Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

Three layers of chocolate fudge cake with fluffy mascarpone chocolate frosting, dark chocolate glaze, and crispy chocolate pearls for Style Sweet CA's 4th blog anniversary!

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

STYLE SWEET CA turns 4!!

I can't recall the exact date of my very first blog post.  Sometime four years ago I went from bakery website to food blog.  I used to post pictures of the custom cakes I'd make for clients, but a big move from California to Vancouver changed everything.  My clients turned to readers, my recipes scaled down for the home baker, and I taught myself how to use my digital camera.

The first couple years I spent navigating the ins and outs of blogging, making some horrendous decisions with props and food styling, and a few how-to decorating posts that gained the blog some early attention.  However, as soon as I started to establish this space, I switched gears and wrote my first cookbook.  Since then, I've rediscovered my voice and have been really enjoying writing and photographing the delicious stories you see here.

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

"A cake and pastry blog for the home baker."  What does that really mean?  To me, it means taking my knowledge, experience, and expertise and sharing it in an easy to understand, approachable way.  It is inspiring others and hopefully getting you guys jazzed about a particular pie recipe, frosting technique, or cake design.  It is beautiful imagery that excites you enough to want to recreate the dish yourself.  It is going back to some of the basics and understanding why we do certain things in the kitchen to yield tasty results and learning a trick or two that turns a daunting pastry project into something you can actually see yourself making at home.  

Have I stuck to this mission throughout every post over the last four years?  Probably not.  But I try!  But before we see where year 5 will take us, let's dive into this Tripe Chocolate Cake - I know you're dying to grab a fork.

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

For the last two blog-versaries, I celebrated with beautiful, over-the-top watercolour cake tutorials.  This year, I decided to do something different.  I think this chocolate cake is still pretty dramatic, but in an entirely different way.  Instead of focussing on a buttercream technique or frilly decoration, this cake is all about the flavor.  Sometimes I get wrapped up with trying to come up with the next best cake design or most unique flavor combinations.  The blog anniversary nearly came and went this year while I still trying to decide what Pinterest-worthy and most Instagramable recipe to make...

In the end, I picked a cake that I wanted to eat.  Chocolate.  And lots of it.  I went with a solid, trustworthy chocolate cake and a mountain of mousse-like milk chocolate frosting that tempts you to lick your screen.  Is it working?  Do you want to faceplate right into those cocoa clouds yet?

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting
Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting
Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

But really, what I mean is, I went with a chocolate cake recipe that is perfectly moist without being greasy, tender, and deeply chocolatey.  I tried a few variations, but most of the others ended up in the compost bin.  The thing is, I was trying too hard!  I'd strayed too far from my base recipe instead of making small tweaks here and there to improve a recipe that already works.  No need to reinvent the wheel every time!  

This Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe is based on the Sour Cream Chocolate Cake from my cookbook, Layered.  I've made some slight changes (see Notes) and added a bit more chocolate.  The method has also been slightly altered as well.  This new way just makes more sense.

Most chocolate cakes are heavy and dressed in deep fudge frosting or thick ganache.  I wanted to off-set the rich cake with fluffy frosting - especially since it's summer and this cake will be competing for your attention from all the strawberry and stone fruit pastries out there right now.  For the frosting, I lightened up my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream with creamy mascarpone and melted milk chocolate.  It is so heavenly and cloud-like! I beg you though, please eat this cake at room temperature!  Oh, and I tossed in a couple handfuls of some chocolate crunchy pearls for texture (totally optional).

For the third element in our Triple Chocolate Cake - dark chocolate glaze.  If you are so tired of drippy cakes by now, please forgive me!  I still think there is a time and place for chocolate glaze, and I hope you will agree that it totally works with this cake.  As always, the perfect drips are a matter of temperature.  It helps to chill the cake so that the cold buttercream helps control the speed of the drip.  If you still aren't sure, then simply try a test-drip on the back of the cake.  If it runs off the cake and on to the cake board, the glaze is probably too warm (chill at room temperature).  If it is blobby and doesn't quite drip, simply re-heat it!

Triple Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting

Chocolate Fudge Cake
2 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder*
1 cup boiling water
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon grapeseed or canola oil
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup high fat plain Greek yogurt*
1/4 cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour three 6-inch cake pans and set aside.

Place the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder in a heat-safe bowl.  Carefully pour over the boiling water.  Stir together until smooth and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Using an electric mixer (hand or stand), mix together the oil and sugars.  Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time.  Scrape down the bowl.

