Vegan Love: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Rich Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Have you ever tried a vegan cupcake? True, I don’t typically practice Veganism (abstaining from the use of animal products) in my day to day life, but I am a baker who loves nothing more than trying new things. And since there are many who do choose this lifestyle, I love having vegan options in my baking repertoire. As you may guess though, making a rich and lovely cupcake with no eggs, butter, or milk is a bit of a challenge, or at least you would likely expect it to be. The truth is, had I not been the one who made these cupcakes, I would honestly never guess that they were dairy and egg free, because they are perfectly decadent. You know me–it has to be super yummy for me to share it with you!

The seemingly random need to share a vegan recipe with came from a vegan chocolate cake recipe I found in an inspiring new baking book I have, called Tea with Bea: Recipes from Bea’s of Bloomsbury. Now this book isn’t a vegan baking book, but rather a gorgeous collection of cakes and other baked goods from Bea’s of Bloomsbury in the UK (think vanilla coconut cake with lemon curd & cheesecake filling, gingerbread Guinness cake with poached pears & cream cheese icing and more). Among of all the delightful recipes in this book, I noticed that Bea explains that the vegan chocolate cake is so good that many customers don’t even realize it’s vegan. How could I possibly resist?

I thought I would make this recipe in cupcake form and try out a vegan chocolate frosting recipe. For the cake, Bea was right–you would honestly never know it’s vegan, and with ingredients like sunflower oil, red wine vinegar, and soy milk, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I stuck with a high quality, extra dark cocoa powder, because I knew that regardless of everything else in it, I wanted the intense and pleasing chocolate taste to be dominant. Both taste and texture went way beyond my expectations, truly (particularly the cake texture–so incredibly moist). As for vegan chocolate frosting, well I knew this was going to be interesting since butter is the base for most cupcake frostings I love, and I knew I wanted this frosting to deliver some serious chocolaty richness.

So . . . let’s keep an open mind when I tell you that it’s made with dark chocolate, icing sugar, vanilla, almond milk and…Vegan, non-hydrogenated, omega-3 margarine (gasp!). It’s made by Becel, has no Trans fats, and is primarily made of canola & sunflower oils, but also has vitamin E, vitamin A, beta carotene and more. I know, trust me, I know–the thought of margarine can turn us off, but honestly, margarine has come a long, long way since we may have last checked in. I’m not a margarine expert, but I was very comfortable whipping this into a dark chocolate frosting and, most importantly, indulging in it. Guys it tasted pretty darn fabulous (by now you know I would never steer you wrong, right?).

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

The cupcakes don’t need sprinkles, because they really are that good, but if you’re like me and you can’t resist the urge to sprinkle your cupcakes, just keep in mind that, if you need the cupcakes to be completely vegan most sprinkles, quins and dragees aren’t vegan. You can find a few brands out there that are indeed vegan, such as some India Tree products, or I used some real dark chocolate sprinkles from De Ruijter, because they were as close to vegan I had (no animal ingredients in the list, but a mention of possible traces of milk). Since I was just making them for us, I was okay with that, but you would definitely want to triple check if you needed them to be completely vegan. Another option is to use a few berries as decoration, dark chocolates, sugar, or any other small vegan confection you can think of.

Trust me, whether you’re vegan or not, these cupcakes are frickin’ yummy.

