The Perfect Pantry's foods of love (Recipe: sugar-free chocolate cupcakes)
Every January 23, my husband Ted and I celebrate the anniversary of a warehouse fire in Newark, New Jersey.
The fire consumed an entire city block, and firefighters battled all night, pouring water on a building that, in frigid winter weather, morphed into an ice palace. It was horrible and beautiful, and going to watch it in the middle of the night was our first date.
I remember everything about that night, as you do when it is the first date of the rest of your life.
I remember everything, except what we ate.
Given how it turned out, though, I think we must have consumed some of the aphrodisiac ingredients I keep in my pantry.
Why not put together a menu for the first date of the rest of your life -- or for dinner with someone you love? Or like. Or think you might like. Or want to get to know better. Oh, you know what I mean.
Aphrodisiacs on the spice rack:
- Coriander (mushroom bhaji, a triple whammy with tomatoes, onions and coriander)
- Saffron (pie-ella, my husband's favorite dish)
- Cinnamon (pear spice cupcakes, Mexican spiced fish)
- Chiles (grilled chile-lime-ponzu chicken)
- Curry (potato and broccoli samosas, or butternut squash, apple and vadouvan soup)
- Allspice (garlic chicken on skewers, another double with allspice and garlic)
- Nutmeg (Thomas Jefferson's bread pudding, so rich that it's almost, but not quite, over the top)
- Cardamom (currant cardamom scones, in case dinner lasts until breakfast)
Aphrodisiacs in the refrigerator and freezer, and on the counter top:
- Garlic (pear and parsnip soup, baked cherry tomatoes)
- Onions (salsa and shrimp stuffed avocado, an elegant appetizer)
- Eggs (Italian style omelet)
- Mustard (panko and mustard crusted fish, a beautiful main dish)
- Pine nuts (penne with roasted red pepper pesto)
- Almonds (amaretti cookies)
Aphrodisiacs in the cupboard:
- Tomatoes (baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta)
- Black beans (corn, bean and two tomato salad, black bean and peach soup)
- Honey (shrimp teriyaki, made sweet or hot)
- Vanilla (spice snap cookies)
- Chocolate (chocolate and hazelnut dipped strawberries)
It can't hurt to keep your pantry stocked with these loverly ingredients at all times of the year.
Trust me on this. After celebrating January 23 thirty-four times, I'm pretty sure I'm right.
Sugar-free chocolate cupcakes with sugar-free frosting
Although candy is a traditional Valentine's Day gift, sugar is not an aphrodisiac, so these sugar-free chocolate cupcakes really are a food of love. Recipes from RecipeGirl.com (icing adapted slightly). Note: though the original recipe called for it, I didn't use unsalted butter; I think a bit of extra salt brings out the chocolate flavor. Makes 10.
For the cupcakes:
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup boiling water
1-1/2 cups sifted cake flour (sift, then measure)
1 cup granulated Splenda (you can substitute Splenda for Baking, which is 50% sugar)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
For the frosting:
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (I used Trader Joe's)
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 Tbsp Splenda (6 small packets)
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp chocolate extract or strong prepared coffee
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.
In a small measuring cup, combine cocoa and boiling water. Whisk and blend until smooth, and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle beater, combine flour, Splenda, baking soda and salt. Add butter and mix until the mixture is crumbly.
In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, cocoa mixture and vanilla. Add 1/3 of this wet mixture to the mixer bowl. Beat on low speed until every thing is combined, then increase to medium speed and beat for an additional 30 seconds. Scrape down the bowl, and add another 1/3 of the wet mixture to the mixer bowl. Repeat, until all of the wet mixture has been added and the batter is smooth.
Using an ice cream scoop with a release (called a "disher"), or a large spoon, scoop the batter into the cupcake tin.
Bake 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cupcakes will not be smooth on top, but that's okay. Remove the cupcakes from the pan onto a wire rack, and let them cool completely.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting:
In a glass measuring cup, heat the chocolate in the microwave in 30-second increments until it's almost completely melted (this took three 30-second zaps), then stir until it is smooth, and pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer to cool for a couple of minutes.
Using the whisk beater on your mixer, slowly whisk the cream into the cooled chocolate. Beat on medium speed and add the butter, Splenda, cocoa, vanilla and chocolate extract or coffee. Beat until smooth and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.
If you want to spread the frosting with a palette knife, you can do it now. If you want to pipe it through a pastry bag (or in a zip-loc bag with one corner snipped off), fill your pastry bag. If it doesn't pipe easily, put the pastry bag into the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes so the icing can stiffen up a bit. (I found it easy to pipe right away, without chilling it.)
These cupcakes don't keep well, so serve them the same day you make them.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Carrot cake cupcakes with lemon frosting
Chocolate spice cookies
Mexican chocolate pots de creme
Chocolate double ginger cupcakes
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.
Wow, 34 years! I am duly impressed. And what a fun first-date memory. Love the sound of the cupcakes too; wish I had one right now (I'm having a serious craving for chocolate.)
