Chocolate-Orange Ricotta Cupcakes

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I can’t believe I haven’t posted about these before– these are some of my very favorite cupcakes. Cupcakes that are soft and warm and full of chocolate; cupcakes that contrast the rich creaminess of ricotta with the slight bitterness of good marmalade; cupcakes that one of my coworkers has dubbed “the best cupcakes in the world.” And you can have them out of the oven and ready to eat in an hour.

The base of the recipe is from a lovely blog I read, Orangette, but I’ve tweaked it just a bit to make it a little more decadent (though you’ll still need to go out and buy ricotta). The result is fantastic– if you’ve ever daydreamed about crossing a fresh cannoli with warm chocolate cake, this is what you’d get. They’re wonderful as-is, but if you ever wanted to gild the lily, you could top them with a thin drizzle of chocolate ganache, and watch your dinner guests go into a chocolate coma!

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Chocolate Orange Crinkle Cookies

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For Christmas this year I promised my daughter that we would bake cookies for Santa Claus. Of course she wanted to get really hands-on about it, so I had to choose a recipe that was easy to make and easy to handle, even for kids. Enter the chocolate crinkle cookie. I’d never made them before, but I’d eaten plenty and they were delicious– and the “rolling in sugar” step looked like something kids would really enjoy!

However, recipes seemed to fall into two categories– those with butter and those with oil. How to choose? Ordinarily I would be butter all the way, because it just tastes better in a cookie. On the other hand, oil would make the dough a lot easier to make (no softening and creaming of butter), and the cookies would likely stay moist longer. I decided to go for an oil-based recipe.

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

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Since my husband is a huge fan of peanut butter and chocolate, I always try to make him a peanut butter and chocolate cake for his birthday. So when I saw this one on Smitten Kitchen, especially once I realized it used my favorite chocolate cookie recipe as a base, I had to make it.

I really followed Deb’s recipe almost exactly (I increased the peanut butter cream recipe to use a whole pint of cream instead of 1 1/2 cups), so I’m not going to bother reproducing it here– just follow this link! But here are some photos of the process so you can see how it works!

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The finished cake is wonderful– light and creamy, yet still rich and decadent. And there’s something particularly indulgent about sliding your fork down through each distinct layer and feeling just the slightest resistance before the softened wafers give way, one by one. The peanut butter works nicely with the dark chocolate, though I still think this would be amazing using whipped cream spiked with Kahlua. I’ll have to give it a try sometime.

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Planet Cookies

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I recently co-hosted a baby shower for a friend of mine, who was expecting a baby boy. Seeing as she and her husband are huge Star Wars fans, we decided to make the shower space-themed. Of course I was in charge of desserts, and one of my contributions was this batch of planet cookies.

I started off with my favorite chocolate cutout cookie recipe, which I cut into circles of varying sizes and baked. Then I made a batch of my cream cheese fondant and tinted it yellow, blue, green, and red.

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Chocolate Blueberry Pudding

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It’s become kind of a family tradition to go peach picking every summer, since my preschooler is fully capable of devouring up to four peaches a day and adores picking fruit of all kinds. However, due to an early frost this year the entire local peach crop was destroyed, so we decided to go blueberry picking instead. She had a great time, eating them right off the bush and “looking out for bears.” (because we’ve read Blueberries for Sal)

Once we arrived home with our giant 5-lb bucket of blueberries, I was informed by my daughter that we would be making pudding. Blueberry pudding. With chocolate. I’d never really heard of a chocolate blueberry pudding before, but hey, we had five pounds of berries, we could afford to give it a shot. I decided to go really simple, with a basic cornstarch-thickened pudding poured over whole blueberries– I could’ve made an egg-yolk-thickened custard with real chocolate and a berry coulis, but we’re talking about a four-year-old here, she wasn’t going to appreciate the finer details and would probably prefer the basic dessert.

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Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

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Every now and then I like to bring in treats to work– sometimes it’s because I have extra ingredients, sometimes it’s a holiday, or sometimes I just feel like baking something I don’t want to finish eating myself. This was basically all three– I made these for St. Patrick’s Day but didn’t get around to blogging about them until now. They’re miniature chocolate cupcakes, made with chocolate stout beer in the batter, and more in the frosting. I admit that I couldn’t taste the beer in the finished cake, but the frosting made up for it by providing just enough deep, slightly bitter flavor.

Usually I make cupcakes full-sized, but for workplace treats I tend to go mini– that way people don’t feel guilty eating one (or more!) Also, they’re so darned cute…

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Teddy Bear Mugs n’ Hugs Cookies

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I was inspired to make these by a video one of my friends posted on my Facebook page, showing adorable teddy bear cookies that you can hang off the side of a mug.

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Knowing my daughter’s love for both hot cocoa and animal-shaped food, I knew that these would be appearing in my kitchen at some point. I also couldn’t help but notice that the teddy bears would be perfect for making these bear-shaped cookies hugging almonds, which I’ve also seen around and coveted, so it would be like killing two birds with one stone, right?

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I went on Amazon and bought the Rilakkuma cutter set (which would also come in handy for cute bento lunches), and I was off!

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