I'm still channeling my fascination for Cupcake Wars and still kibbitzing over my cupcake corer. Seriously, I love this thing. If I was still 5 years old, it'd be the equivalent of a new Barbie. This time I remembered to buy regular cupcake liners so my cupcakes wouldn't be too big and the corer would work as it's supposed to. And it did - plunge, twist and lift up. You're left with a perfect round hole in the cupcake and a little cylinder of cupcake in the corer which you could pop out and sample *cough* over and over again *cough* as many times as you have cupcakes.
Besides pastry cream with vanilla cupcakes, my other safe flavor combination is chocolate with caramel. So I made these chocolate sour cream cupcakes and filled them with salted caramel before frosting with chocolate buttercream. That was the plan anyway. After I had filled the first 3 cupcakes, I got concerned that the caramel filling would just seep into the cupcake and make it too moist. I wasn't giving the cupcakes away until the next morning and I didn't know how the cupcakes would fare overnight. So for the rest of the cupcakes, I ended up mixing the chocolate buttercream frosting with some of the salted caramel and used that as the filling instead.
I also ended up modifying the buttercream recipe to suit my taste. The original recipe by Elinor Klivans called for 3 sticks of butter. While I've used that much butter in 1 recipe without blinking, having that much in a frosting recipe did give me pause. I don't really care for traditional buttercream because the texture always seems a bit greasy to me. So I cut back on the butter, omitted the heavy cream from the original recipe and came up with my own frosting. Frosting measurements are never that precise because you have to play with the dry and liquid ingredients to get the flavor and consistency you want and there's no one right answer. Just be sure you let your butter come to room temperature (but not too soft) and let your melted chocolate cool properly before adding it or it'll melt the butter.
Did I mention these cupcakes were to die for? They're scrumptious on their own, unfilled and unfrosted with the perfect taste and cakey texture that's fluffy, not too dense or too rich. If you like the bells and whistles on your cupcake, adding the filling and frosting will send you into orbit. I also sprinkled fleur de sel over the frosting to top off the sweet-salty combination.
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream
½ cup water
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 18 muffins tins with cupcake liners.
2. Melt the chocolate in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water, stirring until smooth.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until well blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the melted chocolate until incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until blended. Add the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. Add half of the dry ingredients and beat on low speed until just incorporated. Add the water. Add the remaining dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
5. Distribute evenly amongst cupcake liners and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, about 15-20 minutes. Cool completely before filling and frosting.
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Melt the chocolate in the top half of a double boiler set over hot water. Stir until smooth and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Beat the butter until creamy. Sift the powdered sugar and cocoa together into a large mixing bowl. Add to the butter and, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat until smoothly blended. Beat in the melted chocolate. Add the vanilla, mixing to incorporate.