Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

We spent spring break at home last week, and I have to admit I dreaded it a tiny bit. My kids usually have a gang of friends in our neighborhood to hang with, but it seemed like they all flew south for a taste of warm sun, leaving my brood in a state of social withdrawal. I imagined long rainy days stuck inside while their boredom escalated to deafening levels.

Fortunately, my sister-in-law L flew in from Portland to entertain and play with us – happiness all around!

I came home one afternoon to find her in the kitchen with the kids, applying lashings of creamy frosting to the tops of just-baked little chocolate cupcakes, something I know an attentive Mrs. Cleaver might attempt with her family, but I never seem to. That must be what aunts are for, I think.

The cupcake recipe is from Dorie Greenspan’s fantastic book Baking: From My Home to Yours. Dorie is a perfectionist, and her recipes are crafted to a precise “T”. Perfect recipe instructions are especially important in baking recipes; those chemical reactions that happen in the oven rely on exact measurements of ingredients, time and temperature.

These cupcakes are no exception; they turned out just as promised – dark, moist, not too sweet – glazed with a shiny, bakery-like chocolate frosting. L sprinkled some colored candy sprinkles on the cupcakes, reserving a few with a sprinkle of sea salt, a just reward for the adults in need of a chocolate fix.

French Lemon Yogurt Cake

Getting ready for baking

I’ve been hauling Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Baking From My Home to Yours around the house (it’s heavy) for weeks now. I look at it while I’m drinking my morning tea and I get all geared up to bake something. I take butter and eggs out of the fridge to come to room temperature and I turn on the oven.

And then my day happens. The butter sits there until dinner time, looking all sad and flaccid. That’s when I face the fact that there’ll be no baking today, again. I heft the book back upstairs for some bedtime reading, and I fall asleep dreaming of French Yogurt Cake.

I think the only reason I got around to making this cake today is that I had a half-cup of Total Greek yogurt left in the container, which is just exactly the required amount for this cake. So I seized the moment!

There are a few very nice things about this cake:

1. You don’t need to soften butter.
2. There is no electric mixer needed.
3. You have to massage lemon zest into a bowl of sugar.

If you’ve never rubbed lemon zest between grains of sugar, you haven’t lived. It’s smells way better than that aromatherapy pillow I get to wear around my neck while I’m getting a pedicure.

Dorie’s recipe calls for a lemon marmalade glaze, but I didn’t have any lemon marmalade, so I took her suggestion and topped it with a mixture of crème fraiche, lemon juice and confectioner’s sugar. Somehow that makes it seem really French. She also says this cake is even better the next day. Great! I’ll have a thick slice with my tea while I dream about my next baking project.

Lemon-Scented Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Baking: From my home to yours by Dorie Greenspan.
The author describes this simple cake as a cross between pound and sponge cake.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely ground almonds, or substitute another 1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
1/2 cup crème fraiche
2-3 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Center an oven rack and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a standard loaf pan and place on a baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, almonds, baking powder and salt.

Put sugar in a large bowl with the zest and rub with your fingertips until sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the yogurt, eggs and vanilla and whisk until blended. Whisk in the oil. Add the flour mixture and fold with a spatula or wooden spoon.

Scrape the batter into pan and bake 50 – 55 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes. Run a blunt knife around edges before unmolding onto a rack to cool, right side up.

Combine crème fraiche, sugar and lemon juice and spoon over cake.

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food