Fame: From Croquembouche to Cupcakes?

I always get a giggle whenever someone tells me about their “famous [fill in name of food dish]”. Recently while dining with acquaintances we were informed that we were about to be treated too our hostess’s “famous meatloaf”. She actually informed us that she “was famous for her meatloaf”! Now don’t get me wrong, it was actually quite a delicious meatloaf but I had no idea our hostess had acquired a degree of notoriety for it. Quite honestly, I had never heard of her meatloaf before that evening. Perhaps I’m just not as au currant as I thought I was? (I read the New York Times daily. I even read People magazine and when nobody is looking I’ll even pick up The Enquirer. Never heard of her meatloaf.) Just this past year, however, I have been treated to “famous lemon bars”, “famous Asian salmon”, and more recently, “famous artichoke dip”. (Trust me, as delicious as it is, NOBODY’S artichoke dip is worthy of fame.)

Within my group of closest friends, each is somewhat associated with a particular dish and yet none claim real fame for it. If you say ‘popovers’ we would immediately think of John who will make these (and strawberry butter!) for any gathering we might have. Michael makes an amazing carrot soup. (His other specialty is egg whites believe it or not!) Gary can whip up a pork tenderloin dinner with all the sides to perfection in just minutes. (I have made his recipe so many times that I call it “mine” when he is not around.) Lastly, Steve can turn any leftover chicken into a chicken salad so good you would be surprised that chicken salad can get even get that tasty. And yet, as good as it is, it certainly hasn’t made Steve famous yet — though it probably should.

My friends would probably have a hard time associating me with any one particular dish. Maybe if you pressed them they might laugh and say “croquembouche” — even though I haven’t actually made one since 1996. I was young and too foolish to know that some recipes should only be admired –not attempted. I had just caught my first glimpse of a younger, slimmer Martha Stewart in a set of VHS videos that belonged to my mother. She stepped her viewers through the very complicated recipe — assuring us along the way how easy it was at each step. When I saw Martha spinning the sugar and wrapping it around the festive assembly of puff pastries I was hooke and determined to make it for my next holiday party. Surprisingly, it turned out pretty darn nice even thought it took several batches of cream puffs to get enough good ones to complete. One of my guests was so enthralled by the whole thing that he started eating it piece by piece, one puff at a time, turning my creating into a culinary game of Jenga. Before I could do a formal presentation to my guests most of its structural support had been eaten away. When I went to check on it and get it ready I found 25% of it missing! Traumatized, I have not made another one since. The stuff of legend.

Martha has since simplified her recipe– and I now see is has become “famous” as well. I wonder if I had anything to do with that?
Which brings us to chocolate cupcakes. Specifically, my “famous chocolate cupcakes”.I’m not famous for them at all though they are one of those recipes that I wouldn’t mind being famous for or at the very least associated with. They do have quite a few fans at the office when I make a batch to bring in and they always seem to disappear at dinner gatherings — even when I’ve invited the ‘no dessert for me” crowd. Despite the surprising inclusion of Hershey’s syrup in the ingredient list they are not children’s cupcakes and before you blanch at the thought of using Hershey’s in your baking I will tell you that I think the distinctive flavor actually works quite well here as it delivers a certain note that your guests won’t quite get a handle on.

The recipe is adapted from Ina’s to make them less sweet and a bit deeper and darker in cocoa flavor. I also add some baking powder to get just a tad more lift. She makes them plain but I always decorate a few with toasted walnuts or slivered almonds.

Ingredients: nocoupons

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 11 fluid ounces Hershey’s chocolate syrup (1 can)
  • 1 TBS baking powder
  • 1 TBS cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Toasted slivered almonds
  • 1 teaspoon instant coffee granules



  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ounces good semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in the chocolate syrup and vanilla. Add the flour and coffee granules and mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat, or the cupcakes will be tough.

Scoop the batter into the muffin cups and bake for 30 minutes, or until just set in the middle. Don’t overbake! Let cool thoroughly in the muffin pan.

For the ganache, cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.

Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache. Do not refrigerate.


About Trevor Kensey

To be truthful, I don’t know what “Sis. Boom. [blog!]” means either. The name implies something explosive just happened I suppose I would like it if each post would make made a small ‘boom’ in your day or at least a fizzle. Even though a recipe is included with every post I have a hard time calling this a “food blog” or even myself a “food blogger”.

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  1. Too funny! And I agree…famous where? with whom? Those cupcakes look delicious…I may try to adapt and make a gluten free version. Will post it if I do.

  2. What are you “famous” for Kate?

    I’m not too familiar with “gluten free” cooking. What would you have to do to adapt? Are there easy substitutions?

  3. I suppose within my family I am famous for my Asparagus Benedict… Everyone asks me to make it for Easter, asks for the recipe, etc. And for the toffee I make at Christmas. They are both really simple recipes – so it’s kind of funny that they get such raves! I will post about the Asparagus Benedict as it gets closer to Easter.

    Gluten free cooking means no wheat, barley, rye, triticale, or any ingredients derived from them. Also – most commercial oats are cross-contaminated from being grown near wheat. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease last year & the only way to manage it is to stay completely gluten free. I am also allergic to dairy, but my reactions have lessened as I’ve gotten older, so I still indulge from time to time. I would use a different flour when I make the cupcakes (probably a combination of rice, sorghum and tapioca flours) but I would probably go ahead and use the heavy cream — it would be worth splurging on:)

  4. Very funny – I know what you mean. I don’t think I have something in particular I’m ‘famous’ for.

    The cupcakes look yummy, I love things with lots of dark chocolate.

  5. I love chocolate and almonds together!