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.


    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


    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!

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Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart {Giveaway Winners Announced!}

Here are the winners for the Seriously Chocolaty Giveaway:

Prize #1: Goes to Renee“Oh My Goodness!  I would have to say Chocolate Ganache is my absolute favourite!  Use it on any kind of dessert to elevate it, but really, the BEST part, is the left over bit in the bowl in the fridge.  Sneak a swipe at every entry!  Grab some grapes or banana pieces and dip those too!  And, all too often I see little tiny kiddie swipes in there too :)…”

Yay for Renee! She wins 2 spots in the November 24th & 25th (6:30pm-9:30pm) Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class at the highly-respected Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Artsin Toronto + 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Mexique 66% + 1 kg box of St. Domingue 70% + a copy of Barry Callebaut’s Simply Chocolate Magazine, featuring recipes from Canada’s top pastry chefs & chocolatiers. This prize values over $450!

Prize #2: Goes to Truc: “My favorite chocolate treat is probably a brownie.  Thanks for the giveaway!”

Truc wins a 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Venezuela (72%) + 1 kg box of Tanzanie (75%)

Prize #3: Goes to Karissa Ferguson: ”I love truffles. My mom made my husband and me some last Valentines and we were crazy about them! I think it’s time I try them myself and would love to with these delicious chocolates :)”

Karissa wins 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Equateur (76%) + 1 kg box Milk Chocolate Couverture Ghana (40.5%)

Congratulations sweet winners! I’ll be in touch with you all via email.

True, true, I am a cake girl, but don’t let that cause you to believe that I don’t appreciate a good tart from time to time. Well, by now you’ve probably figured out that I’m pretty easy to convince that something is worth making if it involves good chocolate, butter, sugar, caramel and Fleur de Sel. Okay, well, very true–the list could have stopped at chocolate, as that’s usually enough to get me inspired. What is it about chocolate that draws us in? Dark chocolate, extra dark chocolate, milk chocolate, it really doesn’t matter to me as long as it is quality chocolate.

Today, in honour of quite likely the chocolatiest giveaway ever sponsored by Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts and Barry Callebaut, I decided to celebrate chocolate by making a Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart, which uses both my favourite Cacao Barry Extra Brute (extra dark) cocoa powder (you probably remember it from, well, almost every chocolate cake I’ve ever blogged about!) in the crust as well as one of the exceptional Cacao Barry Origine Dark Chocolate Couverture varieties (St.Domingue 70% cocoa) for a deep, dark and satiny ganache top. These rich and dark chocolate components are sandwiching a thick salted caramel filling and topped with a generous sprinkling of Fleur de Sel for one seriously decadent tart. Who knew that a dessert that stands a mere 1″ high could pack so much flavour and texture?

So as I mentioned in my last post, I have a super exciting, fabulously chocolaty giveaway for you guys, and I’m so excited to share it. No, that’s not blogger speak for “please enter my giveaway,” because I am sincerely excited about this. Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Toronto (where it all began for me!) has generously saved 2 places for a winner and friend to attend the upcoming Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class with Chef Marisa Scibetta, where students will learn the following techniques:

-    Easy chocolate tempering tricks
-    Molded and hand-rolled chocolates
-    A variety of specialty ganaches recipes
-    How to showcase and package your treats
-    Working with transfer sheets

In addition, the sweet folks over at Barry Callebaut have generously offered to send 3 sets of two Origins Dark and Milk Chocolate Couverture varieties + a copy of their Simply Chocolate Magazine (which I have and love, by the way!). As someone who has tried all of these varieties, I can promise you they are all unique and incredible so even if you cannot attend the class, you can still win the chocolate prizes.

Here’s how the prizes are structured:

Prize #1: 2 spots (for the winner + a friend) in the November 24th & 25th (6:30pm-9:30pm) Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class at the highly-respected Bonnie Gordon College of Confectionary Arts in Toronto + 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Mexique 66% + 1 kg box of St. Domingue 70% + a copy of Barry Callebaut’s Simply Chocolate Magazine, featuring recipes from Canada’s top pastry chefs & chocolatiers. This prize values over $450!

Prize #2: 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Venezuela (72%) + 1 kg box of Tanzanie (75%)

Prize #3: 1 kg box of Cacao Barry Origins Dark Chocolate Couverture Equateur (76%) + 1 kg box Milk Chocolate Couverture Ghana (40.5%)

As you may know, I took my passion for cakes and baking to the next level when I took many courses at Bonnie Gordon College beginning in 2008, and I believe with all of my heart that for those passionate about baking and confectionary arts, that is the place to start. My experience there was, literally, life-changing. I learned more than I could have imagined, and the moment I walked into the school for my first course, and those that followed, I was struck with a surrounding sense of creativity and warmth.  I say warmth because after being out of school for quite some time, I was a little unsure what to expect, but for a school that packs so much talent and knowledge, it was comfortable and inviting, and the classes were small and intimate; it was somewhere I wanted to be.  And be. And be. Sure, being passionate about baking is exciting, but being trained by some of the best in the industry, that is empowering. When I walked out of the school each time, I felt more inspired than I had ever been and pretty much ready to take on the world of sweets. With so many classes and courses added often, I will likey never stop attending.

