Cherry Bomb Cupcakes with Meringue Frosting24

Posted by chockylit in General (Sunday August 29, 2010 at 9:31 am)

cherry chili chocolate cupcake

I felt the need to give these cupcakes a name – they had that much personality. I was about to add half as much chili as planned, but thought why not and dumped it all in. The result? Chili cherry chocolate cupcakes with a good kick. Funnily enough, “cherry bomb” was my ring name when I was an amateur kick boxer. I got that name from the cherry tattoos on my arms and my explosive power, I am sure… My fighting days are well passed me, but a taste explosion is well within my repertoire.

I purchased a jar of Italian wild cherries in syrup based purely on the attractive container. The jar lay ignored in a drawer while I struggled with what to do with the gluten-free chocolate cupcake recipe as a base for something I intended to bring to a party. A trip to the ferry building resulted in a 13 dollar jar of yuzu jam (for a later recipe – it better be tasty!) and I was still without ideas. The cherries called to me from their cool, dark spot and finally inspiration hit. But cherries and chocolate are pretty run of the mill. I decided on the chili so these cupcakes wouldn’t be forgettable.

I was hearing good things at the party. The cupcakes were spicy but that was appreciated. I liked the combination of the chocolate, chili, and tart but sweet cherries.

cherries and chili

Gluten-Free Chili Chocolate Cupcakes
~16 regular-sized cupcakes / 350 degree oven

3.5 ounces (100 grams) Valrhona 85% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
1-1/2 sticks (172 grams) butter
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (223 grams) sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (40 grams) quinoa flour, gluten-free (or all purpose flour for non-gluten free)
1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
2 teaspoons ancho chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (if using gluten-free flour)

1. Chop the chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate melts and the butter is combined.
3. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
4. Measure out the flour, cocoa, chili powder, cayenne powder, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum (if using) into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together.
5. Transfer the cooled chocolate/butter mixture to the electric mixer and beat for 3 minutes.
6. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 10 seconds between each.
7. Add the flour mixture and mix to combine.
8. Scoop into cupcake cups only 2/3s full. Bake all the cupcakes at 350 F for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Note: If the oven is not hot enough than these cupcakes may over-flow. One way to be safe is to either fill 2/3’s full or another trick I use is to preheat to 375, then drop the heat to 350 once I put the cupcakes in. I also rotate the pans after 15 minutes of baking. It is safe to gently move them at that point and I find the lower back of my oven to be a bit cooler.


Meringue Frosting

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar

1. Combine egg whites and sugar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a bain marie (water bath).
2. Whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved or preferably until the mixture reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit. (Apparently 160 is safest. I have never tried that so can’t tell you if it will still be ok for the frosting. So if you are concerned use pasteurized eggs.)
3. Transfer bowl to electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 10 minutes.
4. Beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 5 to 10 minutes more.

cherry chili chocolate cupcakes

1. Fill the cooled cupcakes using the cone method with cherries. I used jarred cherries in syrup and included one whole one and some chopped up ones.
2. Frost.
3. Toast with a torch if you have one.

cherry chili chocolate cupcake

Chocolate, Pumpkin Cupcakes with Toasted Meringue Frosting11

Posted by chockylit in General (Sunday November 8, 2009 at 3:55 pm)

chocolate pumkpin cupcakes with meringue frosting

This recipe is clearly inspired by the colors and flavors of the season. To be honest, on a day filled with candy and chocolate, pumpkin cupcakes are almost too much. So while these were inspired by and for Halloween, I would skip it and try them for Thanksgiving instead.

I used a rich chocolate recipe to stand up to the heavy pumpkin recipe. I was half hoping the layers would stay fairly even, but somewhat expected that they wouldn’t. It looked like the chocolate batter was desperately trying to rise to the top with the pumpkin doing its best to keep it down. What resulted was evidence of the struggle with a wave pattern along the side of the cupcake and just a touch of chocolate poking through the top. The pumpkin batter (adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe) is nicely spicy with a pleasant moistness. It was a nice partner to the chocolate and the overall result has a spicy outcome. The frosting provides some added sweetness and visual interest.

