For a long time, I never understood what was so special about cupcakes. They were like cake, but drier, with too-sweet frosting, and smaller than an actual slice of cake (I'm not exactly a fan of mini portions).
The first time I understood the true potential of a cupcake was when I walked into Kara's Cupcakes in San Francisco. Now those are good cupcakes... not only are they works of art, but they taste better than they look if that's even possible. They're moist and oh so much more sophisticated than those grocery store cupcakes. It was then that I realized cupcakes don't just come in chocolate and vanilla, and they don't have to be boring. Especially when you throw some chocolate ganache in the center, you're in for a treat that is utterly divine.
Since that revelation of mine, I have had a few cupcakes that I would call truly delicious. So, when I tell you that I've found a delicious cupcake recipe, you have to believe that this is something serious.
These are The Best Chocolate Cupcakes Ever.
Why are they that good?
1. They're moist.
2. They're chocolate-y (and I mean real chocolate-y, not super-sweet chocolate-y).
3. They have ganache in the middle, which elevates them way above cupcakes with a plain cake base.
4. They're topped with super light frosting that manages to be the perfect balance to the actual cupcake. And I mean ethereally light.
5. They're pretty (hey, I know this doesn't actually factor into taste, but it's an important factor nonetheless, isn't it?)
Please, if you like chocolate and there's one recipe out of my whole blog that you'll try, try this one. You won't regret it.
The Best Chocolate Cupcakes Ever
adapted from Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2010
(makes 12 cupcakes)
Oven Temperature: 350 F
3 tablespoons milk
1 ½ tablespoons butter
⅓ cup dark chocolate chips, chopped
1 tablespoon confectioner's sugar
½ cup dark chocolate chips, chopped
⅓ cup cocoa (preferably dark, dutch-processed)
¾ cup hot coffee
¾ cup bread flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Unbelievably Light Chocolate Frosting:
⅓ cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
12 tablespoons butter, softened (1 ½ sticks)
1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled to lukewarm
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Note: Parts of this recipe call for refrigeration. If you find that you're at a certain step and can't move on because something isn't cool enough, just stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process.
Begin with the cupcakes:
1.Line or grease 12 cups in a muffin tin.
2. Add the chopped chocolate and cocoa to a medium bowl and pour the hot coffee over this mixture. Whisk the ingredients until smooth, and place the bowl into the refrigerator to cool completely (20-30 minutes).
Make the ganache filling:
1. Place the cold butter and milk in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds. Your goal is to get the butter melted into the milk, so after microwaving, stir to make sure the two ingredients are combined.
2. Add the chopped chocolate and confectioner's sugar to the bowl and whisk together. The mixture should be warm and the chocolate should melt. If you need to, stick the bowl in the microwave again to heat the mixture more. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth, and transfer to the refrigerator until just chilled, no longer than 3o minutes.
Continue with the cupcakes:
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together, the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
2. Remove the cooled coffee/chocolate mixture from the fridge and add the olive oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla extract, whisking until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to this mixture and again, whisk until smooth.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling 12 cups about ¾ of the way with batter. Add the chilled chocolate ganache by rounded teaspoons on the top of each cup.
4. Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 17-19 minutes. They should be rather firm to the touch when they are finished. Allow them to cool in the muffin tin for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting:
1. Place a small saucepan filled halfway with water over the stove, and allow to heat until simmering. Meanwhile, add the sugar, egg whites, and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Place this bowl on top of the simmering water and whisk the mixture for about 2-4 minutes, until it is slightly thicker and foamy.
2. Remove the bowl from the heat and, using the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat on high until the mixture is the consistency of shaving cream and has cooled slightly, 1-3 minutes. Add the softened butter a tablespoon (or so) at a time, and continue beating until the frosting is smooth and creamy. Poor in the cooled melted chocolate and vanilla extract and beat in, for about 1 minute, until you have a light, smooth frosting.
3. Frost the cooled cupcakes (I used a Ziploc bag cut in the corner to frost mine. It was messy but worth it!)