The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Claudia's Cookbook - Chocolate Cupcakes with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. I loved going to school as a kid knowing it was Valentine’s Day. We would tape our brown paper bags to our desks, walk around the room and hand out little Valentine’s cards to everyone in the class. It was such a fun ‘holiday’ growing up. Not to mention, the abundance of cinnamon hearts and heart shaped foil wrapped chocolates!

As an adult, Valentine’s Day has become just another day for the most part. This year, I was asked to incorporate “love” into a blog post and express what it means to me. After some careful thought and consideration, I figured the best way to speak to this is to create a top 10 list of the things I love in my life. Here is what I came up with (in no particular order):

  1. My beautiful friends and family. That is clearly a given if you read my blog on a regular basis.
  2. My 3 crazy cats that I share my home with. They drive me insane, but they’re amazing.
  3. Sleep. If you know me well, you know I will sleep until Noon every day if given the chance.
  4. Travelling anywhere and everywhere. I am truly obsessed.
  5. Baking on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. It is more relaxing than yoga to me.
  6. The smell of hockey rinks. Playing hockey is the most natural feeling I have ever experienced, even after a 15 year hiatus. Amateur hockey rinks have this distinctive smell of frozen ice and hockey equipment. It’s not a particularly amazing smell, but it reminds me of my childhood and I just cannot get enough of it.
  7. Marathons of Dateline on TV. I clearly was a detective in a previous life.
  8. The first 3 Star Wars movies. I’ve seen them all literally over 100 times and I still watch them to this day.
  9. Sharks. Yes, you read that right. I’m fascinated with them and watched Shark Week on Discovery Channel before it become ‘cool’. My dream is to cage dive with Great Whites. I will do this – mark my words.
  10. Chocolate. I’m addicted. I can’t get enough.

Because Valentine’s Day is so synonomous with chocolate, I decided to feature The Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake recipe on the blog. It is seriously delicious. It is rich with chocolate flavour and very moist. You also cannot go wrong with Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting! It has the perfect amount of sweetness yet doesn’t have that artificial strawberry flavour that most icings have.

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Cadbury Mini Egg Fudge

Claudia's Cookbook - Cadbury Mini Egg Fudge cover

Remember the time I decided to go on a Smoothie Diet? Yeah. Let’s pretend that never happened. I blame drinking smoothies 3 times a day for the lack of posts over the past few weeks. It actually wasn’t all bad. I lost a few pounds and learned that I could drink spinach and not gag. It actually tasted pretty darn good! But boy, did I miss chocolate (and pretty much any food that wasn’t in liquid form). At one point, I was even craving a salad. A SALAD! The world works in mysterious ways, my friends.

Well, I survived and I decided to make my triumphant return to you by featuring the most decadent, rich, chocolaty dessert on the face of the earth. That’s right, screw you smoothies! This recipe is an adaptation from a recipe my future Mother-in-Law gave me over Christmas. It was given to her a few years ago by her friend who sadly is no longer with us. My future Mother-in-Law was nice enough to give us some fudge over the holidays and I quickly fell in love (with the fudge…well, and I guess with her too!). She was kind enough to give me the recipe and I had to adapt it to include one of my favourite candy’s ever – Cadbury Mini Eggs! The original recipe called for chopped nuts, but I figured Mini Eggs were crunchy too – so why the heck not? I cannot begin to describe how unbelievable this fudge is. It’s seriously the best fudge I’ve ever tasted. Like, EVER. And that’s not the 2 week smoothie diet talking. It’s soft, sweet and oh, so rich. A little square goes a long way. Topped with the fact that there are delicious morsels of Mini Eggs inside, well my taste buds simply can’t handle it! I actually went into a mini chocolate coma yesterday. Truth.

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Frozen Hot Chocolate…and Happy Mother’s Day!

Claudia's Cookbook - Frozen Hot Chocolate 12

First off, Happy Mother’s Day! This day is quite important to me as I am pretty close to my Mother. Heck, I even named this blog after her! I may be a tad biased, but she is by far the best Mother in the entire world. I am not a Mother myself but I have a huge respect for those who are and the hard work that comes with the role. So to all you fabulous Mom’s out there – thank you for everything you do.

