Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chocolate Peppermint Mini Cupcakes


I want to share with you all some cupcakes I made for an event at my church before Christmas. They were absolutely fantastic. Lest you think I'm tooting my own horn, everyone at that little party kept telling me how much they liked these little beauties.

Yes, I did just use the phrase "tooting my own horn." Because that's how I roll. :)

I dare you to say you don't crave chocolate now!

Take a decadent brownie-like cupcake and top it with vanilla bean swiss meringue buttercream, crushed peppermints and rich chocolate ganache. This is what you get. Perfect for the holidays, of course, but also for any time of year and any occasion. Maybe you could whip some of these up for your sweetie, or just for yourself, on Valentine's day.

And ... drumroll please ... here is the recipe! Please go right now and make these cupcakes. You will not regret it! This recipe also works well as regular cupcakes. The cake recipe I posted here would also work very well as these cupcakes. Enjoy!

Midnight Mini-Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream, Crushed Peppermint and Chocolate Ganache

1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
1 cup (7 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) dutched cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons espresso powder
3/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
3 large whole eggs
1 3/4 (7 3/4 ounces) all purpose flour
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a heavy medium saucepan, whisk together the sugars, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In a separate small saucepan, heat water with espresso powder to boiling. Once boiling, pour the water a little at a time into the cocoa mixture, stirring constantly to prevent sticking. Continue stirring and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow to stand in the hot saucepan for 10 minutes.

Pour the hot cocoa mixture into a large mixing bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and extracts; beat on low for 10 seconds. Add the eggs and mix on low just until combined. Add the flour alternately with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing after each addition just until combined. The mixture will be fairly thin.

Spoon or pour the mixture into lined mini-muffin cups three-quarters full and bake in the preheated oven for 9 minutes or until the center springs back when touched lightly with your finger, being careful not to over-bake. Let cool for a minute or two, then remove from pan and cool completely on wire racks.

Top with a swirl of buttercream, a sprinkle of crushed candy canes, and a drizzle of dark chocolate sauce.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

3 large egg whites (3 ounces)
6 ounces (by weight) granulated sugar
Pinch salt
9 ounces unsalted butter, very soft but not melted (I leave mine out overnight)
1-2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste

Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt in the top portion of a double boiler, or in a pan set over (not touching) boiling water. Heat, whisking constantly until the mixture reaches 165 degrees F on a candy thermometer. The sugar will be completely dissolved by this temperature and will become frothy. Once the mixture reaches 165 degrees, pour through a strainer into the bowl of a stand mixer. You can mix this by hand, but it's much much easier in a stand mixer! Begin mixing on low, then on high until it comes to stiff peaks and the bowl is completely cool to the touch. Add the softened butter in all at once and mix on LOW speed until it comes together and becomes very creamy. This will take awhile and it may look curdled in the meantime. Don't worry, just keep mixing! Don't try to speed up the process by turning up the speed on your mixer. You will only ruin your buttercream that way. When the buttercream comes together and becomes creamy, add in your vanilla and mix on low until well-combined.

Dark Chocolate Sauce

1 cup (8 ounces) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
8 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, chopped

In a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, heat the cream, espresso powder and sugar until steaming. Whisk in the chocolate until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

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