Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

Recently, I had the privilege and gift of studying for a week in the Essentials of Pastry Arts at the International Culinary Center in New York City. Once known as the French Culinary Center, ICC has some of the most renowned pastry chefs in the United States – such as Jacques Pepin and Jacques Torres. Their alumni are some of the most noteworthy in the food and hospitality industry. It was a week of intense learning as well as exploring an area of personal inadequacy. Give me a savory dish over a fancy rolled fondant cake anytime! But, little did I know what a week of good, concentrated study could do to boost my confidence. Leaning into our insufficiency can sometimes prove “sweet” results.

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Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes
Tip - use a digital scale to weigh these ingredients and always be sure to "tare" your scale after putting your mixing bowl on it; that is, reset the scale to "0" before you start measuring ingredients
SERVINGS
16cupcakes (approx.)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
cupcakes (approx.)
COOK TIME
15-20mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
45-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Grease 16 cupcake tin or line with muffin papers.
  3. In a bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, salt and baking soda.
  4. Combine butter, oil, cocoa powder, and water in a bowl and whisk until warm over a bain marie.
  5. Whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, and buttermilk until combined; add to butter mixture.
  6. Stir liquid ingredients into the sifted flour mixture until just combined.
  7. Portion the batter into the prepared cupcake molds until 3/4 full and bake in preheated oven for 15-20 min. (Bake as soon as you fill them; otherwise, they won't rise as much in the oven.)
  8. Test the cupcakes for doneness - your finger should bounce back to the touch.
  9. Immediately unmold the cupcakes onto a cooling rack Let them cool completely before icing.
Fudge Icing:
  1. Place all ingredients for the icing in a saucepan and warm, stirring to combine.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Dip the cupcake tops by inverting into the cooled icing and then twist and place right side up on a cooling rack. Iced cupcakes are best served the day they're made. Add sprinkles on top if desired.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Mango Puree

Birthdays are joyous occasions, and with so many Sisters in the Convent, there are bound to be several birthday celebrations each month. This is especially true with what we refer to as “big birthdays”, birthdays that mark a new decade in the life of a sister. Over the weekend, we celebrated the 70th birthday of one of our sisters with a beautiful dinner for all. The meal ended with one of our most favorite desserts: Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta. While not a traditional birthday cake, this was no less festive as it also featured a delicious mango puree.

Dense, creamy and with minimal ingredients you most likely already have in your kitchen, this is a great way to mark special occasions this summer. Served chilled with fresh berries, this may well become a favorite with you and your guests!

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Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Mango Puree
SERVINGS
6-8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
15mins, plus chilling time (overnight/6hours)
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
30mins, plus chilling time

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place the cream in a saucepan and scrape out the seeds of the vanilla bean with a knife, adding the seeds to the cream.
  2. Add the sugar and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. In a separate bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the milk and let stand until the gelatin softens, about 5 minutes.
  4. Pour the gelatin mixture into the cream and vanilla bean mixture and stir until dissolved.
  5. Add the yogurt and stir to thoroughly incorporate.
  6. Pour evenly into six to eight ramekin and cover with plastic wrap. Chill for 6 hours or overnight for the panna cotta to set.
  7. As this is chilling, prepare the mango puree by combining the fruit, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a blender or food processor. Chill in a bowl until panna cotta is ready to serve.

To Serve
Note: There are several ways to serve this dessert. As shown, we chose to chill the panna cotta at an angle and serve in a clear water goblet for a pleasing visual effect. For the more ambitious, panna cotta can be served inverted on a plate, similar to flan. Below are two methods of serving this dessert--both are equally impressive!

Inverted Method

  1. Once the panna cotta has set, place each ramekin in warm water--the water should be halfway up the sides of the ramekin.
  2. Once this has been in the water bath 1-2 minutes, put your serving plate on top of the ramekin and invert the panna cotta onto the plate.
  3. Spoon the puree over the top and garnish with fruit and fresh mint as desired.

Angled Method

  1. Before making the panna cotta, prepare the glasses you will be serving in, tilting them securely at an angle on a tray. An egg carton works well for this.
  2. When pouring panna cotta mixture, use a funnel and gently fill the tilted glasses to the desired height.
  3. Carefully transfer the tray into the refrigerator, taking care not to bump or jostle the tray, as this will leave a milky residue on the side of the glass.
  4. When fully set (6 hours or overnight) stand the glasses upright and pipe in the mango puree. Piping helps control the puree and keep it from smearing on the glass.
  5. Garnish with fruit or mint and serve.

Crispy Coconut Cookies

Today is Springtime at its best on Cape Cod— robins chirping, rabbits and squirrels scampering about, flowers blooming everywhere.

Put’s me in the mood to try a fresh new cookie recipe, and I have indeed found one! Crunchy, rich, with added coconut and a bit of almond flavoring—I ended up making a second batch, as I know they’ll be needed for upcoming events.

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Crispy Coconut Cookies
SERVINGS
3dozen (approx. 40 cookies)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen (approx. 40 cookies)
COOK TIME
12-15mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
30mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In mixer bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until creamy. Add the egg and extracts.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients just until blended. Add the coconut and mix well but don't over beat.
  5. Form into balls, a little larger than walnut size, roll in sugar, flatten with the bottom of a drinking glass. Bake for 15 minutes or until just barely golden around the edges.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding Cake

For years, rhubarb has long been one of my favorite fruits. Always a bit of a wild child in the fruit family (since most people don’t have any idea what to do with it), I’ve loved it since I was a kid and always looked forward to my mom’s strawberry rhubarb pie – which I deemed ‘the best!’ When we moved to New England back in 1981, my great grandmother (who embodied Tasha Tudor) gave us her heirloom rhubarb plant to take with us. After 37 years, it’s still thriving in my mother’s garden!

This Mother’s Day, I decided to ‘pay it forward’ with a pie for mom and then my creative juices got going when, after delivering the pie, I left with a huge bag of freshly picked rhubarb from Grandma’s plant! So, next came this old fashioned pudding cake. Eaten warm, straight out of the dish, or with a squirt of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream, it is melt-in-your-mouth goodness that will keep you going back for more. Super simple and quick to make, it’s the perfect go-to dessert for company or to make for your family after a long day. It can be made gluten free as well. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding Cake
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
40-45mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
55-60mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Cover the bottom of a buttered glass 8 or 9 inch square pan with rhubarb and strawberries.
  2. Mix 3/4 cup sugar, butter, baking powder, salt, extracts, milk and flour together and pour over fruit. Mix remaining sugar and cornstarch; sprinkle over mixture in pan. Pour boiling water over the top- this will create a wonderful pudding around the fruit in the bottom of the pan.
  3. Bake at 375°F for 40 to 45 minutes or bubbly and golden.
  4. You can see that the sugar topping creates a glaze on the top of the cake, something like a creme brulee, as well as creating the pudding at the bottom. Serve warm in a bowl with ice cream or whipped cream, or let it cool a bit, slice and invert on your plate to show off the pudding. You may also substitute a gluten free flour blend for the flour - you may need to adjust the cooking time.

Springtime Lemony Angel Food Meringue Torte

What shall we make for Easter Dinner dessert??? This is the question I kept asking myself all week. I have an idea, and someone else has offered me theirs, but before making the final choice, I decided to take a poll. I randomly asked six different sisters to answer this question. What immediately comes to mind when you think of choosing a most favorite Easter dessert?

Five out of six said “…something light and fluffy.” Four out of six said “…cool and creamy.” Three out of six said “…something lemony.” Two out of six said “…white or light yellow.” Interestingly enough, each of our desserts fit these descriptions, so we ingeniously combined them into one spectacular creation which we hope that many will enjoy!

