Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back Bay Boston Chocolate Tour: A Perfectly Delicious Use of a Saturday

Can you think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than strolling around Boston sampling gourmet chocolates with other fellow-chocolate lovers? I can't either....and for me, this Saturday was the day my dream turned into a sweet reality.

After picking up heavily discounted tickets to take a Boston Chocolate Tour (thank you, Rue La La), I treated my mom to their Back Bay tour this weekend. The weather was gorgeous and the agenda (nine stops all within a mile boasting the best of the best in espresso, truffles, skin care and cookies) was more than appealing.

The tour was informative, fun and filling - we were stuffed with cocoa by the end of our journey! Our tour guide and other tour members were wonderful, too. What a special day to share with my Mother - the woman who passed down her chocoholic genetics unto me.

What an amazing holiday gift this would make for someone you really care about.  What better gift is there than a chocolate-filled day of memories? Gift certificates to the Boston Chocolate Tours are available on their website: Boston Chocolate Tours

A recap of our travels is featured after the break:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ultimate Indulgence: Chocolate Almond Buttercream Frosting

I am in love with chocolate - that's no secret.  But for me, the perfect marriage of chocolate with chocolate comes in the form of a cupcake adorned with a generous dollop of rich, fudge-like chocolate almond frosting.

Now, for those of you who claim to be almond haters - listen up. You don't  know what you're missing! Especially when pairing the sweet yet strong flavor of almond with all the glory that is cocoa. The chocolate brings out the best in the almond, the almond brings out the rockstar in the chocolate.

This chocolate almond buttercream frosting is fast to make and impossible to resist.   I literally make it at least twice a month!  Keep this recipe on file...better yet, type it up in size 20 font and stick it smack dab on the front of your fridge. When your chocolate craving strikes, you'll need this recipe handy!

Chocolate Almond Buttercream Frosting

1 C. (2 sticks) butter, softened
3 1/2 C. confectionery sugar
1/2 C. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. almond extract
3 tbsp. milk (whole milk is best in baked goods & frosting)

With an electric mixer, beat butter until soft and creamy.  Add in confectionery sugar 1/2 cup at a time (mixing at a slow speed to avoid having your kitchen look like the Swiss Alps). Add in 3 tbsp. milk. Mix well.

Add in cocoa. Mix well.  Add in salt & almond extract. Mix well.

Frosting will be slightly thick and fudge like, but should be easy to spread.  If frosting is too thick, add a 1/2 tsp. of milk in at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Voila. Chocolate lovers, rejoice.

For a fun look, top your frosted cupcakes with bright sprinkles.

For a sophisticated look, top your frosted cupcakes with slivered almonds.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Spice Cake Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Fall is here! Although, in Massachusetts you wouldn't know it with temperatures reaching in to the sixties over the past few days, mid-November has never felt so good.

Although the thermometer is putting my mind in Labor-Day mode, the calendar is telling me it's time to buckle down and embrace some fall flavors.

Spice cake embodies the season's flavors at their best.  Hearty, sensual, comforting ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar come together and put your taste buds in a daze. The cinnamon cream cheese frosting will intensify your daze to the point of a utopian, autumnal coma.

Spice Cake Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

For the cakes:
1/2 C. butter
1 1/2 C. brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup (8 oz) sour cream

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. butter
3 3/4 C. confectionery sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using an electric  mixer, cream together butter and brown sugar in a large bowl. Add in eggs one at a time & mix well. Add vanilla. Mix all dry ingredients (flour, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda & salt) in a separate bowl.  Slowly add half the dry ingredients to the batter. Mix well. Add in sour cream. Mix well. Add in the rest of the dry mix to the batter. Mix well.

Line two cupcake trays (standard size) with paper liners). Fill each cup only about 1/2 way. This batter grows a lot when baking! Bake for 16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Beat cream cheese & butter with an electric mixer until smooth. Add confectionery sugar a 1/2 cup at a time until mixed well. Add vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until frosting is fluffy. Frost cakes with a piping bag or offset spatula

For an extra touch - make decorative "leaves" by rolling out soft caramel candies and cutting them out with a small leaf cookie cutter. Use the blade of a knife to add details to the leaves.