Friday, April 24, 2009

Mock Hostess Cupcakes

I randomly crave chocolate.  Given a choice of dessert, I'll generally go after the vanilla or fruity option simply because I feel like chocolate is so overpoweringly....chocolate.  It covers the taste of anything else that tries to play sidekick, and thus is pretty forgiving.  Vanilla or fruit has so much possibility, and so I feel it takes that much more talent and creativity (not to mention execution!) to accentuate and engage the flavours.

But, like any woman, I still crave chocolate sometimes.  So, in hopes of making something similar to the Hostess Cupcakes of childhood, I put these lovely little cakes together with a favored recipe (incredibly fluffy) and some help from Dorie Greenspan's Baking book that I got for my birthday.  The frosting is simply a chocolate ganache that was stirred a few times as it cooled in the fridge until it became spreadable.  YUM!  Make your cakes first, then the frosting, and then the filling, as the filling really needs to be used as soon as it is made.

Fluffy Chocolate Cake

2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 c butter, soft
2/3 c granulated sugar
2/3 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 TB cocoa, unsweetened
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 c ice water

Oven - 350F
2 x 8" rounds, greased and parchment lined on the bottom, or 24 cupcakes

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugars until light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until well incorporated.  Whip until very smooth and light, and the volume increases, about 3 minutes.  Add the melted chocolate and the cocoa, and mix until combined.  In three additions, beat in the flour mixture alternately with the iced water, mixing well between each addition.

Pour into pans or scoop into lined muffin tins and bake at 350F.  Approximately 25 minutes for rounds or 18 minutes for cupcakes, or until a toothpick just comes out clean.  Cool before frosting.

Marshmallow Creme Filling
adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours

2 large egg whites, about 1/4 c
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c water
1 tsp good vanilla extract (since this is the only flavouring)

Note: You will need a candy thermometer for this, as the syrup must be boiled to a high enough temperature.  Or you can do it old-school with ice water and cook the syrup to the beginnings of firm ball, but a thermometer is so much easier.

Put the room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer (cold ones will not mount properly, so if you must warm them, place them in the bowl and put the bowl in a sink of warm water, and swirl them around).

Put the sugar, cream of tartar, and water in a heavy bottomed pot.  Stir to combine, and then bring to a boil and slap a lid on the pot for 3 minutes.  After 3 minutes, take the lid off and clip on the candy thermometer (hopefully the probe reaches far enough down - if not, you'll have to tip the pot to the side - be careful! culinary napalm!).  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until the syrup reaches 242F.

While the syrup is cooking, monitor the temperature carefully.  When the syrup reaches about 225F, begin whipping the egg whites on medium speed.  If they reach firm peaks before the syrup is ready, keep them beating on low speed.  As soon as the syrup reaches 242F, turn the mixer to medium and slowly (carefully) pour the syrup into the whipping whites, between the beaters and the bowl.  Do not stop to scrape down the bowl or anything that touches the sides. Whip on high for 5 minutes.  The filling should be looking shiny and fluffy.  Continue beating for another 5-10 minutes, or until the filling reaches room temperature.  Use the filling immediately for best consistency.

Ready a piping bag (I used a Wilton #10 tip) and fill it with the frosting.  Punch the tip into the top center of the cupcake, and squeeze about a tablespoon of filling into it.  You will see the cupcake begin to expand, and as this happens, slowly pull the tip out as you lightly squeeze a little more to fill the hole.  Cover with frosting.

Chocolate Frosting

1 1/4 c semisweet chocolate
1/2 c heavy cream
1 TB butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a microwaveable bowl, melt the chocolate, cream, and butter together, stirring every 20-30 seconds depending on the strength of your microwave.  When it is smooth, stir in the vanilla, and refrigerate, stirring every 10 minutes, until the ganache is a spreadable consistency.  This makes enough for 24 cupcakes, or it multiplies easily to make more for a cake.

Should you desire to pipe the loop pattern on top (I was too lazy and I just wanted to eat them), you can make a simple icing of powdered sugar and milk, but make sure it is very thick so it pipes and holds its shape.

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