Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel ButtercreamDark Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream
From Cooks Illustrated: American Classics magazine
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
¾ cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sour cream

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a standard muffin pan with liners.
2. Combine the butter, chocolate, and cocoa in a heatproof bowl, set over a saucepan of barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted, whisking until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
3. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl to combine.
4. Whisk eggs in another medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until fully combined. Sift about 1/3 of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift in remaining flour mixture and whisk batter until it is homogeneous and thick.
5. Divide batter evenly among liners. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
6. Cool cupcakes on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing.

Note: The magazine says not to double the recipe. I don't remember why, but they specifically made mention NOT to double it. So just don't do it!

Caramel Buttercream
Adapted from 125 Best Cupcake Recipes by Julie Hasson
Makes enough to frost roughly 16 cupcakes

2 cups confectioner's sugar
¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup caramel ice cream topping
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

1. In a bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add caramel, vanilla extract, and salt, and beat until well combined. Add confectioner's sugar, half cup at a time, and beat until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
2. Frost or pipe onto cooled cupcakes. Top with a drizzle of caramel.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel ButtercreamEvery year, Kelli’s family has a “picnic” in the summer, usually August, to celebrate her uncle coming to visit from out of state. The term “picnic” is used lightly, because it’s more of a barbecue than a picnic, with hot dogs and hamburgers, and we all eat inside the house, rather than out. But whatever. Over the years, I’ve sort of taken on the role of dessert provider. And there have been a few years where I’ve had to have my own “dessert table” set up to accommodate all the things I brought. (I tend to get a little carried away. I think of 10 different things I want to make, and can’t seem to cut any of them from the list… So all 10 get made. The same thing happens around the holidays.) This year, we decided on a more low-key event. No grilling, just finger foods and appetizers. I tried to stick with the low-key idea and pare down my baking as well. I’d make 2 things, and that was it. I knew I wanted to do my chocolate chip cookies, and something else fairly simple. How about cupcakes? They’re pretty easy. And very much finger food! I decided the picnic was the perfect opportunity to continue my quest for the perfect chocolate cupcakes. This time I'd try the Dark Chocolate Cupcakes from Cook’s Illustrated: American Classics magazine.

So far my chocolate cupcake quest has resulted in 2 overly moist cupcakes. The first, using buttermilk and water, was so liquidy, they erupted like little volcanoes popping up through the center of each cupcake. The second try also used buttermilk and water, but in smaller proportions, but it was just as moist, and ended up practically falling apart. This recipe, my third try, called for sour cream as a source of moisture instead of buttermilk and water. The directions said the batter would be homogeneous and thick after mixing. I liked the sound of that. I’m definitely a fan of a scoopable batter rather than one so thin you need a liquid measuring cup to get it into the liners. Well, this batter certainly was scoopable. It was so thick and creamy, it almost looked like gelato. Once it was scooped into the liners, it took on a not so appetizing look… I won’t mention just what it looked like though… I’ll leave that to your own imagination. Being so thick, I couldn’t really tell how much batter to put into the liners, so the first batch got about 2 ½ scoops. That ended up being a bit too much, so I settled on two scoops instead and they came out perfect.

Once they were cooled, I debated on what kind of frosting to top them with. I wanted to try something I hadn’t done before, so that left out a lot of what I thought would pair well with chocolate: mint, berries, more chocolate. I didn’t want to do just plain vanilla, so I decided to try caramel. It would be kind of like a Rolo candy! I used caramel ice cream topping for the flavoring, but it didn’t seem to ever be enough caramel flavor for me. It wasn’t until I drizzled some over the top of the frosted cupcake that it really tasted the way I wanted it to.

All in all, I think they came out alright. Not fantastic, but not a total let down. The frosting needs a bit of work before I’m completely satisfied with it. And the cupcake itself—well, the quest continues. The flavor itself was good, but even with the sour cream acting as the moisture, which I’ve had great success with in other recipes, the cupcake was dry. This is definitely not the “perfect chocolate cupcake” in my book. So the search lingers on. I think the next one I’m going to try is on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa powder container. It’s been suggested to me from a couple different people, so we’ll see how that one goes! I also had suggested to me by a coworker to use mayonnaise in my batter to add moisture. The thought completely freaks me out, but I’m willing to give it a try. Has anyone else made a mayonnaise cake before? Can you taste the mayonnaise at all? Cause I totally hate the stuff… so I’m a little skeptical.

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Kiesha Jenkins-Duffy said...

Looks yummmmmmmy!

oneordinaryday said...

I love how your cupcakes look with that extra drizzle of caramel. Yum.

My favorite chocolate cupcake recipe is from Elinor Klivans. I blogged about them a while ago if you want to look: http://oneordinaryday.wordpress.com/2009/01/02/i-need-to-bake-something/

As for the chocolate mayo cake ~ I love it! I do like mayo, but I really think it just does the job sour cream or buttermilk would do, and I don't think it tastes like mayo in any way. You should at least try it out. I think you might like it.


How To Eat A Cupcake said...

The consistency of that batter looks all too familiar! We bake dark chocolate cupcakes at my job, and the batter looks like mousse! It's so stiff, you have to shake it out of the scoop because the lever just can't push it out! Lol

Ingrid said...

I agree with One Ordinary Day. That caramel frosting with extra caramel drizzled on top looks outstanding.

Liana Engie said...

I've made cakes (but not cupcakes, though it makes no difference) with mayo and it works very well. The cake, which was chocolate-mint, was very good and really moist, and you couldn't tell that it had mayo in it at all.

scrappysue said...

ahhhhh - YUM!!!

chai latte loving mommy said...

mayo was my grandmothers secret baking weapon.. i mean its eggsa nd oil right whipped til light... cant go wrong.. also try to use just egg whites ...whipp then up and fold in...very light and moist results

Jennifer said...

Thats look amazing!!!!!!! The way the caramel is drizzling down over the frosting...mmmm

Lucy said...

I LOVE this combination - caramel frosting is a genius idea :)

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