almond cupcakes with chocolate ganache + a word about ice cream parties.

almond cupcakes + chocolate ganache.

I made no cake for my birthday this year. This was by design. I wasn’t in the mood for cake: for crafting it or for eating it, and if you cook or bake regularly, you probably understand that you go through phases where the things which sound incredible to others are the things you want to be the furthest away from. So no cake was made this year, and I was perfectly okay with that.

Mr. Table is not a food blogger: probably the furthest thing from it, which means he’s all in for birthday cake. And what’s birthday cake without ice cream, right? So I threw together a little dessert featuring these beautiful things. Although not a proper layered birthday cake, the original recipe is for almond cake layers from the Piece of Cake cookbook. You remember that one: a few of you have purchased it by now, based on these gloriously be-sprinkled sugar cookies and these incredibly fun chocolate chip cupcakes. It’s a fabulous book, and these cupcakes are more proof of that.

I did a good amount of adapting here: I had to, because it takes a little work sometimes to make a layer cake into a cupcake. Also have you ever done that thing where you’re cutting a recipe in half as you go, and then boom: you forget that’s what you’re doing and then add the WHOLE AMOUNT OF SOMETHING to the bowl? Right; I did that. As luck would have it, I did it with the almond flour, which was an easy fix; a little monkeying around with the liquids and my mistake turned into one of the best almond cakes I’ve ever had.

Delightfully dense, but not at all heavy, these are a nice alternative to a vanilla cupcake. The ground almonds give it subtle flavor and that special texture you can only find in things which use almond flour: that wee bit of sturdiness you can’t get with regular flour. Although they do contain a small amount of almond extract, they don’t have the slightly artificial, candy taste of a classic wedding cake; the extract only amplifies the naturally sweet almond flavor that’s already inside.

pair these with whatever frosting you want, but I will always prefer a straightforward chocolate ganache with these. They are a flatter cupcake, and the almond flour gives it a bit of rustic bumpiness, so the ganache does double duty here: It smooths over the rough spots, and doesn’t try to create artificial height with poofs and swirls. It’s a very elegant-looking cupcake, and the flavors are pretty high-class as well. To fancy them up a bit, pop a chocolate covered almond in the center of each one, and they’ll be irresistible.

And if you ever have occasion to throw an ice cream sunday party for a grown man and other adults? Consider forgoing the sprinkles and crushed candy, and head right for this little trio:

ice cream toppings for adults.

What you see here is hot fudge sauce (the very same as what is used to top these cupcakes, and the chocolate chip cupcakes I mentioned earlier), apple pie compote, and some vanilla-almond granola. Everything is made from scratch, easy to throw together, and you can make it all ahead of time. Set it out with some vanilla ice cream and watch while people figure out what combos sound the best. Chocolate fudge drizzled over the vanilla almond granola? Perfect. The granola topping warm apple compote, like a deconstructed pie? Superb. Whatever the combinations, everyone will feel happy and a little less sugar-buzzed than if you had set out a bunch of candy toppings. You can branch out from that if you wish; be creative! But it’s a good core group of things.

If you’re wondering where to find the recipe for the apple compote? It’s currently in the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook by Tom Douglas, which I know at least one of you has (and more of you should). I’m still putting my personal touch onto it, and I’ll post it when I’ve gotten it just right. I actually have the book with me right now in Nashville: there’s all sorts of delicious things in here, including an entire section on fancy sandwiches (which is why it’s here.)

This recipe is for Monica over at Playing with Flour, one of my newest favorite blogs. I can’t decide if I love her more for her writing style or for her love of all things chocolate and almond, but I feel like these would be right up her alley. It’s her fault I had so many almonds in my pantry, anyway: I had stocked up to make this almond semolina cake and this lovely almond bread, and I still plan to do that very soon.

Adapted from the Almond Cake Layers recipe in Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple by The Davids Muniz and Lesniak. I’ve said this many times, but it’s a fabulous book for straightforward baking and some interesting twists on classics. To those of you who purchased this due to my glowing reviews? You’re smart people: very, very smart.

