Friday, December 10, 2010

Berry "Sorbet" filled Devil's Food Cupcakes

Jumping on the bandwagon, I've gotten much delight over the past year from experimenting with cupcakes. Why cupcakes? Here's the thing: I am a great baker. Whatever the dough or batter, my baked goods always come out of the oven perfectly moist, beautiful and satisfying. The other side of that coin is that I am so (so) bad at decorating. With an art background, you'd think that would be my forte. Alas, for me cake decorating is an acquired skill and not a talent. The great thing about cupcakes is that if one isn't perfect, there's room for 11 more to come out prettily. Really, its just a matter of surface area.

Unfortunately, when it comes to frosting, fondants, and ganache I invariably screw something up. I heat too quickly. I whip when I should have folded. I add something that's the wrong temperature... whatever the mishap, there always seems to be something that tanks. Baking cupcakes is always a lesson in mindfulness and radical acceptance for me. It is a meditative practice that schools me in patience. It is also a wage of war. I had envisioned these cupcakes- I could almost taste them - to be little, beautiful, bites of wintery love. But, as they say, love is a battlefield.

After the cupcakes themselves came out of the oven pristine, without a crack or dent, cooked to succulent perfection, I also had on my hands one batch of botched ganache without enough ingredients (or time) remaining for a do-over, and one bowl of over-whipped cream (which became a raspberry flavored soupy mess after I whipped in the raspberries instead of folding them).

It was a baking "Hail Mary" to resort to buttercream. With clothes and face covered in chocolate and frosting, I ran out to the store. Returning with a bag of confectioner's sugar and a prayer, I finished the job. It only took 3 hours, but the end result was simply meant to be. The cupcakes were filled with a berry-cognac buttercream, which tasted like berry sorbet (Casey said, "If it tastes like sorbet, its okay to eat it with a spoon, right?"). Due to the ganache fail, they were simply topped with powdered sugar and a raspberry. If you could taste Valentine's Day, I guarantee you it would taste like these cupcakes.

Some were for a party, and two were for a birthday. Two more mysteriously disappeared from my mother's counter, and I have it on good authority that one was eaten for breakfast this morning, nothing but a powdery trail of sugar left on a dresser.

The recipe for the Devil's Food Cake came from Food Network Kitchens.
While your cupcakes are in the oven, prepare your frosting.

Berry Sorbet Buttercream Frosting
1 cup mixed Blackberries and Raspberries
1/4 cup Cognac
1 stick (1/4 lb) Unsalted Butter
1 box Confectioner's Sugar
1 cup Mini Chocolate Chips

1) In a small pot over medium-low heat, cook the berries in the cognac, stirring regularly.

2) Once the berries break down, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the mixture reduces and becomes syrupy.

3) Place the berry mixture in a bowl and place in the refrigerator until cool.


4) With an electric mixer, mix the chilled berry sauce and butter until whipped and thoroughly combined.

(If you are using a Kitchen-Aid mixer, fit it with the paddle and not the balloon whisk).

5) With the mixer at a medium speed add the confectioner's sugar 1/4 cup at a time until the frosting is thick and holds together tightly.

6) Stir in mini chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready for use.

Assembling Your Cupcakes!

1) Using a paring knife at a 45-degree angle, make a circular cut in to the top of your cupcake.

2) Remove the cone section you just cut from the cupcake and cut off the excess cake from the piece, creating a "lid" for your cupcake. Sometimes I make a little notch while I'm making the first cut, that way I can tell how the lid goes back on.

3) Use your knife to hollow out a little more of the inside of the cupcake (this gives you more room for frosting if you want it).

4) Using a teaspoon, spoon frosting in to the cupcake. Just be careful no to fill it too high, otherwise you'll have some trouble fitting the lid back on.

5) Replace the lid and press down to try to eliminate any seams (this doesn't always work so well, which is why I was going to initially cover my cupcakes with ganache).

6) Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Use a dab of frosting to glue a raspberry to the center.

So pretty! Even more tasty. Keep a close watch, they tend to disappear quickly!