Chocolate mousse is one of my all time favorite desserts. It’s relatively quick and easy, and is always impressive. So, when I saw a recipe that takes that love, and multiplies it times three, and then puts it into the form of a cake – lets just say it took my breath away. I made this cake for Valentine’s Day, and I was kind of worried that I’d be pressed for time. It’s quite a lengthy recipe, but don’t let that intimidate you. As with most Cook’s Illustrated recipes, it looks a lot worse than it is. But, it’s their descriptiveness and attention to detail that always make their recipes sure fire winners. I worked on it here and there all morning, and by lunchtime the cake was done and chilling in the refrigerator.

It was all I could do to wait until after dinner to unmold and serve it. I’m pleased to report that it’s everything I thought it was going to be. Often chocolate desserts are so sweet they hurt your teeth. Not the case here. The use of bittersweet chocolate really creates a great balance. I’m not a big fan of white chocolate, but the extra boost of sweetness it lends to the top layer is welcome. This will definitely be a new addition to my repertoire of special occasion desserts. It was just perfect!

I know I’m kind of a day late and a dollar short with these cupcakes, but it’s Valentine’s Day, and I wanted to share something sweet with you guys. What’s more classic for the special day than red velvet cake? Behold them, in all their color saturated glory. Andrew and I had a great time baking them yesterday afternoon. Hard to believe that next year I’ll be shipping cupcakes off to school with him for a Valentine party – yikes!

I’ve been using this recipe for several years now, and they always come out perfect every time. Some might think that 2 ounces of food coloring is excessive. And it is, kind of. But the full, rich color it gives these cupcakes can’t be had with any less. In the olden’ days, you would have to rely on a chemical reaction between the cocoa and vinegar to produce a mottled brownish-red color.  Now, I’m all for doing things the natural way as much as possible. Buuut, thank goodness for my industrial sized bottle of red food coloring (purchased at my local restaurant supply shop – much love to Sysco) to give the that punchy color I so adore. Share them with someone you love!

While I truly treasure this wonderful place I call home, when it comes time to look for “specialty” ingredients I’m often left wanting. Such was the case the first time I set out to make tiramisu. I had a hard enough time finding marscarpone, but the ladyfingers (also known as “savoiardi”) were impossible to find around here. I made my own out of necessity, and haven’t looked back since. They’re so light and delicate, a perfect cross between a cake and a cookie.

Of course tiramisu is the first thing that comes to mind, but these delicate little beauties have so many applications. I especially like them topped with some fresh berries tossed in a bit of sugar or drizzled with honey. Don’t go to the Italian specialty section of your grocery store to buy these ever again. Save yourself a few bucks and make them at home!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of this neat little site called Pinterest. It’s a great resource for everything; recipes, DIY ideas, housekeeping, sewing, gardening…pretty much anything under the sun. When I came across this pin for strawberry cupcakes, it was love at first site. I think it was the color of the cake and frosting that lured me, a gorgeous punchy pink color. I knew I had to make them.

Because of the addition of lots of fresh strawberry puree, the strawberry flavor really shines through. The cake was super moist, and a tad denser than most cupcake recipes I’ve tried. I changed a couple of things from the original recipe. First, I reduced the eggs to 3-since that’s what I had on hand (these boys have been putting away some eggs lately!). And second, because I’m lazy, I just added the eggs all at one time, and skipped beating the egg whites and folding in at the end. I suspect that they wouldn’t have been as dense if I had taken that extra step. But, hey, they were still delicious. And, one less dish, right? Make these to add a pop of color to a dreary winters day!