why I feel it’s really important to use the best quality chocolate you can. I made this cake a few days ago, and just tried it today for the first time (once I finally had the chance to photograph it!). I was really surprised at how amazingly moist it was, and the flavours really came together nicely, I imagine even more so than day 1. I suppose that’s one of the many wonderful things about bundt cakes, and one of the reasons why they are quickly becoming a favourite on my love-to-bake list.

From a photography perspective, you may have noticed that, up until now, I tend to love taking bright, white backgrounds, and uber-happy baked-good photographs. Well, that certainly hasn’t changed, but I’ve secretly always been absolutely smitten with dark, moody food photographs, however, as I discovered today, they definitely require a mental shifting of gears. Perhaps it’s mainly because I have never attempted it before, and because I’m pretty new to food photography, but it was tricky at first. In the end, I found it most effective to underexpose the photos a bit and to avoid too much incoming window-light. I’m not sure if that’s how the pros would do it, but it’s what I found worked for me to achieve the look I was going for.

I also found that boosting the photos in Photoshop (I always start with The Pioneer Woman’s “Boost” action), really helped to bring the depth to the photo. Speaking of the pros, I have some serious professional food-photographer crushes these days, such as John Cullen, Tina Rupp, Jim Norton (who actually shot some of my work recently!), and Katie Quinn Davies–they have all mastered this type of photography, among others, which is why I consider each of their portfolios the ultimate food-photography inspiration. I was lucky enough to have an array of Grant’s grandmother’s (Nanny) vintage silver cake and sweet serving dishes complete with the perfect patina for the dramatic vibe I was going for. Love when that happens! This photo above makes me think of a ghostly tea party, of sorts. Now that I think about it, perhaps the vibe of this photo shoot is a side-effect of the hauntingly beautiful Black Swan we watched late last night by candlelight and the pattering sound of rain outside.

I hope you’re having a not so dark-and-ominous weekend, but that you enjoy this cake (most definitely not a dark-and-ominous experience.).

Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake with Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Glaze

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks)(227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (60 g) high quality dark Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon (15 g) instant espresso powder dissolved into 3/4 cup water
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240 ml) sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) salt
  • For the Glaze:
  • 4 oz (114 g) high quality bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/3 cup (76 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2" pieces
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 g) ground cinnamon

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Butter and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan or Kugelhopf pan.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat; add cocoa, stirring until smooth. Whisk in the espresso water and remove from heat.
  3. Add the sugar, sour cream, vanilla and eggs to the warmed cocoa mixture and whisk until smooth. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add all at once to the first mixture, whisking until well blended.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until it feels firm to the touch and has slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan. Cool in pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Carefully loosen the cake with a knife and invert onto a large plate.
  5. For the Glaze:
  6. Place the chocolate, butter, corn syrup and cinnamon in a medium heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir the mixture using a rubber spatula until melted and smooth.
  7. Assembly of the Chocolate Espresso Bundt Cake with Dark Chocolate Cinnamon Glaze:
  8. Pour warm glaze over bundt cake. Keep covered in a cake-keeper at room temperature for up to 4 days.
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[cake recipe adapted from Chocolate Bundt Cake from About.com]

[glaze recipe adapted from Baked Explorations]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

Good luck & enjoy!

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