Month: February 2016

Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting

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Have you seen The Great British Bake Off?  

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce

It’s a funny chain of events. I first laughed at my sister’s addiction to it, but that was before my mom and I saw it and we too, became hooked. Then, my brothers laughed at at the three of us for our addiction… until they saw an episode and needless to say we are now one GBBO addicted family! 

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I don’t know if it’s the British accents, the countryside setting, the slower pace, the sunshiny classical style music, or what – but it’s awesome! It’s also terrible, though because I’ve only been able to see the first season! (we can’t get the other seasons here in the U.S. – unless there’s something I don’t know about? *hopeful face*) Argh… 

Dear Someone in the UK,

Please send me every season of The Great British Bake Off ASAP! 

Thank you, 


While I wait for some kind soul somewhere out there to see my cry for help and send me some GBBO, let me ask you: Had any good cupcakes lately? 

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Cupcakes are actually a dessert that doesn’t show up around our house too often. I don’t know why, but that’s the case. When I do have them I like my cupcakes moist and chocolaty; not too much frosting and not too little; throw in a s’mores cupcake and you’ve got me!

How do you like your cupcakes? 

These cupcakes were originally supposed to have some Snickers involved, but that didn’t. quite. work. However, I decided that these made for pretty darn good chocolate cupcakes on their own, so here you go!

How the cupcakes work: These cupcakes are adapted from a chocolate buttermilk cake recipe and are super moist (I usually look to buttermilk, or sometimes sour cream, recipes when I want a moist cake). I added some coffee in place of half of the buttermilk, as I like the enhanced chocolate flavor (if you taste any coffee it will only be a slight hint). For the frosting, we are going with a (dark) brown sugar frosting enhanced with brown butter – totally optional – which makes for a great contrast to the chocolate.  

I had a little trouble with runniness in the frosting so here is what I did, in case you have the same problem: If you go through all of the steps and what you have is a runny mess here’s what you can do: Add some powdered sugar (a little at a time, I added 2 1/3 C. total), switch to the whisk attachment on your mixer and whip!

If still a bit runny, pop bowl in the freezer for a good 15 minutes – give a few stirs when you remove from freezer (and maybe one or two during the chilling process).

Please let me know how this recipe turns out for you!

The lowdown: Moist chocolate cupcakes topped with a dark brown sugar (and brown butter!!) frosting make for a delicious twist on your average chocolate cupcake and buttercream frosting – a must try! :) 

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce


Chocolate Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
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    For the cupcakes1 1/2 C. cake flour
  • 1/2 C. dutch process cocoa powder (Hershey's Dark cocoa powder works as well)
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder (or instant coffee powder)
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 12 tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, but not too soft!
  • 1 1/4 C. granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg white, room tempature
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C. buttermilk (I highly, highly reccomned using full fat buttermilk)
  • 1/2 C. strong coffee see note below
  • For the frosting2 C. dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 C. heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly


  1. Cupcakes
  2. Preheat oven to 350° f.
  3. Line 2 cupcake pans (this yields 18-19 cupcakes, so it will be more like 1 1/2 cupcake pans :) with cupcake liners and set aside.
  4. In a medium sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter until light, about 1 minute.
  6. With the mixer on medium-high speed, gradually add sugar; mixing until fluffy and very light in color, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl a few times.
  7. Add eggs, and egg white one at a time, beating until almost completely combined after each addition.
  8. Add in vanilla and beat briefly, about 10 seconds.
  9. Stop mixer and in a liquid measuring cup (or bowl), mix together buttermilk and coffee.
  10. Turn mixer on low speed and add flour mixture to butter/sugar mixture alternately with the buttermilk/coffee in 3 parts. Mix until almost completely combined - do not overmix! Be sure to scrape sides of bowl with a rubber spatula a few times during alternations.
  11. Finish mixing by stirring batter together with rubber spatula until just combined.
  12. Divide batter evenly between cupcake liners (I used about 1/4 C. batter per liner).
  13. Bake for 14-17 minutes (1 pan baked longer than the other) or until cakes spring back when pressed lightly in the center and/or toothpick/cake tester comes out with moist crumbs. Rotate pans halfway through baking.
  14. Transfer pans to wire rack to cool. Cool completely before frosting.
  15. While cupcakes are cooling, start frosting.
  16. Dark Brown Sugar (and brown butter!) FrostingIn a medium-small sized saucepan placed over medium-low heat, melt butter until butter goes from it's lemon-like yellow color to a toasty brown, swirling the pan to ensure even cooking. (if you have never browned butter before, I recommend reading the more detailed how to on The Kitchn)
  17. Once we have some delicious brown butter, maintain the medium-low heat and to the saucepan with the butter, add brown sugar, cream, and salt. Cook until mixture begins to simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  18. Add eggs to mixture, stirring to combine. Return pan to heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 2-9 minutes, or until mixture is thick and foamy.
  19. Cool completely - this took 1 1/2 hours.
  20. About 30 minutes before continuing, set remaining 1/2 C. butter out to warm to room temperature.
  21. Once brown butter mixture is cool, transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer (a hand mixer can also be used). Cut room temperature butter into pieces and add to brown sugar mixture.
  22. Beat until butter is completely blended and frosting has lightened in color (the texture will also be smooth), about 1-2 minutes, occasionally scraping bottom and sides of bowl.
  23. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes and enjoy immediately or place in fridge until desired serving time!