Add in half of the flour mixture and mix on low until combined.  Add the yogurt and buttermilk and mix until smooth.  Add in the remaining flour and mix until combined.  With the mixer on low, carefully stream in the melted chocolate mixture until combined.

Evenly divide the batter between the prepared pans.  Bake for 26 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.

Milk Chocolate Cloud Frosting
4 ounces egg whites
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons mascarpone, softened
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ounces dark chocolate, melted and cooled
1 to 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer.  Whisk by hand to combine.  Fill a medium saucepan with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer.

Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.  Whisking intermittently, warm the egg mixture until it reached 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Once hot, carefully replace the mixer bowl back on the stand.  Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks and the outside of the bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes).

Turn the mixer down to low and add in the butter and mascarpone, a couple tablespoons at a time.  Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.

Add in the vanilla, melted chocolate, and cocoa.  Mix on medium-high until the buttercream is smooth, fluffy, and cloud-like**

Chocolate Glaze
1 1/2 ounces dark chocolate chopped
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
pinch salt
scant teaspoon bourbon, optional

This recipes makes a very small amount of chocolate glaze and cooks up rather quickly (i.e. - don't walk away from the stove).

Combine the chocolate, cream, and corn syrup in a small saucepan.  Place over medium heat until the chocolate begins to melt.  Remove from the heat and stir until completely melted and combined.  Stir in the salt and bourbon (if using).  Cool at room temperature before dripping on the cake.

Assembly
Chocolate sprinkles
Chocolate crunchy pearls (optional)

Trim the cooled cakes with a long serrated knife.  Place the bottom layer on a cake board or serving dish.  Spread on about 3/4 cup of the milk chocolate frosting with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle on a handful or two of crunch pearls (if using) and gently press them into the frosting.  Top with the next layer of cake and repeat.

Crumb coat the cake with the frosting and chill in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before adding the glaze.  Once both cake and glaze are at the appropriate temperatures, drip the chocolate over the edge with a spoon.  Pipe on remaining frosting with a large star tip and decorate with chocolate sprinkles.

***Notes
– Replace the instant espresso and boiling water with strong, hot coffee.  You will not be able to taste the coffee flavour in either scenario, but the coffee does enhance the chocolate.  If you'd prefer to leave the espresso/coffee out all together, that is fine too.
– Instead of Greek yogurt and buttermilk, replace with 3/4 cup sour cream.  Alternatively, replace Greek yogurt and buttermilk with plain whole milk mixed with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.  Stir the lemon juice into the milk before you prep any of the other ingredients.  By the time you add it to the batter, the milk will appear curdled.  That's OKAY.
– If the buttercream looks like it has cuddled, the butter was probably too cold.  Just keep mixing.
– If the buttercream looks soupy, you probably added the butter in too soon and before the meringue returned all the way back to room temperature.  Chill the mixture (inside the bowl) in the fridge for 15 minute and try whipping again until smooth.
–  The buttercream recipe will make enough to fill and fully frost a three-layer 6-inch cake.  If you only give it a semi-naked crumb coat (as I've done here), then you will have leftovers.

Cherry Chocolate Hand Pies

Mini pockets of juicy cherry and chocolate goodness wrapped in hand-held flakey pastry.

Cherry Chocolate Hand Pies

My 33rd birthday was on Sunday.  I celebrated with my dear husband and toddler by hitting up the Farmer's Market, grabbing a delicious brunch at a funky vegetarian restaurant, squeezing a bit of work during nap, and then an early bird dinner at my top Italian restaurant in town.  So many of you asked who makes the birthday cake for a cake baker like me?  Nobody.  We had Blizzards from DQ and I couldn't be happier.  Oh, and these Cherry Chocolate Hand Pies.

Cherry Chocolate Hand Pies
Cherry Chocolate Hand Pies

I made these because, honestly, flakey pastry and sweet cherries were the only thing currently missing from my 12,045th day on Earth (give or take a few leap years).  I got to celebrate with my two favorite humans eating and exploring in my favorite city which I am lucky enough to call home.  33 is not young nor is it old, so don't expect too much wisdom coming from me yet.  But as I get older I do realize that I don't need much to feel special or even have the desire to be celebrated (I'll gladly take a small dinner party {or even just the hubs and a toddler at 5pm} over the dancing and sparkles {in my wine and on my dresses} of my twenties), and the important stuff I already have.  I don't mind being another year older if I get to spend it with a husband that I adore and the sweetest yet silliest toddler on the planet, working on career that I am truly passionate about, living in an always messy yet happy home that I promise to finish decorating this year, and cherry chocolate hand pies, of course.

