The four boys must have been hungry one day in the car on the way home from school because homemade chocolate chip cookies came up, then a discussion about a buffet of other foods they wanted to eat.
I said, “My dream is take one whole Saturday and just bake all day – cookies, pies, Napoleons, donuts – and have people stop in and sample and take goodie bags home. …just keep the confections coming!”
I glanced in the rear view mirror and the nine-year-old’s tongue reflexively came out his mouth and licked his lips.
Later, my 14-year-old son said, “Mom, why couldn’t you just take a whole Saturday and bake?”
I didn’t want to burden him with all the reasons why this was highly improbable. I guess he didn’t think about the sports schedules, the chores, the work, the this, and the that.
Living the dream isn’t about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can do, even if it’s not to the extent you wish. The roadblocks to an all-day-do-as-you-dream session are work, chores, caring for elderly parents, sick children, paying the bills, and sometimes feeling sad or dealing with tragedy.
This Saturday I carved out a little time to make my family cupcakes. No, it wasn’t an all-day bake fest, but it made some people happy, including myself. Living the dream doesn’t mean having it all your way, all the time. It means doing bits and pieces of things that make us and others happy woven in with our duties and obligations. It means putting in a good day’s work, whether it’s for pay or not, doing the hard things and making moments of happiness and memories. Hopefully, you’ll feel less overwhelmed, more satisfied and thankful for the things you can do. And, I’m thankful for a car full of school boys who keep me grounded in what’s really important in life.
Dark Chocolate Cocoa Cupcakes
The cupcake recipe is adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
You can short cut this recipe by using a boxed cake mix, but don’t short cut the frosting. The seven-minute frosting is the best nine-minute investment you’ll ever make for a cupcake!
The key to making any cupcake is not to over bake. Don’t wait until the tester toothpick comes out completely clean. It shouldn’t have raw batter on it, but there should be some crumbs clinging to your toothpick or the cupcake will be over baked. Remember, carryover heat after it’s taken out of the oven will continue to bake the cupcakes. Cut the baking time down by five minutes from the any recipe and keep checking.
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used unsweetened because that’s what I had in the pantry)
- 1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Rademaker’s but you can sub Nestlē or Hershey’s pure cocoa if that’s what you already have.)
- 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup sour cream
Garnish: To make these cupcakes into “hot cocoa” cupcakes, I used 24 mini marshmallows for the top and sifted cocoa powder over the cupcakes.
These cupcakes can be put together without an electric beater, just a whisk.
Microwave the butter, chocolate, and cocoa together, whisking often, until melted and smooth, one to three minutes. Set aside to cook until just warm to the touch.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 350⁰. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners (24 total).
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.
Whisk the eggs and vanilla together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the sugar until combined. Whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture.
Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the batter, then whisk it in. Whisk in the sour cream. Stir in the remaining flour mixture and stir until incorporated (batter will be thick).
Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full (do not overfill). Bake until a wooden skewer in the center of the cupcake comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 18 to 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.
Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting, about one hour.
Yield: Makes 24 cupcakes
I chose this basic frosting for glossy look, perfect for the hot cocoa effect. Lay it on thick and swirl it. Recipe makes enough for 24 cupcakes, or a two or three-layer cake. However, you can cut the recipe in half if you ever need to. I prefer using the mixing bowl in the simmering water rather than a double boiler.
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 2 large egg whites, room temperature
- 6 tablespoons of cold water
- 1-1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup (like Karo)
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- Pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bring two inches of water to a simmer in a large saucepan. Combine the sugar, egg whites, water, corn syrup, cream of tartar, and salt in a large bowl.
Set the bowl over the saucepan with simmering water and beat with a hand-held electric mixer on high speed until the egg whites have quadrupled in volume and are shiny, about seven minutes. Remove the bowl from the sauce pan, add the vanilla, and continue to beat for two minutes. Use immediately because it hardens.