If you don't wish to add the coffee, just substitute with an additional 1/2 C. of buttermilk.

Chocolate Cupcakes | Sempre Dolce



Child’s Chocolate Pie

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There are few foods in life that make me smile.

Chocolate Child's Pie | Sempre Dolce

Food in general can make me happy, but seldom does it make me inwardly smile and present the air of cheerfulness in a way that I just can’t ignore.

There is, however, one food that does. Have you ever heard of Happy Hippo Biscuits? They are the cute little hippos sitting on top of the pie you see. Are they not darling? I don’t remember how we first heard about them, but they seriously are so fun that anytime I look at one I can’t help but feel a burst of sunshine inside. Are you not smiling as well?

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Not only are they cute as a button, but are also extremely tasty! (the hippos are filled with a cream and chocolate hazelnut filling, yumm…)  

Chocolate Child's Pie | Sempre Dolce

When trying to think of ideas for a recipe to post a couple of weeks ago, my mind was rather dead. Until one night in bed I came up with an idea to post something geared a little more to children and to the child inside each one of us (aka the past). Enter this Child’s Chocolate Pie.

For this pie I wanted to incorporate some of the things kids love and so of course Happy Hippos had to be involved, even if they are just for decoration.

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I first tried experimenting with my own filling, but after one trial and error I got impatient – hence as to why I could never fully develop my own recipes! – and thus took the easy way out by way of an internet search. 

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I wasn’t horribly disappointed with my first filling so you can bet that I am going to try my hand at it again soon; it gives me an excuse to post another pie in the near future! But until then, this version will do nicely. :)

Chocolate Child's Pie | Sempre Dolce

The lowdown: This special chocolate pie embraces and incorporates ingredients that will please adults and children alike. A Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumb Crust is filled with a layer of marshmallow and then chocolate pudding; topped with whipped cream and Happy Hippo Biscuits, this is an easy and tasty pie you will want to add to your dessert repertoire


Child's Chocolate Pie
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    Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust24 Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies
  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
  • Marshmallow Layer *this is an optional step, see note below*2 (heaping) C. mini marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp. heavy cream
  • Pudding Layer2/3 C. granulated sugar
  • 1/3 C. cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 C. milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 (13 oz.) jar Chocolate HERSHEY'S Spreads
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • GarnishHappy Hippo Biscuits (optional)
  • whipped cream see note below


    For the crustPreheat oven to 350° f.
  1. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse cookies until they reach a fine crumb. (if you have a small processor, you can do this in small batches - I recommend 4 cookies at a time)
  2. Transfer crumbs to a medium sized bowl and add melted butter.
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Press mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate. Note: I recommend using the bottom of a measuring cup for this step as it spreads more evenly, packs the crust better, and keeps it from falling apart
  5. Bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and let crust cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before proceeding.
  7. After 20 minutes, place crust in freezer while preparing marshmallow layer.
  8. For the marshmallow layerIn a medium sized saucepan placed over a pan of simmering water (actually, I placed mine over a pan of boiling water...), stir together marshmallows and heavy cream until marshmallows are melted and mixture is smooth.
  9. Remove crust from freezer and spread marshmallow mixture evenly over bottom of crust; set aside.
  10. For the puddingIn a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt.
  11. Whisk in eggs, then gradually stir in milk.
  12. Place over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until mixture comes to a boil.
  13. Once boiling, continue to boil and stir for 1 minute until mixture is thick and pudding consistency.
  14. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate spread and vanilla.
  15. Pour filling over marshmallow layer leaving about 1/2" (maybe a little less) from top - you will have some filling leftover, save it for pudding cups, or eating straight... ;)
  16. Place a sheet of plastic wrap directly over pudding surface and place in fridge. Chill for 6-8 hours, or until set.
  17. To garnishBefore serving, top pie with whipped cream and if you can get them, some Happy Hippos - because life is just too short to not have Happy Hippos!


!You can use store bought whipped cream, but if you desire homemade I used this recipe from EpicuriousIn the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until it reaches desired consistency. Epicurious notes that: For soft peaks, the cream will be just thick enough to hold its shape in soft billows. For stiffly beaten cream, the beaters or whisk wires will leave distinct traces on the cream and stand in firm peaks when the beaters are lifted. Note: If you don't want the marshmallow layer, feel free to leave it out - more room for pudding! ;)

Chocolate Child's Pie | Sempre Dolce