Almond Cupcakes + Chocolate Ganache

for the cupcakes:

  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup almond flour/ground almonds*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

for the chocolate ganache:

  • 2 ounces 72% chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 fat pinches kosher salt (probably around 1/8 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup**
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

*I almost always purchase almonds and grind them into flour rather than buying almond flour: I feel like the texture is slightly better. If you’re grinding them like I do, you’ll need right around 1 1/4 cups of blanched almonds for this. Throw them in a food processor and let them go until powdery.

**Friends, I know all about corn syrup and why some people don’t want it in their diets. I get it: I don’t buy things with it in there either, for the most part, but I don’t believe that a few teaspoons will hurt anyone. That’s just my food philosophy in general. In this ganache, it’s the key to the stability and shine you see above. If you want to substitute with honey, be my guest, but your flavor and texture will vary slightly from my recipe. If it were just for topping ice cream with, I wouldn’t care as much, but you’re asking a liquid to stay firmly on top of a cupcake. It needs the extra stick.

As if you needed one more note: This ganache holds its shape very well; if you look at the chocolate chip cupcakes, you’ll see it stands up without drizzling all over the place. I did the drizzle on purpose: if you heat the ganache up just a bit before you do these, you can achieve a nice little drizzle action like you see above, but I would suggest doing that and then sticking them in the refrigerator as soon as you’re done with the dunking step so they “freeze” like that. 

Make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two standard muffin tins with liners, or just line one if you’re like me and are superstitious about baking more than one thing at a time. Or – also like me – you happen to have only one standard muffin tin. Who has room for two?

In a large bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each incorporation. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl again, then beat again for a few seconds until everything is homogenous.

Stir the buttermilk into the sour cream mixture until combined. Add both the flour mixture and the sour cream mixture in two parts, beginning with the flour mixture, and mix on low after each addition, just until each addition is combined. No overmixing, please, but it’s important with these cakes to make sure everything is thoroughly incorporated; scrape down the bowl after each addition, all the way to the bottom. After the last addition has been combined, scrape it down once more, checking for streaks. If you find any, stir with your spatula to incorporate.

Using my beloved spring-loaded ice cream scoop, portion the cupcakes out into the muffin tin(s). If you’re only using one tin, your extra batter is just fine sitting on the counter waiting until the first batch is finished.

Bake in the middle rack of your oven for 19-22 minutes, checking at the 18 minute mark for doneness: these are an almond cupcake, remember, so you want them just done, but not dry. Test them with a small wooden skewer; they are done when no wet batter comes out of the center (but a few clingy crumbs are okay.) Transfer the entire muffin tin to a cooling rack, and when they are cool enough to handle, ease them out onto the cooking rack and repeat as needed with your second round.

Make the ganache:

In a medium bowl, add the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.

Combine the corn syrup, sugar, and heavy cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. As soon as you see it begin to boil, remove it from the heat and pour the cream mixture over your chocolate mixture and allow to sit undisturbed for 1 minute.

Slowly begin to whisk the mixture by hand, for as long as it takes to dissolve everything together. Then pick up your speed, whisking at a decent clip and increasing your speed as you go (think of it as a cardio endurance challenge) for about 4 minutes, until your mixture is glossy and completely smooth. I say “completely” here because you will begin to get tired, and you will try to pointedly ignore the tiny granules of undissolved sugar still staring at you from the bowl. Do not leave them undissolved, people, because grainy chocolate fudge sauce does nothing for your presentation. Keep going until you can truthfully say you see no grains. Set aside.

Cake dunk time:

When your cupcakes have cooled to room temperature, it’s time to dunk them. Rewarm your ganache if you need to, but you want it to be thick in consistency to adhere to the tops of your cakes, so watch overheating it. Firmly grip a cupcake by the paper, overturn into the bowl of ganache until the top is submerged (there won’t be much of a top, so dunk until you hit the paper edge). Give it a little wiggle back and forth a few times, then pull it out, keeping it face-down. Dunk it again, repeating the motion, then pull it out again, still upside-down. You’ll see the excess ganache start to drape off: to get the tops smooth, manipulate the cupcake so the draping is moving towards the center of the cake as you turn it over, which eliminates any edge runoff. Set the cupcake back on the wire rack to settle into themselves for at least an hour. The ganache won’t ever completely harden unless you put it/the finished cupcakes in the refrigerator, so leave them at room temperature until you serve them. If it’s extra hot in your kitchen and you feel like the ganache could use a little fast firming up, throw them in the fridge for an hour or so.

