Cocoa Pumpkins

I recently read on the Cupcake Project that because I have a food blog, I can do whatever the heck I want involving food. Given this permission, I thought it’d be a good time to start the pumpkin season (I’m aware it’s only August, but I love pumpkin the way I love peanut butter…and also, I can do whatever the heck I want involving food). I also prepared pumpkin pancakes for our guests last weekend, and I couldn’t bear to let the remaining pumpkin puree go to waste. I had a small portion of chocolate ganache left over from my Peanuts cake so I figured I’d try a little experiment-cocoa and pumpkin.

No, no, that’s Coco and pumpkin.

This is cocoa and pumpkin. Two fabulous ingredients blended together into one delightful little cupcake…that I hated. As you can see from the picture above, the cupcakes look lovely, and they’re moist and fluffy and pumpkin. Something was just off for me….

Mmm chocolate!

…I even dipped them in chocolate ganache…

Ooh whipped cream frosting!

…and topped them with a fabulous cinnamon whipped cream cheese frosting…

…and still nothing. I just couldn’t fall in love with these. Why am I still posting them, you ask? Because someone once told me that just because I don’t like it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good. I thought some of the more adventurous bakers out there may enjoy this because surely I do not. Anyway, I’ll pumpkin-up in the next few months with some fabulous, delicious things 🙂

Cocoa Pumpkin Cupcakes

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

For the Cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 batch of chocolate ganache

For the Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

How to Do It

  1. Line two muffin pans with paper liners, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a small mixing bowl, and set aside. Lightly whisk the pumpkin, buttermilk, and vanilla extract together in a separate bowl, and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars together using the whip attachment in a stand-mixer or whip with an electric hand mixer. Gradually add the eggs one at a time, and add the yolk. Once the eggs are blended, scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Add approximately 1/3 of the flour mixture to the bowl, and whip at low speed. Alternately add 1/2 of the pumpkin mixture and 1/3 of the flour mixture until all the ingredients are combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  5. Use and ice cream scoop to scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each liner no more than 2/3 full. Bake the cupcakes for 28 minutes, rotating the pan once at the halfway point, or until the tops spring back when lightly pressed.
  6. While the cupcakes are baking, make the frosting. Whip the heavy cream and granulated sugar at high speed until stiff peaks begin to form, and the whipped cream is heavy and thick. Set the whipped cream aside. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the paddle attachment of a stand-mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Blend the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, and cinnamon in a small bowl, and begin adding the mixture to the cream cheese 1/4 cup at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary, and when the ingredients are fully combined, remove the bowl from the mixer and begin to fold the whipped cream in with a sturdy rubber spatula. Chill the frosting in the refrigerator in a stainless steel bowl while the cupcakes finish baking and cooling.
  7. Remove the cupcakes from the oven, and let them cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling. When the cupcakes are cool, dip the tops in chocolate ganache. This is easiest when you dip the cupcakes upside down into a shallow bowl of chocolate ganache, and spin them until they’re completely covered. Chill the dipped cupcakes for 15 minutes or until the ganache layer has hardened. Top with cream cheese frosting, and serve immediately.

Recipe adapted from

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Love & Peanut Butter

Hello there! It’s been awhile!

This hostess-with-the-mostess hosted her fiance’s five closest friends and two sisters this past weekend to celebrate his 29th birthday. In a one-bedroom house. With one bathroom and no air-conditioning (minus the bedroom). If you did your addition correctly, you would know that was 9 people total sharing those accommodations plus my two furry children. There was only one monster birthday cake I could think of that would be able to take on that kind of crowd:

The “Honey I’m Peanuts About You!” cake. This recipe has a terribly corny (or nutty…?) name, but it’s a fabulous concoction of chocolate ganache, peanut butter buttercream, moist chocolate cake, and honey roasted peanuts. It takes the combination of peanut butter and chocolate one step further by incorporating the honey roasted peanuts, and the salty sweetness keeps it from tasting too over-indulgent. I made the cake for the first time two years ago for my honey’s birthday when I was still an amateur baker who was more interested in decorating than creating. I guess I still am an amateur baker…unless a paid internship counts. Anyway, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks since then that doubled the appeal and quality of this cake this time around, and I’m prepared to share them with you so you can delight in the peanut buttery goodness too.

