Best Ever Irish Stout Chocolate Cupcakes

Photo by Richard Swearinger

Photo by Richard Swearinger

 

St. Patrick would be proud. It’s easy to dive face first into these chocolate cupcakes flavored up with Irish stout. You only need 1/2 cup or so to make this Double Chocolate Stout Cupcake recipe. We like to use chocolate stout, but any old stout will do. (You know what to do with the remaining stout, right? Slàinte!)

Double Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chocolate stout

1/2 cup butter (unsalted, please. If you’re using salted butter, ditch the salt, above)

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 ounces dark unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped, or semisweet dark chocolate chips

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 slightly beaten eggs

Dark Chocolate Frosting (next page)

Coarse sea salt

12 bite-size pretzels

1. Preheat the oven to 350* F. Line muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Set aside. Stir together flour, soda, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring stout, butter, and cocoa just to simmer; stirring frequently. Add dark chocolate, stirring until melted. Remove from heat. Add brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Whisk in eggs until combined. Add flour mixture, beating until smooth.

3. Fill cupcake liners about ¾ full. Bake for about 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Or just tap the top of the cupcake with your finger.  It should bounce back.) Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes, then carefully remove cupcakes from muffin pan and cool completely on rack.

4. Pipe or frost with Dark Chocolate Frosting (below). Sprinkle coarse salt over each cupcake. Top with a pretzel. (Or skip the salt and crush the pretzels and sprinkle on top.

Dark Chocolate Frosting

Makes enough to cover 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or 4 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped)

3 cups sifted powdered sugar

¼ cup milk (add a splash of Irish cream, if you’d like to be more decadent)

1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter and chocolate over very low heat until butter and chocolate are melted, stirring constantly.

2. In a bowl, stir together powdered sugar and milk. Add melted butter and chocolate. Beat by hand until smooth. Cool to room temperature. Frosting will thicken as it cools. Stir in additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if frosting is too thick.



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Easy Cranberry Cake Pie

cranberry cake

 

If you have a stash of fresh (or frozen) cranberries, here’s what you do. Pour a couple of cups of cranberries into the bottom of a buttered pie tin (or 9-inch round cake pan), sprinkle with sugar, add walnuts if you like and whip up a buttery cake batter to pour on top. Bake. Cool. Share.

I can’t take credit for this recipe. It’s got history. And it’s everywhere. I made so many for Christmas gifts one year that I memorized the recipe. It’s that easy.

There’s a version called Nantucket Cranberry Pie in an old cookbook called “More Home Cooking” by the late Laurie Colwin (many credit her for the recipe). The King Arthur Flour site calls it Nantucket Cranberry Cake. Ina Garten does a variation with apples and brown sugar and sour cream and calls it Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake.

Next time I might add a little orange peel and cinnamon to the batter. I might even add a simple icing drizzle on top. (You know: confectioners sugar plus milk).

For Christmas gifts I bake them in foil pie plates and add a note that says they freeze easily (in case the recipient wants to save them for New Year’s eve!

They’re great served at brunch. Or as dessert with a bourbon-laced whipped cream. Or whenever the spirit moves you.

Easy Cranberry Cake Pie

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Put 2 cups cranberries and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts in a buttered 10-inch pie plate. Top with 1/2 cup sugar.
2. Combine 2 eggs; 3/4 cup butter, melted; 1 cup sugar; 1 cup flour1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread evenly over cranberry mixture. Bake  for 35-40 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.


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Pumpkin Cinnamon-Cardamom Bars Reprise

Autumn in Milwaukee

In case you missed this post from a few years back. These are the most amazing pumpkin bars, if I do say so myself.

It’s Fall, Y’all!

Went out for a contemplative walk, but kept getting distracted by nature. First the trees with their distracting oranges and reds and yellows against the sky-blue sky. And the slightly deeper blue of Lake Michigan in the background. And the crunch, crunch, kick, crunch, flutter of the leaves underfoot. And the sunshine which made the day look like it should feel warmer, but instead simply verified what the trees know: Fall is here.

And so it’s time for Pumpkin Cinnamon-Cardamom Bars.

Baking them results in aromatherapy of the highest order. Happiness guaranteed.

