I didn't have some sort of memory lapse and make the chocolate chocolate cupcakes for the second week in a row. There just wasn't enough time to make the rugalagh for TWD... I hope you guys don't stop reading! Last week, it was my friend's birthday so I decided to bake her cupcakes. She hasn't had anything I baked recently, since I put her through my rigorous chocolate chip cookie testing last year...haha Those were the days when only the batter tasted good while the baked result resembled something more like a hockey puck. It wasn’t until I stumbled on Cook’s Illustrated last Christmas when my desserts were finally edible. Not to mention, I also started to measure properly and stir the dry ingredients so that I wouldn’t end up with a cake that tasted soapy and bitter. Even though some may find CI to be a little annoying because they tend to focus on only one particular way of doing things and can put a limit on the creativity, I think they lay down the basics really well for an inexperienced baker. It also helps keep paranoid bakers like me from thinking too much and to just go with it. If I’m given too many choices, I’ll probably never end up baking anything! It’s kind of like when there are 2 parking spots in front of me and I end up parking in both. I hope you guys don’t take this to be a sign of a bad driver.. haha.. it’s just that I am that indecisive.
Earlier in the year during the PBS telethon, CI featured the old fashioned chocolate cake, which looked absolutely irresistible! I actually decided to bake a cupcake version of this recipe one hour before leaving for school. I even thought I could multitask and whip the eggs and sugar while measuring out the dry ingredients. It wasn’t until I tasted the batter when I realized I forgot to add salt! Luckily, I used salted butter, but there was still something that was definitely lacking. Thank god people eat with their eyes and seem to have some sort of obsession with frosting. I’m not usually into frostings other than whipped cream or cream cheese, but swiss meringue buttercream on the other hand, actually I should say, this SMBC from Cassie’s How to Eat a Cupcake is definitely worth the calories. It was simply melt in your mouth and creamy without coming off as tasting like a stick of butter. To help boost the flavour of the almost salt-less chocolate cake, I made a coffee flavoured frosting and used salted butter... hoping that the salt in the frosting would compensate.
After school, I made the frosting, but totally forgot that I wasn't bringing these until the next day. I wasn't into the idea of making people sick so I put the frosting in the fridge all ready to go in a piping bag. I was totally not expecting a lumpy curdled frosting the next day after I let the frosting come to room temperature. It was really gross and there was brown liquid from the coffee and vanilla separating out. Instead of taking out the mixer, somehow I thought I could hand whip this curdled mess into frosting again with my cake spatula. Well, after some vigorous mixing it was not coming together, but I already spent so much time on it, I didn't want to give in and take out the mixer. Then, it was almost like magic and the frosting came together. I could have easily avoided this whole mess had I just frosted the cupcakes and stored them in the fridge. But, no, my overly paranoid self was afraid that refridgeration would unfluffify the cake. I also wouldn't have to deal with the aftereffects of arm pain from all that hand mixing.. haha I know.. very embarassing!
The reaction? Well, the first thing people commented on was how amazing the frosting was, but the cake part was really good too. How can a cake made without salt taste good? I guess it’s true, a cake is simply a vehicle for frosting. This has officially taken over the place of Dorie's devil’s food white out cake as my favourite chocolate cake, mostly because of its texture. My friend actually ate 3 in one sitting! I'm not even going to mention how much butter was in the frosting alone, but then again, birthdays are only once a year. Sorry for the bad pics again, but I have no idea where my camera charger is so I took these with my cell phone.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adapted from Cassie's How to eat a Cupcake
* I used salted butter to compensate for the lack of salt in my cake (it wasn't too salty because it was coffee flavoured, but I definitely wouldn't use salted butter for vanilla frosting)
* I increased the amount of butter by 1/2 a stick because the frosting was still really soft
* I added 2 teaspoons of instant coffee
Makes about 4 cups (enough to frost 24 cupcakes)
4 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup (2.5 sticks) salted butter, at room temp
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons instant coffee
Put egg whites and sugar into the top of a double boiler over a pan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).
Pour heated egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and cooled, about 7 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter two tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Increase speed to medium-high; continue beating until frosting appears thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low; dissolve instant coffee in vanilla and pour mixture into mixing bowl and continue beating 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles.