Archive for September, 2010

Black Pearl Cupcakes

Before I go on and on about the glory of these cupcakes, I have to mention how excited I am that CSN Stores has asked me to review a product from one of their websites. They have over 200 online stores where you can find everything from nesting tables to fitness equipment to cookware (personally, I’m all for the cookware). I can’t wait to show you what I do with my new apple peeler/corer/transformer. Look for the post soon!

And now for the cupcakes.

This past weekend celebrated my birthday, first dinner with friends on Saturday and then dim-sum with family on Sunday (my actual birthday). Since I always make birthday cakes for my friends and somehow never for myself, I decided this was the year.

So, as you all know, I looked around and asked you all for help and I ended up with two front-runners. Both of which looked delicious. Both of which came with good references. Both of which I had to make at some point in time except I wanted both of them NOW.

So that’s what I did.

I made one full recipe for my birthday dinner and one half recipe transformed into cupcake version for after dim-sum food coma. (PS Is my family the only family who eats themselves into coma at dim-sum?)

I had been staying in NYC for an elective month when I came across this recipe for Black Pearl Cake on epicurious. The inspiration for it is a Vosges Haut-Chocolat bar and as I read up on the recipe I realized I had just picked up a bar by the same company at the Whole Foods I happened to live next door to at the time. So what did I do? I ran right over to Whole Foods again and looked for the Black Pearl bar in question. And what do you know?


What’s in this elusive Black Pearl bar/cake?

Chocolate. Lots of it.



Black sesame seeds.

I know it sounds strange but it’s actually a wonderful combination of flavors. The spices are subtle and yet very much present. Anyone who tastes it can’t identify what makes the chocolate taste so rich and delicious but if you tell them what it is they’re able to suddenly taste every ingredient and it becomes even more delectable with every bite.

If you’re looking for a cake to wow a crowd, this is it. It’s a bit involved with multiple components but worth every bit of effort. Also, I was afraid as I made and tasted the ganache that it would be too much flavor and/or “kick” because I took the advice of other users and used wasabi paste and doubled the amount. However, a little bit of it with a lot of cake created the perfect balance. I may have forgotten to use the ginger syrup to coat the cakes for added moisture. I think this could help as the cake is a tad bit dry but it isn’t necessary. It’s up to you. I do, however, definitely recommend using the whole amount of ground ginger for the whipped topping suggested in the recipe as I turned mine down a bit and the flavor was barely there in the end.

Coincidentally the theme for Regional Recipes this month is Japan so this recipe is perfect for it! Yay!

Black Pearl Cupcakes
adapted from epicurious

Makes 12-16 cupcakes. Double recipe for a 3-layer cake.

For ganache:
  • 3 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp wasabi paste
  • 1 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tbsp corn syrup
  • 1 tbsp butter, room temperature
For ginger syrup:
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchstick-size strips
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
For cake:
  • 1 c boiling water
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 c + 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
For whipped topping:
  • 1 c chilled heavy cream
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • black sesame seeds for garnish
*Make ganache 1 day in advance so it can set overnight.

For ganache, place chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring cream, ginger, and wasabi to a boil in a small pot and the pour mixture over the chocolate. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes then whisk together until smooth. In the meantime, mix sesame seeds and corn syrup in a small bowl to coat. When chocolate is ready, stir into chocolate and allow to cool to lukewarm. Stir in butter. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.

For ginger syrup, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, stirring over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Simmer for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 1 hour. Strain syrup (which can be used later on to coat finished cake for added moisture) and chop ginger. If making this the day before as well, refrigerate ginger and syrup separately until ready to use.
For cake, preheat oven to 350F and prepare baking pans either with cupcake papers or lining 3 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper (must also double recipe).

Whisk together boiling water, cocoa powder, and reserved ginger from the ginger syrup in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Using an electric mixer, cream sugar and butter together until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat just until incorporated. Add in vanilla and mix until combined. Alternating, add flour mixture in 3 additions and cocoa mixture in 2 additions. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake in the preheated oven for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If making cakes, bake approximately 30 minutes. Allow to cool. If making 1 day ahead of time, wrap with plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

For assembly, make whipped cream topping by beating cream until soft peaks form. Add the sugar, vanilla, and ginger and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Cut out a cone from the top of each cupcake and fill each cupcake with about a teaspoon for the set ganache. Replace top. Here is where you can coat the top of the cupcake with the ginger syrup if desired (but I forgot). Spread whipped cream topping and garnish with black sesame seeds. The recipe then says to refrigerate until the ganache is set followed by allowing to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.. but we just ate them and had zero complaints.

Lookout for my other birthday cake to be posted soon. Happy noshing!

Daring Bakers – September

Oh goodness.

Today has been catch-up day. Although really it’ll end up being catch-up week.

My birthday was yesterday (cake/recipe to come!) and between friends and family and the end of my sleepless and starvation-inclined rotation in NYC I haven’t had a moment to rest. Heck, my drivers license expires on the 30th and I haven’t even done that yet! Let’s hope I don’t get pulled over at the end of the week.

