Friday, 28 December 2012

Salted Caramel mini Chocolate cupcakes

Was bored during this holiday season and didn't feel like doing any work, so I decided to bake!
Today's experiment is salted caramel mini chocolate cupcakes. These are mini chocolate cupcakes with a salted caramel filling, topped with dark chocolate salted caramel frosting.
The result turned out to be really yummy! =)

I adapted the recipe from here.

Using a mini muffin tray, I made 48 mini cupcakes with enough batter leftover for 4 madeleines. 
Alternatively this recipe yields 21 regular cupcakes.


For the cupcakes:

  1. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Ghiradelli cocoa powder)
  3. 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  5. 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  6. 3/4 teaspoon salt
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. 3/4 cup buttermilk (I made this by adding 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar to 1 cup milk)
  9. 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  10. 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  11. 3/4 cup warm water
For the salted caramel filling:
  1. 2 1/2 cups sugar
  2. 2/3 cup water
  3. 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  4. 2 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel
For the dark chocolate salted caramel frosting: (almost similar to before, with a caramel twist)

  1. 1/8 cup  unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder 
  2. 1/8 cup boiling water
  3. 3/4 cups / 1.5 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  4. 1/4 cup confectioners’/icing/powdered sugar, sifted
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 227 grams good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Guittard semi-sweet chocolate chips, found in Whole Foods)
  7. A sufficient amount of the salted caramel, from above, to your liking

Making the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. 
  2. Line mini muffin tray with paper liners. 
  3. Mix together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. 
  4. In another bowl, mix together eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water.
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Fold in and mix until smooth and combined. Do not over-mix, to avoid a dense cake.
  6. Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full. 
  7. Bake approximately 10-12 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.  (If you're making normal-sized cupcakes, baking time will be 13-15 minutes)
  8. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. (Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.)
  9. Make the salted caramel. While waiting for the caramel to form, use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about half-way deep into the cupcake) from the center of each cupcake and throw away the narrower tip part. Keep the wider top part of the cone as a breadbowl-like cover over the caramel filling (see photos below for example).
Hollowed out cupcakes. The small pieces at the sides are the remaining top "breadbowl" covers

Sticking the breadbowl covers onto their respective cupcakes

Making the salted caramel filling:

  1. Heat sugar with the water in a heavy saucepan over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.
  2. Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. 
  3. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F. 
  4. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream; stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Be careful! Adding cream can cause the whole mixture to bubble!
  5. Stir in sea salt.
  6. Let cool for about 15 minutes; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable. 
  7. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm caramel into each hollowed-out cupcake. The caramel will slightly sink into the cupcake – just add a bit more. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.
  8. Cover the filling with the breadbowl-like cake cover from before.
  9. Use the leftover caramel for the frosting.
Caramel filling inside the cupcake

Making the dark chocolate salted caramel frosting:
  1. Combine cocoa powder and the boiling water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and stir until it cocoa has dissolved. 
  2. Beat the butter, the icing sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy–about 5 minutes. 
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add melted chocolate (cooled! If not the butter will melt), beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  4. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well incorporated. 

Final step:

Pour the frosting into a piping bag (I used a ziploc bag and cut a small hole in the corner), and decorate the cupcakes!


This recipe was really easy to follow, with a minimal number of steps. 

On an non-baking related note, life can be quite funny/coincidental sometimes. I was at Boudin Bakery in San Francisco on Saturday to try their clam chowder breadbowl and watched the staff make the breadbowls. That very observation helped me make my hollowed-out cupcakes today, all I had to do was recall what I saw over the weekend, and repeat on a smaller scale!
Also, as I was baking, the whole ritual of following instructions and measuring out precise quantities felt very similar to doing experiments in the lab. In fact, I was reminded of one of my first research internships, when the professor asked me if I cooked, since doing experiments was just like cooking. Very true. I wonder if my general ease with experiments has been aided by my intuition in the kitchen, or even vice versa. Either way, I'm glad to be good at both, if not I wouldn't know what to do with my hands half the time :)

Finally, a candid photo of me filling cupcakes!

