Cookie Monster Cupcakes

I came across this recipe a few weeks ago and I’m yet to find a more deliciously peculiar cupcake!

Cookie Monster Cupcake

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nick_d/2977848508/

Cookie Monster Cupcake Recipe

Ingredients:

Cupcake mix (makes 6 medium cupcakes)

50g Self raising flour

50g Caster sugar (superfine)

50g Butter or margarine

1 Egg

Butter Frosting:

250g unsalted butter

300g icing sugar

Sprinkle of vanilla

Milk – no more than 4 tablespoons

Blue food colouring

Decoration:

Dessicated coconut

Cookies (any brand)

Chocolate chips

Cupcake Sponge Recipe:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (Electric oven | Electric fan oven 160°C | Gas Mark 4) and place paper cases into a muffin tin
  2. Using an electric whisk, food processor or wooden spoon, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  3. Add in the egg, beating it well
  4. Fold in the flour
  5. Bake in the oven for 10 – 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, check to see if the cupcakes are ready by inserting a cocktail stick into one of the cupcakes. If it comes out dry then the cupcakes are done. If not, pop the cakes back in the oven for a few more minutes. Lift the cupcakes out of the muffin tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Butter Frosting Recipe:

Mix the unsalted butter, icing sugar and vanilla

  1. Add the tablespoons of milk, one tablespoon at a time and stir in well
  2. Whisk for 10 minutes
  3. Take out  4-5 tablespoons of the mixture and keep in a separate bowl
  4. Add the blue food colouring to the remaining mixture. Stir well.

Decoration Recipe:

  1. Once the cupcakes are cooled, cover them in the blue butter frosting.
  2. Next make the coloured coconut.  Add a few drops of food colouring to the coconut and coat thoroughly. Spread the coconut out on wax paper to air dry for a couple hours.  To make the coconut better resemble the Cookie Monster’s furry coat, you can pulse the coconut in a food processor.
  3. Sprinkle the tinted blue desiccated coconut over the cupcakes.
  4. To make the eyes, pipe out two balls of white butter icing (use a baggie with the corner snipped off if you don’t have a pastry bag)
  5. Add a chocolate chip, with the flat surface facing upwards, to each ball of white butter frosting
  6. Use a sharp knife to make a cut for the mouth and wedge in your favourite cookie
  7. Enjoy….and try not to eat them all at once!

Cranberry and Coriander Truffles

Is there anything more delicious than truffles?! With a crispy outer shell and a soft creamy centre, truffles are perfection!

 

praline-182861_640

Ingredients:

2 handfuls of fresh cranberries
115g granulated sugar
2 tsp ground coriander
125ml whipping cream
55g unsalted butter
500g milk chocolate, finely chopped

 

Directions:
Place the fresh cranberries, sugar and coriander in a pot with just enough water to cover the bottom. Simmer on a low heat until the berries are soft.

Place the mixture in food processor and blend until you get a smooth consistency. Run through a strainer.

Add a pinch of sea salt to the cream, which will really bring out the flavour of the truffle mixture.

Add the cream to the cranberry mixture and bring the mix to a boil. Next pour the mixture over 460g of the milk chocolate and leave it to sit for 5 minutes, allowing the mixture to melt the chocolate.

Stir until fully combined and run through a strainer into clean bowl. Stir in butter then cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

Melt 30g of milk chocolate in a bowl over pot of hot water. Remove the ganache from refrigerator and using your hands quickly roll into small balls and place on parchment paper. Hand roll ganache balls in the tempered milk chocolate and place onto clean parchment paper. Store in airtight container in a cool dark place.

The truffles will be perfect for for10 days.

My Chocolate Top Tips

Wash your hands with cold water before rolling the truffles to prevent them from melting.

Give you truffles an even more delicious flavour by coating them in cocoa power. Once you have dipped the truffles in the chocolate place them on a plate of cocoa power. When the chocolates have almost set, roll in the cocoa power and leave on the parchment paper to finish setting.

