Valentine’s Day

Chocolate Cupcakes for My Little “Balemtime”

by Shawnda on February 13, 2014

in Cakes, Cupcakes & Brownies,Chocolate,Desserts,Valentine's Day

Chocolate Valentine's Cupcakes

“Is it Balemtime’s yet?! Can we make chocolate tweats?”

I didn’t think a 4-year-old could get more excited about something that wasn’t Christmas- or dinosaur-related. But I was wrong. It’s because there’s chocolate.

Chocolate Valentine's Cupcakes

And Master Yoda.

Yoda Best Valentine

She is my kid, after all. Although only one of us would choose broccoli & ranch over chocolate. Spoiler: IT’S NOT ME.

She picked out “chocolate writing cupcakes” to make for our friends after seeing a picture over my shoulder. And heart-shaped pancakes for Balemtime’s Dinner at home.

Chocolate Valentine's Cupcakes

Solid choices.

The one-bowl, deep, dark chocolate cupcakes are coated with an insanely messy chocolate glaze. Then decorated with melted white chocolate. Perfect for you and about 20 of your other favorite Valentines. I mean Balemtimes.

Chocolate Valentine's Cupcakes

Chocolate Valentine's Cupcakes

Rich chocolatey cupcakes, perfect for your Valentine.


  • For the cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (I used nonfat Greek yogurt)
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • For the glaze:
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp corn syrup
  • For writing:
  • 1-2 oz white chocolate, finely chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Line two muffin pans with cupcake liners (I got 21 cupcakes).
  3. Whisk the cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl until mixed well.
  4. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
  5. Scoop batter into the liners, filling ~2/3 full.
  6. Bake ~18 minutes, until the tops spring back when touched.
  7. Transfer to a rack and let cool completely.
  8. Microwave the heavy cream until hot, 1 minute.
  9. Add the chopped chocolate and corn syrup and let sit for 3 minutes.
  10. Stir until smooth. If there larger chunks remain, let the chocolate sit another minute or two.
  11. Let the glaze sit about 5 minutes and then dip the cooled cupcakes into the chocolate glaze, returning to the rack to set. You'll have leftover glaze.
  12. Microwave the white chocolate in a small bowl until melted and smooth.
  13. Transfer to a sandwich bag, twist the bag closed, and snip a very tiny corner off the bag.
  14. Decorate as desired.


Yields: ~21 cupcakes

Slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

Estimated time: 60 minutes



The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

Today is the very last Project Pastry Queen challenge. Over 2 years ago, Ashley and I met up in Austin to attend a cooking demo with The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather. I’d forgotten about several great recipes in the book and decided that I’d cook and bake all the way through the book.

100-ish recipes later, it is my most used, most stained, and most beloved cookbook.

The final challenge is pretty representative of the book: an involved, multistep, Texas-sized, show-stopping dessert with 9 eggs, 26 ounces of chocolate, 2+ sticks of butter, and 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream. Y’all…

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

It’s an intensely rich, dense, flourless chocolate cake that’s topped with a semisweet chocolate mousse, and then coated in a chocolate glaze. The Pastry Queen calls it The American Beauty Cake. My husband calls it The PMS Cake.

It’s similar to the Chocolate Overdose Cake but has one less component. And it’s one of those recipes that require you to read all the way through first because there’s an overnight step. One I missed last night but welcomed the “quiet time” in the kitchen this morning for a little baking therapy.

The Pastry Queen's American Beauty Cake

The cake is meant to be served from the freezer, so if – like me – you were born with a negative amount of will power, there’s still hope. I cut the cake into wedges, placed it on a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet, and froze the slices solid (~2 hours) before individually wrapping them in more plastic wrap.

Check out the other PPQ members’ take on American Beauty Cake. Thanks to all those who’ve baked and followed along with the project over the last couple of years. It has been fun.

I’ve already started to work up a fun twist for Project Pastry Queen, Part Deux. Stay tuned :)

American Beauty Cake

An intensely rich flourless chocolate cake, topped with mousse and a chocolate glaze.


  • For the cake:
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum or liqueur of choice
  • For the mousse:
  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) butter
  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • For the glaze:
  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • For serving
  • Fresh fruit, like raspberries (optional)


  1. Make the cake:Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line the bottom of a 9-inch sprinform pan (outside wrapped with a triple layer of foil to protect from leaks in the waterbath) with a parchment round and lightly spray the bottom/sides with baking spray.
  3. Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave in a large bowl, on 30-second intervals until melted.
  4. Whisk in the eggs and sugar until well combined.
  5. Stir in the vanilla and liqueur and then pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  6. Place the pan in a larger pan (like a 13x9) and fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come up level with the batter.
  7. Bake 35-40 minutes, until firm to the touch, and then remove from the oven (but let cool completely in the waterbath).
  8. After the cake cooled, I cut ~4-inch wide strips of parchment and lined the sides of the springform pan, pushing the parchment down between the cake and sides (shrinkage made this possible). This helped with removal later.
  9. Make the mousse:Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave, stirring until smooth; set aside to cool.
  10. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and vanilla together until smooth and then whisk in the chocolate mixture.
  11. Using a mixer, whisk the whites until stiff peaks form.
  12. Fold the egg whites in 3 batches into the chocolate. Once an addition is almost completely incorporated, add the next. The texture will look completely questionable but keep going. It gets better.
  13. Place the cream into the mixer bowl and whip that just until soft peaks start to form.
  14. Fold the whipped cream into the mousse mixture until the texture is uniform - you'll fold this much, much more than a more traditional mousse.
  15. Spread the mousse over the cooled cake, wrap the top with foil, and freeze overnight (at least 6 hours).
  16. Make the glaze:In a small sauce pan, bring corn syrup and cream just to a boil.
  17. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla and chocolate.
  18. Whisk until smooth and then let sit in the pan for 30 minutes to cool and thicken.
  19. Remove the cake from the freezer and turn it out onto a rack set on a baking sheet or on a cake plate, mousse-side on top - remove the ring and peel off the parchment sides.
  20. Pour the glaze into the center of the cake, letting it flood the top and run down the edges (it won't cover the sides completely).
  21. I put the cake in the fridge to set the glaze and then cut pieces for the freezer.
  22. To freeze the whole cake, chill the cake to set the glaze and then wrap with plastic wrap and freeze.
  23. The cake is recommended as best-served just minutes out of the freezer.


Yields: 14-16 slices

Source: The Pastry Queen

Estimated time: 8 hours



Coriander Crusted Salmon with Fennel Salsa Verde

I am a semi-reformed fennel hater. I don’t like black jelly beans. And I don’t like foods that remind me of black jelly beans. But I have found one way to prepare fennel that makes me want to eat embarrassing amounts of it.

But outside of that recipe, I do still kind of hate it.

Last spring, I attended a cooking class at Central Market that featured a menu built around Texas olive oils. As one of the assistant chefs plopped a tiny piece of salmon in front of me with a scary amount of fennel salsa verde, he said “the olive oil really tames the flavors of the raw shallot and fennel.”

Coriander Crusted Salmon with Fennel Salsa Verde

And he was not lying.

The salsa verde is loaded with fresh fennel, shallot, lemon juice, and capers. It’s fresh, crisp, and bright. The flavors, while strong, were perfectly complimented by the fruity olive oil. All of that deliciousness is piled on top of a piece of salmon that’s seared so that the dry coriander-fennel seed rub forms a wonderful, crispy crust.

It’s every bit as good as it sounds. And more. And if you’re still on the fence about fennel after taking one bite, you’ll probably never, ever like fennel :)

Coriander Crusted Salmon with Fennel Salsa Verde

Coriander and fresh fennel salsa verde brightens up salmon.


