Unlike most people I know, I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes. I definitely have a sweet tooth, but I prefer the richness of cookies or brownies to light cakes topped with tooth-aching frosting. Nor am I much for the whole “food as a craft project” notion (it’s pretty safe to say that I’m the anti-Bakerella), so the thought of baking cupcakes for the sake of decorating them doesn’t hold much appeal, either.
I know the recipe listed below has the term “cupcakes” in the title but you can safely leave behind all notions of buttermilk cake and creamy swirls of powdered sugar-based frosting. A variation of Nigella Lawson’s equally delicious chocolate loaf cake from her cookbook How To Be A Domestic Goddess, these cupcakes are not so much cute and sugary as they are subtly intense and aromatic. They are also ridiculously easy to make (perfect for those as impatient and messy as myself), as the icing is nothing more than a simple ganache spread on top of the cakes and left to set. No pastry bags or sprinkles required.
2 ounces best bittersweet chocolate, melted
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla
½ cup boiling water
½ cup flour
½ tsp. baking powder
1) Cream the butter and sugar
2) Add egg and vanilla and beat well
3) Fold in the melted and slightly cooled chocolate. Careful not to overmix- you want the chocolate incorporated, you don’t want a light airy mass.
4) Gently add the flour (to which you’ve added the baking powder), alternately spoon by spoon with the boiling water until you have a smooth, fairly liquid batter.
5) Pour batter into 12 lined muffin tins (each will be about 2/3 full).
6) Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes.
Let cupcakes cool completely, then frost with the following:
1 ½ ounces milk chocolate
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used about 2 ounces semisweet, 1 ounce bittersweet)
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup plus 3 tablespoons cream
(Sorry the measurements are a bit screwy, I cut the original recipe in half after discovering that it made enough ganache for an army of cupcakes)
1) Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate is melted.
2) Remove from heat and whisk until the mixture is of spreading consistency (it will still be pretty runny compared to regular frosting)
3) Spread onto cupcakes with the back of a spoon
4) Leave to set somewhere cool, although preferably not the fridge.
5) Decorate as you wish (I took Nigella’s suggestion and simply placed one brown M&M in the center of each cake).
Note: If you can, make these the day before and store in an airtight container. They moisten up beautifully and the chocolate flavor really wakes up.