I promise this will be my last pink and red post for a while, because I know you all are probably burned out by now on hearts, chocolate and teddy bears. But seeing as how Valentine's was on Tuesday, I felt compelled to share the little chocolatey treat we had after dinner that night, as well as the recipe for the cupcakes I took to a work potluck on Thursday...
So making a Valentine's dessert that didn't break the bank on my WW points didn't end up being as hard as I thought, since I just took a really simple approach. Dark chocolate in itself is actually good for you in small amounts, it's all the sugar, cream and butter that we add to it that makes it so unhealthy. A cup of hot chocolate spiced with a pinch of cayenne, a couple of maraschino cherries, and a little chocolate heart topped with a few chopped almonds was just the right portion to satisfy a chocolate craving.
Jamie requested a Boston Cream Pie, and it was a real challenge to make a miniature one that was only enough for one serving. But I love a baking challenge, and managed to bake up two tiny little cakes in ramekins using just a spoonful of a few ingredients. With a dollop of creamy vanilla custard between the cakes and chocolate ganache on top, it turned out pretty cute.
As for the cupcakes, these have been lingering at the back of my mind for a while, a cupcake with soda in it, that I could decorate to look like old-fashioned sodas or milkshakes.
There are a few ways you can handle the maraschino cherries in this recipe, but I'll tell you what I found does and doesn't work. First, I baked a yummy cupcake with maraschino cherry juice and club soda (cherry 7-up would be good, too) in the batter, and I liked how the cakes turned out, not too sweet and with a nice flavor from the cherry juice and soda.
My original plan was to frost them with cream cheese icing, then top them with the chocolate sprinkles, a striped straw, and a whole cherry. But after baking them and seeing just how tiny the mini cakes were, I thought a whole cherry would overwhelm the cupcake. So instead, I chopped them up and mixed them into the icing (which is what gave it such a pretty pink color). The reason this was a mistake is that even though I drained the cherries and patted them dry, there was still too much moisture in them and they turned my icing to soup. Which in turn forced me to add ridiculous amounts of powdered sugar to try to thicken it back up, and the icing was way too sweet for my liking.
So, my suggestion would be to chop up the cherries, toss them with a few tablespoons of flour to absorb the moisture and mix them directly into the cake batter. If you like the pink icing, that can easily be colored with a few drops of food coloring. Or, you could place a whole cherry into the center of the cupcake to bake into the batter (this would work for standard-sized cupcakes, but not minis, as a whole cherry would take up too much room). Either way, there are a few fun options.
In spite of the sugary frosting, they were a big hit with my coworkers and all the cupcakes were gone by the end of the day. (And might I add, the mini ones are only 3 WW points each!)
Hot Chocolate, with Chocolate-Dipped Cherries and a Chocolate Almond Heart
- 2 cups skim milk
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 packets Splenda or another non-calorie sweetener (or sugar to taste)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- 4 maraschino cherries, with stems
- 1/2 ounce dark or bittersweet chocolate, melted
- pinch of sea salt
- 1 tablespoon chopped almonds
Meanwhile, pat the cherries dry with a paper towel. Dip each into the melted chocolate, then place on a baking sheet lined with a Silpat or parchment paper. Scrape the rest of the melted chocolate into a small zip-lock bag (since this uses such a tiny amount of chocolate, be sure to use every last bit). Snip the corner off the bag and squeeze the outline of two hearts onto the baking sheet. Squeeze the rest of the chocolate in squiggles to fill in the hearts. Sprinkle the chocolate with the salt and the almonds. Place the baking sheet in the freezer for 10-15 minutes for the chocolate to set and harden before eating.
Yields 2 servings.
Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 4 points per serving (1 cup of hot chocolate, 2 chocolate-dipped cherries and 1 chocolate almond heart)
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen.
Cherry Vanilla Soda Cupcakes
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste (or seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
- 3/4 cup Club Soda or Diet Cherry 7-up
- 3/4 cup skim milk, room temperature
- 1 jar (16 ounces) maraschino cherries, drained and patted dry (reserve the juice for above)
- 1 package (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- cherry extract (I didn't have any, but I think a little would be good added to the frosting)
- 1-3 tablespoons skim milk
- a few drops of red food coloring
- chocolate sprinkles
- red and white striped wax-coated paper straws, snipped into thirds
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line muffin tins with paper liners (about 52 minis or 26 standard-sized).
In a bowl, whisk together the flour (2 1/4 cups), baking powder, baking soda and salt, and set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste on medium speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, for 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated.
In another bowl, combine the cherry juice, soda and milk. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture and the soda mixture, alternating each, starting and ending with the flour mixture, just until combined.
Chop the cherries and toss with the 2 tablespoons of flour. Fold into the cake batter. (Alternatively, you can leave the cherries whole, and place one into each muffin cup to bake into the batter.)
Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full (be careful not to over-fill the minis - they don't hold very much). Bake at 350 for 15-17 minutes (minis) or 20-22 minutes (standard-sized). Cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer cakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, beat the cream and butter until smooth, then add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Beat in the milk, a little at a time, until you have the desired consistency. Beat in the food coloring and extract, if using it.
Frost the cooled cupcakes and garnish with a few chocolate sprinkles and the striped straws.
Yields 52 mini cupcakes or 26 standard.
Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 3 points per mini cupcake; 5 points per standard-sized cupcake
Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen.