July 22, 2015

Chocolate and Cherry Cake

Chocolate and cherries are my favourite combination - you've probably seen it already in my Black Forest Cake and even in my blog name, Cherry Choc Cupcake. What I love about this combo is that the fresh cherries offset the sweetness of the chocolate and helps balances the flavours of the cake perfectly. Think of moist, chocolate cake sandwiched in between cream and fresh cherries and topped with luscious milk chocolate ganache. 
Coming up with the idea of this cake came from my desire to play on the classical Black Forest Cake. Reserving the same flavours, yet introducing a new element to the cake was my main focus. After some random searching on Youtube, I saw a video that displayed the creation of "chocolate bark" and I was instantly sold. What about creating a cake that gave an impression of cutting into a tree log with hidden goodness inside? Obviously it doesn't look like a tree log, but it's close enough with the chocolate bark in place. 
Putting the cake together was simple as I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe from Sweetapolita. However, instead of baking the cake in 3 separate tins, I baked them in 2 and cut each layer in half after cooling them down. The filling is just whipped cream with pitted, chopped cherries and the chocolate ganache is milk cooking chocolate melted with heated cream. Creating the chocolate bark was super easy - just melt or temper dark cooking chocolate and pipe rows vertically next to each other on baking trays lined with baking paper, leaving space in between each one. Use a spatula knife to smooth out the chocolate and to create the ripples needed to realistically resemble actual bark. Once the chocolate has fully set, assemble the cake with layers of chocolate cake, cream filling and top with chocolate ganache. Then carefully place the chocolate bark around the cake, pressing them slightly against the cake to secure them in place. Top with fresh cherries and refrigerate until ready.

Chocolate and Mascarpone Cupcakes

These cupcakes are dark. They're seductive. They boast the creaminess and slight tanginess of the mascarpone cream. And to top it off, they've got a luscious, sweet butterscotch sauce to add some luxury to the otherwise dull cupcakes. The idea of pouring caramel sauce over cupcakes is not new - but my main inspiration for it was from Call Me Cupcake. The stark contrast of the cream and caramel sauce against the intense, dark chocolate cakes caught my eye. It's simply stunning to the eye and heavenly for the mouth. 

For the dark chocolate cupcakes, I used this recipe from Add a Pinch and found that it gave me excellent results. Moist, chocolate-y and moreish, this is my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe. The frosting is super easy and should be used straight away - just whip with an electric mixer about 226 grams of mascarpone cream with 1 cup of thickened cream and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Once it reaches soft peaks, gradually add 1/2 cup of icing sugar/powdered sugar and whip until firm peaks. You'll see it hold its shape when you lift the whisk. Be careful not to over-whip it, or the cream will curdle and turn into butter!

For the butterscotch sauce, I used this recipe from Just a Taste.  I definitely felt that I could've taken the butterscotch sauce a bit further for a more intense caramel flavour and colour but was pleasantly surprised at how well the sauce complemented the cream in its original state. Once the cupcakes are baked and cooled, pipe the cream and pour over the butterscotch sauce. For extra decadence, add a pinch of salt. Voila!   

Salmon and Avocado Sushi Stacks

This post is quite different from usual, but every baking blog needs a little savoury touch once in a while right? I've been eating quite a lot of sushi lately, so when I recently discovered my love for salmon and avocado sushi, I decided to take up the challenge of making my own sushi. There's just something with the creaminess of the avocado that perfectly matches the fresh taste and slight fattiness of raw salmon. When making sushi, it's really important to use the freshest ingredients due to the minimal cooking processes required. I used organic sashimi-grade salmon fillets (skin-on), and just fried the skin to create a crispy snack. 

To make the sushi, you just need to cook the sushi rice and add sushi seasoning/rice vinegar while hot. Rolling the sushi is relatively simple - just lay seaweed sheets (nori) on a sushi rolling mat and cover it with a thin layer of rice. Place salmon and avocado slices along the side closest to you. Putting a little pressure on the rolling mat, slowly roll the sushi. Click here if you want to see a video that more clearly explains how to prepare a sushi roll. The sushi stacks are even simpler; just press rice into round moulds and put them onto a plate, then top with chopped salmon and avocado, and garnish with nori strips. Since this was my first attempt at sushi making, I noticed that I rolled the sushi with a bit too much pressure and thus resulted in less salmon and avocado filling. Meanwhile while shooting and sneaking in bites of sushi, my cat Lily wanted to join in too....

February 22, 2015

Strawberry and White Chocolate Cupcakes

This is my second post in a row featuring strawberries, which might or might not be due to the abundance of these berries at the moment. I just love how they freshen up a baked good and add a slightly tart flavour to take away some of the sweetness. You might notice that I'm always trying to come up with a way to reduce the amount of sweetness in a dessert or baked treat - because, in reality, nobody likes sickly sweet food. In my early baking days, all of my sweets were either full of butter or sugar. Like this multi-coloured rainbow cake I made a few years ago. On a side note, it's my 3rd blogiversary! It's hard to believe that three years ago, I was once a 15 year old girl with a burning passion to bake and whip up desserts. I remember being successful at my first attempt at making macarons with my very first blog post back in 2012 and I've always been baking since. Had cherries been in season right now, I would've made some cherry chocolate cupcakes to celebrate. But there's always a next time right?

So, on to these cupcakes! I decided to use this recipe from the Cupcake Project for the vanilla cupcakes. Although I did get mostly vanilla-y, fluffy and moist cupcakes, I had a problem with some of the cupcakes shrinking from their cases. I dismissed the thought that it was the recipe and opted to blame the cupcake liners instead. Putting that aside, I made the cupcakes according to the recipe and mixed in chopped white chocolate and fresh strawberries to the finished batter. Viola! Mixing in white chocolate and strawberries makes ordinary vanilla cupcakes so much more special. 

For the frosting, I used my beloved swiss meringue buttercream for its silky texture and slight sweetness. And since baking is loads more fun with friends, I let my two best buddies decorate the cupcakes with swirls of icing and strawberry roses. Cupcakes to me, are truly the epitome of elegance and beauty. They are also small enough to not be guilty about the amount of sugar or fat eaten. With that being said, how can anyone reject a cupcake anyway?

And of course I would like to end this post with a smile from K and a peace sign. Peace out! 

February 7, 2015

Chocolate and Strawberry Pocky Cake

Chocolate and strawberries are a modern, yet classical combination. Especially in a cake - where the tartness of the strawberries helps balance out the richness of the chocolate, and the sweetness of the buttercream. It might sound cliché, but it is, I believe, a match made on Earth for those romantics out there (hahaha....nope?).
This cake captures the essence of the chocolate and strawberries - an idea presented to me by my adorable best friend and university buddy K, who I am proud to dedicate this cake and post to. After going through some of the toughest times in my life, K was there to listen, give advice and ultimately helped me get through it. Also, props to K for helping me assemble and decorate the cake!!
The strawberry pocky decoration was inspired by two of my favourite bloggers - Raspberri Cupcakes and Sprinkle Bakes. After seeing the cake on the blogs for the first time, I immediately added it to my long baking list that always seems to end up at the bottom of my cupboard. Going through the list was like uncovering buried treasure because it contained some recipes I even forgot that I added a few years back.
Since chocolate and strawberries were the theme for this cake, an idea popped in my head to have chocolate cake layers, filled with fresh cream and strawberries, covered in strawberry swiss meringue buttercream and encased in strawberry pocky sticks. What I love about this cake is that the strawberry pocky - I used 4 boxes - helps to cover the messy frosting underneath and removes the hours (okay - maybe minutes if you're pro) to smooth out the frosting.
I used my go-to chocolate cake recipe by Sweetapolita, which always results in a rich, moist, chocolatey cake. I love swiss meringue buttercream - the silky texture compliments the cake and its subtle sweetness avoids the whole cake from tasting sickly sweet. Although it can taste quite buttery due to the large amount of butter, I found that the strawberry puree helps cut the taste of butter and gives it a fresh tart flavour. You can find the recipe here. I'd like to believe that love = chocolate + strawberries....

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