Sunday, August 21, 2011

Black Forest (-esque) Cupcakes

When I arrived home earlier this week, I was greeted with mixed messages:
  • We're so happy to have you back, and we're never letting you go again. Now you better get a job and move out soon.
  • I know you like to bake and will have a lot of free time to do so, but if you make me fat I'll be furious. Now make something with those cherries because they're going bad.

I was happy enough to oblige with the request to bake something with cherries, and respectfully reminded my mom that I would never force her to eat anything I'd baked. I'm simply here to create and offer delicious goodies. The effects of consuming such treats — well, that's on the consumer.

I found several recipes for Black Forest Cake (a cherry soaked chocolate cake) and decided to make something with similar characteristics, but slightly different — Black Forest-esque, if you will. 

I pulled these cupcakes together with inspiration from several sources. I decided on a Black Forest concept after flipping through one of the new cupcake books I got for my birthday. I decided on cherry stuffed cupcakes topped with whipped cream after reading about them on Cupcake Project, and I made a chocolate cake based on a recipe at Cupcake Blog


Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cake (adapted from Cupcake Blog)
Recipe makes 18 cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate shavings
  • 1 shot espresso
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

NOTES ON THE RECIPE:
  • I used chocolate shavings instead of cocoa powder because Chockylit added a note under her recipe that the quality of cocoa powder was really important. The best quality cocoa powder I could find in my pantry was some ancient Hershey's cocoa powder. I was afraid to risk it and used chocolate shavings from a William and Sanoma hot chocolate mix instead. This gave me a yellow cake with lots of chocolate bits. For a fully chocolate cake, use cocoa powder.
  • The original recipe also called for 2 tablespoons of instant espresso powder, but I wanted to use the fancy espresso maker, so I made a shot instead. If you use powder espresso, incorporate it with the rest of your dry ingredients.
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 18 muffin cups
  • Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes)
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated 
  • In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate or cocoa powder (if you use espresso powder, add it here as well)
  • In a measuring cup, measure out milk and add vanilla and espresso
  • Add about a third of your dry mixture to batter, followed by a third of the milk mixture. Continue until both are fully incorporated
  • Distribute batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 of the way full
  • Bake for 23-25 minutes

Cherry Filling (Recipe adapted from Cupcake Project):
  • About 2 cups fresh dark cherries, pitted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (or a similar liqueur)
Directions:
  • Throw all ingredients in a pot
  • Bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Remove from heat and mix in brandy
  • Allow to cool before using

NOTES:
  • I pitted my cherries using a fancy new cherry pitter (thanks Mom!) However, when I made Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies and Cherry Crumb Muffins, I pitted all of the cherries with a knife by cutting them in half and then gauging out the pit. It takes a bit longer and you have to be mindful of your fingers, but works just fine.
  • So Fancy!
  • You could (and probably should) carefully plan out just how many cherries you need to use instead of just measuring out two cups worth. Figure you'll want about two full, pitted cherries per cupcake depending on the size of the space. I didn't count in advance and ended up filling some of my cupcakes with two cherries, and others with only one. 

Brandy Flavored Whipped Cream (Recipe adapted from Cupcake Project)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
Directions:

  • Pour heavy cream into a medium sized bowl and beat until it looks like whipped cream (about 5 minutes)
  • Add flavors and beat until incorporated
See that dog in the corner? Always watching, waiting for something to fall
Assembly:
  • Cut the centers out of your cupcakes, saving the tops for later
  • Eat the center of the cupcake — you only need to save the top 1/2 cm or so to place on top of the cherry filling 
  • With a fork, place cherries into cupcake centers and replace tops
  • Brush tops of cherries with cherry juice (poking holes in the cupcakes will help distribute the flavor, but isn't necessary since the cupcakes are already so spongey)
  • Pipe whipped cream on top of cupcakes

I struggled with piping the whipped cream, or rather, with filling up a piping bag of whipped cream. I made a huge mess! Better luck to you!

...but keep plenty of paper towels and soap on standby so you're prepared to clean up a big whipped cream mess if you need to.

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