Age of Decadence Birthday Cupcakes

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Yesterday was my brand new  minion’s respected co-worker’s birthday, and I wanted to celebrate her first month on the job (and a milestone birthday she wasn’t really looking forward to) with her favourite treat: a dark, rich chocolate cake. Cake’s a bit hard to transport around the office, however, so I went with the cupcake version instead, and I made someone else do all the hard work for me in choosing the best recipe. I picked Sally’s Baking Addiction’s tried and tested Death by Chocolate Cupcakes and doubled the recipe (as I am wont to do). An entire bar of this lovely dark chocolate went into the process and I think it was entirely worth it.

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Like all good cupcakes, you start with butter and chocolate, and melting things. In the bowl of a double boiler (or in your microwave, but I no longer own one of those), melt together 1 cup unsalted butter and 4 ounces chocolate (the recipe calls for semi-sweet but I say use whatever is your favourite).

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Once that’s all smooth and sassy, set it aside to cool a little bit. Line two muffin tins with cupcake liners and preheat your oven to 350°F.

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In a smallish bowl, whisk together 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon baking soda and 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Leave that alone and do the next thing.

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In a largish bowl, crack 4 large room temperature eggs,  then tip in 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Whisk-y, whisk-y, whisk-y.

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I kind of miss whiskey …

Pour the melted butter and chocolate into the egg/sugar stuff and mix until smooth.

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Grab yourself 1 cup buttermilk (if you don’t have buttermilk, tip 2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice into a cup and top it up with milk. Give it a stir and leave it about five minutes until it’s curdled and thick. It’s not *quite* the same, though, and the Pie likes having buttermilk for pancakes, so I am using the real deal).  Alternate pouring some buttermilk into the chocolatey goo with adding the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. You don’t want to overmix this or the batter will bake up flat.

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And this batter is going to be THICK. Sally says it’s thick like pudding. I think it’s even thicker than that.

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Thick, like dog poo thick. But in a delicious way.

Spoon the batter into your cupcake cups and bake for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre cupcake comes out clean.

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Set those aside to cool completely and get started on your icing. Actually, before you do that, break up another couple ounces of that lovely dark chocolate and set them to melt in your double boiler. Once it’s all liquid, set it aside to cool almost to room temperature.

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Beat up about 1 cup room temperature unsalted butter in the bowl of your mixer until it’s pale and fluffy. Sift together (to avoid lumps) 5 1/2 cups icing sugar and 1 1/3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder in a separate bowl.

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Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract to the fluffy butter and then tip in some of your icing sugar mix. Drizzle in, alternating with the icing sugar mix, 1 cup heavy cream.  Because I don’t remember where I put my mixer shield, this happened of course.

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This one’s for you, Eli.

And because none of my aprons fit me anymore, this happened as well. Baby bellies are cooking hazards, it seems.

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The Pie thought it necessary to remind me that I don’t own very many maternity clothes and should probably take better care of the ones I’ve got. I may have said a few bad words to him in reply.

But when you’re done you’ll get this lovely soft icing that’s pretty much exactly halfway between a ganâche and a buttercream. It’s very delightful. Use that and a wide tip to ice your cooled cupcakes.

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Age of Decadence Cupcakes 20And because age is just a number, I made little number signs out of that melted chocolate (poured on waxed paper and allowed to cool) and shoved them in the top.

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As I was making these, I remarked to the Pie that my youngest teammate, who is 23, was going to ask why there were “hashtags” all over the cupcakes, and he laughed. Then the next morning, the first thing she did when she walked into the room was go, “what’s with all the hashtags?” I so called it. Kids these days … 🙂

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Creamsicle Pudding

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RUSTY!

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I adapted this recipe from Food52 when I had three oranges and two lemons and I didn’t know what to do with them (other than simply eat them, but that’s not very exciting).

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Start by zesting and juicing your 3 oranges and 2 lemons.

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You should end up with just over 1 cup juice (like a cup plus a couple tablespoons, which is good).

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Set a medium-sized pot on the stove with a couple inches of water in it and set it to simmer.

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Then grab a metal or heatproof glass bowl and crack in 6 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks. Give those a thorough beating-up. They probably deserve it, the jerks.

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Whisk in 1 1/2 cups sugar.

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Then toss in your zest and your juice.

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What a lovely colour.

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Set that on top of the simmering water and make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir pretty much constantly. If you leave egg yolks and granulated sugar alone for more than a minute they get a bit grainy and we don’t want that. Keep stirring!

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After about 10 or so minutes, the foam will disappear and you’ll have this lovely thick stuff that leaves a trace when you move the whisk. If you test this with a thermometer it should read around 180°F.

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Remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool a bit, stirring occasionally to release more heat. You want it somewhere around 140°F before you put your butter in. My butter was actually frozen so I started adding it in at around the 150°F mark.

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Tip all your lovely citrusy goo into a blender (you can use an immersion blender if you have a deep enough bowl) and add in 2 cups of unsalted butter, a few cubes at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition, until your concoction is pale and very thick. I may have overfilled my blender here. Oops. All the more reason to make sure the lid stays on.

