Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Salted Caramel

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The weather in Brussels is strangely Autumnal; it doesn’t really feel like August. Sunday was sunny, but cool, and I wore my Winter coat to go to the park. I used to go to this park with my grandma as a kid, before we moved to Copenhagen, and it’s so strange to go back there as an adult, the little ponds look teeny tiny now, and the apple orchard is much smaller, but still just as pretty.

I’ve long been thinking about making some sort of caramel-filled cupcake (even though I don’t like cupcakes, really, but if they’re filled with salted caramel sauce, I’ll happily give them a go). A little while back, my parents brought me back a jar of Caramel au beurre salé they’d bought at a market in Provence. When I was there on holiday last week, I bought two more jars. I’ve also been entertaining the idea of trying my hand at making it myself, but not until I finish the three jars I have in the house. Shouldn’t take too long.

On Sunday I decided to take David Lebovitz’ Devil’s Food Cake recipe as my point of departure. I first made the cakes by placing a dollop of salted caramel sauce in the batter, covering it with another dollop of batter, and baking them like this, but the caramel sort of dissipated into the chocolate cupcake, leaving only a little residue at the bottom – I suspect this technique only works with those chewy caramels, not with caramel sauce.. So I added another dollop of caramel sauce once the cakes had been baked, and next time I make these I’ll just do this (or maybe try with chewy caramels).

I brought some to the park, and sat on a bench with my friend Zane, drinking tea and eating cupcakes, and looking at the sunlight in the apple trees.

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These cupcakes are very yummy and super rich, and I felt they needed a really intense ganache frosting to avoid being sickly-sweet, so I used really dark chocolate. Next time I make them I might not whip the ganache, so that it sets in a glossier, less buttercreamy/’frostingy’ consistency. But I don’t know, they were pretty good.

But I digress! Here’s what you’ll need:

For 24 cupcakes:

  • 210 g ~ 1 ½ cups flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • 60 g ~ 8 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 40 g ~ 1 ¼ ounces dark chocolate (70 % cocoa solids), melted
  • 1 cup ~ 240 ml water (or ½ cup water, ½ cup milk)
  • 115 g / 1 stick butter at room temperature (plus 1 tsp if using water only – if using half milk, half water, omit the extra tsp of butter)
  • 2 eggs
  • 300 g ~ 1 ½ cups sugar

For the ganache frosting:

  • 240 g ~ 8 ounces dark chocolate (70 % cocoa solids)
  • 240 ml ~ 1 cup cream

For the salted caramel filling: 1 jar of salted caramel sauce or Dulce de Leche! Alternately, try this recipe (I’m certainly going to) or something similar (I think this would also be incredibly yummy!). And should you use Dulce de Leche, I recommend you sprinkle a bit of flaky sea salt or fleur de sel over the caramel, inside the cupcake 🙂

Begin by making your ganache so that it will have time to set: Heat the cream in the microwave on ‘high’ for a little over a minute; add the chocolate chunks, and leave the chocolate in the hot cream for a few minutes. After the chocolate has started to melt in the cream, stir until it gets nice and glossy and there are no more chocolate chunks. Leave to set whilst preparing the cakes.

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Preheat your oven to 180° Celsius / 350° Fahrenheit / gas mark 4.

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

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In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well. Now add the melted chocolate and mix until incorporated.

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Alternate between adding half of your dry ingredients to the egg and butter mixture, mixing with a hand whisk, then half of your wet ingredients, then the remaining dry ingredients, followed by the remaining wet ingredients. Make sure all of the flour mixture has been incorporated, but don’t over-mix.

Line two 12-muffin muffin or cupcake tins. Fill them a little over two thirds, and bake in the middle of the oven for just under 20 minutes, until they feel soft but not wobbly, when pressed gently.

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Let cool completely.

When cool, using a small knife, one cupcake at a time cut an approximately 2 cm wide, 1.5 cm deep hole out of each cupcake. With a teaspoon, scoop about 1 spoonful of caramel sauce into the hole, placing the little cake lid back on. Set aside.

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Now beat the room temperature ganache with an electric mixer for a minute or two until fluffy. Once this is done, give it a good stir with a silicone spatula. Spread the frosting on each cupcake with a butter knife (at first I didn’t beat the ganache, so it was still smoother and more malleable, and began frosting the cupcakes with a piping bag with a small star tip – as you can see in the bottom left picture below; but then my piping bag up and died on me!! So I beat the ganache to a thicker consistency and finished frosting them with a butter knife, and I actually liked the result much better, it was rustic and a lot less ‘froufrou’, and made a kind of almost chocolate truffle-like frosting). If you feel the frosting beginning to set, give it a vigorous stir with the spatula before continuing to frost the next one.

