Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Triple Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes

Dear readers, I must confess something to you. Before I embarked on this most recent baking adventure, I took ten deep breathes, meditated for five minutes, prayed to the baking gods, and chanted a little bit. And I'm (mostly) not kidding. I first tried this recipe almost a year ago and nearly ended up having an anxiety attack. You see, I'm not someone who deals well with failure, particularly in the baking arena. I was preparing these cupcakes in a mad rush for a dinner party (mistake #1) and for some reason I found everything about the recipe, particularly the frosting, nerve wracking. The cupcakes actually turned out fine- and were even met with high praise by my parents (but they're my PARENTS, the incredibly sweet loving folks who used to proudly display my disastrous finger paintings on the refrigerator!) Bottom line, they had texture issues- the frosting was a wee bit lumpy and the cake was a little dry, and worst of all, the cupcakes were, in my mind, tinged with anxiety and mediocrity.

Fast forward one year, and here I was, ready to take on the mighty triple chocolate ganache cupcake monster once again. After the proper preparations (prayer, chanting, offerings to the baking gods), I started on the cupcakes, this time ensuring I had plenty to time (no dinner party) and the right baking music (the Fleetwood Mac station on Pandora). To make along story short, they turned out much better this time, and I'm finally recovering from the cupcake trauma of 2010. This time the only hitch was having to remake the Italian meringue buttercream frosting-- after accidentally buying and using salted butter, the frosting was way too salty. Even that though, has a positive side. I thought the original recipe I was using had an excessive amount of butter, even for buttercream frosting. In an effort not to have to make another run to the store, I found an alternate recipe that was quite a bit easier and used less butter.

The official verdict is that these cupcakes rock, according to people who aren't obligated to love me or my baking and who certainly don't give out false compliments. Amazingly chocolatey, great texture, delicious frosting-- I dare say the best chocolate cupcake I've ever had (and I've had my share, believe me!). They're a bit of effort, but completely worth it for an outcome that is leaps and bounds above your average run-of-the-mill chocolate cupcake. So, go ahead, lay an offering of frankincense, gold, and myrrh at the foot of your Kitchen Aid stand mixer, turn on your favorite baking music, and get started. It's SO worth it!

(makes 12 cupcakes)


Ganache Filling
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate 60% Cacao Baking Chips)
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar
Chocolate Cupcakes
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I used Ghiradelli Bittersweet Chocolate 60% Cacao Baking Chips)
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup bread flour (not AP flour)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Chocolate Italian Meringue Buttercream Frosting
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 150g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate (melted and cooled)


Ganache Filling
1. Place the chocolate, cream, and confectioners' sugar in a medium microwave-safe bowl.
2. Microwave until the mixture is warm to the touch, 20 to 30 seconds.
3. Whisk the mixture until smooth and refrigerate until chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the over to 350 degrees. Line a standard size muffing pan with making cup liners.
2. Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Pour the hot coffee over the mixture and whisk until smooth. Refrigerate until completely cool, about 20 minutes. Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl and set aside.
3. Whisk the oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into the cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add the dry mixture and whisk until smooth.
4. Divide the batter evenly among the muffing pan cups. Bake until the cupcakes are set and just firm to the touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the muffing pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully left each cupcake from the muffin pan and set on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
Recipe for 'Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes' from 'The Best of America's Test Kitchen 2011'

1. Find a small saucepan and a stainless steel bowl that fits over the saucepan without sinking to touch the bottom of the pan. The bowl should rest on the rim of the saucepan. Set aside the bowl and bring some water to boil in the saucepan.
2. While the water is boiling, carefully separate the egg whites with clean, dry hands into the clean, grease-free stainless steel bowl that you're going to place atop the saucepan. Add the sugar and whisk lightly to combine.
3. When the water comets a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer. Using oven mitts, carefully place the bowl over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.
4. Continuously stir the contents of the bowl lightly with a wire whisk. Stir the whites until they are foamy and very warm to the touch. Check the temperature and to see if the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should be very warm and smooth, without any grainy sugar crystals.
5. Once the whites are ready, remove the bowl from the saucepan and wipe off any condensation from the bottom of the bowl. Get your electric beaters, or whisk attachment if you're using a stand mixer, ensuring they are clean and free of grease and water.
6. While the whites are still warm, start whisking them, first at a low speed to allow them to froth up and then slowly moving up to high speed.
7. Whisk the whites until they have tripled in volume, are glossy and hold stiff peaks when you lift the beaters up.
8. If you're using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment. While mixing, add the softened butter in tablespoonfuls. Ensure the butter is fully incorporated before adding the next tablespoonful.
9. Once all the butter has been added, the mixture will be soupy-- don't worry, it's supposed to look that way.
10. Beat the mixture on medium-high speed until it thickens. This can take up to 15 minutes-- patience is a virtue!
11. Once the mixture has thickened and looks like frosting, add in the vanilla and cooled chocolate and mix until fully incorporated.
Voila! Beautiful Italian Meringue Buttercream!
For a great tutorial on this frosting with lots of pictures, please see this fantastic blog post from tastegoblet

Finishing Steps
1. Place the ganache filling in a piping bag with a round metal tip. Carefully insert the metal tip into the center of the top of each cooled cupcake and fill with a small bit of ganache, taking care not to overfill the cupcake, causing it to explode.
2. Place the frosting in a piping bag with a large star tip and gently pipe frosting into a swirl on top of each cupcake (Warning: this recipe makes *exactly* enough for 12 cupcakes, so take care not to over-frost the first cupcakes in order to ensure even distribution on all 12 cupcakes)

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