I am so lagging on the shoe entries, it's not even funny. So let's not talk about that. Let's talk about cupcakes instead.
Casey turned 30 a couple of weeks ago, which undoubtedly called for a party. The particular party we had in mind was going to happen outdoors, in some sort of woodland park area. This meant we pretty much had to bring everything we needed, and in order to avoid extra plates, knives, etc., I decided cupcakes were our best option cake-wise. Also, who doesn't like cupcakes?
I immediately went to my cooking "bible" (issues of Cook's Illustrated from 1996 on). When I found the recipe for easy chocolate cupcakes, I knew my search was over. The fact that there was a coffee butter cream frosting option sealed the deal.
Realizing that not everyone is head over heels for chocolate, I decided to make some red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting too. For that, I ended up on the Food Network site, and Paula Deen came to my rescue. Both recipes were a cinch to make. Paula Deen's was probably the easier of the two (only SLIGHTLY easier), but I had my reservations. While the chocolate cupcakes used butter, the red velvet used vegetable oil. Not unheard of in cake recipes but I honestly believe you can't go wrong with butter.
When it finally came time to eat the cupcakes, I immediately went for the chocolate.
There's a reason I love Cook's Illustrated and that's because every one of their recipes I've made turns out great. These were some of the best cupcakes I'd ever made (and I have at least half a dozen people to back me up on that). The red velvet weren't bad, but they just weren't as good as the chocolate. Their texture and taste was just more...oily. The cream cheese frosting was pretty tasty though.
There were no complaints about either cupcake, but later that night, everyone was craving more of the chocolate. I think I've got a new "go to" chocolate cupcake recipe.
DARK CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES
Makes 12 Cupcakes*
8 TBSP unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dutch process cocoa**
3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup sour cream
Adjust oven to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard size muffin pan (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.
Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.
Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.
*This recipe does not double very well. Cupcakes made from a doubled batch and baked side by side in the oven yield a slightly compromised rise. It's best to make two separate batches and bake each separately.
** On a tip from Regan, I was able to find the elusive Dutch process cocoa at a local Peet's coffee.
EASY COFFEE BUTTERCREAM
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp instant espresso
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
pinch table salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBSP heavy cream
Dissolve instant espresso espresso in vanilla extract and heavy cream. Set aside.
In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add espresso mixture to butter and beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add confectioners' sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.
This recipe allows for about 2 tablespoons of frosting per cupcake.
Garnish with your favorite cupcake decorations. I used chocolate covered espresso beans in the cupcakes pictured above.