Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chocolate Spice Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Apparently, a few weeks ago I had people Googling "ganache" because they didn't know what it was. They just knew it was good, especially on top of peanut butter chocolate chip cupcakes. It's good over lots of things, my friends.

But I digress!

This weekend's cupcake drop off (red velvet) went like crazy (gone in less than 48 hours), so I found myself scratching my head last night at 9pm, like I often do, when I don't have a specific baking plan for the next round of cupcakes. I thumbed through Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. It's a good resource, but it often gives recipes for odd amounts of cupcakes (15! 18! 32!) and I can't always divide three eggs into one and a half (although I could try). Or I should say, I'm not willing to experiment and take a gamble when I'm selling it to someone. If it were home baking, that'd be another story. Another project for another day, perhaps.

So, I bring you this morning's super chocolatey, spicy cupcake. I ended up with this one because I couldn't decide between something chocolate and something spicy. Indecision created a compromise. I upped the ante on the spice amounts, and added cloves where there were none. Also I added a bit of coffee extract because it's the now-not--so-secret ingredient (oops!) that makes all chocolate things taste way better.

Chocolate-Spice Cupcakes (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)

  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened, Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. coffee extract
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup molasses

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and brush a muffin tin with butter and dust with cocoa powder. Alternately, line the tins with paper liners and you're good to go.
  2. Stir the baking soda into the boiling water. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  3. Cream butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add molasses and baking soda water. Beat until combined, scraping down sides as necessary. Do not panic. The mixture is going to look clumpy, almost curdled, at times. It's ok.
  4. Reduce speed to low, and add flour in stages, mixing until just combined. Batter may still look a little lumpy. Don't fret.
  5. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups, filling about halfway.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  6. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for ten minutes or so, and then remove cupcakes to cool completely on the rack. 

It may be insulting to some that I have put a vegan ganache on top of a not-at-all-vegan cupcake. But I do what works, and this one does. Adapted from the super duper cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

  • 1/4 cup semi-sweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup of soy milk (or regular milk; I've used both)
  • 2 Tbsp. agave nectar (original recipe calls for maple syrup)

  1. Heat the milk to just barely boiling over low heat. 
  2. Remove from heat immediately and whisk in the syrup and chocolate until it's dissolved
  3. Set aside until you're ready to use it. You do not want to use a steaming hot ganache on top of cupcakes because it will just run all over the place and make a mess. Wait until it's cooled, but still warm and pliable. Oh, and you don't want to transport or mess with these things until the ganache is set.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Hi there. Here's a cupcake.

Oh, hello.

Thanks for stopping by.

I've started this blog as a way to more regularly keep track of what I'm baking. It's not pretty or perfect or well-designed--yet--but it's a way to connect and share that's separate from my main writing site.

I don't have mad photo skills. But what I do have are damned good cupcakes, cookies, pies, breads, whoopie pies, scones and whatever else comes out of my beloved Aga. And I'd like to share them with you, and tell you that I'm happy to make them for you, too, for a fair price.

Last week, I realized something. I missed my stand mixer, Rosco, as though he were a member of the family, when he was out for repair. Tears were shed. It was not a pretty week, people. But he's back and operational, and we're all very happy. Miles kissed the mixer at least twice and told me it was his "best friend."

So here's my Honey-Frosted Lemon Cupcake, just sitting there simply on a napkin.

Lemon Cupcake Recipe Notes:

I started with a simple vanilla cupcake base, and took it from there. I used Penzey's powdered lemon peel (amazingly fragrant and potent), mostly because I just bought it and wanted to try it out, but you should use as much zest as you can tolerate; I'd suggest a tablespoon. Similarly, I use lemon extract, but if you don't have that, add the juice of half of a lemon and you should be good to go.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. powdered lemon peel (or 1 Tbsp. freshly grated lemon zest)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon extract (or juice of half a lemon)
1/2 cup whole milk

Lemon Cupcake Directions (Adapted from Hello, Cupcake):
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a muffin tin with liners or grease with butter and flour or baking spray. 
  2. In a small bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients (flour through lemon peel; if you are using lemon zest instead, do not sift this in with dry ingredients.)
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well to combine.
  5. Add the extracts/juice and zest, and mix until just combined.
  6. Add the flour in batches, alternating with the milk, until all the flour has been absorbed and there are no white streaks left.
  7. Drop by 1/4 cup scoop into pan, and bake for 18-20 minutes until the middles are just about set. The cupcakes should spring back lightly when you touch them.
  8. Transfer pan to wire rack for ten minutes, and then carefully remove cupcakes to cool completely on the rack. 
Honey Frosting Ingredients (adapted from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes)

8 ounces of cream cheese, block-style, softened
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar, approximately--sifted if possible

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir together frantically with a spatula until it's broken down. No, seriously, this is what I did last weekend before the mixer came home, because this recipe does not technically require a stand mixer. In her book, Ms. Stewart suggests a spatula, and on her web site, she says a whisk. But how this comes together with a typical whisk, I'll never understand. This is one thick, sticky frosting, people. If  things get clumpy and your arm gets tired despite the fact that you are strong, suddenly realize you have a whisk attachment to your immersion blender and use that, like I did, before Rosco's return. Otherwise, you can easily dump all this together in the bowl of your mixer and fluff it up as best you can, adding the confectioner's sugar last to help it all come together. Just know that this is going to be a thick, beautiful frosting.

The addition of agave nectar was a total accident. In my haste to finish the frosting, I accidentally grabbed the agave first instead of the honey, as they live next to each other in the cabinet. I think the agave really heightens the flavor of the honey, so it was a happy accident. If you don't have agave, no worries. You might just need more honey than Martha says. That's what I found.

This should make more than enough frosting for a dozen cupcakes. You can keep the rest in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to five days. That's what I did, and I was able to frost six more cupcakes with the remains. Just remember to bring it to room temperature before you try to work with it--otherwise it's not going to be compliant.