BAKE for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
COOL on a rack for 5 minutes. Turn the cupcakes out of the pan, then let them cool right side up.
USE a melon baller to scoop out a small cavity in the center of each cupcake when the cupcakes are completely cool. Place a small, hulled berry into the cavity. Repeat with remaining cupcakes (the little melon ball scoops of cake make a fun treat on their own).
USING a large star tip and a piping bag, pipe a decorative swirl of "mousse" on top of each cupcake (a zip-top bag works well in a pinch; scoop the "mousse" into the bag and snip off one corner, then pipe away). Top each cupcake with a strawberry slice or tiny berry with the hull on, if desired.
Quick Chocolate Mousse
Use to fill or frost your favorite cake. Can also be piped into glass dishes for a quick and delicious mousse.
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
COMBINE sugar and cocoa in a mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Gradually whisk in cream.
CHILL for 30 minutes. Using an electric mixer or hand beater, whip cream mixture with vanilla until stiff peaks form.
Mississippi Mud Cake
Perfect for a potluck! Bake in a disposable foil pan for picnic-ease.
1 recipe Fantastic Fudge cake batter
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips
HEAT oven to 350°. Lightly spray the inside of a 9-inch square cake pan with Baker's Joy and spread evenly with a paper towel.
PREPARE cake batter and scrape into pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until top is just barely set.
TOSS marshmallows, pecans and chocolate chips together in a small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over cake and continue to bake 10 more minutes. Cool in pan on rack and serve directly from pan.
Your baking pantry
Butter: I usually bake with Land O'Lakes. Occasionally I will splurge on European butters.
Chocolate: Imported bittersweet is my favorite for baking (and eating). Recently I have been using Holl's -- available locally!
Eggs: Most recipes use large eggs, unless otherwise specified. I like organic eggs.
Flour: My baking cupboard is stocked with many types of flour: all-purpose unbleached; bread flour, for breads and pizza dough; cake flour (Softasilk or Swans Down) for cakes or recipes where a lighter texture is desired; whole-wheat flour, to supplement white flour in breads, pizza dough, pancakes.
Sugar: granulated; light brown and dark brown; confectioner's/powdered; Turbinado
Vanilla extract: I always use pure vanilla extract; never imitation.
I almost always line my cookie sheets with parchment paper. It keeps cookies from sticking, and makes cleanup a little easier.
For cake pans, I spray with Baker's Joy, a spray that is oil combined with flour -- found in the baking aisle.
For cupcakes and muffins, I use paper or foil liners.
For brownie pans, I line the pan with foil, first shaping the foil to fit the pan with excess for overhang.
April Hamilton has always said, "Cooking is fun!" She shares her easy, practical recipes for delicious food through her cooking classes for kids and families. April's husband and three daughters help with testing and tasting in their Charleston kitchen. April would love to hear from you: Email aprilskitchencoun...@gmail.com.