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The finished product is more or less a curd, so you can use it to fill tarts, spread it on scones or toast (I have some panettone that is simply itching to be slathered), or eat it as a pudding. I’m also tempted to whip up some cream and fold them together to make a frozen fool (though the weather outside is too cold to make me crave cold treats). Just keep it covered and in the fridge if you don’t eat it all right away.

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Smitten with Poppy Seed Lemon Cake

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I had eight egg yolks leftover from a previous recipe and I was originally going to make Momofuku’s crack pie (because the Pie had requested the same).  But then I realized that the recipe makes TWO pies, and I don’t really like the dish itself — it’s just too sweet for me. No way can I work through one of those pies, let alone two.  So I decided to make Smitten Kitchen’s Poppy Seed Lemon Cake instead.  Not to be mistaken for lemon poppy seed cake, this crumbly confection has a mere hint of citrus and a heckuva lot of crunchy seeds.

So if you want to go this route, get to it!  Preheat your oven to 325°F and then generously butter and flour a 8″ fluted Bundt or tube pan.

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Go ahead and butter the dull side of a 10″ piece of tin foil while you’re at it (helpful hint for North American readers, at least: foil comes in 12″ wide rolls, so if you tear off a near-perfect square you should be all right).

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Melt 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup, or 1/2lb) and set that aside to cool a bit.

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Scrub 2 large lemons and grate the zest from them.

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Now, in the bowl of your electric mixer, plop 1 whole egg, 8 egg yolks, and 2/3 cup granulated sugar.

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Beat that up on medium-high speed for about 8 minutes (I’m not even joking).  Watch how the mixture transforms to this pale and fluffy amazingness.  Beat in the lemon zest.

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Sift on top of that 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup corn starch, and a pinch of salt.

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Use a rubber spatula to fold that in.  The corn starch will make the spatula catch against the edges of the bowl but you must persist.

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Put the mixer on medium speed and trickle in the butter.

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And then add in 1/2 cup poppy seeds.  I know, it’s a lot of poppy seeds.  Don’t worry, it’s not going to get you high.

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Pour that into your prepared pan.

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Use the buttered tin foil to tightly seal the top of the pan (this keeps the cake from drying out and allows its own steam to make it a little fluffier).

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Bake that sucker for 45 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Take the foil off and let the pan cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes.

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Then invert the pan and let the cake fall out.  If you buttered the pan enough this won’t be a problem, but if it sticks, use a butter knife to gently pry it away from the sides of the pan.

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Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes before serving (or it will fall apart on you).  Dust the top with icing sugar as decoration.

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Now, I didn’t feel right wasting the juice of those 2 lemons, so I heated up the juice, together with about 3 tablespoons of sugar, to make a wee glaze to go on top, to boost the lemony-ness of the cake, for those who were interested.

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Pineapple Orange Buckle

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Y’know, I have no idea what a “buckle” is, other than the metal object one uses to attach things with straps.  But it appears to be some kind of American dessert-like object resembling a tall clafoutis, so I’m going to roll with it.  I got this recipe from Martha Stewart.  She used mangoes, but lacking those (and unwilling to pay the $3 each price tag on them, thanks Newfoundland), I used some oranges that had seen better days and I didn’t want to waste them.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F and grab yourself a 2-quart baking dish.  I’m not sure, having never made this before, if the dish should be wide and shallow or narrow and deep (like this one), but I worked with what I had.  Use some butter to grease the sides and bottom of the dish.  There are definite benefits to butter that comes in sticks for this.

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Peel and core a small pineapple and cut it into smallish chunks.  I did this a few days ago and discovered that despite the aroma coming from the whole fruit, the flavour was rather disappointing — hence this dessert.  I did the same thing with 4 small navel oranges that were nearing the end of their days.  I cut off the peel with a knife and also cut out the pith from the centre, then cut the orange into eighths.

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Toss those into a container and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons brown sugar.  Toss them to coat in the sugar and leave them aside for now.

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In a small bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt.  Set that aside for the nonce.

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In the bowl of a mixer, beat together 1/2 cup unsalted butter (equivalent to 1 stick) and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Keep going until it’s super fluffy.

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Add in 2 eggs, one at a time, beating in between additions until fully incorporated. Then drop in 1 teaspoon vanilla.  As you can see, I did not measure this.  And I don’t care.

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Slowly add in your flour and mix all together.

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Dump all but about 1 cup of your fruit into the batter and fold it all around until it’s fully mixed. Pour the fruit and batter into your dish and add the remaining fruit on top.

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Bake for 45-50 minutes, until fluffy and golden brown on top.  I was so annoyed with the fact that my Bookmark Brownies weren’t cutting properly that I may have forgotten to set the timer for this and ended up winging it.

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Scoop some out and serve warm with a bit of whipped cream.  TASTY!

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The best part about this was heating up a scoop of this the next day for breakfast and topping it with my favourite yogurt. I highly recommend that.