These recipes work well for doing a two layered cupcake. One is mixed with an electric mixer and the other by hand. I can’t stress enough that you should pre-measure all ingredients and have them ready to go. Yes, you will dirty up a bunch of little bowls or plates, but it’s really the only way to ensure success. I measured out everything for both cupcake recipes and set them aside in order of use. I then mixed up the chocolate cupcake batter as it takes the longest. The pumpkin batter takes no time at all once everything is measured out. Just whisk together dry, whisk together wet, and whisk it all together. And don’t forget to preheat your oven to 375!

Chocolate Cupcakes

100 gram bar of Valrhona 61% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
1-1/2 sticks butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
4 eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. Add butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate melts and butter is combined.
3. Remove from heat and stir in sugar. Let mixture cool for 10 minutes.
4. Beat in an electric mixer for 3 minutes.
5. Add one egg at a time, mixing for 30 seconds between each
6. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt into the mixture, return to the electric mixer, and mix until blended.

chocolate pumkpin cupcake

Pumpkin Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse 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 (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together, brown sugar, granulated sugar, butter, eggs, and pumpkin puree.
3. Add dry ingredients to the wet and whisk until smooth.

Meringue Frosting

5 egg whites
1-1/4 cups sugar

1. Combine egg whites and sugar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a bain marie (water bath)
2. Whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved or preferably until the mixture reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit
3. Transfer bowl to electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 10 minutes
4. Beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 5 to 10 minutes more.

frosting cupcakes

Baking and Assembly
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Scoop chocolate batter to fill cupcake cups 1/3 full.
3. Cover with the pumpkin batter up to 2/3 full.
4. Transfer to the oven, turn the oven down to 350 F, and bake for ~22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a baking rack.
6. Once fully cooled, frost with meringue frosting and toast with a blow torch. Toasting is optional.
7. Top with candy corn, candy pumpkin, or whatever you wish.

Cherry Chocolate Cupcakes with Fennel Meringue Frosting16

Posted by chockylit in Advanced Techniques,Chocolate,Herbs & Flowers,Other Fruits (Monday February 20, 2006 at 12:52 pm)

I wasn’t planning on baking this weekend. I was planning on “taking the weekend off”. But all it took was my friend asking, “What about cupcakes for Sunday night?”, and I was all over it. Any excuse to bake, I guess.

I was pressed for time, so I went with the cherry chocolate cupcakes again. Mostly because they were so good, my cousin hadn’t tried them yet, and I had all the ingredients. I did change the frosting from fennel cream cheese to fennel meringue because I was itching to use the blow torch.

The cherry chocolate cupcake is, I am convinced, a great recipe and a crowd pleaser. The meringue frosting is a bit tricky, and I need to work on the recipe some, but I am providing it here for the adventurous.

Fennel Meringue Frosting

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
4 egg whites

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of sugar and the water in a small pan over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
2. Crush the fennel seeds slightly with a mortar and pestle.
3. Add the crushed seeds to the sugar and let boil over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is somewhat syrupy. See step 6 for what to consider when cooking the sugar syrup.
4. Whisk the egg whites and 1 cup of sugar over a water bath in the standing mixer bowl until it reaches a temperature of 110 degrees fahrenheit. This only takes only a couple of minutes.
5. Transfer to standing mixer and whisk using whisk attachment at high speed until soft peaks form.
6. Drizzle fennel syrup into the mixer. This part can be tricky. For one, you don’t want the syrup too watery or it can deflate the meringue. But if the syrup is cooked too much it could harden. Aim for a soft ball stage. If you see the meringue start to deflate put less of the syrup in and all of the fennel seeds.

Note: Once again, I had a lot of frosting left over. So, I spread it out on a silpat covered baking sheet, threw it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, turned off the oven and left it there while we ate dinner. The result was like a big fennel, meringue cookie that was crispy, chewy, and tasty.

1. Pipe meringue frosting onto cupcakes using a large star tip.
2. Using a blow torch, brown the meringue.

Ricotta Raspberry Almond Cupcakes with Citrus Meringue Frosting11

Posted by chockylit in Berries,Cheese,Citrus,Italian-Inspired,Nuts (Sunday September 11, 2005 at 10:10 am)

I made these ricotta raspberry almond cupcakes for “ladies night”. My aunt was having a bunch of overnight guests and I wanted to make an adult-tasting dessert that matched the Italianesque meal of roasted chicken. I also wanted the cupcakes to be fun, as I knew we wouldn’t be digging into them until after many martinis.

The cupcakes were what I hoped. Moist, sweet, and subtle almond flavor, balanced with the tartness of the raspberry. The ricotta gave it moistness and heartiness that I liked. The addition of the burnt butter almonds lended a crunchy texture, but I would say that they are definitely optional. The meringue frosting had a touch of citrus and was fairly sweet. At the end of it, many of us ended up with sticky pink frosting clinging to our faces.

~18 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

7 ounces almond paste (not marzipan)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 stick butter, unsalted/room temp
4 eggs, large/room temp
2/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup raspberries

1. beat almond paste at low speed to loosen up, about 30 seconds
2. gradually add sugar while beating at low speed
3. continue to beat at low speed for 1 minute or so
4. add the ricotta and beat to combine
5. while beating at low speed, add a tablespoon of butter at a time, waiting for the butter to incorporate until adding the next pat
6. stop the mixer, scrape the bowl, beat at medium for about 2 minutes until fluffy
7. crack eggs into a bowl and break up with a fork
8. at low speed gradually add eggs about a tablespoon at a time, waiting for the eggs to incorporate until adding the next bit
9. beat again at medium speed for about 2 minutes
10. measure out flour, salt, and baking powder into a bowl and whisk to combine
11. with a rubber spatula, fold flour mixture into the cake batter until combined
12. fold in raspberries
13. scoop batter into cupcake liners, fill about 1/2 inch from the top (3/4 full)
14. bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean

[optional] Burnt Butter Almonds

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 cup almond slices

1. toast almond slices on a cookie sheet in a 350 degrees oven for about 10 minutes or until brown, stir almonds around occasionally, remove from oven and let cool
2. add butter to a skillet over medium heat
3. melt butter, let foam subside
4. add brown sugar and stir to combine
5. let mixture cook for about 3-5 minutes, it should be thick and sticky looking
6. add toasted almond slices and stir to coat

Citrus Meringue Frosting

1 cup egg whites (from approximately 7-8 eggs)
2 cups sugar
3 drops orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped

1. combine egg whites and sugar into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a bain marie (water bath)
2. whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved or preferably until the mixture reaches 110 degrees fahrenheit
3. transfer bowl to electric mixer, beat on medium speed for 10 minutes
4. add orange juice, zest, and a drop of red gel food coloring
5. beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 2 to 5 minutes more

1. spoon some almonds onto each cooled cupcake
2. dollop a heaping tablespoon of meringue on top of that
3. using your finger pull the meringue down to cover the top of the cupcake, the frosting is very sticky and you want it to basically attach itself to the cupcake liner
4. using your finger poke the top of frosting to make a nice shape and some interesting peaks
5. using a blow torch, brown the meringue.

If I was feeling especially ambitious, which I wasn’t because I was out all day and got home kind of late, I would have made homemade almond paste and homemade ricotta cheese. I would expect that substituting homemade ingredients would provide a more delicate outcome.

Recipe: Lime Custard Cupcake with Meringue Frosting4

Posted by chockylit in Advanced Techniques,Citrus,Step-by-Step Photos (Sunday July 10, 2005 at 1:24 pm)

Custards like this are normally baked off in ramekins in a water bath. In this case, they were baked in a cupcake pan with liners set in a jelly role pan which is then filled 1/2 way full with boiling water.

The Result
The Good: Tasty. Not too sweet by any stretch. Subtle lime flavor. Very moist.

The Bad: Too moist. I wanted a cakier and yolkier result. It was too egg-whitey… hopefully, with these made up adjectives, you know what I mean.

makes nearly 24 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

6 large eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (from approximately 3-4 limes)
2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

It’s best to prepare the ingredients in advance of starting the recipe. Separate the eggs, measure out the sugar and flour, zest then juice the limes, measure out the milk, and get the salt handy.

