Dark Chocolate-Cherry Cake

The setup:

For cake ~

2 cups boiling water
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

For frosting ~

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk
Enough juice from a jar of maraschino cherries to reach spreading consistency

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wrap the bottoms of 4 mini springform pans with foil; generously butter foil and sides of pans and set aside.  In a medium bowl combine boiling water and cocoa powder; mix well and let cool.  In another bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  Cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each.  Add vanilla; mix well.  Alternately add cocoa and flour mixtures, mixing well after each addition.  Fill pans halfway (there will be extra batter); place on a baking sheet and bake 25-35 minutes, or until toothpicks come out clean.  Let cool in pans on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then gently remove them.  Let cool completely on wire rack.  Repeat with remaining batter (I made a single-layer 9-inch cake instead, baking about 30-35 minutes).

In a large bowl beat shortening and vanilla for about 30 seconds.  Slowly add powdered sugar and milk.  Beat in cherry juice until it reaches the desired consistency.  Spread or pipe over cooled cakes.  Garnish with chocolate shavings or mini-chips and cherries.

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Mochaccino Cupcakes w/Coffee Buttercream

The setup:

For cake ~

1/4 cup butter
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped

For frosting ~

1/3 cup butter
4 cups powdered sugar
3 Tbsp strong brewed coffee, cooled
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Line 30 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper liners.  Stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking, powder, and salt.  In a 2-cup measuring glass combine milk and coffee.  Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium till combined.  Scrape bowl, beat two minutes more.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.  Alternatively add flour mixture and milk mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just until combined.  Stir in chocolate pieces.
Spoon batter into baking cups, filling about three-fourths full.  Bake 15-18 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly touched.  Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on rack.

For frosting, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Gradually add 1 cup powdered sugar, beating well.  Beat in coffee and vanilla.  Gradually beat in remaining 3 cups powdered sugar.  If necessary, beat in additional coffee until buttercream reaches a spreading consistency.  Pipe or spread on cooled cupcakes.  If desired, top cakes with additional cocoa powder and insert a Pirouette cookie.

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Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes

The setup:

For cake ~

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup water

For frosting ~

1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
2 cups semisweet chocolate pieces
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

For cake ~

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.  In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

Beat butter with an electric mixer on high speed for 30 seconds.  Add sugar; beat till well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in chocolate and vanilla.  Add dry mixture and water alternately to the beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just till combined.

Fill each paper-lined muffin cup about half-full, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

For frosting ~

In a medium heavy saucepan, bring whipping cream and corn syrup to a simmer.  Remove from heat.  Stir in chocolate pieces and vanilla; let stand for two minutes.  Whisk till smooth and melted.  Cover and chill for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it reaches spreading consistency, stirring occasionally.  Beat with an electric mixer till fluffy.

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Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies

The setup:

12oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp Roasted Saigon cinnamon
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Melt 8oz chocolate; set aside.  Coarsely chop remaining 4oz chocolate; set aside.  In a small bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, chili powder, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat together butter and sugars till well combined.  Add eggs and vanilla; mix well.  Add melted chocolate; mix well.  Gradually add flour mixture, beating till well combined.  Stir in chopped chocolate with a wooden spoon.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared sheets.  Bake 10 minutes, or until bottoms are set.  Let cool on sheet for a minute or two, then move to a wire rack and cool completely.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen.

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Beef Stir-fry

The setup:

1 pound sirloin steak, sliced in thin strips
Soy sauce
1 tsp Sri Racha sauce
2 tsp red pepper flakes
Olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
8oz whole mushrooms, sliced
1 each red, yellow, and green bell pepper, sliced

Directions:

Place sliced steak in a small bowl.  Add enough soy sauce to coat evenly, and add Sri Racha sauce and red pepper flakes; set aside.
Drizzle a small amount of oil in a large skillet and set over high heat.  Add marinated meat to skillet and cook to desired doneness, turning only a few times to get a good sear.  Remove meat and its juices from skillet into a clean bowl.
Add carrots, mushrooms, and peppers to the same skillet and cook till tender, adding more oil if needed.  Return meat and juices to the pan and cook till heated through.

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Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

The setup:

For cake ~

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk**
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 oz red food coloring 

For frosting ~

1 cup shortening
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3-4 Tbsp milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat butter on high speed 30 seconds.  Add brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt; beat till combined.  Add egg and vanilla, mix well.  Add buttermilk and flour alternately, mixing well on low speed after each addition.  Beat in red food coloring.

Place batter in rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.  Bake 7-10 minutes, or until bottoms are set.  Let cool on pan 2 minutes, then cool on wire racks completely.

For frosting, beat together shortening and extracts.  Add half the powdered sugar, mix well.  Gradually add remaining sugar.  Add milk 1 Tbsp at a time until it reaches a spreadable consistency.

Yields about 36-40 cakes, or 18-20 sandwiches.

**To make sour milk, pour 1/2 Tbsp vinegar into a measuring cup.  Add enough milk to total 1/2 cup of liquid.

NOTE:  There will be a LOT of frosting.  Make two batches of cakes if you don’t plan on storing the leftover frosting.  For more uniform cakes, use a cookie scoop or a Tbsp measuring spoon when placing the batter on the cookie sheets.

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Herbed Tofu Cakes

The setup —

For cakes —
1 16-oz package firm tofu, drained and pressed
2/3 cup finely shredded carrot
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup snipped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp snipped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, minced (or 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 of a cucumber, chopped
1/2 of a mango, peeled, seeded, and chopped

For dipping sauce —
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp chili garlic sauce

Directions —

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl mash tofu with a fork. Add carrot, green onions, cilantro, mint, garlic, flour, and 2 Tbsp soy sauce; stir to combine.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Tightly pack tofu mixture into a 1/4-cup measuring cup, tap onto the skillet or a plate to unmold. Place 5 patties in the skillet, and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until browned and heated through. Remove to a baking sheet; keep warm in oven while cooking the remaining 5 patties.

For the Dipping Sauce, stir together 4 Tbsp soy sauce, 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, and 1 tsp chili garlic sauce. To serve, top tofu cakes with cucumber and mango. Serve with more fresh chopped mint (if you like) and Dipping Sauce.

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