Vegan Love: Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Rich Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 275 g/2 cups plain/all-purpose flour
  • 100 g/3/4 cup natural cocoa powder (such as Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 450 ml/1-3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) red wine vinegar
  • 320 g/ 1-2/3 cups caster/superfine sugar
  • 320 ml/1-1/4 cups sunflower oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vanilla extract
  • For the Frosting:
  • 1 cup (227 g/8 oz) Vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1 cup (125 g/4 oz) icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered)
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 5 oz (145 g) quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) almond or soy milk
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (315°F) Gas 4. Put the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sift twice.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy milk, vinegar, sugar, oil and vanilla extract. Pour into the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
  3. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40-55 minutes. A wooden skewer inserted in the middle should come out with almost no crumbs attached, and the middle of the cake, when pressed, should spring back slightly instead of sink. Bake for an additional 5-10 minutes if necessary.
  4. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slide a table knife all around the edge to loosen the cake, then remove from the pan. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour.
  5. For the Frosting:
  6. In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine the icing sugar and margarine and beat on low speed, about 1 minute.
  7. Add vanilla and beat on low until well combined. Add the melted & cooled chocolate and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add almond milk and salt, and beat on medium speed for another minute.
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[vegan chocolate cake recipe shared with permission, from the book Tea With Bea]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • The Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe from the book (Tea with Bea) is for a 9″ cake, but I decided to make cupcakes–if you opt for cupcakes, baking time is approximately 18-20 minutes (this can vary depending on your oven, but start to check them around 18 minutes). Once removed from oven, carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan to cool on a wire rack.
  • You can divide the cake recipe in 1/2 for 12 cupcakes.
  • If you do bake the cake in a round pan, rather than cupcakes, you could split the batter into two 9″ round pans, rather than baking one taller 9″ layer that would later need to be split.
  • If you don’t have superfine sugar, you can simply put your granulated sugar through the food processor for a few pulses.
  • I always use Nielsen-Massey Vanilla for my baking. For this recipe I also used Callebaut Dark Callets 70.4 % )
  • If frosting is too thick, add more almond or soy milk one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached; if too runny, add a small amount of icing sugar until desired consistency is reached. Frosting thickens as it sets.
  • Store frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days (just ate one on day 3, and it rocked).
  • Be careful with sprinkles–only specific brands are vegan (if you are making these for someone who is vegan, you will need to watch for common sprinkle ingredients such as gelatine, milk, egg whites, etc)
  • These cupcakes & frosting are also perfect for anyone who chooses to eat lactose-free.
  • For even more fabulous vegan cupcake ideas, check out Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule (thanks, Amy for reminding me about this book in your post comment)

Good luck & enjoy!

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Pink Champagne Cake Pops

Pink Champagne Cake Pops via Sweetapolita

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Well, you know what they always say: When life hands you Pink Champagne Cake, make Pink Champagne Cake Pops! They do say that, right? So here’s what happened, as there’s kind of a serendipitous story behind these fun, sparkly and boozy Cake Pops. For months now, I’ve planned on doing a girly Pink Champagne Cake post for New Year’s Eve. In preparation for the post, I spent many hours reading what seemed to be every Champagne Cake recipe out there, including every Champagne frosting–I had a vision and wanted to make sure it tasted as decadent and perfect as it sounds. I discovered many (delightful) cupcake variations, but you know me, I had my heart set on a pink fluffy layer cake.

If you’ve not heard of Pink Champagne Cake, it’s a retro American celebratory cake that seems to have gained popularity back in the 1950s. From what I can tell, the original recipe consists of a champagne-infused layer cake (with traditional champagne, not pink) filled with a sweet coconut marshmallow filling and topped with a sugary melted fondant-style frosting (the pink comes into play with pink-tinted frosting, although you can tint the cake pink as well). As you can probably imagine, this rang every single one of my retro-recipe-loving bells. So after much research, I enthusiastically set out last week to make this cake with my own spin on the presentation, but using the traditional combination above. I made it with care, but dare I say the traditional combination just wasn’t for me–the cake layers were wonderful, but the filling was so sticky and tricky to work with, and the frosting much too sugary for me. So…I tried another version I found in the clever baking book, Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine, and Beer. Again, I loved the cake layers and the frosting was delightful–overall it tasted great, but I really had my heart set on incorporating the traditional coconut and marshmallow! I have since come up with some ways to tie these ingredients in, in a way that makes me much happier, but alas–New Year’s Eve is already here!

So back I headed into the kitchen when I realized that I used my favourite bottle of champagne (Veuve Clicquot) in the cake (which was kind of a good thing, since the champagne taste is very present). There was no way I was going to waste these yummy champagne-infused cake layers, so it came to me: I’ll use the cake layers and the frosting to make Cake Pops (cake + frosting + blend + ball + stick + dip in melted chocolate coating + decorate)! Well, the idea of transforming my cake layers and frosting into Bakerella’s Cake Pops that is, I didn’t come up with the actual concept of Cake Pops. Wouldn’t I be clever if I did? That is the crafty brilliance of Angie (aka Bakerella), and if she only knew that day she created her first Cake Pop that they would change the world of dessert and parties forever. She’s one incredibly talented woman who creates some seriously adorable and unique Cake Pops, among many other fabulous baked goods, and who I’ve discovered is simply as sweet as her cake pops. Strangely, though, I’ve never attempted to make her fabulous creation before, until now.

