Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Chocolate Cupcake Test Bake Kitchen!

I've been asked by a kind friend to bake chocolate cupcakes filled with a hidden chocolate in each, for her event and I've definitely accepted it with much excitement! The only problem was that in my last chocolate cupcake bake a month ago, I've come to the realisation that my usual buttermilk chocolate cupcake recipe is pretty difficult to manage on a large scale. Its large amount of chocolate used means a fair bit of time needed to chop them up, it takes a longer time in the oven and the usually slightly fallen top makes it ever so slightly more difficult to pipe on the frosting.

Thus, I went in search of a few cocoa-based chocolate recipes. I've always found chocolate cupcakes a challenge to make as those that I've made tend to be a little dry or will dry out by the 2nd day. Mr Google's search results showed this to be a common problem amongst bakers as cocoa powder tend to absorb moisture as it melts, therefore resulting in a dry cake. Keeping this in mind, I used a recipe from a PageOne cupcake baking book which I've done before and increased the liquid content within this recipe. This would be my test recipe #1.

My first batch turned out prettily, with almost flat tops which will be a joy to frost and a light crumbly feel to it. However, it was really dry! When I first used it 2 years ago, I added a chunk of ripened banana into each cupcake and I remember it was soft and moist. But this time, it was not even nice to eat; into the dustbin it went, along with some courage as I feared if my baking fingers has forsaken me. However, I decided to try this again. I added 4 tablespoons of milk, subtracted 40g of flour and reduced the baking time by 2minutes. This time, it was better, but still a tad dry, not something that I would like to serve to guests. I went into the next recipe.

The 2nd one I did of the 3 bakes in the same day came from one of my favorite baker blogs "The Little Teochew". Her detailed explanations made her recipes really easy to follow; I love her pictures and her photo-style! After reading through her many chocolate recipes, I've decided to try her "Nigella's Old Fashion Chocolate (Cup)cakes" as I hope the use of sour cream (which I subbed with yogurt) will keep the cakes moist and soft. This is test recipe #2.

Again the bake turned out quite pretty, with only slight domes. I however, used yogurt instead of sour cream and I do wonder if that really resulted in a textural difference, as I find this also a bit dry for my liking. It's better than my 2 attempts in recipe #1, it's soft and crumbly but still not sufficiently moist. The density of the batter was good though as it supported the chocolate inside very well, with it staying exactly where I've placed them, neither sinking to the bottom nor floating to the top.

I decided to move on to my 3rd recipe of the day.

This is a chocolate recipe that I've bookmarked for YEARS, that I've never got round to trying. Do you have that problem too? I'm bookmarking way too many than I can ever try to make. Ha Ha! Often, some of these bookmarks even got deleted by the time I re-visit them. So, this 3rd one is from The Pioneer Woman, her chocolate sheet cake has been made by many around the world and raved about in blogs and pinterest. Seriously... after making this cupcake, I asked myself "WHY DID I TAKE SO LONG TO TRY THIS??" I kicked myself mentally a few times before rejoicing and indulging my friends and myself in the 8 cupcakes that came out from this batch!

Test recipe #3

Without a doubt, this was it! It's dark, moist, fudgy and yet soft. It melts in the mouth and gets even better on day 2 where the chocolate is even slightly more pronounced. Best of all, it's an easy bake, without a need for a mixer! The only issue I had was that the batter is very light and my chocolate pieces which are to be hidden inside the cupcake insists on floating to the top and it's not so hidden after all. However, this is a small matter as I'm going to be covering my cupcakes with a frosting after all.

Look at how the colour of these even differs from the above 2 recipes. I find it really interesting that the ingredients are more or less the same, with only recipe #2 calling for sour cream as an addition; yet the different preparation methods results in cupcakes with vastly different textures and taste! This one from the Pioneer Woman called for melting the cocoa powder in hot swirling butter and from there, I could see the batter becoming much darker, and I do think this could be the key of the intense chocolate taste as the cocoa releases their flavor upon melting. It's a cupcake that makes one feel slightly light-headed, you cannot stop, you have to force yourself away. I beg you, to try this!

Chocolate Cupcakes from The Pioneer Woman
227g unsalted butter
4 heaped tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup boiling water
2 cups All-Purpose flour
11/2 cups fine-grained white sugar (300g)
1/4 teaspoon fine seasalt
165ml buttermilk (Which I sub for 150ml Meiji Milk and 15ml of lemon juice, let stand for 10minutes)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Pre-heat oven to 175C, top-bottom.

1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium fire. Swirl it constantly, until it reaches a slightly browned stage.
2. Add the cocoa powder and let it melt within the butter. This would start to look very thick.
3. Add the boiling water and stir to combine. Let it come to a boil and boil for about 30seconds. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt and whisk to combine and aerate it slightly.
5. In a measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk, add the eggs and vanilla essence, stir to combine.
6. Add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture, stirring quickly and thoroughly to let it come together into a  thick, sticky paste.
7. Add the baking soda to the buttermilk mixture, stir briefly and pour everything into the cocoa-flour paste. Stir vigorously to combine the mixtures and it will become a pretty liquid batter.
8. Spoon them into cupcakes cases, drop a chocolate piece into each cup if you'd like and bake them for 18 to 19 minutes. I turned the pans around at 13 minutes.

Remove from oven when the tops have achieved a slight crisp and the toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Additional notes:
1. It can be baked in 2 8-inched line pans for 30 minutes for 2 short layers or 2 6-inched lined pans for 25 minutes for 2 tall layers.
2. Alternatively, make 1.5x the above recipe and baked in 2 8-inched lined pans for 40minutes. (these layers create a slight dome which had to be leveled but results in a higher cake that's more suitable as a birthday cake)

There were my half frosted cupcakes. I was completely caked-out by the end of the day, with a very full and fat tummy and with many many many cupcakes sitting on my table.

You may be wondering now, how about those from the first 2 bakes which are really dry? I decided to core out the middle part, piped some chocolate buttercream, covered the top again and glazed it with a chocolate ganache. Voila! Instant creaminess as you bite into the cake with the cream; the dryness was mitigated. My little nephews and nieces actually preferred this version.

 So, nothing wasted, all went into happy stomachs of my friends and family!

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