Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

When my friend Leah and I cook, the results are rarely what they should be.  Take the time we made fudge, for example, and we ended up with this lump of stuff where the fats had separated so much from the the other solids that when it had cooled, they was solid butter sitting on the top.  Oh, and the time we made chocolate chip cookies for a bake sale and they flattened out so much that we could barely remove them from the pan without breaking them.  Yeah, our success isn’t the greatest when we cook, or at least it didn’t used to be, until yesterday, and these cupcakes.

One that Leah Spent Quite a While Meticulously Decorating
Another that was specially decorated
Leah’s Three Special Cupcakes

These are divine, superb, splendid in every way.  Of course I know why.  It wasn’t our great knowledge of the kitchen, but that the recipe came from Cook’s Illustrated.  They always get it right.  In fact, for this recipe specifically, they made 800 cupcakes to make the best cupcake possible.  They analyzed cupcakes from cupcakeries across the country and realized that they are actually just making money off of their image through marketing.  In other words, the cupcakes from the famed Magnolia Bakery, and many others, aren’t actually that great at all.

What make these cupcakes special are a few things.  First, they are just so chocolately and still don’t fall apart.  This is because Cook’s Illustrated found out that if you use bread flour in the cupcakes instead of all-purpose, the cupcakes can be filled with even more chocolate and due to the extra gluten, stay together better.  They also filled the cupcakes with a ganache that oozes when you bite into the cupcakes and frosted them with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream that is incredibly silky and balances the dense cupcakes perfectly.  In essence, these are perfect, and truthfully, quite easy.  I’m quite sad that I put them off for so long!

Here is the recipe:

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Ganache Filling
Cook’s Illustrated-May/June 2010

Makes 12 Cupcakes

Note:  Use a high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for this recipe, such as one of the test kitchen’s favorite baking chocolates, Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV or Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar (I use Ghirardelli for most of my chocolate desserts).  Though we highly recommend the ganache filling, you can omit it for a more tranditional cupcake.  The cupcakes can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored, unfrosted, in an airtight container.

Ganache Filling:

2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes

3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
1/3 cup (1 ounce) dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 recipe frosting (recipe follows)

1.  For ganache filling:  Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in a medium microwave-safe bowl.  Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to the touch, 20 to 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth ( I did this all over the stove, because our micorwave broke long ago and we haven’t bothered to fix it.  This worked just fine); transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than 30 minutes. 
2.  For cupcakes:  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line standard size muffin pans (cups have 1/2 cup capacity) with baking cup liners.  Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl.  Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth.  Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes.  Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside.
3.  Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth.  Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth. 
4.  Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups.  Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake.  Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes.  Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, 10 minutes.  Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack.  Cool to room temperature until frosting, about 1 hour.
5.  To frost:  Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting on each cupcake.  Using small iceing spatula or butter knife, spread frosting to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center.

Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Makes about 2 1/4 cups

Note:  Cool the chocolate to between 85 and 100 degrees before adding it to the frosting.  If the frosting seems too soft after adding the chocolate, chill it briefly in the refrigerator and rewhip it until creamy.  The frosting can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated in an airtight container.  When ready to frost, place in a microwave-safe container and warm briefly on high power until just softened, 5 to 10 seconds.    Once warmed, stir until creamy.

1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large egg-whites
Pinch table salt
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (see note)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine sugar, egg white, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer; place bowl over pan of simmering water.  Whisking gently but constantly, heat mixture until slighty thickened, foamy, and registers 150 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 2 to 3 minutes.
2.  Place bowl in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.  Beat mixture on medium speed until consistency of shaving cream and slightly cooled, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add butter, 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy.  (Frosting may look curdled after half of butter has been added; it will smooth with additional butter.)  Once all butter is added, add cooled melted chocolate and vanilla; mix until combined.  Increase speed to medium high and beat until light, fluffy, and thoroughly combined, about 30 seconds, sraping beat and sides of bowl with rubber spatula as necessary.

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About Madeleine C.

Hi I'm Madeleine and I am an avid cook and baker! Between school, homework swimming, and everything else in my life, I really enjoy cooking! I am 15 (now 16) years old, and have two brothers, both of whom have celiac disease along with my father. For this reason, I often make gluten-free things that will satisfy them as well as those who can readily consume gluten. I enjoy making the complex and the simple, and enjoy a challenge while cooking. That's just about it!