On weekdays, Counselor Dafna Adler can be found in the computer lab at room P-16, working with students. But on the weekends, she can be found whipping up sweet confections in her kitchen and posting her results to her baking blog, Stellina Sweets. Writers from the Talon have tried out some of her recipes, and you can read here about the results, along with tips from Adler herself. If you’d like to browse the blog, check it out at stellinasweets.com.
Time: 3 hours
Description: The cake tastes strongly stout and is minimally sweet, balancing the sweetness of the frosting perfectly, allowing the chocolate flavors to come through instead of being overwhelmed with sugar. Texture-wise, the cake is close and dense, whereas the frosting is very light. Adding homemade pudding to the frosting gives it a creamier texture and taste. Whole salt crystals in the pudding somewhat disrupt the smooth texture but emphasize the dark chocolate. The finished product is as rich as the near-black color of the cake (the reason for its name), but still not so rich as to prevent one from finishing a whole slice.
Tips: Adler recommends allowing the finished cake to “cure” overnight — letting the cake sit so the frosting and cake flavors meld. She also recommends using at least 60 percent cocoa when adding chopped chocolate to the pudding.
Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Description: Adler’s Oreo Cupcakes are comprised of an Oreo crust, a black cocoa chocolate cupcake and an Oreo buttercream. These personal-sized cakes are extremely decadent and have a rich dark chocolate taste. The crust, a mixture of pulverized Oreos and butter pressed down into the bottom of a cupcake liner, gives this cupcake an extra punch of Oreo flavor and an unexpected crunchy texture. The cake is rich from the black cocoa, but not dense or heavy. The traditional American buttercream is light and fluffy, which is reminiscent of the sweet cream center of this well known chocolate sandwich cookie.
Tips: Adler buys Cocoa Powder “Dark” 10-12 percent Full Dutch by Guittard at Spun Sugar, a baking supply store in Berkeley, but it is also available online at World Wide Chocolate. In a pinch, Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa Powder can be substituted for black cocoa powder. To distribute batter evenly and effectively among the cups of the cupcake tin, use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop.
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Time: 20 minutes active, 1 1⁄2 hours inactive
Description: A twist on a classic banana bread recipe, this peanut butter banana bread is rich in flavor. With the combination of ripe bananas and semi-sweet chocolate chips along with smooth, creamy peanut butter, this banana bread is a perfect balance of flavors, both salty and sweet.
Tip: When combining the dry and wet ingredients, make sure to fold the dry mixture into the wet mixture, rather than just mixing all the ingredients together. You should continue to fold the batter until the dry ingredients can’t be seen anymore. This technique creates the proper consistency of the batter, giving the banana bread just the right texture. While this recipe calls for crunchy peanut butter, smooth peanut butter can work just as well depending on what kind of texture you’re going for. You can also add extra chocolate chips for extra sweetness.
Aunt Sassy Cake
Time: 1 1⁄2 hours active, 1 hour inactive
Description: The Aunt Sassy Cake is a pistachio cake that is unlike anything you would expect — it really is “sassy.” The cake itself is moist, like any great cake should be, but the ground pistachios bring a gritty texture to the table. Combined with the divine honey buttercream frosting, the cake melts in your mouth like warm butter washed down with a kick of pistachios.
Tips: This recipe requires a significant amount of pistachios. Shop for shelled pistachios because shelling one and one-third cup is time consuming and painful for your fingers. The frosting is the most difficult part of the recipe. Make sure to stir the whipping cream, milk, sugar and flour as it boils until it is the consistency of pudding. After finishing this step, move into a standing mixer and cool at high speed to avoid melting the softened butter; this will make your frosting thicker and easier to use when decorating the cake.