Chocolate Midnight Madness, or, Chocolate Tart with Pecan-Biscuit Crust

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Happy Galentine's Day! If there's one thing Eleanor and I have in common, it's that we both adore our lady friends. I was looking for a recipe to celebrate Galentine's Day and everything my friends have meant to me over the years when I found this recipe for Chocolate Midnight Madness. A dessert best served cold so you don't have to faff around with getting it out of the oven at just the right time: check. A deep, grown-up chocolate flavour that's just barely sweet with a crunchy, crumbly, toasted crust: check. A fun, silly name: check. And... the weirdest secret ingredient I never thought would work: check.

This tart contains mayonnaise, my friends. MAYONNAISE. This would be weird enough, but we've discussed ad nauseum my deep, dark hatred for mayonnaise. But what's a woman to do? I had already picked out the recipe, I loved the idea of a chocolate tart, so I went for it. And to my surprise, I was rewarded with the best chocolate tart I've ever made. I mean, mayonnaise is really only eggs, oils, a pinch of salt and a pinch of acid- all ingredients that are included in every cake, but I was still horrified. How was I to justify this? Answer: I didn't. I just made the tart and let it speak for itself. And if you didn't know it was condiment-based, you definitely wouldn't be able to tell.

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Fresh out of the oven and still a little puffed before being chilled.

Fresh out of the oven and still a little puffed before being chilled.

As you can see, the crust is reallllly crumbly

As you can see, the crust is reallllly crumbly

It may not look like much, but this is a dessert worth making for your besties, preferably eaten in the kitchen, directly out of the pie plate with a dozen forks scooping it up after you and your pals come home from a long night of dancing. Whether or not you confess the world's weirdest ingredient? I'll leave that up to you.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. This tart is insanely good, super simple, and really impressive, even if tarts usually aren't your thing.

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ONE YEAR AGO: CRAZY CHOCOLATE CAKE
TWO YEARS AGO: CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH DATE FILLING

the recipe:

Chocolate Midnight Madness

the directions:

Blitz the biscuits and pecans in the food processor until the mixtur e is fine crumbs.
Pour the crumb/nut mixture into a removable-bottom tart pan or pie plate and spread across the bottom of the plate.
Pour the melted butter over the crumbs and stir to combine, then press crumb mixture to edges and up the sides of the plate.
Set crust aside while you prepare the filling.
Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Beat cream cheese and mayonnaise until smooth, then add sugar gradually.
Beat until well-blended, then add eggs, one at a time.
Add vanilla and blend.
Pour a few spoonfuls of the cream cheese mixture into your bowl of melted chocolate and beat with a spoon or whisk until combined (this will keep the mixture from splitting when you combine it).
With mixer on low speed, drizzle chocolate mixture into cream cheese mixture, then continue beating until very smooth.
Bake 30 minutes until edges are set and middle has a slight wobble when nudged.
Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate at least four hours or up to overnight.
Serve plain or top with whipped cream, and eat it in the middle of the night with your best girlfriends.

the ingredients:

1 c (85g) Rich Tea biscuit crumbs or graham cracker crumbs
¼ c (30g) pecans
¼ c (60g) butter, melted
8 oz (240g) cream cheese
½ c (115g) mayonnaise
½ c (112g) sugar
2 eggs
6 oz (180g) semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla

Lincoln Logs, or, Double-Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

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There hasn't been a lot of presidential celebration in the Recipe Box kitchen lately, and since technically our leader is Theresa May, I guess that makes sense. But then I found a recipe in the box that is specifically for celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday. I'm not sure why anyone who isn't Mary Todd Lincoln or the parent of a child in the 1950s would need a specific baked good to celebrate Lincoln's birthday, and if you DID need one, I'm not sure why you'd want to make him cupcakes shaped like logs? Wouldn't he appreciate a cupcake decorated to look like a penny? A tiered cake built like the Lincoln Memorial? Or maybe he's more of a pie guy? DID BETTY CROCKER EVEN THINK TO ASK HIM?

