Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

On June 26th the world welcomed a very special little guy: my nephew!  This is B’s and my first time being an uncle and aunt and, besides being super excited to shower him with love and affection, we wanted to make sure we help out B’s brother and our sister-in-law as much as possible.  As part of our efforts to do so, we decided to make them some food to have to share with guests and for them to eat as they get adjusted to life as new parents.  We ended up making a lot of food (fitting our trend of over-cooking for 2 people).  Here is the menu (I will link the posts I’ve adapted as I post them):

Freezer Meals:

Chicken Stir Fry

  • Recipe forthcoming

Zucchini Bread

  • This was my first time making zucchini bread so I followed the recipe fairly closely (also not 100% sure on the outcome).  I used walnuts but did not use cranberries/raisins.  Also, I probably used over 3 C of grated fresh zucchini.  I grated a zucchini in my food processor and just used whatever was produced.

Banana Nutella Swirl Muffins

  • Two changes: I used 5 bananas and I did not use chopped pecans.  My mother- and father-in-law referred to these as life changing.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

  • B made these and I’m not 100% clear on the recipe.  I think he just winged the recipe using a Asian inspired rub.

Twice Baked Bacon and Cheddar Potatoes

  • This recipe is more of a guideline.  We have made twice baked potatoes before we so kind of eyeballed it as we normally do.  This was the first time we froze these.  We made the mistake of making them all as if we were going to eat them that day/night.  So we did two things wrong: first, we cooked them completely; second, we cooked them with the green onions.  Some of the freezer prep recipes I’ve found since then (when I was trying to find reheat instructions for my brother- and sister-in-law) have recommended not adding the green onions until ready to eat.  I was informed that they were very good as we did them but in the future I will probably try freezing the proper way.

Blanched asparagus

  • Add asparagus to a pot of boiling water.  Cook for approximately 1 minute.  Remove from boiling water and submerge immediately in ice water to stop cooking process.  Remove from ice water and put on cookie sheet or roasting pan to cool completely.  Place in freezer bag and freeze.  To reheat, thaw the asparagus and reheat in pan with oil/butter and desired spices.

To have on hand:

Italian Roast Pork with Broccoli Rabe

  • For the broccoli rabe, submerge in boiling water for approximately 2 minutes (or until soft with a little bit of crunch).  Remove from boiling water and immediately submerge in ice water to stop the cooking process. In a medium size pan, saute 2-3 cloves of garlic with a generous amount of olive oil.  Add blanched broccoli rabe and cook for approximately 5 minutes more over medium heat.  Serve roast pork and broccoli rabe with sharp provolone cheese and/or roasted red peppers on a hoagie sandwich roll.
  • My brother- and sister-in-law also repurposed the pork (since I ended up using an 8 lb shoulder and made 3 Chinese food take out containers worth.  Each container was 8 sandwiches).  They added some BBQ sauce and adobe sauce to use in roasted pork tacos.  We also discussed how the pork could be repurposed into BBQ pulled pork sandwiches.

Chocolate cupcakes with Salted Cannoli Cream Frosting

  • Recipe forthcoming


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(Insert picture I should’ve taken but I’m a bad food recipe blogger so I forgot to do so)

This was adapted from Annie’s Eats recipe.  I originally intended to bring these over to my brother- and sister-in-law as part of the food package we were sending to help them out/ celebrate the birth of my nephew.  Unfortunately, these cupcakes didn’t quite come out the way that I had hoped.  The cake was a little dry and I really struggled with the caramel filling.  The caramel ended up being too runny and instead of providing a nice caramel center to the cupcakes it ended up getting absorbed into the cupcake.  Since B pointed out, with his usual wit, “So you’re telling me caramel is absorbed into a chocolate cupcake?  That sounds terrible.”, I decided to send them with him to work.  I’ve baked a number of items for his lab and each has gone over fairly well.  I’ve been informed that these went more quickly than any other baked good I sent and had an overwhelming positive response.   So perhaps I’m my own worst critic.  This is definitely one of the more difficult cupcakes I have attempted because it was the first time I tried to make caramel from scratch.  If you have any tricks/suggestions please leave them in the comments!

Salted Caramel Cupcakes with Buttercream Icing and Caramel Drizzle

Chocolate Cupcakes (taken from Annie’s Eats)
Makes approximately 24 cupcakes

½ C plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
½ C plus 1 tbsp hot water
2¼ C all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup sour cream
Caramel (Taken from Annie’s Eats)

2½ C sugar*
2/3 C water
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
¾ C heavy cream, warmed**
2¼ tsp. sea salt

Icing (Taken from Savory Sweet Life)

1 C unsalted softened butter
3-4 C confectioners  sugar, SIFTED
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons heavy cream



  1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water and whisk until smooth.
  3. In another medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a medium saucepan combine the butter and sugar. Cook at medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted.
  5. Transfer the butter/sugar mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-low speed until the butter/sugar mixture is cool (about 4-5 minutes).
  6. Add each of the eggs one at a time.  Make sure to mix well after each egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  7. Blend in the vanilla and then the cocoa/hot water mixture until smooth.
  8. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing each addition just until incorporated.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake about 18-20 minutes (mine were done in 18) until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean rotating the pans halfway through baking (I forgot to do this, maybe that’s why they were dry).  Let cool in the pan about 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.


  1. Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat.  Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has melted into a syrup.
  2. Stop stirring and gently swirl the pan, using a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe down any bits of sugar stuck to the sides of the pan.
  3. Continue to boil, swirling occasionally, until the mixture is a deep amber color (but not burned!) and it registers 340˚ F on the candy thermometer.
  4. Very slowly pour in the cream in a slow, steady stream down the inside edge of the pan, stirring constantly until smooth.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt.
  6. Let the caramel filling mixture cool just until very slightly thickened and cool enough to handle.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a small tip and inject about 1 large tbsp of filling directly into the center of each cupcake.  (This is when my caramel absorbed to the inside of the cupcake.)


  1. Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.
  2. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar (1 cup at a time) on the lowest speed of the mixer until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter.
  3. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of cream and beat for 3 minutes.
  4. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add remaining sugar 1/2 C at a time. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tbsp at a time.
  5. Allow to cool slightly in the refrigerator so it is easier to handle.
  6. Transfer to piping bag.  Careful pipe the icing on to each of the cupcakes.
  7. Drizzle the top of each cupcake with remaining caramel and some sea salt (In Annie’s Eat’s recipe she tops with a homemade piece of salted caramel candy)


*I ran out of sugar and since it was around 10pm I just decided to work with what I had.  Perhaps that’s why my caramel was too runny.
**To further add to my trouble with the caramel, I was tired and impatient so I didn’t warm the cream.  Another reason why the caramel was too runny, maybe?

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**So I’ve been very busy the past few months and realized I haven’t updated in a loooong time.  This is evidence of that.  I found a draft I never finished.  Instead of posting the recipes (since they’re not at all healthy) I’m just going to post it as a brag about how awesome B is.  If you’re interested in any of the specific recipes let me know and I’ll post them.**

B has always been very lucky in terms of Valentine’s Day obligations: he only has to say “Happy Valentine’s Day.”  This is because my birthday is only two days prior so we usually have a nice dinner out, etc. that day.  This is also because the first year we were dating, we decided to celebrate this holiday with a dinner out at a nice Italian restaurant in Chambersburg (a neighborhood in Trenton, NJ).  Reservations for 2 at 7:30pm, check.  We arrived and the place was wall to wall people.  It was like being in a hot bar at midnight (I am not an anchovy in a can!).  We also didn’t get seated until 8:30pm.  This was the beginning of the end of our Valentine’s Day celebrations.  Six years later, B decides that he wants to make me a feast for Valentine’s Day.  Let me tell you, he puts me to shame.  What follows are  the meals and pictures associated with said feast.   This is definitely not a diet friendly meal but worked for me since I’m in maintenance now.  Adjustments could be made for the sake of making the dish healthier (reduce butter, replace with something else) but I would be you would really lose something in terms of taste.  As the main reviewer of this meal, I can say that it made me think B needs a new career as a stay at home husband/personal chef.

