Every family birthday at my house precipitates the question "What will we have for dessert?". The birthday meal itself is not really debated, as family members are quite satisfied with my varied offerings of salads, grilled grub, pastas and the different permutations and combinations they have come to expect from me. But dessert is another matter altogether, with lots of suggestions and opinions about what we should indulge in. One thing I know for sure: no one quibbles about chocolate cupcakes, especially moist, fudgey ones with a thick, luscious, bittersweet ganache topping.
Which brings me to what I baked for my daughter Claire's birthday this weekend. Easy to prepare and a total delight to indulge in after a lasagna dinner and a few games of pool at our home. Cupcakes offer us the complete satisfaction of having our very own decadent dessert to eat any way we like, from fist to mouth, cut into dainty quarters, taking little forkfuls of icing alternately with morsels of cake. A cupcake is all yours to do what you please with.
You can buy cupcakes at specialty shops for over $3.00 a pop but why would you when you can whip up these from scratch in almost no time at all? Birthday or not, a fabulous chocolate cupcake is a classic crowd pleaser that you can count on to boost the mood of any event on your agenda. The Fine Cooking website takes the credit for this simple but delicious recipe that helped make Claire's birthday meal special, memorable and festive:
Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache
adapted from www.finecooking.com
1+1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; 3/4 tsp. baking soda; 1/2 tsp. kosher salt; 2 cups granulated sugar; 1 cup strong brewed coffee, warm or cold; 1/2 cup sour cream; 1/2 cup canola oil; 2 large eggs; 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled.
My ganache - 2 cups heavy cream; 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped; 4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped; 2 tbsp. granulated sugar; pinch of salt. Place chopped chocolates in a large bowl. Heat cream, sugar and pinch of salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Do not let the mixture boil. Pour hot cream over chopped chocolate and whisk until smooth. Set ganache aside and let cool until thick enough to spread without dribbling. Ganache can be refrigerated and then brought to room temperature for spreading.
For cupcakes, heat the oven to 350 F. Line 16 muffin tins with liners or grease the cups with butter. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and sugar into a medium bowl. In a large bowl, whisk coffee, melted chocolate, sour cream, oil and eggs. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and whisk until there are no lumps. Pour the batter into prepared muffin tins, dividing the batter evenly into all 16 cups. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool for 15 minutes and then remove them from the pan to cool further. Top generously with ganache.
Those of you who like to use pastry bags may wish to swirl icing or ganache overtop your cupcakes in a graceful swoosh. I just took a pallet knife in hand and got to work building a sweet layer of truffle-like smoothness onto each graceful cake. A little easier, and prettily annointed with a chocolate coffee bean.
Cupcakes are a bit of a craze right now which begs the questions, did they ever really go out of style? Aren't they always a good idea? Some food trends come and go (foam? architectural food styling? raw food?) but cupcakes deserve a permanent place on the party table.
Go crazy for cupcakes with our support: