Chocolate Babka

Chocolate + bread = why didn’t I bake this before??

I’ve been looking forward to making this since I printed it out. Besides sounding delicious, the beautiful photos of swirly babka bread I found online are drool-worthy.

Side note – Can I just say how much fun baking bread is?? I keep renewing over and over again my Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book from the library (review here!). Something about the fact that yeast is ALIVE and you add stuff to make it grow and then enjoy what you’ve made is so awesome to me.

back to babka

This recipe had been sitting for a while in my to-bake pile, but when the Reddit bake challenge of Poland came up, I decided babka it is…and it must be chocolate babka!

As I’m typing this, I realize I have no idea if chocolate babka is authentically Polish, but either way it was delish!

If you’ve tried your hand at homemade cinnamon rolls, you’ll find these start off similarly – make your dough, let is rise, punch it down, roll it out and spread stuff on it, then roll it into a log. Babka differs in that you aren’t cutting the log into small circles, but instead cutting along the length of it and braiding together.

This recipe make 2 loaves, and practice apparently makes *improved* because my second loaf definitely looked more attractive than the first. I must make 10 more loaves of this bread to nail an appropriate swirl 🙂

It is so hard to wait for warm bread to cool before eating! It really was tastier after cooling. If we had a lot left, I’m pretty sure I would’ve cut it into slices and made French toast out of it 😉

Thank you to the recipe developers at King Arthur Flour – this one is yet another winner! Recipe here.


Dulce de Leche Shortbread Cookies

I’m not typically a shortbread fan, BUT these were pretty good! Perhaps it was the Mexican style caramel filling called Dulce de Leche that won me over 🙂

Reddit bake challenge this week was Mexico – I would assume to commemorate Cinco de Mayo. I’ve done Mexican chocolate type recipes and flan, but dulce de leche was new to me, so went with it.

Dulce de leche literally means “candy of milk.” SIGN ME UP! It is the color and consistency of creamy caramel, but definitely not quite the same flavor. You can buy it in cans (if you can find it!), but I just made it myself using this recipe. Super easy, as it’s literally heating sweetened condensed milk until it’s lightly brown.

After whipping up a shortbread dough, I used a melon baller to place a little indent inside and piped in some dulce de leche. A salty/sweet combo always rocks, so I went ahead and sprinkled on some flaked sea salt.

Shortbread still isn’t my favorite, but the sweet gooey moisture from the caramel really balances out the dry crumbly texture. These are worth making!

Recipe for homemade dulce de leche is here.

Recipe for the cookies are here.


Baking Fail – Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

This was a frustrating one 🙁  How did I get these melted snowballs in the first place? Read on!

I had some tasty leftover lemon curd from this recipe and because food waste drives me nuts, lemon meringue cupcakes seemed a perfect way to use it up completely. The cake was a yummy vanilla batter and I piped the rest of my lemon curd into the finished cupcakes. No baking fail to be seen. So far so good.

The crowning achievement of this recipe was to be the beautiful, lightly toasted meringue swirled perfectly on top. Unfortunately, the stars were not aligned, because said achievement didn’t materialize.

What happened, tiff? I’m dying to know!

After 15 minutes of beating whites to death and still not getting stiff peaks, I realized I was wasting my time. I either had a bit of fat in the bowl or on my beaters or too much moisture in the air, but either way it wasn’t going to happen. So I did what I usually do in times like these – I improvised!

Surely adding some butter to my soupy meringue would fix this problem. It will be a buttercream/meringue hybrid that I invented and would get wealthy when I sold the recipe to the highest bidder.

It actually tasted fine, like a light buttercream, and piped sorta okay onto the cupcakes. Now to complete my work of art, I decided to put this BUTTERcream/meringue mixture under a very hot broiler!

I did have this internal conversation right beforehand:  ‘Maybe this won’t work, because there’s now plenty of butter in here, and butter melts,’ but I did it anyway, because why not?

Within seconds, my piped swirls are smooth, bald-headed white caps. I now know I should’ve listened to my gut! I’m still learning this particular life lesson apparently 🙂

I could attempt these again, but I’m not about to whip up more lemon curd just to fill a cupcake. Maybe I’ll try in the future when I need to use up leftovers.

Copycat Hostess Cupcakes

I was never actually into the Hostess cupcakes that much as a kid. I was definitely more of a Nutty Buddy type. Wafers plus peanut butter plus fake chocolate tasted fabulous!