Course 1: Arugula Salad with Broiled Goat Cheese and Crostini

Course 2: Seared Sea Scallops and Brown Butter Lobster Risotto

Course 3: Chocolate Souffle with Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Mascarpone Cream

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S’mores Cupcakes

This presented a little bit of a challenge because, first, I don’t eat gelatin (and as a result, don’t eat marshmallows) and, second, none of these recipes we found actually struck either my or B’s fancy.   These were made for a weekend away with a bunch of friends in a house in the Poconos.  We decided we wanted to make a cupcake that was reminiscent of the outdoor experience (even though we were inside in the warmth).  This recipe is a combination of a number of different ones:  I got the graham cracker cupcake recipe from here, the recipe for the chocolate cupcakes from here, and the chocolate marshmallow frosting from here.  We decided we wanted to replicate the “s’mores experience’ by making a triple layer cupcake filled with marshmallow creme. One thing I learned by making another multi-layer cupcake (the dark and stormy cupcakes) is that its very, very easy to add too much and cause the cupcakes to overflow.  Be VERY CAREFUL about how much batter you add into the tins.  This was a little bit of trial and error for me as I did these s’mores cupcakes to make sure that I had the right amount to add into the cupcake tins.

S’mores Cupcakes


Graham Cracker Batter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 15 whole crackers ground in processor)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup skim milk

Chocolate Batter

1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick ) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup reduced fat sour cream

Frosting and Filling

2 – 7 oz jar marshmallow cream
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, or to taste
3 oz Hersey’s chocolate, melted and cooled
1 1/2 tbsp butter flavored shortening
1/4 cup half-and-half, or as needed

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.   First, prepare the graham cracker cupcakes:

  1. Whisk graham crumbs, flour, baking powder, and pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat in vanilla. Add graham-cracker mixture in 3 parts alternating with the milk (in 2 parts), beginning and ending with graham-cracker mixture. Divide batter into two parts.

Next, we will work on the chocolate cupcake component:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, or the bowl of a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Stir in the vanilla.
  3. Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour mixture into the mixing bowl and mix until just combined. Add half of the sour cream, mixing until just combined. Repeat, alternating the remaining flour in 2 more additions with the remaining sour cream in one more addition (ending on flour).

In lined cupcake pan, first add a layer of the graham cracker cupcake batter (approximately 1-2 tbsps) using one part of the batter you have divided.

Next, put the chocolate cupcake batter (approx 1-2 tbsp) on top of this. Make sure to spread out the chocolate batter so it bakes evenly.

Finally, use the second part of the graham cracker batter and add the top layer of graham cracker (approx 1-2 tbsp). Bake approximately 20 minutes or until the tester comes out clean.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before icing.

Once cupcakes are cooled, use an apple corer or similar instrument (I actually used a grapefruit spoon. Work with what you’ve got, right?).  Reserve the top of the piece of cupcake you have removed (so what would have been on the top of the cupcake).  Fill the hole in the cupcake with Fluff.  Repeat for each cupcake.

For icing:

Combine 1-7 oz container of Fluff, two-thirds of the confectioners’ sugar, melted chocolate, shortening, and half of the half-and-half in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Alternately add remaining confectioners’ sugar and half-and-half until desired level of sweetness and consistency is attained. (Note: We ended up making the icing too liquid-y but did not want to make it any sweeter.  B used cornstarch to thicken the icing and it did not influence the taste).

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I made these cupcakes over a month ago.  As my last post pointed out, I’m terrible at being a blogger.

These cupcakes were made for B’s large family reunion that involved cousins and relatives from B’s Italian side.  We wanted to make a cupcake that represented this Italian heritage.  After tossing around a number of different ideas, we decided we wanted to try to make a cupcake that was reminiscent of a pizzelle cookie.  This is how we came up with the idea to have a cupcake that featured both anise extract and anise seeds.  During our test trials, we tried the cupcakes with a chocolate ganache (to be reminiscent of a pizzelle filled with chocolate), but that was unsuccessful.  The ganache flavor was just too strong and overpowered the anise to the point where you couldn’t really taste it.  This is why we decided to go with an anise flavored chocolate whipped cream icing.  This provided both the chocolate and anise flavors we were looking for without one overpowering the other.


