A Passion for Chocolate

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Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Part II: Honey Marshmallow Fluff

So, we’re on to part two of the great Irish Hostess cupcake project! The cake recipe posted on Monday. I’m not sure I want to think too long about what is actually in the real filling of the cupcakes on the supermarket shelves. It’s super easy and fun to make your own fluff, and you know exactly what’s in it – sugar, just like nature intended. I’ve used honey here because it rounds out the stout nicely. This recipe will give you plenty to fill all the cupcakes plus some leftover. You can do what I did, and use the extra to frost some of the cupcakes or you can make a couple of the world’s best fluffernutter sandwiches.

Honey Marshmallow Fluff

2 egg whites

1/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. honey

1/3 c. water

1 t. vanilla

1 t. unflavored gelatin dissolved in 1 T. cold water

Beat the egg whites on high until you get stiff peaks. Set aside.

Combine the sugar, water and honey in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook to 246 degrees, the firm ball stage.


Working quickly, turn on your mixer and beat the hot syrup into the egg whites on medium-high until well-combined. When you’ve poured in all the syrup, add the gelatin mixture and vanilla, turn the mixer to high and beat for another five minutes, until light and fluffy.


Now on Saturday just the icing and then we’ll be ready to put it all together!



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Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Part I: Guinness Cake

Irish Hostess Cupcakes, Little House by the Dunes

So everyone has been talking about the whole Hostess bankruptcy thing lately, and feeling a little sad that at some point soon they’ll be buying their zingers on the black market. In the name of research, I bought one of the last packages of Ding-Dongs I could find to see if they were as good as I remembered. Sadly, they weren’t. The cake was dry and the filling was tasteless. The chocolate on the outside was the best part. Since so many people already have recipes to mimic the Hostess snacks, I challenged myself to go one better.

I created a light, soft chocolately cupcake made with Guinness Extra Stout. I should hedge this by saying I’m not a beer lover myself, but if you share your house with one as I do – you’ll both love this recipe. The stout keeps the cake from being overly sweet and adds an extra level of depth. Then for the filling I made a marshmallow fluff based on honey, to round out the stout flavor. I finished them off with a quick, dark ganache that pulls everything together. So rather than mourn the loss of dry cupcakes filled with preservatives and half your day’s allotment of saturated fats, bake these and celebrate having something even better! The stout will be noticeable the first day, but after that it will all mellow into a happy blend.

Guinness Cake Recipe (Makes 18 cupcakes)

1 stick butter

1-1/3 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 t. vanilla

2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 c. Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa

1/2 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

3/4 c. Guinness Extra Stout

Preheat the oven to 350. Cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat until well-combined. Beat in the vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and baking powder.

Beat half of it into the creamed mixture until well-combined. Beat in 1/2 of the stout. Repeat with the remaining flour and stout.

Divide the batter between cupcake tins and bake 15-20 minutes, until the center springs back lightly. Cool on a rack. Stay tuned this week for the rest of the recipe!

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Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate Pudding, A Passion for Chocolate

There is nothing like pudding to sooth the soul, and after a crazy busy week it was just what the doctor ordered. Even without a box it is entirely possible to throw it together with the rest of dinner and get it to the table while still slightly warm. This also makes great filling for chocolate cream pie.

Chocolate Pudding (Six servings or filling for one 8″ pie)

3 c. milk (whole milk is best, but I used 1/2%)

2 T. cornstarch

1/2 c. sugar

2 T. cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark.)

2 t. vanilla

1/2 c. chocolate chips

Warm the milk over medium heat. Combine the dry ingredients together well.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the milk. Continue to whisk over medium heat.

It will thicken up, bubble and start to look like pudding.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat until combined. Spoon a couple large dollops of hot pudding into the eggs to temper them.

Stir together and dump it into the pan on the stovetop. Whisk briskly for another minute over the heat.

Take the pudding off the heat. Whisk in the vanilla and chocolate chips, stirring until the chips are melted and incorporated. This final step is what gives you the richness of boxed pudding.

Pour into bowls or dishes. You can serve it right away or put it in the fridge. If you don’t like the skin on the top, just press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface before you put it in the fridge.

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Everyday Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Everyday Oatmeal Chip Cookies, Little House by the Dunes

Growing up we were more pie and cake people as I recall but I have always made a point of keeping a full cookie jar in our kitchen. It’s one of the things I hope the kids will remember when they set up their own houses. With a fast-growing 14-yr-old son and an active nine-yr-old daughter, our jar starts to empty as soon as I fill it up.

