April 15, 2014

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Mocha Meringue Buttercream

If you enjoy sipping on a mocha, you'll love these Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Mocha Meringue Buttercream.  The dark chocolate cupcakes have a hint of coffee flavoring, which is enhanced by a more pronounced coffee flavoring in the mocha meringue buttercream.  

If you've read my previous posts, you may know that I've had some trouble in the past with Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  Along the way, I made seven batches of curdled buttercream "soup," each batch worse than the previous ones.  No matter how hard I tried or how closely I followed a recipe, SMB eluded me.  Eventually, I took a recreational pastry class at a local culinary school to figure out why my buttercream kept failing (if you'd like to read my tips on making SMB, check on this post).  

Now that I've finally figured out how to make Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I'm a bit obsessed.  At 11:00 at night, I'll decide to whip up a batch of buttercream just for kicks.  With all the cupcakes I've been pawning off on my coworkers, people are starting to ask if I'm running a bakery on the side (nope!  I just really love to make buttercream).   

If you're fond of coffee-flavored desserts, you must give this recipe a shot.  And if you're a fan of airy, fluffy, not-too-sweet frosting, this is definitely the dessert for you.  The cupcakes use dark chocolate cocoa powder to achieve the deep color you see in the second picture.  There is a hint of espresso powder in the cupcake itself, but the real coffee flavor comes out in the buttercream.  A few teaspoons of espresso powder are dissolved in semisweet chocolate, then that cooled, melted chocolate is whipped into the buttercream.  The result is a silky frosting with a pronounced coffee and chocolate flavor.  It's like eating a whipped mocha.   Who could resist that? 

The yield on this recipe is approximately 16 standard cupcakes.  You'll be able to frost those cupcakes very generously, and may even have some buttercream remaining.  That's a good thing, right?  Admittedly 16 cupcakes is an usual yield.  This recipe can also be used to make 12 standard cupcakes plus 12 miniature cupcakes (perfect for sampling!).  I like this approach when baking cupcakes for a crowd, because people can choose how indulgent they want to be.  If you make the miniature cupcakes, just note the difference in baking times.  

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Mocha Meringue Buttercream
(cupcakes based off this recipe for Kahlua and Chocolate Cupcakes.  Frosting technique adapted from this recipe by Nick Malgieri, who designed the cupcake course at ICE)

Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2-2.5 hours


For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (I used Hershey's Dark Chocolate Cocoa)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup strong coffee
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Buttercream:
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 3 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • small pinch of salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened and cut into cubes


For the Cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard cupcake tins with liners. 
2. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients with a wooden spoon until well combined. 
3. Add all wet ingredients into the bowl.  Using a hand mixer, mix on medium speed until well incorporated.  Batter will be very thin.
4. Pour batter into prepared cupcake tins, using a scant 1/4 cup for each cupcake.  If baking miniature cupcakes, use about 1 Tablespoon of batter for each (do not overfill).
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes for standard cupcakes.  If making miniature cupcakes, bake for 8-9 minutes.  Top of cupcakes should be spongy and cake tester should come out mostly clean.  Cool for approximately 5 minutes in tins, then transfer to wire racks.  Cool completely before icing. 

For the Buttercream:
1. While cupcakes are baking, begin to prepare buttercream.  In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat chocolate chips, milk, and espresso powder at low heat, just until chocolate chips have melted.  Remove immediately from heat and allow to cool completely.  
2. Fit stand mixer with whisk attachment.  Set aside.  Fill a medium saucepan with 1-2 inches of water, and bring to a gentle simmer.  
3. Put egg whites, sugar, and salt into a heatproof bowl of a stand mixer.  Whisk gently by hand, then set bowl on top of saucepan with simmering water (be certain that the water does not touch the bottom of the mixing bowl.)  Continue heating, whisking gently and consistently, until egg whites reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  The egg whites should be white and smooth, rather than grainy.  This may take 5-7 minutes. 
4. Once egg whites have reached 140 degrees, remove from heat and use stand mixer to whip egg whites on medium speed for approximately 5 minutes.  Egg whites should become thick and begin to increase in volume; the side of the bowl should feel mostly cool.  Remove whisk attachment and switch to paddle attachment.  Scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula.  Beat on low speed until egg whites are completely cool.  
5. With mixer on low speed, add butter, 2 Tablespoons at a time, until all butter has been added. 
6.  If frosting has become too warm and has a loose consistency, refrigerate in the mixing bowl for 15-20 minutes to allow the milk fat to re-solidify.  Remove from fridge after 15-20 minutes, and continue to beat on low speed with paddle attachment.  Frosting should begin to come together with a light and fluffy texture. 
7. Increase speed to medium and continue beating for 2-3 minutes, until frosting is light, fluffy, and smooth.  Add in melted, cooled chocolate (chocolate must be completely cool).  Continue beating until fully incorporated.
8. If cupcakes have cooled, frost immediately.  If not using buttercream immediately, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  Bring to temperature and re-whip before using. 

Yield: 16 standard cupcakes.  Or, 12 standard cupcakes plus approximately 12 miniature cupcakes

(click here for printable recipe)

Thanks for stopping by, and for putting up with my buttercream obsession.  

April 13, 2014

Homemade Easter Marshmallows (DIY Peeps)

Homemade Easter Marshmallows (DIY Peeps) have a soft, airy, cloud-like texture.  These marshmallow candies are flavored with honey and almond to provide a depth of flavor not typically found in commercially made marshmallows. 

April 8, 2014

Funfetti Macaroons

Need a quick and easy treat?  These Funfetti Macaroons will remind you of eating birthday cake.  Even better, these sprinkle-filled cookies are ready in just 30 minutes!  

April 5, 2014

Favorite Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Meringue Buttercream

My Favorite Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream: soft and airy vanilla bean cupcakes have a moist, fine crumb.  Topped with a silky smooth vanilla bean buttercream, these are the best cupcakes I've ever made.  

April 1, 2014

Have Your Cake and Eat it, Too

...aka "Real Life According to the World's Oldest iPhone."

Hey, friends!  Hope you all enjoyed the weekend.  I don't typically write much about "real life" on this blog, but occasionally I like to share snippets.  I enjoy getting to know the people behind my favorite food blogs, and I figured others might feel the same.  Please pardon the brief departure from the regularly scheduled programming.  I'll be back with some recipes later this week.

I had one of those truly fantastic weekends that was equal parts restorative, exciting, and productive.  A really worthwhile weekend, you know?  The kind of weekend where I did all the boring, responsible things on my to-do list (taxes, grocery shopping), but also got to do everything I wanted.  Here were a few highlights:

1. I chopped off a bunch of my hair.