Chocolate cupcakes with vanilla bean buttercream


(Chocolate butter cupcakes)

This week, I’m counting down a little nervously to the day I start whipping up a huge batch of these cupcakes for a friend’s wedding. I’ve baked in bulk before, but never at home with a pint sized mixer and a single oven. For weeks now, I’ve been worrying over the little things that could possibly go wrong, including the amount of time I will have to make these, as I’m trying to fit it in, inbetween work and other commitments. Mind you, I’m extremely excited about the task and can’t wait to get stuck into the cake-baking and buttercream-mixing. In the meantime, I have cartons and cartons of eggs on my kitchen counter, a dining table taken over by a mountain of packing boxes, a fridge full of butter blocks and containers of chocolate ganache, and I’m half way through assembling the presentation/cutting cake. Fingers crossed, this whole operation is going to turn out as smoothly and as sweetly as….. vanilla bean buttercream.


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Chocolate Daze


(Fran Bigelow’s The Reine chocolate torte)

I know what you’re thinking. It’s not looking good, is it? I must be in denial. I’m not a chocoholic, I tell ya. Yet, somehow when I made a list of things I wanted to bake as holiday gifts this weekend, it would appear that at least 80% of the list involved chocolate in some form or other.

Chocolate, glorious chocolate.

Perhaps it had something to do with the big bag of Lindt chocolate buttons I’d bought the other day. Or some recently acquired cookbooks. In any case, each item has a reason (or excuse, if you will) for being.

I made Fran Bigelow’s The Reine after yearning for a simple cake with a striking chocolate glaze. In keeping with the Christmas theme, some cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla were added to the batter; spices I usually associate with Christmas. The resulting cake was moist and delicious, but certainly didn’t hold a candle to the following brownies.


(Paul A. Young’s Chocolate Brownies)

These chocolate brownies from Paul A Young’s book are the ultimate fudgey brownie. I topped mine with dried cranberries for that festive feel, and folded cocoa nibs through the batter, instead of the recommended dessicated coconut. Once baked and chilled, they sliced beautifully, and if they manage to make it out of the kitchen, I will be wrapping bars of these in cellophane to give away.


(Claire Clark’s Chocolate red wine cake)

For friends with more ‘grown-up’ tastes, I couldn’t go past Claire Clark’s slightly mysterious and fruity chocolate red wine cake. It’s almost mulled wine in cake form, which is a good thing. So good, that this is the fourth or fifth time I’ve made this cake. I’ve provided the recipe below, but would encourage you to consider buying the book, as it also contains stellar recipes for all manners of cookies, cakes and plated desserts.

Of course, this is by no means my final post for the year, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank everyone for reading this year. The support has been greatly appreciated, and I’m sorry I haven’t anything to give to you in return except for a handful of pictures. If you are ever in the neighbourhood, please drop by for a cup of tea and a piece of cake. Possibly a chocolate one. 🙂

Chocolate Red Wine Cake :
(from Indulge : 100 Perfect Desserts by Claire Clark)

125g softened unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
150ml red wine, at room temperature
125g plain flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
65g dark chocolate (55-70% cocoa solids), grated

for soaking :
50ml water
30g caster sugar
125ml red wine

Preheat the oven to 170’C. Grease and flour a 25cm/10inch bundt tin.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the beaten eggs a little at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the wine and mix well.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa powder and baking powder together. Fold the dry ingredients a tablespoon at a time into the creamed cake mixture.
Lastly fold in the grated chocolate. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and level the top. Bake in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes, until the cake is well risen and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let the cake cool in the tin for 20 minutes and then place a thin cake card over the top and invert the tin. Lift off the tin so the cake sits on the card. It will still be warm, so do not try to move it at this stage. Cool the cake completely.

To soak the cake, bring the water and sugar to the boil in a small pan and stir in the red wine. Fill the cleaned bundt tin with the red wine syrup and place the cooled cake back in the tin. It will quickly absorb the hot liquid. Once the liquid has been absorbed, reverse the cake on to the cake card as before. Remove the tin, being careful not to damage the cake. Leave the cake to cool before glazing.

[Note : I don’t have a bundt tin, so I made this in a basic round springform tin, and gently brushed the syrup over the cake, rather than lifting it out of the tin and pouring the syrup in first. You need to be careful if soaking the cake in a springform tin, obviously because it will probably leak a little. I usually do this in a tray next to the sink. Claire Clark finishes her cake with a redcurrant jelly glaze and discs of glossy tempered chocolate. In the mood for something a little more simple, I sprinkled the top of the cake with shaved chocolate instead]

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Daring Bakers Challenge : French Yule Log

Could this be the richest and most luxurious Daring Bakers challenge yet? If not, can we agree that it certainly comes close? It’s the kind of chocolate dessert you might find listed with cliched words like “indulgence” or “oblivion” tacked to the end of it.

This month’s challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

If you’re wondering, hang on, a yule log .. didn’t we make one this time last year? Well, I thought the same too, but was put right when I read the definition of a French yule log.

As it turns out, this yule log, or Buche de Noel, is somewhat akin to an ice-cream cake, or a frozen version of the typical buttercream-laden yule log we are more familiar with. Mine consists of flavours that pretty much adhere to the original recipe. The layers are almond dacquoise, dark chocolate mousse, vanilla creme brulee, hazelnut praline, dark chocolate ganache and icing. A great choice of dessert for this time of the year, I think, because of the warm weather here in Sydney.

Not that warm weather would deter me from baking. After a few forkfuls of this wonderful dessert, I think ‘Chocolate Ooh’ might even be a nice addition to that list of cliched words. Or maybe ‘Chocolate Blessing’, because I’m thankful for having managed to find a little time this month to make this challenge. I’m grateful because the alternative would mean never having had the opportunity to experience this pure Chocolate Sensation. This Chocolate Bliss. This Chocolate Epiphany of textures, from ultra smooth mousse to crunchy praline and toothsome ganache. This Chocolate Happiness.

If you have been sufficiently tempted enough to make it, you might want to search for the recipe on the hosts’ blogs (thanks, guys!), or from the blogs of other DB members.

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