Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peppermint Buttercream

I made these cupcakes for a holiday party last week that my husband's friend was hosting. It was a bit of a hectic weekend (who isn't having one of those right now though?). So, I wanted to keep the cake, frosting and decorations simple but still festive.

I'm sure you will recognize the edible snowflakes from these sugar cookies. The chocolate cake is the classic Hershey's recipe, which I like but I really need to find one that is less messy. The addition of boiling water at the end leaves the batter very thin (bakes perfectly though) and this makes it tough to neatly fill the cupcake liners. A good idea is to have a damp cloth handy when filing the liners to quickly clean up any spills.

The frosting is another classic and my "go to" ..Swiss meringue buttercream. The addition of peppermint here pairs really well with the chocolate cake.

I became kind of obsessed with these little snowflakes. I added them to all sorts of sweets, including these cakeballs that I made as teacher gifts.

For the cake

2 cups plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup plus 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water


Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners.

To make the cake batter, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on low speed just to combine. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, vegetable oil and vanilla extract; whisk together. Add to the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and stir just to combine (batter will be very thin).

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way full. Return the pans to the oven and bake about 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:
4 egg whites
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons peppermint extract (more if you like it really minty)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
blue food coloring gel


Put egg whites, salt and sugar in a double boiler over simmering water. Whisking constantly, cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm (about 160 degrees).

Pour heated egg mixture into a clean bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat egg white mixture on high speed until it forms stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until fluffy and sides of the bowl have cooled, about 8 minutes (It's very important to beat it for the whole 8 minutes).

Switch to the paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low, add butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If frosting appears soupy or separated after all butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.)

Beat in extracts and food coloring. Reduce speed to low; beat 2 minutes to eliminate air bubbles. Stir with a rubber spatula until smooth.

Source: adapted from Martha Stewart