Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Retro Desserts: Cream-filled Chocolate Cupcakes

My friend M and I decided to take a class at our local Sur La Table recently. The title was "Retro Desserts" and the menu included cream-filled chocolate cupcakes (think Hostess cupcakes), chocolate whoopie pies, baked doughnuts, and strawberry chiffon pies. The hands-down favorites were the cupcakes and the whoopie pies (recipe to come at a later date!).

I was never a huge fan of the Hostess cupcake growing up, but I certainly had it in my lunch from time to time. I guess you could say that although I wanted processed lunches like every other elementary schooler, I was likely a dessert snob from day one. These cupcakes are a great update on a "classic"... can you see vanilla bean flecks (I adore this vanilla bean paste) in the original? Don't think so.

Also? They were fun to make, even if it does include a large chunk of time for cooling/filling/frosting/decorating... and dishes. It was only my second attempt at a filled cupcake (using the cone method), but the results were impressive. I'm making several dozen to bring into work this week (update: it was a huge, huge success)! Check back later too. The cake recipe was so incredibly moist and delicious that I turned this cupcake recipe into a triple-layer cake for my husband's 30th birthday. Details to come!

Cream-filled Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 c. sour cream (low-fat or regular will do)
1 t. vanilla extract
2 c. flour
2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. cocoa powder
2 oz. dark chocolate (I used 1/3 c. bittersweet morsels)
1 cup water, boiling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two 12-cup muffin tins (or one muffin tin in two batches!).

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in eggs one at a time, followed by about half of the sour cream and all of the vanilla.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on, add about half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, followed by the remaining sour cream, followed by the remainder of the flour mixture, mixing well between additions. Mix just until no streaks of flour remain (overmixing flour = tough cupcakes).

Measure out 1 c. water in a glass measuring cup and microwave until boiling. Whisk cocoa powder and dark chocolate into the boiling water until well combined. Gradually pour "chocolate water" into the batter and stir (by hand—it will splatter if you use the mixer!) until uniform in color.

Evenly distribute batter into prepared baking cups. Bake for 15–17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the cakes spring back slightly when lightly pressed. Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling or frosting.

Vanilla Cream Filling:
3 T. flour
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract (or 1/2 scraped vanilla bean, etc.)

Whisk together the flour and milk and cook in a small saucepan over medium heat until thick. This will only take a few minutes. Stir continuously to avoid clumping and do not bring all the way to a boil. When thickened (consistency of a thin pudding), strain with a mesh strainer into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let cool completely to room temperature.

When the milk mixture is cool, cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl until light. Add in the milk/flour mixture and the vanilla and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 7 minutes, until light and very fluffy. Scrape into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (or a large zip-top plastic bag with the corner cut off) and set aside until ready to fill your cupcakes.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. cocoa powder
2–3 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. milk
1 t. vanilla extract

Cream butter well with an electric mixer. Add cocoa and powdered sugar alternately with milk. Add vanilla. Beat to smooth, thick (but still spreadable) consistency—add more milk a little at a time if needed. Taste often!

Take a completely cooled cupcake and, using a small paring knife, cut a cone of cake (1 inch across by 1 inch deep) out of the top. Trim off pointy end of cone (you can eat that!), leaving a flat circle of cake. Set to the side and continue process for all cupcakes.

Take the cream filling and squeeze a tablespoon or so into each cupcake cavity. Top off with the flat circle of cake to plug up the hole and keep the filling in place.

Using a small offset spatula, frost each cupcake with a layer of chocolate buttercream. Spread from the center to the sides to evenly cover the cake plug and help prevent tearing/crumbs.

If you have leftover vanilla cream filling, transfer it to a fresh zip-top bag, cut off a very small opening in one corner of the bag, and pipe a decorative swirl down the center of each cupcake. Store cupcakes in an airtight container.

Here are Miss M's cute swirls!

Check back at another time for the other recipes (and by "other recipes" I mean the chocolate ones... so whoopie pies!).

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