Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Chocolate Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

My fiancé once pointed out to me that although I love to cook, I have nearly no savory recipes on my blog; instead, I tend to write exclusively about sweet recipes for baked goods.  The reason for this is mostly that when I cook, I don't use recipes.

For example, I made a Vietnamese-style duck soup (mi vit tiem) the other night with dried lily bud flowers (kim cham), Chinese dried apples (tao tau), ginger, and orange peel.  It was the perfect thing for the cold weather we're having here in New Jersey.  But I couldn't tell you how much water was in it or how much soy sauce I put in the broth or how much ginger I used.  I just know that I tasted along the way and the end product was delicious.  Also, I made the soup with duck bones and I seriously doubt that you, my dear readers, keep Asian marinated duck bones in your fridge that are just waiting to be made into a delicious stock.  In fact, 90% of the ingredients that went into that soup are things that I'm willing to bet no one who isn't Vietnamese keeps in their kitchen.  In fact, my own mother, who knows how much I love this soup, doesn't always keep all the ingredients for it on hand.  Long story short, the point it, I do make savory foods.  I just don't know how to write about them, since I don't have recipes for a lot of what I make.

I do, however, have a lovely recipe for a chocolate cupcake with salted caramel frosting.  And I promise you, this salted caramel frosting is a breeze to make.  This caramel never fails, never cracks, never breaks... it is perfect.  You don't even need to keep your eye on it the entire time you're making it.  I've probably made it close to a dozen times in the past two months and it's never gone wrong.

I made these cupcakes to eat as my friends and I watch the election results, and I'm hoping they will be celebratory cupcakes.  Of course, since it'll probably be too late for you to make these in the spirit of the election, they also work well as birthday treats.

This recipe makes 36-42 cupcakes, or two 10-inch layers, or three 8-inch layers (if you're the cake making type).  You can also mix this combination up and bake 12 cupcakes and two 8-inch layers, or so on.

The cupcakes are the perfect level of chocolate-y.  They are flavorful, with a moist and delicate crumb, and the salted caramel frosting is the perfect ooomph to elevate everything to perfection.  Unlike other cupcakes, these don't taste like brownies.  By that, I mean they aren't overwhelming fudge-y in a way that makes you feel sick after three bites.  And the combination of vanilla, coffee, and rum in this recipe makes this all just irresistible.

I recommend making these cupcakes a day in advance.  Frost them and then keep them in a covered container in the fridge.  The flavors seem to just get better on the second day.  The chocolate is more intense and the nuances of vanilla and coffee seem to meld in a very lovely way.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Molly Wizenberg of Orangette

3 oz semisweet chocolate (the higher quality the better… I used Ghiradelli)
1 ½ cups hot brewed coffee (I use French roast)
3 large eggs
¾ cup canola oil
1 ½ cups buttermilk
¾ tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tbsp rum (optional... I used Bicardi Gold)
3 cups sugar
1 ¼ tsp salt
1 ½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process; I use Ghirardelli)
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder

Preheat your oven to 300°F.  If you’re making cupcakes, line your cupcake tin with paper liners.

Finely chop chocolate and combine with hot coffee in a tall mug or bowl. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk together with a dry whisk or fork. Alternatively, you can sift all the ingredients together, but I find that slow and messy.

In another very large bowl (there is a lot of batter!), combine the eggs, oil, and buttermilk. Beat with an electric mixer until thick and smooth (about 3 minutes-5 minutes).
Add the vanilla, melted chocolate mixture, sugar, and salt to eggs, beating until combined well (about 5 minutes). Stop to occasionally stir the bowl and scrape down the sides.
Add one-third of the flour mixture and mix on low until there are just a few streaks of powder (this should take about two or three 15 second bursts). Add another third and mix again on low like before. Add the last part of the flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed, until the batter is just comes together. Don't overmix!

Divide batter between pans. Bake in middle of oven 20 to 25 minutes for cupcakes, or 50 minutes for 8-inch cakes, or 70 minutes for 10-inch cakes.

Cool cakes completely in pans on racks.

Cakes may be made one day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature. Cakes and cupcakes also keep, well wrapped (think saran wrap and tightly sealed ziplock bag), in the freezer for 1 month.

Salted Caramel Frosted
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
¾ tsp table salt
½ cup cream/milk
2 cups of salted butter (4 sticks), softened

Heat the cream or milk (it really doesn't matter if you use cream, skim milk, whole milk, etc.) so that it is hot. You can do this in a mug in the microwave for about 45 seconds.

Heat the sugar in a light colored saucepan over medium high heat.  The sugar will melt and then begin to caramelize.  Stir with a spoon (I recommend wooden) or silicon spatula so that the bottom doesn't burn.  Eventually the entire thing should begin to caramelize (this probably takes about 3-5 minutes).  Once it gets to the lovely coppery color that you desire (you can taste-test by keeping a bowl of cold water nearby, dipping a spoon into the caramel and dipping it into the cold water and then tasting), add in the salt.  Stir and then off of the heat, add the hot cream or milk.  The mixture will bubble/froth.  Don't be surprised.

Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth.  Strain (through a standard mesh strainer) if needed and allow to cool.  DO NOT USE HOT CARAMEL TO MAKE FROSTING.

Beat the softened butter until it is fluffy and then slowly add in the cooled caramel.  You may only need to use about 1 cup of the caramel.  It all depends on your personal preference for how much of a caramel flavor you want.  Beat until fluffy.  If the mixture starts to look oily (this means the butter is melting), refrigerate it for about 2-3 minutes and then resume mixing.

I recommend frosting the cupcakes, then refrigerating them.

If you have extra frosting, it works as an excellent sweet butter for pancakes or waffles.  But I highly doubt you'll have extra frosting.

If you have extra caramel, use it as a dipping sauce for sliced apples or pears.  Or drizzle it on top of your cupcakes!

1 comment:

  1. Ohhhhh these look INSANE. I want one. Let's just hope they are celebratory :-) but hey, I'd eat these in a post-election funk as well.