  • For the salmon:
  • 2 Tbsp coriander seed
  • 2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 6 salmon filets, 6 oz each
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • For the salsa verde:
  • 1/2 cup finely diced fennel
  • 1/2 cup finely diced shallot
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1 anchovy filet, minced or 1/2 tsp anchovy paste
  • Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp sherry or white wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  1. Place coriander and fennel in a small pan over medium high heat.
  2. Toast the seeds, shaking the pan frequently, until they begin to brown and are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Let cool a few minutes and then transfer to a grinder or small chopper and coarsley grind.
  4. Spread on a small plate and add the sat, pepper, and sugar, mixing well.
  5. Brush the salmon filets with olive oil and dip the top side of each filet into the spice mixture.
  6. Transfer the fish to a plate and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate while preparing the rest of the meal. (I cook 3 filets one night and keep the other seasoned filets on the plastic-covered plate in the fridge to cook for dinner the next night.)
  7. To make the salsa verde, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and toss gently. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  8. Preheat oven to 375.
  9. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in an oven-safe saute pan over medium-high heat until very hot.
  10. Place the salmon, coriander side down in the hot oil and sear for 2 minutes, until a nice brown crust forms.
  11. Flip the filets and transfer the pan to the oven, cooking for 6-10 minutes, until the fish flakes easily and the center is almost opaque.
  12. Divide the salmon between plates and top with a generous scoop of fennel salsa verde.


Yields: 6 servings

Adapted from Central Market's Texas Olive Harvest

Estimated time: 40 minutes

Nutritional Information
Calories: 365.9 | Fat: 17.2g | Fiber 1.1g | Protein 44.3g | Carbs 6.0g
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 9



Scallops with Blood Orange Salsa

I present to you the very original Red Food on Valentine’s Day recipe.

My favorite part of winter isn’t Christmas or Thanksgiving. Or the fact that it’s not 112 degrees out every day. Okay, maybe that is my favorite part of winter… but the bounty of winter citrus surely runs an extremely close second.

Our dwarf citrus trees worked hard this winter with a nice little crop of pink lemons, Meyer lemons, normal lemons, and key limes. When I mentioned to The Foodie Groom that I wanted a blood orange tree, he made a face. You know, that face.

The one that at first says, “You’re kidding me,” and then slowly morphs into the “You’re lucky we’re talking about citrus trees and not cats” face. I love that face :)

Blood oranges are one of my favorite citrus. Full disclosure, any citrus that I can make into a margarita is one of my favorite citrus :) The juice is a strikingly beautiful dark red and the flavors are light and fresh, perfect for complimenting mild seafood like scallops and tilapia.

The dish is beautiful, simple, and comes together really quickly. Serve it with a salad for a light lunch or dinner along side a bottle of white wine.

Or even better, a margarita!

Seared Scallops with Blood Orange Salsa

Seared scallops topped with a blood orange salsa, winter citrus and seafood come together for a light, fresh, and quick dinner.


  • 3 Tbsp Olive oil, divided
  • 1 blood orange
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 12 large scallops
  • 2 Tbsp sugar


  1. Take the zest of one blood orange and place it in a bowl.
  2. Set a strainer over the bowl and peel and segment the orange. Squeeze the juice from the leftover membranes into the bowl.
  3. Cut the segments into chunks and add to the bowl.
  4. Add the red onion, cilantro, lemon juice, and lightly toss with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Heat remaining oil on medium high.
  6. Pat scallops dry. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Spread sugar on a small plate and dip one side of each scallop into the sugar before placing it into the saute pan.
  7. Cook for 3 minutes on each side, until the scallops are nicely seared. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the scallops opaque almost all the way through (cut one with a knife to check).
  8. Remove from the pan and serve topped with salsa.


Yields: 3 servings

Source: Salsa from Confections of a Foodie Bride, Scallops adapted from Big Bowl of Love

Estimated time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information
Calories: 156 | Fat: 5.1g | Fiber 2.6g | Protein 10.6g | Carbs 17.8g
Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4