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Creamy Mushroom Soup

I'm a huge fan of mushrooms and mushroom soup, so on Boxing Day I tried making my own creamy mushroom soup! This recipe was adapted from one I got from an English college friend 6 years ago.


  1. 10 oz mushrooms, chopped (I used 5 lb portabello mushrooms, and 5lb white button mushrooms this time)
  2. Half an onion, chopped
  3. 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  4. 1 cup milk (I only have 2% milk at home, so I used that. Some recipes ask for whole milk or half-and-half)
  5. 2 cups chicken stock (I used packaged soup in a box from Whole Foods)
  6. 1/8 to 1/4 cup flour
  7. 1 cup heavy cream
  8. Salt, pepper, thyme
  9. Olive oil
  1. Heat up the olive oil in the pot. 
  2. Stir-fry the onion and garlic until the onion is half cooked.
  3. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry until the mushrooms are cooked.
  4. Add enough flour to soak up the mushroom juices.
  5. Pour in the milk and chicken stock. 
  6. Heat up everything till simmering, but do not overboil.
  7. Add the heavy cream, stir until simmering.
  8. Add spices to taste.


We liked it!
However, as much as I like eating portabello mushrooms, I think their taste is a bit too strong in cream soup. Next time I'll use white button and brown crimini mushrooms instead. Also, for a stronger garlicky flavor, add more garlic. 
The consistency of this soup was less thick than what you get from condensed canned soup. If you want a thicker soup I suppose you can have a higher heavy cream: milk ratio, use whole milk or add more flour. 

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Salted caramel chocolate fudge "Giant" cake

I had the inspiration to bake another cake today, so I decided to try this recipe!

Before writing about the ingredients/instructions, I must say that I am always horrified by the amount of sugar and butter that goes into cake and icing. Making the pastry myself only makes me feel slightly better since I can control how much 'junk' goes into it @_@

Anyway, I'm calling this a giant cake because we didn't expect it to be so big.. (although the recipe did call for three layers). I only made 2 layers of cake because I got lazy, so please note the change in the buttercream proportions!

The instructions are a little long, but here goes:

Ingredients (for a three-layered cake)

Dark chocolate cake layers:

  1. 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 2/3 cups sugar (I used 1 cup white sugar + 1 cup brown sugar in mine)
  3. 2 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  4. 2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  5. 1 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
  6. 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  7. 0.6 cups vegetable oil 
  8. 1 cup buttermilk (I made mine with fresh milk plus 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar)
  9. 4 eggs
  10. 1 cup hot coffee 
  11. 2 tablespoons of vanilla
Salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream: (makes 2 layers of buttercream. During baking, I reduced everything to make only 60% of the original volume)
  1. 1.35 cup castor sugar - separated into 0.85 cup and 1/2 cup portions
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 1/4 cup heavy cream at room temperature
  4. generous pinch of sea salt (for the caramel, and additional sea salt, preferably Fleur de Sel, for sprinkling)
  5. 5 large egg whites
  6. pinch of salt (for meringue)
  7. 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  8. 1.3 cups unsalted butter
Dark chocolate fudge frosting:
  1. 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
  2. 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water
  3. 1 1/2 cups/3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  4. 1/2 cup confectioners’/icing/powdered sugar, sifted
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 454 grams good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips)

For the cake layers
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. Grease and line 3 8-inch cake tins, dust with cocoa powder, tapping out the excess. 
  3. In a large bowl, sift in all the dry ingredients. 
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix well with a heavy hand whisk for about 2 minutes. 
  5. Pour into prepared tins (batter will be quite liquid). Tap the tins on the counter a few times. 
  6. Bake each layer for about 20-25 minutes, rotating once (if necessary). 
  7. The cake is done when toothpick or skewer comes out barely clean. Refrain from overbaking. Cool completely on a wire rack in the pan.

