Monday, July 19, 2010

chocolate cupcakes with summer strawberry frosting

Ah, the perennial joy of chocolate and strawberries. A joy made more sensational by summer strawberries, juicy and at their peak — so ripe (in a good way) that your whole fridge smells sweet for the short time the berries reside there before being gobbled up in some form or another. And while it's perfectly healthy and advisable to munch them solo style — juice dripping down your lips, leaned over the sink — what isn't improved by chocolate?

Enter a moist little cupcake, chocolate in an understated way. Not dark. Not bitter. Just a pleasant base for the star of the show — a light frosting flecked by tiny red pieces of strawberry.

I made these cupcakes first for fun — we ate them on the back porch after dinner while the pups ran wild. (Later, one of the aforementioned pups took it upon herself to steal a chocolate cupcake from the table, after which all manner of fretting and worrying ensued, before the Internets and their figures talked me down from the emergency-vet edge. It turns out our not-a-bit-guilty pup wouldn't slip into a toxic chocolate coma. But that's another story — one best told from a couch or over a glass of bourbon.) I brought the leftovers into work, where they served as more than a few folks' Monday morning breakfast. Hey, fruit = healthy, right? A request for more turned into my first paid (yikes!) gig as a teeny-tiny caterer. This blog coincides with my launch of Kitchen Little Catering. I'm stapling my first dollar to the wall! You can't have it! But you should make these cupcakes.  Moist. Chocolate. Strawberries. Sinful amounts of butter.

chocolate cupcakes
barely tweaked, mostly in the directions department, from Love and Olive Oil 

1 c. all-purpose flour
2 tbl. whole-wheat flour (or almond meal)
1/3 c. cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. coconut milk (make sure you shake and stir before measuring and adding to other ingredients)
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and line your muffin tin with paper liners.

Into a large bowl, sift both the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, canola oil, vanilla extract and sugar. Pour the wet mixture into the well of the dry ingredients, and stir until smooth, taking care not to overmix.

Pour the batter into liners, filling each 2/3 of the way to the top. (I used a medium cookie scoop, using about 1 1/2 scoops per cupcake.) Bake for 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick (or a butter knife, if you're like me and spill the toothpicks every time you try to pry open the box) comes out clean. Let cool completely on a cooling rack.

strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream
adapted, every so terrifyingly, from Confessions of a Tart, which itself is adapted from all-knowing Martha

For me — the girl who, until she made her own, scraped the frosting off cakes of all types — this is enough frosting for at least 24 cupcakes. The good, no great, thing about this recipe is that it can be stored (in an airtight container, in the fridge for one week or the freezer for 3 months), brought to room temperature and re-whipped  (with paddle attachment) to use again.

4 egg whites
1 c. sugar
pinch of salt
3 sticks (24 tbl.) unsalted butter, room temperature
10 oz. (just a bit more than 1 c.) fresh strawberries (if frozen, thawed)

Cut the tops of the berries, and puree them. (I used my food processor, but I imagine you could use a blender no problem.)

Combine the egg whites, sugar and pinch of salt in a heat-proof bowl. Set the bowl over just-barely simmering water (taking care that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water or that the steam escapes). Whisk until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are hot to touch. For me, this took about 5 minutes — the mixture should be smooth and hot.

Transfer to your mixer's bowl, and whip with a whisk on high until the whites form stiff, glossy peaks. This will take about 10 minutes.

Add the butter, 1 tbl. at a time, to the mixture. Allow each tablespoon to incorporate before adding another. At this point, your bottom lip might begin to quiver. Basically, your sweet, sweet frosting will start to look like shit — curdled milk, cottage cheese and all manner of horribleness. And then it will get worse. But have faith in the Martha — just when you're ready to collapse on your kitchen floor, a smooth and lovely buttercream will appear. Really. It just happens.

Now, switch to the paddle attachment on low speed. Add the vanilla extract, and beat for about one minute, until just incorporated. While still on slow, gradually add the strawberry puree, and beat for 3-4 minutes. The strawberries will be all incorporated and pinkness reigns.

Decorate how you like. For taste, I prefer a whisper of frosting, so I make tiny poofs with a star tip. But feel free to create towering masterpieces, as you'll certainly have enough frosting to be free with it.


Anonymous said...

Shannon, you are an AMAZING cook and natural foodie! I can't wait to try your recipe, and I look forward to your next posting!! Love your "Seester" -- no really

Shannon Mac said...

thanks chicken butt!

Anonymous said...

These were the BEST cupcakes EVER! I love them....can't wait to have more!! SO DELICIOUS!!

Click Clique said...

I'm so glad you shared these cupcakes. I was craving them for days after I had one. Thanks for the details and I love the photos! Can't wait to see what else you create in your little kitchen.