Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes, Cream Cheese + Caramel

Chocolate Blackberry Cupcake // Notwithoutsalt.com Chocolate Blackberry Cupcake // Notwithoutsalt.com

I had no intention of using the blackberries in cupcakes but I was on one of those end-of-the-season grocery store trips where I had this seasonal sense of urgency. “I didn’t eat enough tomatoes!” “There weren’t enough peaches in my diet!” “I promised myself I’d buy a case of apricots and I didn’t.” Somberly I dreamt of all the missed pies and cans of jam that I won’t get to tuck into in on a cold morning in January. Where did summer go?

So into my cart I tucked five pints of various colored cherry tomatoes, bags of soft peaches and fragrant nectarines and a flat of blackberries still dusty from the fields. The stone fruit never aspired to more than snacks for the kids and quite honestly I think the tomatoes had the same fate. But when a spontaneous evening sailing invitation came up and I volunteered to bring dessert to the little party, those blackberries found their calling.

This cake recipe is not new to this site. In fact I’m sure this is the third or quite possibly the fourth time it’s been printed here. It’s made so often in this house I have the recipe hand written and taped to the back of my cupboard for easy access. It’s delightfully easy (only takes one bowl!) and perfectly tender with a hearty chocolate flavor that satisfies my bittersweet cravings. At this point I should have it memorized. But the blackberries stirred carefully into the nearly black batter, now that is new and a very happy discovery. Tart cream cheese frosting and a bit of vanilla flecked salt was going to be the final flourish but a friend (hi, Krissy!) and I decided that a salty caramel would really put these little cakes over the top.

If I have completely missed the mark on sharing this recipe and berry season is well behind you, you’ll be happy to hear that frozen berries work very well and raspberries make a fine blackberry substitute. So regardless of the season these tart, sweet and oh so pretty cupcakes can shine any time of year.

Chocolate Blackberry Cupcake // Notwithoutsalt.com Chocolate Blackberry Cupcake // Notwithoutsalt.com

One final word – for those of you who have shared your email address with me over the years you may have noticed a shiny, new surprise email from me! That’s right, I’ve become a big kid and started a newsletter. We’re aiming for this to be a monthly thing and we’ve got plans for all sorts of fun topics to discuss. This month we’re celebrating the in between – you know when the sun still shines but the leaves lose their green for shades of crimson and orange. Where peaches and apples briefly share the same shelf space and we can finally turn on the oven again without fear of overheating. There are a few recipes from the site that are my favorite to cook right now and then there’s a bonus recipe for a pungent Ginger, Pear Bourbon Punch that is perfect early Fall drinking. I’m aiming for a bonus recipe or something else definitely worth your while – so be sure to sign up!

Chocolate Blackberry Cupcake // Notwithoutsalt.com Chocolate Blackberry Cupcake // Notwithoutsalt.com

 

Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese + Caramel

makes 3 8” inch layers or 24 cupcakes

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar (I’ve used white or brown or a combination of the two and all work well)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup vegetable oil (or other, nearly flavorless oil)

2 tablespoons white vinegar

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups warm water

4 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

//

Prepare two cupcake pans with liners.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl until everything is well blended.

Add the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in the berries.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops slowly spring back when gently nudged.

Let cool in the pan for five minutes before finishings the cooling on a rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3 (8-ounce) packages / 680 g cream cheese, at room temperature

1⁄2 cup / 115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (depending on the desired amount of sweetness)

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean

For the frosting:

Beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla. Turn on low and mix until combined.

Turn up the speed to medium and beat 4 minutes more.

The frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge.

Caramel

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup heavy cream

Flake salt

Combine the sugar and the water in a small saucepan. Bring a boil and let the sugar caramelize until it’s smoking and deep copper in color. I teeter the edge with my caramel – close to burnt so you get complex flavors rather than a flat, just-sweet, caramel.

Carefully add the cream (it will bubble up vigorously) then stir to combine.

Let cool.

Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool. Drizzle on the caramel then top with flake salt.

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Late-Summer Vegetable Enchilada Pie + Giveaway

Enchilada Pie // Notwithoutsalt.com Enchilada Pie // Notwithoutsalt.com

*We’re giving away a copy of Modern Potluck! Leave a comment to enter.