1. preheat oven to 350°, boil a kettle of water, and line the cupcake pans with liners.
2. in a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light yellow
3. whisk in the flour
4. gradually whisk in the lemon juice
5. whisk in the milk and zest
7. with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form
8. add to lemon batter and gently whisk together
9. transfer into a container that is easy to pour from (i used a plastic pitcher)
10. pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pans, just about filling each cavity with batter
11. pour the boiling water into the jelly role pan, until just about half full
12. *carefully* place the pans into the oven

mise en place

whisking flour into egg/sugar mixture

pouring liquidy batter into cupcake pan

setting up hot water bath

Meringue Frosting

1 cup egg whites (from approximately 7-8 eggs)
2 cups sugar
3 drops lime juice

1. combine the ingredients into the mixing bowl of your stand mixer and set over a bain marie (water bath)
2. whisk by hand for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved or preferably until the mixture reaches 110 degrees fahrenheit
3. beat on medium speed for 10 minutes
4. beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about 5 to 10 minutes more

1. dollup a heaping tablespoon of meringue on top of a cooled cupcake
2. using your finger poke the frosting to make a nice shape and some interesting peaks
3. using a blow torch, brown the meringue.

fun with fire

NOTES: You need to move quickly with the frosting. Don’t even start making it until the cupcakes are cool. If you must hold the frosting for any period of time, keep it going on slow speed in the mixer so it won’t get stiff. This stuff is sticky… I got it pretty much all over me. When browning the meringue, move the flame quickly as the meringue can burn (even light on fire). I used paper liners as that’s what I had, but I recommend the silver ones in this case.

Lemon Cupcakes with Bitters, Sorrel, and Toasted Meringue25

Posted by in Citrus,Drink-Inspired,Experimental Recipe,Herbs & Flowers (Sunday January 6, 2008 at 3:59 pm)

Lemon Cupcakes with Bitters, Sorrel, and Toasted Meringue

January and citrus are a natural pair when it comes to me and cupcakes. As is typical, I ate too much chocolate and too many sweets over the holidays and really had to dig deep to find the motivation to even think of baking. But dig deep I did… Well, actually, I perused the latest issue of Imbibe (I will admit I have a recipe and photo featured in an article about cooking with tea) and stumbled on many a drink recipe that provided just the inspiration I needed.

I settled quickly on bitters as a way to counteract my overindulgence in sweets. I love bitters. Likely because I love(d) to drink Manhattans. This combination came from a couple different drink recipes (both by Lance J. Mayhew of Meriwether’s in Portland, Oregon). The bitterness and tartness of bitters and lemon appealed to my post-holiday’s sensibilities. I decided on a lemon chiffon cake to keep it light and meringue for the same reason. The end result is a pillow of sweet/bitter/tartness that is quite sophisticated (especially for a cupcake). This recipe likely won’t be for everyone and I will be interested to see how they go over at work tomorrow. I was pleased with the experience though.

Lemon Cupcakes
~20 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

1-1/2 cups flour (cake if you have it, otherwise all-purpose)
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup grape seed oil or vegetable oil
4 egg yolks (approximately 3 ounces)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon extract, all natural
grated rind from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon bitters
5 egg whites (approximately 5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1/4 cup sugar

1. Sift flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder into the bowl of a standing mixer.
2. In a medium bowl, combine oil, egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon extract, lemon rind, and bitters. Stir to combine.
3. On a low setting, start to beat the dry mixture and slowly add the wet. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat until incorporated.
4. Transfer mixture to another bowl. Wash and dry mixer bowl.
5. Whip egg whites with whip attachment on medium-high speed until foamy. With the mixer on medium speed, add cream of tarter and slowly add sugar. Beat on high speed until stiff peaks form.
6. Scoop a cupful of the stiff egg whites into the batter and stir to combine. This should lighten up the batter.
7. Transfer the batter to the egg whites and gently fold until there are no more streaks of egg white.
8. Scoop into cupcake cups about 2/3s full and bake at 350 F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

batter & egg whites
step 6

lemon cupcakes with bitters
baked cupcakes

Sorrel Simple Syrup

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chopped Sorrel

1. Add sugar and water to a small saucepan set over medium high heat.
2. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until fairly thick, about 2 minutes
3. Transfer to a small bowl. Stir in Sorrel and set aside to cool.

Sorrel Meringue Frosting

1/2 cup sugar
3 egg whites
Sorrel simple syrup
Splash of Bitters

1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar over a water bath in the standing mixer bowl until it reaches a temperature of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This only takes only a few of minutes.
2. Transfer to standing mixer and whisk using whisk attachment at high speed until soft peaks form.
3. With the mixer on medium speed, drizzle sorrel syrup into the mixer. Splash in a bit of bitters. Beat on high until stiff peaks form.


1. Pipe meringue frosting.
2. Toast with a culinary or blow torch.

piping meringue

All About Frosting – The Recipes42

Posted by chockylit in Cheese,Chocolate,Step-by-Step Photos (Tuesday December 11, 2007 at 11:13 pm)

chocolate ganache

I get many a question about frosting. I thought I would compile my thoughts on the subject in two part series of posts – a sort of one stop shop for all things frosting… from my perspective, of course! First up… the recipes.

Chocolate Ganache

Chocolate ganache frosting is one of my favorite frostings to use. Why? Let me count the ways. One, because I love chocolate. Two, because the taste is very “adult” and not too sweet. Three, because it’s practically no fail and adaptable to what I have on hand.

Reviewing my posts, I apparently have as many ganache recipes as I do posts with ganache recipes – a testament to its versatility. If I get one point across about ganache it is that ganache is indeed adaptable to your personal taste and preference.

Ganache is typically made by bringing heavy cream to a simmer then pouring over chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, stirring to combine, and then adding remaining ingredients – pretty straightforward.

The typical ganache recipe I use contains the following ingredients:

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

I have used as little as 6 ounces of chocolate with 1 cup of cream, as that is all I had on hand, and it worked out fine. I have also interchanged various types of chocolate, bittersweet, semi-sweet, different brands, etc. It changes the flavor of the ganache but not the outcome. The exception is with milk and white chocolate which don’t come up to spreadable consistency using this basic ingredient list.

I like to use Valrhona, 61% cocoa or higher, for its intense, full-bodied, earthy chocolate flavor. I have tried to stay local and use Scharffenberger, which I like to eat on its own, but I find it too bright and tangy to bake with. I have used Ghirardelli in a pinch. While I don’t like the flavor as much as Valrhona it’s an acceptable alternative and readily available in most grocery stores. The brand is really up to you, but the quality of the chocolate makes a big difference in flavor so spring for the good stuff if you can.

How I treat the ganache depends on the cupcake I am making. If I want a very adult flavor I will stick to the basic recipe (see above) and either pour it on, spread it on, or beat it then spread it on.

Poured Chocolate Ganache

Poured chocolate ganache results in a gorgeous, shiny layer of frosting that is very dramatic and very grown up. I used the method for my version of an “Opera” cupcake. Just let the mixture cool slightly and pour it onto the cupcake (or cake) before it starts to thicken. It will thicken in place and stay very shiny if you don’t touch it. Top it with something special – white chocolate dipped candied ginger, an edible flower pedal, or a smuggled dragée. Very classy…

Spread Chocolate Ganache

Cupcakes often form an attractive dome rising over top the cupcake paper. I like this look (more cupcake!) but it doesn’t support the poured ganache method. When spreading ganache, let the mixture come to room temperature, stirring occasionally, until it’s spreadable. Then spread a relatively thin layer on to the cooled cupcake with a small palette knife. To get a smooth finish, dip the palette knife in hot water, wipe dry, and then smooth the frosting.

I use this method when I want a small, but intense quantity of frosting… when I want to have the flavor of chocolate without overwhelming whatever else is going on. See examples of this method here, here, and here.

Beaten Chocolate Ganache

If you want the intense flavor of a straight up ganache, but still want to pipe it on because, well, it looks so nice piped on, then beat the cooled ganache with an electric mixer fixed with the paddle attachment for a few minutes. This will incorporate air and increase the volume of the frosting without diluting the flavor. The ganache will lighten in color compared to the unbeaten version. See an example here.

Whipped Chocolate Ganache

I have been exploring a variation on ganache that is sweeter than the simple version just discussed. I use this when I want the cupcake to appeal to child and adult alike. It’s more akin to a chocolate buttercream, but with a more intense chocolate flavor. I have experimenting with various versions of this approach.

Version 1 – Basic Ganache but with Butter and Powdered Sugar

This is basically a mixture of ganache and buttercream. Most chocolate buttercream recipes use cocoa or just a small amount of melted chocolate beat into the butter and sugar. This method of making the ganache first then beating in butter and sugar makes for a more chocolate tasting frosting.

