Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

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Pinterest is littered with beautiful photographs of cupcakes with over-the-top fillings (cookie dough stuffed?) and elaborate decorations.  Multiple flavors do not make a dessert more decadent – in fact it may overwhelm your senses so much that all you taste is sugar.  In the case of cupcakes, simplicity is key.  A chocolate cupcake with a chocolate ganache center and chocolate buttercream icing focuses on one flavor presented three different ways.

My Triple Chocolate Cupcakes are a huge hit with everyone who has ever tried them because they are not sickeningly sweet but intensely chocolate flavored.  Sugar tends to overwhelm tastebuds and drown out other flavors so cutting back on it allows the dark chocolate and cocoa in this recipe to shine.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcakes

  • 1-1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C cocoa powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1-1/2 C buttermilk
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 C dark chocolate wafers, chopped

Ganache

  • 1 C heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 C dark chocolate wafers
  • 1 vanilla bean

Buttercream

  • 1 C unsalted butter
  • 3 C powdered sugar
  • 1/2 C cocoa
  • 3 T heavy cream
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t vanilla extract

Equipment

  • mixing bowls (x5, 1 microwave safe, 1 heat safe)
  • saucepan
  • hand or stand mixer (need both mixing and whipping attachments)
  • whisk
  • spatulas (x2)
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • sifter/strainer
  • cookie scoop (small)
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • cupcake baking pan
  • paper cups (at least 30)
  • cooling racks (optional)
  • piping bags & tips (optional)

One hour prior to baking, remove eggs, buttermilk and butter from fridge to allow them to warm to room temperature.  It would also be a good time to make the ganache as well as it will need several hours to set.

Ganache
Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds with a knife.  Add to heavy cream in a saucepan and allow the mixture to simmer for five minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally with whisk.  Remove vanilla bean from cream and pour hot cream over chocolate wafers in a heat safe bowl.  Whisk rapidly to dissolve the chocolate (about a minute).  Set the mixture aside and allow it to cool.  DO NOT be tempted to put it in the fridge or set in an ice bath; I know it seems like it might speed up the setting process but chilling it quickly will make the ganache grainy (ask me how I know this).  Patience is a virtue here – it will thicken and set but it will take several hours.  Just cover and set aside.  When it is ready it will be the consistency of the tubs store-bought icing.

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Cupcakes
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place paper cups in the baking pan.  In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients: eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla.  Chop the dark chocolate wafers, place in a small, microwave safe bowl and melt in 30 second bursts in the microwave, stirring in between (it should only take a minute total).

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Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry while the mixer is on a low speed.  Once all the liquid is in, mix for one minute.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides.  Turn the mixer back on to low and pour the melted chocolate into the batter.  Once incorporated, stop to scrape down sides, then blend for one minute on medium speed.  Do not overmix or your cupcakes will be tough.

Fill each paper cup with cake batter no more than halfway; these will rise a lot and overgrown cupcakes are the worst.  I have done this too many times to count – including my first batch of these particular cupcakes.

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Do as I say, not as I do.  Only fill them halfway, not 3/4 full as I did here or you will end up with muffin-like monster cupcakes that you are too embarrassed to photograph.

Bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, then remove from pan and place on baking racks to cool.  If you do not have baking racks, just place them on the counter; if you leave them in the pan the heat will continue to bake the cupcakes and they will dry out.

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These were filled halfway with batter.  Allow the cupcakes to cool for at least two hours.

Buttercream
Add the unsalted butter to bowl.  Using the whipping attachment in the mixer, whip the butter until it is light in color and fluffy in texture (about three minutes).  It is essential that the butter is room temperature for the icing and not stiff or melted or the consistency will be wrong.  On a low speed, slowly add the cocoa to the butter and mix until fully incorporated.  Add the salt and vanilla and combine.  Stop and scrape down the sides, then add 1 tablespoon of the heavy cream.  Whip until fully incorporated, then stop the mixer again to scrape down sides.  This time, add 1 cup of powdered sugar and whip.  Alternate the cream and powdered sugar this way until all ingredients are combined.  Scrape down sides one last time then cover and allow to chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

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Assembly
Scoop a piece out of the center of each cupcake with a cookie scoop (if you do not have one of these, use a measuring teaspoon).  Place a scoop of ganache in the center of each cupcake; it will stick up a bit but this gives a great foundation for the buttercream.  Using a pastry bag with a decorative tip or a Ziploc bag with the corner cut out (this works just as well and less fussing!), pipe the buttercream icing onto each cupcake.  Garnish with chocolate shavings, sprinkles or chips if you like – I prefer the simplicity of the spiral swirl.

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This recipe will yield approximately 2-1/2 dozen cupcakes.

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