Showing posts with label elegant dessert. Show all posts
Showing posts with label elegant dessert. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Chocolate Cream Cake from Once Upon a Grind + Magic Bean Necklace Giveaway via Cleo Coyle

With a real Prince visiting New York this week (shout-out to William and Kate), it seems appropriate to share a dessert served at the elegant, underground "Prince Charming Club" in Once Upon a Grind, my new culinary mystery.

My amateur sleuth, coffeehouse manager Clare couldn't resist a slice of this cake, a heavenly cloud of chocolate whipped cream tucked between layers of devil’s food and topped by a layer of fudgy ganache. It’s outrageously good and sinfully delicious—but is it worth risking a run-in with a ruthless killer? Clare will get back to you on that one!

BTW, there are over 20 more delicious and unique recipes featured in my new Coffeehouse Mystery. For a peek at some of them, click here
Click here to see the Recipe Guide
for Once Upon a Grind.

Cleo Coyle has a partner in 
crime-writing—her husband.
Learn about their books
by clicking here or here.

Cleo Coyle's "Inside-Out"
Chocolate Cream
Coffee Cake

A light chocolate dream with sophisticated flavor and an irresistible mix of textures, this cake would make an impressive addition to any holiday table, yet it’s easy to make. 

It's also the very cake Marc and I served at a fantastic setting in our new mystery. Elegant and exclusive, the "Prince Charming Club" is full of culinary temptations worthy of a gourmet witch’s gingerbread cottage. You'll learn more about them as you read Once Upon a Grind.

I'm discussing the book this week at crime-writer Terry Ambrose's blog here with a book giveaway. 

Or join me at Fresh Fiction by clicking here, where I’m also offering an autographed copy of the beautiful first-edition hardcover and a Magic Bean Necklace in a comment giveaway (see caption below). 

NOTE - My Newsletter Subscribes know there is another comment-to-win contest right here at this blog. Scroll to the end of this post to see the winner...

Now let's get baking!

~ Cleo

To download this recipe in a free PDF that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Click here for
free recipe PDF.

Cleo's "Inside-Out"
Chocolate Cream
Cake Recipe

This recipe provides: 

8-10 servings if cut into larger rectangles, or...

20-24 servings if sliced into thinner slivers. (Examples of slice sizes
are shown in my photos.)

For the Cake*
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable, canola, or extra-virgin coconut oil (measure in liquid form)
1-1/2 cups white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten with fork
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (use table salt or finely ground sea salt)
1/2 cup unsweetened (natural) cocoa powder

For the Chocolate Cream Filling
12 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (for more chocolate flavor, double)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2-1/4 cups very cold heavy cream**

(**Optional for mocha-flavored filling: replace 1/4 cup of the heavy cream with 1/4 cup Kahlua and dissolve 1 teaspoon of instant espresso into the Kahlua before adding it to the recipe.)

For the Chocolate Ganache Topping
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/3 cup heavy cream (for mocha flavor use coffee or espresso instead)
5 ounces semisweet block chocolate, chopped into uniform pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

(**Optional for mocha-flavored ganache: also add 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder)

*A note on using a cake mix: To save time, feel free to use a devil’s food cake mix, but follow the directions in Step 1 regarding (a) pan size and (b) preparing the pan to prevent the cake from sticking. 

**A note on espresso powder: Espresso powder is made from freeze-​dried espresso. It dissolves in water to create instant espresso. While I would not suggest drinking espresso made from freeze-​dried powder, I do advise using good-quality espresso powder (rather than freeze-​dried instant coffee) to add coffee flavor to your recipes. Look for espresso powder in the instant coffee section of your grocery store or search online. 

Step 1—Make the chocolate cake batter: First preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a rimmed baking sheet measuring around 17- to 18-inches by 12-inches (a "half-sheet pan") and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. Use a devil’s food cake mix or these directions to create the batter: Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the oil, vanilla, eggs, and milk. Blend until smooth. In a separate bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients. Add this dry mixture, a little at a time, to the mixing bowl, beating between additions until a smooth batter forms. Do not over-mix. Spread out the batter and smooth it evenly on the prepared baking sheet. 

