For Roem’s birthday this year, I had been clipping cupcakes recipes since about December. He isn’t one of those people that prefer carrot cake or exclusively chocolate flavors; he appreciates cake in all its forms but just doesn’t like anything too “sweet”. These parameters make it a little hard for me to narrow down the contenders and I found myself vacillating between pink salt and pink pepper cupcakes from Chockylit, an old favorite from Smitten Kitchen or Chocolate Malt Ball Cupcakes from How To Eat a Cupcake. So basically I couldn’t make a bad decision, but I was having trouble narrowing it down.
That was until I read the Wednesday Chef’s beautifully written post about the shimmering memory of an unexpected cupcake. I was transported by her description of this richly flavored, lightly sweetened, decadently simple Devil’s food cupcake with a surprise ball of light and airy whipped cream filling. The cupcakes were elegant and chic in their minimalist glory under a glossy layer of ganache. The recipe was just complicated enough to challenge me with its three bowl preparation, irregular measurements, and chocolate dipping. The addition of buttermilk in the cake makes it beautifully rich with a light and tender crumb and the frosting technique is nearly foolproof (just don’t throw out the extra ganache because you may smudge one and curse the extra chocolate running down the drain).
The reviews from the birthday party attendees, random guys at the bar and my husband were all glowing and the cupcakes looked as good as they tasted. They weren’t too sweet, were wonderfully rich and decadent and were reminiscent of a childhood favorite, Hostess Cupcakes. All in all, I’d say it was success!
Karen DeMasco’s Devil’s Food Cupcakes
You will have extra ganache and whipped cream – please don’t panic. Grab some vanilla ice cream and make a sundae. You’re welcome.
For the cupcakes:
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup cake flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners, if you have more than one 12-cup muffin tin. Otherwise line a standard 12-cup muffin with liners and then line small ramekins (if you have them) for the remaining batter.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk the cocoa powder and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water to form a paste; set aside.
3. In another bowl, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar with the butter on medium speed until they are well combined with no pieces of butter visible. Add the cocoa paste, making sure to use a spatula to get all the cocoa paste into the mixer bowl. Once this is well combines, add the egg and egg yolk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. In three additions each, add the buttermilk and vanilla extract, alternating with the flour mixture.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them 3/4 full. Bake, rotating the tins halfway through, until the cupcakes spring back to the touch and a tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out mostly clean, 20-25 minutes. Invert the cupcakes onto a wire rack, turn them top side up, and let them cool completely.
For the cream filling:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1. To make the filling, combine the cream, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed to soft peaks, about 4 minutes. Put the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a small piping tip. Using a paring knife, make a small cut in the bottom of each cupcake, through the paper, to insert the tip of the pastry bag. Insert the tip of the pastry bag about 1 1/2 inches into a cupcake. Gently squeeze the bag while holding the fingers of your other hand over the top of the cupcake. When you feel a slight pressure on the top of the cupcake, stop filling. Repeat with each cupcake.
For the ganache:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional; I didn’t use this)
1. To make the ganache, put the chocolate in a small mixing bowl. Combine the cream and the corn syrup, if using, in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour over the chocolate right away, and stir slowly until all of the chocolate melts and the ganache is silky and shiny.
2. Carefully dip the top of each cupcake in the ganache, tapping gently to remove the excess. Return the cupcakes to the wire rack to let the glaze set up, at least 30 minutes.
3. The cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.