Saturday, February 25, 2006

My favorite cupcakes

We have a three year old in the house now and yesterday we had a plate full of these to celebrate:
One of the great things about having kids is the many opportunities for cupcakes. I hate baking traditional cakes, but love making cupcakes--there's no anxiety about whether the cake will stick to the damn pan, stacking layers, or doing an elaborate frosting job. If you asked me to make a traditional birthday cake I'd be pissy. But make a batch of cupcakes? Sure!

My enthusiasm for cupcake making is helped by the fact that I happen to have found the best chocolate cupcake recipe in the world. These cupcakes are extremely easy to do and I love the fact that the batter is made in a saucepan. They are so good that you don't need frosting. They are actually better without frosting--once I made them with a bittersweet chocolate pecan frosting and it totally overwhelmed the cake. I prefer to just dust a little powdered sugar over them and if you want to spruce them up, use a stencil. (The "3" above was printed out in a big font on the computer and then cut out with scissors.)

The recipe calls these Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes because there's a little cinnamon and quite a lot of vanilla that punch up the chocolate. These flavor enhancers are lovely, but what really makes these cupcakes great is the moistness of the cake: they aren't dry or heavy. Just terrific moist cake. And in the spirit of full disclosure, I must also state that these cupcakes go pretty well with red wine. Not that I served the small creatures any wine with there cupcakes (tempting), but there were a number of moms who looked just about as tired as I felt (Friday, 4 PM, go figure) and we all washed down our cake with Shiraz...

Mexican Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Rebecca Rather's recipe printed in some food magazine (I can't remember which)
makes at least 24 cupcakes--I made 24 and still had a good amount of batter to eat raw while they baked.

2 sticks (1 C) unsalted butter
1/2 C Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 C water
2 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 C well-shaken buttermilk
2 T vanilla
2 C all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
  1. preheat oven to 350. Put cupcake papers in your muffin tins.
  2. melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat.
  3. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.
  4. Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Then sift again into the cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (it will be a little bit lumpy).
  5. Fill cupcake papers to about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. It's a moist cake, so don't worry if a few crumbs stick to your tester.
  6. Allow cupcakes to cook and then dust with powdered sugar.


Anonymous said...

And delicious they were.

I'm the opposite -- I love making cakes, but cupcakes drive me crazy; pouring the batter into all those little holes requires patience I don't have. (Cookies, ditto.) Better to just glomp it into the baking pan all at once.

I should note that I don't make fancy cakes at all; I almost never do frosting or more than one layer. A good cake can stand just fine on its own, or with a dusting of powdered sugar. The one adornment I've recently discovered is chocolate fondant -- bittersweet chocolate melted into heavy cream. That's it. You dump it over the cake, smooth it out a bit, and voila. Far easier than frosting, and unbelievably delicious.

Anonymous said...

That sounds absolutely delicious! I may have to whip up a batch this week. The kids are home for break and so am I - we deserve some yummy treats!