Step 2—Bake and chill the cake: Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cake has risen, is slightly springy, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with no batter clinging to it. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool. Gently invert the cooled cake and peel away the parchment paper. Slice the cake down the middle, crosswise, to form two even rectangles. Slip these into the fridge to chill while you prepare the filling.

Step 3—Make the chocolate (or mocha) cream filling: Using an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with the sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla, (and espresso powder dissolved into the Kahlua if using). Once blended and smooth, add the chilled heavy cream and switch to high speed on your mixer. Whip vigorously until the cream forms firm peaks. 

Step 4—Assemble the cake: Invert one of your cake rectangles so the flat bottom is facing up. Spread the cream filling evenly. 

Now cover it with the second cake rectangle (again with the flat bottom facing up). Lightly press down on the top layer. Run an offset spatula (or wide flat knife) around all of the edges to smooth them. Chill the cake for at least 1 hour. Then prepare the topping. 

Step 5—Make the chocolate (or mocha) ganache topping: In a small saucepan, over low heat, bring the butter, cream (or coffee), and (if using) the instant espresso powder to a simmer. Do not boil or you will scorch the ingredients and destroy their flavors. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, stir in the vanilla. Let the glaze cool for about 15 minutes; it will become slightly thicker. 

Pour the glaze onto the center of the cake and gently spread it—ideally with an offset spatula (or in a pinch, the back of a large spoon)—until it evenly covers the top of the cake and drizzles slightly over the cake's top edges. Chill the cake for several hours (or overnight). 

Tip for perfect presentation: Slice off the edges of the cake with a sharp knife and you will create a bake-shop-perfect presentation (and guess who gets to eat the ends). 

If you're an old pro, you'll have a presentation tray ready. But if you don't bake much, here's another tip. Cover a cutting board with aluminum foil and buy inexpensive round paper doilies, cut them in half, and slide them gently beneath the cake's bottom edges to make it look even prettier.

Then slice into slivers or larger squares...

Click here for the free
recipe PDF, and...

Eat with royal joy!

~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Friend me on facebook here. * Follow me on twitter here
Learn about our books here

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(Recipes, contests, videos, fun info)

Now on Sale!

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Clare Cosi as she solves the crime
against "Sleeping Beauty," opens
secret doors (uptown and down),
and investigates a cold case that's
been unsolved since the Cold War.

A Wicked Good
Murder Mystery

Learn more by
clicking here.

* * * 

Cleo also writes
The Haunted Bookshop

Get a free title checklist,
with mini plot summaries, by clicking here.
Or learn more here. 

* * * 

A Note for Cleo's Newsletter Subscribers

Welcome! If you read my flash newsletter,
then you know I hosted a special contest here.
In the comments below, my newsletter
subscribers told me what inspired joy
in them (other than family and friends).

Congrats to our winner...

Jane C. of
BC, Canada!

~ Cleo

For anyone who would like to subscribe
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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How to make a Chocolate-Espresso Brownie Affogato and Happy Book News from Cleo Coyle

In Italian, affogato means drowned. 

In a cafe, an affogato is a that coffee-lovers wouldn't mind drowning in!

If you order an affogato, a small bowl (or cup) of gelato or ice cream will be brought to you with a shot of fresh espresso beside it. 

To complete the affogato, you simply pour the hot espresso over the ice cream, drowning it in the earthy warmth of the coffee. This combination of sweet cream and dark heat is the heart of the dessert's appeal (at least to coffee-lovers...and Italians :)).

What I described is a basic affogato, but there are more elaborate variations. 

For example, celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis once made a gingerbread affogato. She infused a simple syrup with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves; and then poured the syrup over the ice cream with the espresso.

More common variations include a shot of liqueur served beside the shot of espresso (such as amaretto or Frangelico). Today, I'm sharing my "Coffeehouse" version, served over a base of warm-from-the-oven Chocolate-Espresso Brownies.

I'm also celebrating some happy news about my newly released Coffeehouse Mystery A Brew to a Kill. More on that news at the end of this post. 

First, let's get cooking! 

~ Cleo 

Cleo Coyle, a former Brownie
(and Girl Scout), is author
author of The Coffeehouse
Cleo's Coffeehouse
Espresso Brownie Affogato

Warm brownies out of the oven are a little piece of heaven. Over the years, I've baked up plenty of pans from scratch and shared recipes with you. For example:

Aphrodisiac Brownies, from Murder by Mocha, (click here to see that recipe) and... 

Black Bean Brownies from A Brew to a Kill (click here to see that one).

Today, I'm sharing a quick-and-easy espresso brownie that you can whip up with a boxed mix. Why a mix? For those of you who don't bake much, this is an easy and foolproof way to bake a pan of brownies. Where did the recipe come from? Twenty years ago, brownie mixes had one flavor: chocolate. Being a coffee geek, I threw together this recipe, which infuses the earthy flavor of my favorite bean into the crumb. 

This recipe is adaptable to practically any boxed brownie mix. While you can now buy mocha brownie mixes, I find adding these fresh ingredients to a basic chocolate fudge mix produces better tasting espresso brownies. So give it a try and (as always) I sincerely hope you with joy! ~ Cleo 

To download this recipe in a PDF document that you can print, save, or share, click here.


1 Box of Chocolate Brownie Mix (for a 9 x 13-inch pan)

1/4 cup espresso or strongly brewed coffee

1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder (*see my note at end of recipe)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

TO MAKE THE BROWNIES: Pour the dry brownie mix into a large bowl. Do not add water as directed on the package. Instead, pour the espresso or strongly brewed coffee into a cup and dissolve the espresso powder into it. Add the vanilla and pour this mixture into the large bowl with the dry brownie mix. The brownie mix directions will likely ask you to add 2 or 3 eggs (2 for fudge-like brownies, 3 for cake-like). Make your choice and add the eggs. Add the oil required (usually 1/2 cup). Stir as directed, 50 strokes, do not over-mix but be sure to scrape down the bowl and blend in any visible dry mix into the wet batter. Finally, fold in the chocolate chips and (if you like) chopped nuts. Pour into a pan that's been lightly coated with non-stick spray or greased with butter. Bake as directed on the package and cut into squares. 

*A note on espresso powder: Espresso powder is not ground up espresso beans. It is made from freeze-dried espresso. It dissolves in water to create instant espresso. While I don't recommend drinking espresso made from freeze-dried powder, I highly recommend using good quality espresso powder (rather than freeze-dried instant coffee) to add coffee flavor to your baking and cooking. Look for espresso powder in the instant coffee section of your grocery store. Or click here to see brands that you can purchase online.

TO MAKE THE AFFOGATO: Place two warm brownies in a small bowl or one brownie in a coffee cup. Add a scoop of ice cream or gelato. Serve this with a shot of hot espresso or strongly brewed coffee. One shot = 1 to 1-1/2 ounces of liquid (or 2 to 3 tablespoons). The general rule for an affogato is one shot of coffee per scoop of ice cream. To finish, pour the hot coffee over the cold ice cream and warm brownie and...

Eat (and read) with joy! 
~ Cleo Coyle

New York Times bestselling author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Yes, this is me, Cleo (aka Alice). 
Friend me on facebook here.
Follow me on twitter here
Visit my online coffeehouse here.

Sweet News!

After a year on sale in
hardcover and e-book,
 A Brew to a Kill
is now an official
bestseller in paperback!

"A foodie's delight...And a
satisfyingly rich mystery."
~ Kirkus Reviews

A Brew to a Kill
#3 bestseller
in paperback mysteries
at B&N nationwide!

We also made B&N's Top-20*
(in store) bestsellers list for all
mass market paperbacks sold,

 *B&N Store Bestselllers
Aug. 20, 2013

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are bestselling
works of amateur sleuth fiction set in a landmark
Greenwich Village coffeehouse, and each of the
12 titles includes the added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name
Alice Kimberly

To learn more, click here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Trifle With Their Hearts

I have been accused of eating healthy.  Seriously?  Don't those friends read this blog?  Oddly enough, I have also been called a chocoholic.  Now that we know that chocolate is a tasty source of antioxidants, it turns out that eating chocolate might just be a healthy thing!