[ Image provided by AlexanderStein ]

Surviving Corporate Events

I want to tell you the story of a young lady who loved Christian Louboutin heels. She was also a regular attendee of corporate events and it’s not a happy ending. Ok, we’re exaggerating a little but seriously, the number of times we’ve seen ladies walking around corporate events in impossible shoes made us think: time to write a few simple tips for surviving corporate events for organisers and clients alike. Even just for the sake of your future bunions.

Ok, here goes:

Wear comfortable shoes

Surprise, surprise, this is number 1. We know, it seems obvious, but uncomfortable shoes will make you tired, irritable and ultimately less effective – they’re not called killer heels for nothing. So ditch the heels, and put on some comfortable flats. If you want to go all glamazon then bring the heels in a separate shoe bag and change at the venue. To aid further, try and sit down whenever possible and take plenty of breaks. Networking…organising…it can all take it out of you.

Don’t forget to eat

We’re going to sound like your mum here, but you really must eat. It’s so easy when you are running round to forget to take care of yourself. But it’s essential! If you are a client enjoying hospitality, go easy on the wine as the canapes usually offered can be dangerously insubstantial. Try and eat something filling beforehand and ensure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Watch out for cocktails – you don’t know how much alcohol they contain until you try to stand up!

Plan carefully

Whether you are the event organiser, or a client, planning can turn a social occasion into an excellent business opportunity. Is there anyone in particular that you wish to network with, impress, gain contacts through? If you can, do your homework and make a bee line for those people when you arrive. Remember: knowing what you want is the first step to getting what you want.

With these 3 top tips for surviving corporate events, success is practically guaranteed. Throw in a little chocolate, and it’s assured.

Chocolate Corporate Event Ideas

Like good old Augustus Gloop, we at MyChocolate can’t get enough of the sweet, dark stuff.

We are guessing you are people after our own heart, since you’re reading this blog. So to further whet your appetite, we’re  going to take you on a magical mystery tour of chocolate corporate event ideas.

Chocolate Making

 

We’re not ones to boast (promise!), but we’re pretty good at this. Well, it has been 8 years non-stop hosting this most popular of workshops. Cut, dip and decorate your own handmade treasures, pop them into ribbon tied boxes, then toast your newly found choc prowess with your clients.  Everyone’s happy – that is unless you arrive home with an empty box.

Chocolate Fountain

Picture the scene: you arrive at the venue, you’re booted, suit399px-Small_Chocolate_Fountained and fluted…it’s time to mingle. Now whilst the lucky few glide around delivering effortless quips, some of us (ahem) may feel a wee bit shy in such situations. And this is the beauty of the chocolate fountain. Awe-inspiring and endlessly delicious, the fountain is the leveller of all men. It’s an easy talking point…unless you have a mouth full of chocolate-covered profiterole, that is.

Wine and Chocolate Pairing

 

We are certainly partial to a glass or two of red, but coupled with a complimentary truffle and you’ll be in a very chocolatey seventh heaven. We consulted our lovely sommelier who helped us find the most delicious combinations. One of our many favourites? Deep tawny port with a rich cinnamon milk truffle. This event is popular with the menfolk too.

Chocolate corporate event ideas will get your taste buds tingling and bring smiles to many faces.

Contactthe MyChocolate office to discuss a bespoke corporate event for your clients.

[Image provided by Alexander Klink ]

Corporate Events: From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

We at MyChocolate feel we have it pretty good.  As our aim is to continually devise new and delicious recipes for your delectation, we get to flavour the ganache, pour the cream and lick the spoon at the end.

It’s no bad existence.

However, of late we’ve been having fun checking out how the other half live  – you know, the half who have their own helipads and stuff.

We’ve done a little rekkie of the ‘net, and discovered the most extravagant corporate events experiences out there.

