Birthday Baking

January 30, 2010

A batch of crackly, awkward and unpleasant looking sour cream chocolate cupcakes emerge from the oven.  Ew.  How do I rectify the situation?  Well, perhaps with some cream cheese peanut butter frosting….

much better.

I was in Seattle the weekend of my friend’s birthday.  I try to never miss an opportunity to get into the kitchen and bake, especially now that I’m trying to be more health conscious and bake less as of the new year, and especially because I know I won’t be the one eating it all (well, maybe.  Let’s pretend that licking the batter off the spatula and eating mouthfuls of frosting by the spoon don’t count; shall we?).  Anyways, senior-itis is definitely taking over my mentality these days.  I spend the infamous national homework day aka Sunday browsing through blogs and baking chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and Dorie Greenspan’s pecan pie, blowing off all my homework.  My haven if there ever was one.

Now notice how the pecan pie is not pictured?  Yes, about that.  I’m sure it will taste just fine, but the pecans came out of the oven slightly burnt.   Ok, that was an understatement, the pecans looked like the members of the cast of jersey shore, put modestly, too tanned.  I made this for another friend’s birthday who likes pie.   It was really hard deciding what to make him.  In all honestly I don’t exactly know what he likes in particular. Usually for a special occasion, I try to make a person their absolute favorite dessert or flavor combination, however I do remember him requesting a pie once, and I was dying to get some use out of my new Dorie Greenspan cookbook so I went with her trusted pecan pie recipe.

When I gave him the pie today, he told me he had never had pecan pie before.  Seriously!?  I was pretty shocked.  I absolutely love pecan pie, especially ones with chocolate.  It’s something I have had every year for thanksgiving dinner since I can remember.  Then again, I am a total food snob, and at the ripe age of 18 have tasted everything from smoked tea eggs and Chou dofu in Taiwan,  Nato in Japan, Durian in Hong Kong, Fois gras in Napa and escargot in NYC.  Ok so I’m really spoiled when it comes to good food. When I was young, I skipped the mac and cheese and went straight for the salmon and brocoli on the kids menu. My mom prided her kids on being “good eaters”, and if we didn’t like something, well, her famous method was to feed it to us until we did.  (Hello Onions!) But to me, food has always represented cultural acceptance and worldliness.  I find it a total turn off when people scoff at food because it “just looks gross” and don’t give it a chance.  Ok, now I can totally see how one could be intimidated when going to dim sum and having bleached chicken feet put on your table.  But it’s more about the respect you show towards food, which in turn lends respect to the culture, I mean it’s not your fault if you don’t like the taste!

Ok, enough of my rant.  Let’s get down and dirty to these recipes!

I had a surplus of sour cream in my fridge that I wanted to use up, so I specifically looked for the recipe that called for the most sour cream I could find.  Here is what I found.  Ok, now comes the embarrassing confession time and  I’m dreading writing this, so I couldn’t find my coco powder and I went ahead and used a pack of hot chocolate mix.  Naturally right after they came out of the oven I stumbled upon my can of Ghirdelli’s coco powder.  Anyways, the hot chocolate mix has some sort of thickener in it, perhaps cornstarch and I think it affected the texture of these cupcakes just a tad.  I also only used one cup of coffee.

Devil’s Food Cake

from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

Makes one 9” cake (or about 17 cupcakes)

For the Cake:

6 oz best-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely shopped

2/3 cup vegetable or canola oil

2 2/3 cup sugar

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp kosher salt

2/3 cup sour cream

3 large eggs

1 1/3 cups hot strong brewed coffee

To Make the Cake

1. In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is completely melted, whisk in the vegetable oil until smooth. Remove from the heat, but keep warm over the hot water.

2. In the bowl, of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, and mix well.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream and eggs until smooth.

4. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and mix until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the melted chocolate mixture and mix until combined. add the hot coffee (or water) in a stream, and mix until combined. (Again, scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.) The batter will be very loose.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (or cupcake tins, I baked them for about 20-25 minutes). Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 25 minutes before turning out the layers onto the rack. Cool completely before finishing.

The baked layers may be stored tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for 2 days. For longer storage, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze wrapped in plastic wrap and them aluminum foil for up to 2 weeks. Do not unwrap before thawing.

As for the frosting, I knew I wanted to make a cream cheese frosting.  This just looked so beautiful on Annie’s Eats.  It pipes beautifully!  I never buy frozen whipped topping, but luckily I found the ingredient in my freezer that no one had ever used.

For the frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

½ cup creamy peanut butter

3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed

To make the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter until smooth.  Slowly mix in the confectioners’ sugar, beating until smooth and well blended.  Mix in the whipped topping until smooth and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

I found these hidden gems at Trader Jo’s and bought them specifically because I knew they would look super cute on top of cupcakes.  But they still needed something…. maybe a pinch of coco powder; good thing  I found it after all!


2 Responses to “Birthday Baking”

  1. rav Says:

    Looks delicious!!

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    The icing looks really good and those cute little peanutbutter cups! How adorable! I am the same way when it comes to food, I hate when people don’t even try something. It makes me so frustrated! I’m the same way courtesy to my dad, he makes me try anything. His moto, you can’t say you don’t like something till you’ve tried it.

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