So today, I'm offering a Valentine treat that's easy to make, and has some health benefits, while being indulgent, too.  The best of all worlds.

Since chocolate is traditional for Valentine's Day, I'm treating my Valentine to chocolate trifle.  The hardest part of this entire recipe is making the pudding, and that's not difficult at all.  I made my favorite chocolate pudding with Pensey's powdered cocoa.  The flavor is so intense that no one will notice that you made it with fat-free milk.  Okay, so the recipe calls for a smidge of butter, but really very little and you can skip that if you want.

Just as an aside, it has been bitterly cold all over, and there's nothing more comforting than warm pudding.  If you and your sweetie eat the pudding warm and never make the trifle, well, I'll never tell.  Shh!

Half of you are looking at this and saying, sure, like I have fresh strawberries just hanging around the house.  No strawberries?  Use bananas instead, they go great with chocolate.  No lady fingers?  No problem -- crumble in some gingersnaps or graham crackers or macaroons, even!

Another thing I like about these individual servings is that they can be tailored to suit you.  If you're making them for your children, you can substitute orange juice for liqueur.  I used Chambord, a raspberry liqueur, but if you prefer Amaretto or banana or orange liqueur, then go for it!  Hmm, there's not much that doesn't go well with chocolate, is there?

If you have a favorite pudding recipe, then by all means use it instead.

Chocolate Pudding
slightly modified from Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too by Susan G. Purdy

2 cups nonfat milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons unsweetened powdered cocoa
1/4 cup cornstarch
pinch of salt
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 - 2 tablespoons butter

1. Pour the milk into the Pyrex measuring cup.

2. Combine the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt in the pot. Whisk together and get rid of any lumps. Use the whisk like a spoon, it’s just more efficient in breaking up the lumps.

3. Pour the cold milk into the pot and whisk until blended. (Note that you still haven't turned on the stove!)

4. Measure the corn syrup in the same Pyrex cup. Add to the pot and whisk in.

5. Turn the burner to medium high and bring to a gentle boil, using the whisk as a spoon and stirring. You may need to turn down the heat when it begins to bubble. Cook so it gently bubbles, stirring with the whisk for one minute. It will thicken.

6. Remove from heat temporarily.

7. Break the egg into the same Pyrex cup and whisk with the small whisk (or a fork).

Drop a tiny amount of the hot milk mixture into the egg and whisk immediately to temper it. Add a little bit more and whisk. (This is so the egg won’t seize up and cook when it’s added to the warm liquid.)

8. Add the egg to the milk mixture and whisk in.

9. Bring to a gentle boil again and let cook for one minute, stirring the whole time.

10.Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and the butter.

Makes four servings.

If you're making the trifle, let it cool before you assemble the trifle.  You can make the pudding a day or two ahead of time if you like.

Chocolate Trifle Assembly

1 recipe chocolate pudding
1 pint strawberries or 3-4 bananas
1/2 lemon
about 1 cup cookies, broken up
1/4 cup fruit liqueur (or orange juice)

Spoon pudding into bottom of glasses.

Slice fruit and toss with lemon juice.

Arrange slices around sides of glasses.

Reserve 8 slices of fruit for garnish. Chop excess fruit.

Add a layer of crumbled cookies inside the fruit slices.

Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons liqueur.

Add a layer of the chopped fruit.

Add another layer of the crumbled cookies.

Sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons liqueur.

Top with pudding.

Garnish with a slice or two of fruit and


Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Classic French Dessert: Chocolate Pots de Crème from Cleo Coyle

For many American kids, pudding is something premade in a plastic cup. If you’re really lucky, you’ll have it homemade for you from a cardboard Jell-O pudding box. This was my experience growing up. Sure, I enjoyed plenty of homemade Italian foods (my mom was born in Italy), but pudding was an American thing; and American things were found in boxes and cans, or wrapped in plastic. 

Cleo Coyle, searching for
new things to cover with
chocolate while writing
her next Coffeehouse
When I finally discovered pots de crème, the clouds parted. The sun appeared. I’d found pudding nirvana!

