Mini Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Halloween is easily my least favorite holiday. Sure, I liked it as a kid. I mean, it was a chance to run around the neighborhood filling pillowcase after pillowcase with candy, a chance to dress up as a princess or a ballerina or whatever struck my fancy at that time. But nowadays, if I want candy, I can just buy it, and I'm not really into figuring out what costume to wear and dressing up. So until last year, I didn't really have any reason to look forward to Halloween.

But last year, completely coincidentally, Jeff proposed to me on Halloween. (Neither of us were really aware it was Halloween, but that happened to be the day that everything fell into place.) Now I have a new reason to celebrate the holiday... and I'll always remember what day we got engaged.

So call these Halloween cupcakes or engagement anniversary cupcakes, this is my more sophisticated take on a black and orange treat. Chocolate and orange is one of my favorite combinations, so I took my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe, flavored it with some orange syrup, topped it with an orange-chocolate ganache, and dressed it up with a candied orange peel.

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Mini Chocolate-Orange Cupcakes
Makes about 30 mini cupcakes
Print this recipe


Candied Orange Peels (adapted from Closet Cooking)
3 oranges
2 cups water
2 cups sugar

2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Reserved orange syrup from candied orange peels

Chocolate-Orange Ganache
450 grams bittersweet chocolate chips (or about 16 ounces)
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier


Candied Orange Peels
Note: The peels need to dry for 24 to 48 hours, so plan ahead.

Trim the tops and bottoms from each orange. Then cut the peel of each orange into 4 vertical pieces. Carefully remove each piece. If the white pith is very thick, trim some of it off.

Cut the peel pieces into thin strips.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and add the peels. Cook the peels in the boiling water for 15 minutes, and then drain them.

Bring the water and 1 cup sugar to a boil over medium heat in a medium pot.

Add the peels, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the peels are tender, about 45 minutes.

Set a strainer over a medium bowl, and drain the peels, reserving the syrup (for the cupcakes below). (You can keep the syrup in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.)

Pour the remaining cup of sugar into a large bowl, and toss the drained peels in the sugar.

Spread the peels out on sheet pans to dry. This could take 24 to 48 hours. Once dry, store peels in airtight container.

Candied orange peels

Chocolate Cupcakes
Note: The batter needs to sit for at least an hour before baking, so plan ahead.

Combine the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a small heatproof bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, butter, and water over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally for 3 to 4 minutes, or until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.

Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture over the cocoa-chocolate mixture, and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

In a small measuring cup, combine the milk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Whisk this mixture into the chocolate mixture.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Dump the dry ingredients on top of the chocolate mixture, and whisk them into the chocolate mixture until the batter is completely smooth.

Leave the batter out at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini-muffin pan with paper liners.

Using a small (2-teaspoon-capacity) scoop, fill each cup with 1 scoop of batter. (You may have extra batter, so just repeat with any remaining batter.)

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, rotating halfway through, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Once cupcakes are cool enough to handle (but still warm), remove them from the pan, and place them on a rack.

Chocolate cupcakes

Lightly brush each cupcake with some of the reserved orange syrup, and let cool completely.

Chocolate-Orange Ganache
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the ganache (You can also make it ahead of time, store it in the fridge, and gently microwave it to soften it to a pipable consistency before using, or for a richer ganache that sets up faster, use less cream.)

Place the chocolate in a medium heatsafe bowl.

Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a boil over medium heat in a small saucepan.

Pour the heavy cream over the chips, let sit for 1 minute, and then whisk until smooth.

Whisk in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream.

Then whisk in the Grand Marnier.

Set ganache aside until it sets up to a pipable consistency. (You can speed this along by putting the ganache in the fridge, but check and re-whisk it often, so it doesn't get too firm.)

Pipe ganache on each cupcake. (If you don't want to pipe the ganache on the cupcakes, you can just dip the tops of the cupcakes in it while it's still fluid or frost them with soft ganache.)

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Top each cupcake with a candied orange peel.

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

You will have leftover orange peels and extra ganache, so feel free to half those recipes (I always like having more than I need), or you can use the extras to make chocolate-orange truffles.

The cupcakes are rich and chocolaty with a hint of orange, and the candied orange peels pack a punch of orange flavor and give the cupcakes a little sparkle.

Mini chocolate-orange cupcakes

Halloween -- love it or hate it?


Scenes From The Home Sweet Home Dessert Tasting And Competition

Last Saturday evening, Jeff and I attended the fourth annual "Home Sweet Home" dessert tasting and competition at the Cambridge Hyatt Regency. The competition is a charity event put on by The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund, which is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness in our community.

Below are some of the many desserts that were featured at the event.

Nutella Panna Cotta - Amelia's Trattoria

Cake Lollipops - Blue On Highland

Vermont Maple Opera Cake - Blue Tierra Chocolate Cafe

Danish Ice Cream Cone - Butter Cafe & Bakery

Chocolate Rosemary Tartes - The Chocolate Tarte 

"Oro Calor" Spicy Chocolate Gold Bar With Pumpkin Seed Brittle - Chocolate Therapy

Granny Smith Bread Pudding With Quince Carmel Sauce - City Table At The Lenox Hotel

Pumpkin Cheesecake - Finale Desserterie

Viennese Coffee With Fluff Ice Cream - Toscanini's Ice Cream

Pumpkin Panna Cotta, Pumpkin Whoopie Pie, And Pumpkin Seed Brittle - Sweet Pastry Shop & Dessert Bar

Bee's Knees Cupcakes - South End Buttery

Pumpkin Jam Flutes With Creme & Pepitas - Sofra Bakery & Cafe

Spiced Pear Tartlet With Honey Lavender Gelato And DiSaronno Caramel - Showcase Live

Apple Cake With Caramel Center And A Vanilla Cinnamon Cookie - Russell House Tavern/Temple Bar

Mini Cupcakes - Kick*ss Cupcakes

Taza Chocolate Cheesecake - Henrietta's Table

Chocolate Flourless Cake With Salted Caramel Center And Roasted White Chocolate Cremeux - Harvest Restaurant

Butterscotch Bread Pudding With Rum Drunken Raisins - The Fireplace

I ate 13 different desserts (pretty much everything except bread puddings), and without a doubt, my favorite was the flourless chocolate cake from Harvest with its molten salted caramel center and crunchy cookie bottom.

For more information about The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund and this annual event, visit the CHAF website.


Boston Bruins Black And Gold Cookies

Boston Bruins black and gold cookies

You've all probably heard of black and white cookies (or as Jeff calls them, half moons), right? Well, I thought it would be fun to dress them up for a Bruins game! These are a little easier to make than the puck-cakes I shared with you at the beginning of the season, so if you're looking for an easy game-time treat, these cookies are the way to go.

It's Bruins versus Canadiens tonight. Let's go, B's!

Boston Bruins black and gold cookies

Boston Bruins Black And Gold Cookies (adapted from Baked Explorations)


3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

3 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
4 to 5 tablespoons whole milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Yellow food coloring paste or gel
Red food coloring paste or gel
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons double-Dutch dark cocoa powder
Black food coloring paste or gel


To make the cookies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or Sipat mats.

In large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Scrape down bowl and add eggs and yolk one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down bowl, and mix on low speed for 10 seconds.

Add flour mixture in three parts alternating with the buttermilk in two parts (ending with the flour mixture).

Scrape down bowl, add vanilla and lemon zest, and mix on low speed for a few seconds.

Using a medium-size (1 1/2-tablespoon capacity) cookie scoop, drop dough on prepared baking sheets. You should be able to fit 9 cookies on each sheet, leaving plenty of room for them to spread.

Bake cookies (two pans at a time) for 10 to 15 minutes, turning pans and switching racks halfway through, until edges are golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched.

Place baking sheets on wire racks to cool for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.

Repeat with remaining batter.

To make the frostings: In large bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla. If mixture is too thick, add milk by the teaspoon until desired consistency is reached. Pour half of the frosting into a separate bowl.

Use yellow and red food coloring to dye one bowl of frosting the yellow-gold color of the Boston Bruins. You'll only need a tiny bit of red to add depth to the yellow. (If you add too much red, you'll end up with orange and you can just make black and orange cookies for Halloween, or add the cocoa powder to your orange frosting and turn that black and start over dying the remaining frosting yellow-gold.)

To the remaining bowl of frosting, add the cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon water. Whisk together and add more water if necessary to thing chocolate frosting to same consistency as vanilla frosting. Add a couple drops of black food coloring to darken the chocolate frosting.

Use a baby offset spatula to spread the yellow-gold frosting on one half of the cookies. Let set for 20 minutes.

Then spread the chocolate frosting over the unfrosted half of each cookie.

Boston Bruins black and gold cookies

Let the frosted cookies set completely, about 1 hour, before serving them.

The cookies are best the day they are made. (But you can store them in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)

These cookies were something between a cookie and a cake, with a bright, citrusy flavor, and rich chocolaty and sugary frosting. No matter what color you decide to make them, they are worth making. The cookies are technically supposed to be portioned out with a 1/4-cup scoop, but there's no way I could bring myself to make cookies that big. At this size, you'll end up with plenty of cookies to go around, and no one will be daunted by their size.

(Apologies for the old camera pictures. I made these months ago.)

Have you ever had black and white cookies?


Mini Pepperoni Pizza Pull-Apart Breads

Mini pepperoni pizza pull-apart breads

A few weeks ago Elina had a little gathering at her house, and I arrived just in time to help her finish assembling some pepperoni pizza monkey bread. To make the bread, she was flattening small balls of pizza dough, sealing pepperoni and cheese inside them, coating them with garlic butter, and tossing them in a Bundt pan. The ingredients and recipe were pretty simple, but the end result was an impressive party treat. After Elina baked the monkey bread, she set a bowl of tomato sauce in the middle of it, so guests could pull off a chunk of the bread and dip it in the sauce. And the whole thing was gone in no time... it was just as addictive as pizza, having all those same flavors.

I found myself craving the bread a week or so later, but having no party guests coming over to serve the bread to, I thought it would be fun to make it on a smaller scale and put my mini tube pans to use. And just as I had helped Elina, I got Jeff to help me. I set Jeff to work weighing out 1/2 ounce balls of dough. As he prepped those for me, I flattened them and filled them. I made two mini breads using pepperoni and mozzarella and one with pepperoni and provolone. (I think Elina used cheddar -- so you can see how versatile this recipe is.)

Jeff and I each got a mozzarella version to ourselves and then split the provolone one. It was fun to make the little breads instead of just throwing together a pizza for dinner.

Mini Pepperoni Pizza Pull-Apart Breads 

Mini pepperoni pizza pull-apart breads

These mini pepperoni pizza pull-apart breads make a great snack or appetizer 
especially when served with a little tomato sauce.

Cook Time: 30 minutes
Yield: Makes 3 mini pull-apart breads


4 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound store-bought pizza dough
32 pepperoni circles, cut in quarters (use more if you like)
Mozzarella (shredded), provolone (cut in small pieces), or cheese of your choice (I didn't measure but about 4 ounces should be enough)
Pizza sauce, warmed, for serving (optional)


Melt butter in small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook just until garlic is fragrant and starts to brown. Remove from heat.

Brush 3 mini Bundt or tube pans with a little of the garlic butter.

Divide the dough into 32 1/2-ounce pieces.

Flatten each piece of dough, and fill with 4 pepperoni quarters and a little bit of cheese.

Seal the dough with the fillings inside. Brush the dough balls with the garlic butter, and toss them in the prepared Bundt or tube pans. (You may need to wash your hands occasionally because the dough will start to get slippery and not make a good seal from all the butter.)

I did two layers of five balls in each pan and had two balls leftover, which I just tossed in one of the pans. If you do this, you'll have two pans with 10 pieces of dough and one with 12 pieces.

Brush the remaining garlic butter on top of the dough balls in each pan.

Cover the pans with a towel, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Uncover the pans, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning halfway through, until golden brown. (I got a little impatient and could have left them in a bit longer to get more browning.)

Let sit for 5 minutes and then invert onto plates (or onto a cooling rack and then transfer to plates, whichever is easier).

Serve with warmed pizza sauce, if desired.

Mini pepperoni pizza pull-apart breads

Note: You could easily double the recipe and make 6 pull-apart breads, perfect for a small gathering or dinner party.

Filled with gooey cheese and spicy pepperoni, these little pepperoni pizza breads are the perfect stand-in for traditional pepperoni pizza and are super-cute and fun to eat too.

Which bloggers are inspiring you these days?


Aragosta Bar + Bistro's Bella Notte Thursdays

Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Did you know that Aragosta Bar + Bistro at the Fairmont Battery Wharf now offers a ladies' night every Thursday? Bella Notte Thursdays is a night for ladies to catch up with friends and get a drink and appetizer for $20. In addition to this pairing, ladies can take advantage of free color changes and chair massages in the lobby just outside the restaurant.

Bella Notte menu at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Lin, from Beantown Eats, heard about Bella Notte Thursdays and invited a bunch of us to join her. So last Thursday, I found myself hanging out at Aragosta with a group of my favorite ladies, enjoying cocktails and appetizers.

Before we headed into the restaurant, I sipped on my favorite cocktail from my last visit to Aragosta: the Settante Cinque. This drink features Aperol shaken with freshly squeezed lemon juice and charged with prosecco. It's sweet but balanced.

Settante Cinque at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Once we were ready to head into the restaurant, we were seated right at the Chef's Counter, where we could see the kitchen and Chef David Daniels at work.

Chef's counter view at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.

We started with some fresh bread and oil and then proceeded to sample almost every appetizer on the Bella Notte menu.

Bread and oil at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.

Truffle rigatoni at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.
Truffle Rigatoni With Warm Goat Cheese Fondue

Margherita flatbread at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.
Margherita Flatbread With Torn Basil And Fresh Burrata

Lobster and truffle crostini at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.
Lobster And Truffle Crostini With White Bean Puree

Baked veal and pancetta meatballs at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.
Baked Veal And Pancetta Meatballs With Soft Polenta And Fresh Mozzarella
Halfway through the evening, I moved on from my Settante Cinque to a glass of bubbly prosecco... and continued sampling appetizers.

Prosciutto-wrapped figs at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.
Warm Black Mission Figs Wrapped In Prosciutto With Gorgonzola Dolce

Salumi at Aragosta Bar + Bistro, Boston, Mass.
Hand-Crafted Selection Of Salumi, Caponata, And Hot Cherry Peppers
We had so much fun watching and interacting with kitchen. This was such a nice way to catch up with friends over cocktails and appetizers. If you go with a large group, you can each order something different and share. My favorites were the truffle rigatoni (which I found too cheesy last time but just right this time), the Margherita pizza (with gorgeous vine-ripened tomatoes), and the meatballs. 

This evening was complimentary, but as always, my opinions are my own.

Where's your favorite place to get drinks and apps with friends?

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