Now onto something absolutely delicious – Frozen Hot Chocolate! Last week I was on vacation in Las Vegas with two of my girlfriends. Lots of shopping and eating was had. I finally had the opportunity to dine at Serendipity 3 and taste their famous Frrrozen Hot Chocolate! I’ve attempted this at couple times in New York City, but failed to make it to the restaurant. It definitely lived up to it’s amazing reputation and $11 price tag.

Frrrozen Hot Chocolate

Here it is above. Yeah – it was huge and so rich and chocolatey! And look at that whipped cream! I had to find a recipe and duplicate it immediately. It’s a pretty simple recipe. I would recommend using a darker chocolate to give it more of a rich chocolate flavour that is similar to the original.

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Double Chocolate Stout Cake

Claudia's Cookbook - Double Chocolate Stout Cake 12

Wow time sure does fly. I can’t believe it’s been over one month since my last post. Trust me though, I have a valid reason. Last week, I was finally able to escape our brutally cold winter and head to the sunny skies and warmth of Arizona to visit my parents. I had every intention to do some serious baking with Claudia since I hadn’t seen her in well over a month. Well, my plan sorta backfired. On the second day of my vacation, I got the stomach flu – bad. I spent the remainder of my time in Arizona sick and whining for Claudia to take care of me. Yes, I reverted to a 12 year old girl pretty darn quick. You would too if your Mother was so close to you – trust me.

In any case, I finally have my appetite back and realized I needed to blog ASAP. St. Patrick’s Day is only a couple days away and what better way to celebrate than bake with my two favourite things in the world – chocolate and beer! I have to admit this is by far the BEST chocolate cake I have ever made in my entire life. It is adapted from Deb, the lovely genius behind Smitten Kitchen, which happens to be one of my favourite blogs in the world. She is so brilliant that she just came out with a brand new cookbook which I have been buying for my foodie friends as gifts! This cake is decadent and rich. The chocolate coffee ganache is a perfect touch of velvety goodness. It’s also pretty darn simple to make. I decided to use a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout beer to add to the rich chocolate flavour, but you can use your favourite stout beer (like Guinness).

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Chocolate Dipped Cream Cheese Butter Cookies

I’m not going to lie…one of the reasons I love the holiday season is the 12 Days of Cookies emails I receive from the Food Network. Just when you think you’ve seen all the Christmas baking recipes there is, another one lands in my inbox and become nearly giddy. Yeah, I probably could use a hobby besides baking. But who has the time?!

I finally found time in Claudia’s busy retirement schedule (I swear she’s busier now that she doesn’t work full time!) to fit in some quality baking with her for this blog. Last night she came over and we decided to try a couple new butter cookie recipes we have been eyeing. This one was the big hit. You really cannot lose when you incorporate cream cheese into the dough and dipping the cookie in chocolate! These are a nice twist on the traditional holiday butter/sugar cookie. The cream cheese makes the cookie a little denser and the chocolate adds a nice sweetness. Because the dough needed to be chilled, Claudia decided to make the dough prior to us getting together, so I do not have any pictures of these steps. I figured combining all ingredients into a bowl didn’t really require visual representation anyway.

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Rolo Brownie Trifles

I love TV night. I celebrate my favourite guilty pleasure shows with 3 lovely ladies practically every week. It’s a fun time where we laugh, catch up on the week’s drama and, of course, eat. This week I volunteered to do the dessert because baking is clearly what I am most comfortable with. I scoured the Internet to find something a little more special than the average brownie recipe. That’s when I came across Bakingdom’s adorable website with this gem. My pictures do not do this dessert justice. This individual trifle recipe is decadent and rich – a perfect guilty pleasure treat. You simply can’t go wrong with Rolo candies, brownie, gooey salted caramel, and chocolate whipped cream! Everything in this recipe is made from scratch. You could easily make this with a box brownie recipe, store bought whipped cream and caramel sauce. It would probably taste pretty good, but not as good as this.

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Wookiee Cookies

I love Star Wars. Some people may say it borders on infatuation. Therefore, when I learned that this past weekend was the 35th anniversary of the first Star Wars movie (Episode IV), I thought what better recipe to feature than Wookiee Cookies.

