Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from Beach House Baking ... Best I've ever made!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from Beach House Baking ... Best I've ever made!

Irresistibly deep dark chocolate cupcakes.  Moist, with a perfectly tender crumb and topped with a luscious rich frosting in addition to the perfect amount of chocolate sprinkles.  Could it be possible to make these exquisite chocolate dreams in your own home kitchen?  Even if you are not the most adept cupcake maker and an even less adept cupcake decorator?  In a word... Yes!

I'm not one to gush all that often, but I have the best job in the world.  It pays pennies on the hour, but the benefits are fabulous.  Benefits like mail days that bring cookbooks to my doorstep for review... cookbooks like Beach House Baking by Lei Shishak.

Described as an Endless Summer of Delicious Desserts, the Beach House Baking cookbook had me at the title alone, but toss in beautiful photography, foolproof recipes, ingredients found in most kitchen pantries and a passion for my beloved sand-to-surf lifestyle and we have a book that has risen in my ranks to a near all time favorite.

Author, Lei Shishak hails from the East Coast and comes with background in Private Banking that thankfully transitioned to her true love of baking.  With accomplishments including graduating at the top of her class from the Culinary Institute of America with honors, time with Chef Scott Friedman and other mentors in Los Angeles, the position of Executive Pastry Chef at Michael Mina's Stonehill Tavern at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Orange County, CA, Lei was more the prepared to open her own bakery.

After spending a few years here in California, Lei came to know the beach lifestyle that I also fully embrace.  She sums it up aptly in her cookbook introduction... "California is not only a physical destination it's also a state of mind" and she knew she had the perfect location for her bakery in San Clemente, California.  As a California Girl myself, to completely concur.  

San Clemente, CA
San Clemente, California
"I wanted to write this book so others could experience the beach lifestyle I and many others are fortunate to have.  I get to bake every day in the prettiest place on earth.  I wanted to share these tried and truly delicious recipes that I enjoy baking and sharing with everyone in my life.  My high quality, made-from-scratch desserts will transport you to beaches and tropic paradises you've alway hoped to visit.  Not only will this book bring you into the kitchen, it will take you to places beyond."
Lei Shishak, Beach House Baking

And that's exactly what her books does.  Bringing Morning Treats, Beach Beverages, Cupcakes (including Happy Hour Cupcakes!), Cookies and Brownies, Hand-Crafted Ice Cream Sandwiches (they are swoonable!), Frozen Pops, and Pies, Crisps, a Cobbler and Cheesecakes, Lei transports us to beaches around the world.  From the East Coast of the USA and on out to the West in California, to the shores of Japan and back to the Caribbean, Lei brings out our inner "surferness" and has us tasting a little bit of paradise in each recipe.

Coconut Chai Tea Lattes warm us up on chilly gray mornings while Mango Yogurt Swirl Pops cool us down with a taste of the tropics.  A fabulous Baklava recipe transports us to the shores of Santorini while Golden Butter Cupcakes with Madagascar Vanilla Buttercream take us through the Indian Ocean and the Ultimate Road Trip Cookie takes us everywhere in between.

As luck would have it, Lei established her bakery, The Sugar Blossom Bake Shop, in the quaint little California surf town of San Clemente, a mere 30 miles from my own little surf town of Carlsbad.  And with school out for summer a field trip seemed in order.

Heading north with Liv and her girlfriend, Audrey, the girls perused Beach House Baking and the miles passed quickly as they gushed over the recipes throughout the book.  Liv chose the S'Mores Cupcakes as her number one choice, and Audrey similarly gushed over the German Chocolate Getaway and the PCH (Piña Colada Highway) Cupcakes.  Me??  I swooned over the photo of a simple Dark Chocolate version topped with chocolate sprinkles.

Arriving at the bakery, luck once again was on our side as the Sugar Blossom counter featured each of our favorite cupcakes, and we placed an order of our favorites in addition to one of each of the other offerings.  Rounding out our order with the Ice Cream Sandwich of the day, the Waimea Bay (a red velvet version and also in the cookbook!) we took our treasures to an outside table and settled in to tasting.

Liv and Audrey react to a first bite of their Waimea Bay Ice Cream Sandwich!  (Kind of like a red velvet version.)

Tucking into the ice cream sandwich, the girls' eyes grew wide after their first bite.  Looking at each other they proclaimed "This is the best ice cream sandwich I've ever had!!" at exactly the same time and burst into a fit of giggles.  With groans of sweet pleasure the sandwiches were sent to Instagram in a flash and envious comments appeared almost instantly.

My favorite comment from the girls was "These taste like a real person made them and like they are filled with love."  The girls are right.