So off I went to blend my champagne cake layers and champagne frosting (I used my favourite whipped vanilla frosting and modified it to be champagne frosting) and turn them into deluxe cake pops (then I remembered how much I loved the glittery pops I spotted here). I’m sorry for not sharing this earlier so you could have given them a whirl for tonight’s festivities, but how fun for any party, wedding or pretty much any celebration. And, yes, we will definitely be snacking on these tonight as we ring in the new year!

The recipe I’m sharing is for the cake layers and my frosting, which together do make for a wonderful cake, so feel free to create it that way, but I’ve also included the steps I took to make them into cake pops. Consider this a raincheck for my Sweetapolita version of the Pink Champagne Cake!

I also want to say thank you from the bottom of my cake-loving heart for all of the support, kind words and enthusiasm you’ve all showed me and this blog in 2011. My mind is flooded with so many fun ideas to share with you, and I look forward to a year filled with even more baking, blogging and sharing.

I wish you all a fabulous New Year’s Eve and New Year filled with love, creativity and magic. Bring on 2012!

Pink Champagne Cake Pops

Yield: Two 8 or 9-inch cake layers, or 48 cake pops

Ingredients

    For the Cake:
  • 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) sugar
  • 3 cups (360 g) cake flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon (7.5 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (4 g) baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon (6 g) salt
  • 6 (180 g) egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (480 ml) champagne, room temperature
  • Red food colouring (optional)
  • For the Frosting:
  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups (480 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) champagne
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • Few drops of red food colour (optional)
  • For the Cake Pops You Will Need:
  • The two 8" or 9" round Champagne Cake layers, broken uup into pieces
  • ~2 cups of the Champagne Frosting
  • 1 lb (453 g) of white chocolate couverture (I used Callebaut Belgian White Chocolate because I love the quality taste, but you can also use chocolate candy coating--note that white chocolate doesn't get as candy-hard as the candy coating)
  • Some coloured white chocolate coating melts (if you want to add colour to the coating)
  • White lollipop sticks (I used 6" Lollipop sticks)
  • Gold Disco Dust, optional
  • Gold Star Sprinkles, optional

Instructions

    For the Cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two round 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans with butter, line bottoms with parchment, butter again and dust with flour.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy on medium speed, about 5 minutes.
  3. While the butter and sugar are blending, sift all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt) together and set aside.
  4. Gradually add egg whites to creamed mixture with mixer on medium speed, followed by the vanilla. Add and alternate dry ingredients and champagne, beginning and ending with dry (3 dry additions, 2 wet) and mix until fully incorporated, but be sure to not over-mix.
  5. Distribute batter evenly between the two prepared pans (use a digital kitchen scale for perfectly even layers), and smooth tops with an offset palette knife.
  6. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted comes out clean (don't open the oven door before 25 minutes), about 35 minutes. (Ovens vary greatly, so be sure to keep a close eye.) The top of the cake should bounce back when gently touched. Let sit in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes before gently removing from pan. Let cakes rest on wire rack until completely cool.
  7. For the Frosting:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium. Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  9. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  10. If you are using the frosting for the Cake Pops and not to frost a cake, you can simply blend on medium speed for about 3-4 minutes.
  11. Assembly of the Pink Champagne Cake Pops
  12. Prepare 2 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
  13. Place your broken up (but completely cooled) cake layers in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed for a few moments until you have a nice crumbly consistency (or you can do by hand in a large bowl).
  14. Add frosting gradually into the cake crumbs and blend on medium speed until you have a nice dough-like consistency (I found the mixer very helpful for this), about 2 cups of frosting total.
  15. Using a small cookie scoop (or similar), roll dough into evenly sized balls and place on lined cookie sheets, until all of the dough has been rolled and place in the fridge for about 15 minutes.
  16. Melt a small amount of the chocolate in the microwave (10 second intervals and stirring in between). Dip one end of a lollipop stick in the chocolate and insert into the cake ball. Repeat until you have a stick in every ball. Place in freezer for about 30 minutes, or refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  17. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt your chocolate coating in the microwave (20 second intervals and stir). If you're adding some colour, you can include some coloured pieces along with the white.
  18. Dip each ball into the chocolate and gently tap off excess (you may need to place back in microwave for a few seconds if chocolate starts to thicken). If you are serving the Cake Pops ball down (as I did in the photo), you can place onto a clean piece of wax paper or Silpat, stick up, to dry. If you are adding glitter and/or stars, you will want to sprinkle them on immediately after placing each one on the wax paper, as the coating hardens very quickly. If you want to serve your Cake Pops lollipop-style (ball on the top), you will want to insert the end of the stick into a polystyrene foam brick to dry (or florist's foam).
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[adapted from Booze Cakes: Confections Spiked with Spirits, Wine, and Beer and Oceana restaurant's YouTube video recipe]

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

Good luck & enjoy!

