Cupcake Hero: Cocoa Cupcakes with Zebra FrostingMay 29, 2008 at 12:49 pm | Posted in cupcakes, events, sweet things | 37 Comments
There has been something conspicuously absent from my diet the last few weeks. Yeah, that’s right, where’s all the chocolate? Trust me, I have noticed this and I aim to correct it now, thanks to Laurie and her cocoa powder-themed May Cupcake Hero event. What’s more, Laurie has a prize from Askinosie Chocolate up for grabs! Even if I’d been stuffing myself with the food of the gods lately, that’s all the incentive I need to make up a batch of cocoa cupcakes.
First things first, I had start with a good cake, and I knew I wanted it to be cocoa all the way through. I poked around for a chocolate cupcake recipe that would incorporate cocoa as well as buttermilk (whenever I have an already open container in the fridge, and I really try to use it up). Of course it was Ina to the rescue! She had one that sounded pretty good in her book Barefoot Contessa at Home, but it made 14 to 15 cupcakes. What a weird amount, and I certainly didn’t want that many…I didn’t even want half that. So I cut it back to a third and somehow still wound up with six cupcakes. I was a math major in college and even though those skills are a little rusty these days, I’m pretty sure six times three doesn’t equal 14 to 15. But six was actually perfect, so don’t think I’m complaining.
The frosting was a little trickier, as I didn’t have any good gimmick planned ahead for my cupcakes. Suddenly last week I realized it would be Memorial Day weekend back in the States (which you can forget all about when you’re so far away that it’s almost winter where you live), and in New York all the Mister Softee trucks would be out in force. I began to feel quite sad thinking about the annoyingly catchy tune broadcast from the trucks’ speakers and my favorite soft-serve twist cones (which I have always called a “zebra” cone). So zebra frosting it was gonna be, in buttercream form, of course!
I used a favorite whole-egg buttercream from Baking Illustrated. The amount yielded in the recipe I provide is likely more than you will need for six cupcakes (it’s probably better suited to 12), but I’ve found that trying to do a really small amount in the KitchenAid doesn’t work well. One egg isn’t enough for the whip to pick up and aerate. Just use what you think you will need and save the rest as plain to flavor and use for another batch anytime with the next couple weeks. Although, if you have a hand-held mixer (I do not), then you may have fine results making just half the provided amount.
The trick to piping it zebra-style is to first set aside half the frosting you are using in one bowl (to be left as plain vanilla). Put the remaining half in another bowl, and to that, whisk in sifted cocoa (a teaspoon at a time) until you get the desired color and taste. Then take a piping bag fitted with a wide tip and hold it wide open in one hand. Spoon in the vanilla frosting down one side of the bag and the chocolate down the other, so that the two are divided down the center. If you look into the bag, it will essentially look like a black and white cookie. You may have to squeeze out the first little bit into a bowl until you get the two halves coming through the tip.
The twisty frosting was oh-so-cute, and the cakes were moist and black as night. I didn’t even recognize the pastel cupcake liners I used! They held up well in the fridge, too. We ate ours over the course of three nights, bringing them up to room temperature first. And I don’t know if it was because we’d been so chocolate-deprived, but we inhaled those cocoa things in all of two bites!
4 T (2 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 T + 2 t granulated sugar
3 T + 2 t light brown sugar, packed
1 medium or large egg, at room temperature
3/4 t pure vanilla extract
1/3 c buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
2 T + 2 t sour cream, at room temperature
2 t brewed coffee
1/3 c + 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/3 c good cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/8 t kosher salt
-Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
-By hand, or using a hand-held mixer, cream the butter and two sugars until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Add the egg, then add the vanilla and mix well.
-In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
-Add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.
-Divide the batter among the cupcake pans. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (keep an eye out so you don’t overbake).
-Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely on a rack before frosting.
Zebra Frosting - makes about 2 cups
adapted from a recipe for vanilla buttercream in Cook’s Illustrated’s Baking Illustrated
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
1 t vanilla extract
pinch of salt
16 T (8 oz) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into pieces
cocoa powder to taste
-Bring a few inches of water to a simmer in a medium saucepot. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Set the bowl over the simmering water (making a double boiler). Whisk gently but constantly until the mixture reaches 160°F. It should be thin and foamy.
-Transfer the bowl to the mixer and whip until light, airy and room temperature. This should take about five minutes. Reduce the speed and whip in the butter, piece by piece. If it looks curdled halfway through, it should come together as you add the remaining butter.
-Once all the butter is incorporated, beat on high speed for about a minute until light and fluffy. You can refrigerate, covered, for a least a couple weeks, or flavor straight away.
-To flavor, eyeball the portion of buttercream you will need for the amount of cupcakes you have. Let come to room temperature if chilled. Set aside half the frosting you are using in one bowl (to be left as plain vanilla) . Put the remaining half in another bowl, and to that, whisk in sifted cocoa, a teaspoon at a time, until you get the desired color and taste.
-Take a piping bag fitted with a wide tip and hold it wide open in one hand. Spoon in the vanilla frosting down one side of the bag and the chocolate down the other, so that a line basically forms down the center, separating the two. If you look into the bag, it will essentially look like a black and white cookie. You may have to squeeze out the first little bit into a bowl until you get the two halves coming through the tip. Then frost your cupcakes in a twisty swirl.