Cupcakes aren’t just for kids. I found this out when I had a group of mothers and their children over for an afternoon tea party recently. That morning I popped out of bed full of energy and enthusiasm and baked all morning as I imagined how delighted my guests would be with all of my homemade treats. I baked cupcakes for the kids and brownies, lemon bars and chocolate chip cookies for the moms. I greeted each child with a cupcake and a fresh-squeezed lemonade, and off they ran to play. To my surprise several mothers started asking me for a cupcake, too. I explained that I had baked only enough cupcakes for the children (I omitted informing them that I had eaten 2 cupcakes before any of them had arrived), but that there were rich dark brownies, sweet and tart lemon bars and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for them. We gathered in the garden for coffee and the goodies, all except one of us (who will remain nameless to protect her identity!). In a serious tone she asked if she could speak to me in private. She pulled me aside and asked, “Can I have a cupcake?” She must have spotted the few cupcakes on my kitchen counter that I was saving for the children who hadn’t yet arrived. “I’m sorry”, I answered, explaining these are for the children who are on their way. “Oh come on, just give me one”, she whispered. I began to feel a little uncomfortable. I asked her to imagine how disappointed the children will be to see the other children with a cupcake and find out there isn’t one for them. This seemed to make her want a cupcake even more, and she resorted to begging. I crumbled. Who am I to deny a desperate woman a cupcake? This is when I vowed to always make enough cupcakes for everyone. I think we all love cupcakes because they bring back happy memories of childhood and make us feel like a kid again. The cupcakes I served the children (and one mother) that afternoon were simple, old- fashioned banana cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Here is a more sophisticated, adults-only cupcake for your pleasure.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup canola oil
1 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled
3 large organic eggs
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
25 cacao beans, shelled and chopped into small pieces
60 chocolate covered espresso beans for garnish, optional
Brew a cup of strong coffee, allow to cool.
Bring eggs and sour cream to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin pans with paper liners and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift again. In a separate bowl add the eggs, oil, and coffee and beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Mix in the sour cream and vanilla. Then stir in the dry ingredients by hand, careful not to over mix the batter.
Using a ¼ measuring cup or an ice cream scoop spoon the batter evenly into prepared muffin cups about halfway full. Sprinkle some cacao nibs and then add more batter to 2/3 full.
Bake until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, for 16 to 18 minutes. Test at 15 minutes. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on wire racks. Do not overbake.
When the cupcakes are completely cool you can frost them with the delicious, dark chocolate buttercream frosting recipe that follows.
Bake for 16-18 minutes. Yields 24-30 cupcakes
Dark Chocolate Frosting
This frosting is perfect for piping. It uses unsweetened chocolate, which is also known as baking, or bitter chocolate. This is chocolate in its rawest form. I use Mayordomo 100% pure cacao from Oaxaca, Mexico. You can use Dagoba, Scharffen Berger or any unsweetened chocolate.
4 ounces (120 grams) unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup (150 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/3 cups (160 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy (about 1 minute). Add the sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add vanilla extract. Add the cooled chocolate and beat on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is smooth and glossy (about 2 -3 minutes).
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