Sometimes it's hard to talk about being happy or even perfectly content without sounding like a total asshole, but I really couldn't ask for more.  Don't get me wrong.  Life isn't totally perfect and will probably never be.  Even birthdays come with 6:45am wake-up calls and toddler tantrums.  I still miss our Remy girl every day, but other than that, I wouldn't have it any other way =)

Cherry Chocolate Hand Pies

I admit there's nothing super unique or life changing about this recipe.  Just perfectly flakey pastry, sweet juice cherries, and my favorite dark chocolate.  When you are working with great ingredients, then there's no need to alter their "pure-ness" just for the sake of coming up with an outrageous recipe.  I used my favorite all-butter pie dough and stuffed the hand-held treats with the filling from Yossy's Chocolate Cherry Turnovers from her book Sweeter Off the Vine.

I become both oddly frugal and frivolous when it comes to buying produce.  As a cook/baker, I am constantly buying ingredients.  I also have a toddler that can eat his weight in fresh fruit.  I know all the money spent at the grocery store is well spent either into a recipe I'm testing or into the bellies of my family members.  But damn - good, fresh fruit can be soooo expensive!  But most always necessary.  Especially when you are buying out-of-season for a recipe.  

Anyways, I love cherries so much.  They are so pricey, a pain to eat, and have such a short season that I tend to forget just how good they can be.  Growing up, I remember insisting on climbing to the top rung of our ladder in order to pick paper grocery bags full of cherries from the trees in our backyard.  Those were the days... Now, I am so stingy with cherries you'd think I somehow confused these ruby orbs for actual gems.  I can easily down a big $12 bowl of cherries in one sitting (I have to hold myself back from actually doing it), so it's almost criminal to me to bake them in a dessert.  But guys.... cherry pie is soooo good too!  See, I'm so confused and torn.  

To help solve my dilemma, I opted for hand pies.  For one, they are super cute.  And who doesn't love super cute food that you can eat with one hand?  Secondly, they require much less filling than a full cherry pie.  So if you are like me and find that you've eaten all of your filling while catching up on Netflix while your son is napping and no longer have enough for a full pie, then make these! 

All-Butter Pie Dough
makes 8 to 10 hand pies (may be doubled)

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter, diced
about 1/3 cup ice water
1 teaspoon lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 egg, beaten
splash milk
turbinado sugar for sprinkling

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and sugar.  Place the ice in the water and set aside.

Cut in the cold butter with a pastry cutter or by hand, rubbing the pieces of butter between your thumb, index, and middle fingers.  Once the pieces are no longer lager than about a peanut, begin to flatten the pieces of butter in sheets between your palms.  Be careful not to over-work the butter or let it get too warm.

Working with only a couple tablespoons at a time, add in about 6 to 8 tablespoons of the water along with the vinegar.  Stir together using a wooden spoon or even just a clean hand in the bowl.  The dough should appear fairly shaggy and not sticky.  Once you can squeeze a few pieces together and they hold, the dough is done being mixed.  Do not over-mix.

Divide the dough into half and shape each piece into a rectanlge.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours, or overnight (preferably).

Meanwhile, make the filling (recipe to follow) and let cool.

Once ready, bring one piece of dough out of the refrigerator and allow to rest for about 10 minutes.  Liberally flour the work surface and begin to roll out the dough into a rectangle, working from the center out – rotating the dough after each roll.  Roll the dough until about ¼ inch thick and about 13 X 9. 

Trim the dough.  Cut along the long edge into 3 strips (each should be about 8 X 4 inches).  Repeat with the second piece of dough, using an scraps to squeeze out extra pies.

Place a heaping tablespoons of cherry filling in the center of one end of each strip of dough (you will be folding the dough in half), about 3 to 5 cherry halves.  Sprinkle with a good pinch of the chopped chocolate.  Try not to over-stuff your pies.

Gently take the empty end of each strip and fold it over the filling.  Using the tines of a fork, crimp all four edges of the hand pies to seal. 

Place on a baking sheet and chill in the refrigerator while you pre-heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Once ready to bake, create an egg wash by whisking the egg and a splash of milk.  Brush over each pie and sprinkle with turbanado sugar.