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These are best on the day they are made, but still super yummy the next day (keep them in an airtight container). I’m not sure the frosting will be as nice the third day, but I can’t say for sure as I had none left ^.^
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Fondants au Chocolat

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I’m the type of person who plans their meal around the dessert menu when I go to a restaurant, and while on holiday in France recently, I had fondant au chocolat for dessert three times in eight days. I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a huge fan of chocolate cakes, because they’re usually not intensely chocolatey enough for me, and tend to leave me feeling somewhat ‘meh’. But I’m a huge fan of ooey gooey lava cakes, or chocolate fondant cakes, depending on which part of the world you’re from (or in!). Most of the ones I’ve had in restaurants have been somewhat lacking in chocolate intensity though, it’s really important to use good quality dark chocolate for these, and lots of it. Only one out of the three I had in France truly hit the spot, it was just the right amount of dark chocolate, not over-baked, and served with cherry ice cream. And it was gooood.

This recipe is my personal favourite, and dead easy to boot. The cakes can be made in advance and left unbaked in the fridge (for a few days) or freezer (for a few months, well wrapped), depending on when you want to make them, and just need to be brought back to room temperature before baking (although I have cracked more than once, and flash-baked one in the microwave from frozen for 30-60 seconds – but only at really, really desperate times. And while it didn’t give the same even result, it was still pretty good 😉 ). The room temperature step is important since they’re baked for a very short amount of time, and you thus run the risk of a baked-on-the-outside/cold-on-the-inside cake. If you haven’t had time to bring the cakes completely back to room temp, you can also bake them for an extra minute; just be careful, as the unbaked middle is the whole point of this cake 🙂

Please forgive the quality of the pictures – I decided to make these on a whim this evening = zero natural light 🙂 But that’s one of the best things about these cakes – they have so few ingredients and are super quick to make; and they really hit the spot. My friend Nadia and I ate them whilst watching The Wedding Singer (an awesome movie, even for people who aren’t big on Adam Sandler) and drinking Cava. I’m nothing if not classy.

Fondants au Chocolat
Adapted slightly from cupcakes and cashmere

  • 65 g ~ ½ cup salted butter, plus some to butter the ramekins (if you don’t have salted butter simply add a pinch of salt when adding the flour)
  • 120 g ~ 4 ounces dark chocolate, 60 percent cocoa solids (this is important, as the chocolate fondants might otherwise be either too sweet, or not sweet enough, I’ve found that 60% or just about provides the best dark chocolate intensity to sweetness ratio!)
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
  • 50 g ~ ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • Cocoa for dusting the ramekins

Preheat your oven to 225˚C ~ 450˚F ~ gas mark 8.

Butter four ramekins generously, and dust with cocoa powder so that the bottom and sides are well coated, by pouring a bit of cocoa into the bottom of the buttered ramekin and gently tapping it over the sink while turning it, to evenly  distribute the cocoa over the bottom and sides (you can also use flour,  but I find that this sometimes leaves a bit of white residue on the finished cakes). Set the ramekins aside on a baking tray.

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In a medium to large bowl, melt together the butter and the chocolate, broken into chunks, either in a bain marie, or by microwaving on high for 1-2 minutes until the butter has melted and the chocolate is dissolving, and stir until you have an even, glossy mixture.

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Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in another bowl with an electric mixer, until light and airy. With a hand whisk, quickly whisk the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, followed by the flour. Don’t over mix, only whisk until the flour is just incorporated.

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Distribute the batter between the ramekins. Either bake right away in the middle of the oven for 6-7 minutes (it’s really important to time this exactly and not overcook the cakes), or put them in the fridge or freezer for later use (in this case, don’t forget to cover the individual cakes in cling film).

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(The only time it’s ever appropriate to use the word ‘ooze’, is, in my opinion,
when describing chocolate fondant cakes. Otherwise ew.)

When the cakes are out of the oven, using oven mitts place your serving plate over each individual cake, gently turning it upside down. When you lift the ramekin up carefully, the fondant cake should come out with a gentle thud. Sprinkle them with a bit of icing sugar and serve right away (once out of the oven they’ll keep on cooking, so it’s important to serve them fairly quickly), either on their own or with ice cream; vanilla is a classic, but I really liked the cherry ice cream – it was just the right amount of tartness against the rich and gooey chocolate cake.

