Deep, dark, tender chocolate-y mini-cakes filled with a dreamy, creamy mascarpone filling and dipped in bittersweet chocolate and sprinkles--if this doesn't say "I love you!", I don't know what does. If you're looking for something fun and colorful and a little off the beaten path to show your Valentine how much you care, these delightful mini-cakes are just the thing!!
Is Valentine's a big day in your house? Do you really go all out? When I was a little kid, I remember my dad giving us girls some sort of adorable sweet in the morning (most likely purchased by my mom!) and when my kids were little we always woke them up with "sweets and tarts" as they liked to call it, to make the day a bit more special. And then of course there were the Valentine Day celebrations in school--all the cards and heart-shaped candies. Now, with the boys away at school and busy lives, we're a little more low-key, but I still like to do something a little bit special to mark the day. And in my book, you can't go wrong with chocolate...hence these little mouthfuls of chocolate heaven!!
When one of my boys was younger, my Grammie used to indulge him in Yodels whenever she babysat (among other things--like all great grandmothers (literally, she was my grandma) she spoiled him rotten) and these taste like a grown-up version of those, what with the cocoa flavored, not-overly-rich cake, the coffee-ish enhanced creme filling and the bittersweet coating that gets divinely crackly when chilled!! Now that he's all grown up (tomorrow he actually turns 22, how can that be?!!!) I'm sure he wouldn't mind a little green chair and a couple of these in front of the TV (inside family joke!!)
And for all their seeming fussiness, they are actually easy to make. The batter comes together simply and once the little cakes are done, you simply sandwich two of them together with the mascarpone filling, dip into melted chocolate, roll in sprinkles and...Voila!! You've got yourself one lovable little cake!! And we all know how much fun miniature food is to eat, right?!
One (or two) will make a perfect little Valentine treat for those you love...that includes you, you know!!
Lovable Chocolate Mini-Cakes
Makes about 36 mini-cakes
Prep Time for cakes: 10 minutes; Bake Time for cakes: 8-10 minutes; Prep Time for Filling: 5 minutes; Assembly Time: 20 minutes
For the cakes
- 1 cup buttermilk, well-shaken
- 1 cup cold brewed coffee
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 1 large egg
For the Filling
- 6 tablespoons mascarpone cheese
- 6 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- scant 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the Assembly
- 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled a bit
- Assorted sprinkles (optional)
1. To make the cakes: Preheat oven to 350ºF and spray as many mini-muffin tins as you have with nonstick cooking spray--I have three--unless you have a ton, you will have to bake these in batches. Set aside
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, cold coffee and vanilla. Set aside. Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar with the oil at medium-high speed for a minute or two until well-blended. Beat in the egg. Then in 3 alternating additions, on low speed, add the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into a measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring into the mini-cups. Fill the cups about halfway full, trying to fill them evenly.
4. Bake for about 5 minutes, turn the trays around and reverse from top to bottom and bake for another 4-5 minutes. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan on a rack for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and when cakes have cooled for a few minutes, carefully invert them onto the sheet--this helps to absorb any moisture and lets them flatten slightly. Repeat with rest of batter, respraying pans with vegetable spray before refilling each time.
5. Let cakes cool completely, about 30 minutes, before filling.
6. To make the filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the mascarpone, cream, confectioners' sugar, vanilla, espresso powder and salt together on medium speed until mixture is thick and spreadable.
7. To Assemble cakes. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread some of the filling on the flat side of one cake and top with the flat side of another. Place on prepared sheet. When all cakes are filled, dip one side of each cake into the melted chocolate, drain and then coat with the sprinkles (if using). Transfer back to the lined baking sheet and chill the finished cakes for at least 1 hour before serving. Cakes should be served cold. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Note: Recipe adapted from Food and Wine. I turned these into mini-cakes rather than use standard size muffin tins and I also cut the filling and melted chocolate amount in half and it was still plenty.