It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
Not so much outside, because in San Diego every day looks like mid-June. But I put up a tiny string of lights and set out my Christmas snow globe.
Plus I’m freezing right now. So, it’s basically Christmas!!!
I live in a shoebox-sized apartment, and it’s not some giant Shaq-sized shoe either. It’s more like a child’s size 6. Storage is at a premium in this place, and I don’t even own cake pans because there is nowhere to put them!
Hence the cupcakes. I do (obviously) own a muffin tin so here we are.
I’m not a cupcake lover because so often they’re dry and blah—like we won’t notice sub-par cake because it’s so cute?—but these cupcakes are from America’s Test Kitchen. And as far as I’m concerned they have the hands-down best recipes out there.
These cupcakes are intense. They’re oh-so chocolatey because they’re made with cocoa powder and chopped bittersweet chocolate, with a heavy dose of coffee to deepen the chocolate’s flavor.
And did I mention the ganache? No? Well they are filled with peppermint ganache.
You’ll notice a weird (for cupcakes) ingredient though: bread flour. The bread flour makes these sturdier than your average cupcake—if you’re a baking nerd like me and want an in-depth discussion of why, see America’s Test Kitchen Best Recipes of 2011.
I like to make a fancy cake for Christmas dinner and this year as I was dreaming up ideas I couldn’t get this out of my head—a jaunty red stripe on a white frosting backdrop. Adding the swirl is super easy—I learned this technique in a cake decorating class I took forever ago and use it often. (Yes. Cake decorating. What? I have my own kind of fun.)
To achieve stripes, paint two thin stripes of gel food coloring inside a piping bag, carefully fill the bag with frosting, then pipe away. I used a paintbrush I got at Walmart. It’s just like the kind you’d find in a kid’s box of watercolors—very narrow.
I took a picture to illustrate about how thin to make your stripes; I hope this helps you visualize what you’re doing even though I used a clear plastic bag to illustrate the point. Someday I’ll plan better and not try to take a picture of something translucent. Someday, people!
Not a peppermint fan? Omit it from the ganache and make the frosting of your choice. Vanilla, peanut butter, chocolate maybe? You can’t go wrong because these cupcakes are so right.
The red swirl technique is fun but if you don’t want to get fancy you can leave the frosting white or just add food coloring at the end to get a nice monochrome. To frost these cupcakes I used a 16-inch disposable piping bag with this large star tip. You can use any tip you like though.
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped very fine
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped very fine
- 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup hot coffee
- 3/4 cup bread flour
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs and 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 to 3 teaspoons milk or cream (as much as necessary to get frosting to the proper consistency)
- 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Red gel food coloring
- 12 peppermint hard candies, crushed (optional)
- Place the chocolate, heavy cream, and powdered sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 20 to 30 seconds, until mixture is just warm to the touch and shiny. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Whisk in peppermint extract and stir to combine. Refrigerate 15 to 20 minutes, until mixture is just chilled. Do not refrigerate longer than 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
- Place the bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Pour hot coffee over the chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Refrigerate until completely chilled, about 20 minutes.
- Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together and set aside.
- Whisk the vegetable oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into the chocolate-coffee mixture until mixture is smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk to combine.
- Divide batter between muffin cups. Place one rounded teaspoon of ganache onto each cupcake.
- Bake in preheated oven until cupcakes are set and barely firm, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cupcakes for 10 minutes in the tin, then remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
- Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With mixer on low, beat in powdered sugar, peppermint extract, and salt, then turn mixer to high and beat 3-4 minutes more, scraping the bowl as necessary. Add milk or cream 1 teaspoon at a time if necessary to thin the frosting to a spreadable/pipe-able consistency.