As a side note-it’s more than a coincidence that I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my life with a man who is as obsessed with peanut butter and chocolate as I am. What the heck would I do with a guy who only liked vanilla?

“Honey, I’m Peanuts About You!” Cake

Stuff You’ll Need

Makes one 9-inch cake with 12-16 servings

For the Cake

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups hot, strong coffee or espresso
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, sifted or chunks removed
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 9″ round cake pans, greased and lined with parchment paper

For the Buttercream

  • 18oz jar of creamy peanut butter
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted

For the Ganache

  • 24oz semisweet chocolate chips or chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup (12oz) heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 12oz package of honey roasted peanuts, roughly chopped or broken (see tips below)

How to Do It

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Dissolve the cocoa and the buttermilk into the hot coffee or espresso, and set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and set aside.
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer at medium speed for 5-6 minutes, or until the ingredients are light and fluffy. Slowly add the eggs and vanilla extract to the mixture, and scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary to incorporate all the ingredients.
  5. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and begin alternately folding in the dry and wet ingredients. This works best if you use a heavy rubber spatula and alternate folding 1/3 of the dry ingredients with 1/2 of the wet ingredients. The batter will be lighter than an average cake batter, but be careful not to overmix. The cake should be very moist when it’s fully baked which won’t happen if the batter is overmixed.
  6. Pour half the batter in each prepared pan, and bake for 40-42 minutes, rotating the pan at approximately 20 minutes. Test for doneness by sticking a fork or toothpick into the center of each cake. Remove from the oven, and allow the cake to cool completely in the pan on a baking rack.
  7. While the cake is baking, cream the butter and peanut butter together using the paddle attachment of a stand mixer until ingredients are completely blended and very creamy, 4-5 minutes. Remove the paddle attachment, and replace it with the whip attachment (if you’re using an electric mixer, you don’t have to worry about switching). Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar 1/2 cup at a time while continuously whipping the buttercream. The buttercream should be spreadable but not soft and should be similar to the texture of a thick peanut butter. If it’s still too soft after 2 1/4 cups of confectioner’s sugar are added, add more sugar 1/4 cup at a time until the desired consistency is reached. When you’ve finished whipping the buttercream, set it aside until the cake has completely cooled.
  8. Make the ganache while the cake is cooling. Place the chocolate in a large stainless steel mixing bowl, and place the heavy cream and butter in a small sauce pan. Heat the cream over medium-high heat until it begins to thicken and boil. When the cream begins to rise quickly to the top of the pan, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate immediately. Allow the chocolate to rest with the hot cream for 5-10 minutes before stirring. At this point, use a heavy wire whisk to blend the chocolate and cream until the mixture is consistent and creamy. Place the bowl in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes before using. The final consistency of the ganache will be similar to a canned chocolate frosting-spreadable but solid.
  9. When the cake has cooled completely, gently remove it from the pan, and using a sharp knife or cake leveler, split each layer in half horizontally. Place the first layer on a cake stand or flat plate, and generously top with peanut butter buttercream. Gently spread the buttercream over the layer to completely cover it, and place the second layer on top. Repeat until you’ve place the final layer on top of the cake. Spread a generous portion of the cooled chocolate ganache on the top and sides of the cake until it’s completely covered, and while the chocolate is still soft, cover the sides with chopped honey roasted peanuts.
  10. Cover the cake (this is easiest in a cake caddy so the sides do not touch anything), and refrigerate for at least three hours up to overnight before serving. You can freeze the cake for up to 4 hours also if you’re able to let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. This firms up all the layers and makes it extra indulgent!

Recipe adapted from

Tips & Treats

    Honey roasted peanuts are delightful…but they’re not easy to “chop” unless you have one of those handy-dandy slap-chop things. If you’re aren’t that lucky, put them in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, sealed with as much air pressed out as possible, and use a rolling pin to roll over them several times. This will give you fine pieces to cover the sides of the cake with, and be sure to press them on while the ganache is still soft.

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