Saturday, March 20, 2010

School Pride Cupakes & Vanilla Bean Paste

Purple and Gold. Those were my high school colors.  They're also the colors of Williams College, where I teach now.  I can't escape them!  It's been a long time since I wore that little purple and gold skirt to dance at halftime... these days I show my school spirit a little differently.  With cupcakes!  Congratulations to the Williams College basketball team for making it to the Div 3 NCAA Championships!
You've seen this chocolate cake recipe before, it's my go-to chocolate cake.  I have several other recipes I'd really like to try, but it's hard to make myself stray. What are the chances that I'll like those more than this one?  I only came to this one after spending 3 hours one day reading pages and pages of an egullet thread on the best chocolate cake recipe ever.  It's like when you're at a restaurant, and although several tasty dishes try to pull you to commit, you end up ordering the same thing you did the last 20 times you ate there.  Granted, I don't have that problem all too often, since most restaurants offer only a few vegetarian options - but I do tend to order the "usual" even when I do have choices.  Hell, the baristas at my local coffee shop start pouring my iced tea before I even get to the counter!

Ok, but let's talk about the real wow factor in these cupcakes - it's the vanilla bean paste in the frosting.  Have you ever used vanilla bean paste?  It's much less scary than an actual vanilla bean, but much more flavorful than extract.  The frosting tastes almost like vanilla ice cream, and it's beautifully speckled with vanilla throughout.

if you don't go crazy with the butter, the frosting is light and creamy, not overly sweet like powdered sugar frosting can sometimes be, without making you feel like you've just eaten an entire stick of butter.  I know what you're thinking, but no 4 sticks of butter is not going crazy with the butter, given the amount of whites in the recipe. This makes a lot of frosting. If you have extra, store it in the fridge for a few days or freeze for up to a month.  If you are of the Paula Deen, butter is better, ilk, throw in another half a stick, and add a smidge more vanilla too. 

For the Cupcakes:  makes ~30 cupcakes  (adapted from Epicurious)

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee (I used hazelnut coffee)
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 300°F and line muffin tins with cupcake wrappers (or just spray with baking spray, I often skip the wrappers).

Finely chop the chocolate and place in a medium bowl; pour hot coffee over the chocolate. Let stand for one minute, then stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap to keep liquid from evaporating.

Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

In another large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer).  Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well.  Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

Fill muffin tins about 2/3-3/4 of the way full.  I got about 36 cupcakes. Bake until a toothpick just comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes.  Cool completely.

For the Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

7-8 egg whites (a little over a cup, about 8.5 ounces)
2.5 cups sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 sticks butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (you can use extract if you don't have paste)

In a large heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, whisk together egg whites and sugar until sugar is melted and mixture reaches 140-150 degrees on a candy thermometer, 7 to 10 minutes.

Transfer mixture to the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on high until stiff peaks form, 12 to 15 minutes. Add cream of tartar and beat for one minute more.  If the bowl is still warm to the touch, continue beating.

Make sure your butter is soft, but not melted.  I usually microwave each stick for about 15 seconds, and then squeeze it to make sure it's pliable.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla; beat until well combined, about 2 minutes.


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1 comment:

  1. sounds excellent and what a great top photo!!!