Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Mid-week Treat

I decided a few months ago that this summer I was going to focus on improving my (terrible) baking skills. I envisioned myself toiling away as I perfected a white cake recipe, mastered the use of yeast, and eventually would be able to throw together brownies from scratch. Well, it's August. My one feeble attempt at strawberry rhubarb pie was hardly what you'd call a success, and the dry, crumbly muffins I made in July were, well, bad.

So last night, I decided to pull it together and bake. To ensure complete success, I would use the lessons from my Summer Cakes Class and create something utterly divine. I would not substitute; I would measure properly; I would follow all directions precisely; I would bake. I would bake well!

Lofty aspirations, I know. Anyway, I decided to make David Leibovitz's Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes from his new book, A Sweet Life in Paris. They seemed easy enough. I had all of the ingredients. I was ready. I even got everything out before I started, and read through the recipe multiple times to make sure I had everything I needed.

Doesn't my station look professional? I thought so too, minus my bed in the background. Anyway, I got everything out and prepared it all, so that the baking process would be smooth, with no surprises. There's nothing worse than jumping right into a recipe and realizing that you only have half the amount of butter it asks for, and you've already made most of the batter. That sort of thing happens a lot to me.

The first thing to do was melt the chocolate. Easy enough, though I didn't have one of those clear, heat-proof bowls, so I just crossed my fingers that my bowl was heatproof. It was a little awkward sitting in the pot, but eventually, my chips turned to beautiful, thin, runny chocolate. (1/4 cup of vegetable oil is added to the chips to create that effect).

Then, the classic baking procedure: mix the wet ingredients (eggs, oil, sugar [why is sugar considered wet?!], vanilla extract, almond extract, and yogurt) in one bowl, and the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) in another. I was doing really well at this point - I even whisked the dry ingredients and made a little well like I was supposed to! Slight hiccup that I forgot the salt, but I just threw it in there when I was mixing the batter all together. Oh well! Finally, stir in the melted chocolate.

And that's it! That's the batter! I couldn't believe how quick it was once I'd prepped by getting all the ingredients out first. Pour the batter into buttered muffin pans and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Want to know how exact I was following the recipe? I even paid attention to the oven thermometer to make sure it was really at 350 the whole time. (I bought the thermometer when I was planning on mastering baking this summer. Embarrassing.)

Anyway, take them out, let them cool, flip them upside down (that was my own special decision!) and dust with powdered sugar (look at me go!).

Of course, try not to think about the gigantic mess you've made. Ugh.

Instead, eat. These chocolate cakes were wonderful - rich in flavor but very light and delicate in texture. I can really see why they could be called "snack cakes" rather than real cakes - they don't really seem like a dessert, but instead, a simple treat after a long day.

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes
Adapted from The Sweet Life in Paris, by David Leibovitz
Makes 12 individual cakes

7 ounces (200g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (125ml) unflavored vegetable oil, divided
1/2 cup (125ml) plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 cup (200g) sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups (180g) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar (for dusting)

1. Preheat the oven to 350f (180C). Lightly butter a muffin tin.
2. In a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup (60ml) of the oil. Once melted and smooth, remove from heat.
3. In another bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup (65ml) of oil with the yogurt, sugar, eggs, and vanilla and almond extracts.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the yogurt mixture. Stir lightly a couple of times, then add the melted chocolate, and stir until just smooth.
5. Divide the batter into the muffin tins (about 3/4 of the way up) and bake for 25 minutes, or until they feel barely set in the middle.
6. Remove from oven and cool. Remove the cakes from the pan by turning them onto a plate or wax paper, so that they are upside-down. Dust with powdered sugar. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.


  1. These were ridiculously good. I can't wait to help eat the other 10!

  2. I think you are going to give Smitten Kitchen a run for her money! These look delicious. And on another unrelated note -- I survived my first week at school (without the students, ha)!


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