Moving on to the cupcakes we had intentions of trying each of the 8 versions we had set in our bakery box, but none of us made it past our proclaimed favorite before confirming the expected excellence and then claiming complete satiation.  Bidding the sweet Lei goodbye we made our way to the San Clemente Pier to walk off our treats and enjoyed a fabulous hour beachside.

But back home was where the challenge began.  We'd all tasted Lei's version of the cupcakes, but would I, a somewhat inadequate cupcake baker, be able to follow the Beach House Baking recipe and recreate the incredibleness?  Again... yes.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from Beach House Baking ... Best I've ever made!

Irresistibly dark and incredibly chocolaty with that perfect moistness and tender crumb we topped our cupcakes with a luscious rich frosting and just the perfect amount of chocolate sprinkles.  Just like Lei did at her bakery and just like she described in her book.  While ours may not have been quite as pretty as hers, the taste was every bit as good (well almost... she is a master pastry chef you know...), and brought the flavors of our day on the beach into our very own kitchen.

Beach House Baking... it's the perfect summer read.  Bringing a little bit of the beach to you where ever you may be, you will find yourself turning to this incredibly beautiful book time and again for any occasion you find yourself baking.  With clearly written recipes and mouthwatering photos, Beach House Baking will have you pumping made-from-scratch treats that will garner oohs, ahhs and requests for recipes from everyone you meet.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from Beach House Baking ... Best I've ever made!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Irresistibly deep dark chocolate cupcakes.  Moist, with a perfectly tender crumb and topped with a luscious rich frosting and just the perfect amount of chocolate sprinkles baked right in your own home!!  Lei Shishak's recipe for these luscious cupcakes will have you looking like a pro and everyone taking recipes.

3/4 cup cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (Lei recommends Cacao Barry Extra Brute)
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from Beach House Baking ... Best I've ever made!
Lei's deep dark version!
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs 
1/2 cup whole milk, warmed slightly

Creamy Chocolate Frosting:
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 (5-oz) can evaporated milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375º.  Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.

Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 1 minute.  Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition.  With the mixer on low speed, add the milk and flour mixture alternately, beginning with the milk and ending with the flour.  Scrape the bowl well to make sure all the ingredients are incorporated.

Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them just below the rim. (Lei use a 2-ounce ice cream scoop.)  Bake in the center of the oven for 14-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pan and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the frosting:
Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa powder.  Set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until very smooth.  Add about 1 cup of the powdered sugar mixture alternately with the 2 tablespoons of evaporated milk.  Repeat step until all the powdered sugar and milk are added.  Blend in the vanilla extract.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes to ensure that the frosting is light and fluffy.

Liv Life Note: Liv Life received a copy of Beach House Baking to review... all thoughts and opinions are my own and those of Liv and Audrey.  We purchased our own treats at Sugar Blossom Bakery and can't gush enough about the quality of the products!

San Clemente Pier, California
We love cupcakes!!!


  1. If you're inadequate at cupcakes, no one would know it Kim. These look fantastic and those girls are just precious. How fun that you not only got to review the book but to visit in person!!

    1. Thanks Chris!! I'm notorious for "not so good" cakes and cupcakes. Not these though!!!

  2. Uhhh yeah those cupcakes look ridiculous good! Great recipe :)

    Happy Blogging!
    Happy Valley Chow

    1. Thanks Happy Valley Chow!! You described them perfectly!!

  3. The girls face are cracking me up. I have the PCH cupcakes on my short list, but may have to move up the chocolate ones. That is so cool you got to go taste the baked goods in person. Hope you guys have a wonderful, much less stressful, summer.

    1. Gina, it really was fun. The shop is just adorable and Lei was super sweet. The girls really enjoyed the "research" part of the blog post!

  4. I live in Vista Ca so i definitely will be taking a drive up to San Clemente real soon not oy mention trying out this recipe!

    1. Well hello neighbor!! Yep... definitely worth a drive!

  5. Kim,
    Your cupcakes are beautiful. I'm sure that they taste as good as they look. Your girls were excellent reviewers:) Pictures say a thousand words sometimes.

    1. Good to see you Becky! They really had a good time with this one. They read the whole book, planned what to eat and did all the "research". It was a good day!

  6. I must try these cupcakes! They look just amazing!

    1. Thanks Medeja!!! I haven't made cupcakes in ages... but we made two batches in 2 days!

  7. I would love to experience this kind of state of mind!

    1. I love this comment!! A state of mind indeed... and it was awesome!!

  8. I'm definitely making these!!!! Thanks, Kim!!!!

  9. YUM! That looks identical to my wedding cake recipe! Chocolate on chocolate!


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