Now I prefer to bake stuff from scratch when I can, mainly because I like to know what’s in the food I’m eating and it’s weird that something can last for years on a shelf. Time for a copycat version that’s homemade!

This week’s Reddit bake challenge was childhood favorites. Hostess Cupcakes have been around quite a while and look really monochromatic and cool. My husband fondly remembers eating the rubbery chocolate layer off them first as a kid, so I’m going to assume these count as a childhood favorite 🙂

The Basics

Your cupcake base is a FABULOUS chocolate cake recipe simply in cupcake form. I actually use this particular recipe for all my chocolate cakes because it’s so good. Don’t be afraid of the instant espresso; you won’t taste it and it just intensifies the chocolate flavor.

Each little cake is filled with a simple 7-minute frosting, cooked over the stove and whipped. The recipe for that is here. Save your leftovers after filling them, cuz you’ll need it to pipe the little swirly on the top to decorate. They aren’t the real deal without the swirl 😉

They are all topped off with a 2-ingredient ganache. I used bittersweet chocolate chips, but I bet you’ll get an even more “authentic” flavor if you use semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips instead. Let them sit in the fridge for about 10 minutes to firm up the ganache, and pipe your curly-cues on top for the finishing touch with the leftover frosting.

(Weird measurements in the recipe are from scaling it for exactly 12 cupcakes; we definitely didn’t need 24 of these sitting around 🙂

The finished product really does taste amazing, and we had exactly none leftover from the dozen we made. There’s something SO satisfying about whipping up something that’s typically made in a factory 🙂




Print Recipe
Copycat Hostess Cupcakes
A homemade twist on the classic childhood favorite!
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Course Desserts
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
Course Desserts
Chocolate Cupcakes
Ganache Topping
copycat hostess chocolate cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcake Recipe
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large measuring cup, combine the milk, vegetable oil, vanilla, and 1 egg.
  4. Using a mixer, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until combined.
  5. Bring the 1/2 cup water to boil and add the espresso to it. Immediately add this to the batter and mix until combined. It will be thin and watery.
  6. Fill each cupcake liner with about 1/4 cup of batter.
  7. Bake about 18 minutes, until toothpick stuck in the center is mostly clean. Let cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack.
  8. When your cupcakes are cooled, get started on the 7-minute frosting. Recipe I used is up above in instructions, but any basic 7-minute frosting would be fine.
  9. If your cupcakes have a dome, use a serrated knife to shave a bit of the top off and level them. Now core out each cupcake for the filling. I just use a small metal veggie peeler and carve out of a little rough circle shape from the center of the cupcake. Fill with frosting.
Ganache Topping
  1. Place your chocolate in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Bring your heavy cream just barely to a simmer and take off the heat.
  3. Pour heavy cream over chocolate and cover the small bowl with a lid. Set aside for 3 minutes to soften the chocolate.
  4. Using a whisk, gently mix the cream and chocolate together in one direction, not vigorously. It will eventually come together in a smooth, glossy, beautiful ganache.
  5. Let cool for a few minutes until firmed up just a bit for spreading over cupcakes. I used an offset spatula to spread it just to the edges; dunking the whole cupcake upside down in the ganache resulted in a mess, so I would avoid that way with this recipe 🙂
  6. Put the ganache-covered cupcakes in the fridge for 10 minutes to firm up the ganache. Make the swirl on top using the leftover white frosting.
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Braided Lemon Bread

I’m on a lemon kick lately: Lemon macarons, lemon sugar cookies, and in the near future, a lemon cheesecake. I even bought 5 pounds of fresh lemons last time I went to Costco. WHAT IS MY PROBLEM? Maybe it’s the weather. Spring is ACTUALLY here and now I want bright, sunny citrus in my desserts. This braided lemon bread fits the bill!

The filling of this gorgeous bake is a light layer of cream cheese and homemade lemon curd. Feel free to just make the curd and eat it by itself, but it’s particularly yummy inside a loaf of bread 😉

Continue reading “Braided Lemon Bread”

Book Review – Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day

Is there a better smell than fresh baked bread? I think not! Well, probably, but for the purposes of this post, bread is the winner 😉

I’ve never been much of a bread maker. The pre-planning involved seemed too tedious, i.e. you must decide HOURS beforehand to bake some bread, let it rise sometimes twice, then bake, etc. There isn’t always time for that. Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day is the answer!

Continue reading “Book Review – Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day”

Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream

Need a dairy-free dark chocolate pastry cream to fill eclairs, cream puffs, or even a croquembouche? LOOK NO FURTHER!

