Coconut Key Lime Pie Cupcakes

I got tired of waiting for warm weather to debut these cupcakes…if it’s not going to feel like spring, it can at least taste like spring!  While I tend to gravitate towards chocolate desserts, it’s hard to say no to a delicious piece of key lime pie…especially when that piece of key lime pie comes in the form of a cute cupcake.

I came up with the idea for these cupcakes from my Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes that I made last year.  However, I decided to change the cupcake base and adapt one of my favorite cupcake recipes: Coconut cupcakes from The Barefoot Contessa.  (If you haven’t made these cupcakes before, you should add them to your todo list now-they’re that good!  …And then you should make these key lime pie cupcakes!)  My version here omits the almond extract (while delicious, I felt it would add conflicting flavors) and decreases the amount of coconut used.  The end result is a moist, white cupcake with a hint of coconut- the perfect canvas for the remaining cupcake components.

The cupcakes are then filled with a tart lime curd (adapted from Joanne Chang’s Lemon Curd recipe).  The remaining lime curd is used to make a fluffy lime frosting before getting topped with a graham cracker crust crumb.

Now a word on using key limes versus regular limes… While my local whole foods did have actual key limes, they are more expensive than regular limes and they are much smaller which increases the work of juicing them substantially.  Since I was feeling lazy (relatively speaking, I mean I did make these cupcakes entirely from scratch) I decided to use regular limes to save myself some time and muscle strength.  Key limes are supposed to be slightly more tart and bitter than regular limes so if anything, I just ended up with a sweeter cupcake!

Coconut Cupcakes (modified from Barefoot Contessa)20140317-163515.jpg

Makes 18-20 cupcakes

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 4 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely

Lime Curd (Modified from Joanne Chang’s Lemon Curd)

1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1-1/2 oz. (3 Tbs.) unsalted butter
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. kosher salt

In a 3-quart nonreactive saucepan, heat the lime juice and butter over medium-high heat until just under a boil. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk and then slowly whisk in the sugar until combined. Gradually whisk the hot lime juice mixture into the sugar and eggs.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon and scraping the bottom of the pan frequently, until the curd thickens and coats the spoon, 2 to 4 minutes. Draw your finger along the back of the spoon; when the curd is done, it should hold the trail.

Remove the curd from the heat and strain it through a fine sieve into a bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic onto the surface of the curd, and chill for 1 to 2 hours before using. Can be made 5 days ahead of time, keep refrigerated.

Lime Frosting

1/2 cup lime curd (above)
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter at room temperature
4 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, divided
2 tsp lime zest
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a standmixer with a whip attachment, whip the butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar until combined. Add the lime curd and mix to combine. Gradually add the remaining 2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed to thoroughly incorporate all ingredients. Add the cream and whip for 1-2 minutes until light and fluffy.

Graham Cracker Crust

7 whole graham crackers, coarsely broken
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with foil.  Blend graham crackers, melted butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar in processor until moist clumps form. Press crumb mixture over prepared baking sheet.   Bake crust until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Let cool.   Crumble again into crumbs to use for topping cupcakes.

Assembly

Reserve 1/2 cup of lime curd for the frosting (above).  Pipe or inject the remaining lime curd into the center of the cupcakes.  I did this by using a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip (you can also use a syringe or if all else fails, cut a small cone out of the center of the cupcake and spoon in the lime curd).  Next, frost the tops of the cupcakes with the lime frosting- it doesn’t really matter if it looks pretty (unless you’re a perfectionist!) since you’ll be dipping the tops in the graham cracker crust crumbs next!

“Well, let’s give that key lime pie a day in court, and a big old glass of non-fat milk, if you please” ~Natural Born Killers

Spicy Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup

 

Despite “springing forward” last weekend, winter continued to threaten this past week with snow showers and below freezing temperatures.  The return of the cold weather left me running for my earmuffs and mittens and craving warm, comforting foods like this quick and easy soup.  The beauty of this soup is that it only calls for 5 main ingredients (6 if you add noodles) and can be made in about 20 minutes…and it is actually healthy and contains no butter (I bet you never thought I could do it)! It derives most of it’s flavor from the spicy sausage but you can use a mixture of regular and spicy sausage, if desired, to tone down the spice level.   Enjoy and cross your fingers for warmer weather ahead!

Spicy sausage, white bean, and kale soup

(serves 4)

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 to 1 lb spicy chicken sausage (about 3 links), casings removed
6 cups chicken broth
1 14oz can of white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of kale, chopped
handful of egg noodles (optional)
grated parmesan cheese (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium/high heat.  Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage and cook until browned.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiling, reduce heat to bring to a simmer and add white beans.  If using noodles, add these now and cook according to package directions (usually only several minutes).  In the final minute of cooking, mix in the kale until wilted.  Ladle into serving bowls and top, if desired, with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

 

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

I know I’ve waxed poetic about the delicious combination of chocolate and peanut butter before, but this dessert takes the cake! (pun intended)

I think I first saw this recipe from Smitten Kitchen when I was in medical school, but for some reason, never came around to actually making it.  This past weekend the opportunity presented itself: my co-resident’s 30th birthday!   He loves chocolate and peanut butter so when his wife “hired” me to bake his birthday cake, I knew exactly what to make!

The cake consists of fluffy peanut butter cream cheese frosting sandwiched between 3 layers of soft, rich chocolate cake.  What takes this cake over the edge is the chocolate-peanut butter glaze (more like a ganache) that drapes over the entire cake at the end.  According the the birthday boy it’s the “best cake ever”!

Sour Cream-Chocolate Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze

(makes an 8-9 inch triple layer cake that serves 12-16)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.

3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Note: These cakes are very, very soft and are much easier to work with after firming them up in the freezer or refrigerator for 30 minutes)

4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer.  Next coat the entire cake with a “crumb coat”–a thin layer that binds the dark crumbs to the cake so they don’t show up in the final outer frosting layer.  Chill for 15 to 30 minutes until firm, then use the remainder of the frosting to create a smooth final coating.  Chill again for 15-30 minutes prior to pouring on the chocolate-peanut butter glaze.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving.

Peanut Butter Frosting
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand (because oil doesn’t separate out)

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of a double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.