See examples here and here

Version 2 – A Totally Different Take

I first saw this method in a book by pastry chef Emily Luchetti. I have definitely tweaked it significantly since I first tried it many years ago. The recipe includes bittersweet, semi-sweet, and unsweetened chocolate and can be tailored to your personal taste by simply adjusting the quantities of the various chocolates while keeping the overall quantity the same. For example, to make it sweeter, increase the semisweet by a couple of ounces and decrease the bittersweet or unsweetened. The unsweetened chocolate imparts a rich cocoa flavor, the bittersweet gives the frosting bite, and the semi-sweet sweetens the whole thing up.

See examples here, here, and here

There are other recipes and methods out there, of course. I plan to try recipe on David Llebovitz’ site which uses water instead of cream. I know that dairy products mellow the flavor of the chocolate, but I have also been hesitant to combine chocolate and water for fear the chocolate will seize. I hope to post about my attempt soon.


cherry-vanilla cupcakes

There is nothing more frustrating to many readers than buttercream frosting. A classic and main stay, buttercream is also one of the sweetest frostings of the bunch often too sweet for the average adult. I however love American-style buttercream especially paired with a simple cake and in moderation. This post has a pretty typical recipe for American-style buttercream. I understand though that not everyone is a fan. So if I am serving cupcakes to adults I typically do not use buttercream! The only exception I have found is with this recipe, somehow the mint makes the frosting more palatable.

American Style Buttercream

American-style buttercream is simply butter beat with confectioners’ sugar and a little vanilla and a little milk. In order to get to a piping consistency a lot of sugar is required. This results in a very sweet frosting. Like I said I actually like this. I have a sweet tooth though and not everyone does. There is no way I know of to decrease the sweetness of this frosting.

Swiss and Italian Style Buttercream

There are less-sweet alternatives to American style buttercream, Swiss and Italian style buttercreams for example, but these frostings have a different quality that I simply don’t like. They leave a film in my mouth and taste as though they are made with vegetable shortening even if they weren’t. I can’t stand them! Just like I can’t stand Génoise cake, but that is for a different post. But you might like them. Its worth trying for yourself before ruling these styles of buttercream frostings out of your repertoire.

The bad news is that I don’t have any recipes for Swiss or Italian style buttercream frostings. In this case, google is your friend.

Cream Cheese

sweet corn cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting

Cream cheese frosting is my friend. It is my very favorite frosting to use. It’s always a crowd pleaser and balances out the sweetness of any cake well. I work with two versions. One has a higher proportion of cream cheese. It is tangy, on the soft side, and my preference for recipes where I want to really taste the cream cheese (carrot cake, hummingbird cake, red velvet, etc). The second version has less cream cheese. The cream cheese tang is more subtle and its really just there to balance the sweetness of the sugar. I use that recipe as an alternative to buttercream for just about any cake.

Cream cheese frosting takes on flavor very well. Just to give you an idea, this recipe uses Thai Ice Tea as a flavor, this recipe uses citrus, this uses ginger and this uses tarragon. But there are more, just peruse the table of contents to find other flavor suggestions.

I have jut started using the “buttercream alternative” method. Here are some examples, one with matcha and one with salted caramel. But any of the above cream cheese recipes can be adjusted to this method by simply decreasing the amount of cream cheese and increasing the amount of butter.

Meringue Frosting

The thing I love about meringue frosting is how easy it is to have a dramatic presentation. It’s sweet, but not sweet as butter cream. It takes flavor well, but don’t try to add a substantial amount of liquid. It will collapse. Small amounts of extracts (vanilla, mint, lemon), spices, very thick flavored simple syrup, or crushed things (like red hots). And the best thing about meringue is that you can take your culinary torch to it.

Whipped Cream

I don’t use whipped cream very often. It’s just not terribly exciting. I pair it with a cupcake that is plenty exciting on its own like this one. It is very easy to adjust the sweetness though. So, if you have a very sweet cake, whipped cream is a good option. Beware, it doesn’t hold well. So if you use it, keep the whipped cream refrigerated until you are ready to use it and frost the cupcakes just before serving.

There are of course other frosting options, but this is all I have for now. Part 2 of the series will cover frosting technique, frequently asked questions, and more on flavoring frostings.

Next Page »