cakes and cupcakes

Birthday babycakes

The birthday babycakes with kick
I love birthday surprises! One of the best is a box full of baked fun - cake, cup cakes or cookies.  But if your birthday boy or girl lives far from you, shipping becomes a problem.

For instance, I recently wanted to make a birthday cake for a friend, but I had to mail the gift so I decided to make cupcakes with a cream filling rather than an icing - less mess, neater to ship.

My friend is a wonderful person (or he wouldn't be my friend, right) and he deserves a birthday treat which reflects his special self. His favorite cake is chocolate, a solid choice, but he is not a predictable man.  He's solid yet mysterious, so his chocolate cake had to be just as complex and intriguing. 

The recipe I wanted to use was for a Mexican Chocolate Cake because it already is a chocolate cake with a rich, spicy difference.  But, it needed an extra special something - a more complex flavor. The natural choice was chili because it has just the right, unexpected zip, and a bit of savory  to balance the sweet.

adapted from

Chocolate Chili Birthday BabycakesGood and gooey batter


1 stick butter 
1/2 cup oil
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup 70% bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup water
3 cups unsifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour milk (buttermilk)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine butter, oil, cocoa, chocolate chips and water in sauce pan. Heat until  all are melted and smooth. 

2. Combine flour, baking soda, sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, cayenne pepper and salt in a large bowl, mixing well, then combine with first mixture until batter is smooth.  Do not over mix.

3. Pour batter into either a greased and floured cupcake pan or one that is lined with festive  paper cups. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, adjusting time according to your oven.

4. Five minutes before the cake is done, prepare a butter cream icing. Let cake cool before you pipe the icing into the center of each cupcake. This is done by inserting the start tip of your butter cream-filled pastry bag into the center of the cake and forcing the icing into the cake's center while slowly removing the tip.

The recipe called for margarine, but like the original author, I prefer the depth and richness of butter. I also wanted to add a bit of a kick to my cake, so I added 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne. 

Pretty little babycakes all in a row Additionally, I didn't think the cocoa powder would give the cake the deep, dark chocolate flavor I was looking for so I added a half cup of melted 70% bittersweet chocolate. The extra liquid meant I had to compensate by adding an extra cup of flour. The recipe didn't call for salt, but I added 1/4 teaspoon for balance. Since I was baking in a cupcake pan, I reduced cooking time to 18 minutes.

To finish my cupcakes, I piped butter cream into the centers after the cake had cooled. Finally, I frosted my cake by brushing the tops with melted butter and dipping them in a mixture of sugar and salt (a 3:1 ratio).
To package my birthday babycakes, I put them in a square airtight plastic container, stuffing the pockets with little poufs of plastic wrap to restrict movement. Ready for overnight mail, they should arrive looking great and put a big smile on the birthday boy's face

Flourless Chocolate Cake recipe makes go-to holiday cake

Simple yet sensationalThis is my go-to holiday and special occasion cake - Flourless Chocolate Cake made with a recipe first introduced by Gourmet magazine in November 1997.

The recipe is simple enough for a novice cook, yet special enough, with all its gooey, chocolate-y goodness, for experienced cooks to bake it again and again.

This chocolate all-star is a fixture of my son's birthday parties as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas dessert menus. If I want to make the chocolate lovers in my life delirious with bliss, this is the cake I bake to up their serotonin levels dramatically.

There is nothing not to love about a cake that looks this good, tastes this good and is done, ready to serve in under an hour - including clean up.

I prefer to serve it with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream or seasonal fruits.

Flourless Chocolate Cake Gourmet | November 1997

Can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

Yield: Makes one 8-inch cake


4 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened)
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder plus additional for sprinkling

Accompaniment if desired: Coconut Lime Sorbet


Preheat oven to 375°F and butter an 8-inch round baking pan. Line bottom with a round of wax paper and butter paper.

Chop chocolate into small pieces. In a double boiler or metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water melt chocolate with butter, stirring, until smooth.

Remove top of double boiler or bowl from heat and whisk sugar into chocolate mixture. Add eggs and whisk well. Sift 1/2 cup cocoa powder over chocolate mixture and whisk until just combined.