Use a paring knife to cut a few vents in each pie.

Reduce the over to 375 degrees and bake for 18 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Carefully lift up a pie and check to see if the bottom has some coloring before removing.  

Allow to cool before serving.  Enjoy by hand or on a plate with ice cream.

Keep wrapped in foil for up to 3 days.

Cherry Chocolate Filling
adapted from Sweeter Off the Vine

10 ounces sweet cherries, pitted and halved
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
splash vanilla
6 tablespoons dark chocolate, chopped

Place the cherries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in a small saucepan.  Stir to combine.  Cook, while stirring intermittently, over medium-high until the cherries begin to soften and the juices start to thicken, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and let cool before using.

BAILEYS Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies

Fudgey, almost brownie-like cookies with flakey sea salt filled with espresso ganache and Baileys cream frosting.

Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies with Baileys cream and espresso ganache

St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner.  This year, I am tapping into my (very) inner Irish side and making these BAILEYS Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies!  Creamy, chocolate-y, and extremely decadent – make sure you have a tall glass of milk near by.

Baileys Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies

I’ve talked about my mixed heritage before and specifically about my maternal grandmother in this post. Her ancestors came from Puerto Rico before eventually settling down in part of the Arizona agricultural community where she was raised.  Just judging by her tanned skin, dark features, and wild curls, you probably wouldn’t guess that she is part Irish.  Before settling in Arizona, a brief stop in New York, and establishing roots in San Juan, my Puerto Rican ancestors were originally from Spain – Barcelona and Madrid, to be exact.  While in Europe, someone of Irish decent slipped into the mix when the roots of my family tree were being planted.  In the end, the members of this side of my family all look vastly different from each other.  Some have dark skin, some have red hair and blue eyes, and then there’s me with my incredibly pale skin, my father’s German features, and my grandmother’s curls.  It might just be me, but I find genealogy fascinating, especially when it means I get to indulge in these Baileys Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies in honour of my heritage.

I may be just a sliver Irish, but that won’t stop me from treating myself with these decadent cookies this St. Patrick’s Day.  Even if you aren’t Irish at all, you should still make these.  They are so good!

Baileys Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies
Baileys Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies
Baileys Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies
Baileys Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies

Coffee and Baileys Irish cream have always gone hand in hand, and these cookies are no exception.  Ever indulge in one of those fancy after-dinner drinks with dark espresso, creamy Baileys, and mostly likely a tall swirl of whipped cream?  Well these cookies are kind of like that but in dessert form.  The cookies themselves are so deeply fudgey that they remind me of brownies.  I then stuffed them with a truffle center made from Baileys and espresso-infused ganache and a swirl of Baileys Irish cream frosting.  Each bite is more decadent than the next!  To balance out the richness, I sprinkled the cookies with my favourite flakey sea salt, but I bet dunking them in the above-mentioned coffee drink or a tall glass of milk would be equally satisfying.

Baileys Chocolate Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies

Baileys Brownie Truffle Sandwich Cookies

Chocolate Brownie Cookies
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder (optional)
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (mini or regular)
flakey sea salt for sprinkling

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Place the chopped bittersweet chocolate in a saucepan over medium-high heat.  Heat the chocolate until it begins to melt.  Stir until smooth.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a separate mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy.  Beat in one egg at a time followed by the vanilla.  Stir in the melted, cooled chocolate until combined.

With the mixer on low, gradually mix in the dry ingredients until incorporated and the last of the flour streaks disappear.  Fold in the chocolate chips until combined.

Using a mechanical ice cream scoop or small disher, scoop the dough into uniform balls and place on the lined baking sheets 3-inches apart.  Each ball should be about 21/2 tablespoons.  Gently flatten the dough with the palm of your hand and sprinkle with a pinch of flakey sea salt.  Bake for 10 minutes and let rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before moving the baked cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.  Repeat with the remaining dough.

 

Espresso Ganache
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon coarsely ground espresso or coffee beans
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon Bailys Irish cream

Place the cream and espresso in a small saucepan.  Over medium heat, gently bring the cream to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and place in a heat-safe container (with the espresso beans).  Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight (the longer the cream is infused, the stronger the espresso flavour).