These oatmeal chip cookies have a lot of things going for them. This recipe makes a lot – I typically get around 60 per batch, you can sneak in healthy things like flax seed and quinoa flakes in addition to the oatmeal, and if you underbake them slightly they are good keepers.

They are classic homemade cookies, in search of a glass of milk.  I bake a batch nearly every Saturday afternoon, provided it’s not too hot to turn the oven on!

Everyday Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup)

3/4 c. brown sugar, packed

3/4 c. white sugar

2 eggs

2-3/4 c. flour

1-1/2 c. oatmeal (whatever style you prefer – quick cooking tends to disappear more in the cookie)

2 t. vanilla

1 t. salt

1 t. baking soda

8 oz. dark chocolate chips

Other mix-ins of your choice: flax seed, quinoa flakes, wheat germ – all good

Preheat the oven to 375. Cream the butter and the sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.  Beat in the vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients: flour, oatmeal, chips, baking soda and salt – include any extra mix-ins at this point. Beat on medium until everything in incorporated.

Drop by generous teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. I like to underbake them (for gooey centers) so I check them at 8-10 minutes. When they are done to your liking, remove them and let them cool. Make sure they are completely cool until stacking them in your cookie jar. It’s perfectly acceptable to taste them to determine the appropriate temperature for storage. . .

So because I was feeling a sprocky the other day, I added 3 T. of Hershey Special Dark Cocoa. If you like brownie-type cookies underbake them by 2-3 minutes. They will crisp as they cool.

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Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake Little House by the Dunes

Pudding cakes are one of those old-fashioned desserts that deserve to be more popular. My grandma didn’t make desserts all that often, but when she did this was one of them. I have always loved it. It looks like a hot mess when you’re putting it together, but in the oven that dark energy goes to work and magically separates the layers with a moist cakey layer resting on top of hot fudge.  This recipe is a hybrid of my grandma’s recipe and one that is in my BHG Family Desserts cookbook. I like this version because it’s a lot lighter on the sugar then the original, but they are very close in taste and texture. Plus it goes together in under 10 minutes!

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake Recipe (Six Servings)

For the batter:

3 T.  cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)

2 T. olive oil

1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. milk

1/3 c. sugar

2 t. baking powder

1 t. vanilla

For the fudge:

1 c. boiling water

1/3 c. brown sugar

2 T. cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Combine all the batter ingredients in a bowl and stir quickly to combine. You could also add some chopped pecans here if you like.

Sorry about the photo, this time of year the sun comes straight in. Grease an 8″ square pan and pour in the batter.

Mix the fudge ingredients together. At this point it will look like something has gone horribly wrong, but that’s part of the magic.

Take a deep breath and gently pour it all over the cake batter in the pan.

I know, it’s not pretty. Just stick it in the oven and close the door. Bake for 30 minutes. When you take it out it will be “quivery” as my daughter says. That’s okay.

It’s best to rest this dessert 15-20 minutes, because the fudge on the bottom will thicken as it cools a bit.

Spoon it out into dishes. I like to flip it over so the fudge is on top, and add a scoop of ice cream because I’m a lily-gilder from way back. (This is happens to be cookie dough ice cream. . .ahem).

Hot fudge pudding cake – what’s not to love?

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Basic Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate Ganache, Little House by the Dunes

I’m starting this blog off right with one of the secrets of the Universe.  At lukewarm, this ganache makes terrific hot fudge. Cooled to spreadable, it’s a beautiful frosting. Once it’s hardened, truffle centers.

Chocolate Ganache, Basic Recipe

12 oz. chopped chocolate (any kind, obvs, the better the chocolate the better the ganache)

1/2 pint heavy cream

1 T. butter

1 t. vanilla

Put everything but the vanilla in a pan and slowly warm it, whisking as the chocolate melts. At first it will look like a disaster, but keep going.

Keep going, and you will end up here:

Whisk in the vanilla. You can speed up the cooling by sticking it in the fridge but keep an eye on it. If it’s too cold it will get too hard to spread.

I iced 30 regular size cupcakes and 42 mini cupcakes with this recipe. I have used everything from Hershey’s (for class parties) to Valrhona (for weddings) and it comes out perfect every time.