Pour batter into pan and bake in middle of oven 25 minutes, or until top has formed a thin crust. Cool cake in pan on a rack 5 minutes and invert onto a serving plate.

Dust cake with additional cocoa powder and serve with sorbet if desired. (Cake keeps, after being cooled completely, in an airtight container, 1 week.)

Culinary Institute of America holiday cupcake recipes

What better way to spend some quality time with your children this holiday season than having them help you create something beautiful and delicious in the kitchen?

Making fondant decorations to top your holiday cupcakes or to simply hang up for the holidays is an excellent opportunity for children to stretch their imaginations and gives them the opportunity to be proud of something they can make.

Chef Kate Cavotti, an instructor at The Culinary Institute of America, has some great ideas about how you can utilize things you already have around the house to make personalized decorations out of basic fondant.

A combination of sugar and cornstarch, fondant can be decorated in a number of ways by using stamps, cookie cutters, paint brushes, food color markers, piping gel, food coloring, or food grade glitter.

The first thing you need to do is purchase ready-made fondant from your local craft store. You can keep it white, or you can easily color fondant by kneading in a few drops of food coloring.

Once you color it and cut out the desired shapes, the fondant will need a few hours to dry and harden. If you are making ornaments, be sure to cut the hole for a ribbon before the fondant dries. Chef Cavotti suggests getting the children to help make fondant shapes a day or two before you plan to decorate.

Cookie cutters are not just for cookies anymore. Use them to cut out fondant shapes that are perfect for younger children to decorate with food color markers, colored gels, and food grade glitter.

If you are one of many people who are avid stamping crafters, you can easily adapt the stamps to make fondant decorations. Just be sure to clean any ink off them by scrubbing them with a toothbrush in soap and water. Once stamps are rinsed clean, have the children take food color markers and trace the raised part of the figure on each stamp to apply color.

Once the colored shape is stamped onto the fondant and the food coloring is dry, the decorations are ready. You can also let your children continue to color in the figure with the markers or make them appear 3-D by piping on colored gels, or sprinkle food grade glitter onto them.

To get the glitter to stick, take an artist's paint brush dipped in water and apply the water to the area you wish covered in glitter. Take another dry brush and apply the glitter by tapping the brush holding glitter over the wet areas.

Chef Cavotti suggests making carrot cake cupcakes with fondant or cream cheese icing as a base for the decorations. Dip the cupcake in a bowl of powdered sugar or shredded coconut to make it look more like snow glistening and place the fondant decoration on top.

It's a good idea to stick a toothpick in back of each decoration to insure it will stand up straight. When Beautiful holiday cupcakes working with children, it always helps to be well-prepared. If possible, try to have all the baking equipment put away and the decorating supplies laid out before the youngsters arrive.

The following recipes and other decorating tips can be found in The Culinary Institute of America's Cake Art cookbook (2008, Lebhar-Friedman), which is available for purchase at local bookstores or online at

Carrot Cake

Makes two 8-inch or 9-inch layers, or 24 cupcakes

* 4 cups cake flour

* 4 teaspoons baking soda

* 2 teaspoons iodized salt

* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

* 2 1/2 cups canola oil

* 3 1/2 cups sugar

* 8 large eggs

* 4 teaspoons vanilla extract

* 10 medium carrots, peeled and grated (about 6 cups grated)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray two 8- or 9-inch round cake pans with a nonstick spray and line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper. For cupcakes, prepare pans with cupcake liners.

2. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together and reserve.

3. Mix the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together with a handheld beater or paddle attachment on medium speed until all ingredients are thoroughly combined, about 1 minute. Add the sifted ingredients and mix on low speed until just incorporated. Stir in the carrots by hand.

4. Divide batter evenly among the prepared pans. Bake the cakes until a skewer inserted near the center comes out clean, for 8- or 9-inch cakes 80 to 90 minutes, for cupcakes about 25 minutes.

5. Let the layers cool in the pans for a few minutes before turning out onto wire racks to finish cooling. The cakes are ready to fill and frost now, or they can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for 2 days, or frozen for up to 3 weeks.

Nutrition analysis per one 2-ounce cupcake: 210 calories, 2g protein, 23g carbohydrate, 1g fat, 220mg sodium, 30mg cholesterol, less than 1g fiber.