Pizzelle Cupcakes (Adapted from a recipe on the Food Network website and this recipe)
Made 31 cupcakes (supposed to make 24).

1 1/2 C unsalted butter, (3 sticks), at room temperature
2 C sugar
3 C cake flour, sifted
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
1 C milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tsp anise seeds
1 tsp anise extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated


2/3 cup powdered sugar
5  tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp anise extract

For the cupcakes:

Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Line the muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugar and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Raise the speed to high and mix until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula.)

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and anise seeds. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and anise extract, and also set aside.

Add the egg yolks to the creamed butter one at time, waiting for each one to be fully incorporated before adding the next.

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Alternately, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, waiting for each to be fully incorporated before adding the next (scrape the bowl down occasionally). Raise the speed to medium and mix briefly until a smooth batter is formed. Transfer the batter to a large bowl.

Thoroughly clean the bowl of the mixer and put the egg whites inside. Whip the egg whites on high speed, using the whisk attachment, until stiff peaks are formed.

Working in 3 batches, using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter, until just incorporated. Divide the batter evenly among the cups in the muffin pan. Bake, rotating the pan once, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Remove the cakes from the oven and cool completely.

For the icing: Combine confectioners’ sugar and cocoa in small bowl. Add cream and anise extract; beat until stiff.  We were without a piping bag so we put the whipped cream icing into a plastic Ziploc bag and cut one of the corners.  I would recommend the piping bag; the final result comes out looking much nicer and cleaner.

Top cupcakes with a piece of pizzelle cookie.

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So like I had mentioned in my previous blog, I’ve been under the weather for the past few weeks.  One of the things that has been plaguing me was a persistent case of hives.  By this week it had spread to dangerous levels and I ended up in the hospital for a few days.  So to continue with my “bad blogger” phenomenon I haven’t cooked a new or interesting meal in a long time (side note, B did make fake bacon wrapped scallops the night before I was admitted and they were flippin’ fantastic).

Since I usually work from home and B works 8-10 hours in the lab, our dog Margot was very kindly looked after by our neighbors.  As a thank you we wanted to make them something that fit our dog and theirs (Nola) since they had non-stop playtime for almost 48 hrs (with the exception of the few hours B was not with me and was at home).  In honor of the two dogs and to thank our neighbors, we decided to make Margot-rita and Nola Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes.  The decorative aspect of these..is.uh..well…lacking.  I do not attest to being anywhere close to a decorator and this proves it.  I didn’t calculate the points values since they were a gift but I’m sure they’re not Weight Watchers friendly.

(Pardon our filthy stove in this picture, there was a lot of baking done)

Margot-rita Cupcakes (adapted from Recipe Girl and Annie’s Eats)
(makes about 10 cupcakes)

3 oz liquid Margarita mix
1 oz tequila
1/4 oz Triple Sec
1/2 box white cake mix (I used Pillsbury Extra Moist)
1 1/2 large egg whites
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp lime zest

1 sticks unsalted butter (1/2 cup), at room temperature
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
2-4 tsp tequila (this is approximate because we did this to taste)
1/8 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp grated lime zest
green food coloring, if desired
small lime slices for garnish, if desired

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

Whisk together margarita mix, tequila and Triple Sec in a small bowl. The combination should measure a bit more than 1/2 cup.  In a large bowl, blend cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, lime zest and the margarita mix. Blend on low for about 30 seconds and then increase speed to medium and blend for two additional minutes. Batter will be slightly lumpy.  Spoon the batter into cupcake liners (about ¾ full). Bake for 20-25 min, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for about 10 minutes in the pans, then remove them to a rack to cool completely.

