Sunday, 18 December 2011

Hot Stuff Cupcakes

Lately, I have been obsessed by the taste of dark chocolate and chili. Whether it's the Lindt Excellence Chili bar or David's Tea's Chocolate Chili Chai, bring it on! I just can't get enough of the chocolaty sweetness and the little spicy bite that creeps up on your taste buds. Divine!

It's the commonly held belief that the Mayans were the first to blend cocoa with chile, and we still get so many recipes from Mexico that blend the two flavors (I'm working on some chili al mole... stay tuned!). That was definitely a stroke of genius on their part! Most people aren't used to it, and it does take an adventurous palate to really enjoy it, but that spicy chocolate taste grows on you, and before you realized what happened, you are hooked.

As I was browsing on Cupcake Rehab (an awesome baking blog written by a fabulous lady; check it out at, a recipe for vanilla-cinnamon cupcakes with Mexican hot chocolate frosting caught my eye. I bookmarked it, got busy with stuff and kinda forgot about it... until a coworker asked if I could bake some cinnamon cupcakes for her going away party.

Insert maniacal laugh here.

Those cupcakes turned out not only to be a roaring success at the going-away party, but the frosting became my favorite chocolate frosting... like, ever! Sweet and creamy with that amazing spicy aftertaste that lingers at the back of your mouth with every bite.

If you are looking to spice up the classic vanilla-chocolate combination, this is the perfect way to go, but it is not for the faint-hearted! The spicing is not overpowering, but it is very present nonetheless. If spices are not your thing, stick to safer, times-tested flavors. But if you want to experience a whole new world of chocolate-awesomeness, get your hands on:

1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream the butter in a stand mixer until smooth and light. Add sugar and continue to mix until fully incorporated and fluffy. Add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition. In a medium bowl sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Combine milk and vanilla. Add portions of the flour mixture and milk mixture to the electric mixer, alternating, starting and ending with flour. Pour evenly into cupcake pans lined with paper liners, about ½ – ¾ full. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cupcakes spring back to the touch.

Mexican hot chocolate frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter
4 to 5 cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup milk
½ cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons brewed coffee

Cream butter in the bowl of an stand mixer. Add 1 cup sugar, cocoa powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, coffee and ¼ cup milk. Mix until thoroughly combined. Add 2 cups sugar and vanilla. Mix. Add the rest of the sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix. If needed, add ¼ cup more milk, or 1 cup sugar. Continue until consistency is satisfactory.

Once your cupcakes are cooled, frost and sprinkle with some freshly ground cinnamon.

This makes enough batter and icing for approximately 24 cupcakes. They disappeared in the blink of an eye at work and at home, so don't be afraid to make the full recipe; you won't waste any!

I want to stress the "freshly ground" aspect of the cinnamon used through the entire recipe: I know how tedious it is to ground cinnamon sticks on a microplane grater. But take my word for it, the reward of the incredibly fresh flavor is well-worth the effort (and possible injuries). When you buy ground cinnamon, half the flavor has already evaporated during the packaging process and it's just so disappointing. Microplane graters are cheap (20$ at Stokes) and really user-friendly. I didn't know I wanted one until I had mine, but now, I wonder how I used to live without it. Go get one!

The cake tastes delicate and has a light texture, complimented oh-so well by the bold icing. Next time I make this icing, it will be to frost chocolate cupcakes, and get the ultimate Mayan chocolate cupcakes. I am really looking forward to that!

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