Ginger-Cream Filled Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache Frosting15

Posted by chockylit in Chocolate, Spices, Squashes & Gourds (Monday October 31, 2005 at 8:51 am)

I haven’t really made pumpkin cupcakes before, but I have tasted a number of pumpkin muffins and have never really been very happy with them. I decided to use a Martha Stewart recipe as a base – I am rarely disappointed with the recipes on her site – and I wasn’t this time. The cupcakes themselves were surprisingly tasty, moist, and pumpkin-y. I topped half of them with ginger-cream for more of a breakfast treat and filled the other half with ginger-cream and topped them with chocolate ganache frosting.

Cupcakes from Marthastewart.com
30 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

2 cups flour, all-purpose
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
15 ounces pumpkin puree

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, and eggs. Add dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Whisk in pumpkin purée.
4. Divide batter evenly among liners, filling each about halfway. Bake until tops spring back when touched, and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating pans once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool.


cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and nutmeg

Ginger Whipped Cream
this whipped cream is stabilized with gelatin which is optional

2 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
2 cups chilled whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup flavored simple syrup

1. First make the simple syrup. Heat 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water, and a 2″ chunk of ginger that has been peeled and julienned until boiling and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool and strain before using. (I rolled the strained out pieces of ginger in sugar and let them dry overnight. I dipped them in orange-tinted white chocolate and used them as a garnish.)
2. In a small metal bowl, soak plain gelatin in cold water for 5 minutes.
3. Place the bowl over a small pot of simmering water and stir until dissolved. Set aside to cool.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream until soft and billowy.
5. Slowly drizzle in the simple syrup and vanilla, continuing to whip as you do.
6. Add the gelatin all at once and continue whipping until soft peaks form.
7. Finish beating with whisk to adjust consistency.


whisking dry ingredients

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1-1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Chop chocolates and transfer into a heat proof bowl.
2. Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.
3. Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.
4. Add butter to the chocolate (make sure its soft and at room temp) and stir until combined.
5. Whisk together sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla in another bowl until combined.
6. Pour the sugar mixture onto the chocolate mixture, then stir until combined and smooth.
7. Let sit at room temperature until thickened.
8. Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Assemble
1. Using a melon baller, scoop out a semi-circle of cupcake and set aside.
2. Pipe or scoop ginger cream into the cavity.
3. Cut the excess cake off the scooped out bit and cover the cream-filled hole with it.
4. Frost the cupcake.
5. Top with the white chocolate dipped candied ginger or whatever else you have on hand.

Chocolate Tarragon Cupcakes with Tarragon Cream Cheese Frosting17

Posted by chockylit in Cheese, Chocolate, Herbs & Flowers (Sunday October 23, 2005 at 2:48 pm)

Tarragon tastes sort of like anise and pairs well with chocolate. I was eager to try the two together in a cupcake. I decided to use a basic chocolate cupcake base (I used the Magnolia devil’s food recipe because I wanted to try it) and added fresh tarragon to that. I guessed at a tablespoon of the chopped herb, but the taste was very subtle. Hence I decided to get tarragon in the frosting as well. All-in-all, I still couldn’t taste enough of the tarragon for my liking. I would have topped each with a fresh tarragon leaf if I had any handy.

A side note: The frosting calls for a tarragon infused simple syrup; this is the first time I have made some. I must say that it is extremely tasty and I could see it being a great addition to herbal ice teas, vodka based drinks, and homemade ice cream… same as the lavender simple syrup. Yum.

Lastly, the devil’s food recipe was fine, but a little drier than I expected. Baking is temperamental though, so it might work out better for others (or next time, in my case).

Cupcakes adapted from Magnolia’s devil’s food recipe
48 mini-cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated and at room temp
3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
2 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 cups milk
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

1. sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl, set aside
2. in a separate small bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks until thick and lemon colored, about 2 minutes
3. in the bowl of the electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes
4. add egg yolks, beating until well combined
5. add the melted chocolate, mix until combined
6. add the dry ingredients in thirds, alternating with the milk and vanilla, beating after each addition until smooth
7. in another bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form
8. fold the egg whites into the batter gently, fold in the fresh tarragon
9. pipe into lined mini-cupcake tins with a pastry bag
10. bake at 350 degree oven (325 convection) for ~12 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean


filling mini cupcake tins

Tarragon-Cream Cheese Frosting

1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
2-3 bunches of tarragon
12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar

