Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream

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Friends, let's talk cupcakes - dark, rich, chocolaty cupcakes; cupcakes with batter that practically begs you to lick the bowl; cupcakes which make you think, "Surely, I didn't say I'd bring all 12, right?" Draped in silky smooth strawberry buttercream, these will make you and everyone around you really happy. The beautiful thing about cupcakes is that you don't really need a reason to make them. A giant layered cake demands An Occasion, but cupcakes are your excuse to celebrate weekends, sunny days, getting-a-new-pair-of-shoes days and pretty much any day of the week that ends in "Y".

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Oh, and did I mention the chocolate? And the pink strawberry buttercream? You'd better believe that these are good. I made them for my dear friend's baby shower and I wanted to tint the buttercream pink (because it's a girl!) without food coloring or any other artificial stuff. Strawberries frozen back in May came to the rescue and added just the right touch of flavor to balance the sweetness of the buttercream. Of course, strawberries and chocolate always play well together, and the girls loved them. Although, I'm pretty sure that - despite the ladylike pink color - even the most non-baby-shower-going manly man would also jump at one of these dark, rich beauties.

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Chocolate cupcakes with strawberry buttercream

Cupcakes (from Cake on the Brain via Cooks Illustrated)
(makes 12 - the instructions are not to double the recipe, just make a second batch if you need more)

These cupcakes are really easy to make - they only require a whisk and a few bowls. They are light and moist, and the chocolate flavor comes through beautifully. Also, these are wonderful to decorate because they bake up fairly flat. I was extremely pleased with them, as you can tell!

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350F and prepare a standard-sized muffin pan.

In a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water (not touching the water), combine the butter, chocolate and cocoa. Heat until the butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

In a small bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs just to combine - then add the sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until smooth and fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

Add the flour and sour cream in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Whisk only until each addition disappears into the batter. Don't overmix, but make sure the dry and wet ingredients are fully combined before proceeding.

Divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups and bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes and then set on a rack to cool to room temperature before icing.

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream

[I've had great success with Martha Stewart's recipe and this time, I scaled it down a bit and added strawberry puree for some tartness and for that lovely pink color. I was a little light-handed with the frosting, so there was buttercream left over which you can save in the freezer for about 3 months - just bring it to room temperature and re-whip before using. Don't be afraid of Swiss Meringue buttercream - it's about patience and faith. Just trust me when I tell you - if you whip it enough, it will work out.]

4 egg whites
3 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
8 oz (about 1 cup) strawberries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen, thaw)

Puree the strawberries and pass through a fine-mesh sieve; set aside.

Place the egg whites, sugar and a pinch of salt into a heat-proof bowl set over barely simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water and that steam doesn't get out). Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are hot to the touch - when you rub the mixture between your fingers, it should be smooth, without granules of sugar.

Transfer to the bowl of a mixer, making sure no condensation from the other bowl gets into the egg whites. Whip with a whisk on high speed until the egg whites form stiff (but not dry) peaks and are glossy, about 10 minutes.

Cut the butter into 1 tbsp pieces and add it, one piece at a time, until it's completely incorporated. It's important that the butter is really at room temperature. Continue beating on high speed. The mixture will first look like curdled soup; then, it will look like curdled cream; then, just when you're ready to cry and give up in despair, it will magically transform into wonderfully smooth buttercream. Trust me, this will happen.

Switch to a paddle attachment and, with the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla. Beat for about a minute until incorporated. Then, still on low, gradually add the strawberry puree and beat for 3-4 minutes, until the strawberries are completely incorporated and all the air pockets are gone.

Decorate the cupcakes!

Martha says that you can make this up to 3 days in advance and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator - just bring to room temperature and re-whip with the paddle attachment until smooth, about 5 minutes. You can also store in the freezer for up to 3 months.


49 comments:

Elra said...

Irene,
this are very pretty cupcakes, I like the color combination. Looks really delicious!

♥peachkins♥ said...

the strawberry buttercream made those cuppies very elegant..

Helene said...

These are so pretty. And your pictures look delicous.

nicole said...

These are so darn cute!

Sam@BingeNYC said...

Wow. These look fantastic! Really beautiful, and the flavors sound absurdly delicious together. I don't know if I've ever had chocolate with strawberry buttercream. Yum!

Ingrid said...

I'm thinking you liked these? LOL!
~ingrid

Anali said...

So elegant and delicate! Great idea using frozen strawberries. I have a bunch of them and I'll be using some for frosting too! Thanks for the tip!: )

Nutmeg Nanny said...