Here are the ones that most tickled our fancy:Team Building Chocolate

Not Quite Do Wah Diddy

Yeh, Cheryl Cole is no slouch on X Factor, but dontcha just miss her singing with the other lasses? Well, fret no more! For a not so modest fee, you can hire Girls Aloud to sing at your company’s bash. For the older clientele, we have Depeche Mode or for the discerning older lady, hunky opera boys Il Divo.

Celeb Speakers

Did you ever read that book, ‘The Game’? The one written for men about how to pick up just about any single lady on the market? How about hiring Neil Strauss the author as your guest speaker? (NB Not quite sure how this will boost your company’s profits). Or you could bring in a certain Mr G Ramsay, but we wouldn’t recommend asking him for dating tips.

Drive a Bentley on Ice

We’re not totally convinced of the benefits of this one. Fly to the Finnish wilderness, take this classic Brit car for a spin on a frozen lake – this seems like some kind of advanced driving proficiency course. But the bit about the huskies and the traditional Lapp dinner sounds good.

Your Very Own Submarine

Yes, for an undisclosed amount,  you can drive your very own two-seat submersible.  Designed to “fly” underwater, The Super Aviator allows you to experience the wonders of the ocean without getting wet. Just don’t say, “Red October”.

Rent a Private Island

You’d have to have done something pretty damn impressive to get HR to agree to this corporate event. Bahamas? Seychelles? Choices, choices. As long as it comes with it’s own fully staffed bar and a white sandy beach, we’re not too picky.

What Can Wreck A Team…And How To Solve It

We at MyChocolate are more likely to be polishing off a chocolate box than ticking boxes.

 

However, when a nice lady kindly offered to give us free psychometric testing, we thought that sounded rather intriguing, so we sharpened our pencils and got to work. The results were genuinely interesting and revealing, and taught us much about the way our particular, tight-knitted group interacts.

Team building training is all about reinforcing positive group dynamics. However, it is just as important to be aware of what can go wrong.

Awareness of this allows you to rectify situations before they get out of hand. Here are the 3 most frequent team issues:

Alpha Tendencies

You know how in those nature documentaries, there’s usually a gorilla that thuds it’s chest and yells the loudest? Same with teams. There is often a member who works on the principle, ‘my way or the highway’, dominating discussions and being uncooperative if they do not get their way. They will also attempt to sabotage proceedings by undermining the authority of others, through subtle (back-stabbing, bitching) and not so subtle means (direct confrontation, aggression). This behaviour shows all the hallmarks insecurity. The best way to deal with these people? Take them aside, and really hear them out. If they feel they are being valued and appreciated, 9 time out of 10 they will pipe down.

Pack Mentalitychocolate-581687_640

Cases of sexual harassment frequently make the papers. However, there is another form of harassment stemming from pack mentality in the workplace in which multiple employees pick another employee as a “fall guy”, one who is singled out for excessive criticism or is given a disproportionate workload. More often than not, this person is someone who is has a mild and shy disposition, a character who stands apart from the crowd through socially awkwardness and/or eccentricity. Be alert to this behaviour; not only is it extremely damaging to the individual and to your group dynamic, it prevents you from seeing that person’s actual capabilities and contributions, as well as falsely absolving others of their responsibilities.

Infighting

Think of your company as an orchestra. If Jane in HR is a violinist and Matt in accounts is a bassoonist, your boss is the conductor, keeping time and creating harmony and solid rhythm…or not, as the case may be. It’s really important to be aware of how your boss sets the tone for the company culture. If they are conniving and play colleagues off against each other, chances are the staff will behave similarly; conversely, if the boss is kind, fair and considerate, the same qualities will be felt in the workplace overall. Awareness of this is vital when it comes to team building training. If you quietly identify to yourself your bosses positive and negative traits, you can work to balance these out with your own group dynamic. Easier said than done, but well worth it. Your boss may even sit up and take notice when they see how successfully your team is doing!