In an effort to answer these vital questions, I did some research on Lincoln Logs so you don't have to, and here's what I learned: a lot of weird stuff. Lincoln Logs, in case you did not grow up in the US, are log-shaped pieces of wood out of which you can build houses and buildings, toys marketed to young buys as an alternative to blocks. They're notched at both ends so the things you build look like actual miniature log cabins. I assumed (or maybe was told?) that Lincoln Logs were named after Abe Lincoln because he was born in a cabin, but I always thought that was weird because, like, a billion people were born in cabins in the 1800s, so why does he get called out specifically? Turns out I was onto something: Lincoln Logs were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright's son, who named them possibly after Abe Lincoln, but equally plausibly after his father's original middle name (Lincoln) or as a pun (Linkin' Logs) because of how they fit together.

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It gets even more surprising: the original idea came to Wright when he was in Japan viewing a building there that was thought to be earthquake-proof on account of it's cross-hatched base (so why did he market it as a Western American thing, especially when Japonism was at its height in the early 1900s?). And strangest of all (to me), the original kits came with instructions to build Lincoln's house (would this not be the White House?) and Uncle Tom's Cabin (why?!).

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What does this have to do with this cupcake recipe, you ask? Nothing. And that's my quibble with the recipe. The cupcakes don't even look like Lincoln Logs, they just look like logs... and only if you squint. Plus, I can't think of a reason I would need to make a dessert for Lincoln's birthday, and if you didn't explain that's what they were for, you're just left with unexplained log-shaped desserts, which somehow manages to be EVEN WEIRDER than log-shaped desserts in honour of a former president's birthday.

the verdict:

3 spoons out of five. The cake was soft and plush, the frosting was easy to pipe and to die for delicious... but the finished product comes in a serving size of two cupcakes, which seems excessive, and, really, why would you want a cupcake shaped like a log to begin with?

one year ago: Crazy Chocolate Cake
two years ago: Chocolate Cake with Date Filling

the recipe:

Lincoln Logs

the directions:
cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 200C/400F and grease 18 muffin cups.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
Beat in almond extract, shortening, milk, yolks and chocolate.
Beat 2 minutes on medium speed until very smooth.
Fill muffin cups ½ to 2/3 full, then bake 15-18 minutes until the top springs back to the touch.
Remove cupcakes from tins and allow to cool completely on cooling racks.

Frosting:

Beat butter and powdered sugar until smooth, light and fluffy.
Add vanilla and cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is smooth and spreadable.
Set aside ¼ of frosting.
To the remaining ¾ of frosting, add chocolate and beat to combine.
Use a small amount of chocolate frosting to 'glue' the flat bottoms of two cupcakes together.
Use a knife to frost the ends of your 'log' with the white frosting, adding a swirl with the knife to resemble the cut side of a log.
Using a piping bag with a round tip, pipe the chocolate frosting in lines connecting the two ends of the log (you'll have to leave the very bottom unfrosted as a 'rest' for the log to sit on).
If you're keen, you can use a knife to swirl the chocolate frosting so it looks more like bark, but by the time you've done this nine times, you're probably not going to be too interested in doing so.

the ingredients:
the cupcakes:

1 ½ c (180g) flour
1 c (200g) sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
½ c (102g) shortening or Stork
¾ c (175ml) milk
4 egg yolks
2 oz (60g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and well-cooled

the frosting:

½ c (110g) butter
4 ½ c (500g) powdered sugar
2 ¼ tsp vanilla or almond extract
3-4 tbsp cream
4 oz (120g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Chocolate-Cherry Whipped Cream Cake, or, A Valentine's Day Treat

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An unpopular opinion (or three): my three favourite holidays (in order, Halloween, New Year's Eve and Valentine's Day) are everyone else's least favourite. What do they all have in common, you ask? Sugar.* Whether in the form of peanut butter (I can't be the only one who associates peanut butter with Halloween, right?), champagne or the darkest chocolate feasible, I'm always a happy camper in the weeks leading up to these holidays.