Anyway, it’s the 27th which means it’s Daring Bakers reveal day!

Which means I had to make sugar cookies today and work on my royal icing skills.

It didn’t work out very well.

Under pressure and time constraints, I can answer multiple choice questions in the time it takes some people to read the prompt (though I can’t guarantee that I answered it correctly..), I can do a tubal ligation on my first day meeting a new attending, and I can stitch up a deep cut so you can’t even tell it existed.

But I can’t seem to properly frost a cookie.

Out of an ENTIRE batch of cookies devoted solely to this challenge, I came out with 4 that I felt I could photograph.


I must work on this skill.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

The challenge was to make anything “September” and since my birthday is in September I made balloons. The original plan was to also draw in string and then take real string and connect them together. But when I tried to draw string the line kept coming out too thick and didn’t look pretty at all. You can also see that I overflooded the cookies creating a distinction between the outer edge and the rest of the frosting.

Thank you, Mandy, for making want to be better at this. Look out for future attempts because I will not be disheartened.

And look out tomorrow for my birthday cake recipe. Yay!

Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

As promised, I’m back with a delicious (and quick) recipe that’s perfect for back-to-school, fall, end-of-summer, and all days that end in “y.”

I’m still on my rotation that’s slowly sucking the life out of me but there’s only a week left so I think I can do it.

Given the time constraints, I haven’t been in the kitchen much (also, living next door to Whole Foods is pretty gosh darn convenient) but I have made these treats.

Simple and amazingly delicious, these took ten minutes to put together.

Deb’s awesome.

Also, thanks everyone for your cake suggestions! I’m still deliberating but I’ve narrowed it down to a select few and will be very excited to show you what I end up with!

And now.. naptime.

Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats
adapted from smitten kitchen

I got 25 little snacks out of this.

1 stick unsalted butter
10 oz bag marshmallows
heaping 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
6 c Rice Krispies cereal

Grease an 8-inch square cake pan with butter or non-stick spray.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat and brown until it smells nutty. The brown bits are welcome so don’t be alarmed when they appear. Do NOT take your eyes off the butter because it can burn really quickly. As soon as the butter browns, turn off the heat and add in the marshmallows. The heat of the butter should melt them but if not, you can turn the heat back on for a bit. Once melted, take off the stove and stir in the salt and cereal.

Spread quickly into the pan and let cool! It’s that easy!

Make these!

So.. help?

Due to unforeseen loss of internet combined with the timeliness of this post, I have elected to do something selfish.

There is no recipe this post.

Its just all about me.

See, I had a great post all ready to go. It was about indecisiveness.

I’m still indecisive but my laptop is not able to connect to the internet for a few days and so I cannot upload the matching photos and, well, a half-baked post just didn’t sit well with me.

So new post this weekend with pictures, promise.

But for now, I need a suggestion for a birthday cake.

I turn the ripe ol’ age of 25 (yes, I know, many of you are rolling your eyes) at the end of next week and for the FIRST TIME EVER I want to make myself a fantabulous birthday cake.

I’ll have limited time since I will only have the night before and the morning of to make it. No other requirements.

If you must know, I was leaning more towards cheesecake/mousse but have toyed with the idea of at least a little bit of actual “cake.” It has to serve about a dozen people too but the pieces can be small.

So.. suggest away! Please? Do you know of a tried and true cake? Or have seen one that you’d like to try out but haven’t gotten around to yet?


Saucepan Fudge Drops

My beloved grandmother is 93 years old.

The week after she turned 93 (her birthday was on August 17), she went and had a total knee replacement of her left knee.

It was necessary for her quality of life, a life that’s constantly in movement and full of wanting to be useful. She lives at home with my parents and I grew up seeing her face first when I got off the school bus and she always used to make me merienda, what we call our afternoon snack. The snacks were always different. Sometimes they were egg rolls filled with plantains and jackfruit, sweet bread with butter, or ramen noodles. They were always just what I needed and they were always better when she made them. Special in a way that only grandmothers can make something.

It’s been difficult to watch her age but inspiring at the same time.

Who gets surgery at 93 let alone still be walking at 93 let alone still be alive at 93?!

My grandmother.

All mine.

Now that she’s in rehab making tiny victories in her efforts to get around independently again, I come home and visit as often as humanly possible.

The last time I went to see her I brought some of these cookies.

She always likes to try what I make. She doesn’t always love it, sometimes things are too sweet, but she loved these.

Alice Medrich has truly made me love baking with cocoa. Pure chocolate without any sugar added, she adds just the right amount of sweet to create a rich, balanced flavor. Her cocoa brownies are thus far the best brownies I’ve ever made and these drops most definitely stand up to them. I made mine a little smaller, thinking they may be so rich you wouldn’t want more than a few bites of it. How wrong I was when I ate three in a row!