These should stay shiny and beautiful for at least 4 days. The ganache sort of entombs the flavors inside the cake, so it’s like its own airtight container. Nevertheless, store these in an actual airtight container for up to 4 days. They will never last unless you stand by them and swat hands 24 hours a day. Including your own hands.

PS: if that little bit of flowery big of ganache language sounds familiar, it’s because I took it from the chocolate chip cupcakes post. Because I know some of you read all the way through the recipes, and I didn’t want you to think I was short-changing you.

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34 Comments on "almond cupcakes with chocolate ganache + a word about ice cream parties."

  1. Faygie says:

    That cupcake looks so pretty, with the ganache dripping down the sides. Love it!

    Speaking of Piece of Cake, when I was looking through it again a while back I decided on the cake I’m making for my next birthday. Yep, I’m already planning my cake for my birthday in April.

    • shannon says:

      Thanks Faygie! I love this ganache specifically for that reason: soooo dramatic. :)

      already! i love you. now i’m going to have to go through my own book to try and guess which one you’re making, because there’s so many good choices in that one. that whole back section of cakes and then the other section on the fancy cakes is really something.

  2. Oh yeah! Chocolate and almonds together! Perfect.

    I am so with you on the not-feeling-like-cake thing. The three of us have our birthdays in the same month. By the end, and dear hubby’s birthday, none of us are in the mood for cake. This year he asked for brownies. Last year it was flourless chocolate cake, which is truly a different animal from an iced layer cake. And many years he asks for his cake in a month or two, after we have recovered from the treat overload of the first two birthdays. ;)

    And I am with you on the cutting-a-recipe-in-half thing and putting the whole amount of something in. Score that you were able to save it! And not only save it, but come up with a fabulous recipe!

    This one, complete with drippy ganache is going in the to-try pile. Close to the top.

    • shannon says:

      totally! chocolate almond is probably one of my most longstanding favorites in terms of sweets. or chocolate covered nuts in general, maybe: mom always had chocolate covered peanuts in the house, so my obsession started at an early age.
      seriously, it’s HARD having more than one birthday in a month! champagne problems, for sure, but it is sweets overload if you aren’t careful. I’d almost rather do what your husband does and sort of save my holiday for a time post-october and holiday season when i’m in the mood for cake; typically i’m more ready for it then than i am right now.

      i’m happy to know i’m not the only one who does the halving recipe thing (with mistakes). so ridiculous, and i lucked out with this one; regular flour, and i would have been in trouble. definitely an honor to be near the top of the to-try pile: if nothing else, make the ganache to throw over ice cream: you will not be disappointed and it takes like, two seconds. It’s a huge family favorite: every time more than two of us are gathered in one place? ganache happens.

  3. I love cupcakes and cake. Each serve a different purpose, but they are both for devouring. And this I would devour pretty quick. I would love to make cupcakes more often but it is just me and manservant and he would make me give them all away… After he ate too many and then couldn’t take it anymore!

    • shannon says:

      agree! these are simple, but dangerous in the “i’m going to eat all of you” way. :) That’s basically what goes on here (or SHOULD go on here, as i have zero need for the extra calories right now) – we eat a few, and then mr. table takes them to work. most of the time i’m happy to see them go. this time, i kept them around. :)

  4. Oh my gosh, how did you get that ganache that deep and dark? It looks almost black!

    • shannon says:

      Sue, it really is that dark in actual life, too. i don’t know quite what makes it that deep, but i suspect it’s the combo of melted chocolate and a good dose of unsweetened cocoa powder. Also, there’s obviously cream in there, but the corn syrup and sugar really mellow out the whiteness in the cream, making the liquid component much more clear; i think that helps in letting the dark chocolate color shine through. It’s very fancy in real life: it’s a nice finisher for cakes.

