I got a chance to test bake the first round of cupcakes from The Cupcake Diaries, which I reviewed here. At our house, my husband is the primary dessert eater, and his first choice for dessert is always chocolate cake, so he requested the Chocolate Ganache cupcakes. I wanted to try my hand at decorating the cupcakes with fondant, as well.
After a visit to one of my favorite kitchen stores I was all set. I bought a container of white pre-made fondant icing, some “Red red” food coloring gel, and some super fancy cocoa, and got to work.
The fondant was fairly easy to work with – I used about a tablespoon and a half, and kneaded red food coloring into it until I turned pink. Since fondant is made with confectioner’s sugar, that’s what I used to keep the fondant from sticking to my hands and to the counter. Once I added enough food coloring to get the pink I wanted, I rolled the fondant out and used a tiny cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes. I let the fondant dry a bit on the counter, then dusted the hearts with silver “pearl powder” to give them a little shine.
According to the cookbook, the best cupcakes are achieved with high quality ingredients, so I didn’t skimp – I used unsalted European butter, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, Valrhona cocoa and Ghirardelli chocolate chips. I also sifted the flour, baking soda and cocoa to be sure they were light and airy, and there were no lumps. Lastly, I brought my milk, eggs and butter up to room temperature before beginning work.
The result? Decadence. Dark, chocolatey cupcakes that were as moist as can be. Deep, rich chocolate ganache for the icing. And a pearly pink heart for the decoration.
For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons European-style unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup Valrhona cocoa powder
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with a total of 18 paper baking cups, or grease with butter if not using cups.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, set aside.
Place butter in the bowl of stand mixer (or bowl with handheld mixer). Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar; beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing slowly after each.
Combine the vanilla with the milk in a measuring cup.
On low speed, add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then one third of the milk mixture, beating until well incorporated. Add another third of the flour mix followed by one third of the milk/vanilla mix. Scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the final third of the flour mix followed by the milk mixture, and mix slowly until just combined.
Add the cocoa powder, mixing on low until just incorporated.
Use an ice-cream scoop to fill each baking cup with batter until two-thirds full. Bake for 18-20 minutes (start checking at 15 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
For the Ganache icing:
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup good-quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
Combine the heavy cream and chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl over a sauce pan containing an inch or two of water – place over medium-low heat on the stove. Let chocolate melt, stirring continuously until shiny and smooth.
Remove bowl from pan and let cool for 2-3 minutes. Place the cool cupcakes on a sheet of waxed paper next to the bowl. One cupcake at a time, dip the cupcake top into the ganache, gently twisting to cover the surface. To prevent drips, tip the cupcake rightside up quickly. Place on the wax paper and let set for about 5 minutes before adding decoration.
Makes about 18 cupcakes.