And If there's any more quintessentially Valentine's Day flavour combination than cherries and chocolate, then I dunno what it is. Add whipped cream to the mix and I'm in, because we all know how much I adore a whipped cream cake. So while this one didn't turn out quite like I planned, it was still delicious- a black forest cake without the 1970s feel, a simple-but-festive frosting, and decadent cherries to round it all out.

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This is the kind of cake you could whip out when you have friends coming over and no one has to know how simple it was to make, or the kind of thing you can easily make just because it's a Wednesday night and it's been too long since you had cake. The heart on top is much easier than I thought it would be and totally optional anyway; for bonus trend points and to make the whole process even easier, you can also leave the sides of the cake bald.

This is what the batter will look like if you don't temper it as below- tan with chocolate flecks throughout. Tastes fine, looks like a dark vanilla cake when baked.

This is what the batter will look like if you don't temper it as below- tan with chocolate flecks throughout. Tastes fine, looks like a dark vanilla cake when baked.

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After removing the paper template.

After removing the paper template.

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If you live somewhere where you somehow have access to fresh cherries this time of year, this would be amazing with homemade cherry filling, but why complicate things? And as for the unexpected surprise I ran into while making this, I really should have seen it coming: you can't mix warm melted chocolate (or even 'melted and cooled') chocolate into a cold liquid batter made of refrigerated cream without the chocolate seizing up. Luckily this didn't affect the flavour, but it did make the cake itself much lighter than a normal cake with this much chocolate in it. (Kind of a fun surprise when you taste it and it's still got a rich chocolate flavour despite looking like a vanilla cake, though!). Lucky for you, I've troubleshot the instructions below so your cake should come out much darker than mine. Good luck!

*And, let's be real, really good outfits.

The verdict:

4 spoons out of five. Really tasty, but cakes frosted with whipped cream are always best eaten as soon as they are made, which limits the times when this is the perfect option.

One year ago: Party Mix
two years ago: Twice-Cooked Broccoli


the recipe:

Chocolate-Cherry Whipped Cream Cake

the directions:
cake:

Preheat oven to 175C/350F.
Melt chocolate until JUST smooth and set aside to cool.
Grease and flour two 8- or 9-inch layer pans.
Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, then set aside.
Whip cream until stiff.
Fold in eggs and almond flavouring gently.
In a small bowl, combine well-cooled chocolate with a few spoonfuls of batter at a time, stirring well as you go. (This will help keep the mixture from splitting when you add the chocolate.)
Once mixture is uniform, add another few spoonfuls of batter to your chocolate mixture and stir again until uniform, then add chocolate mixture back into your batter and blend until combined.
Pour into pans and bake 25-30 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out clean and cake has slightly pulled away from sides of pan.
Set cake aside to cool completely.

Filling and topping:

Cut a heart shape from parchment paper and set aside.
Whip cream with almond flavouring, gradually adding powdered sugar until soft peaks form.
Once cake is completely cooled, pipe or spoon a rim of whipped cream around the edge of your bottom cake layer, then carefully spoon about 2/3 of your pie filling into the centre.
Place your top layer, then put a dab of cherry filling in the centre of the top layer to 'glue' your paper heart in the centre of the cake.
Once the heart is placed, carefully cover the rest of the top of the cake with whipped cream.
Peel away the heart gently and spoon the remaining cherry pie filling into the empty heart shape.

Best enjoyed on the day it's made, but will keep 24 hours in the fridge.

the ingredients:
the cake:

3 oz (90g) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 ¼ c (270g) flour
1 ½ c (300g) sugar
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 2/3 c (390ml) whipping cream
3 eggs, beaten well
1 tsp almond extract

 

 

 

 

 

the filling and topping:

1 ½ c (355ml) whipping cream
½ tsp almond extract
¼ c (30g) powdered sugar, sifted
1 can (410g) cherry pie filling