  5. Monica says:

    Shannon!! Imagine me sitting at my computer, seeing your header for these cupcakes and immediately perking up. I thought, “hmm…I’ve got to check that out” because you know how much I love almonds & chocolate, and specifically, ganache! On top of that and this is no lie, I just made a small batch of almond-hazelnut cupcakes with ganache frosting yesterday (seriously!!) and my husband and I were just polishing 3 off tonight for dessert. Then, I read on and see your shout-out to me! I don’t think I’m worthy of your regard or praise (you must just like people who ramble on and on, repeating how much they love chocolate) but your observation about my love of almonds and chocolate is certainly true enough. : ) I’m so predictable and your cupcakes here are indeed right up my alley (plus I’m still thinking about the choc chip ones)…and I love your ability to explain everything!

    I just showed my hubby this and joking with him that maybe I should call him “Mr. Flour”…what do you think? ; ) And let me just say that your Mr. Table is one lucky gentleman. Only you could make an ice cream party so gourmet and thoroughly awesome. Have a great weekend and thanks again!

    • shannon says:

      Hahaha YES!! I love that you just made nutty cupcakes with ganache right before you read this post: maybe THAT’S why i was thinking of you when i wrote it up! :) You stop right there: you’re totally worthy of everything I said, and probably more; and now that you mention it, i ADORE people who ramble on and on about food, so thank you. You are predictable, but in a very good way: i like it when people make food they like, because that’s what their most passionate about, and then i know it’s delicious. Nothing wrong with predictability at all.

      I love the name Mr. Flour! When i first started this, it felt easier to keep the relative anonymity up by using a name like that; seems like lots of people go about it in that way. he likes it. And if you ever see a comment by Sister Table? That’s my sister. :) He is lucky; it was a nice party, and i think he’s pretty good at appreciating that lots of people wouldn’t go to the trouble, but he also knows i like to do it. He would say that he’s unlucky in the way that he tries to eat pretty healthy most of the time, and all this food around makes that difficult. :)

  6. Yes, ma’am…I’d like to order a meeeeelion please.

    • shannon says:

      one meeeeelion coming up. Ganache doesn’t always travel well, but i mean, you could treat it like the cheese on mcdonald’s paper once it gets to you. still delicious. :)

  7. {sigh} This spread looks amazing! I want to swim in that chocolate ganache… Also, I want every cookbook you’ve mentioned – my Amazon wishlist has now grown so out of control that even if I had $1000 to spend on books, I wouldn’t know where to start.

    I think 2.0 and I are going to have a mini ice cream party…

    • shannon says:

      i can’t even talk about my Amazon wishlist, because it looks like a crazy cookbook stalker made it. it’s BAD.
      a mini ice cream party? always appropriate for everyday. a regular-sized one you’d have to save for maybe a get-together or other occasion, but there’s nothing wrong with a mini one basically whenever. breakfast, even.

  8. Brianne says:

    That ganache looks SO dreamy. And I totally had cupcakes for my birthday this year, too! The guy and I were so busy with work that anything else was just too much. They were great!

    • shannon says:

      cupcakes are such a great way to do cake without DOING ALL THE CAKE, right? I love a good set of layers as much as the next girl, but they’re work, and i’m not that great at it yet, so it’s work and anxiety. cupcakes? none of that. it’s what i love about them. :)

  9. I always like pie for my birthday. Preferably something with lime (ideally key lime) or lemon. But that’s got nothing to do with cupcakes! These look sinful. After years of screwing up recipes that I’m halving or doubling, I’ve gotten in the habit of just writing out the recipe the way I intend to make it, and then refer to that (rather than the cookbook, and trying to calculate changes on the fly). It takes a minute or two, but saves some disasters. Entertaining post – thanks.