When cool, strain out the ground beans with a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth.  Place the infused cream back in the saucepan.  Over medium heat, gently bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, place the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl.  Once the cream comes to a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let stand for 30 to 60 seconds.  Add the Baileys Irish cream and whisk until smooth.  Allow the ganache to completely cool and thicken.  Once the ganache is spreadable, gently whisk by hand until slightly whipped and fluffy (do not overmix or the chocolate will appear grainy).

 

Baileys Irish Cream Frosting
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons Baileys Irish cream
½ teaspoon vanilla

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth.  With the mixer on low, gradually add in the remaining ingredients and mix until combined.  Once the sugar is incorporated, beat on medium-high for several minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.

 

Assembly
Once the cookies have cooled and all of the components are made, pair off the cookies into sets of two.  Flip half of the cookies upside down.

Fill a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip with the Baileys Irish cream frosting.  Pipe a ring of frosting on half of the cookies.  Fill in each right with a tablespoon or so of ganache.  Top the frosting with the spare cookies and gently press together to form a cookie sandwich.

 

NOTES
If the cookie batter is too runny to scoop, let stand 5 to 10 minutes until it stiffens up slightly.

Ganache may be cooled in the refrigerator.  Stir every 5 minutes to keep an even consistency.  Ganache will take about 20 minutes to cool in the refrigerator.

 

This post was sponsored by BAILEYS.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience. 

As always, please remember to drink responsibly.

Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate

Gold splattered French macarons filled with punchy pink peppercorn buttercream and luscious bittersweet chocolate ganache.  Perfect for this Valentine's Day!

Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate

In an effort to keep things unpredictable, “spontaneous,” spicy, and always some-what stressful, my husband and I typically make plans to cook from home on Valentine’s Day.  I say this jokingly, because every time we’ve done so in the past, there has been an unexpected “twist” to our perfect night in.  If you are looking for ways to keep the romance alive in your own marriage, try frantically Google-ing how to quickly thaw out an unexpectedly frozen chicken while tending to a 4-week old and trying to battle the impending gloom of a 10pm dinner while the risotto gets mushier by the minutes.

Or don’t – you probably shouldn’t, actually.  It’s up to you. 

Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate

This year, Valentine’s Day happens to fall on a Tuesday following a three-day weekend (here in British Columbia).  The chances of me wanting to throw together a super-fancy dinner over the weekend are high.  I’ll probably spend the next week in search of new recipes to try and make endless lists for groceries and prep work.  At the end of the day, I actually live for this stuff.  I love to cook and researching recipes is actually one of my favorite rituals to do in between putting the toddler to bed, taking the dog out, and getting ready for bed each night.

The problem is more of a matter of ambition.  I always want to try out something new.  And while I am huge supporter of pushing your own boundaries and trying new things, I tend to wait until the steaks are high – like trying to pull-off a 5-course meal (with hardly any prep work completed) on Valentine’s Day.  In such times, the only recipe I can really count on is the recipe for disaster: high stress + new recipes + unpreparedness.  Don’t be like me.

Earlier on in my career, making French macarons would have fit the bill perfectly.  In fact, I did try to pull-off heart-shaped macarons for Valentine’s Day the same year 85% of our kitchen was in boxes just days before the big move from California to Canada.  Not only did macarons still give me tremendous trouble at the time, everything else that was going on around created the perfect storm for disaster.

But back to this year and why I am rediscovering the macaron.  Instead of being overly ambitious with my meal prep or trying a new fancy recipe for the first time on a holiday, I plan to use tried and trusted recipes but with a special twist.  A favorite dish but with a new flavour variation or something with a simple preparations but made with heart and high-quality, seasonal ingredients.  I’m not sure what this means yet as far as an entrée for us this year, but for dessert – these Pink Peppercorn Ganache Macarons.  At this point, macarons aren’t nearly as stressful for me to make and I no longer see them as these fancy, unattainable pastries.  Yet, they do take time, practice, and preparation, so I don’t make them very often.  With that said, combined with this blushing pink and chocolately filling, they fit my new criteria for a special yet not overly fussy Valentine’s Day dessert.

 

Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate
Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate

Pink peppercorn in a dessert??!  If you recall this cake from back in the day, or the version that I recreated for my book Layered, then you know I love how the slightly peppery and faintly fruity flavors pair with sweets.  In a dessert, especially this buttercream, the crushed pink peppercorns pack an unexpected punch – but don’t worry, it’s not like biting into a pepper or anything.  The spice in a pink peppercorn is delicate and much more rounded (as opposed to sharp flavours of black pepper).