This recipe was the result of not having enough cow’s milk to make a pastry cream. I had almond milk and as a substitute the results worked quite well! It is likely not quite as “rich” tasting, as almond milk is thinner, but still very yummy. I also like this recipe because it uses cocoa powder instead of melting chocolate, which I don’t always have on hand.

This, BTW, is thicker than a traditional chocolate pudding, on purpose. The sturdiness lends itself well to filling the inside of things. With enough cooling time to firm up, this would totally work in a dairy-free cream pie.




Print Recipe
Dairy-Free Dark Chocolate Pastry Cream
A nice firm pastry cream, perfect for the inside of cream puffs, eclairs, or even filling a pie!
Course Desserts
Course Desserts
  1. Place a fine mesh strainer inside of a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepan, off the heat, whisk together your dry ingredients: sugar, cornstarch, and cocoa.
  3. In a measuring cup, combine almond milk with egg yolks and vanilla extract.
  4. While whisking, drizzle your milk mixture into the saucepan. Try to get the lumps out the best you can.
  5. Place saucepan on medium high heat. Whisking constantly, cook until boiling. It will start to thicken up considerably. Cook 30 seconds longer while whisking. Remove from heat.
  6. Immediately strain the hot mixture into a bowl. This will remove all the bits of egg, cornstarch clumps, etc. ALTERNATIVE - if you want a cream pie, strain mixture directly into a ready-to-eat pie crust.
  7. Wait 5 minutes and cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap directly on it. This will prevent a "skin" from forming.
  8. Cool 2 hours and use to fill cream puffs, eclairs, or a cream pie.
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Croquembouche a.k.a. Cream Puff Tower

Week 13 bake challenge was Pate a Choux, also known as Cream Puff Pastry. A croquembouche (French for “crunch in the mouth”) is a tower of filled cream puffs, glued in a shape with hot caramel and decorated with thin strands of caramel. Can you believe this is considered a wedding cake in some places?? I had a blast making this and enjoyed the impressiveness of the finished product 🙂

I really needed this baking “win” this week, BTW. The past few days I attempted an orange pie (just meh), as well as lemon sweet rolls (also meh), and then the first batch of chocolate pastry cream was a dud, with zero flavor. So back to the drawing board, and I actually created a dairy-free dark chocolate pastry cream in its place, which is delicious!

For the cream puff pastry, I would recommend this one from King Arthur Flour (can’t seem to go wrong with many of their recipes!). Fill these with a vanilla pastry cream or another flavor; an excellent dark chocolate, dairy-free pastry cream recipe is here 😉

For the caramel glue, I used 2 cups of sugar with 1/2 cup of water boiled on the stove (without stirring, or you’ll crystallize it) until it’s a copper color. Plunge the bottom of the pan into a bowl of cold water to stop the caramel from cooking. Now get to work! Use tongs to dip your puffs and place them in a tower shape, i.e. more on the bottom and progressively fewer as you go up. Use some nonpareils for a different look, or fling strands of hot caramel around. I twirled a few bits of caramel around a cylinder to make some spirals.

A croquembouche is seriously a SHOWSTOPPER (any Great British Baking Show fans out there??) and so fun to just break off a hunk and eat. Enjoy!

Mint Chocolate Cream Pie

Fun fact about myself – I’m too cheap to buy cookbooks and only get them from the library. After dog-earring everything that looks fabulous, I’ll make copies to be placed in my TO-BAKE file.

This mint chocolate cream pie came into the world the same way! Being a big fan of Sally’s Baking Addiction blog, I was stoked to check out her book, Sally’s Candy Addiction. Candy recipes galore and even non-candy things like this pie. Right up my alley, as I *ahem* apparently have both a candy and a baking addiction.

This pie has a silky smooth chocolate filling with a crunchy, buttery crust. It also came together quickly and easily; just make sure you leave time for firming up in the fridge. The only bake time is the for Oreo crust, and I even bought mint Oreos to boost the mint flavor. However, this pie had a perfect amount of mint in it. Not at all overwhelming, but you definitely knew it was there.

A few things I did differently: The recipe calls for chopped semi-sweet chocolate added to the custard; I used chocolate chips and they worked just fine. I also prefer to strain my pudding, even though this recipe didn’t call for it. I’m glad I did it anyway because I prevented a whole bunch of little clumpy bits from messing up my smooth pudding.

In the future I’m going to attempt this minus the mint. I think it would make an awesome basic chocolate cream pie.

Check out the book here – or your library 😉



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