salt & pepper cupcake

These cupcakes sound more challenging to the palate then they are. I think it’s all the chocolate… The foundation of this cupcake includes two basic recipes – chocolate cupcakes and chocolate ganache. I decided to use the low-flour chocolate cupcake recipe I like and to sub out the wheat flour for quinoa flour and make them gluten-free. No one noticed a difference. If you are looking to make gluten-free, this is a great recipe to use. Your gluten-free friends will be very happy.

I really thought this recipe would end up being all concept with no real flavor excitement, but I was wrong. The pink peppercorn cream paired extremely well with the salted toffee. Those two things with the chocolate were just great. A couple of people weren’t into the pepper flavor and just scooped out the filling and ate the rest, but for the most part everyone enjoyed the cupcake. So, I guess whether or not this combination is a challenge to the palate depends on who you are. So far only the wasabi, white chocolate cupcakes I made in 2008 were too much for me…

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
~28 regular-sized cupcakes / 350 degree oven

7 ounces (200 grams) Valrhona 85% cacao (or any bittersweet chocolate)
3 sticks (343 grams) butter
2-1/4 cups (445 grams) sugar
8 eggs
1-1/4 cups (180 grams) quinoa flour, gluten-free (or all purpose flour for non-gluten free)
1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 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, 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.

Chocolate Ganache

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate like Valrhona 61% cocao
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups powdered sugar

1. Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of your standing mixer.
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 vanilla and butter. Stir until butter is melted. Let cool to room temperature.
5. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl and mix until fluffy.

salt & pepper cupcake
filled cupcake

Pink Peppercorn Cream

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
pink peppercorn

1. Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and whisk until combined.
2. Add grindings of the pepper tasting occasionally until you are happy with it. I made it fairly strong as its a small component to the cupcake and will otherwise get overpowered by the chocolate.

toffee in the making
toffee in the making

Salted Toffee

3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon water
1 cup sugar
1-2 tablespoons large grained salt

1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring everything to a boil. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
2. The mixture will start to boil with vigor. Do not stir. Let the mixture boil over medium-low heat until the mixture turns a deep nutty brown, about 20 minutes
3. Pour on to a prepared baking sheet (either covered in a silpat or oiled parchment paper). After a minute or so, sprinkle with salt. I used pink, Hawaiian salt.
4. Leave it to cool.
5. After the toffee has cooled, break it into small chunks.

Note: I like my toffee very dark – almost burnt. Getting the toffee just right for your taste can be a challenge. I think a nutty brown is a good place to start. One additional warning, if you cook it very long you could nearly ruin your pan or at a minimum create bunch of cleanup work for yourself. Don’t use your favorite pot or pan!

pink salt(ed) toffee
salted toffee

1. Fill the cooled cupcakes using the cone method.
2. Frost.
3. Top off with the toffee chunks, a little more salt (if desired), and a decoration (if you want).

salt & pepper cupcake

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