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Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Today is August’s birthday!  She told all her students that her favorite chocolate candy is peanut butter cups (non-chocolate is gummy peach rings).  With 147 students, she got lots of peanut butter cups!  Last year, one of them brought her a peanut butter cake, and she was hooked.  Likely a new tradition now, she asked Zach to make her a peanut butter cake for her birthday today.  This recipe and its proportions, even for the frosting, are appropriate for a triple layer 9″ cake or 24 cupcakes, and if you happen to have chocolate peanut butter cups around the house, this is a creative way to put them to use.

peanut butter cupcakes

peanut butter cupcakes

• For the cake:

2 1/4 cups of cake flour

1 1/4 cups of vanilla’d sugar

1 cup of buttermilk

1 cup of creamy natural peanut butter

1/2 cup of butter

2 eggs

2 tsp. of vanilla extract

1 1/4 tsp. of baking soda

1 tsp. of baking powder

Nonstick cooking spray (and paper muffin cups if making cupcakes)

batter ready to be baked (note the texture)

batter ready to be baked (note the texture)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  If making a cake, spray three 9″ round pans with nonstick spray; if making cupcakes, line two muffin tins with muffin cups and lightly spray with nonstick spray.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder; set aside.  Mix together the sugar, peanut butter, and butter with a hand mixer until creamy and combined, about 2 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract, mixing for an additional 2 minutes.  While mixing, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk as such: 1/3 of the flour, half of the buttermilk, 1/3 of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk, the rest of the flour; it is important not to over-mix during the phase, because you don’t want to end up with bread.  Pour the batter evenly into the three round pans, or with an ice cream scoop, portion out the batter into the 24 muffin cups.  Bake the large rounds for 22-25 minutes; cupcakes bake for 18-20 minutes.  Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick – if it comes out clean, it’s done.  Let cool before frosting.

• For the frosting:

3 cups of powdered sugar

1 cup of creamy natural peanut butter

8 oz. of cream cheese at room temperature

1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream

2 tsp. of vanilla extract

With a hand mixer, combine the peanut butter and cream cheese until fully blended.  Add the cream and vanilla, and mix for another minute.  Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, blending well in between adding each cup.  Once the last cup is fully incorporated, mix for another 3 minutes.  For easy piping, fill a pastry bag fitted with whatever tip you want (but larger would be easier) and pipe to your heart’s content.

Optional garnish: cut several chocolate peanut butter cups into quarters and place on top of the frosting.

Second optional garnish: top with honey roasted peanuts.

Third optional garnish: stripe with dark chocolate.

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Satan’s Blood Chocolate Fondue with Assorted Dipping Goodies

To round out the Can You Beat the Heat? dinner party, dessert had to match the theme.  Chocolate fondue is a crowd favorite, but ours tonight had a pour from the vial of Satan’s Blood Chili Extract to deepen the delight of this devilish dessert.

• For the fondue:

16 oz. of chopped dark chocolate

1 cup of heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup of vanilla caramel sauce (follow the link to our recipe)

1 tsp. of Satan’s Blood Chili Extract

In a small saucepan on the lowest heat possible, scald the whipping cream so a skin develops on the surface.  Do NOT let it come to a boil.  Add the chocolate to the scalded cream and mix until the chocolate is completely melted.  Stir in and fully incorporate the caramel and chili extract, then transfer to a preheated Le Creuset fondue pot.

• For the dippers:

3 mini pound cake loafs

10 strawberries

1 Fuji apple

1 Granny Smith apple

Mini pecan pie tartlets (from Whole Foods or your local bakery)

Mini chocolate chip cookie sandwiches (Whole Foods again)

Coconut macarons (W.F.)

Cut the strawberries in half, and slice the apples and pound cake loafs.  Beware if something drops in the chocolate and you fish it out with your finger, because even if you lick off the chocolate, you will still have residue of the extract and you definitely don’t want to put that finger in a bad place.

Amaretto Pound Cake with Strawberry Chantilly

fresh, local strawberries

fresh, local strawberries

The aroma of fresh strawberries was absolutely intoxicating as we walked through the produce section of our grocery store the other day, so we couldn’t pass up getting some.  We didn’t know what we were going to do with them, just that we had to have them.  Zach decided today to use them two ways: syrup, and chantilly or whipped cream, to go with pound cake and vanilla ice cream.  We’re glad that the pound cake recipe yields 20 mini loafs with the tin we used, so there are lots of leftovers to turn in other types of desserts (fold into home-churned ice cream, dip in fondue, parfait…).

Makes 2 portions perfectly for the sauce and whipped cream, with about 18 leftover mini pound cakes (if you use a tin similar to ours)

• For the strawberry sauce:

1 pint of strawberries for the sauce, sliced

About 10 strawberries for garnish, cut in tiny cubes

1/4 cup of water

1/4 cup of white sugar

just starting

just starting

In a small saute pan, cook down the sliced strawberries, water, and sugar over medium heat.

breaking down

breaking down

Maintain over medium heat for about ten minutes until berries are fully broken down.

discard

discard

Remove from heat and pour through a strainer to collect and discard seeds and pulp.

finished syrup

finished syrup

Keep in the refrigerator until serving.  Stir in the cubed strawberries immediately before serving so that they don’t degrade at all in the sugary sauce.

• For the pound cake (our butter, milk, and whipping cream [used in the chantilly] all came from Strauss Family Creamery):

1 lb. of butter, plus 4 tbs. for greasing the tin

3 cups of all-purpose flour

3 cups of white sugar

1 cup of whole milk

5 eggs

2 tbs. of amaretto liqueur

1 tsp. of almond extract

1 tsp. of vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. of baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Sift together the flour and baking powder; set aside.  Add the amaretto liqueur, almond extract, and vanilla extract to the milk; set aside.  Melt 4 tbs. of butter to grease your mini loaf tin.

Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Begin mixing on low speed and slowly increase the speed to medium-low until the butter and sugar are fully combined.  Continue creaming for an additional 2 minutes.  During this time, add one egg at a time with about 15 seconds between each egg.  Turn the speed up to medium and cream for another 3-4 minutes until light and fluffy.

Incrementally, and while the mixer is running on the lowest speed, add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter, then half of the milk mixture, then another 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then the last of the milk mixture, and finally the last of the dry ingredients.

scooped and ready

scooped and ready

When the batter is completely smooth, scoop into the greased tin and bake for 22-25 minutes until lightly golden brown and a toothpick stuck in the center pulls out clean.

golden and done

golden and done

Let cool slightly before depanning.

• For the chantilly, aka whipped cream:

2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream

2-3 tbs. of honey (to taste)

1/4 cup of strawberry syrup (from recipe above)

Mix whipping cream, honey, and half of the 1/4 cup of strawberry syrup in a bowl with a whisk or hand mixer for 2-5 minutes, until cream is fluffy and soft peaks form.  Add the last of the strawberry syrup and whip just a little more to incorporate.  Make sure not to over-whip, or else you will make butter.  Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

so sweet and delicious

so sweet and delicious

Ladle some syrup onto the serving plate, place a pound cake, pour on the cubed strawberries, add a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream (ours is from Mission Hill Creamery), and pipe a rosette of chantilly (or just plop on that last part with a spoon if you don’t have pastry bags).  Flavor trumps visuals every time, anyway.