The Pie is kicking butt and taking names with the Memorial University Geographical Society (MUGS) this term, and he volunteered me to be the official caterer for the group. Last week MUGS held two open houses. For the first, I whipped up a batch of Miss Awesome’s espresso cookies (because all undergrads need a little caffeine) and a batch of margarine chocolate chip cookies (with Caramilk inside each one, à la the Rolo cookies). For the second, I decided to create two dozen of these cupcakes.
While chocolate and vanilla actually go quite well together, most people consider them to be opposites of each other. As this is a geographical society, why not have the chocolate and the vanilla represent both poles on our planet? Sure, it’s a stretch, I know, but bear with me. Both of these batter recipes contain buttermilk, which is one of my favourite baking ingredients, and they both come from Baking Bites.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake liners.
For the Chocolate Cupcakes:
In a large bowl, whisk together 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder.
In a smaller bowl, whisk together 1 egg, 6 tablespoons water, 6 tablespoons buttermilk, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
Alas, I forgot the melted butter in the microwave until it was too late. It looks so sad and neglected.
Pour your wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk like crazy until you get no more floury bits floating around.
Fill 12 of the muffin cups with chocolate-y batter. It’s easy if you use a spoon.
For the Vanilla Cupcakes:
In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 cup granulated sugar with 1/4 cup room temperature butter until fluffy.
Beat in 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon almond extract until the mixture is smooth.
Pour in half your flour mixture and stir until almost combined. Add in 1 cup buttermilk and mix again, then the rest of the flour mixture, and beat until all the ingredients are combined.
Fill the other 12 muffin cups with that batter.
Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the centre cupcake comes out clean.
Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before using a fork to remove them to a cooling rack to cool completely. I wish now that I had used large cupcake liners instead of medium ones. Ah well, what’s done is done.
For the Frosting:
Nothing says holy-crap-this-frosting-is-awesome like ganâche (well, at least, if you’re ME because I’m weird like that), and for me this is the easiest thing in the world to do.
Start by chopping up about 6 ounces each of dark and white chocolate.
Plop the pieces in microwave-safe bowls and pop them in the microwave. Nuke ‘em on medium power, stirring a few times in between, for about 5 minutes, or until the chocolate is smooth and liquid. The white chocolate will likely melt long before the dark does, so keep an eye on it so as not to burn it.
Stirring the whole time, add 1 cup room temperature whipping cream into each chocolate. The warmer your cream, the less lumpy your ganâche will be, but the longer it will take to set. Keep that in mind.
Now, because I want something a little firmer than my usual ganâche, I’m going to add some icing sugar. Start with 1 cup icing sugar and add more until you come to the consistency you like. Chuck the frostings in the fridge for a bit to set.
For the Writing Icing:
I was originally going to write on these cupcakes using store-bought piping gel, just because the results are easy and predictable. It then occurred to me, however, that I’d purchased these gels to make a cake for the baby shower for a co-worker’s first child. This was like three jobs ago, in a different province, and I think the little girl is five years old now. It might be time to get rid of those.
Instead, I decided to make a sort of royal icing and pipe it on myself. So I started with two small bowls filled with 1 cup icing sugar each, a few tablespoons water, and some food colouring.
Add a little bit of the water to the icing sugar and stir until you get a good consistency. Likewise, add some food colouring to the mix.
I think this looks so weirdly neat.
Add more icing sugar or food colouring until you reach your desired colour and texture and set those aside.
Remember that this type of icing is kind of like a non-Newtonian fluid, so its physical properties might not be exactly what you expect. AHA! SCIENCE! I like to sneak in a little learning on you now and then. Sorry.
Start by smearing your ganâche on your cupcakes, dark for the chocolate, and white for the vanilla. Or the opposite. Whatever floats your boat.
Grate a little bit of dark chocolate on the surface of the vanilla cupcakes, and a little bit of white chocolate on the chocolate cupcakes.
Looks pretty, right? Now we’re going to de-classy it a little bit.
Spoon your coloured icing into a piping bag and start writing.
You probably don’t want to write MUGS on your cupcakes. Unless you do. In which case, why?
Store them in the fridge to keep them fresh, and enjoy them as you will. I think they look a little like Franken-cupcakes, but the Pie likes the look of ‘em, and he’s the boss. I have no idea how they taste, either, because there weren’t any extras. But I can only assume that they are passably tolerable, just like everything else I do!