Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling and Chocolate Ganche

After my successful rendevous into the world of boxed cakes, I decided that I was prepared to try my hand at baking something that required the addition of more than just eggs, oil, and water.  I decided I would attempt to make cupcakes (from scratch).

Without even looking for recipes, I knew what I wanted to make.  You see, my favorite dessert flavor combination is chocolate and peanut butter.  So I wanted to make chocolate cupcakes and fill them with peanut butter (I believe I've mentioned that I have a tendency to jump in head first rather than take things slowly). 

I talked to Ian (my boyfriend with a degree in culinary arts) about the logistics of filling a cupcake with peanut butter, and we had a couple of ideas...such as just putting a little spoonful of peanut butter into the batter when I filled the cupcake liners before baking.  However, I needed to find a cupcake recipe anyway, so I decided that while I was researching I would figure out exactly how to fill a cupcake.

My research of the proper way to bake a cupcake began in my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook...where I learned that YOU CAN TAKE ANY CAKE RECIPE AND TURN IT INTO CUPCAKES.  This may seem obvious to some of you, but to me this was a real revelation.  So, I picked out a chocolate cake recipe from the cookbook to try.  I also found a chocolate ganache recipe at the end of the chapter.  Now all I needed was my filling.

I was lucky enough to find a peanut butter filling recipe with a great description of how to actually get the filling into the cupcakes all in one place.  So, with all of my ingredients in hand, I set out to make what I was sure would be the best cupcakes EVER (or a major failure that I would never tell anyone about).

This is my Kitchen Aid...technically, this is Ian's Kitchen Aid.  He stores it at my apartment, which is conveniently seven hours away from his own kitchen.  I LOVE IT.  

Baking cupcakes is a fairly simple process if you are able to read and follow directions (at least it was for this recipe), especially when you have a Kitchen Aid mixer at your disposal.  Really, my first attempt at baking cupcakes turned out to be rather uneventful.  I put in the correct ingredients, the ingredients formed a delicious batter, and the batter baked into moist and chocolaty cupcakes.  

The ganache was a little different story.  You see, at the point where I was making the ganache, Ian had decided to use his expertise to help me.  I have a personality quirk where I want help when I want it...but then I want you to go away because I'm not helpless, you know?  I'm also slightly a perfectionist.  Oh, and I follow directions.  To a T.  Ian, on the other hand, is a little more of a free spirit in the kitchen...and he is very helpful.  And I'm not sure he reads directions.

So before making the ganache I called Ian into the kitchen to help me chop up the chocolate with his food processor.  And by help, I mean he did it because I don't know how to use a food processor.  Then he went away.  Then I was simmering the cream and I called him in to help me decide when the cream was slightly boiling.  He told me it was time to add the chocolate, so I did.  I, following the direction, removed the pan from the heat and set a timer to let the chocolate sit in the cream.  Ian grabbed a spoon to start stirring and I screamed, "DON'T STIR THAT!"  I may have control issues as well.  He looked at me like I was a crazy person...obviously stirring the chocolate into the cream was the end goal, and it wasn't going to hurt anything to stir it now...but that isn't what the directions said, so that is not what I was going to do.  He dropped the spoon and walked away, finished helping with my first cupcake baking experiment (luckily he knows I am a control freak who wigs out when you don't follow directions, so he wasn't mad about the scream).

After finishing the ganache, I assembled the cupcakes (filling and all), and shared the first finished product with Ian.  They were DELICIOUS.  

What I learned from making these cupcakes is to make a double batch.  One cake recipe only makes 12 ganache recipe could easily frost 36 (or more)...and peanut butter filling recipe fills 24.  Obviously one cake recipe was simply not going to cut it.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
1/3 cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl stir together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add milk, oil, and vanilla.  Beat with electric mixer on low speed just until combined.  Beat on medium speed for two minutes.  Add egg; beat two minutes more.  Pour batter into cupcake pan.
  3. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center of a cupcake comes out clean. 
  4. Cool cupcakes in pan for about five minutes, then remove and continue cooling on wire rack.

1 cup whipping cream
12 ounces milk chocolate, semisweet chocolate, or bittersweet chocolate, chopped.
  1. In a medium saucepan bring whipping cream just to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly making sure not to scorch.  Remove from heat. 
  2. Add chocolate (do not stir).  Let stand for five minutes.  Stir until smooth.  Cool 15 minutes.
  3. This should frost at least a double batch of cupcakes.

Peanut Butter Filling
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons of butter
2/3 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
  1. In a medium bowl, beat the peanut butter and butter until creamy. 
  2. Sift in the confectioners’ sugar into the bowl and beat until light and fluffy (about two minutes)
  3. Spoon all but 3 tablespoons of the peanut butter filling into a pastry bag fitting with a ¼ inch star tip.
  4. Holding the cupcake in your hand, plunge the tip into the top of the cake, pushing it about ¾ inch deep.  Gently squeeze the pastry bag to fill the cupcake, withdrawing it slowly as you squeeze.  You will feel the cupcake expand slightly as you fill it.  Scrape any filling from the top of the cupcake and repeat until all of the cupcakes are filled.
  5. Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the ganache, letting the excess drip back into the pan.  Transfer the cupcakes to the cooling rack and let them stand for five muntes.  Dip the tops of the cupcakes again and transfer them to the racks.
  6. Spoon the remaining three tablespoons of peanut butter filling into the pastry bag and pipe tiny rosettes on the tops of the cupcakes.

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