Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with a Nutella filling and Meringue Frosting

Listening to Michael Buble’s rendition of White Christmas while going past Baltimore’s skyline on my way to the capital, I’ve almost forgotten today was supposedly the day the world was going to end. Not much of a believer of superstitions and arcane theories, I don’t know much about the Mayan calendar’s prediction of the apocalypse, but what I do know is that if the world were to end on this 21st of December, 2012, the world has four hours left to implode (or explode).

If this were indeed to be my last day on Earth, this blog entry would never have been published. So I guess if you’re reading this, congrats, you made it through 12/21/12. Now we just have to make it through the next projected date for the apocalypse, that is, if WWIII doesn’t destroy this world first.

But why be so melancholy? Christmas is only four days away, along with the joy and magic of the holiday. This is the weekend for last minute frenzied shopping, non-stop Christmas cookie baking, and performing whatever personal rituals you have in the hopes of bringing snow in three days. When you have a break between hectic errands these next few days, try out this cupcake recipe. You can always make time for the sweet things in life.


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup brewed coffee
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup granulated white sugar

3 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar

Nutella (approximately ¼ cup)


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 12 baking cups.
2. To make the cupcakes, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the coffee, vinegar, vanilla extract, and olive oil.
4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix well.
5. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners. Cook in the oven for 17-19 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven, and cool completely.
7. To make the frosting, combine all the frosting ingredients in a bowl. Place the bowl over a saucepan with simmering water to create a double boiler.
8. Whisk the mixture over the simmering water until all the sugar is dissolved.
9. Take the bowl off the heat, and using a hand mixer with the whisk attachment on, whisk the meringue frosting until stiff peaks form. This will take up to 10 minutes or more.
10. To assemble the cupcakes, cut a hole in the middle of the cupcakes, and spoon Nutella in to fill the hole. Cover with the cut out cupcake piece. Pipe the meringue frosting on top.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chocolate Crinkle Kiss Cookies

Snow slowly falling on the rooftops, hot roast cooking in the oven, sitting by an open fire… the ideal Christmas is one of warmth with family and friends while it’s snowing elves and reindeers outside.

Having spent most Christmas’s in New Zealand where it’s summer in December, I grew up celebrating Christmas with barbeques on the beach, swimming with sharks (not really) and overdosing on ice cream (really). But because movies commonly depict the traditional white Christmas, snow was still something associated with the holiday season, and so many kiwis would spray white fluff around the edges of their windows, with the warm sun shining through. As a child, I never really thought about the logistics of Santa getting around on a sleigh when there was no snow—or maybe it was that I didn’t want to think about it.

Powdered snow on sidewalks always reminds me of confectioners’ sugar, so I thought I’d turn that around, and make confectioners’ sugar look like snow. These chocolate crinkles are little snowballs of brownie batter, with a Hershey’s Kiss (well Hug, but let’s not get technical) on top. What’s not to love about it?

I have my fingers and toes double-crossed for a white Christmas this year, but should Mother Nature give us sunshine, these little treats will help bring the snow to this holiday season.


2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
60 Hershey Hugs


1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
2. In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract.
3. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.
4. Unwrap the Hershey Hugs, and freeze until ready to use.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
6. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Put confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Scoop ½ tablespoon balls of dough, roll in powered sugar, and place on baking sheet.
7. Bake for 11-13 minutes, until cookies crackle. Remove from oven, and press a frozen Hug into each cookie. Cool completely in the fridge.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Whole Wheat Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

The days of reading, running, web surfing, and baking are back. With still four weeks remaining of my six-week winter break (it’s super long this year because they moved finals to the week before Thanksgiving), one part of me thinks I should really find something productive to do, but another part of me says I should just relax and recharge before another grueling quarter.

Sure I like the quarter system in that you only focus on three classes at a time, only have to deal with a crappy prof for ten weeks, and can take terms off when everyone else is still in school, but it kind of sucks when your beaks barely coincide with high school friends’.  But then again, I guess I should be thankful that I’m sitting in bed on a Monday evening with only the worry of how to fit in a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother into the remainder of my day, while my friends at other colleges are probably stressing in the library beginning finals studying.

Today I made toffee cookies! Why? Because I happened to have a bag of Heath baking bits on hand, and did not know a more creative way to use them up than to simply add them to chocolate chip cookie dough. I substituted half of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour, and cut down the butter by half just to warrant eating more than two of these babies in one sitting. So go ahead, tell yourself that these cookies are actually kinda sorta healthy, because it’s kinda sorta true!


1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 stick butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup Heath toffee bits
½ cup chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, and baking soda.
3. In a large bowl, cream together the brown sugar, white sugar, and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and eggs.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix well.
5. Stir in toffee bits and chocolate chips. Drop balls of dough on a lined baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies start to brown around the edges. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.