Once cupcakes are completely cooled, prepare the icing. Place butter in a large bowl and beat with electric mixer until butter is fluffy. Add powdered sugar, salt, lime juce, tequila, and lime zest. Mix until thick and creamy. Add more powdered sugar until the frosting is of a good spreading (or piping) consistency. (You can mix in a tiny amount of green food coloring or gel paste if you’d like the frosting to have a green tint but I was looking for a buttery color). Ice cupcakes in whatever manner you prefer either by spreading or piping the frosting. Use small lime slices and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt as garnish.

For the specific decoration of these cupcakes, I piped on the frosting and then tried to build up a snout.  Unfortunately the buttercream ended up getting a little warm in my hands and melted a bit so the snout doesn’t look as good as the cola ones (see below how I did that one).  The night before I made up some dark brown and pink royal icing and piped that into eyes, noses, and tongues.  To get the texture on the tongue and noses I let the royal icing dry to a certain extent then used a toothpick.  For the tongue I just drew a simple line.  When I was applying, I cut the tongues to the appropriate length.  For the noses, I used a toothpick and just made little holes and played with it a little to give it some texture.  For the eyes and noses, the piping attachment I used made them look a little like chocolate morsels since I had to pull up.  I also used the toothpicks to even that out so they looked flatter.  The royal icing recipe I used came from Annie’s Eats.

The ears for Margot were made out of tuile cookies.  I did not make them right so we kind of winged it.  She has ridiculous ears so we were ok with it.  Maybe one day I’ll figure out how to roll a cookie and in the future I can make a cupcake that has terrier like dog ears.

Nola Chocolate Cherry Cola Cupcakes (Adapted from Annie’s Eats, Food Network, and Cooks.com )


1½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
approx 2 cups Coca-Cola
¼ tsp. maraschino cherry juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Maraschino cherries, stemless


3-5 tsp cherry cola (I used about 5 tsp and it ended up being too gooey.  I’d stick with around 3 1/2 tsp.)
3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla

For cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line  a muffin pan with foil or paper liners.  In a small pot, add about 1 1/2 cups of coca-cola (or another comparable cola).  Turn up heat and allow the cola to reduce down to more of a syrup (This was done to intensify the coke flavor in the cupcakes).  Once this is reduced down measure into a liquid measuring cup and add coke, as needed, to get 3/4 cup of coke (I ended up with about 1/2 cup of reduced coke syrup from the 1 1/2 I started with and then topped it off with more coke).  Set aside to cool.In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  Stir together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter.  Mix on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.   Mix in the egg until incorporated.   In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, Coke, maraschino cherry juice, and vanilla extract; stir to combine.  (This mixture may look disgusting and/or curdled – it’s okay!) Mix the dry ingredients into the butter-sugar mixture on low speed, alternately with the liquid ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing just until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners.  Drop a stemless maraschino cherries into each cupcake well and push them down into the batter.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For glaze: Add the cherry cola, 1 teaspoon at a time, to the powdered sugar until it has a good consistency to drizzle on cupcakes. Once cupcakes are cool drizzle the glaze onto them (make sure there is a baking sheet or something under them! It got messy for me).
For icing:Combine confectioners’ sugar and cocoa in small bowl. Add cream and vanilla; beat until stiff.Using a piping bag and one of the fancier attachments (I have no idea how to describe these) I piped the the whipped cream icing on in little dollops.  When the cupcake was completely covered, I cut maraschino cherries in half and placed on in the lower  center of each cupcake.  Using the remainder of the icing, I covered the cherry to create a snout.

For Nola’s ears, I melted some chocolate in the microwave and laid it out on a wax paper lined cookie sheet. Using a toothpick, I created a swirly pattern in the chocolate since she is a curly dog.  We allowed the chocolate to cool in the fridge and then cut out ears using an exacto-knife. (See above for description of eyes, nose, and tongue for the dog face)

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B’s birthday is today and for some time I’ve been planning quite the culinary feast for him.  Since I am terrible at getting gifts (read: horrendous) I made the decision quite some time ago that the bulk of the actual good part of his birthday would come from me making special things for him.

