It's always good when you can just wing things and they turn out. Honestly, when it comes to baking, it doesn't happen nearly often enough for me. There are always those flat muffins, those rubbery cakes, or those grainy fudges taunting me with my creative inadequacies. Taunting, I tell you! They come in my dreams, telling me that next time, I should just follow the darned recipe. So I do. Except for maybe some add-ins in cookies or scaling down a recipe, I go by the book. Blindly, I follow, thinking all the while that I am just not cut out for interesting baking. Sorta makes me glad that I decided not to do culinary or pastry school – I love baking, but I don't think it's in my blood. I don't create out of whole cloth, heck, even when I tweak things go wrong!
Unfortunately, I couldn't just go by the book when I made these cupcakes. You see, I had just finished a 7 mile run and didn't remember all the ingredients I needed to pick up at the store. So obviously, that meant that I just shouldn't pick anything up. Even the things I remembered I'd need. Yeah, I'm really functional and rational after a long run, aren't I? So in the end, I winged it. I took a recipe from Baking Bites, but realized the following: I had less than a ¼ cup of cocoa, no buttermilk, and not even any milk. And even if I had milk, I didn't have any vinegar to sour it with. If there's one thing I really am not willing to mess with, it's the leavening vs. acid thing. Brr… It just freaks me out, and I love chemistry! Oh yeah, and when I mixed up the batter, it just seemed incredibly runny, so I tossed in an extra ¼ cup of flour to appease my conscience.
The frosting was definitely created out of whole cloth. I had about 6 oz of mascarpone in my fridge from my latest tiramisu experiment, some natural peanut butter, and a craving for that chocolate peanut butter combo. Oh so good. Chocolate/peanut butter, chocolate/hazelnut, and chocolate/chocolate are probably my favorite flavor combinations for baked goods.
And in the end, was it a success? Well, in a word, yes! I brought them in to work, and was told that it was obvious that it wasn't a box mix cake. It was fluffier, lighter, and very chocolatey. The frosting probably could have been a bit more peanut buttery, but I put that to using natural peanut butter. Oddly enough, it tastes less peanutty to me than the emulsified stuff. I'm thinking that a pinch of salt would probably amp up the flavor a bit and make the peanut butter more obvious.
A couple notes about the recipes as written are probably in order. I used fat free half and half and lemon juice because I didn't have milk or buttermilk on hand. Fat content-wise, I felt that the half and half was closer to buttermilk than the heavy cream I had sitting around, but feel free to use buttermilk if you have it or sour your dairy product of choice (or convenience!). Also, I halved the cupcake recipe because I didn't want to make 24 cupcakes but didn't halve the frosting – big mistake! I had to put about half of it into the fridge for the next time I need a chocolate/peanut butter fix. Which will probably be soon, knowing me.
soon, knowing me.
These are speeding their way to Fanny of Foodbeam for Sugar High Friday - Cupcakes! I hope this is one more sign that cupcakes are not dead. Just tasty and adorable.
Chocolate Cupcakes (adapted from Baking Bites, makes 24)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup fat free half and half (it's all I had on hand)
1 tsp lemon juice
1/3 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
Preheat oven to 350F. Place liners in 2-12 cup muffin tins.
Over a double boiler, melt the bittersweet chocolate. Set aside and let cool.
In a large bowl, whisk together cocoa, flour, white sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt until thoroughly mixed.
Measure out the half and half into a measuring cup and add the lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes before adding the water, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla.
Sift the flour mixture into the bowl with the melted chocolate (I did it this way so that I didn't lose any of the chocolate by having to transfer it to another bowl). Whisk the liquid ingredients into flour mixture until all of the ingredients are mixed in and no streaks of flour remain.
Put ¼ cup of the batter in each muffin cup. You may have a little extra, but I just put it in a small ramekin and baked it off as my personal cupcake.
Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, or with only a few crumbs.
Remove cupcakes from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.
Peanut Butter Mascarpone Frosting (makes enough to generously frost 24 cupcakes)
6 oz mascarpone
3 T creamy peanut butter
¼ tsp salt
3 T fat free half and half
1 lb powdered sugar
Put the mascarpone into a bowl and whip with an electric mixer until creamy. Beat in the peanut butter and salt until combined, followed by the half and half. Add the powdered sugar a cup or so at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. If you overshoot and get it too stiff to pipe or spread, just splash a little more half and half in. Taste and add more peanut butter if it's not peanutty enough for you.