Just the seemingly simple task of selecting a duvet pattern and sheets for the guest bedroom recently became a project of monstrous proportions. I scoured dozens of web sites and catalogs, having absolutely no idea what I wanted or how something would look on the pair of Restoration Hardware twin beds. Should I go for minimalist W Hotel chic or a whimsical Pottery Barn beachy pattern? Bold colors or pastels (with two dogs, white is unfortunately out of the question)? Eric certainly wasn't much help, other than to advise me to avoid selecting something "gold." Huh? Er, thanks. What if everyone hates what I choose? Even worse, what if Martha just happens to stop by and declare that my duvets are most definitely not a "good thing?" This is all so stressful!!
Finally I just chose something, mostly because I was tired of looking, and I really wanted to cross "Buy guest room bedding" off of my to-do list. Since decisions such as this one are an exasperating undertaking, you can only imagine how long it is going to take us to get our home fully furnished. We've lived here for 6 years, and our large upstairs living area is still basically blank. Sometimes I think that we should just hang a disco ball from the ceiling and turn it into a dance floor. I'm tired of people asking me if we just moved in.
Thank goodness that my mom is a decorating wizard, and thank goodness that she is arriving in two weeks, because I need serious assistance with my summer-to-fall decorating transition (Mom, of course I am happy that you are coming for other reasons too--not just your interior design prowess.) It's thanks to my mom that I have a garage full of seasonal tchotchkes, wreaths, table runners, and flower arrangements. I just can't seen to arrange them so that they look as good as when she works her magic. It's sort of like when my hairdresser effortlessly styles my hair to perfection, but when I try the same technique at home I end up looking like a cross between Amy Winehouse and Medusa. Not pretty.
Oh well, at least I have a well-decorated kitchen pantry and refrigerator, so at the very least I can contribute to my mom's efforts with some fall-themed edible decor. One of my favorite sweet flavor combinations is dark chocolate and orange. Yummmmmmmmm. As luck would have it, orange and black are perfect for fall and Halloween. Yes, Halloween is over one month away, but it's never to early to taste test, right?
These individually sized pound-cakes are a variation on Ina Garten's Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake from Barefoot Contessa Parties. Ina can do no wrong with her decadent desserts, so I didn't change much, mostly just the size, a nip here, and a tuck there. The fresh orange zest paired with bittersweet chocolate is To. Die. For. Decorate them simply with candy corns for autumn, or create a spider-web design for Halloween (similar to cupcakes to the right.) Here are a few extra tips for making these tiny chocolate orange treats:
- In the original recipe,the batter is doubled and poured into a Bundt pan and baked for 40-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center emerges clean. The glaze and ganache are then drizzled over the top.
- The cakes can tend to stick to the bottoms of the cupcake tins, even if you use a good non-stick baking spray. To avoid this, cut out mini rounds of parchment paper and place them on the bottoms of the pan. Alternatively, you can bake the pound-cakes in cupcake liners.
- The baked pound-cakes can be tightly wrapped and frozen for up to 1 week. Put the glaze and ganache on after thawing.
- If you find that the ganache is not thin enough, then add some warmed cream, one teaspoon at a time, until it reaches your desired consistency. Cold cream will cause the mixture to seize up and harden.
Mini Chocolate-Orange Pound-cakes
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of 2 oranges
1 ½ cups flour plus 2 tablespoons
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons buttermilk
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
For the glaze
⅓ cup sugar
⅓ cup orange juice
For the ganache
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spray a 12-cup cupcake tin with nonstick baking spray (I love Pam for Baking!) In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the orange zest.
Into a medium bowl, sift together 1 ½ cups of the flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate small bowl, mix together the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
Toss the chocolate chips with the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour, and then mix the chips into the batter. Divide the batter among the prepared cupcake tins and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the pound-cakes emerges clean, 20-25 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan set over a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the syrup. In a small saucepan set over medium heat, mix the sugar and the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Carefully remove the pound-cakes from the cups, and set them on a rack over a piece of foil. Brush or spoon the syrup over the cakes, allowing them to cool completely.
Prepare the ganache: In a small saucepan, combine the chocolate, cream, and vanilla. Melt the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it is smooth. Spread the ganache over the tops of the cakes, allowing it to drip off the sides.