Food & Drink

Mini cakes are a trendy twist on a classic

Cakes are an American tradition for celebrations —weddings, birthday, showers and parties. They are baked in layers and stacked tall, sandwiched together with a luscious filling, then lavishly decorated for weddings or other special events.

These cakes are works of art, and days or even weeks are required to complete such projects. A birthday celebration would not be complete without a cake, preferably topped with birthday wishes and finished with candles.

While large, lavish cakes have their place, sometimes we just want to have a few bites of something sweet. If it is chocolate, so much the better.

These days, small cakes are all the rage. Small cakes are regular cake batter that is poured into cupcake pans and baked. I am often asked if you can use regular cake batter to make cupcakes — the answer is yes.

Using your favorite cake batter, fill cupcake pans two-thirds full. The baking time will be considerably shorter, usually about 20 minutes but will depend upon the cake batter.

And how many of us really make a cake from scratch anymore? Cake mixes are inexpensive. It doesn't take much time to add a couple of ingredients and pop it in the pan.

There is nothing wrong with that, but after a time, you may want to turn back the clock, use real ingredients and stir up something that has the taste and texture that you cannot get out of a box.

You might want to try my recipe for Chocolate Babycakes, rich and fudgy bite-size gems that I bake in mini-muffin pans. Since they are easy to serve, they make great party food. The recipe makes several, enough to share or to freeze for later snacking.

Chocolate Babycakes

Makes about 4-1/2 dozen

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, broken into bits

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup walnuts or pecans, coarsely chopped

Optional Chocolate Drizzle: 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Line mini muffin pans with paper liners or spray pans with Pam; preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave just until melted. Stir and sit aside to cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, vanilla and salt; beat until light and smooth.

4. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Add flour, stirring just enough to make the mixture smooth again. Fold in nuts.

5. Fill mini-muffin pans 3/4 full; bake for 15-20 minutes until done. Remove from pan. Cool completely.

6. To decorate tops:

Place chocolate chips in a 2 cup glass measure and microwave for 30 seconds on high. Stir, and return to microwave for 15 seconds. If necessary, continue microwaving in 5 second intervals, stirring each time until chocolate is melted.

Dip fork into the melted chocolate and swirl it 6 inches over the tops of the babycakes, leaving thin threads of chocolate over the tops.