The cupcakes I made late last week/this weekend since B’s parents were coming in from out-of-town to celebrate both of our birthdays (which are within almost a month of each other).  These cupcakes defy any type of Weight Watchers criteria.  B figured out I was making cupcakes (but only one of the three types) a few weeks ago and specifically requested that I don’t play with any of the ingredients to make it healthier.  I made three types of cupcakes (I watch way too much of Cupcake Wars I guess) all tailored to B’s favorite flavors.  First, bananas foster is one of his favorite desserts.  Second, the dark and stormy drink is something we have both greatly enjoyed since discovering it on our honeymoon in Key West.  The final cupcake is the real B flavor: fake banana!  He loves fake banana flavor.  Last year for his birthday I made him a chocolate banana (with banana flavoring) cake with banana (flavoring) whipped cream icing.  I also made it into the (vague) shape of a baseball diamond since he’s a big baseball guy.  This year for the banana flavoring concoction I decided to go with the same chocolate/banana blend for the cake but I included banana pudding inside the cupcake and topped it with a banana meringue.

For his actual birthday, I wanted to make something special for him to take to lunch because I would be busy during lunch with my own work related activities.  I made soda bread because it’s the week of St. Patrick’s and I thought it would go well with the stew.  This stew I have been telling B I was going to make him since before Christmas (I promised for months I’d make it for him while I was away the week before Christmas.  I ran out of time and I will never live it down).  Finally I took the plunge!

B’s Birthday Sweets:
Bananas Foster Cupcakes
Dark and Stormy Cupcakes
Banana Chocolate Cupcakes

B’s Birthday Treats:
Irish Soda Bread
Beef and Guinness Stew


Overall, the cupcakes were VERY well received.  Granted, I didn’t deviate from the recipes much since my baking skills are lacking so the credit really lies with those individuals that created the source recipe.  The banana’s foster cupcakes were a favorite of my in-laws.  I was a little disappointed in those, however.  Since I had to cook them longer than the recipe suggested because the toothpick didn’t come out clean they were a little drier than I would have liked.  The chocolate banana cupcakes I thought were very good; the meringue came out looking and tasting great, the cupcakes were very moist.  The only complaint was that the Jell-O instant pudding was kind of weird inside of the cupcakes.  If I ever do them over again I will omit the pudding filling.  The dark and stormy cupcakes were the highlight of the cupcake wars experience.  They were moist, flavorful (with rum, ginger, and citrus).  Basically they were a dark and stormy drink in cupcake form.

B tells me the beef stew tastes very good (and very Guinnessy which is good for the week of St. Patrick’s Day, I guess) and that the soda bread tastes very good.  I haven’t had a chance to taste the bread yet and I won’t be tasting the beef stew for obvious reasons so we’ll all have to take his word for it on those.

I hope you find an opportunity to try these recipes since they were all seen as a success!


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Chocolate Banana Cupcakes with Banana Meringue Frosting
8 servings, 8 Weight Watchers PointsPlus per serving

1 cup flour
5/8 cup granulated sugar
5/8 teaspoon baking soda
5/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup oil
5/8 cup water
5/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
5/8 teaspoon banana extract
5/8 tablespoon vinegar
1 packet Jell-O Instant Banana Cream pudding

Frosting (note: this made way too much so I tried to make cookies out of the rest)
1 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp banana extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 F.  Mix the instant pudding according to instructions on packet (points based on fat free milk).  Put in fridge to set.  Mix all other ingredients together until moist and well blended.  Put in a lined cupcake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Let cupcakes cool.  Once cupcakes are cooled, remove a “cone” of cupcake from the middle.  Remove the inside part of the cupcake while keeping the top.  In the “cone” add the instant banana pudding.  You should use about 1/2 cup of pudding for all 8 cupcakes.


Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a water bath.  Whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch.  Transfer bowl to electric stand mixer, beat on high-speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes.  Add banana and vanilla extract.  Beat on medium speed.  Frost the cupcakes using a piping bag and toast with a torch if you have one.

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