Friday, October 22, 2010

"It Takes Two"

I fully acknowledge that the title of this blog was a grade C movie starring the Olsen twins from the 90s, but the following recipes/decadent photos should more than remedy my referencing such a mediocre flick. I gained a reputation as the “office baker” thanks to these cupcakes. An “unnamed” (you know who you are) coworker secretly crossed out all of the names on the Birthday Sign-Up Sheet (a list that shows who is in charge of providing a cake/dessert for the monthly birthday celebration) and volunteered my services for the next 5 months. In other words, these cupcakes mean business, and will surely create a cult following of sugar-addicted fans if you endeavor to recreate them. I baked these cupcakes (a total of 48!) for our CEO Jennifer Hurley-Wales’ surprise birthday party, which took place in lieu of an all-staff meeting. Knowing the entire office would be involved, simple cupcakes with frosting wasn’t about to cut it, so I took leap: Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Salted Caramel Filling and Dark Chocolate Frosting AND Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting and Candied Ginger.
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling

Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes
Time-consuming would be an understatement for these recipe – be prepared to devote an entire evening and morning to these little beauties. The result was well worth the effort. Considering I wanted these cupcakes to go above and, both are hybrids of several recipes. Let’s start with the one I know caught all of your attention, the chocolate! My go-to recipe for chocolate cake has and always will be Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake. Quite some time ago, I had come across a recipe by Martha Stewart on one of my go-to baking blogs, BakeorBreak, and have been waiting for the perfect opportunity to try it! Unfortunately, the recipe was for mini cupcakes which, while cute and equally delicious, wasn’t quiote the angle I wanted for this surprise party. As such, I stole the salted caramel filling (no, you’re not dreaming – this is really happening) and dark chocolate frosting portions of the recipe, and used my favorite chocolate cake recipe. These cupcakes were unbelievably amazing!!!!!!!!!
Cooking tip: the recipe calls for a candy thermometer in order to register when the caramel is done – having never owned a candy thermometer; I go by sight and wait until the boiling sugar begins to turn deep amber. I also added 2 tbsp of butter for extra creaminess! For the frosting, be prepared to add a tablespoon or two of butter if the chocolate seems to be burning (a.k.a. gets too stiff to stir).
Confession time: per usual, I forgot a few things. For the chocolate frosting, I didn’t use the “best quality” chocolate for the frosting, but rather 2 bags of Hershey’s semi-sweet chocolate chips. The flavor, in my opinion, was still a sinfully rich texture, so I think either decision is a safe one. Additionally, I used kosher salt in place of the Fleur de Sel.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Filling
Adapted via BakeOrBreak
Yields: about 30 cupcakes

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:
   - 2 cups sugar
   - 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
   - 3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
   - 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
   - 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
   - 1 teaspoon salt
   - 2 eggs
   - 1 cup milk
   - 1/2 cup vegetable oil
   - 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
   - 1 cup boiling water

Salted Caramel Filling:
   - 2-1/2 cups sugar
   - 2/3 cup water
   - 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
   - 3/4 cup heavy cream
   - 2-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
   - 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Dark Chocolate Frosting 
   - 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
   - 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
   - 2-1/4 cups (4-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
   - 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
   - 1/4 teaspoon salt
   - 1-1/2 pounds semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

For cupcakes: Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. 

For caramel filling: Heat sugar, water, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Stir occasionally until syrup is clear. Attach a candy thermometer to side of pan. Stop stirring, and cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and turns a deep amber brown.

Remove from heat. Slowly pour in cream and wait until the simmering subsides; whisk with a wooden spoon until smooth, then whisk in butter 1 tbsp at a time. Stir in sea salt. Use immediately. If caramel begins to harden, reheat gently until pourable.

For filling: Combine cocoa and boiling water. Stir until cocoa has dissolved.
Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioners’ sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add melted and cooled chocolate. Beat until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture. Frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days or frozen up to 1 month. Bring to room temperature and beat on low speed until smooth before using.

For assembly: Use a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped piece, about 1/2-inch deep, from the center of each cupcake. Spoon 1-2 teaspoons of warm caramel filling into each cupcake. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

Fit a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip (Wilton #18). Fill pastry bag with frosting. Pipe onto cupcakes, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Garnish with a pinch of sea salt. Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted. Store at room temperature in an air-tight container until ready to serve.

Note: The cupcakes can be stored, unfrosted, in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature.

Now, let’s talk about the wild card: Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes. When I was first asked to bake the birthday cupcakes for the occassion, the coordinator had suggested this combination. My adventurous streak was intrigued having never tried such a flavor combination, and I set out to find the perfect recipe. It boiled down to two possible sources, and I went with my leading man –David Lebovitz. The balance of Guinness, molasses and sugar seemed perfect for the depth of flavor I wanted. Unfortunately, the thought of a lime buttercream frosting wasn’t exactly my ideal pairing, so I went with a standard cream cheese frosting and added lemon zest and juice. The result was perfect, and the minced candied ginger was the perfect finishing touch! I doubled this recipe since the original only produces 12, but somehow ended up with 30 cupcakes rather than 24!
Cooking tip: be sure to have the sugar pre-measured during the boiling of the Guinness-molasses mixture; you want to add it immediately after you remove the pot from the heat to ensure the sugar melts evenly.
Confession time: I completely forgot to include the minced candied ginger, hence using it instead as a garnish – simple solution, but still a beautifully delicious result!

Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted via David Lebovitz
Yields: 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
   - 1/2 cup stout beer, such as Guinness
   - 1/2 cup  mild-flavored molasses
   - 1/2 cup vegetable oil
   - 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
   - 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
   - 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
   - 1-1/4 teaspoons baking powder
   - 2 tsp.ground ginger
   - 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
   - 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
   - 1/2 teaspoons table salt
   - 2 large eggs, at room temperature
   - 1/2 cup finely minced candied ginger

For the frosting
   - 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
   - 1/2 cup butter, softened
   - 2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
   - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
   - half a large lemon, zested and juiced
   - Strips of candied citrus peel or candied ginger, for garnish

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners. In a very large saucepan, bring the stout, molasses, and oil to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and whisk in the baking soda until dissolved. (The mixture will foam up, then settle down.) Stir in the brown sugar, then let cool until tepid.

Into a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Whisk the eggs into the stout mixture, then whisk in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Don’t overmix. Gently stir in the minced candied ginger. Divide the batter among the cupcake liners and bake until the cupcakes feel just set in the center, 22 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely.

For the frosting: In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar. Add the lemon zest and juice. Store in the refrigerator after use. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin. Pipe rosettes of frosting in the center of each cupcake. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can spoon a mound of frosting decoratively in the center.) Garnish each with strips of candied citrus peel or a piece of candied ginger.

Note: The cupcakes can be stored, unfrosted, in an airtight container for up to 4 days at room temperature.


vegan-muffin said...

I'm totally amazed with them.
Waitin' for your opinion of mine

Anne G said...

Hi Weronika! Thanks so much for your comment - your blog looks great, I'll have to give that recipe a try. In the meantime, I have relocated my blog to this site: Happy baking!

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