Friday, October 12, 2007

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

We're heading to a going away party for neighbors tonight, and there will be adults and children in attendance. As usual, I volunteered to bring dessert. What do you bring for a crowd that ranges in age from 2 - 40? The dessert for all ages: CUPCAKES!

Cupcakes have been all the rage in this country ever since Sprinkles in LA delivered their fantasy cakes to Paris Hilton in prison. Now it seems that everyone wants their very own Paris-in-prison cupcake. Amazing... can be noted by the incredible success of cupcake bakeries like Sprinkles, the cupcakes of the 21st century are fun, gorgeous and really delicious. They don't have to be the cupcake from a box of 1975 anymore. (Although really, there's nothing wrong with those either...). Think about it...who can resist a cupcake? They're cute! They couldn't have as many calories as a slice of cake, no way!

So, I settled on making cupcakes. And after a little research I found a great looking recipe for dark chocolate cupcakes from PBS's fab show: America's Test Kitchen. I figured if they tested it, it's gotta work. I wanted dark cupcakes with rich flavor for the adults, and because I wanted to do a Halloween theme for the kids. I tinted the icing a light orange and used Halloween sprinkles.
These cupcakes are a dream...I've already inhaled two. They remind me of Suzy-Qs, but they have a shelf life of 2 - 3 days rather than 2 - 3 years. They are rich and dark and very moist, and the buttercream recipe is incredibly light.

My only frustration with the recipe is that it makes 12 cupcakes, and I needed 24. They say this recipe does not double well, and if you want 24 cakes you should make it twice. Not one to question the Test Kitchen, I complied. I was in the kitchen longer than I wanted to be, but the results are phenomenal.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from America's Test Kitchen:
Makes 12 cupcakes:
8 Tb unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup sour cream

Place oven rack in middle position, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard-sized muffin pan with cupcake liners.

Combine butter, chocolate, and coca powder in meadium heatproof bowl. Set over a saucepan of simmering water. Heat mixture until butter and chocolate are completely melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

Whisk eggs in second medium bowl (or standing mixer) to combine, add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. (Here I use a standing mixer and the paddle attachment). Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Whisk in sour cream until combined. Then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until homogenous and thick.
Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake 18 - 20 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from the muffin pan and set on a wire rack to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Frost with icing when the cupcakes are at room temperature.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream from America's Test Kitchen

This recipe is for 12 cupcakes or a one layer cake. It can be doubled for 24 cupcakes or a two-layer cake.
If using a hand-held electric mixer, be sure to increase your mixing time (at least 50 percent).

10 Tb unsalted butter, softened
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise (if you don't have a vanilla bean, increase the vanilla extract to 1 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
pinch of table salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Tb heavy cream

In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Using a paring knife, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the butter and beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add confectioners' sugar and salt. Beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down the bowl once or twice.

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