This classic dessert, which translates from French to English as "pots of cream," is not your grade school cafeteria’s chocolate custard. It’s a rich, smooth, sinfully chocolaty experience. It’s also very easy to make. No special culinary skills needed.

BTW, on the subject of pots of chocolate, my fellow crime-writing cook, Mary Jane Maffini, recently gave us a wonderfully easy, no-bake chocolate mousse recipe. If you missed it, you can check it out by clicking here.

My version of this classic French recipe makes approximately six 6-oz servings. This is a generous portion size for the typical pots de crème, but let’s be real. In America, the home cooks’ main concern is: Did you have enough? Would you like seconds? Which is one reason "palate fatigue" is (happily) a non-starter in most American homes.

If you’d like to learn more about the modern gourmet philosophy of palate fatigue, read my sixth Coffeehouse Mystery: French Pressed. You’ll see I have a strong opinion about it!

Cleo Coyle’s
Chocolate Pots de Crème

To download this recipe in a free PDF that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Servings: This recipe will produce 4 cups of liquid to divide among your ramekins, custard cups, or ovenproof coffee cups. Consequently, depending on the size of your containers, this recipe will give you 6 to 8 servings.


12 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate chopped (or chips)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
6 egg yolks (extra large or jumbo size)
½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Melt the chocolate - Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Put your chopped chocolate (or chips) in a metal or glass bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and milk until it’s just about to boil, but not yet boiling. Pour this hot liquid over your chocolate and let it sit for about a minute until the chocolate is softened. Then stir this mixture until it’s smooth. The stirring will take one to two minutes.

Step 2: Beat the eggs - Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs well, for about 1 minute. Gradually mix in sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and salt. Now gradually beat the chocolate mixture you made (in Step 1) into these egg yolks.

Step 3: Strain and pour into containers - Strain this custard through a fine-meshed sieve (I use a small metal colander). Pour the strained liquid into a container with a spout. This will make it easier to evenly divide the mixture among containers.

Step 4: Prepare for Baking - Place the cups in a shallow baking pan. Carefully fill the pan with boiling water until it reaches about halfway up the sides of the custard cups (or ramekins or ovenproof coffee cups).

Step 5: Cover and Bake - Cover pan with foil, seal ends, and pierce in several places so that steam can escape. Bake for about 25 - 35 minutes in the center of your 300 degree F. oven until the tops of the pots de crème look solid, but the custard still jiggles slightly when you shake it. Don’t worry; the custard will firm up as it cools.

Note on Cooking Time: The smaller your cups, the quicker your custard will set. The deeper your cups, however, the longer your custard will take to set. If your custard still has a liquid top after 35 minutes, then turn up the oven temperature to 325 degrees F. and bake another 10 minutes. (If you use cool or room temperature water, rather than boiling water for the water bath, the cooking process may take longer, as well.)

Step 6: Chill, baby! - Now carefully remove the hot pots from the oven and the hot pan and let them cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge. After they come to room temperature, make sure to cover these with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. The custards should be chilled at least 3 hours before serving.


Because this is a classic French dessert, many versions exist in cookbooks and on the Internet. For variations on this basic recipe, reduce the vanilla to 2 teaspoons and add 2 tablespoons Kahlúa (or try dark rum, Grand Marnier, or coffee syrup).

Coffee syrup can be bought pre-made. It can also be made from scratch. My recipe can be found by clicking here or turning to the back of the fifth Coffeehouse Mystery Decaffeinated Corpse.

For many more ideas on variations
for French pots de crème,
click here and have fun! There are some wonderful ideas there.

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

To get more of my recipes, win free coffee,
or find out more about my books, visit me
 at my *virtual* coffeehouse:

Click on the book covers above
to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.


A final, quick note for our mystery reading fans.
The latest Mystery Readers Journal with the theme Hobbies, Crafts, and Special Interests is now available.

The issue, edited by Mystery Fanfare's Janet Rudolph, includes many mystery authors who have guest posted for us over the past year. You can check out the contents by clicking here, which will also give you info on how to purchase a copy (hard or electronic) for yourself.