Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Dessert-aster: Vanilla Cupcakes & Chocolate Trifle

I am not feeling lucky... I've had two consecutive a-okay desserts. I hope this won't be the start of a streak! In general, desserts tend to be one of my specialities, but earlier this month I made two rather lovely failures. Even worse was the fact that both were served at get-togethers putting my culinary disappointment on display! I blame myself for being too cocky and serving never tested recipes to non-family members. At least, they looked delectable. 

Vanilla Cupcakes with Tri-colored frosting: White Vanilla, Cherry Preserves, and Dark Chocolate

The recipe I used for the cupcakes came from the usually disaster-proof MarthaStewart.com. The Vanilla Cupcakes turned out rather dense instead of the light, fluffy cupcake kids quickly devour. The cupcakes left everyone feeling overly full and tasted closer to muffin or pound cake. I knew there was no hope for this recipe when my dessert-loving friend Amira put her half-eaten cupcake to rest on the table. I am definitely open to suggestions of better vanilla cupcake recipes. My cooking friend Brady suggested that either this recipe is awful or perhaps the baking powder lost its rising agent. I wouldn't doubt that the baking powder could have "died" in the Texas heat.
I will say, however, that these cupcakes were frosted well! This frosting recipe for Mix-and-Match Cupcakes I will definitely use again. I used dark chocolate instead of bittersweet to intensify the chocolate frosting and Central Market Organic Morello Cherry Preserves to make the pink frosting as seedless raspberry jam is quite expensive. The frosting was more than enough to make 24 cupcakes so I would make plans to use the leftover frosting or make additional cupcakes. 

The frosting recipe gives several suggestions for "tip-top toppings," but I used whatever tiny, delightful things I could find in my portable dorm room spice cabinet: Pecan halves, Red sugar, Ghirardelli Chocolate Hazelnut Drinking Cocoa, Cinnamon, and Shredded Coconut.

Conclusion: I'll probably pick out a new cupcake recipe to try out, but stick with this buttercream frosting recipe.

On to the next dessert...
Individual Chocolate Trifles

My best friend had me over for a family dinner and made quiche especially for me so when she showed me this mouth-watering recipe for Chocolate Trifle, I jumped at the chance to surprise her with it. I'm assuming had I followed the recipe, the trifle might have come out better...

Instead, I used the recipe as a guide so that I could do things my own way. My chocolate trifle consisted of brownies, chocolate pudding, and white chocolate mousse. I wouldn't be caught dead serving anything with Cool Whip so I replaced it with white chocolate mousse. The trifle was just one layer after another instead of mixing in a fluffy whipped cream to the pudding layer to make it light, which is really the point of a trifle. Yes, I know I messed this one up!

I never use boxed brownie mix, which the Chocolate Trifle recipe calls for, because I refuse to eat/serve anything with hydrogenated oils and would rather not buy an $8 box of natural brownie mix. I usually work with imported chocolate blocks found on display at Central Market and Whole Foods, but I went to the grocery store with no recipe in hand and ended up with Nestle Toll House Cocoa, which happened to have a "Chewy Cocoa Brownie" recipe on the back. These brownies tasted alright. I would definitely call them dull, chewy and sweet, but dull. I think I'll have to blame the Nestle Toll House Cocoa... don't plan on using this stuff again... or at least this brownie recipe! My best friend definitely thought boxed brownies tasted better. 

To make the chocolate pudding, I just used JELLO Instant Pudding Mix and followed the recipe on the box. This was probably the only thing that came out well. I can't say I'd recommend this as I am not a fan of the ingredients used in the instant pudding mix.

The White Chocolate Mousse was the worst layer. I think I miss being able to pick up my white chocolate mousse from Marks & Spencers for 45p when I lived in Scotland. It simply did not taste like chocolate mousse at all. I used Ghirardelli White Chocolate Chips instead of Lindt, which taste fine themselves, but the mousse never got the right texture and honestly, tasted a little funny. The poor texture was probably due to the fact that I accidentally put all of the whipping cream in the melting chocolate at once instead leaving part of it cold to beat while the chocolate cooled as the recipe instructs.

3 repeated layers of brownie squares, chocolate pudding, and white chocolate mousse & topped with chocolate shavings

I topped the trifles with chocolate shavings I made from scraping a knife against a bar of Equal Exchange Dark Chocolate. There is probably a better method for making chocolate shavings, but I was losing patience by the end of this cooking experiment, (The heat from my hands melted most of the shavings as I scraped the chocolate).

Conclusion: It looked pretty, but didn't taste so. Sadly, I think my friends would've appreciated a much easier to make and less work-requiring Dirt-in-a-Cup. 


k said...

Next time you're stuck at heb with no recipe, either call me because I've basically memorized the one I use all the time or pick up the blocks of unsweetened chocolate. They aren't organic or healthy or anything but they make awesome brownies.

traveler's pen said...

Thanks, K. From now on, not only will I call you every time I drive anywhere, but also whenever I am stranded at the grocery store with no brownie recipe.