Monday, October 12, 2009

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate...

...boy oh boy do I love chocolate! And now I know where I get it from! (Not that it was ever that big of a mystery but now it has definitely been confirmed) :)

So in the past week, we celebrated 3 birthdays and an anniversary in my family...more accurately they happened in the last 4 days but we all got together last night for the big celebration. Since I took cake decorating class last month, I felt like I should try to flex my decorating muscles (they need a little toning) and see what I could come up with for the official celebration dessert. Mom's birthday was the closest to our celebration date, so I let her pick what she wanted for dessert. Her request: chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate.
Hmmm....So I did a little searching. Sure I could whip up a chocolate cake with some chocolate pudding for the filling and chocolate icing.....boring. This needed to be something special. And who is my new, latest favorite person to turn to for baking ideas...Bakerella, of course! Cake pops were the first thing to cross my mind but then I decided not to get too crazy since I haven't attempted these yet. I need an opportunity to mess them up once and not worry about it...maybe I'll attack those soon. BUT I did find some interesting cupcakes on her website that got me thinking.
So I started with some basic devil's food cake cupcakes.

The cupcakes that inspired me were a little crazy for my taste...goat cheese icing on chocolate zucchini cupcakes. However, the chocolate ganache filling sounded divine! Now I've never filled cupcakes before so this was new to me but I figured I could make it work and cover up and "uglies" with some chocolate icing. Yumm? You bet.

Here's the recipe for the ganache...

Chocolate Ganache from Bakerella

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate bar, chopped in chunks
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup confectioners sugar

Place chocolate and whipping cream in the microwave. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. Blend thoroughly. Add sugar and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour ganache into a disposable decorators bag (I used Wilton tip #12), insert tip into center of cupcake and, using gentle pressure, squeeze filling into the cupcake until you start to see it coming out the top.

Here I am filling the first time I want to follow the step-by-step directions in the link above instead of using a decorator's tip cause I have lots of extra ganache that I'm now trying to find a use for.

Here's what they looked like after being filled...yummmmmmmmmmm! See the little glossy spot at the top? That's the ganache! Peek-a-boo!

Then a colleague of mine, Tracy (thanks Tracy!), sent me a new baking website (well, new to me anyway) for The Cake Mix Doctor and I was able to find the inspiration for some amazing chocolate cream cheese icing. Holy smokes it was good...the only change I plan to make next time is just to use 1/2 tsp. of almond extract. I think the 1 tsp. the recipe called for was just a tiny bit too much and you lost a lot of the cream cheese flavor.

Here's the recipe for the icing...

Chocolate Cream Cheese Icing from the Cake Mix Doctor

Makes 4 cups, enough to frost a 2- or 3- layer cake
(or in my case, 12 cupcakes with a bunch left over) :)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure almond extract (I'm using 1/2 tsp next time but go with whatever you like)
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

1. Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the cocoa powder, extract, and confectioners' sugar and blend with the mixer on low speed until the ingredients are moistened, 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and beat until the frosting is fluffy, 2 minutes more.

I'll be honest it took a little bit of extra mixing to get it to "do its thang" and become icing, which kind of freaked me out at first. It looked like dry little hunks of chocolate dough for the first 30 seconds or so (which felt like an eternity while I thought I had somehow messed it up) and then all of a sudden it turned into beautiful, creamy, fluffy icing...delicious too!

Another decorator bag came out, this time with Wilton tip 2D and voila! Finished cupcakes!

Here's a close-up to really get you drooling...

Thank goodness I made them the same day they were to be served to the family or they might not have made it to the party! And sharing them with family turned out to be the absolute best part...just ask my niece, Haedyn. She started out with a fork....

...but quickly ditched that... you think anyone noticed?

Nah. :)

Who knows what I'll be up to next but tonight I'm taking the night off from cooking and enjoying the last of our Homemade Gourmet leftovers from last week. Then I'll need to figure out what's for dinner for the rest of the week so check back later tonight for the meal plan!

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