Cinnamon-Apple Stuffed French Toast with Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone & Cinnamon-Pear Balsamic Reduction

Strawberry Rhubarb Stuffed French Toast, meet your newest rival. Can you tell I have a sweet tooth with all these dessert posts lately?

I was asked to do a cooking demo at my beloved former job at Palmetto Olive Oil Company. Working there was a foodie’s dream. I got to help customers find the perfect olive oil or balsamic for whatever recipe they were looking for, snack on delicious bread with artisan olive oils all day, and expand my creativity in the kitchen with recipes like these. You know how I’m always going on about using the highest quality olive oil and balsamic you can find? Palmetto Olive Oil Company is where I go to find this stuff.

One thing you will notice about their balsamic vinegars is that they are aged for 18 years. They are sweet, thick, and luscious. Whenever I make a balsamic reduction with their product, it doesn’t take long at all to reduce and become even thicker and sweeter.


Look at that beautiful mess. So let’s dive into what makes this French toast so special, shall we? It starts with lovely Challah bread, which is pillowy and light and looks like a little cloud awaiting its apple filling. Stuffed inside are granny smith apples that have been cooked down with butter, brown sugar, and just a pinch of salt– so basically, it tastes like the inside of an apple pie. The toast is griddled and finished off with a drizzle of cinnamon-pear infused dark balsamic vinegar, which adds a nice tang and more cinnamon flavor to reinforce the flavors of the toast. Finally, it’s all topped off with a combination of whipped cream and Mascarpone cheese, which gives it a silky, cheesecake-like flare. So basically, you’re looking at french toast meets apple pie meets cheesecake.

I tested this recipe at home before making it for the cooking demo, and in both cases people said “I’ll just take a bite…” and then ended up eating the whole plate. I think it’s safe to say this recipe is absolutely delicious.


Cinnamon-Apple Stuffed French Toast with Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone & Cinnamon-Pear Balsamic Reduction

Serves 8


For the toast:

  • 8 slices Challah or brioche bread, sliced roughly 1.5 inches thick
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Butter, for frying

For the filling: 

  • 4 granny smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 5 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For the whipped vanilla mascarpone: 

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 oz mascarpone cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

You will also need 1/3 cup Cinnamon-Pear Dark Balsamic.


  1. Make the filling: In a large frying pan over medium heat, melt the butter and add in the apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the apples have softened and the butter and sugar have combined to form a caramel-like sauce. Set aside.
  2. Make the whipped mascarpone: In a large bowl, whip the heavy cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Add in the mascarpone cheese and beat until evenly combined. Set aside.
  3. In a shallow bowl, combine the eggs, half and half, cinnamon, and vanilla.
  4. Using a sharp knife, make a slit in the bottom of each slice of challah. This is the pocket where your filling goes. Stuff each slice with around 2 Tablespoons of filling.
  5. Dunk each slice of stuffed challah in the egg mixture. Make sure that each slice has a nice coating.
  6. Coat a griddle or skillet over medium heat with a few Tablespoons of butter. Fry the challah in batches of 2-3 in the skillet until golden brown.
  7. While the French toast is cooking, reduce the 1/3 cup of balsamic in a small saucepan over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes. It should thicken nicely.
  8. Top each slice of french toast with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and a nice dollop of the whipped mascarpone.



Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Filling & Salted Caramel Buttercream


Oh man, I’m a little ashamed of how long it has been since my last post. But I brought a show-stopping cupcake recipe with me, so hopefully you will forgive me 😉 What can I say, the last semester of grad school is anything but slow.

2 weeks ago, I had the honor of making a dessert contribution for Sarah and Andy’s wedding. I wanted it to be something truly special that I knew they (and all the guests) would enjoy, so I came up with these decadent beauties.


Sarah is one of the few people who understands chocolate on the level that I do. She may be my sister’s best friend, but she knows who to consult when she needs a chocolate fix! When she asked me to make a dessert for her wedding, I knew it had to be something sinful and chocolatey. Last year, I went through a stuffed cupcake phase. Well… Not as much of a phase as a permanent way of life. Once you stuff your cupcakes, you won’t go back. Case in point:


I mean, COME ON. That chocolate ganache is basically a whole extra layer of love that moistens the cupcake and makes it feel like you’re eating a volcano cupcake. With homemade salted caramel buttercream. This is what dreams are made of, people.

Stuffing the cupcakes takes a little extra time, but it’s so worth it. All you have to do is take a sharp knife and, holding it at an angle, cut a small circle out of the center:


Fill it with roughly 1-2 teaspoons of your filling:


And then put the circle back on top to keep it a sweet surprise!

img_0045I made a small batch of these the night before the wedding and had the bride and my family do some quality control, just to make sure they tasted fine. The funniest reaction came from my Dad, who was basically losing his mind and swearing like a sailor because they tasted *that* good. As I was photographing them the next day before the wedding, he was lurking behind me: So, uh, Alex… We, uh, we gonna get any more of those or do they ALL have to go to the wedding? 

I haven’t even mentioned the frosting yet. Basically, it’s super rich and it has the perfect sweetness from the caramel to contrast the intensity of the dark chocolate cupcakes. A word of caution: I make my frosting with DRASTICALLY less sugar than most recipes. Most frosting recipes have 4+ cups of powdered sugar in them, and I think that makes them way too sweet. That being said, this frosting is best consumed the day of. Since there is less sugar, the frosting isn’t super stiff and it won’t last as long as most other buttercream recipes will. But good luck even making it to day 2 after you make these.

I’m so sorry the blog has been relatively quiet. I will try my  hardest to bring you thoughtful recipes and posts when I can. For now, enjoy these luscious cupcakes full of love, made for an occasion that was nothing but love! Congratulations Sarah and Andy!


Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Filling and Salted Caramel Buttercream

Makes 24 cupcakes


For the cupcakes*: 

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups dark chocolate cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil vegetable oil would also be fine
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten (preferably room temperature)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hot water (or hot coffee or 1 tsp instant coffee dissolved into 1 cup hot water)

For the ganache filling: 

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

For the salted caramel buttercream: 

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1.5 Tablespoons salted caramel sauce (I use Trader Joe’s caramel sauce with Fleur de Sel)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350F and line muffin tin with cupcake liners (or lightly grease and flour).
  2. In large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Stir in canola oil and milk, stirring until combined.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition.
  5. Stir in vanilla extract.
  6. Add hot water and stir until the mixture is evenly combined; it’s going to be a thin batter so don’t worry if you feel like it looks too runny.

  7. Fill prepared cupcake liners just over 2/3 of the way full and bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
  8. Allow cupcakes to cool on a wire rack before filling and frosting them.
  9. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the ganache: Place the chocolate chips in a medium heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over medium-high heat, just before it boils (do not let it boil). Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and allow it to sit for 60 seconds. Stir the cream and chocolate mixture until it is silky and smooth. Set aside.
  10. Fill the cooled cupcakes by cutting a small circle out of the center (see above for picture tutorial) and placing 1-2 teaspoons of ganache in the center. Place the circle of cake you cut out back on top of the cupcake to close it off.
  11. Make your frosting: In a large bowl, beat the butter, caramel, powdered sugar, vanilla, salt, and cream until the ingredients are evenly combined and the mixture is light and fluffy.
  12. Place the frosting into a pastry bag and pipe onto the stuffed cupcakes.
  13. ENJOY!

*Note that the cupcake recipe is an adaptation on Sugar Spun Run’s Easy Chocolate Cupcakes.