Monday, July 26, 2010

Designer Chocolate Baby Grands

 Designer Chocolate Baby Grands are charming cupcakes made with the German Chocolate Cake recipe  in Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  It has become my absolute favorite cake.  She makes use of it in other recipes, most notably, Chocolate Ice Cream Cake,  and now these sophisticated cupcakes.

More than any other chocolate cake recipe, this one hits the spot.  It reminds me of a funny anecdote in  "Cooking for Madam,  Recipes and Reminiscences from the Home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis" by Marta Sgubin .  Marta was forced to divulge her secret recipe to Mr. Onassis, the Greek oil shipping tycoon, who employed world class chefs around the clock.  He loved chocolate cake so much there was a standing order for one to be served every day, at every meal.  As a surprise Marta, then nanny for a young Caroline and John, decided to make him a chocolate cake herself.

"Having no clue how to bake a cake, so to be sure that I wasn't missing anything, I bought a Duncan Hines mix."

 It was served with dinner and the butler informed Marta that Mr. Onassis wanted to speak with her, immediately.

"This is the most wonderful cake I ever ate!  How did you do it?  I want you to give me the recipe for my chef."

Busted!  She had to fess up  it was made out of a box.  He didn't care. "It's so good and I love it."

From that moment on, shipping boxes of Duncan Hines chocolate cake mix were sent to homes around the world and the yacht.  Mr. Onassis was never without, much to the consternation of his personal chef, who got very upset, saying it was "powder.  I can't cook with powder."  When Mr. Onassis heard, he simply said "I don't care.  This is the chocolate cake I like."

I completely understand.  I never thought any cake made from scratch could equal a Duncan Hines with its  undefinable flavor and unique crumb that makes it flawless every single time.  Until now.  I can only imagine Rose's recipe would have delighted Ari Onassis.  And his chef.

These ultra chocolate cupcakes were conjured up with Green and Blacks cocoa powder, Lindt Extra Creamy milk chocolate in the glaze and Valrohna chocolate perles for the topping, which Rose suggested as a suitable option instead of her infamous chocolate lacquer glaze.

First things first:  conquering scale phobia and sifting confusion.  The irony is not lost on me that I use an archaic, bowless Weight Watchers scale for making these Heavenly Cake recipes. I can't sift fast enough before it shuts itself off.  I try to start out with a clean and tidy kitchen; however by the time I am finished weighing and sifting, the kitchen is a white disaster zone, myself included. Weighing filled me with dread and confusion  until last week.  Mendy's post clicked on a light bulb.

"Even if you were to find fanaticism in didactic measuring a fault you can't beat the ease of just pouring straight from the box into the mixing bowl."

But of course!  Thumping myself on the forehead, I had a V-8 moment.  Weighing flour  into a bowl on the scale, then pouring  the flour, etc through a fine mesh strainer suspended over the mixing bowl, effectively sifted without a flour blizzard.    It worked perfectly with the cocoa powder as well.  This is the beauty of baking with the HCB group; having little "aha" moments.  A more lucid moment would be to go buy myself a new scale.

I still didn't understand if it was necessary to sift before and after weighing, or only before  or  perhaps only after.  To sift or not to sift, that was the question weighing on my feeble mind.  So I did what any eccentric person would do and emailed Rose.  Bless her patient baking heart, she replied back.

Here, fellow bakers, is the definitive answer: Sometimes it is necessary to sift before and after measuring.  If so, it will be specified in the recipe.  In other words, I should read carefully, wear glasses while I'm reading and believe what I am reading, instead of transposing instructions for volume to weight.   

The chocolate designer cupcakes were baked in individual silicone cupcake molds with foil liners.  I've been eyeing these molds for quite sometime to use for recipes with extra batter.  It was a difficult decision;  these cute shapes or ones with feet.

I should have known to double the recipe.  They are a definite hit with the unbelievable chocolate glaze and perles. 


  1. Vicki.. hilarous.. I totally do the shifty over the bowl... I have not found a difference at all to the final product, so I'm sticking to that, because like you, when I do use the stupid shifter, I still clean up flour, cocoa for days afterwards - wondering "how in the world did it get ALL THE WAY OVER HERE???".

    Love the individual cupcake holders... LOVE THEM.. !

  2. Adorable... absolutely adorable. If I were to choose between the flower silicone cupcake forms and the ones with feet, I'd pick the flower ones.


  3. Oooo.. you use Valrhona Les Perles. How do they taste? I should probably give up and order them one of these days, :).
    Love the flower cupcake holders as well. They're so cute!

  4. your cupcakes are so cute!!

    I don't shift before either. I weigh all my ingredients first. Then i just shift it over the bowl. I just don't like messy kitchen or flour all over which i think would happen if i shift flour on parchment paper. :D

  5. Super cute, Vicki!! Love love love the choc perles. So elegant. The flower molds are cute too. As for weighing and sifting, I use a medium bowl with a strainer sitting on top. I put bowl + strainer on top of the scale and zero out the scale. Then I put the flour into the strainer until I have the right weight. Only then do I shake the strainer vigorously to sift the flour :o)

  6. Ah, the old conundrum of whether a kilo of feathers is heavier than a kilo of potatoes.

    If I am feeling particularly devout and pious, I sift after measuring. I do tend to sift if dry cocoa or icing sugar is at all involved because that does tend to clump, but otherwise - commando the whole way.

    I think you and I need to invest in new scales.

    Cute little cakes. And I loved the story (though slightly aghast that cake mix could be so good) about the Onassis chocolate cake.

  7. Darling cupcakes and silicone cups. Loved the box cake mix story. I also weigh all my ingredients together then sift them into the bowl of my mixer.

  8. Excellent post Vicki! I loved the story about Ari Onassis and his Duncan Hines, and your V-8 moment.

    Truth be told, I am super lazy and I have stopped sifting, unless it is in the instructions (like "sift the dry ingredients together"). Otherwise I let the 60 second whirl in the mixer before adding the butter do all the aerating.