Simple Buttercream Icing

Makes about 4 cups

* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

* 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted, plus extra as needed

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 1/8 teaspoon salt

* 1/4 cup heavy cream or whole milk plus extra as needed

1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until it is very light in texture, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar, vanilla extract, and salt and mix on a low speed until the sugar and butter are blended, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

2. Increase the speed to medium and, with the mixer running, add the cream in a thin stream. Increase the speed to high and whip the buttercream until very smooth, light, and with a good spreading consistency. Adjust the consistency if necessary by adding a bit more confectioners' sugar or cream. Use to fill, ice, and decorate a cake.

Note: Once blended, buttercreams can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. To use after refrigeration, let the buttercream soften at room temperature for about 15 minutes. Transfer it to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment until it has a smooth, light spreading consistency, 3 to 4 minutes.

Nutrition analysis per 1-ounce serving: 130 calories, 0g protein, 19g carbohydrate, 6g fat, 0mg sodium, 15mg cholesterol, 0g fiber.

Cream Cheese Icing

Makes about 4 cups

* 2 eight-ounce packages of cream cheese, softened

* 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

* 1 1/4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Mix cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until very smooth. Add butter in stages and continue to mix until very smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl as needed to blend evenly.

2. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix on low speed until blended. Beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and mix until completely blended.

Nutrition analysis per 1-ounce serving: 130 calories, 1g protein, 7g carbohydrate, 7g fat, 45mg sodium, 30mg cholesterol, 0g fiber.

Chef's Note: To make lemon cream cheese icing, add the grated zest of one lemon to the icing with the vanilla.

Cream Cheese Icing recipe courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America.

Flop Cake: testing an adapted recipe

It's not pretty, but it tastes good

Someone gave me some pears from their overburdened fruit trees and I decided to try out a skillet cake similar to an Old-Fashioned Pineapple Upside Down Cake. 

I love the richness of the fruit caramelized with brown sugar and butter and the moist texture of the yellow cake, but I often want fruit other than pineapple. I used my pears and added some sweet dried plums (prunes, yes)

I decided to take a short cut and use a packaged cake mix (which I rarely do) since I was in a bit of a hurry since I was making some homemade soup at the same time.  I added ricotta cheese to the box mix to enrich the flavor and texture - a good move - but didn't adjust for baking time - a big mistake. I also added a little lemon extract to brighten the flavor.

The cake came out underdone, but undaunted I managed to get it back in the skillet and into the oven without too much of a disaster.  The cake, as you can see, is not going to win any prizes for looks, but it tastes pretty fantastic. 

That means I'm going to have to bake it again because this cake will be a keeper once the recipe is perfected. The reasons I like the idea of this cake is its ease of preparation as well as its rustic simplicity. Plus, you could glam it up a bit with garnishes of a raspberry coulis or creme anglaise.

Triple chocolate-cookie trifle cake easy to make

This no-bake cake is so-good and so-easy

There is nothing I like better than a delicious dessert which looks fabulous and makes me look like a kitchen genie. 

I don't know about you, but I love looking like I slaved over a dessert when really I barely spent an hour mixing and stirring and molding. 

This is that cake.  It's gorgeous. Anyone - no matter your expertise in the kitchen - can make this creamy, dreamy dessert.

The Triple Chocolate-Cookie Trifle Cake is a keeper.

Key ingredients

Adapted from a recipe in Southern Living.

Yield Makes 10 to 12 servings

Triple Chocolate-Cookie Trifle Cake


* 4 cups heavy cream, divided

* 1 1/2 (4-oz) bittersweet chocolate baking bars, chopped

* 1 (4-oz) white chocolate baking bar, chopped

* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* 1 (12.5-oz) package assorted Pepperidge Farm cookies

* 1 (18-oz) package Oreo cookies

Crushed Oreo cookie crust

* 2 tablespoons Kahlua  (optional)

* 1 (6-oz) container fresh raspberries


Let cream come to room temperature before preparing the cake's filling.

Microwave 1/2 cup cream at HIGH 30 seconds to 1 minute or until hot (do not boil). Place bittersweet chocolate in a large bowl. Pour hot cream over chocolate, and stir until smooth.

Repeat procedure with 1/4 cup cream and white chocolate.

