Turtle Cupcakes

My office threw a surprise party for a co-worker’s new house. My co-worker’s favorite type of cake is German Chocolate Cake, and she loves turtles (the animals). At first I had planned to make fondant decorations in the shape of turtles for the top, but didn’t have any fondant! I ended up making an abstract take on the word “turtle”, instead choosing to use the turtle candy (caramel nut clusters dipped in chocolate) as my inspiration.

I made these late the night before the party and it was my first time baking just a plain chocolate cake from scratch. I adapted a recipe from one of my favorite sites, Cupcake Bake Shop by Chockylit. I used her chocolate cupcake recipe because I loved the use of espresso powder. I added in mini-chocolate chips because I wanted the cupcakes to have different textures between the chocolate cake, chips, and the filling.

One of the best things about German Chocolate Cake is that thick, gooey, coconut-pecan frosting from a tub. I wanted that gooey texture in the middle, so I bought the frosting pre-made instead of making it myself. A straight apple corer made quick work of the centers, my handy-dandy assistant piped in some frosting, and I filled the holes with the previously removed cake.

I was worried the cupcakes would be too sweet with the filling, chocolate cake, and chocolate chips, so I opted for a thin layer of semi-sweet chocolate ganache glaze. Half of the cupcakes were topped with turtle candies and the other half were sprinkled with some more mini chocolate chips. Before topping the cupcakes with turtle candies, I spelled out “Congrats!” with my co-worker’s name and her fiance’s.

Since this was a surprise party, I couldn’t bring my camera to take pictures of the finished set-up since that would have been suspicious. I wrote on the candies using Williams-Sonoma writing icing, heated up. I prefer this icing to others because it dries very quickly, and when you’re done using the icing, it becomes solid for easy storage. The only down-side is that it sometimes clogs when writing.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes

adapted from Chockylit
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

  • 3/4 c. (1-1/2 sticks) butter
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1-1/2 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 30 seconds after each addition. Measure remaining dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine. Measure the milk and vanilla into a measuring cup or bowl with spout. Add a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Add in the chocolate chips, however much you want. Continue alternating between dry and wet ingredients, finishing with the dry. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 3/4’s full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-27 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 4 ounces chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat cream in a saucepan until bubbles form around the edge. Place chocolate in a bowl, pour hot cream over chocolate and stir until smooth. Add vanilla and stir until combined. Refrigerate to cool. If the mixture becomes too thick to spread, heat it up again.

Everyone in my office loved the cupcakes, though some prefered the Banana Pudding Cupcakes I made a little over a month ago. My co-worker said she liked the “font” I used for cupcakes, but she never said if she liked them or not.

A few people said they didn’t like coconut, so I made some non-filled cupcakes in a silicone mold…that didn’t work out. I tried to get the cupcakes out and they fell apart. I guess the silicone mold is only meant to be used for muffins!

Has anyone successfully cooked cupcakes in silicone molds? I also had overflow with these cupcakes, do you think it was because I cooked them in liners and a pan (as opposed to the min-souffle cups I usually use)?

Farmer’s Market Ratatouille

This is another meal that was inspired by our favorite dish on a recent vacation to San Francisco.

Have you ever seen the movie Ratatouille? It’s one of my favorite movies of all time, and holds a special place in my heart. My boyfriend and I were able to snag special screening passes for this movie before it was officially released and right before I started studying abroad in Japan. The movie was great and I saw a lot of cute advertisements for Ratatouille (or Remy’s Yummy Resto as it’s called) when I was there.

Ratatouille Train Station Advertisement in Japan, 2007

After Smitten Kitchen’s Ratatouille popped up in my RSS feed, I knew I had to have some.

I’ve had jarred ratatouille from Trader Joe’s before and it was good, but this was so much better. It came together very quickly (thank you mandoline!) and used all local ingredients. I misread the recipe and didn’t pack the slices as close as I should have, so I made another mini pan of ratatouille. Instead of thyme, I used some local basil and topped the ratatouille with some bovre cheese. I also used tomato paste mixed with some leftover pasta sauce for the red sauce on the bottom. This was alright as a meal, but would have been much better served as a side or atop some pasta (or couscous like SK did).

Since this recipe yields so much, I was able to pack three lunches with it! You know it’s got to be good if my boyfriend asked for it to be boxed up. The round blue box was mine and the pink box went to a vegetarian coworker.

This recipe has been deemed a "hit at home" and is one of the tastiest recipes on Hapa-tite!

Stuffed Squash Blossom Flatbread

The end of August saw our return from a wonderful vacation to San Francisco and a new-found love for local ingredients. There are several local Farmer’s Markets in the area, so we’re used to eating somewhat seasonal cuisine, but in California, if it wasn’t in season, it wasn’t on the menu! Luckily we were there at a great time and had many dishes with corn, figs, olives, and summer squash.

One of our favorite dishes was the first course in the chef’s tasting menu at Baker & Banker: a goat cheese-stuffed lightly fried squash blossom atop summer squash carpaccio drizzled with a ratatouille vinaigrette. In simple dishes like these, the quality of the ingredients really shines through. Since it’s a chef’s tasting menu, it’s always changing depending on the available produce.

Appetizer at Baker & Banker


We thought we would be spoiled by the wonderful ingredients in San Francisco, but we were able to snag some awesome things at our local markets here! These squash blossoms were at the Dupont Circle market for 3 for $1. We also got some Keswick Creamery Chive/Dill Bovre to fill the blossoms with. The dough, purchased from a local pizzeria, is topped with some pasta sauce, local basil chiffonade, and some diced red pepper from the Clarendon Farmer’s Market. The blossoms were dredged with seasoned flour and egg before being quickly fried in some olive oil.

Everything tasted delicious and came together pretty quickly! The squash blossoms were done before the flatbread, so were a little too cool when everything was ready to eat.

Buitoni Frozen Meals for Two

In July I received a nice, shiny coupon for a free “Buitoni Frozen Meals for Two” package as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program.

I didn’t see Buitoni meals in the freezer section at first, then realized that it just looked exactly like our local Wegman’s “Italian Classic” generic brand and grabbed a package. Out of the available options, I chose the Four Cheese & Spinach Ravioli.

A few days later, we cooked the pasta and sauce according to the package directions and plopped ourselves down to eat. The pasta tasted alright, though a little bit soggy. As is the case with all frozen pasta, the flavors were a bit muted in the filling. The spinach was basically just for decoration, not for taste. The sauce was alright as well, though too sweet for my tastes.

At the check-out register, I remember the frozen meal being around $8. While this does feed two people, I could see some people being left hungry. I also think that this is a fairly easy meal to make yourself for much cheaper. Cheese Ravioli + Pasta Sauce? That’s one of the cheapest, easiest meals to make, and I didn’t see a big flavor payoff to justify the price increase.

Thanks Buitoni, but I don’t think I’ll buy these again!

Below is a picture of the product from their website, for comparison.