And yes, I know that they are more cakey than bar-like, but they’re called bars anyway.

I’ve been baking these for-almost-ever. And tweaking them a bit over the years. The original recipe included 1 cup of oil, so I experimented with half oil, half applesauce. It works, but makes the texture a little gummy. So I tried this version with 1/4 cup applesauce. Thumbs up. (You can skip the applesauce and use 1 cup of oil, if there’s no applesauce in the house.)

The spices are subject to your whim or your pantry. I’ve been loving cardamom lately so I added some. Sometimes I include a dash of cloves and/or ginger. But always, always cinnamon.

The frosting is barely sweet, the way I like it. Oh, and I almost always add pecans. But you’ll notice there are none in the photo. That’s because I was entertaining someone with nut allergies. They were still good (but even better with pecans!)

Pumpkin Bars Minus the Pecans

Pumpkin-Cinnamon-Cardamom Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

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Boston Cream Pie

Boston Cream Pie

The Boston Marathon tragedy touched so many lives and hearts. The ripple of anguish and anger spread across the country, but the stories of humble heroes who helped saved lives grounded most of us with a sense of the true American spirit.

As I’ve reminded others—and myself—there are so many more good, kind, loving people in this country and in this world than there are bad guys. So let’s make sure to recognize the good guys. My hope is that kindness will prevail.

My baking beauty friend, Michelle Medley, suggested baking Boston Cream Pies to deliver to my local first responders. And so I baked last night. Thank you to the Milwaukee Police Dept., District 6, for doing your job day after day after day.

Boston Cream Pie is actually a cake, but it is believed that it is called “pie” because early bakers used pie tins to bake cakes in before cake pans were created.

My Boston Cream Pie recipe was a combo of a homemade buttery sponge cake and a “cheater” quickie filling and an amazing chocolate ganache. The cake was published in Cook’s Illustrated several years ago and called Wicked Good Boston Cream Pie. I used the semi-homemade filling from Kraft’s Boston Cream Pie (instant vanilla pudding mix plus, dare I say it, Cool Whip).

Didn’t quite nail the ganache. I poured it on a little too soon. So I’ll try againt this weekend and make sure the ganache is a little cooler and thicker before I pour it on.

I highly recommend sharing with first responders. Make sure you get to know them first since they may not be excited about accepting homemade packages from strangers.

 

 



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A Red Velvet Cake Hug

 

This is a guest blog from Sarah James, a writer and camper who spreads cheer through food. Check out her blog: Mountainman Approved.

 
 
 

Every grandma has a signature recipe. One dish, whether it be sweet or savory, that embodies all of the love and care a grandma could possess. It’s a dish greeted by “oohs” and “ahhs”.  Eyes close and time stops as the first bite is savored and followed by sighs of blissful satisfaction.

While these recipes are beyond mouthwatering, what makes them special is the magic that they hold. Each bite eases heartache, wipes away tears, and soothes stress. They are the ultimate comfort food.

Over the past six months I’ve experienced plenty of heartbreak. A breakup, ailing grandparents, illness and a sexual assault, but no matter what life throws at me, I always find myself in the kitchen, recreating some of my Grandma’s iconic recipes. I’ve sought comfort in Grandma’s cooking: from melt-in-your-mouth Velveteen cookies, covered in sugary Day-Glo sprinkles, to flaky crusts filled with tender apples, sweet peaches and tart cherries.

The one recipe that I keep repeating is her infamous Red Carpet Cake. Also known as a Red Velvet Cake, this tower of crimson perfection always fills my bruised heart with sugar-coated happiness.

A little butter, a splash of vanilla, a shower of sugar and a hit of cocoa, are blended together and baked into three layers of moist cake, stacked and held together with the most decadent of icings—a cooked white frosting that is absolute heaven, and mends a broken heart.

If things are rough in your life, break out the cake pans and cut yourself a slice of this magical dessert.

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One Response to “A Red Velvet Cake Hug”

  1. Jamie says:

    Lovely! Food heals so many sorrows, soothes so much pain. And food evokes emotions and connections. The last cake I ever baked with and for my brother was his favorite Red Velvet Cake so this has meaning for me as well. I will try your grandma’s recipe, Sarah.


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