Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes

I’m sorry guys. I’m so sorry. I’ve been neglecting you. It’s not just that I’ve been baking less often – though I have definitely been baking less often. I’ve also been doing some seriously sloppy baking (and, as you can probably tell from the photos below, some even sloppier photography). I just sort of throw things together, and then I heat it all up in the hostel toaster oven (which is actually a decent little oven, but I know it’s lying to me about the temperature so there’s a lot of guesswork involved.) Sloppy. I even managed to bake the first batch of these without sugar. Eight ingredients and I managed to forget one.

So yes, I apologize. But I’ve moved into a new place, with a nice kitchen with things like scales and measuring cups. Mixing bowls. A fridge with enough space to chill things. It’s wonderful. I’m about to start on my first baking endeavor, but I wanted to give you guys a couple of the nice things I baked in the hostel to tide you over.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Cupcakes

Guys, I love peanut butter. I know I’ve talked about the New Zealand peanut butter situation before, but since then there’s been a new development. It’s called Fix & Fogg and it is my new favorite food. And it’s locally made here in Wellington! Even better. So when I went to make these cupcakes, I had to use it. Sure, the consistency of the icing might have been better with something a little less all-natural, but the flavor! The flavor made it worth it.

I also used local sour cream, although that was less by choice and more because I found out halfway through my first batch that most sour cream in New Zealand is made with gelatin (which I, as a selectively-strict vegetarian, don’t eat). So after throwing away my first batter, including all of my extra special, exorbitantly expensive Dutch-process cocoa powder, and having a small temper tantrum, I went out and bought some lovely Zany Zeus stuff made up in the Hutt.

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Winning Hearts & Minds (Flourless!) Cake

This cake is amazing. One of the simplest, most delicious cakes I know how to make. I have never had a bad review, not even the time I accidentally used way too much butter (five ingredients, you’d think I could do it correctly, and yet…) or the time I overbaked it (which you should never, ever do – this is a cake to be underbaked, if anything). It doesn’t have to be iced (it’s perfect as is), it can be eaten warm, it can be eaten cold two days later. In fact, it’s better two days later.

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But my favorite thing about this cake is that it’s gluten free. I have no problem with eating gluten, and so I pretty much refuse to learn how to use alternative flours. However, I also have many lovely people in my life with severe intolerances and even Celiac disease, so I have built up a good repertoire of flourless recipes for their sakes. Because everyone should get to enjoy a nice cake every now and again.

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Chocolate Explosion Cheesecake Bars

Bad news, guys: I’m about to leave all of you for the next two or three weeks. I’m off to Thailand to soak up some sun (it’s winter here in Wellington) and eat some awesome food and just generally chill out. So no baking for the next wee while. Much as I love making sweet treats every week, I would be lying if I said I was going to so much as think about baking something while I was away. I take my relaxation seriously.

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As such, I figured I better leave you with something pretty special. Cheesecake, in fact. Chocolatey, chocolatey cheesecake. There’s a chocolate crust, a chocolate-hazelnut middle, and a dark chocolate ganache top. It’s a bit of a project, but worth every minute. Unfortunately, I really dropped the ball on the photography here – it’s been a busy week, and the minute I had this cut up into bars I was leaving the house to go feed them to people. I’m still beating myself up about that. If I’d realized just how delicious these would turn out, I would have taken a bunch of photos and just been late to work.

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Salted Caramel Mini Cupcakes

More birthday cakes! We had two birthdays at my work this weekend, so of course my weekly baking had to be some sort of cake. Layer cakes are a little too impractical for work, so I went with my trusty Magnolia Bakery cupcakes instead. And I had a request for salted caramel from the birthday girl, so naturally that went into the icing.

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I’ve mentioned before that I always seem to make mini cupcakes. I’m usually baking for so many people that I just can’t make enough of the normal ones. For most cupcakes, I’d make them full-size if I could. But for these ones, I think they’re best small. First because they’re quite sweet, and second because the icing-to-cupcake ratio is so much better for mini cakes than for full-size ones. And the icing for these is crazy delicious.

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Chocolate & Strawberry Birthday Cake

I’ve made a lot of ugly cakes over the years. They always taste great, sure, but the whole layers thing has always been a bit of an issue for me. Do you have any idea how much cake you have to cut off to make them level?? It just seems like a waste, really. And so I end up with crooked cakes that fall apart almost as soon as I ice them. Fortunately everyone is always just happy to have cake, so it’s not like it’s ever been a huge issue, but it’s something I wanted to work on.

So last week I made a triple-decker birthday cake for my friend Jen, and I was determined to get it right. Which I did. More or less. It’s a decadent cake: rich and chocolatey, with dark chocolate ganache and strawberry jam between the layers, and the whole thing coated with my favorite (Magnolia Bakery) chocolate buttercream. Yum.

crooked

(See? Almost totally not-crooked.)

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Valentine’s Day Cupcakes

Before I came to the other side of the world, I was lucky enough to visit New York City several times. And like any good tourist, I stood in a very long line for a very overrated (though, to be honest, phenomenal) cupcake. Yes, I’m talking about the famous Magnolia Bakery, and yes, that is where I get most of my favorite cupcake recipes (and one of my all-time favorite cookie recipes, but we’ll get to that). Whatever you might think about the place itself, they’ve yet to lead me astray.

lone cupcake

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