Archive for December, 2006

i meant to publish this earlier…

have a merry christmas!


the frosting: i’ve always wanted to make a fruity frosting using real fruit. more than several times, i’ve been duped by vanilla buttercreams masquerading around in pretty pastels. they seem to say to me, “what are you in the mood for? baby blue or cotton candy pink?” as if the colors make them taste different, or even BETTER than vanilla. but really, what you see is not what you expect to get. like when i selected a halloween-themed cupcake at magnolia, i half expected the orange-colored frosting to taste like oranges. even though i knew the cupcake was a vanilla-vanilla cake-frosting combination, i still couldn’t help but be disappointed by the absence of even a hint of orange flavor. this time, i had strawberries in mind. i was also in the mood for making a delicate pink-colored frosting, so strawberries definitely fit the bill.

the cake: one of my labmates requested a chocolatey cupcake, and so the strawberry-covered chocolate cupcake was born. since i’ve recently made chocolate cupcakes back-to-back-to-back, this gave me an opportunity to try out yet another chocolate cake recipe. from the previous recipe, i learned that buttermilk adds richness to the cake. so i took a tried and true devil’s food chocolate cupcake recipe (the one i used for abe and erin’s wedding), and tweaked it to contain a cup of buttermilk instead of one and a half cups of milk. that was my idea of merging two good recipes so that i would get a cake that was moist, but not too fluffy.

the verdict: the cake came out exactly as i had imagined, and the strawberry buttercream made me think that i was eating strawberry ice cream. man, oh man…this cupcake was pure bliss.


My Best Chocolate Cupcake Yet
makes 24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Measure out everything but the eggs directly into your mixer bowl.
2. Mix on low speed just until incorporated.
3. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
4. Add eggs, beat on high speed again for 2 minutes.

Fill lined cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan then transfer to a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Strawberry Buttercream

1 stick butter
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
~1/4 cup milk
strawberry reduction (cook half of a 12 oz bag of frozen strawberries on medium to high heat, with 2 tsp sugar and a few tsp lemon juice. cook until liquid has evaporated significantly — you want it as “dry” as possible, to avoid getting runny frosting.)

1. Beat butter on high for about 30 seconds until soft.
2. Add 3 cups sugar and beat until incorporated
3. Add half of the milk and the remainder of sugar and beat until incorporated.
4. Add strawberry reduction and mix.
5. Continue to add milk and sugar until you get to the consistency you want. (I found that adding the strawberry reduction softens the frosting significantly, so I corrected for this by adding more powdered sugar. Too much powdered sugar, though, can make the buttercream sickeningly sweet, and this, in turn, masks the real strawberry flavor. I would recommend either adding more lemon juice while simmering the strawberries to offset the sweetness, or including more butter in the recipe to thicken it up.)


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so i attended a Christmas cocktail party this past weekend. it was a fun time, and part of the fun was the thrill of putting these cupcakes together to bring to the party. what could be more fitting for a seasonal celebration than peppermint bark cupcakes? crushed peppermint candies embedded in a layer of white chocolate, which sits on top of another layer of chocolate, in the form of a party-sized (aka mini) cupcake! so instead of making the same ol’ peppermint bark this year, i em”bark”ed on another adventure. haha, i crack myself up. okayy, nerd.

anyway, remember the chocolate cupcake recipe from my last cupcake post? well, this time i decided to stick to the original Double Chocolate Layer Cake recipe to get that rich, chocolatey ooey-gooeyness. i was aware that this cake recipe might come out a bit too fluffy for a cupcake, but for a bite-sized cupcake, that turned out to be perfect. i’m not sure about this, but perhaps less mixing and beating would yield more solid cupcakes.

i think i ate about five of these myself as i was making them. i had to, of course. they were the “rejects.” :P eating the cupcake all in one bite proved to be most satisfying — with just the right amount of chocolate cake, just the right amount of white chocolate buttercream, and just the right amount of peppermint flavor from the peppermint candy — crunch included.

chocolate quarry

check out this cake pedestal that i purchased on ebay for 14.99!

Rich Chocolate cupcakes
140 mini cupcakes/300 degree oven

3 ounces chocolate (I used Trader Joe’s chocolate with 72% cacao)
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (actually used brewed coffee this time, not instant!)
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl and combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Pipe batter into mini cupcake tins lined with medium-sized papers (mini ones are too small). I discovered that it was best not to do this immediately, but only after I let the batter “rest” for about five minutes, as it invariably thickens as it rests. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes.

White Chocolate Buttercream

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
12 ounces white chocolate, melted and cooled slightly (the store was out of white chocolate mega-chunks, so i settled for white chocolate chips instead, melted in the microwave)
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract*
1/4 cup milk

In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy. Beat in the melted white chocolate. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat at low speed, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy. Add as much milk as needed for desired consistency.
* i forgot to add the vanilla, but i don’t think it mattered one bit.

Cupcake Assembly: the bark comes together

Fill pastry bag with white chocolate buttercream and pipe buttercream onto cupcakes. (I used a large closed star tip.) White chocolate buttercream is a bit fussy to work with because of the white chocolate and tends to harden quickly. If you find that your buttercream is coming out grainy-looking, just slightly warm the pastry tip with your fingers. Beware, because the frosting not only hardens quickly, it softens quickly too. Toward the end, my stars were oozing instead of coming out with sharp edges, making them a bit deformed. In this case, I would set the pastry bag down at room temperature for a few minutes, and then continue frosting the rest of the cupcakes. Top each cupcake with a piece of peppermint candy. I used the classic Brach’s StarBrites, which i literally pummeled with a hammer (one good hit for each candy should do the trick; I do this with the wrapper on and loosened). I also sprinkled each cupcake with the smaller candy shreds, which gave the cupcakes a snowy effect. However, I noticed that StarBrites absorb moisture very easily, making them melt into the cupcakes. The pros: peppermint flavor seeps into both frosting and cake. The cons: the red coloring bleeds and cupcakes also look a little wet.

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