Cocoa Cupcakes

Spring gatherings always necessitate a wow! dessert and the bigger the crowd, the more obvious it becomes that the perfect solution is cupcakes.  Cupcakes are easy to make, can be decorated in a variety of ways (or not at all), and allow the eaters to remain mobile (and social).

This particular cupcake is rich and dense, chocolaty, and has a tight crumb.  It strikes the perfect balance of sea salt, cocoa, vanilla and coffee.  If you ever ate Drake’s Cakes Devil Dogs as a kid, these cupcakes will take you right back to that special place in your memories (hopefully you eat it a little slower though, and savor it with a cup of coffee or a nice glass of red wine).

The options for toppings are endless, but primary candidates include fresh whipped heavy cream, whipped coconut cream, or a light buttercream.  You could also get really crazy and go for a peanut butter frosting for over-the-top decadence.  For my latest function I topped about half of the batch with coconut cream and left half plain.


1 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose gluten-free flour

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon finely ground coffee

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup flax milk


Preheat the oven to 350° and line a 12-cup muffin pan with baking cups.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a medium sized bowl.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), beat the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, then sprinkle in the coffee granules. With the mixer on a medium speed add the eggs one at a time, beating until each  is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the vanilla. At low speed, alternately beat in the dry ingredients and the flax milk.

Use a number 2 scoop to transfer the batter into the baking cups. Bake the cupcakes for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for five minutes, then remove them from the muffin tin and transfer to a cooling rack.

Chocolate Stout Cake

If you love deep, rich chocolate then this cake may be for you.  Low-fat it is not, but heavenly it is.  Although it contains stout, this cake does not taste like beer.  It simply uses the roasted malt flavor from the beer to lend to the intense character of the cake, the crumb of which is very dense and moist.  I’ve baked this many times over the last few years and find that while it’s great to eat just a few hours after baking, it’s superb the next day.  So if you have the ability to make and ganache the cake the day before, I think that you’ll be pleased with the outcome- not that I think you’ll ever be let down if you eat it the first day.

chocolate stout cake with espresso ganache


1 cup stout (I generally use a chocolate stout like Young’s Double Chocolate or Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate, Southern Tier’s choklat even made an appearance once)
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (my favorite is valrhona)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1½ teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons sour cream (I’ve used non-fat without adverse effects)
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chunked
6 tablespoons heavy cream
¾ teaspoon ground espresso

Cake prep:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Grease a bundt pan
  • Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly
  • Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and ¾ teaspoon salt in large bowl
  • Using a mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend
  • Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine
  • Add flour mixture and beat briefly on a slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold the batter until it’s completely combined
  • Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes (but sometimes as long as 50)
  • Transfer cake (in the pan) to a rack; cool 10 minutes
  • Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely

For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and espresso in a heat-proof bowl over simmering water in a sauce pan until smooth, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake.

Inspired by this post on


Carrot (and so much more!) cupcakes

A stand-up carrot cake recipe is always a good thing to have in one’s repertoire, in my opinion.  This recipe is stand-up.  It’s flavorful without being over-done.  It’s moist without being heavy or greasy.  It’s loaded with fruits and, therefore, fiber (which must mean that it’s healthy-right?).  And to top it off, it gets frosted with goat cheese.  Yum!

What I will also point out is that this recipe is easier on the tongue than it is on the eyes.  The cupcake is not necessarily what I would call gorgeous, but it is damn tasty.  It holds its shape well, but the frosting on top is definitely what makes it look more appealing.

Cake Ingredients:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

3 cups grated carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

½ cup moist, plump raisins*

2 cups sugar

1 cup safflower oil

4 large eggs

re-constituting raisins, chopped walnuts & coconut- oh my!


  • Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease & flour your muffin tins
  • Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt

flour, leavening & spices

  • In another bowl stir together carrots, nuts, coconut and raisins (and/or dried cranberries, currants, cherries, etc.)
  • In a stand mixer beat together the sugar and oil until smooth
  • Add eggs one at a time
  • Add the flour mixture and don’t over-mix
  • Mix in the chunky ingredients

this is one chunky batter

  • Divide the batter among the muffin cups and bake for 25-35 minutes

be sure not to over-fill your tins

*Note: if your raisins are a bit on the dry side, re-hydrate them in a dish with some warm water (or rum, if you prefer) for 10 minutes before using

Frosting Ingredients:

6 oz cream cheese, at room temp

2 oz goat cheese, at room temp

1 stick butter at room temp

1 pound confectioner’s sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


  • In a stand mixer beat together the cream cheese, goat cheese and butter until smooth and creamy
  • Gradually add the sugar and beat until super-smooth
  • Beat in the lemon juice
  • Frost your cooled cupcakes

*Feel free to change the cream cheese/goat cheese ratio or omit one or the other altogether

You could top the frosted cakes with shredded coconut, or toasted coconut, or chunks of walnuts, or even lemon zest


Recipe adapted from this cookbook authored by Dorie Greenspan

Apple-Cinnamon Oat Squares

This recipe is reminiscent of fall with the use of fresh apples and cinnamon, but hearty for winter with those steel-cut oats. It’s not too sweet at all, just the sweetness of the apples & raisins, really.  I think that the recipe would do grandly with the addition of walnuts or pecans as well.

Me, I ate it just-cooled from the oven with a small scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt on the night that I made it.  The next day I had it cold from the fridge as a breakfast.  And the day after that, at room temp with tea for a snack.


2 cups non-fat milk

1 1/2 cups steel cut oats

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup ground flax seeds (not whole flax seeds)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 (about 1 pound) Granny Smith apples, cored and grated


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Transfer the thick batter to a parchment paper-lined 9-inch square baking pan, press down and smooth out the top and bake until firm and golden brown, about 1 hour.
  • Let cool in pan; cut into 16 equal squares and serve warm or at room temperature.


Banana Cocoa Cake with Toasted Coconut top

I love to bake, and I love to eat desserts.  What I do not love are overly-sweet and/or rich desserts that make my teeth ache and my conscience wish that I had said “no” after I begin digestion.  That is where this recipe comes in: a moist cake, rich with cocoa flavor, made indulgent by the addition of coconut milk and flakes, and sweetened with nothing but fruit, but won’t cause a heart attack.

I will admit that the batter is a bit on the thick side which can make it a bit difficult to work with.  Knowing this ahead of time allows you to set aside extra patience for this very deserving indulgence.  Topped with toasty bits of crunchy coconut I think that it would make for a great breakfast with a cup of coffee or snack with a glass of milk.


1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 very ripe medium bananas
8 dried mission figs
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut


  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, both of the flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk or sift thoroughly to eliminate any lumps. Set aside.
  • Put the bananas, figs, coconut milk, water and vanilla into a blender. Blend until figs are chopped very small and the mixture is thick and smooth, about a minute.
  • Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined, taking care not to overwork the batter. This batter will be very thick.  Pour/scoop the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle the coconut on top. Bake until the top is firm and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  • Let the cake cool in the baking pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.  Slice into 16 even pieces.