“Chocolate makes the heart race,” my devilishly handsome friend Kimball once whispered in my ear. “But I tend not to like chocolate unless it’s very light or very thick,“ he warned. “Soufflés and fudge – yes. Cake and cupcakes – unequivocally no.” Unfortunately for Kimball, I find most fudge boring and soufflés needlessly temperamental.
Months later when I offered to bring dessert to a Fourth of July bash, I remembered my friend’s chocolate phobia and decided to take it on as a challenge by crafting a cupcake so perfect that he would drop his unwarranted disapproval of the cocoa-confection.
After researching the dry-cake phenomenon, I learned that chocolate cake often fails because recipes either call for less liquid fat than necessary, or require high temperatures that quickly suck the moisture out. Through a little culinary R&D, I discovered that buttermilk is the antidote to dry cake, and that the oven should be set to 325 degrees, which is 25 degrees lower than I would typically bake cake.
I’ve also discovered that non-chocoholics find chocolate cake topped with chocolate frosting daunting. To remedy this, I made a raspberry buttercream by folding fresh berries into butter and powdered sugar. The pale pink and slight tartness of the raspberry played perfectly with the rich chocolate cake.
Anxious that Kimball still wouldn’t love the creation, I added a chocolate raspberry ganache filling to ensure that the cupcake would transcend traditional levels of moist.
At first blush, Kimball decided that the cupcakes weren’t worth the trouble and opted to have one of the blueberry cupcakes that I brought instead. But by the end of the evening when I spotted him reaching for yet another blueberry cupcake, I’d convinced him to share a chocolate one with me instead. Miraculously, after a single bite Kimball was hooked! He proclaimed loudly enough for the entire party to hear that the chocolate cupcakes were the moistest he’d ever encountered. Needless to say, I never got my half of the cupcake.
I don’t think it’s presumptuous to say that Kimball’s heart will be racing a little more often now that he’s taken pleasure in my chocolate cupcakes. xx tt
Chocolate Cake Recipe – adapted from Barefoot Contessa, makes 12 cupcakes
· Butter for greasing pans
· 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
· 2 cups sugar
· ¾ cups cocoa powder
· 2 teaspoons baking soda
· 1 teaspoon baking powder
· 1 teaspoon kosher salt
· 1 cup buttermilk (make sure you shake it before use)
· ½ cup vegetable oil
· 2 extra-large eggs (room temperature)
· 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
· ½ cup freshly brewed hot coffee
· ½ cup dark rum
· Preheat oven to 325 degrees
· Line muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners
· Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt using a KitchenAid Mixer or electric beaters on low-speed
· In another bowl, combine buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla
· With mixer on low-speed, slowly add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients
· Add coffee and run, and blend on low until combined
· Pour batter into cupcake liners and bake for 35 minutes
· Cool for 30 minutes
Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
· 18-ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (or chopped chocolate bar)
· 2 ¼ cup heavy whipping cream
· 2 tablespoons raspberry jam
· Place chocolate into a medium bowl
· In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a slight boil
· Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for one minute, then whisk until smooth
· Add raspberry jam and whisk until combined
· Let cool before filling
Raspberry Buttercream Frosting
· 1 cup unsalted butter
· 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
· 3 cups powdered sugar
· 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
· 1 carton fresh raspberries
· Using a KitchenAid Mixer or electric beaters beat butter and powdered sugar on low speed until combined and then switch to medium-high speed for three minutes
· Add vanilla and cream, beat one more minute
· On low-speed, gradually add raspberries
· Continue to beat while craping down sides of the bowl intermittently, until combined
· Using a small melon baller, a knife, or the bottom of a frosting tip – gently cut a small circle in the center of each cupcake, and discard extra cake
· Spoon ganache into each hole until filled
· Place frosting into pastry bag
· Twist top of frosting bag, so that it does not squirt out of the wrong end
· Frost each cupcake by putting one squirt into the center of the cupcake, and then swirl from the outside rim of the cupcake into the center very slowly
· See video for instruction
· Place one raspberry on the center of each cupcake top
t+tTIP: Sweetly seduce your next date with a class on chocolate and wine pairings. Or for the more ambitious, learn how to create your own chocolate truffles at Saratoga Chocolates in the former Joseph Schmidt space.
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