Why you ask? Well, it was actually J’s birthday the past 12 days ago (so that’s the REAL reason behind the absence), and so we had been on a prolong celebration. The trip was actually meant for him, but being such a sweet guy, J went on with me to do what I love most instead, that is to EAT. Ah, such tham-jiak-ness to a point of no return. How did J put up with these? Could it be because I could churn out his greatest weakness anytime, tempt him with many cakes, trying variations of our vices, reward him with surprises from time to time, whip up something when hunger strikes and also many of my little Chinese cookouts that I tried, reenacting my Ah Ma’s simple dishes.
Aside all these, all I know is that he is putting up his best with me and my food such as my camera frenzy, especially after I got the new one, where I need to take every picture of every food before consuming, as if it’s a ritual (does anyone out there have the same problem as me?). Sometimes he just wants to dig in straight but I had to warn him not to touch it until I take a decent shot (which takes quite a few tries) and sometimes I just had to give in and let the hungry boy down his food (especially when he is having the tham-jiak face on too). Then he also has to put up with certain degree of humiliation when I go around taking picture of people preparing food. You will sure hear more of these in my Penang-tales to come. In despites the once a while frowning, J had been a great partner in crime of my food endeavors. He had came early in the morning to try my new bakes, bring me to breakfasts (my favourite) and try out new places (knowing well I would go into the picture-taking frenzy), search high and low for some place I read on some foodblog which I insist I must try (or die), and taking me to places he tried which was superb and he would want to share it with me. How much more wonderful can a foodie have from her partner?
Well, I would not be going into details of how J is, I guess the aforementioned of him and my tham-jiak-ness shall suffice. As for now, the cake, the one ultimately should have been the reason of this post. For J’s birthday I wanted to make something special, something different from my 1984’s cakes bake-out. So I decided to make him cupcakes adorn with letters on top to form a certain message (it shall be between us). No prize for guessing again, oh yes, I made it with chocolate and cheese. After all this two combination meant a lot to us.
Adapted from David Lebovitz, at Leite’s Culinaria
I did some variations on the recipes, substituting chocolates with chopped Oreos that I happen to have extras on hand (ok I admit it’s a big purchase from my company’s warehouse sale). That move actually causes semi-disaster as the cheese portion overflow and was left with ugly bumps on the top of the cupcake due to the huge Oreos chunks. So I had to come up with last minute idea to cover it. I found that the cupcake was not really sweet (yes, I gobbled up one, but just because it split to half due to my clumsy hands when releasing it for the first time), as I had lessen the sugar amount in the original recipe. So I decided to sprinkle the cupcakes liberally with icing sugar till most of the ugly bumps are covered, and then adorn it with chocolate letters. When J tried it, he said it was the best (cup)cake I had ever bake (he had too) and then commented that it has frosting too! Then later I realize that he thought the cheeses was the frosting, as I had bought an inferior cream cheese instead (cause the shop I went to ran out of Philadelphia), so it was not cheesy enough to be noticeable. If I am ever to try this recipe again, I would make sure I buy good quality cheese, stick with chopped chocolates instead of Oreos, stick with the sugar ratio and would pour in the cheese right on top of the chocolate batter; instead of how I tried to spoon it in initially (you wouldn’t want to know how).
250g cream cheese
Scant 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
60g of bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chop (which I had substitute with Oreos)
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup loosely packed light brown sugar
5 tbsps Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp white/red vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
25g of butter
Beat together cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth
Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces
Preheat oven to 175C.
Butter a 12 cup muffin tin, (or like me bake it in two batches of 6 holes muffin tin, I had a small oven remember)
In medium bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together.
Mix in the brown sugar.
In separate bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla.
Make a well in the center of the dry mixture, then stir in the wet mixture, till smooth
Do not overmix
Divide batter into the muffin holes, using a spoon, pour the cheese filling into the center of each cupcake, up to the brim
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or till top are golden brown and feel springy when pressed
Frosting (less than an hour before serving a birthday boy):
Melt the extra chocolate and butter in the microwave, stir once a while
Set aside and let cool
Pour it into a piping bag, or like me a ketchup squeeze bottle
Sift icing sugar on the cupcakes generously, till fully coat the top
Squeeze out the chocolates in letters you desire onto the icing sugars
Stick one little candle on one of the cupcakes
‘Surprise’ the birthday boy
Sing the age-old song
Demand him to make a wish first before blowing out the candle
Then make him eat at least two cupcakes
Later sneak into the kitchen and try it out yourself
Serves a birthday boy, the baker and his family (12 cupcakes)