Sometimes, if I’ve only got 70% dark chocolate lying around or I’m just feeling like I need a little extra OMG in my chocolate fondant, I’ll press a square or two of white chocolate into the middle of the unbaked batter, covering it up with batter, before baking… 🙂

Apricot Macaroon Tart

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Adapted from Orangette.

Baking in a kitchen that isn’t yours can be a bit tricky. I’m in the South of France, enjoying the sun and the smell of Summer and the sounds around my parents’ house (we have dormice, they wake up at night and make squeaky sounds at each other in the trees around the veranda).

Here are a few random shots – one of the light on the kitchen floor, and another one of a heart-shaped rock I found when we went hiking the other day:

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Today we went to a market in a town nearby and I got this apricot jam that makes me giddy, as well as these little turtle ear studs, that make me happy.

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Oh but the apricot jam. Super fragrant and not too sweet, a deep amber-orange hue. Oh dear.

So, riding the apricot wave, I decided to make this apricot macaroon tart, using fresh apricots. I first tried making this tart in this very house, and it doesn’t need precision (which is good, as there are no kitchen scales in this kitchen). I came upon the recipe last year on one of my top two favourite food blogs, Orangette, and have made it many times over the past year. She (Molly, of Orangette) suggests using a variety of flours; so far I’ve only tried it with plain old white flour, as well as ‘farine semi complète’ (a mixture of whole wheat and plain wheat flour); I prefer the whole wheat version.

I’ve also made this back home, where the apricots where a whole lot less interesting than here, and it still turned out beautiful; less-than-perfect apricots somehow sweeten and ‘ripen’ when baked. I imagine you could easily make this with other fruits, but I like the tart sweetness of the apricots so much, especially with the coconut macaroon topping, that I’ve yet to try it with any other fruit. I also add more apricots than the original recipe calls for, because I like for each bite to have a bit of fruit in it.

Alright! Here’s what you need:

For the tart crust:

  • 170 g / 1 ½ cups half whole wheat / half wheat flour
  • 60 g / 3/4 cup desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 100 g / 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
  • 140 g / 10 tbsp butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 5-6 large apricots (about 300-350 g), pitted and quartered
  • 4 egg whites
  • 140 g desiccated coconut (unsweetened)
  • 70 g sugar
  • Pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit / gas mark 4. Grease a baking tin or tart pan of approximately 22 cm / 9 inches (I used a square tin because it’s what I could find, and I quite like cutting the finished tart into squares).

Start by mixing the flour, desiccated coconut, sugar and salt in a medium bowl. Add the melted butter and mix with a fork until all the butter has been absorbed.  Turn into your baking dish, and press into a firm, flat layer.

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Bake for about 15 minutes, but keep an eye on it and take it out when it is just beginning to brown.

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Meanwhile quarter the apricots, and mix the macaroon ingredients in a bowl until well combined.

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Scatter the apricots over the tart crust and cover with the macaroon, using a spatula and/or your hands to spread the macaroon evenly over and between the pieces of apricot. I’ve decided that next time I make this, I’m going to let the fruit peak out a bit more through the macaroon topping.

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Bake for about 25-30 mins until the macaroon has turned a deep golden brown.

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If you can, wait for it to cool a bit before cutting yourself a slice; or do like me and immediately eat some. The warm apricots are just… I can’t even speak, as I’ve just eaten some.

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P.s.: Dormice are little squirrel-mouse-like creatures that sleep most of the time – the mouse in the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland, at the unbirthday, is a dormouse! Here’s one in real life! 🙂

 

 

Rhubarb and Blueberry Crumble Cake

 

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I went to a BBQ at some friends’ the other day, and decided last minute to bring a cake. Since I was leaving on holiday the very next morning I hadn’t done a shop, and as such, I didn’t have many things to inspire a cake. But I did have rhubarb in the freezer, so I decided to make one of my very favourite cakes, a rhubarb crumble cake (my recipe is adapted from this here one from the SORTED Food boys).

Since the frozen rhubarb looked a little lackluster in colour, I decided to throw in some frozen blueberries too; I didn’t have very many left in the freezer though,  and I’m definitely going to try adding more next time.

I’ve never tried making this with frozen rhubarb, only fresh, and I was a bit worried that it would release a lot of water when baking, so I added 1 tbsp of flour to the chopped rhubarb pieces. And since, as predicted, the frozen rhubarb did make the cake a whole lot wetter than fresh rhubarb would have, I also ended up baking the cake for 20 mins longer than I normally do. The wetter than usual rhubarb also sort of absorbed most of the crumble topping! But it was still delicious. I do prefer making this with fresh rhubarb though. I may have to forego the rhubarb all together, out of season, and make this with sour apples and berries instead. Even if rhubarb is the bomb.com.

