MSC: Candied Sweet Potato Cupcakes

My second MSC post! MS Cupcakes Club is another online baking group where, once a month, we bake cupcakes from Martha Stewart's fabulous cupcake book. Last month was pumpkin cupcakes, and in keeping with the holiday theme, this month's selection is Candied Sweet Potato Cupcakes.

Now I wouldn't normally associate sweet potatoes (as much as I love them) with cupcakes. But they made them really soft and moist, and added great flavor. The cupcakes are topped with mini marshmallows that have been "toasted" in the broiler. It was a little tough to get the mounds of marshmallows to stay together long enough to stick the pan in the broiler... and they certainly didn't take long to brown! I was afraid that once cooled the marshmallows would have a funny texture or would harden back up, but they stayed soft and gooey, and were a great addition to the cupcakes.

These would be great for Thanksgiving, or any fall party. Thanks to Karen from Karen's Cookies, Cakes & More for this month's selection!

TWD: Cran-Apple Crisps

I've never been much for crisps. If I'm going to eat dessert, I've always steered towards chocolate, peanut butter, and the like. I enjoy an occasional slice of apple pie a la mode, but generally speaking I like my fruit plain, simple, and undoctored.

So I wasn't particularly excited about this TWD recipe (chosen by Em of The Repressed Pastry Chef - a super cute blog!) Mr. LITK on the other hand, he like fruit desserts. So I figured if nothing else he was sure to like it. Well I was wrong... he loved it! And I thought it was pretty tasty too!

I quartered the recipe and split it into two ramekins. As you can probably guess by the name, the recipe calls for diced apples and whole cranberries, as well as dried cranberries or raisins. The crumble is a basic mix of flour, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon... with the addition of coconut and ginger (yum!). I had most of the ingredients, but no cranberries.... so off I went to the grocery store.

Now I live in a major metropolitan area. And I go to one of those giant chain grocery stores (Dominicks's if you must know). So one would think that I could find just about anything. Wrong. Remember the marscapone from a few recipes back... no where to be found. I was expecting, what with Thanksgiving right around the corner, that cranberries would be in great abundance. I checked the produce section: no fresh cranberries. Then I checked the freezer section: no frozen cranberries. Then I asked a remarkably friendly clerk: he looked at me like I was crazy and directed me to the jellied cranberry. So I had to improvise. I bought a can of whole cranberry sauce, thinking I could strain off the sauce and have whole cranberries left. What I learned was that whole cranberry sauce is basically jellied cranberry... with a few berries scattered throughout. And its not meant to be strained. But I managed to get a few cranberries out of it, and added in some dried cherries and the raisins.

Overall it turned out to be a nice mix and the crisps were delicious. We ate them hot out of the over with a big dollop of whipped cream - yum! Definitely a great cold weather treat!


TWD: Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake

For this week's TWD challenge, I decided on the Chocolate Caramel Chestnut Cake chosen by Kayta of Second Dinner. (Remember, for November we can bake the four recipes in any order we choose!) I was at my parents' house this weekend, and decided it was a good time to bake a cake - and to have three other people to help me eat it!

This is not the kind of cake you throw together on a whim. If company shows up unexpectedly, you do NOT whip up the chocolate caramel concoction. It's elaborate. And expensive. And time consuming. There are 20 ounces of chocolate and more than four sticks of butter in this baby! It's definitely a special occasion kind of cake.

Unfortunately, I wasn't too thrilled with the results. The overall consensus was that it was way too rich and buttery for our liking. Now I did make several substitutions, which probably didn't help matters. And I was also rushed for time. But I'm not sure I'll be making this cake again anytime soon!

For starters, I couldn't find chestnut spread and I wasn't about to order it online. So I used peanut butter and peanuts in place of the chesnut spread and chestnuts. In the P&Q some of the other bakers mentioned that chestnut spread has a high fat content (more so than pb?)... which might be why my cake dried out a bit, despite the 2 1/4 sticks of butter! The middle was pretty good, but the edges were a little crispy. I also didn't make the brandy syrup, which probably would have helped.

My favorite part of the cake was the ganache that went between the layers of cake. It started with a stovetop caramel, then cream, chocolate and (of course) butter. The chocolate-caramel combination was delicious, but it was a little too buttery for me. I don't like to actually taste the butter. It would be fantastic combined with powdered sugar to make a frosting though!

The glaze was also pretty tasty on its own... but the whole things together was just too much. I also didn't cool the cake long enough, so when I assembled it the ganache started to melt and it turned into a little bit of a mess.

I'm thinking of making the holiday bundt cake for Thanksgiving... so next week will be cranberry-apple crisps. I've never made a crisp before, so wish me luck!


TWD: Sugar-Topped Molasses Spice Cookies

The month of November is a little bit different at TWD... we're allowed to bake the four recipes chosen for the month in any order we want. The choices for November are Chocolate Carmel Chestnut Cake, Cran-Apple Crisps, All In One Holiday Bundt Cake, and these cookies. How did I decide? Well the fun part of TWD is that I get to make a new recipe every week and bake along with lots of other fabulous bloggers... but this also means that we are never without treats in our house! I've been trying to halve recipes when I can, but I definitely take any opportunity to pawn the goodies off on other people... like my co-workers! We have a long meeting tomorrow afternoon so I figured these cookies would be a good pick me up.

As cookies go, I'm a fan of the chewy, gooey, and fresh from the oven variety. I've also been known to eat my fair share of dough before it even makes it in the oven! The recipe for these cookies says it makes 24 large flat cookies... I made mine a little smaller and didn't bake them quite as long in hopes that they wouldn't turn too crispy. I'd never baked with molasses before, but it gave the cookies a nice depth of flavor - sweet but still a little savory - and kept them nice and chewy in the middle. I also used only a teensy pinch of pepper and a sprinkle of allspice... and increased the cinnamon and nutmeg.

Overall these cookies were super tasty - they'd be great dunked in a cup of hot chocolate or made into ice cream sandwiches. Hopefully my co-workers like them!

Thanks to Pamela of Cookies with Boys for this selection - she'll be posting the recipe in a couple of weeks!