Party Pitfalls and How to Prevent Them!

Things just ain’t what they used to be. And we mean that in a good way.  Once, corporate entertainment amounted to a sorry looking platter of sandwiches in a gloomy function room, and DJ Keith spinning a selection of 80’s classics. And these days? Even in this current economic climate, smart companies know that corporate ents are really worth investing in.

If done properly, not only do such events leave clients feeling mighty appreciated, they are also invaluable opportunities for networking. However, the key is in the words ‘done properly’.

With this in mind, My Chocolate present to you our Potential Pitfalls list – we’ve come up with the things that might go wrong so you get a head start:

Low Price = Low Value?

It’s one thing being price conscious. But it’s another thing to get sucked into buying the cheapest packages, as low prices don’t necessarily mean value for money. Don’t forget, you are aiming to make your important clients feel valued. Make the event feel like a stingy and miserly affair, and it’ll be worse than not having an event at all. Even if you have a shoe-string budget, it’s your job to find a way to make the entertainment feel generous and high-quality.

The Devil is in the Detail

It’s a dull business, but there is nothing like fine-combing a contract.

Always check exactly what is included in the corporate hospitality package and clarify any points that aren’t clear.

Similarly, always check the cancellation policies that have been put in place by the hospitality provider. What if your numbers go down at the last minute – will you still have to pay for the original amount of people? And what if the company cancel on you? Make sure there is provision for all of these scenarios, and most importantly – get it in writing!

Location, Location!

Ask for the locations of the facilities that make up the package.  They should all be close by, and if they are not within comfortable walking distance, confirm that (elegant) transportation will be covered by the event providers.

All that Glitters…

Do not be taken in by spectacular photography, costly looking brochures and collateral. These do not necessarily reflect what you will get on the day.

Ensure you visit the venue, taste the food and drinks, sample the service and, if possible, sit in on the workshop or entertainment that you wish to book. Don’t be afraid to ask for previous client recommendations and endorsements either!

And Remember:

You are always welcome to come down to My Chocolate HQ to discuss your potential event with us. Just give us a call, and we promise you’ll leave with a good taste in your mouth (that’ll be the hazelnut praline, then!).

Event Planning: Top Tips

“God laughs at man’s best made plans” runs the old proverb and while you can never guarantee that things are going to run smoothly 100 % of the time, we are My Chocolate are sticklers for organising ahead.

One day that might mean figuring out the logistics of getting several kilos of chocolate, four of our lovely teachers, a cocoa bean treasure chest and 10 cases of dessert wine to Munich; on another it may mean rigorously taste-testing strawberry cup cakes and whoopee pies well in advance of a new workshop – it’s a hard life sometimes!

Conference

 

Our Top Tips for Planning Your Event:

  • Make sure that invitations get sent out in good time, with a clear date to RSVP. Factor in chasing up responses before the last date to reply to, and don’t forget to include dietary and access options on the invitation.
  • Time to break out Excel! There’s nothing like a spreadsheet to properly plan crucial timings. Have timetables for invitations; acceptances; organising accommodation and travel; delegates’ options; tickets for conference dinner, the full caboodle. And don’t forget a timetable for the day itself, with allocated roles for your team.
  • Your team will only perform smoothly if you fully brief everyone on their roles and relevant information. Make your expectations clear, and then be sure to fire them up with your belief in their individual abilities.
  • When deciding on your venue, shortlist at least 3 separate locations. When you pay your visit, bear in mind the location, facilities, friendliness of the staff and services available at no extra cost. Don’t forget to taste the food and wine while you are there. (And yes, that’s a must!)
  • Take advantage of the in-house team at your conference venue. They will be familiar with the venue and able to offer free advice and help.  They are also likely to have information available to assist you in organising such an event, or their event manager should be able to advise you as part of the overall package.
  • Get advice from your entertainment agent for what works best in different venues. Usually live music works well for drinks reception and mealtime (we’re thinking less Kraut Rock, and more Bossa Nova, however!). Watch out as stand-up comedians can be loose canons, so best stick to a speaker who is talking on a pre-agreed and relevant topic for 30 minutes or so after dining.
  • Take a break: it’s going to be a long day, so if you can, stay at the venue, or close by the night before. Don’t forget to plan some breaks for you and your team throughout the day. Put your best foot forward – we know you’ll do a fabulous job!
[Image provided by GDC Online]