Giveaway Closed


Here’s how to enter this chocolaty giveaway: 


1. Again, even if you cannot attend the Bonnie Gordon College class on November 24th & 25th evenings,  you are entered to win the premium Cacao Barry Chocolate Couverture prizes just by leaving a comment on this blog post telling me what your favourite chocolate treat is (baked good, pure chocolate, truffles, etc). That’s it! If you are able to attend the class (it doesn’t matter where you live, provided you can get yourself there), just make a note in your comment stating so, and you will be entered to win any of the prizes.

2. For an extra entry, tweet about this post (with the link) and include @Sweetapolita, then come back and let me know (your actual blog post comment is your entry, so be sure to write a separate comment for your tweet).

3. For an extra entry, tell your friends on Facebook (with the link), then pop back over here to let me know (your actual blog post comment is your entry, so be sure to write a separate comment for your facebook share).

Winner will be announced on Thursday, November 10th. Be sure to check back for see if you’re the winner. Good luck!

*Just a note that for those who are interested in registering for the Holiday Truffles & Bonbons class, they are offering a second date of December 15th & December 16th from 6:30pm-9:30pm. The giveaway for the class, however is for the November 24th-25th session. You can learn more about the class here.

Now, onto the incredible chocolate goodness that is this tart. When I first spotted this tart on Saveur, I knew I had to try it as I love sweet & salty (remember this cake?). This was, though, my first time using the Origine St.Domingue chocolate, which I used for the ganache top of this tart. What makes this chocolate couverture special is that, as the folks at Cacao Barry describe “Cultivated in limited quantities, harvested exclusively in one country, the rare beans that make up the exceptional chocolate couvertures of the Origine and Origine Rare collection are one of Cacao Barry’s best kept secrets,” and I have to agree. I’ve been a big fan of theirs for quite some time, but this chocolate is so rich and intense, which is exactly what I love in a ganache, so it was a perfect fit. My husband who swears he doesn’t like dark chocolate, said it was his favourite part of this tart. Hmm . . . I wonder what he’d say if he knew the St. Domingue is 70% cocoa (the milk chocolate is 40.5%). I think it’s because it is so smooth and the true cocoa flavour is so pure and decadent.

Here’s the recipe:

Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel Tart          {click to print}

*slightly adapted from Saveur

Servings: 8


For the crust:

1 1⁄2 cups (180 grams/6 ounces) all-purpose flour

1⁄4 cup + 1 tablespoon (35 grams) dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Cocoa Powder – Extra Dark)

1⁄4 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt

10 tablespoons (150 grams/5 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and softened

1⁄2 cup + 2 tablespoons (70 grams/2.5 ounces) confectioners’ (icing, powdered) sugar

2 egg yolks, at room temperature

1⁄2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

For the Caramel:

1 1⁄2 cups (300 grams/10 ounces) sugar

6 tablespoons (90 mL) water

3 tablespoons (45 mL) light corn syrup

1⁄4 teaspoon (2 grams) kosher salt

6 tablespoons (90 grams/3 ounces) unsalted butter

7 tablespoons (105 mL) 35% whipping cream or heavy cream (36%+)

For the Ganache:

1⁄2 cup (125 mL/4 liquid ounces) 35% whipping cream or heavy cream (36%+)

115 grams (4 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Cacao Barry Chocolate – Pure Origin – Saint-Domingue – 70%)

Fleur de Sel for garnish ( I used Fleur de Sel De Guerande- French Sea Salt ; 6oz)

1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350˚F. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until mixture is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes; mix in egg yolks and vanilla. Mix in dry ingredients. Transfer dough into to a 9″ fluted tart pan with a removable bottom (such as Kaiser Bakeware Noblesse 9-1/2-Inch Non-stick Quiche Pan with Removable Base) and press dough evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Prick the tart shell all over with a fork and bake until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool.

2. Make the caramel: In a small heavy saucepan, whisk together sugar, corn syrup, salt and water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook undisrupted until a candy thermometer inserted into the syrup reads 340°F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, look for the caramel to turn a rich amber colour, then remove pan from heat and whisk in butter and cream (the mixture will bubble up, so be careful!) until. If you suspect your caramel has gone too far in colour and that it is burnt, you will have to discard and start the caramel again. Pour caramel into cooled tart shell and let cool slightly; refrigerate until firm, 4–5 hours or overnight.

3. Make the ganache: Bring heavy cream almost to a boil (I remove from heat as soon as I see a few bubbles under the surface) in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Put chocolate into a medium bowl and pour in hot cream; let sit for a moment, then stir slowly in a circular motion with a rubber spatula, until smooth. Pour ganache evenly over tart and spread with a small offset spatula, then refrigerate until set, 4–5 hours or overnight. Sprinkle tart with sea salt, slice and serve chilled.

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • When I read the reviews for the original recipe, there was a lot of concern from Saveur readers who had tried the recipe stating that the caramel filling oozing out when served, which is why it says to serve chilled. I wanted to firm up the caramel, to avoid it being too sloppy, so once I stirred in the butter and cream, I put the caramel back on the stove on medium heat and heated to 240°F. In the end, this made it quite firm and almost toffee-like. It tasted incredible, but next time I will try it without that step, the way it reads in the recipe and will save the more firm toffee for candy.

Either way, it’s amazing . . .

Good luck & enjoy!

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