I don't know about you, but the bombardment of cupcake boutiques popping up and all the television stations making a virtual war out of whose cupcake is best is getting a little overwhelming for me. Since I live 246 miles from the famed (although I'm not sure why, most of the reviews are mediocre at best) Magnolia Bakery and 70 miles from Georgetown Cupcake and there's not a heck of a lot in between, I'd just as soon make a batch at home.
And I can't justify spending three bucks on a single cupcake. I'm sorry, but that's a pound of butter, and a pound of butter makes a lot more than just one cupcake, plus frosting. I'm a practical woman.
So, I don't always see the appeal of cupcakes. I'll confess, I went through a phase a few years back before the cupcake craze hit everyone on the planet where I imagined myself working behind the counter of a bakery with hardwood floors and pink carryout boxes stacked to the ceiling, spending my days pushing dollops of chocolate buttercream all around the top of a vanilla cupcake. And that's still a lovely daydream, but I think that's where I'll keep it - in the Daydream File.
Not that there's anything wrong with a pocket-sized babycake heaped with mounds and swirls of fluffy frosting, but I find them to be a bit overdone and je ne sais pas...kitschy. So I don't make them very often these days, but then there was this recipe. I was spending another ill-advised late night flipping through cookbooks in my pajamas when I should be sleeping but then what would I do in the morning if not complain about the circles under my eyes?
I stopped on the page, squinting at the chocolate cakes with piles of a frosting dubbed "crispy magic" being piped onto their little chocolate heads, and thumped my index finger against the page for a few moments debating my stance on not making cupcakes. Well, I'm not that strong. The cupcakes won.
The cupcake batter followed a quite unconventional as far as cupcake batters go - rather than creaming the butter and sugar together, you melt the butter and sugar together in a saucepan and then pour it over the chocolate and cocoa powder before whisking in the remainder of the wet ingredients. I was skeptical of the method, but what it produces is a cupcake that actually tastes of chocolate and not just a brown colored cake. It's not incredibly moist, but I mean that in a good way, the chocolate flavor is completely unmasked in all its chocolaty glory.
The frosting, while it's a bit of a process to make, is a heavy contender for the best frosting I've ever eaten. It's a meringue/buttercream hybrid and it's light, sweet and nearly weightless on the tongue, a delicious contrast to the intensely chocolate cake. The cupcakes are a bit crumbly, and it's a bit of a stretch to open your mouth wide enough to take an all-encompassing bite, but if you lean over the kitchen sink just a bit to catch the crumbs, you can do it.
Oh, and about the frosting title - the original recipe promises that with a bit of uncovered rest, the frosting will develop a tiny sugar shell around the outside, forming a delicate crunch with each bite. I must confess, I didn't wait long enough to dig right in, so if you give this recipe a try, please report back.
P.S. There's only one more day of voting left for the Mobbie Awards! I'm having a great time meeting new readers so take a minute or two to vote for If You Give a Girl a Cookie at the Baltimore Sun in both the Foodie Category and Best Overall Blog (you'll be casting two votes.)
Chocolate Cupcakes with Crispy Magic Frosting
Adapted from Flour
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1 stick unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Crispy Magic Frosting
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened, cut into chunks
1 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
In a small heatproof bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa powder. In a small saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, butter, and water over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, for 3-4 minutes, or until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture over the chocolate-cocoa mixture and whisk until the mixture is smooth and combined.
Whisk the milk, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined.
In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Dump the flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture and whisk until the dry ingredients are totally mixed into the chocolate mixture. Let the batter sit at room temperature for one hour to allow the liquid to be totally absorbed into the batter, it will thicken up a bit.
While the batter is resting, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the tops spring back when pressed with a fingertip. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire wrack.
While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. In a small heatproof bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and egg whites to make a thick slurry. Place the bowl over (not touching) simmering water in a saucepan and heat, whisking occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is hot to the touch. It will thin out a bit and turn opaque-white as the sugar melts.
Remove from the heat and scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed for 6-8 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a light, white meringue and is cool to the touch. Turn down the speed to medium, add the butter a few chunks at a time, and beat for 3-4 minutes. Add the confectioners' sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla and continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and satiny. You should have about 3 1/2 cups. Use immediately to frost the cupcakes.
Remove the cupcakes from the muffin tin. Fit a pastry bag with a round or star tip and fill the bag with the frosting, then pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. Or, spread the frosting on the cupcakes with an icing spatula.
The cupcakes taste best on the day they are baked, but they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.