Saturday, 10 December 2011

Bacon Cupcakes?! Oh yeah, baby!

Cupcakes are my péché mignon. That expression was really made for cupcakes, as it translates literally into "cute sin", though it is the French way of saying guilty pleasures. But I never feel guilty about eating cupcakes, so I'll stick to the literal translation on this one! I am actually surprised that I haven't posted a cupcake recipe here before, but since I started this blog, I had precious little occasion to bake some. As the Holidays are approaching (and as people around me have cupcake-worthy things in their lives - like new babies, going away parties, etc.) I am on a cuppy-cake baking spree for the month of December!

This is really good news to me because cupcakes are my all-time favorite thing to bake. They are just so damn cute, delicious and irresistibly comforting. And with a little creativity, you can make a unique cupcake for every occasion imaginable… I first started baking them one sad, lonely evening when I had a massive craving for something sweet. Now I own a ton of cupcake cookbooks, I follow 3 or 4 different cupcake-blogs and I collect pastry-bag tips, liners, obscure ingredients and extracts, and I have a massive stack of cupcake recipes with a "to try!" label on them. (Psst! I am so cupcake-obsessed that I own cupcake-jewelry and I have a bad-ass cupcake tattooed on the nape of my neck…)

But let me tell you why I decided to bake this very unlikely cupcake recipe.

I think we all have a bacon-crazy friend. Mine is named Sam, and though he likes all kinds of food, bacon has a special place in his heart (his birthday party theme was Epic Meal Time; this is how insane this bacon fixation is). And Sam was in need of a little cheering up. So what is a devoted friend to do for a bacon fanatic with the blues? Why, bake him some bacon cupcakes, obviously!! When I saw this recipe on Chockylit's cupcake blog, I knew I had just the thing to make Sam very happy, if only as long as he was eating the cupcakes. And I had no doubt he would eat them.

I invited Sam over, dubbed him my sous-chef and lent him an apron. The rest is history, or rather, the strange result you have when you get two crazies in a kitchen with baking supplies and booze. Oh, come on! A baking lesson wouldn't have been half the fun without beer!

It may seem weird to some to mix super-sweet stuff like chocolate-covered toffees and maple syrup with bacon, but they go surprisingly well together. In Québec, when we go to the sugar shack in the spring, we douse all kinds of breakfast meats in maple syrup and it's awesome!!

I really had no idea what these would taste like, and to tell you the truth, I was a bit apprehensive... but holy cow were they delicious! The cake was obviously very rich and chocolatey and the icing had a great sweet cheesiness and creamy texture. The bacon flavor in the cake was unusual, but freakishly addictive. One of my lovely friends who had first declined to try them ended up asking for an extra one she could take home!
I guess Sam was right and that the awesome-level of everything is heightened exponentially when you add bacon!

Here is the recipe, altered slightly from the original featured on Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit. I got 16 cupcakes from it and a huge amount of icing.

Toffee, chocolate and bacon cupcakes:

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-1/2 slices cooked bacon, cut into chunks
1/3 cup chopped chocolate covered toffee (I used whole Mini Rolos)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg and beat until well combined. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk to combine. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry. Gently fold in the bacon and toffee chunks. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 1/2-2/3’s full. Bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Frost with the icing and garnish with a small chuck of bacon or a chocolate covered toffee.

Maple cream cheese frosting:

2 packages cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
4 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup

Bring butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl or onto parchment. Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add 3 cups of the powdered sugar and half of the maple syrup. Beat until combined. Add more maple syrup and confectioners sugar until desired flavor, consistency, and sweetness. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes before frosting.

This makes enough frosting for 24 to 30 cupcakes, so it can easily be halved, or saved in the fridge for a few days until you bake another batch of cupcakes to pipe it on.

I used a disposable plastic pastry bag, because I just wanted to pipe on a generous blob of icing and it worked like a charm. I topped the little guys with a Mini Rolo and they looked so cute!

Obviously, no substituting the real bacon for bacon bits! No, no, no! Use the real deal, being careful not to let it get too crispy when you cook it, because getting regularly-shaped chunks is impossible if the bacon slices are cooked too stiff. But you definitely want the smokey flavor in there, so I suggest using thickly sliced, old-fashioned bacon. President's Choice makes my favorite, but use any brand you like.

And while bacon cupcakes may not be the cure to the blues, they do make people really happy as they stuff their faces!

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