Tuesday, October 26, 2010

And the winner is...Black Forest Cupcakes!

Sundays are often my day to bake and, frequently, that means experimenting with different cupcake flavors. Some flavors are unique and some borrowed from classic cakes, cookies or candy. This past Sunday, I played with concept of translating Black Forest Cake into cupcakes.

Although they don't look exactly as I'd envisioned them, they're still rather pretty in deep rich reds and cocoa browns. My husband and my colleagues seemed pleased with the final product as well.

This is a semi-homemade recipe (more about that later in the blog); it starts with a chocolate Devil's Food cake mix. I typically use egg beaters and applesauce (in lieu of whole eggs and oil or butter) when I bake from a mix. For the liquid, I chose a cup of espresso with a 1/3 cup of water. A splash of a good quality vanilla extract further enhanced the chocolate flavor and a few drops of almond extract to add just a hint of cherry.

Rich chocolate batter (6144)

Baking cupcakes (6157)

The cherry filling/topping is made by cooking frozen dark cherries in simple syrup.

Frozen Dark Cherries (6137)

Dark cherries cooking (6141)

Adding a little cornstarch and letting it come back up to a boil, thickens the sauce and gives it a beautiful sheen. Let the cherries as well as the cupcakes cool completely before bring them together.

Dark cherries glistening (6150)

Rather than make a buttercream for these, I used a basic ready-made vanilla icing. I piped the frosting around the perimeter of the cupcake top to form a well for the cherries to rest.

Black forest cupcake (6165)

A final touch of decadence to push these over the top? Mini-chocolate chips!

Black Forest Cupcake (6184)

And what did we learn? As I said, this was an experiment, which means I have some "take-aways" from my test batch.

Devil's Food Cake: It seems I'm always pulling chocolate cupcakes out just a smidge early. The cake tester comes out clean enough, and they taste fine but they tend to sink and/or shrink a bit. Under-baking is listed as a potential suspect.  Next time, I'll err on the other side of doneness and add a couple extra minutes to reduce the center slump (although it did give the cherries a nice area to fill).

Cherry Topping: I've made this as a filling in varying degrees of thickness before. As a topping, the cherries definitely can make due with far less liquid and should not be cooked as long to retain their lovely round shape, which is far less of a concern when used between layers of a cake.

Frosting: A buttercream might be preferable not only for flavor (who doesn't love the creamy sweetness of a well-made buttercream) but for texture; the store bought variety softens far too quickly and is a little sweeter than go-to recipe. A large round tip rather than a star tip would create a smoother surface for adding the chips (or chocolate shavings) to the edges. Alternately, given an amble supple of buttercream, this technique by EatAllAboutIt could work to create a nice well for the cherries and edge for the chocolate chips.

So I think I need a cute, catchy phrase or signature to close my posts -- especially the baking posts. But...a final answer will have to wait. I can't think of anything clever just now. Hasta la feasta, baby? (Maybe?)

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