Monday, May 24, 2010

Jae's Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcakes 2

I feel like for most bakers, cooks, or anyone doing anything creative can get bored of the same thing over and over again.  This could lead to stifling one's creative juices. In some cases, this is true for me but for the most part... it scares and intimidates me. Why?  Well... it's the fear of the unknown.  The fear that something that seems like a good idea in my mind ends up not coming to fruition in reality.  It's the perfectionist side of me that can't let mess ups go.  So, when I find something that works.. I stick with it.

As I mentioned in my last post, I had also made some chocolate cupcakes for, my friend, Jae's 28th birthday.  The plan was to sort of recreate the treats I made for my lovely friend for previous birthdays.  Two years ago I made her devil's food cupcakes decorated with flowers in rainbow colors:

Rainbow Flower Cupcakes

Red Flower Cupcake

Last year I made her butterfly sugar cookies:




I've actually yet to come across a chocolate cake recipe that I can say I absolutely LOVE.  There have been one or two that come close.  So I dug through some of my bakebooks (I've decided to use this as a new term for cookbooks considering in baking... there is no cooking) and found a chocolate cake recipe I haven't used yet.  It's from Dorie Greenspan's Award Winning bakebook called Baking: From My Home to Yours.

This bakebook has been my go-to, #1 book for almost everything.  But there were also one or two that didn't turn out so hot.  One of which was a chocolate cake.  Thankfully, it's a FAT book with a lot of recipes.  I found one I wanted to try.

Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes
(Makes about 12 cupcakes)
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
Sift together in a bowl

1 Stick (4 oz) Unsalted Butter at Room temp
3/4 Cup Sugar

1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Buttermilk

2 Ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, Melted and Cooled

In a bowl sift together all of the dry ingredients and mix together.
In a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter for a couple of minutes so it's a little pale.  Add the sugar and beat on medium high until it's fluffy and pale. Scrape down the sides of the bowl after 1 minute or so.

Add the eggs in one at a time making sure it's fully incorporated after each add.  Then add the vanilla.

Add half of the dry ingredients and mix on low.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix a little more.  Add the buttermilk and mix well.  Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the rest of the dry.  Make sure to get down to the bottom of the bowl.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the melted chocolate by hand.

Fill cupcake pans with liners and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.

In the book, Dorie does mention that the cupcakes are not that sweet.  She suggests variations by adding marshmallow fluff, ganache, or Nutella.  As it turned out, I had some Nutella that I've been wanting to use up.  I cut holes in the cupcakes much like I did for these ginormous Red Velvet Cupcakes I made some weeks ago, and piped in the Nutella.  Word of caution, use a durable Ziplock bag if you don't have a pastry bag.  I used the flimsy one and it busted open in 2 places because it was so thin and flimsy.

For the icing I decided to make some buttercream.  General guidelines for a Swiss Meringue Buttercream is 1:2:3, One part egg whites to two parts sugar to 3 parts butter.  I used about 2 egg whites which was about 2 ounces.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(Enough to ice about 12 cupcakes)

2 Ounces Egg Whites
4 Ounces Sugar
6 Ounces Unsalted Butter, Room Temp

In a bowl of a standing mixer add the egg whites and sugar and mix well with a whisk.  Normally, with larger batches I'd bring a pot of water to a boil then use it as a double boiler but with such a small amount all I do is run really hot water from the faucet and gather some in a bowl.  Put the bowl of the mixer in the bowl with the hot water and mix.  Keep it in there until the sugar granules dissolve.

Put the bowl of the mixer back on the mixer with a whip attachment and whip on high until stiff peaks.  Then slowly add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until it comes together.

At this point, I wanted to make it a chocolate buttercream so I added about 4 ounces of melted chocolate.  It wasn't chocolatey enough so I ended up adding about 2 tablespoons of Nutella I had left over and after some mixing... it looked like soup.  Nowhere near pipeable.  So I thought adding more butter would help... it did a little bit but still in the end I could barely spoon it on the cupcakes.


Don't do what I did.  Just follow that original ratio.  If you want to vary it.. do it slowly and a little at a time.  The buttercream can only handle so much before the structure of it collapses.

The interesting thing was that the next day when we actually ate it, the buttercream firmed up.  I have no idea why.

I added little butterfly sugar cookies I made with the left over dough from the cookies on the sticks and stuck that on top.

Cupcakes 3

I had this horrible feeling it wouldn't be good because I had eaten just the cupcake itself after it baked and I wasn't pleased with it.  Not that it was bad.. I was just expecting sweet and rich.  But it was a great carrier for the sweet Nutella in the center and the buttercream on top.  As it turned out, it was pretty damn delicious.  A bit labor intensive.. but my friends loved it.

So I guess sometimes trying new things work out.  But baby steps for me, thank you.  I'll stick with what I KNOW works.