Cuckoo for Cupcakes
America's latest obsession is not Jennifer Anniston and Vince Vaughn, TomCat or even Brangelina. It's cupcakes, my friends! I don't know if you've noticed lately but America can't get enough of them. If you read my review of Magnolia Bakery in New York or of the Cosmic Cupcakes at Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown, you probably were starting to get that idea.
What's up with cupcakes? They're cute, they're delicious and it's like having your own little personal cake. They're also sort of retro. I think they remind us all of a simpler time in our youth when Mom or Grandma used to make them for us and our biggest decision in life was whether to pick the chocolate or the vanilla. But why the recent surge in popularity? My guess is that all the buzz about Magnolia may have sparked the trend. Katie Holmes had a photo shoot in In Style Magazine which showed her eating their cupcakes (that was before she fell under the spell of Scientology poster boy Tom Cruise). Saturday Night Live did a hip hop video on the show that mentioned Mangolia. There's even an East Coast vs. West Coast thing going on with cupcakes. Apparently Yummy Cupcakes in LA is giving Magnolia a run for its money.
Martha Stewart has even joined the craze and not only made a couple different kinds on her show in the past few weeks but she also sent her staff out on a secret search for the best cupcakes in Manhattan. They chose the cupcakes from Billy's Bakery and had the baker in to share his recipe. (How psyched is that guy.) The verdict was that the his cupcakes weren't too rich, the frosting wasn't grainy, they were just right. Unfortunately I found out about this a few days after my return from New York so alas, I did not get the opportunitiy to try them for myself.
Did you know there's even a hot baking book out called (you might have to write this down to remember it) "Cupcakes!" by Elinor Klivans. It's great and is available in book stores and places like Crate and Barrel. Who knew there were so many different ways to make them? I must admit that I have jumped on the bandwagon. This weekend I made some killer Hi-Hat Cupcakes for Mother's Day that I had seen Martha make. The recipe actually comes from the "Cupcakes" book though. The recipe is up on Martha's website but I am including it below because having gone through the process, I have some suggestions/modifications for you. While these cupcakes are time consuming, they are a lot of fun and the smiles and "Yummmms" they bring are well worth the effort.
Have you made or eaten any great cupcakes lately? I'd love to hear from you. Let me know!
RECIPE FOR HI-HAT CUPCAKES
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with rack in center.
Makes about 16 cupcakes.
Ingredients for the Batter:
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1-1/4 cups sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup sour cream
Ingredients for the Frosting:
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 3 lge egg whites
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
Ingredients for the Chocolate Coating:
- 1 cup (about 6 ounces) chopped semisweet chocolate
- 1-1/2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
How to - the Batter:
1. Place chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl, and set it over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water; stir chocolate until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat, and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed, scraping sides of bowl as needed, until light and fluffy. On low speed, mix in melted chocolate. Increase speed to medium, and add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla, and beat until mixture is creamy and color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in sour cream. On low speed, add half of reserved flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Mix in 1/2 cup water. Add remaining flour mixture, and mix until just incorporated.
4. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners. Fill each liner with enough batter to come 1/8 inch from top, about 1/3 cup (if you have an ice cream scoop, use it to dole out the batter). Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until tops are firm and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to cool in pan for 10 minutes. (Note: if you like cake batter, you'll love this. Give it a taste!)
5. Remove cupcakes from tin and let cool completely.
How to - the Frosting:
6. In a large heatproof bowl, combine sugar, 1/4 cup water, egg whites, and cream of tartar. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat on high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Set bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Beat on high speed until frosting forms stiff peaks, about 12 minutes (if you're like me and don't have a free-standing mixer, you might want to ask someone to take turns holding the mixer - your arm starts to get sore!) . Remove from heat; stir in vanilla and almond extracts, and beat for 2 minutes more until frosting thickens.
7. Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain pastry tip (or in a pinch, cut the tip off of a Ziploc bag and use that instead). Leaving a 1/8-inch border on each cupcake, pipe a spiral of frosting into a 2-inch-high cone shape. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet, and refrigerate while preparing the chocolate coating.
How to - the Fun Part - the Chocolate Coating!:
8. Combine the chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl set over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and let cool about 15 minutes.
9. Invite your friends in for this part. It's a blast. Holding each cupcake by its bottom, dip cupcake in the chocolate to coat frosting, allowing excess to drip off. Transfer to a baking sheet fitted with a wire rack. Spoon more coating around edge of cupcake and any exposed frosting; none of the frosting should show. Let cupcakes stand at room temperature 15 minutes.
10. Place cupcakes on a serving platter, and refrigerate for 30 minutes to let coating set. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours more. Serve cold. Cupcakes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Note: You can remove the cupcake papers but I would wait until after they've refrigerated for a couple of hours. I tried it before putting them in the refrigerator and the cake part started to fall apart. Once they've set for awhile, they stay together better.
Recipe from "Cupcakes!," Chronicle Books, U.S., June 2005