Sunday, January 21, 2007

Now THAT'S a cupcake!

As usual, I have hit the ground running for spring semester 2007! So, of course, all significant cooking and baking projects have come to a screeching halt--except for one. This past weekend, I was still trolling the favorite Epicurious recipes thread on the CI message boards. One recipe that garnered repeated mention was Gourmet's Double Chocolate Layer Cake. There are actually over 800 reviews of this recipe on the Epicurious site, almost entirely favorable (four forks!) and mostly gushing about how it's the best chocolate cake and frosting in the universe and how everyone can call off the search for the definitive chocolate cake--this is it! Well, I don't know about all that. I still long for the whisper-soft, cloud-like texture of my beloved Chocolate Velvet Cake. But I can say that the cupcakes that I made from this recipe are superlative. They are extremely dark and chocolately, like an old-fashioned Devil's Food cake, and though the texture looks coarse to the eye with its somewhat open crumb, it's very springy, tender and moist.

Moreover, the ganache frosting is just decadent! Some Epicurious reviewers found it "too chocolately" and concluded that it took the focus off of the deep chocolate flavor of the cake itself. But I don't get "too chocolately" when you're making a chocolate dessert! So I disagree. The frosting makes the cake, and I don't even really like frosting as a general rule. However, I made one big mistake. I decided to try and whip the ganache, thinking that it might make a creamy, fluffy topping. But actually, in the chill of my winter kitchen, it quickly became hard like a truffle. Now some might enjoy that, but it's really all about a shiny, supple layer of bittersweet ganache, particularly when allowed to come up to a normal room temperature before serving. So I actually ended up scraping off the ganache, remelting it (whisking to reincorporate the butter), and refrosting two dozen of the cupcakes! Ugh! But it was well worth the extra effort to correct the problem. And the best thing about this cake is, it seems to get better--moister, more flavorful--a day or two (or three!) after you make it. Good thing, too, as I made WAY too many! Next time, I will half the recipe and make 18-20 cupcakes instead. Or I might try this as a bundt cake, which I think would be faaaaabulous.

Double Chocolate Cupcakes
(Source: Gourmet, March 1999)

For cupcakes:
3 ounces fine-quality semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (you can substitute plain hot water, but you don't really taste the coffee, just a dark chocolate flavor)
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (as with the chocolate, the better the cocoa, the better the cake!)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

For ganache frosting:
1 pound fine-quality semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter

Special equipment
three 12-cupcake pans

Make cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 300°F. and line bottoms of pans with cupcake papers. Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon-colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined. Fill cupcakes two-thirds full (no more!) and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

Cool cupcakes in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of each cupcake and invert them onto the racks. Cool completely. Cupcakes may be made 1 day ahead and kept in an air-tight container at room temperature.

Make frosting:
Finely chop chocolate. In a 1 1/2- to 2-quart saucepan, bring cream, sugar, and corn syrup to a boil over moderately low heat, whisking until sugar is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and add chocolate, whisking until chocolate is melted. Cut butter into pieces and add to frosting, whisking until smooth. Transfer frosting to a bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, until spreadable (depending on chocolate used, it may be necessary to chill frosting to spreadable consistency).

Spread frosting (fairly thinly) on cupcakes. Cupcakes keep, covered and chilled, 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 36-40 cupcakes.


Anonymous said...

The only thing that would have made these cupcakes better woulda' been some short ribs.

Anonymous said...

I hear you on the "screeching halt" to all cooking projects that aren't subsistence-related (and I can't even get the subsistence stuff taken care of every night - I've drafted my husband to do dinner, ordered a crock pot cookbook, AND ordered pizza two times in a week. And the semester is only 2 weeks in.)

What made me think I could teach and take two seminars with a 4 month old baby? Sigh.

Anonymous said...

I think you better make some short ribs.

Btw, there is a thread on Eg called finding the best choc. cake recipe. They took this epicurious recipe and tweaked it so its better( in other ppls opinions). Check it out when you get a chance