How to Run the Best Team Building Event

Remember how you had to eat your greens to get to eat ice-cream afters? We at My Chocolate believe – though it may not be quite as fun as rolling truffles – that planning is the key to ultimately having a great time at a team-building event. Here are some suggestions for success:

What Are Your Objectives?

Take the case of our workshops. Now, some might say that learning to make delicious milk chocolate praline is enough of an objective for anyone – but not so. With all corporate events, it is important to be clear about the objectives. These objectives should tie in to corporate goals, and the type of event you have will be strongly influenced by the outcome you are trying to achieve.

Positive or Negative

A key choice is whether your aim is a positive or negative one. Have your staff been particularly spangly, clever and lovely this year? In that case, you want to reward staff for a excellent year. Which means in our language, pop open the champagne and get those chocolate fountains flowing! Or are you trying to overcome psychological barriers that hinder communication? This requires a very different approach, where you try to establish relationships between people who don’t normally interact.

Planning

Suppose you are wanting to build better relationships between two separate departments. You could try mixing them in groups and at tables during mealtimes. However, left to our own devices, most of us with hunker down with those we know. To counteract this you could try briefing everyone beforehand to encourage them to mix, or even produce a formal seating plan.

After the Event

The planning you need to do not only includes the corporate event itself, but also what happens afterwards. Because once the ribbon is untied from the boxes, and the choccies devoured, people have a bit of a habit of going back to their old ways.  The Choc Doc prescribes the following:

  • identifying and removing, where possible, boundaries in the working environment that permanently divide people into groups. This can include desk arrangements and different dress codes
  • creating cross-organisational process teams (with real objectives) to maintain the  initiative and break down the barriers
  • ensuring that you carry on reminding your staff how very much you appreciate them, with reward and recognition schemes, social events and celebrations for key achievements as they happen. Hell, you can even make them home-made chocolate!

Take a look at MyChocolate’s Team Building Away Days and Coporate Events for inspiration!

Building a Good Team

Think of a World Without Any Chocolate…

Imagine a world with apples but no oranges. Socks but no tights. Bowler hats but no berets. Or, most scarily, chocolate chip cookies…and no vanilla cream truffles. This, ladies and gentlemen, would be a world lacking in diversity. Boo. And diversity is the name of the game when it comes to building a great team.

Just calling a group of people ‘a team’ does not an effective team make. We’ve been thinking about what creates the best, most cheerful and smooth-running collaborations and have come up with a few pointers.

How to Guide: Building a Good Team

  1. Take a good look around are your fellow team members. Is your team predominantly made up of the same people or is it a good mix? If it is fairly homogeneous, perhaps it’s worth asking whether such a group can truly represent the views of the customer? Have they got the knowledge they need? Can you find people with different backgrounds to join the team?
  2. With this in mind, beware of trying to mould people towards any point of view. The point of differences is that they enrich the idea pool, so be receptive to their suggestions, even if you might not immediately agree.
  3. Look out for any quiet ones. Why aren’t they contributing? Do they feel excluded? If you think it’s a confidence issue, it might be worth taking them quietly to one side, and letting them know that their opinion is valued.
  4. We know it’s tempting to have an easy life, but don’t pretend to agree when you don’t. Differences can be fuel for developing ideas.
  5. Look for common ground. Core beliefs are often the same when surface beliefs are different. Focusing on core beliefs can help you as a team get back on track when there is disagreement and conflict.