Awww man now my mouth is watering!

Peabody said...

Oh I love me some Strawberry Buttercream. Oh my, this looks good!

Katie said...

Wow they look gorgeous! Love the colour of the strawberry buttercream against the chocolate cupcake

the caked crusader said...

what an elegant colour combination! I would never have thought to put strawberry buttercream with chocolate cupcakes!

Ash said...

so pretty! I love that strawberry buttercream!

Juliana said...

Oh! Your cupcakes look so cute and elegant :-) Love the combination of chocolate and strawberries...yummie!

Mandy said...

Such beautiful cupcakes! The pink strawberry buttercream almost have me licked my laptop screen!

Bunny said...

These are absolutely divine, so elegant! You did good!!

veron said...

Strawberry buttercream is so perfect on chocolate cupcakes. Great combo and they are gorgeous!

delightfullysweet said...

I am completely drooling here. Strawberries and chocolate are two of my favorite things!

Queen B. said...

gorgeous !

Eileen @ Passions to Pastry said...

Really beautiful photos.

Ny Minute Now said...

These are absolutely gorgeous! I looove your photos!

Melissa said...

You have absolutely saved my bacon - I have been scouring the web for a buttercream like this. Amazing

Irene said...

Glad I could help and hope you like it! :D

Melissa said...

how do you get the buttercream to swirl so nicely?

Irene said...

Aha! My secret is that I went to Wilton's website and followed their very nice tutorial. :) Here is the link: http://www.wilton.com/technique/1M-Swirl

They recommend a 1M tip, which is what I've been using.

Tess said...

I disagree with your claim that layer cakes require "an occasion." I think sometimes my friends don't invite me over on purpose because they know if they leave me alone long enough, I'll call and insist on coming over because I was bored and baked a cake.

Tess said...

That being said, there is certainly an art to cupcakes, which you appear to have mastered!

Anonymous said...

Can I make the buttercream a day before and frost in on cupcakes and leave it overnight or put it in the fridge?

Irene said...

You can totally frost the cupcakes and leave them in the refrigerator overnight (I think the buttercream can take being out of the refrigerator for a long time, but I'm not sure how long, so I would recommend putting them in the fridge). The buttercream will harden in the refrigerator, so you might want to give the cupcakes a little time the next day, maybe half an hour to forty-five minutes, to come to room temperature before serving. Moreover, because the cupcakes have butter in them, they are also best eaten at room temperature, so both the cupcakes and the buttercream will win.

Syin said...

Hi, I'm making these cupcakes for a friend's birthday and I was looking through the instructions... I think you missed a few! Here are the bits you missed from the website you got it from (if anyone is looking):

Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. >>Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined; then sift in remaining flour mixture and whisk batter until it is homogenous and thick.<<

Irene said...

Dear Syin - I think if you take another look at the instructions I wrote, the step you quoted is actually there only in different words. I do not like to quote other people's instructions verbatim, so I generally write my own.

Syin said...

Hi, sorry, should have mentioned specifically that after you mention melting the butter and chocolate with the cocoa and setting aside to cool, you don't mention incorporating it into the eggs/sugar. Maybe my eyes are deceiving me? :)

Irene said...

Aha, I see! You're right, thanks for noticing! Now fixed.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I don't see where to add the vanilla extract.
Also, I do not have a paddle attachment, do you recommend anything else for that step?

I am interesting in making these for a wedding. Can you advise me on how to keep them, and frost them, if I want to make them in advance?

Our wedding is about 3 hours away in a mountain home, and we will be heading up there a day before the reception.

Thanks in advance! I think these are going to make it a killer wedding!

Irene said...

Here's where you add the extract: "In a large bowl, whisk the eggs just to combine - then add the sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until smooth and fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined."

If you are making a lot of cupcakes for a wedding... I'm going to give you totally unorthodox advice. Obviously, you may disregard this as crazy. Make the cupcakes from a cake box mix. That's right. I made 48 cupcakes for a party last week and used Betty Crocker Devil's Food Cake Mix and people were raving about them. Email me at sweet.persuasion (at) gmail (dot) com and I will give you a recipe to the easiest and the most wonderful quick chocolate buttercream to go on top of these cupcakes. You will save yourself lots of time and hassle, and they will be amazingly delicious.