Sugar free is good. That's like eating a few extras and they don't count. ;0
Eggs and mustard are about the only thing in my refrigerator at the moment ... so perhaps I'll get lucky.
Great recipe! I've been looking for a sugar free cupcake recipe to make for my aunt. Thanks!
Aww- what a sugar free yet very sweet post!
What a lovely story! I'm surprised, though, that garlic is on the list -- perhaps keep the vampires away so love can find its way in ?
34 years! That's wonderful. We are on 23 and I thought that was a lot!
Sugar free can be spoken in the same breath as delicious desserts. These look so good Lydia.
Love your list and story.
Love the story (which is why I love reading your blog)
Thanks for the list
Just an FYI, Splenda for baking contains sugar, so the frosting is sugar free but the cupcake isn't.
Kalyn, Ted was one-of-a-kind back then, and he still is. These cupcakes scratched my chocolate itch, too.
Dave, eating chocolate always feels like cheating a bit, even when it's sugar-free.
TW, you never know....
SSS, the cupcakes are pretty good for sugar-free. They're not so pretty, so you need some sort of topping.
Julia, as always, the secret is that both people must have the garlic. It's a bit counterintuitive, though, isn't it?
Pam, the time really did fly.
Val, you are so right. And the older we get, the more we appreciate sugar-free.
Paz, Kim: thank you so much.
Sandy, you're absolutely right. I've revised the recipe to offer both the Splenda for Baking (which is 50% sugar) and the granulated Splenda, which is what I used. The ingredients in the granulated are maltodextrin and sucralose only. If you don't need to be on a sugar-free regimen, I'd suggest using the Splenda for Baking, which will make the cupcakes a bit more rich. Thanks for the catch.
Those cupcakes look delicious! And what a sweet story!
Oh, I'm liking this recipe! Just what a sugar-free chocoholic needs. I'll experiment a bit to see if I can gluten-free it successfully. Congrats on 34 years of togetherness. Just so happens it falls on my birthday! :)
I think the way to a man's heart is through his stomach for sure!!
My mom is a diabetic and these would be perfect for her.
34 years---wow (and congratulations)! That is an admirable accomplishment. I better start stocking up on the aphrodisiac ingredients. Couldn't hurt, right?! ;)
Also, I agree with you: Salt does bring out the flavor in chocolate. Good call using salted butter in this recipe.
I love the photo of your cupcakes but your story was especially dear. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary
Radhika, Carol, Mary: thank you. I smile whenever I tell that story.
Christine, there's a gluten-free chocolate cupcake posted on Gluten Free Goddess today. (And happy belated birthday!)
Noble Pig, these are great for diabetics. Make sure to use the granulated Splenda, though, and not the Splenda Blend.
Sandie, you can never have too many aphrodisiac foods in the pantry!
Chocolate discovery: Chocolate gravy and biscuits, on "Homesick Texan" blog. Read all the comments for the bigger picture/ lesson in the sociology of a food.
Susan, I saw the post on Homesick Texan. Made my mouth water.
Chocolate cupcakes look fantastic, really enjoy your blog. Have a great evening!
It is the common myth that if you suffer from diabetes, you have to eat special food that is often very expensive. In reality the diet works for the best if the food consists of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, but in right combination.
I love your list! Also your cupcakes look divine and as they are sugar free we have included them in our 25 Sugar Free Cupcake list.
Why don't they keep well? I'm desperately looking for a sugar-free recipe for my Mom's birthday.
I must try these...
So, my father is diabetic and tomorrow is father's day. I figured...what better way to show him I care than to put a lot of TLC into something special for him. I got all the ingredients, even some that weren't so easy for me to find and came home and started. After mixing the cupcake mix, I figured I'd better try it (wet) before popping them in the oven. If they're not delicious wet, then I won't waste the gas and electric to bake them. Well, to my greatest delight...YUM!! So, in the oven they went. Now the frosting. I had a little trouble but that was due to my own ignorance. I tasted the frosting before putting the coffee in because I just couldn't imagine it tasting good w/coffee. It was good and it was easy enough to make that I thought I'd put in the coffee and try it. If I didn't like it then I'd make another batch w/out it. It was good enough. As I'm reading the instructions and following everything note for note, I'm getting more excited to surprise dad.
All done!! Phew! Frosting is a little 'wet' so I put it in the fridge to tighten it up. As I read the FINAL part of the instructions, I was completely DUMBFOUNDED! These cupcakes don't hold well and should be eaten the same day????? After ALL THAT??? Now what?? Now I keep my fingers crossed and hope they're still good tomorrow afternoon and that he'll have a big enough appetite throughout the day to eat ALL OF THEM.
I think this very IMPORTANT note should be the FIRST part of the instructions!! UNBELIEVABLE!!
Wish me luck!
Michele, always, always, always read a recipe all the way through before you start to cook. I'm sure the cupcakes will be fine for your dad.