For me, the crushed pink peppercorns off-set the sweetness of the buttercream perfectly and the rich, fudgey centers make for the most divine bite(s).  I love how decadent bittersweet chocolate ganache can be, but feel free to use a semi-sweet variety if you are in search of something a bit lighter.  Valrhona Chocolate was gracious enough to send me a variety of their best chocolate feves to test out.  In this particular recipe, I favoured their 70% Guanaja chocolate, but if that sounds too rich to you, then go for the 63% Illanka chocolate.  Both are amazing!  A post about the wonders of Valrhona Chocolate would not be complete without mention of their Dulcey feves.  I’m not a huge white chocolate fan, but this blonde chocolate just might be heaven on earth.  Next time, I am definitely saving some plain macaron shells to fill with mounds of the caramelized white chocolate ganache goodness.

Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate
Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate
Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate
Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate

And last but not least – GOLD SPLATTER!  Because macarons shells can be quite finicky, I don’t like to add too much to the shell batter before baking.  Beyond some vanilla bean and/or a few drops of food coloring, I try to stay clear of too many additional ingredients that might disrupt the bake.  I’ve tried freeze-dried fruit powders and sprinkles, but they tend to yield inferior macarons (in my personal opinion).  A fun and easy way to dress up baked macarons shells is to add a little shimmer by way of gold splatter!  I have several little jars of gold luster dust leftover from my wedding cake making days, so I am always on the hunt for ways to incorporate the metallic powder into my desserts today.  As you could imagine, macaron shells hate water.  But mixed with a touch of vanilla extract or even vodka, gold luster dust turns into beautiful gold paint.  For the splatter effect, simply add just enough liquid to the luster dust so that it becomes slightly liquidy and not pasty.  Dip a clean brush into the mixer and use your finger to flick the bristles over the top of the macarons.  I love the imperfect, organic nature of this decorating technique – don’t you?

Pink Peppercorn and Ganache Valentine Macarons with Valrhona Chocolate

Pink Peppercorn Macarons
For the shells, I used this macaron recipe here.

Pink Peppercorn Buttercream
3 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 to 2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, or to taste
2 to 3 drops pink food gel, optional

In the bowl of an electric mixer, lightly whisk together the egg whites and sugar.  Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer.  Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.

Stirring intermittently, heat the egg white mixture until it registers about 155-160 on a candy thermometer.  Once hot, carefully transfer the mixer bowl back to the stand mixer.

Using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks, or until the outside of the mixer bowl returns to room temperature (about 8 minutes).  Stop the mixer and swap the whisk for the paddle attachment.

Meanwhile, crush the peppercorns using a mortar and pestal.

With the mixer on medium-low, add in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time.  Add in the vanilla. Turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth.  Add the crushed pink peppercorns and food coloring until desired taste and color is achieved.

At any point does the buttercream appear curdled, just keep mixing.  If the buttercream appears soupy, try placing it in the refrigerator for about 10 to 15 minutes then mixing again.


Chocolate Ganache
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (by weight), chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
pinch salt

Place the chocolate in a heat-safe bowl and set aside.

Place the cream in a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Once hot, pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let stand 30 to 60 minutes, then whisk until smooth.  Add a pinch of salt and combine.

Allow the ganache to completely cool.  It will thicken over time.  Cooling may be sped up in the refrigerator, but be sure to stir every 5 minutes or so.  Remove from the refrigerator and use once the ganache has thickened and can be piped from a piping bag (about 20 minutes).


Assembly
Once the macarons shells are baked, let rest for a couple minutes out of the oven before removing the shells off of the hot baking sheets (wait until they are just cool enough to handle and don’t break apart).  Once cooled, match the shells together into pairs of the same size.

Fit two piping bags with medium round tips – around #8 or so (or just snip them with scissors to create smallish openings).  Fill the bags with the buttercream and cooled ganached.

Pipe rings of the buttercream around the edges of the bottom macarons shells.  Fill the centers with the ganache.  Place on the top shell and gently press together so that the buttercream goes to the edges of the cookies but does not spill out.  Place the filled shells on your work surface and splatter with the gold luster “paint.” 
 

Notes
The gold splatter can be slightly bitter, so don't get too carried away.
I always use Bob's Red Mill almond flour – It's the best!!  However, I failed to sift all of the flour before making this particular batch.  Don't be like me.  Sift, sift, sift!

 

Thank you to Valrhona Chocolate for supporting Style Sweet CA!