If you have your heart on making these... you can make any cupcakes a week ahead of time, wrap them VERY WELL and freeze. Defrost in the refrigerator a day before, make the buttercream the night before and frost them. Buttercream doesn't hold up well over several days, so I would recommend making it as fresh as you can (like the night before). This is where quick buttercream (instead of Swiss Meringue Buttercream) comes very much in handy when you don't have the resources of a caterer but are still cooking for a crowd. Anyway, shoot me an email and we can chat more about this.

Christie said...

Hi, I just made this icing today and something isn't right with the taste. I'm assuming now that you used unsalted butter since mine came out a bit salty. Now that I look at it, adding a pinch of salt should have given that little tidbit away. lol I also don't see where you added the vanilla - I added mine after mixing in the strawberry puree. I love the strawberry flavor the puree gives the buttercream, but think the butter flavor competes with it a bit. Do you think I could add less butter and still have the "icing" hold up? Thanks for posting the recipe!

Irene said...

Yes, sorry about that, I just assumed that people would use unsalted for dessert. I will clarify in the recipe. You can add the vanilla at any point after the buttercream is smooth. Thanks for pointing this out!

Irene said...

To address your second question, I'm not sure how using less butter would affect the recipe. Since this is Swiss meringue buttercream, it gets its structure from the whipped egg whites, so if you needed less, just use everything in proportion (i.e., 1 less stick of butter, 1 less egg white).

Christie said...

Yeah, I"m pretty much a beginner at baking desserts. (as you've probably guessed) :) Thanks for the reply....

Irene said...

Sorry about that :) I try to word all the recipes in such a way that any beginner can do them, but I was unclear this time. Here is a recipe for a really easy chocolate buttercream (DELICIOUS):

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes:

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (more or less to achieve desired consistency)

Cream butter in an electric mixer on medium-speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. With mixer on low, add cocoa powder one spoon at a time until fully combined. Gradually, add in the milk and powdered sugar (also one tablespoon at a time) until you reach the desired sweetness and consistency. Then beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, another 3-5 minutes. (Add in more powdered sugar if consistency is too thin.)

Christie said...

Thanks for the chocolate buttercream recipe!! I'm going to make it this weekend - the neighborhood kids will probably thank you as well. My husband is in the military, and since it's just him, myself, and my 2 boys in the house with no other family around I give the kids on the block some of what I make. Chocolate anything is a big hit! :) On a side note - you take the best pictures!

Irene said...

Thanks! I hope you like the chocolate buttercream. It was a winner at a birthday party I went to last weekend. (Psst... I made cupcakes out of box mix.)

Anonymous said...

Just finished baking these! They really taste amazing. The frosting is the best! I took a while for the buttercream, but totally worth it!!

Anonymous said...

I made different cupcakes with this strawberry frostinkg for Valentine's Day for my friends and teachers and they all LOVED THEM! I sprinkled some chocolate shavings, and I must say the chocolate compliments the strawberry flavor nicely. Thanks for the strawberry frosting recipe!

Andrea said...

Irene,
I tried making this buttercream, and it came out very soupy and not pipable. I could not quite get the eggs to peak -- I think this was my problem. I beat them for over 10 minutes....do you have any advice?
Thank you!

Erin said...

Just made the frosting and it came out perfectly. Thank you for the recipe!

Irene said...

Hi Andrea, sorry for the late response! Soupy could be for two reasons - 1. eggs did not peak, so the buttercream initially did not have enough structure, 2. you did not beat it enough before adding the strawberries - just when it looks soupy and disgusting, you should not give up but continue beating it for another 2-5 minutes. The more disgusting it looks, the closer it is to transforming into buttercream. The third reason may be that you added too much strawberries, in which case you can stabilize it with some more butter or powdered sugar. Swiss meringue buttercream is tricky and I always get discouraged when it looks curdled and soupy (in fact, I cried the first time I made it), but you just have to keep at it and eventually, it will transform.

Anonymous said...

I love how your cupcakes turned out flat. I made these myself last night according to the recipe and it raised quite a bit. I have one of those Tiffany's convection oven, it's quite small so I don't know if that has anything to do with it..

Anonymous said...

I made these yesterday for my daughter's 13th high tea birthday. The tutorial was so helpful in talking through the steps to make the perfect strawberry meringue buttercream. The result? In a word, perfect! Just like the photos, and the taste was divine.

Anonymous said...

Just finished making this strawberry buttercream and my husband and I think it's to die for! So velvety and delicious! Definitely will be using this recipe from now on! Next up, the chocolate buttercream......mmmmm!! Thank you for sharing! :)