Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Devil's Food Cupcakes (To Cure All Ills)


The lull in blog posts has largely been due to two things; too much work (aka too many revolutions and natural disasters) and a small dose of broken heart.  Alas, Mr J and I have parted ways, so there will be no more tasty whole-animal-spit-roast events... at least until I figure out how to do it myself!

Given the sadness of recent times, both on my own part and for people around the world who have so tragically been affected by the earthquakes and tsunamis in Christchurch and Japan, I thought it was time for some sweet sweet baked treats.  I certainly felt a whole lot more together while I was measuring and mixing and melting and baking.  It's amazing how the process helped me move from feeling crazy out of control to a measure of contentment and healing.  Thus the power of cooking.

And so I bring you Devil's Food Cupcakes (To Cure All Ills), care of Martha Stewart's marvellous "Cupcakes" cookbook.  In retrospect, I should probably have read the recipe more closely before embarking on this one - it seemed simple, it involved chocolate and used up my yummy sour cream bought straight from the dairy man at the farmer's market a while ago.  Beyond that, I just assumed it was your basic, "cream butter and sugar, add eggs and flour, bake" kind of recipe.  But you know what they say about assuming!  This was in fact quite an involved recipe, and quite unusual for a "Martha" cupcake recipe in that it used butter rather than vegetable oil.

I guess the key differences between this and most of the other cupcake recipes I have used were the fact that I had to melt the butter and sugar together first, then whip it for 4 minutes while it cooled in my KitchenAid.  I also had to mix the sizable amount of cocoa with hot water into a deliciously chocolate-brown paste before adding it almost at the end of the recipe.  Sour cream was also added, replacing the milk.  The result was an absolutely delicious, dark chocolatey, rich and moist cupcake that will most definitely be a permanent feature in my repertoire.


I topped these cupcakes with a brown sugar cream cheese frosting (yum!!!!) and added as a final touch some crystalised violets my Mum bought me from Essential Ingredient yonks ago, which had been sitting rather forlornly in my pantry.  The result was very well received, despite some strange rising shapes reminiscent of souffles in some of the cups as a result of me using the fan forced setting on my oven rather than the classic bake setting.  You live and learn, don't you?  Guess that's the takeaway message from my week.


Devil's Food Cupcakes (To Cure All Ills)


- 3 cups plain flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt flakes (I like Maldon)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bi carb soda
- 3/4 cup cocoa (Dutch process)
- 3/4 cup hot water
- 1 1/2 cups butter
- 2 1/4 cup white sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup sour cream

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
-  1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
- 8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
- 1 cup raw caster sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To start with preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celcius, and pop some cupcake cases in your pans - this should make approximately 36 cupcakes according to Martha's recipe, but mine made around 24 cupcakes - half large and half medium-sized.


Next step, pop all your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bi carb soda and salt) into a big bowl and whisk to combine - I know it sounds weird but whisking it really does keep it light, without having to sieve the flour.  But if you want to sieve it, be my guest - it may be even more delicious.



Now, in a second medium-sized bowl, use yet another whisk to combine your cocoa and hot water so it forms a deliciously glossy chocolate paste.  Yum!  Did I mention I am a fan of the whisk?  Just look at my collection of different sizes... I love the small ones for things like salad dressings.  But I digress.



So you've put your dry ingredients and cocoa paste to one side, and then set up your KitchenAid (other mixer or hand beater).  Now, melt on a medium-high heat the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan.  When it's melted, pop it into the mixer bowl and beat for about 4 minutes on a medium-high speed until it is cooled and getting fluffy.  (See, this is where it starts seeming like a particularly complicated recipe, for a cupcake recipe, but the results are worth it.)



Now add each egg, beating between each addition until they are completely incorporated.  When this is done, add half the dry flour mix, followed by half the sour cream, then the last of the flour, and then the last of the sour cream.  When it's all mixed, add in the cocoa paste and the vanilla.


Mix just until it's all combined and starting to look thick and unctuous.   Absolutely fabulous, this delicious batter will call you to leave rather more in the bowl than you have intended, just so there's more for you to lick at the end!


Now, fill the cupcake tins/liners to about 3/4 filled.  Pop in the oven for around 20-30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.  Let them cool completely before you ice them.

While they are cooling, it is time to make up your icing.  Beat the butter and cream cheese together, then add the sugar and vanilla.  Easy peasy.  And super, super delicious.  It's certainly a crowd pleaser!



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