I always make two of these cakes at once, because it tends to disappear fairly quickly, and keeps really well (even if the crumble topping tends to loose some of its ‘oomph’), and also, I’ve found that a bunch of rhubarb will usually be in the 600 g range, which is what you need for two cakes. It stays moist for days, and is very good for breakfast/an afternoon or late night snack (especially if you heat it up in the microwave for ten seconds!). But if you only want to make one, just half the ingredients below 🙂

Anywho! Here’s what you need:

  • 200 g soft butter
  • 200 g sugar
  • 4 eggs
  •  2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 200 g self-raising flour
  • 600 g frozen rhubarb, chopped into 2 cm pieces more or less (or fresh rhubarb, if you have that on hand!)
  • 1 tbsp flour, for the rhubarb (omit if using fresh rhubarb)
  • 50 g frozen blueberries
  • 3-4 tbsp sugar for the rhubarb (this sort of depends on how sour the rhubarb I have on hand is)

For the crumble topping:
60 g butter, 100 g plain flour, 80 g sugar, preferably unrefined cane sugar (which is what I use for baking most of the time anyways – it’s a little better for you, tastes a little fruitier and some say it’s sweeter, and I’ve never had trouble substituting this for caster sugar in baking; I wouldn’t use it for caramel though, as it melts a bit differently than refined sugar!).

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 degrees Fahrenheit / gas mark 5. Line two 20 cm square baking pans with baking parchment, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugar, beat in the four eggs and vanilla essence, then finally fold in the flour.

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Divide the batter between the two pans, making sure to spread it out into the corners (it will be a fairly thin layer, about 1-1.5 cm, but it will rise when baking).

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Slice the rhubarb, toss with the 3-4 tbsp sugar (and the 1 tbsp of flour, if using frozen rhubarb). Add the frozen blueberries.

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Make the crumble topping by rubbing together the flour and butter until it resembles bread crumbs (no need to be super precise here), then mixing in the sugar.

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Scatter the rhubarb/blueberry mixture evenly on the batter, followed by the crumble topping.

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Bake for 30 mins if using fresh rhubarb, and 30-50 mins if using frozen (if the cakes still look very wet at the 30 minute mark, leave them in until they begin to brown, checking every 5 minutes).

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Enjoy!

P.s.: keep the cake covered, but make sure what you cover it with doesn’t touch the top of the cake, as this will make the crumble topping disintegrate, which is a shame.

P.p.s.: it also travels well! Here’s me eating some in the car  on the way to France, and a picture of the sun shining though the funny clouds through the roof of the car:

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Rice Krispie Treats

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I first tried rice krispie treats when working as a kindergarten teacher at an international school here in Brussels; one of the (American) mums brought me a rice krispie Christmas tree in December, complete with green food colouring, glitter and all! And I was immediately hooked (my love of marshmallow fluff and marshmallows had already been established much, much earlier).

Super easy, no baking required, just three ingredients and a bit of stirring.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • About 10 ounces / 300 g / 35 large marshmallows
  • 6 cups / 150 g rice krispies

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Melt the butter in a large saucepan; add the marshmallows, over gentle heat, stirring until completely melted.

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Add the rice krispies, and stir until incorporated.

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Line a square tin, about 10×10 inches / 22×22 cm (or any other shape or size, more or less, it really doesn’t matter much, as they’re yummy whether thick or thin), with baking parchment (make sure plenty of the parchment sticks out of the tin, so that you can lift the cooled mixture out more easily
later on).
Pour (or scoop/scrape/prod) the rice krispie treat mixture into the pan.

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Take another sheet of baking parchment and place this on top of the mixture, pressing it down and out into the corners with your hands and/or a spatula.

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Let cool completely before attempting to cut (I didn’t, hence the wonky edges in the picture
below 😉 )! Lift the giant rice krispie treat out of the pan, and cut into the desired shapes, either using a knife or cookie cutters.

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They keep well for several days in a airtight container, and although I’ve never tired freezing them, I imagine they freeze pretty well too, if you separate the layers with baking parchment. Anywho, they’re nice and chewy and crispy and sweet, without being too sweet. Easy to make, and somehow make me feel nostalgic, even though I never tried them as a kid. That must purely be because I associate them with school bake sales, and other people’s childhoods!