Yesterday was my oldest son’s birthday, and although I do make him a cake from one year to the next (he’s 31), I didn’t this year. Retrospectively, I did decide that the cupcakes made as a Valentine’s Day treat for my two remaining menfolk-in-residence might be as good a reason as any to coerce me to sit and write something in celebration. My oldest loves chocolate cake, and had I asked what he might enjoy for his birthday, he’d have said chocolate. Anything with chocolate. Like his mother, he can do without the calories, so I think it’s fitting this year that a photo of a birthday cupcake take the place of the real McCoy as long as I can get him to look at my blog. I’m not holding my breath because as my grandmother would have said, the chances are “slim to none and Slim’s on a fast train out of town.”
Where was I?
Cupcakes. True to form, I haven’t tried either the cake or frosting recipe before, but have tried many others from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. This is the book I go to when I want to experiment. If you’re not familiar with it, you won’t see glossy photos of each recipe. It’s more of a work horse cookbook. What sets it apart from other cookbooks is the way the ingredients are listed. Measurements are provided by volume and weight which makes it quite easy to divide a recipe or to adjust ingredient quantities. Cakes are presented in one section and toppings in another and although Beranbaum makes suggestions about which go best together, I enjoy considering all the options. Each recipe also contains a brief section on “understanding” where the science is explained. As much as I’ve been an avid cook most of my life, I don’t always understand how or why certain ingredients interact with one another, so it’s helpful to understand what may not work when I’m experimenting.
What caught my attention with this recipe was the brown sugar — not something I’m used to seeing in a recipe for chocolate cake. Equally interesting was the recipe for the buttercream. Yes, it has an alarming amount of butter in it (hence the name “butter” cream…), but it’s made with egg whites instead of egg yolks, and they aren’t cooked as they would be in a mousseline buttercream. Both recipes work quite nicely with one another and make a very chocolatey combo that the resident menfolk finished off in a couple of bites — even if it wasn’t in celebration of either of their birthdays.
Speaking of birthdays, Sass & Veracity turns a big three years old this month and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to share with you that Saveur magazine has graciously nominated me in their 1st Annual Best Food Blog Awards in the “Best Individual Post” category. I’m very honored considering those whose work is sitting alongside mine. They understand the time and effort it takes to put a good post together — let alone two or three in a week. The post Saveur has chosen to focus on is one I wrote after returning from Puerto Vallarta last spring at about the time that H1N1 was gaining momentum. A group of friends and I met there in celebration of a 40th birthday only to find that we may have trouble getting back across the border. We didn’t, of course, and thankfully I was able to have fun with my own version of Mexican street tacos, which have absolutely nothing to do with chocolate fudge cupcakes or birthdays.
Are you with me?
Chocolate Fudge Cupcake Recipe
3/4 c. + 3 T unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa
1-1/2 c. boiling water
3 lg. eggs
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 c. cake flour, sifted
2 c. light brown sugar
2-1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softened
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Pour the boiling water over the cocoa in a medium bowl and stir until well combined, then cool to room temperature.
- In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, 1/4 of the cooled cocoa mixture, and the vanilla.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix on low until combined.
- Add the butter and the remaining cocoa mixture, then mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated until well moistened. Beat for an additional 1-1/2 minutes, then scrape down the sides.
- Add the egg mixture a third at a time, making sure to beat at least 20 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the sides again.
- Fill 24 paper-lined cups with the batter. They will be full.
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the cupcake springs back when pressed.
- When removed from the oven, let sit briefly in the pans, then remove to a rack to cool completely before frosting.
- I’ve had to deal with the whole Dutch-processed debacle before and finally found it at Henry’s — a sort of home town market here in San Diego. They have it available in bulk, which is nice. If you don’t have that kind of cocoa available, Beranbaum suggests that you can use 1 cup of non-alkalized cocoa like Hershey’s instead.
- The batter is really lovely once you get it past the curdle stage, and trust me, it curdles. Just turn the motor up to high and let it rip. At some point, it will all come together again. It will. I promise. Then, carry on.
- Spray the top of your pans with oil, or rub them lightly with a paper towel dipped in oil. This recipe fills the cups so full, should they over shoot the cups (and they shouldn’t) you wouldn’t want them to stick on the surface of the pans, right?
- They rise beautifully, but I have to admit, I used my convection oven set at 340 degrees F for 20 minutes. I turned the trays half way through the cooking time to ensure even cooking. We’ll chalk this up to paranoia.
- I let them cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then turned them out to cool completely on racks before frosting.
Chocolate Buttercream Recipe
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 c. unsalted butter, softened
4 lg. egg whites
1 c. granulated sugar
- Over low heat, in a double boiler, heat chocolate until it begins to melt, stirring frequently until smooth.
- Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the egg whites on medium high to the soft peak stage.
- On medium, beat the sugar in gradually until stiff peaks are formed.
- Add the softened butter a tablespoon at a time, beating briefly before another tablespoon is added. If the mixture begins to curdle, increase the speed of the mixer and beat until it comes together again before continuing with the butter additions.
- Add the cooled chocolate and beat until completely smooth and incorporated.
- Set aside until ready to use on the completely cooled cupcakes.
- This frosting is completely divine. Period.
- I used an unsweetened chocolate for this recipe because that’s what I had on hand. To make sure the recipe was as close to the original as possible, I added 1 T of granulated sugar for each ounce of chocolate in the recipe. I added the sugar after the chocolate was melted and stirred until all was smooth.
- When the chocolate is added to the butter mixture, please know that if it is too cool, chunks will stay in the frosting. This isn’t alarming unless you plan to pipe it. Then it’s extremely alarming if you’re me. Chunks clog the nozzle, and although you attempt valiantly to create perfect swirls of chocolate that entice potential indulgent individuals to sample your cupcakes, the chunks cause more than a small problem. Then you’re forced to frost each cupcake by hand, making sure each is perfectly coiffed. But the chunks of chocolate should you happen onto one one? Oh. My.
- All in all, they’re a delightful mouthful of chocolate if you’re ever in need of one.
- Oh, and if you haven’t voted for me yet, please think about it. I’d grin from ear to ear knowing that you had.