If chocolate does not melt completely after stirring, microwave at HIGH for 10-second intervals until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Melting white chocolate for the cake filling

Stir 1/2 tsp. vanilla into each chocolate mixture until well blended. 

Beat remaining cream at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until medium peaks form. Gently fold one-half of whipped cream into cool bittersweet chocolate mixture. Fold remaining whipped cream into cool white chocolate mixture.

In food processor, crush half the package of Oreos. Sprinkle crushed cookies on the bottom of a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan, then spread half of bittersweet chocolate mixture over the crushed cookies. Arrange Pepperidge Farm cookies around sides of pan (about 19 cookies). Note: You might wish to buy an extra package of cookies in case of damage or breakage. 

Process the remaining Oreos and spread over the bittersweet chocolate, then spread the white chocolate

Mixing up the chocolate cream filling

mixture over this layer. Drizzle with liqueur, if desired.

Spread the remaining bittersweet chocolate mixture over the crushed cookies.Cover and chill 8 to 24 hours.

Remove sides from pan. Mound raspberries in center of trifle. Raspberries may be brushed with a glaze.

Raspberry Glaze: Combine 3 Tbsp. seedless raspberry jam and 2 tsp. water in a small glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 10 to 15 seconds or until smooth.

Creating the cookie crust

Layering the chocolate cream filling.


Ready to chill for 8-24 hours.

Unmolding the finished product

Finished Triple Chocolate Cookie Trifle Cake

Red Velvet Cake perfect recipe for a rainy evening

Find a recipe for red velvet cake here

Yesterday I was feeling like a bit of cake, so I made this Red Velvet Cake. 

I wanted savory with my sweet, so I sprinkled a little Soul of the Sea Haleakala Red salt on top for a pretty natural garnish that added terrific flavor.

While I was savoring this treat last night (and again this morning for breakfast), I started dreaming about re-inventing my Red Velvet Cake.  I've always loved the spicy heat of chiles and chocolate, so I think next time I make this cake I'm going to experiment with increasing the cocoa content and adding a little heat with chiles, maybe some Datil pepper.

But for now I have a whole old-school Red Velvet Cake to consume.  Cake anyone?

Make this fabulous cupcake bouquet

Where have all the flowers gone? Right on top of your cupcake, cupcake!

Bake and decorate a wild bunch of these beautiful yellow cake treats for Mom or any time you need some sunny delight.

the Cupcake Recipes provides us with this ab-fab Classic Yellow Cupcake recipe as a base for our lovely spring bouquet.

Classic Yellow Cupcake Recipe

Prep: 25 minutes
Total: 40 minutes

Ingredients:  Makes 12

For the CupCakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs

Sprinkles, for decorating

For the Frosting

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line the cups of a standard (12-cup) muffin tin with paper or foil liners. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a liquid-measuring cup, mix milk and vanilla; set aside.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, add half of dry ingredients, followed by milk-vanilla mixture, then remaining dry ingredients. Do not over mix.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (a 2-ounce or 1/4-cup ice-cream scoop is good for this).

Place tin on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool cupcakes 5 minutes in tin, then remove and cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Prepare frosting: in a medium bowl, with an electric mixer, beat unsalted butter, confectioners’ sugar, milk, and vanilla extract until smooth. Mix in up to 1/2 cup more sugar or a few more teaspoons of milk as necessary to achieve a spread able consistency. Makes enough for 12 cupcakes.

Frost cupcakes; decorate with sprinkles before frosting dries to ensure that they stick. The frosted cupcakes are best eaten within 1 day.

For more delicious recipes:  Martha Stewart - March 2008

Chocolate Cupcakes, Anyone?

Cho cup 

This week's Cupcake of the Week is chocolate. Big surprise!  I love me a good chocolate cupcake and this one is a winner.  Make some for yourself and see. I "heart" cupcakes.


  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 4 squares (1 ounce each) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and coffee. 
    Fill paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely. 
    In a small saucepan, melt chocolate with cream over low heat; stir until blended. Remove from the heat. Stir in vanilla. Transfer to a bowl; cover and refrigerate until mixture reaches spreading consistency, stirring occasionally. Frost cupcakes. Yield: 14 cupcakes.