Sometimes friends and family can’t get together for every celebratory occasion so we jumble everything into one giant fit-all party. When such parties occur I have to make a dessert that’s intensity and magnitude is squared or for this particular instance cubed. Doing this can be a challenge. I don’t know why I have to do it this way but I do. For example: a regular party gets a regular cake (even though my ‘regular’ cakes are kinda ginormous) Chocolate cake/chocolate icing. Pretty simple, right? A ‘squared’ event usually gets something a bit fancier like ultra vanilla ice cream and blueberry pie. A ‘cubed’ event requires a lot of oomf- power to the Mad Max- the Lord Humungus of flavor.
Chocolate is, by far, the easiest dessert component to square or cube. I made a dark chocolate cake with whipped dark chocolate ganache icing, and encircled the cake with chocolate cigarette cookies. I also poured chocolate ganache on top of the cake for good measure. Because reasons.
If people were to pay me for this cake with cold hard cash instead of love and kisses I’d be rich.
What is it that people love so much about cupcakes? I really can’t figure it out. I love cupcakes too but, for the life of me, I don’t know why. Sure they’re small, individually sized and packaged, and it is more socially acceptable if they come in crazy flavor combos. That’s my favorite part. I’ve made some odd combos that most people would be afraid to try and/or purchase if they weren’t bite sized and low-commitment. Mini cupcakes are even better for this. You can take big risks with little cost on cupcakes. That’s a chef’s dream come true. I once made a curry carrot cupcake with a cucumber raita icing. I used this space aged mix called versawhip to get cucumber juice and yogurt to blend into a perfect fluffy icing. Not everyone’s cup of chai but I loved them. I used fresh turmeric and ground all the spices myself so that added a fresh flavor that was unparalleled. You just can’t get away with that type of shit on a whole cake.
I made some decadent and over-the-top chocolate cupcakes for this post. I went all out with a dark chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache center and chocolate buttercream. A real crowd pleaser. Shut up and take my money.
Now I’m going to get down to the nitty gritty: cake to icing ratio. It’s important. Lately every time I see a cupcake in a shop or in a magazine it looks like it has been abusing buttercream steroids. Bigger does not mean better. I don’t know where it started. What bakery was patient zero for the “more is better” mentality? It’s like one year all the cupcakes went to a conference in Texas and came back infected with some mind-numbing sugar virus. I don’t want to OD on icing. I don’t care how good it is.
More than anything I don’t want to spend the rest of the day trying to get the cloying sweet taste out of my mouth. The texture! It’s like your mouth is coated in this film and no matter what you do you can’t swallow it down. Uber gross. Especially if the baker put my arch nemesis into the mix: shortening. My distaste for shortening is finely balanced between it’s utility and it’s mouth feel. It’s good for a lot of things but it makes the mouth feel of an icing repugnant. DON’T DO IT!
Next time you go to buy a cupcake, or even better to make one, remember that this unassuming dessert deserves some respect. What started out as a mere plebeian bake sale bystander has now colonized every dessert display. Cupcakes now have a mighty empire of wild people wielding spatulas willing to defend their honor. Maybe they learned a thing or two in Texas.
I made an absolutely obscene amount of Marshmallows. 3 Ziplock gallon size bags full to the brim post marshmallow abstinence binge. I found myself popping one or two (3 or 4) into my mouth every time I walked into the kitchen. It just so happens that the kitchen is the hub of house. It’s gravitational center. You have to walk through it to get anywhere. After my 5th or 6th aimless walk through of the kitchen I had The Talking Heads Once In a Lifetime stuck in my head on endless repeat, “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?”
I gave one of the mostly full bags to my brother and his wife. I then took some to pawn off on the staff at my chiropractors office. This was a smart move on my part. These people crack my back. They have the power to make standing in the kitchen for 10 hours straight possible. They have power. Best to stay in their good graces.
I also took some to the local cake supply store. I need these things gone before addiction rears its fearsome head. “You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?” It was too late. I bought more gelatin.
First, I had to get rid of the rest of the initial batch. Easy. What is the dessert most associated with marshmallows? Smores. This is where I hit my first road-block. I have nowhere to create a smoldering smore friendly environment. That’s when it hit me. Make a tart! All I would need is a graham cracker crust, dark chocolate ganache filling, and the marshmallows. Who needs a campfire when you’ve got an awesome torch? Burn baby burn. Ok, I didn’t want burnt marshmallows- that was just for effect.
Unfortunately, ganache has to be made in advance. For one reason or another, I find that people are afraid of making ganache. Maybe the name makes it seem advanced. It’s not. It’s simply equal parts heavy whipping cream (ultra yum) and good chocolate. For this ganache I used 11 oz semi sweet chocolate and 5 oz 60% dark chocolate. I made way more than I needed. I did this so I can use the extra for another recipe I’m making… you’ll see soon! I brought the 16 oz heavy whipping cream up to a simmer then transferred it into the bowl with the chocolate. Let it sit for 5 minutes so the chocolate can melt. Then mix it all together with a spatula or whisk slowly until no more solids are present. Leave overnight in a cool place. In the morning you’ll see that some magic alchemy has occurred and you have a ganache. And people don’t believe in magic!
Graham cracker crusts are ridiculously easy to make. You should give it a try. It’s essentially graham crackers, butter and sugar. I made a chocolate graham crust for a little extra pizzazz.
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons unsweetened coco powder
2 teaspoons GOOD vanilla
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat Oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C)
Pulverize graham crackers
Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, melted butter, and chocolate until well blended . Press mixture into an 8 or 9 inch pie plate. In this case I used 4 medium sized tart pans.
Bake at for 10 minutes. Cool. If recipe calls for unbaked pie shell, just chill for about 1 hour.
At this point I was getting really excited. I haven’t had a smore in… I can’t remember how long. I think it’s sad that smores seem to be strictly limited to campfire settings and are primarily desserts for kids. Everyone knows the adults love them and use the children as an excuse to stuff their faces.
I constructed my hauté smore, turned my torch on, and watched the marshmallows bubble and brown to perfection. I kind of felt like I was watching a death ray destroy the surface of a planet, but I digress. I made smore tarts for my family and succeeded in finishing off the rest of the marshmallows! “You may say to yourself, my god, what have I done?”