 

It seems were on a bit of a trend with last week’s post and this week’s: How to feed people without losing your mind.

In her new book, Modern Potluck, Kristin Donnelly writes, “Like most people who write cookbooks, my greatest wish is to bring people together around food in a way that’s as easy and fun as possible. The secret to doing this is to share the work with your guests. And, as it turns out, guests love it that way, too.”

Kristin, after having her first child, felt her social life slipping away as the thought of fancy dinner parties like the ones she wrote about in Food & Wine seemed out of the question, as did going out to restaurants. It was then she remembered the potlucks of her own childhood. “What a brilliant idea!” She writes. “I could focus my energy on making one dish and get a full meal in return, all the while hanging out with my friends or meeting my neighbors.”

I remember potlucks from my childhood too, like Kristin I adore the idea of them, but the food doesn’t appeal to me in the same way it did then. I once loved those miniature cocktail hot dogs simmered in a crock pot filled with grape jelly and ketchup. They don’t excite me in the same way today. There are no long-simmered grape jelly hot dogs in Modern Potluck, instead Kristin writes of Green Bean Salads with chiles and walnuts, Cornmeal-Crusted Oven-Fried chicken, Pumpkin Beer-and-Turkey Chili, and Caramelized Kimchi Corn Bread. Not the sort of potluck food I remember but exactly the sort of potluck food I want.

Her point is to gather and she’s giving us the easy-to-follow road map for how to do so.

Enchilada Pie // Notwithoutsalt.com Enchilada Pie // Notwithoutsalt.com

*A winner has been selected and notified. Thanks so much to all of you who entered.

Of course you could always ditch the idea of a large gathering and simply make these recipes for your family. That’s exactly what I did with these Late-Summer Vegetable Enchiladas. It was the first time in awhile where dinner was more than a doctored up bean salad or something – anything – stuffed into a tortilla. And while we are a family of five and the appetites of my littles have grown right alongside them we still were able to enjoy leftovers for days. Potluck or not, the recipes inspire and are right in line with how I want to eat everyday.

To celebrate this stunning new book I would love to send a copy to one of you. Simply leave a comment below and I’ll choose a winner by next Friday, September 2. (HOW IS IT SEPTEMBER NEXT WEEK?!)

In the meantime go raid the garden or the market for all that zucchini and enjoy some enchiladas.

Enchilada Pie // notwithoutsalt.com

Late-Summer Vegetable Enchilada Pie

from Modern Potluck

Serves 8 to 16

 

For the sauce:

1 1/2 ounces dried Ancho Chiles (2 to 3)

1 cup boiling water

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes

kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the filling and pie:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons mild curry powder

1 pound zucchini or other summer squash, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 4 cups)

2 medium ears of corn, kernels cut from the cobs (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 3/4 cups cooked black or pinto beans or 1 (15-ounce) can, drained

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish

12 (6 to 7-inch) corn tortillas

1 1/4 pound Monterey jack cheese, grated (5 to 6 cups)

 

Make the sauce: In a large, deep skillet, toast the anchos over medium-high heat, turning frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, stem the chiles and shake out the seeds, tipping the chiles if you have to. Transfer the chiles to a blender (or a cup that’s heat-safe if your blender jar is not) and cover with the boiling water; let stand until softened and cooled. Add the tomatoes and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Make the filling and assemble the pie: In the same skillet used to toast the anchos, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeños and cook until fragrant and softened, about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring, until tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. Add the corn and beans and cook, mashing the beans slightly, until hot and stir in the lime juice and 1/2 cup of the cilantro.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.

Spread a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of the pan (about 1/2 cup). Arrange one-third of the tortillas in the baking dish, tearing them in half as necessary to create an even layer. Spoon half of the filling over the tortillas and top with one-third of the cheese. Top the cheese with another layer of tortillas, followed by half of the remaining sauce, the rest of the filling, and another one-third of the cheese. Finally, layer more tortillas, followed by the remaining sauce and the remaining cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the edges are starting to brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then serve.

 

A few things to note: I cut down on the amount of jalapeños from two to one as my children are quite spice averse. I also skipped the curry powder and added a bit of cumin a touch of chipotle powder instead. In place of jack cheese I used sharp cheddar as that’s what I had on hand. The best recipes are adaptable – this one was perfect.

 

 

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