Thursday, 30 May 2013

Recipe: ultra-rich chocolate cupcakes

Ultra-rich chocolate cupcakes, as made by EJ
Ultra-rich is the only way I can really describe these cupcakes, in flavour, they are like a cross between a cupcake and a dessert. A rich, fluffy chocolate sponge topped with a piped ganache icing and sprinkled with chocolate flakes *insert yummy noises here*.

Rich chocolate cupcake with ganache icing
I used a good quality dark chocolate for both the sponge and the ganache (72% cocoa - I'd recommend this to be the minimum cocoa content you go for). I always use dark chocolate with a high cocoa content for baking and desserts. Although I have a preference for dark chocolate anyway, I'd recommend it even to those who usually favour milk, this is for a couple of reasons:

  • When you add chocolate to a recipe, you're effectively diluting it by mixing it with other ingredients - so you'll never end up with a flavour as dark as the one you started with. Using milk chocolate can sometimes result in an anti-climax of flavour (which just seems inappropriate when it comes to cake)
  • Milk chocolate (and lower quality brands of dark chocolate) contain a lesser percentage of cocoa and therefore a greater quantity of sugar. Not only is substituting flavour with sugar one of my all time personal peeves, it also affects the way a cake bakes. Using chocolate with a high sugar content increases the overall content of sugar in your recipe - meaning you are more likely to end up with a burnt cake, or a sponge with a weird consistency (which is why it can be tricky to bake with white chocolate). Less sugar + more cocoa = happy cake.
All of these things aside, these cupcakes are quite seriously rich - definitely one for chocolate lovers. I love love love the flavour of these, but having just chomped into one I can determine that I definitely only have the endurance to eat these half-a-cupcake at a time, with copious amounts of tea. Luckily for you, I have a fairly low tolerance for this kind of richness - you may indeed be able to single-handedly finish a whole batch in one sitting (in which case, I applaud you).

This recipe makes 6-8 standard-sized cupcakes.

For the cupcakes:

120g self-raising flour
120g caster sugar
120ml milk
40ml rapeseed oil
1 egg, separated
100g dark chocolate (72%)
1tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache icing and topping:

100g dark chocolate (72%)
125ml double cream
300g icing sugar
1tsp milk
Chocolate flakes

To make the cupcakes:
Pre-heat the oven to 170C (fan). Line a cupcake tin with 6-8 paper cases.

Break up the dark chocolate and gently melt in a bain-marie. Allow to cool a little while you prepare the other ingredients.

Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg white until it forms soft peaks, add the caster sugar and mix until combined, add the egg yolk and stir through. With the mixer on a low setting, gradually pour in the milk, rapeseed oil and vanilla extract. Once this is evenly combined, sift in the flour and mix into a smooth batter, pour in the cooled melted chocolate and stir through until the mixture is even. 

Spoon or pipe the mixture into the prepared cupcake cases so that they are approximately 3/4 full. Bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through.

When the cupcakes are ready, remove them fromt he oven and allow to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache and ice the cakes:

Grate the dark chocolate or chop into very small pieces and pop it into a bowl.

Heat the cream in a saucepan until it reaches boiling point, then immediately pour it into the bowl over the dark chocolate. Leave it for two minutes to allow the chocolate to melt, then stir the cream and melted chocolate together, gently - to avoid air bubbles - until the consistency and colour is even. Allow the ganache to cool to room temperature and thicken.

Once the ganache has cooled, sift in the icing sugar, use electric beaters to whip the ganache into a smooth icing - adding drops of milk as necessary. The ganache icing should be soft but able to hold it's structure - perfect for piping. 

Prepare an icing bag with a large closed star nozzle and pipe generous soft swirls of ganache on top of the cupcakes. When you pipe the ganache, the consistency is soft - almost like a smooth chocolate mousse. Sprinkle with the chocolate flakes. Leave the piped ganache icing to set for a few hours and the tops will be solid to the touch and soft when bitten into.