Saturday, 25 February 2012

Mayan Chocolate Cupcakes

Do you remember the movie "Chocolat", in which Juliette Binoche takes over a village of puritans with her perky smile and tons of cocoa (and gets Johnny Depp at the end, as a bonus)? That was the movie that first got me curious about the idea of chile chocolate. As soon as I tried it, I was hooked. The mix of sweet cocoa and hot chile is irresistible!

A few months ago, I made vanilla-cinnamon cupcakes with Mexican hot chocolate frosting for a co-worker's going away party. The cupcakes were good, but the frosting was INSANE. Sweet and creamy with the most surprising spicy kick. I was waiting for an occasion to make more of that heavenly frosting, but I wanted to try it with a different cupcake...

Well, it so happens that it is my mom's birthday, that "Chocolat" is one of our girly-guilty-pleasure movies and that she loves dark chocolate... Can you think of a more perfect occasion to whip up a batch of luscious, dark and exciting Mayan chocolate cupcakes?

I can't. So here they are!

Dark chocolate cupcakes:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate chips)
½ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan with baking cup liners. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. This should take 5 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch, a few minutes. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in the sour cream until combined, then sift the remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogeneous and thick. It will almost look like pudding. Divide the batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until a knife inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 20 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing.

Since that recipe makes 12, I doubled it. Not just because we like to pig out on chocolate, but also because the frosting recipe makes tons, and there was no way I was wasting a single drop:

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

Cream the butter in a large bowl. 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.

I like to decorate my cupcakes with simple and elegant classic touches, so I used a pastry-bag fitted with a large star-tip and sprinkled a bit of freshly ground cinnamon on top. Simple and gorgeous.

Something odd happened and I ended up with 5 naked cupcakes because I ran out of frosting, but the cake was so rich, moist and decadent that no one had any problem eating them bare. As for the frosted cupcakes, they were heavenly. That icing is just sweet enough, and the tickle of the spices brings out the richness of the cakes.

Happy birthday mom! I hope you like them!

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