February is a fun-filled month—especially this year with Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras just two weeks apart. To help usher in all the celebrating, we thought it would be festive to combine these two occasions by creating a menu for an all-chocolate dessert party you can throw for family and friends. Tracey has come up with three delicious dessert recipes that are surprisingly easy and produce amazing results. Individually, they’re a great way to cap off any meal. But they also make for an especially decadent spread served all at once for a special gathering of those you love.
ON THE MENU:
• Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes with Buttermilk Buttercream Frosting
Recipe by Maggie Koch
• Chocolate Hazelnut-filled French-style King Cake
• Cheese and Chocolate Pairing
Recipes by Tracey Koch
CHOCOLATE BUTTERMILK CUPCAKES WITH BUTTERMILK BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
Cupcakes bring out the kid in all of us, evoking memories of grade school birthday parties. These Chocolate Buttermilk Cupcakes will remind you of being little, but their rich chocolate flavor will satisfy an adult chocolate craving. The cake itself is extremely tender and moist. The traditional buttercream icing is creamy and tangy, thanks to the buttermilk. It’s simple, delicious, homemade and all natural—one of our family’s favorites and sure to become one of your family’s, as well.
Servings: Yields 24 medium-sized cupcakes
1 ½ cups buttermilk
3 eggs, beaten
¾ cups vegetable oil
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 ¾ cups flour
3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
11⁄3 cups dark cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups brewed coffee
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two cupcake tins, or line with paper cupcake cups.
2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the buttermilk, eggs, oil and vanilla extract until combined.
3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt.
4. Using a hand mixer, mix the wet ingredients into the dry. With the mixer still going, add the coffee. Continue mixing until the batter is well blended.
5. Use a ladle or large spoon to divide the batter into the cupcake tins. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a tester in the center comes out clean. Remove the tins from the oven and cool slightly. Remove the cupcakes from the tin and place on a cooling rack. Cool completely before adding the icing.
FOR THE FROSTING:
Servings: Yields 2 ½ cups
2 sticks salted butter, softened
3 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
½ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons vanilla2 to 3 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
1. In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the softened butter until light and fluffy.
2. Sift the sugar and cocoa powder together.
3. Turn the mixer on low and slowly mix the dry ingredients into the butter.
4. Once the sugar is incorporated, increase the mixer speed to medium and add the vanilla.
5. Add the buttermilk, one tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is smooth.
6. Place a star tip on a pastry bag and fill the bag with the frosting and pipe onto each cupcake. Top with a fresh raspberry or other Valentine’s Day-themed treat and serve.
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT-FILLED FRENCH-STYLE KING CAKE
A traditional French king cake is different than the enriched yeast dough cakes we usually enjoy during Carnival season in Louisiana. The French version is a puff pastry dough filled with almond marzipan filling. Once baked, it is a flaky, golden delicious treat. In the spirit of both Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day, we decided to make a traditional French-style King Cake with a twist—filled with a chocolate-hazelnut spread. We simplified this complex dessert by using store-bought puff pastry dough from the freezer section and Nutella for the filling. It takes just a few minutes to put together but is sure to wow your friends and family.
1 17-ounce box frozen puff pastry sheets
1 13-ounce jar Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
½ cup chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Roll out one sheet of puff pastry into a 12-inch circle and place it onto the lined baking sheet.
3. Spread the Nutella on the puff pastry, leaving a 1-inch space around the rim of the pastry.
4. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts on top. Brush the edges with a little of the beaten egg.
5. Roll the second sheet of puff pastry into another 12-inch circle and lay it on top. Gently press the edges to seal them.
6. Brush the top with the remaining beaten egg. Prick the pastry several times on top to help it vent as it bakes.
7. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cake is very puffed and golden. Remove and allow it to cool.
8. Sift together the cocoa and powdered sugar. Dust the pastry with the mixture and serve.
CHEESE AND CHOCOLATE PAIRING
It may sound strange to pair cheese and chocolate, but they actually go quite well together. The flavors balance each other out. A good rule of thumb is to pair chocolate with a cheese that has a similar flavor profile. For example, a deep dark chocolate with an intense, rich flavor and higher acid content pairs well with the strong but creamy bite in a blue cheese. Dark chocolate-covered almonds go well with a nutty cheddar or gouda. Creamy spreadable cheese like chèvre or triple-cream brie pairs well with 80% to 90% cocoa chocolate. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. Start with a couple of your favorite cheeses, add a few types of chocolate, and experiment. Aim for 6 to 8 ounces of each item for enough for about 6 guests. We suggest serving a nice tawny port to pair with your cheese and chocolate board. It will help pull all the flavors together.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE SPREAD:
Milk chocolate bar, broken into chunks
Dark chocolate-covered almonds
Dark chocolate squares
Dark chocolate truffles
Creamy soft chèvre or blue cheese
Triple cream brie
Dried apricots and figs
This article was originally posted in the February 2020 issue of 225 Magazine.