WARNING: this is a putzy recipe. Not an incredibly difficult type of putzy. More like a-lot-of-steps putzy. Time-consuming? Yes. Worth the extra effort? I think so, especially when it’s a special occasion.
My husband and I enjoyed a milestone this week: 13 years of marriage. Since it was a weekday night, all celebrating took a backseat to kid activities like homework and sports games. But isn’t that expected after 2 kids and 13 years of life together? We’ll make a date for dinner out soon, but in the meantime, I could think of no better way to honor the occasion than with a little chocolate.
I’ve been intrigued by this frosting for a few months now. I think it is what truly sets these cupcakes apart from many others. It’s a lip-smacking combination of the more traditional buttercream with a cooked frosting. Frankly, I was a bit intimidated by the process (there is a candy thermometer involved!) but once I got all the ingredients out, it was merely a matter of adding everything together in the right order at the right time. Trust me; you can do it. And don’t they look so impressive when they are done? You can seriously wow people with these babies.
But wait, it gets even better when you take a bite, because tucked inside these cupcakes is a dollop of pure decadence: chocolate ganache! Just enough to take these chocolate cupcakes over the top.
Thirteen years of marriage never looked so tempting.
1¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1½ sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
1¾ cup extra-fine granulated sugar
4 large eggs
¾ cup dark chocolate chips
½ cup whipping cream
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Line your pan with cupcake liners.
Whisk dry ingredients (flour through salt) together in a bowl. Stir together half and half and vanilla extract in another bowl and set aside. Add your sugar and butter to the bowl of your stand mixer. Crack the eggs, place them in a bowl and set aside.
Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, combine the butter and sugar on low for 3-5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, making sure they are well-incorporated before adding the next. Once the eggs are combined, stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl.
Turn the mixer back on low and alternate the dry and liquid ingredients ending with the dry ingredients. Work quickly so the batter doesn't become tough. This should probably take about a minute total.
Stop the mixer again and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix the batter on medium for another 20 seconds.
Fill the cupcake liners with about 2 ounces of batter. An ice cream scoop with a trigger release works well for this.
Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick test comes out clean.
Cool for 5 minutes before removing cupcakes from the pan and cooling on a rack.
Place the chocolate chips in a heat safe bowl.
Heat the whipping cream to a simmer over medium heat.
Once the cream is simmering, pour it over the chocolate chips. Let it set for 10-15 seconds to melt the chocolate and then whisk until smooth.
Ganache will thicken as it sets and may be used after it has cooled for at least 20 minutes.
Assembling the cupcakes
Using a paring knife, cut a cone out of the center of the cupcake and set aside.
Fill the hole in the cupcake with about 1 tablespoon of ganache. Repeat with remaining cupcakes and place them in the freezer for 5 minutes to allow the ganache to firm up.
Remove the cupcakes from the freezer and put the cake "cone" you took out back in each cupcake.
Frost your cupcakes with the Italian Meringue Buttercream any way you like. I used that handy 2-ounce trigger scoop from the cake batter step.
Refrigerate your cupcakes if not eating immediately. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer.
Combine 1 cup of sugar and water in a small saucepan and turn the burner to medium-high. Put a candy thermometer in the pan and cover with an oversized lid. This will help prevent sugar crystals from forming on the sides of your saucepan.
Using the whisk attachment on your mixer, whip the egg whites on high until you have stiff peaks (meringue). Keep the mixer running and pour the remaining ¼ cup of sugar into the meringue.
Keep an eye on your sugar water mixture. When it has reached 245 degrees, take the thermometer out of the pan and pour the hot liquid into the meringue while the mixer is still running. Do your best to pour directly into the bowl rather than hit the sides. You don't want to be scalded.
Mix for 1-2 minutes on high and then reduce the mixer speed to medium for 6-8 more minutes. Feel the bowl to make sure it has an even temperature - no hot spots. Start adding the butter, a chunk at a time. When all the butter is added, turn up speed to high and mix for 2-4 minutes until the butter is fully incorporated.