Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes

With Easter coming up, I knew that I already had the perfect idea: egg shaped cupcakes, thanks to Reynold’s Fun Shapes bakeware. How’s that for product placement? Actually, I really liked these. They are small foil pans, cupcake sized, that come in three shapes: hearts, stars and, of course, eggs. They sell them in the baking aisle of my grocery store, along with their usual assortment of cupcake wrappers. Though they are slightly larger than ordinary cupcakes, they are also slightly shallower, so they take the same amount of time to bake. You can eat your cakes right out of the pan, or pop them out once the cake has cooled. I didn’t grease the pans, but had no problems removing the cakes.
The cakes shown here are Chocolate Espresso cupcakes and Lemon Buttermilk cupcakes. The Lemon Buttermilk Cupcake recipe can be found here, but this post is about the chocolate espresso combination.
Obviously, the espresso was courtesy of my new espresso machine. How could I resist using the chocolate-coffee combination when top quality ingredients were at my fingertips? If you don’t have an espresso machine, go ahead and use strong coffee or instant espresso powder dissolved in the appropriate amount of water. The taste in the finished cupcake will be about the same.The cakes are delicious. They have a very adult flavor, which means that they aren’t for everyone. There is a slightly bitter undertone that is a result of the combination of cocoa powder and espresso that makes them taste like delicious dark chocolate. Of course, if you don’t like dark chocolate, I ‘d advise against making these; they’re nearly black! In terms of texture, they are very light, tender and moist. I used a simple vanilla glaze so I could decorate them easily, but the two best frosting options are a chocolate glaze or a fluffy chocolate frosting, like the recipe given below.

Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes
6 tbsp cocoa powder
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1/3 cup espresso, cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 9 baking cups on a baking sheet (or 12 muffin liners in a muffin pan).
In a large bowl, sift together cocoa, flour, sugars, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together espresso, buttermilk, egg, vegetable oil and vanilla extract. Pour the espresso mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Evenly distribute batter into prepared cups.
Bake at 350F for 15-19 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
After 5 minutes of cooling on or in the pan, remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes 9 egg-shaped cakes or 12 regular cupcakes.

Easy Chocolate Frosting
(not "original", but very common)
¼ cup butter, very soft
½ cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk (nonfat is ok)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Combine butter, cocoa, milk, vanilla and 3 cups confectioners sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until thick, smooth and fluffy, adding a few extra tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar at a time to reach desired consistency.
Makes about 2 cups.