I grew up on Star Wars. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around me and my brother spending our summer vacations watching our VHS tapes of the 3 movies which my parents taped off of TV. One of my earliest memories is actually of when my parents took me to the theatre see Return of the Jedi – where I was too embarrassed to tell Claudia that I was scared of the lightsaber battle happening between Luke and Darth Vadar (see, I’m quite the Star Wars nerd), that I instead insisted she take me to the bathroom. I didn’t have to go. I was like 4 years old, don’t hold it against me!

Even today, when I see Star Wars playing on television, I have to watch. I have all the movies on DVD, but I still have this need to stop what I’m doing and watch. It was this action that made my boyfriend purchase the Star Wars cookbook for me for my birthday a few years ago. It was then where I discovered these delicious treats. Wookiee Cookies encompass all the comfort and deliciousness of chocolate chip cookies but with a hint of cinnamon. The cinnamon really does make these cookies amazing.

As previously mentioned, this recipe is adapted from The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies and Other Galactic Recipes by Robin Davis.

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S’mores Brownies

Today in Canada is what is known as “May Long Weekend”, or technically, Victoria Day. To many people, May Long Weekend is the unofficial kick-off to summer. It’s the first weekend of the year people open their cabins, head to the lake, and go camping. Our family never did any camping on May Long Weekend. My parents would instead save all their holidays (3 weeks) for August and take us to the middle of nowhere Manitoba and camp with zero electricity, flushing toilets or running water. Sure, we had a pop-up tent trailer. That was great until it would rain and the canvas would leak water into my bed. Or that since there was no showers at the campground where we would religiously park ourselves at for 3 weeks, I would have to get used to showering once a week, with the remainder of the time “bathing” in the lake.

Contrary to popular belief (especially from me and my brother), my parents were not hippies. They were just minimalists who enjoyed being out in nature building campfires and fishing with their kids. My brother and I were so used to spending each summer like this since we were born, that we truly didn’t know any different. We were always super excited when August rolled around. My favourite part of camping with my parents (besides fishing and swimming) was making S’mores and toast on the campfire with Claudia. I love S’mores, They are this delicious camping comfort food that everyone can relate to. These S’mores Brownies incorporate everything in traditional S’mores – chocolate, marshmallow and graham cracker. They are a great way to relive your camping days while not actually being out in the middle of the woods with no to shower. They are chocolatey, gooey and best served with vanilla ice cream. This recipe was adapted from the wonderful Joy the Baker.

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Crunchy Nutella Brownies

Oh Nutella, you sweet temptress. The rich hazelnut and chocolate flavour is beyond addicting. I vowed to only buy one jar to dabble in some dessert recipes. Unfortunately, I found myself putting this delicious spread on toast quite often, which went against my baking vow.  I had to do something drastic. I needed to get rid of the remaining Nutella before I ingested it all on my own. I scoured the internet and found this unbelievable recipe from La Casa de Sweets. I shared these crunchy, rich brownies with some of my girlfriends and they agreed that this recipe was indeed blog worthy.

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Salted Caramel & Nutella Rice Krispie Squares

I waited for as long as I could. I tried my best to avoid walking down the aisle where I knew it would be. Alas, the temptation was too strong. I broke down and finally bought that tub of Nutella. Oh Nutella, you sultry chocolatey temptress. I didn’t grow up on Nutella. I grew up on old fashioned peanut butter and Cheez Whiz. Yes, I said Cheez Whiz. Claudia constantly reminds me that I was quite the picky eater growing up. I refused to eat any kind of sandwich that she made for lunch that wasn’t Cheez Whiz. Let’s just say I am happy my palate has evolved and I can appreciate the better things in life – like Nutella.

Like most Mom’s, Claudia made a lot of Rice Krispie treats for us kids growing up. I figured I would take this classic dessert and put more of an adult twist by topping it with chocolate and my latest obsession – salted caramel. I adapted this recipe from Mini Baker. It’s so simple and positively delicious. If these were available back in the ’80s, the 8-year old me would have put down the Cheez Whiz and picked up the Nutella.

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