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Springtime Lemony Angel Food Meringue Torte
SERVINGS
12servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
45mins
PREP TIME
1hr
READY IN
2hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

To Make the Angel Cake:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350​ ​F and arrange an oven shelf in the bottom third of the oven. Sift the flour and 3½oz of the sugar together in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with an electric hand whisk or mixer on a high speed for one minute until frothy. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cream of tartar and salt and continue whisking for 2-3 minutes, or until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl. Increase the speed and add the remaining 7oz of sugar, one tablespoon at a time to form firm, but not stiff peaks.
  3. Sprinkle over one-third of the flour mixture and fold gently to combine. Repeat with the remaining two-thirds of the flour mixture folding gently to keep as much air in the mixture as possible.
  4. Transfer the batter to a 10 inch angel food cake pan. Gently run a knife through the center of the batter to remove any pockets of air. Cook for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and immediately turn upside down onto the tin’s cooling legs, or place over the neck of a wine bottle. Leave to cool for at least one hour. Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of cake to remove it from the pan. Invert onto a plate. Carefully use a palette knife to separate the cake from the base of the pan. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
To Make the Lemon Curd:
  1. Mix the egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest together in a large pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, making sure to stir the sides and base of the pan.
  2. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Pass through a sieve into a large jug. Fill two 12​ ​oz glass jars with the lemon curd and seal with lids. Cover the remaining curd with cling film and leave to cool.
To Make the Meringue Layers:
  1. Preheat oven to 275. In a mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Switch to high speed and gradually beat in the sugar until stiff and glossy peaks form and sugar is dissolved. Add the vanilla.
  2. Remove beater whisk and by hand, gently fold in 1/2 cup sliced almonds.
  3. Line two sheet pans with baking paper and trace two circles of the base of the angel food cake pan - 10" diameter on each. Divide meringue between the two circles and form into rounds - staying 1/4" within the border - they will be about 3/4" high. Sprinkle with the additional 2 Tbsp of sliced almonds.
  4. Bake at 275 degrees for 3-35 min. or until golden and crisp. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.
To Assemble:
  1. Cut the Angel food cake in half horizontally
  2. On the bottom layer, spread some lemon curd, followed by cool whip, meringue layer, then the top of the angel cake spread with lemon curd, cool whip and then the top meringue layer.

This can be frozen and pulled out when ready to serve.
A lovely presentation for Easter and not as difficult as it sounds.
You can always make a box angel cake mix in place of the homemade one and you could buy a jar of lemon curd, but it's just not like the real deal!

Cape Cod Cranberry Torte

“Old Cape Cod”…home of the Cod, home of the Oyster, the Quohog and the Clam. Home of the Beach Plum and Rose Hip, and also of the Cranberry, now at the very peak of its season! 

I am fortunate to have lived here for many years, and one of my most favorite sights in  the late fall is that of the bright afternoon sun shining on the cranberry bogs, catching their sparkle….like beautiful gems or jewels reflecting the light as they wait to be harvested. Over my years here I have accumulated quite a collection of typical Cape Cod recipes. One of my favorites  is this beautiful Cape Cod Cranberry Torte, lovely looking, luscious tasting — at any time of the year, but particularly at this snowy, winter season.

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Cape Cod Cranberry Torte
SERVINGS
6-8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
20mins
PREP TIME
20mins
READY IN
40mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees
  2. Beat egg yolks until thick, and gradually beat in 1.2 cup of the sugar. Keep beating until very light.
  3. Beat in extracts and mix in crumbs.
  4. Beat whites of eggs until foamy. Add remaining sugar one tablespoon at a time. Beat until shiny and stiff peaks form.
  5. Fold whites mixture into beaten egg mixture and blend in the nuts.
  6. Spread the beaten egg mixture into two 9-inch buttered pie plates. Bake 20-25 minutes until set. Remove from oven and cool.
  7. In a saucepan, mix cranberry sauce and brown sugar over medium heat. Stir constantly until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin until dissolved and cool until partially set.
  8. Whip the heavy cream and set aside.
  9. Spread a thin layer of cranberry mixture in the torte shells, followed by a layer of whipped cream. Continue to layer until the shell is filled, ending with whipped cream.
  10. Let stand until cranberry portion is completely set.