1. heat sugar and water over medium-high heat, stirring until dissolved
2. add tarragon bunches, stir in and let boil until syrupy, about 3 minutes
3. set aside and let cool, then strain out tarragon
4. bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
5. sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
6. beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy
7. add half of the sugar and beat until combined
8. drizzle in tarragon simple syrup at low speed
9. gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like


fresh tarragon

Assembly

1. pipe a dollop of frosting on to each of the cooled cupcakes
2. [optional] top with a fresh tarragon leaf

German Chocolate Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Glaze15

Posted by chockylit in Chocolate, Coconut, Nuts (Sunday October 9, 2005 at 11:52 am)

I make my husband German Chocolate Cake every year for his birthday. It was his favorite growing up and his grandmother still bakes him a German Chocolate Cake whenever we go to visit. This year I made a cupcake version.

Researching for the recipe, I looked closely at the Better Homes & Garden version and the Magnolia version. The ingredients were almost identical and the proportions very similar (the BH&G recipe had slightly more chocolate and slightly less butter). The main difference between the recipes, however, was the number of steps involved. The BH&G recipe had 5 simple steps. The Magnolia recipe had 10 relatively simple steps, but it also had the unfortunate requirement of my having to wash out my one Kitchen Aid bowl in between two steps. I fully intended to do both versions, half recipes of each, and do a side by side comparison of the two. I wanted to know if twice the number of steps made a difference. I am sad to say that I didn’t manage this side-by-side comparison, we got home much too late from birthday present shopping. For the sake of time, I ended up whipping out the BH&G version and added milk chocolate glaze.

The result: The cupcakes were disappointing looking; they shrunk up, pulled away from the papers, and had an insipid, grey color. The texture was fine – I expected them to be too dense, but they were fluffy. The flavor? Boring, but salvaged by the milk chocolate glaze and coconut-pecan topping. Next year I am definitely trying the Magnolia version…

Cupcakes
(from Better Homes & Garden’s New Cook Book, Meredith edition, 1989)
makes 24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

4 ounces German Sweet Chocolate (Baker’s brand, available at most grocery stores)
1/3 cup water
1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoons vanilla
3 eggs

    preheat oven to 350°F

  1. in a small saucepan, melt chocolate and water over low heat. remove from heat and let cool.
  2. add flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of the electric mixer, stir to combine
  3. add chocolate mixture, buttermilk, butter, and vanilla to the bowl, mix on low to combine, then beat on high speed for 2 minutes
  4. add eggs, beat on high speed for 2 more minutes
  5. scoop into cupcake tins, bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes

Milk Chocolate Glaze

4 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. place chocolate in a bowl
  2. heat cream in a saucepan until bubbles form around the edge
  3. pour hot cream over chocolate and stir until smooth
  4. add vanilla and stir until combined
  5. refrigerate to cool

Coconut-Pecan Topping

1 egg
1 5 ounce can of evaporated milk
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1-1/3 cups shredded, sweet coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans

  1. crack the egg into a small saucepan and beat lightly to break up
  2. add milk, sugar, and butter. cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat until thick, bubbly, and golden, about 15 minutes
  3. remove from heat, add coconut and pecans, stir to combine
  4. refrigerate to cool

Assembly

  1. drizzle a teaspoon of glaze on each cooled cupcake
  2. top with a teaspoon of coconut-pecan topping

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting55

Posted by chockylit in Chocolate, Science Experiment (Sunday October 2, 2005 at 4:38 pm)

I compared about 8 existing recipes for red velvet cake and found the following:

  • some are vanilla cakes with red food coloring and most are chocolate with red food coloring
  • all of the chocolate red velvet recipes use cocoa as opposed to melted chocolate and most have very little cocoa in them (probably to maintain the red coloring)
  • most use cake flour
  • some use oil and some butter
  • all use buttermilk, vinegar and red food coloring
  • as far as chemical leaveners go, some use baking powder (acidic and akaline components), most baking soda (alkaline), and two use both (more on chemical leaveners below)
  • all have the usual suspects in similar quantities: sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla

For my first attempt I decided to go with

  • cake flour for delicate crumb
  • cocoa for a chocolaty taste
  • butter for better flavor
  • a base batch, divided into three to test variation in chemical leaveners (resulting recipe is for what I deemed the best option)

I made a 1-1/2 batch so I would yield 36 cupcakes as opposed to the usual 24.

The result… well, the cupcakes tasted fine, had a nice texture, but were rather plain (were it not for the frosting). The cocoa taste was not discernable and I recommend increasing the quantity in the recipe. If I were to test the recipe again, I would increase the cocoa by 50% and 100% and check the results. I doubt I will test it again, however, as the novelty of red batter isn’t interesting enough to distract me from other recipes I want to try.

Cupcakes
makes 36 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3-3/4 cups cake flour
1/4 cups cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder or 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
3/8 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
3 teaspoons vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 ounce red food coloring paste
2-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cups butter
3 eggs

  1. preheat oven to 350°F
  2. sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder (or cream of tarter), and salt into medium bowl
  3. whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring in small bowl to blend
  4. beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well fluffy, 3 minutes
  5. add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition, about 30 seconds
  6. beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions
  7. scoop into cupcake tins
  8. bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 20 minutes
  9. cool in pans 10 minutes
  10. cool completely on racks

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting

12 ounces or 1-1/2 packages of Philly cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar
seeds of 1/2 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours
  2. sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment
  3. beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy
  4. add 4 cups of the sugar and beat until combined
  5. add vanillas and beat until combined
  6. add more sugar until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like

Pastillage Shapes

1 packages gelatin
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
~5 cups powdered sugar

  1. prepare a clean work surface by spraying with water and then covering in a bit of powdered sugar
  2. in a small saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over the water and let sit for 3 minutes
  3. add corn syrup and stir to combine, heat over medium heat stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved, about 12 minutes
  4. add 3 cups of the powdered sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer
  5. at lowest setting, drizzle in all of the heated mixture
  6. increase speed of mixer to combine
  7. start to add more powdered sugar until the mixture gets stiff
  8. you will need to transfer to the prepared work surface to finish needing by hand, you may also choose to need in powdered food coloring
  9. add sugar or water as needed to get a smooth consistency, its like needing pasta dough – you want a similar consistency
  10. once it is nice and smooth, divide it up for as much as you need and wrap the remainder in plastic wrap and store in an airtight container for up to 12 months
  11. scrape down work surface for rolling, dust surface and rolling pin with corn starch, roll out pastillage as thin as you can get it
  12. cut out shapes with whatever small cutters you have
  13. set aside on parchment to dry

This will make a lot of pastillage, I used 1/4 of it to make more than enough shapes for 36 cupcakes. Given it lasts so long, doesn’t hurt to have extra. A note on coloring, needing in powdered food coloring gives a nice matt look or you can paint it on for some variation in color.

Assembly

  1. pipe a swirl of cream cheese frosting on each cooled cupcake
  2. top with a pastillage shape

Chemical Leaveners and Anthocyanins
Occasionally the chemical engineer in me rears its nerdy head, like it did this weekend. I got to thinking about the baking soda versus powder versus both and was led down a trail past anthocyanins and essentially to the question of how does pH effect the end product.

Chemical leaveners when used correctly react with other compounds to release carbon dioxide gas which will cause the cake to rise. They are often “double acting” – would say so on the packaging – meaning they react when added to the batter and release some gas bubbles, then there is a second reaction later on which cause the release gas bubbles to expand.

* Baking soda is alkaline and requires acidic compounds to react with it. These can be yogurt or sour milk.
* Baking powder contains baking soda and acidic salt crystals. It basically contains what it needs to cause the chemical reaction and produce carbon dioxide.

In the case of this recipe, there is buttermilk and vinegar (both acidic) which will react the baking soda. Baking powder should not be necessary – in theory. There are also theories that the acidic compounds react with cocoa (or the anthocyanins in cocoa) to turn the batter reddish-brown, but I read here that it is a scientific myth.

I looked into anthocyanins and indeed they do need an acidic environment to be red, but I was tending to agree with the first article that there aren’t enough of them in the chocolate for it to really matter. I looked into it some. This article says that quantities are “high” in green tea and chocolate, which this article confirms, but it also adds that processing causes the anthocyanins to convert to quinones which then further react and result in brown-colored compounds. So, I suspected that any change in pH wouldn’t really make a difference in color, plus I was planning on adding food coloring.

So, I started with a base batter with just baking soda and then divided it into three and added baking powder to one and cream of tarter to the other (note: cream of tarter (acid) + baking soda can be used a substitute for baking powder).


baking soda only


baking soda and cream of tarter


baking soda and baking powder

The baking soda-only batch definitely looked the worst, but there wasn’t a noticeable taste or color difference amongst the three. The other two versions were pretty darn close, hence why I suggested baking powder or cream of tarter. In theory, you could use baking powder only, but I didn’t test that option.