Saucepan Fudge Drops
adapted from Bittersweet by Alice Medrich
Makes 24 or so cookies.
1 c flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 c sugar
1/3 c light brown sugar, tightly packed
1/3 c yogurt, I used sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350F, placing one rack in the upper third and one rack on the lower third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl, and set aside.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat sizzling. Remove from heat and whisk in cocoa until smooth. Add both sugars and stir until blended. It’ll be stiff and sandy but don’t fret! Stir in yogurt and vanilla. Add dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough onto sheets, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until cookies look dry on top and are cracked. For even baking, rotate sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through. Cool before serving.

Mmm good.

Compost Cookies

Back in July when I spent my first full month in NYC, I knew I had to visit Momofuku Milk Bar.

If you’ve been around the foodie blogging community long enough, I’m sure you’ve noticed the hype around this place.

It’s well-deserved.

So I visited this Milk Bar.

Why is it called a Milk Bar, you ask? Well, if you don’t know, they sell milk there! Not just any kind of milk. Cereal Milk.

Yes. They make the milk of everyone’s childhood (or present day) favorite treat at the end of a delicious bowl of cereal. They bottle it up and they sell it! Oh and they make ice cream out of it which is crazy good.

Anyway, what they ALSO have at this glorious institution of all things delicious is these Compost Cookies.

A cookie filled with snack food! I’m talking potato chips, pretzels, rice cereal, and whatever else you may want to throw into them. Heaven!

(They also have Crack Pie which really does turn you into an addict of sorts.)

I had a cookie and I knew I needed more.

So I made them!

They were just as delicious as I remember. Maybe not exactly how they were at the Milk Bar but pretty gosh darn close and definitely close enough that I could tide myself over until the next Milk Bar visit. The saltiness of the snack food paired with the buttery cookie dough and sweet chocolate is truly a party in my mouth. I set these out for a bunch of teenagers over the weekend and they were all gone in mere minutes. Deliciousness.

Milk Bar’s Compost Cookies
adapted from Live with Regis and Kelly

Makes 15 6 oz cookies. Or 30 3 oz cookies which is what I did.

Word of warning: These cookies spread a LOT so adhere to the recommendation to leave several inches of space all around regardless of how big or small you make them! Also, while I’m sure you can do this by hand, I strongly recommend a stand or hand mixer because it’s a LOT of mixing.

1 c (2 sticks) butter
1 c sugar
3/4 c light brown sugar
1 tbsp corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp kosher salt
3 c total of baking ingredients/snack food (I used chocolate chips, puffed rice cereal, pretzels, potato chips, and oreos)

Cream butter, sugars, and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow. Scrape down the bowl and then add the eggs and vanilla. Mix at medium-high for 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes!! The mixture will be a pale white and will have fluffed up to about double in size. Amazing!!

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix on a lower speed for a little under a minute until all incorporated. Don’t overmix!! Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and add in your baking ingredients/snack food, mixing just until incorporated which should be under a minute.

Portion the cookie dough onto a parchment-lined pan, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and stick in the refrigerator for anywhere from 1 hour to 1 week.

When ready, heat the oven to 400F. Move the cookie dough onto a room temperature, parchment-lined sheetpan leaving four four four (please don’t forget) inches all around each cookie. Stick the pan in the oven once preheated, making sure the cookies are still cold otherwise they will spread like wildfire and you’ll have a mess on your hands. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the cookies begin to brown on the edges and towards the center. Take them out before they are uniformly brown and cool on the pan. They will become uniformly brown as they cool. EAT!


– Sharlene

Blueberry Crumb Muffins

So.. I thought I’d have time to blog this month. I knew it’d be a little difficult given the notoriety of long hours on this particular rotation but I was not exactly prepared for THIS. Suffice it to say, I get four to five hours of sleep a night and it’s most definitely not by choice. I stand pretty much all day (which amounts to somewhere between 12-14 hours). And yesterday was the first day I’ve eaten lunch all week. I didn’t have to go in yesterday.


When I realize my schedule is so gosh darn sleepless, there’s only one thing I can think to make in the kitchen.


(Yes yes, I was going to give you a cupcake recipe today but I haven’t had the chance to make a proper batch and really I need need muffins right now.)

Ali most definitely knows what she’s doing with these muffins. The crunchy topping and the soft, moist blueberry packed muffin seriously make the greatest combination. Perfection in a blueberry muffin. I gave a couple to my brother whose roommate is apparently a blueberry muffin fiend. Rave reviews from this self-proclaimed blueberry muffin afficionado. So take it from us, these are fabulous.

Blueberry Crumb Muffins
adapted from vanilla & lace

Makes 12 muffins.

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 c milk
1 c fresh blueberries
for topping:
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 c butter, cubed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400F. Prepare muffin tin with either cups or spray.

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup, add egg, followed by enough milk to fill the cup. Mix wet and dry ingredients. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

For the topping, mix all the ingredients together with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Oh yes.. this is good stuff.

– Sharlene