First things first… and I won’t sugar-coat it: I don’t like, or ‘do’, cupcakes. I find them ridiculously cutesy, overly trendy, and just a touch passé. (I know, *gasp*.) I’ve heard in recent months that they’re kinda going out of style, thanks to cronuts, doughnuts, whoopie pies, mini pies, and the like… and frankly, I say “good riddance”. If I’m going to bake a cake, I want to put all of my effort into a triple-decker layer cake with luscious, buttery frosting. Or better yet, a PIE – or pastry of any kind. No disrespect meant to those bakers who love making cupcakes – or even have a business in them. It’s just a preference of mine.
I suppose it doesn’t help that a baking job of mine a couple years ago had me responsible for making a majority of the jumbo cupcakes the restaurant was – and still is – overly famous for (and their recipe is darn good, I will say). I just got tired of them. I was the day baker – and the day bakers were responsible for churning out the cupcakes, while the night bakers dabbled in the pies and cakes I would have preferred to create. I wanted the day schedule, so I guess I couldn’t rightly complain to my kind boss that I was baking something I really didn’t like all too much. Still, when I finally had to leave the job, I recall writing many a Facebook status update in which I rejoiced that I didn’t have to make the darn things any more!
But – enough of my cupcake grouchiness. Looking at these photos, I suppose I can’t help but feel a slight smile encroach upon my face.
All of this being confessed, if I were pressed to make a chocolate cupcake, chances are I would willingly fall back on Baked’s Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes, this week’s Baked Sunday Mornings assignment. They’re tender and light with a moist crumb – a little subtle on the chocolate flavor because they do not include salt in the ingredients, but not as bland as the Chocolate Cheesecake Muffins I posted about a couple weeks ago. Best of all is that they are amazingly simple. They’re a workhorse recipe for any baker – from amateur to professional. They really don’t take a great amount of effort, and they’re just a darn good cupcake to make, whether you’re a cupcake naysayer like yours truly or not.
Dark chocolate and dark cocoa powder are first mixed with boiling hot water; this is gradually added along with the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda) to a creamed base mixture of mayonnaise, dark brown sugar, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla. I always find those chocolate cake recipes which start with cocoa mixed with boiling water or hot coffee to be the most magical. I’m not sure what the alchemy is exactly, but chances are pretty good you will end up with a moist, dense cake – especially if the fat is an oil of some kind. This recipe does not contain butter as the primary fat – the mayonnaise does that, providing a nice, delicate richness and softness to the cake. If you’re not a mayo fan, don’t let this recipe detract you, as you do not taste it in the finished product. I strongly suggest using Hellmann’s mayonnaise – not only in this recipe, but any recipe calling for mayo. I’m a bit snobbish when it comes to mayo; I just think Hellmann’s holds up and tastes the best. I know plenty of folks who find mayonnaise a little gross; I love it. I slather it on sandwiches, and yes – it’s good in baked goods. (You would be more likely to see me eating a spoonful of mayo than that icky mud called Nutella!)
For the frosting crowning these cupcakes, I made the standard chocolate buttercream accompanying this recipe, which is slightly different from Baked’s other buttercream recipes in that it doesn’t begin with a cooked milk and flour mixture. Instead, you’re just dealing with butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and melted chocolate. Pretty simple, and pleasantly rich enough without being too rich. The frosting suits these cupcakes nicely.
I decided to finally test out another frosting recipe which caught my eye a couple years ago – Jill O’Connor’s Caramel-Butterscotch Buttercream from her book, Sticky Chewy Messy Gooey. She tops her own Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes with this delectable frosting, and as I am a huge caramel and butterscotch fan, I knew that I finally needed to attempt this frosting as I prepped Baked’s cupcakes. The recipe takes a little bit of effort – it involves making a caramel sauce, cooking/whisking whole eggs with dark brown sugar in a mixing bowl over simmering water, then whipping them up nice and foamy (almost like a meringue) as you slowly add in chunks of soft but cold butter. Finally, you add a touch of vanilla, salt, and bourbon, and finish by folding in a bit of the cooled caramel sauce. You definitely work for this frosting, but let me tell you: it is AMAZING. I’m seriously not a huge frosting fan, but I could eat this frosting with a spoon out of the mixing bowl. It’s just that good. I halved the recipe from the book; a full recipe makes 5 cups frosting and uses 6 sticks of butter and a half dozen eggs! Crazy, right? Honestly, though… if you like caramel and butterscotch, you really owe it to yourself to make this frosting as soon as you get a chance to. Seriously. So good. And on these cupcakes, it was divine. The cupcakes themselves do not contain any salt to bump the chocolate flavor too much, but topped with a swirled crown of this buttercream, the entire flavor profile is really kicked up a notch. It’s buttery, a little salty, ever-so-slightly kissed by that bit of bourbon (which you need for that ‘butterscotch’ component), and rounded out with the warm caramel notes… dangerously yummy.
By the way, I yielded about 32 cupcakes with this recipe; the recipe states that you should yield about 2 dozen. Rejoice! You have some extras to snack on or share! I took a bunch to the theatre where I am in a current production of Geoffrey Nauffts’ play, Next Fall (running through October 25th at Soulstice Theatre; for tickets and details, visit the Theatrical Tendencies website! Shameless self-promotion there…) The cast loved them – especially the cupcakes with the caramel-butterscotch buttercream. Not too surprised.
If you are “meh” on cupcakes like I typically am, chances are you may be won over by these treats. Or, if you are just looking for a simple, but delicious cupcake recipe to whip up for your parties or family gatherings, these are worth filing away in your recipes. Make your own – and read on for my fellow BSM bakers’ results with these – by following this link:
… and if you’re intrigued by the intricate Caramel-Butterscotch Buttercream recipe, here’s a link with the recipe, courtesy of Leite’s Culinara (with Jill O’Connor’s own Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcake recipe):
Lastly – New York City was fantastic! Matt and Renato were charming – as always – and it was so nice to catch up with them. It was especially wonderful to meet some of the Baked testers who made the trip (quite a few of them Baked Sunday Mornings bakers). It was a blast getting to know one another. Delightful people, all of them – fantastic new friends! The new Baked TriBeCa space is going to be amazing (they’re still finishing up on construction; nonetheless, the party was still held – yummy treats, great conversation, photos, music, burlesque dancers and all)! Check out a few of my photos below. And while you’re at it, you may want to head on over to Amazon and order your copy of Baked Occasions. After all, you know one of the “Badass Recipe Testers”!