    • shannon says:

      Pie is an inspired choice for a birthday! It actually seems somewhat more appropriate: chances are i like to eat leftover pie more than i do leftover cake, so even that part would be better. I like the out-of-the-box thinking there!
      you know what’s sad about my halving recipe flub? i have about 8 small notebooks devoted to that very thing, and most of the time, i do the same thing: write out my intentions before i begin. This time, i was doing it as i went along, and shouldn’t have. lesson learned. And i agree: plotting out the entire recipe prior to beginning does save some disasters.

  10. I ALWAYS screw up recipes because I add the wrong amount for a recipe i’m halving. The saddest part is that I actually write the halved amounts to the left of the whole ones to prevent me from screwing up…and I STILL do!!! You love your “create your own” bars so much, Shannon ;) They really are a great idea where everyone ends up happy! Haha, when I saw “almond cupcake,” my thoughts immediately went to Monica ;) Anyway, this recipe looks delicious and perfect for a birthday!

    • shannon says:

      This is really so good to hear: every time i do this (and i do it less often, but it happens) i feel like a complete idiot. it’s the same with thinking i’ll “remember” my adjustments when i write the post, then i don’t remember so i have to make it over: i should know by now my weaknesses and fix them. i’m getting better, but it’s a work in progress, and i’m happy to know i’m not the only one who does that.

      i am a sucker for the “create your own” bar, yes: it’s so easy! I feel like it saves me time and it lets people do what they want, so win/win. and it’s fun to think of components sometimes more than composed dishes; it gives my brain a break.

      Seriously, if i hear “chocolate” or “almond” anything now? Monica. always and forever. :)

  11. I always seem to forget how dangerous it is to read your blog first thing in the morning… almond-y cakes like this are one of my weaknesses, and this just sparked my cravings through the roof.

    Also, I know exactly what you mean about baking all the time and not really wanting a cake for your birthday. Been there! Speaking of which, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope you had a wonderful day!! :)

    • shannon says:

      Ha! thank you, willow! And honestly, take the ganache off (or not) and they’d be pretty good for breakfast, too. Almonds in baked goods are so, so lovely: i can’t resist them either.

      Thank you! It seems like my birthday was so long ago: we’ve had a busy few weeks here and time has really flown by. I actually was looking to make a cake the other day, but i can honestly say this is the first time i’ve really “wanted” a cake since before my birthday; i just have to be in the mood. :)

  12. So, I’m totally going to cheat off of you for Aaron’s bday because 1> he LOVES all things almond, 2> he LOVES ice cream, and 3> it will be a good test run for one of my potential future wedding (cup)cakes :) HOW EXCITED AM I!? (and you)

    Thanks for the book recommendation and the blog recommendation, I trust you so much that I just adding Playing with Flour to my feedly WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING AT IT YET. because I trust you THAT MUCH.

    Also, thanks for reminding me about those chocolate chip cupcakes……. bc I need to make those too… DARNIT!

    • shannon says:

      cheat away! and i know you’ve said he prefers milk chocolate to dark, so i wonder if a milk chocolate ganache would be more his thing? i’ve never tried it, but i bet switching out the dark chocolate for milk chocolate could be good with these. These would be a nice wedding cupcake option: i like them especially because they’re not as tender as a normal “wedding almond cake” would be? like they’re sturdier and more real somehow, which (especially if you’re tying the knot closer to fall or late summer) seems much more appropriate.

      you and i? we’re like THIS *wraps fingers around each other* I KNOW. You’ll love her; she’s great.

      I need to remind myself to make those chocolate chip cupcakes: i was actually thinking of doing them during thanksgiving when everyone is here as a post-thanksgiving/decorate the house snack. because we obviously are going to need cakes made while we have a billion pounds of thanksgiving leftovers around.

  13. Hap Hap Happy Birthday! Other than garlic, I think almond is my favorite flavor in the universe. I have to bake cupcakes this week for a friend’s birthday and he requested carrot cake but OH how I would love to make these instead. I like that they don’t call for almond paste WHICH I LOVE but which I don’t always have on hand because it’s kind of expensive. Three cheers for that.