Preparing the salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream

Prepare the salted caramel first. 
  1. Place 130 grams/5 ounces/1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of the castor sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. 
  2. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. 
  3. Remove from heat, and gradually add the cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter slightly (less if cream is room temperature). 
  4. Whisk in sea salt and vanilla. Let cool and start the buttercream immediately.
To make the buttercream
  1. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. 
  2. Whisk frequently, keeping it over the heat, until the mixture reaches about 160°F and the sugar has dissolved. 
  3. Transfer the mixture to a mixer with a whisk attached and beat on medium-high for 8 minutes, until stiff peaks have formed and the mixture has cooled to room temperature. 
  4. Turn down the speed to medium and start adding small chunks of butter, checking that it has incorporated before adding more.
  5. Keep beating until it comes together.  
  6. With the mixer running on low, drizzle in the salted caramel sauce gradually, beating until well combined between each addition. 

Preparing the dark chocolate fudge frosting
  1. Combine cocoa powder and the boiling water in a small bowl or glass measuring cup, and stir until it cocoa has dissolved. 
  2. Beat the butter, the icing sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy–about 5 minutes. 
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add melted chocolate (cooled), beating until combined and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  4. Beat in the cocoa mixture until well incorporated. 

Assembling the cake
  1. Dollop a small bit of buttercream onto your intended serving plate/cake board. 
  2. Place one cake layer on and layer on about 3/4 cup of the salted caramel buttercream. 
  3. Repeat with the second layer of cake. 
  4. Place the last layer of cake on top and coat the entire cake with a crumb coat using the chocolate fudge frosting. 
  5. Refrigerate cake for 15-20 minutes. 
  6. Once the crumb coat is set, remove cake and cover with the remaining fudge frosting. 
  7. Return cake to the fridge and let it set, about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle with fleur de sel or flaked sea salt to decorate.

Here's how my cake batter looked like:

After combining both cake layers with a layer of salted caramel buttercream:

 It looks like a GIANT MACAROON. I flipped the bottom layer so that the flat part was contacting the buttercream
 Here you can see how much my top layer rose.
 After frosting with fudge!

It looks better after setting!
Taste test: the cake tasted a little too strongly of baking soda, so maybe next time I'll add slightly less of that. In general everything tasted nice, but the cake layer might have been a bit thick, though moist, relative to the buttercream (probably why the original recipe asked for 3 layers). 

Chocolate Malteser cake

It was the boyfriend's birthday last week, so I decided to try to make my first cake! (plus my first time at icing a cake!) I made a chocolate malteser cake, using the recipe from this site.

For the cake:
225g butter
225g castor sugar
80g malted milk powder
50g cocoa powder
4 eggs
200g self-raising flour
4 tbsp milk
For the icing:
250g powdered sugar
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
45g malted milk powder
125g softened butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 packet Maltesers, halved

For the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 180 C (or ~355F). Grease and line two 9-inch cake tins.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until blended. 
3. Add the malted milk powder, cocoa powder, eggs, flour and milk, and beat together until smooth and creamy.
4. Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared tins, and bake for about 30mins, or until well risen and firm to the touch. 
5. Cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

For the icing:
1. Blend the boiling water, malted milk powder and cocoa powder together in a bowl, then set aside to cool. 
2. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and half of the powdered sugar together until creamy, then add the remaining powdered sugar and the cocoa mixture until well blended. 
3. Sandwich the two cakes together with half of the icing, then spread the remaining icing over the top. 4. Decorate with Maltesers around the sides of the cake.

** I only have one cake tin, so I had to cut the cake into half.
Here's what it looked like after baking! (The pock-marks are where I poked the cake to check if it's been cooked)
 My almost-successful attempt at a clean horizontal cut to the cake:
 After icing it! (not bad for a virgin attempt, if I say so myself)
To ice the cake with minimal crumbing, I plopped a dollop of icing in the center of the cake, and then spread it out with a big knife, without turning the knife back in the reverse direction. 
The cake turned out a bit dense, but was still yummy!
If I were to do anything differently, I would probably use two cake tins, as specified in the directions, because it took me an hour to fully cook the cake (and I suspect the top and bottom were a tad burnt). 

Cake-making was surprisingly fun, so I'm going to bake more cakes in the future ^_^