    • shannon says:

      Thanks, Katherine! I feel the same about almonds: so versatile! so delicate, yet full of flavor! so much fun to mess with!
      I love almond paste too, but yes, expensive, and sometimes recipes which use it are a bummer because i don’t keep it on hand either; it’s a purchase i only make with intent to use. I actually have an almond carrot cake somewhere in the annals of my cookbook library….now i sort of want to make that. dang it. i think that’s one which maybe has almond paste. i’ll have to look.

      • Katherine says:

        Ha! I love the distinction between things we buy at the grocery store just to have them on hand, and things we buy “with intent to use.” It sounds like a legal term. Like “possession with intent to distribute.” Love it! Our own cooking crime vernacular.

        • shannon says:

          i think that “buying with intent to use” is a Class C Misdemeanor, last i checked? Or maybe just in my state. I’ve only been taken in for questioning a few times, but i am a repeat offender.

  14. You never ever cease to amaze me with your talent. Simply amazing!

    • shannon says:

      Oh thank you, Elizabeth! i don’t know if this is talent or luck, but i’ll take talent. talent at not completely messing these up, and also talent at finding a ganache i LOVE. :)

  15. Ashley says:

    I say you’re the smart one for finding and introducing us to Piece of Cake! I simply copied you….and am quite happy to have done so because it’s seriously awesome.

    As for the cupcakes, happy accident! I’ve done that mental halving but still add the full amount of something too many times. I’ve started taping a post it note with the correct amounts over the actual recipe…and I’ll do it for my mom too (she’s even worse than I am about it). It’s nerdy, but safe. But the flavor from your mistake sounds incredible, along with that gorgeous chocolate ganache! I would probably eat the entire jar of ganache if left unattended… Your ice cream party sounds marvelous too — deconstructed apple pie! You’re fancy (in the easiest and tastiest way possible!)!!!

    • shannon says:

      It is seriously awesome: all this talk about Piece of Cake has got me in the middle of one of their whoopie recipes. mind you, i completely screwed it up during one of my horrible days of trying to cook and be sick at the same time? so it’s not fair to say it’s them (because i don’t think it was.) i have to try it again when i’m feeling better about my skills – i think i know what i did wrong, anyway. sometimes you shouldn’t mess with recipes straight away, especially when they could be finicky. i should know that.

      post-its are my LIFE when it comes to recipe creation/development; i keep a stack of them on the cookbook shelf with the cookbooks so i never have to search for them. and pens – SO MANY PENS in this house so i never run out. :) nerdy is good, because it keeps you from forgetting things or making mistakes (or sometimes it doesn’t keep you from either, but it’s a good practice.

      that’s actually the worst part of the ganache: the deliciousness in eating it solo. because, yes: that happens. I like to think i’m rustic-fancy. :) Outsider Tart.

  16. Wendy says:

    Happy belated birthday, Shannon! October is my birthday month too, and I always request or make something other than cake! I love making cakes for other people, but cake just isn’t my favorite thing. On your birthday you should celebrate with what ever catches your fancy. These cupcakes are definitely fancy catching. :) They remind me that one of our first conversations was about upside down cupcakes and my hunt for a mailable ganache. Whether or not this ganache is mailable ( on top of a cupcake), ganache that stays that dark and shiny for 4 days is something I need in my life. :)

    • shannon says:

      thank you, Wendy! happy birthday to you as well! I don’t know what it is with me this year, although it could just be the myriad things we’ve had going on; i just wasn’t into cake this year. I agree: no one should be locked into making a cake for their birthday. forget the rules! make whatever you want! or better yet, don’t; have someone make it for you, if you’re the one who cooks all the time. Sometimes cooking for me is how i want to spend my day, but not in a rushed way; birthdays always feel like you have to have something done by a certain time.
      that’s right! i remember that, because that’s when we first talked about going to lunch; that seems like forever ago. :) And you know, there’s always a little trick you can use to keep ganache shiny if you have to: take a warm hairdryer to it to heat it just slightly prior to serving. totally works. I want to say i learned this from one of the Nigella cookbooks.

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