Related posts:

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So, it turns out I’ve been on a bit of a gingerbread kick lately . . .

I love sugar and spice and everything nice, and gingerbread (in any form) is such an old-fashioned treat that I can’t seem to get enough of (even though I seem to eat the entire year’s worth between December 1-December 31st). I make some form of gingerbread every year over the holidays, but yet it never dawned on me that pairing it with chocolate would be so delightful and that it would just all make so much sense . . . until, of course, I made Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Being an SMB (or SMBC) lover, I couldn’t resist tossing some gingerbread spices into a big fluffy batch of Brown Sugar Buttercream, making it the gingerbread variation, for swirling onto holiday cupcakes. I suddenly seem to be using Brown Sugar Buttercream often lately, because it’s such a wonderful base for so many variations (such as here and for the deliciousness that was Peanut Butter Buttercream.

The thing was, I knew I wanted to make little gingerbread cookie toppers, and if I had made gingerbread cupcakes to go along with the gingerbread buttercream, that would have made them triple gingerbread cupcakes which seemed a bit, well, spicy (although, that may not be a bad thing–I will try this and get back to you). For this round, adding some rich dark chocolate to the idea just felt right.

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Then I remembered how much I’d wanted to try the chocolate cupcake recipe from a book I recently received: Making Cupcakes with Lola, which was written by the talented baker duo from Lola’s in the UK. This is one of the loveliest cupcake books I’ve read, and I’ve studied it for weeks–the cupcakes are a mix of classic and creative and the gorgeous photography & styling just brings it all to life.

I am eager to try many of their more unusual, or as they call it, “over the top” cupcakes (think Masala Chai Tea cupcakes, Gingerbread Latte cupcakes and more), but I couldn’t resist starting with their classic chocolate cupcake recipe. It stood out to me because they use both melted chocolate and cocoa powder and calls for no other liquid ingredient aside from 4 eggs. I was kind of intrigued! It’s a lighter, fluffier chocolate cake as opposed to the more fudgy oil-based chocolate cake I often use, which was a fun change, and I loved the double chocolate result.

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So once I had my heart set on dark chocolate & gingerbread cupcakes, it dawned on me that my little gingerbread cookie toppers simply must be dipped in the finest dark chocolate — just makes good sense, right? I actually love making tiny gingerbread folk versus the standard size, because they are so cute and they are a perfect kid-sized treat. I was pretty excited when I remembered Reese having a teeny tiny house cutter in her playdough tool bin that was the perfect size for little chocolate gingerbread house toppers. So then we had a wee gingerbread girl and her wee gingerbread house. As far as we were concerned, it was kind of awesome. Why do things like this excite me so much? I’ll never know.

I hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday filled with holiday baking and hopefully, for your sake, no shopping! Personally, I like to keep the circus element of my day in our own four walls at this time of year, just as I am today. This thought would comfort me, if it weren’t for the fact that I have barely started my holiday shopping. Minor detail!

I’ll be back very soon with another holiday delight!

P.S. I’m pretty sure we’d jingle Santa’s bells if we left him a plate of these and a tall glass of milk. Maybe we could even add a pretty wrapped box of the chocolate dipped gingerbread cookies for his elves?

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes          {click to print}

Double Chocolate Gingerbread Cupcakes = Lola’s Chocolate Cupcakes + Gingerbread Swiss Buttercream + Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread Cookie Toppers

Lola’s Bakery Chocolate Cupcakes

*written (with permission) as it reads in the book, Making Cupcakes with Lola

Ingredients

100 g/3 1/2 oz dark bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets)

175 g/1 1/2 sticks butter, cubed

225 g/1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (caster) sugar

4 eggs

100 g/3/4 cup self-rising flour

2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Extra Brute Cocoa Powder)

a pinch of salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4.

1. Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts and you have a smooth, glossy mixture. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Let cool for 10 minutes.

2. Now beat with an electric hand mixer for 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 10 seconds between each addition.

3. Sift the flour, cocoa and salt into the bowl and beat until blendid.

4. Divide the mixture between the muffin cases. Bake in the preheated oven and let cool completely on a wire rack before decorating.

Sweetapolita’s Notes

*Caster/castor sugar is also known as superfine sugar. You can create your own superfine sugar by substituting regular granulated sugar and processing it in a food processor until very fine.

**As with any cake or cupcake recipe I bake, I used room temperature eggs (not cold).

***I filled the cupcake liners a little more than I typically do, as I divided the batter evenly among the 12 liners, as directed. They were just over 2/3 full. I typically don’t prefer a “muffin-top” cupcake, but because I knew I wanted a wider cupcake to hold very billowy swirls of buttercream, I went with it. I may never look back.

Gingerbread Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Yield: ~5 cups, enough for filling and frosting an 8-inch round cake, or frosting 12+ cupcakes.

Ingredients

5 large egg whites (~150 grams/5 ounces)

1 1/4 cup (250 grams/8.5 ounces) dark brown sugar (you can also use light brown sugar)

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks,  340 grams/12 ounces/3/4 lb) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

1/2 teaspoon ( mL) pure vanilla extract (I use Nielsen-Massey Vanillas 8-oz. Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract)

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

a pinch of ground nutmeg

a pinch of salt

Method

1. Wipe the bowl and whisk attachment of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease. Add egg whites and brown sugar and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140-160°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot, about 5 minutes if you used room temperature egg whites. About 8+ minutes if they were cold.

2. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so and is so important–never add butter to warm meringue). Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add softened butter in chunks until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing on medium-low and it will come back to smooth).

3. Add vanilla, salt and spices, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.

Sweetapolita’s Notes on Swiss Meringue Buttercream:

* Can make buttercream ahead and keep in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to one week, leaving out at room temperature when needed, re-whipping in mixer for 5 minutes.

** Can freeze for up to 6-8 weeks. To thaw, place on counter overnight, and rewhip for 5 minutes with paddle attachment in an electric mixer.

***If not satiny enough upon rewhip, take 1/3 of buttercream and microwave in a microwave-safe container for ~8 seconds, then add back to mixing bowl and remix with remaining buttercream.

****For more detail about making Swiss Meringue Buttercream, you can find my FAQ here and photo tutorial here.

Chocolate-Dipped Gingerbread Cookies

1. Bake your favourite gingerbread cookie dough, and cut desired shapes–I prefer bite-size cookies in general, especially when using them for cupcake toppers. For these cookies, I tried Martha’s Molasses-Gingerbread Cookies recipe, and I followed it to the letter. I love them because they are dark and have a very deep molasses taste. The dough is gorgeous–just note that you will likely need to add quite a bit of flour while rolling and you will need to flour your cutter often, otherwise it is quite sticky. Once baked, let cookies cool on wire rack. *I found my little house and gingerbread doll cutters in my little girl’s playdough tool box, so don’t feel you have to stick with traditional cookie cutters.

2. Melt some (depending on how many cookies you are covering) quality chocolate in the microwave, and if you follow this easy tempering process (when, using the microwave, your chocolate will be tempered in seconds, which is how we get the chocolate to harden with a nice sheen. For these cookies, I used Callebaut Dark Chocolate Callets, which is rich, dark and perfect for covering cookies and is intended for melting down.

3. Dip cookies into chocolate using two forks (or if you have a chocolate-dipping fork), covering entire cookie, or even just half, depending on the look you want to achieve, letting the excess chocolate drip back into bowl.

4. Place on Silpat or wax paper-lined cookie sheet.

5. Place filled sheet in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.

Place upon cupcakes or simply eat them as they are. Or both! Store at room temperature.

Good luck & enjoy!


Related posts:

Bakery-Style Vanilla Cupcakes

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Happy National Vanilla Cupcake Day! I’m sorry that I’m sending you these wishes at the end of the day, but I couldn’t go without celebrating this holiday with you, but as usual, this is a late-night write. With such a holiday to celebrate, how could I possibly wake up and not bake a batch of classic pink vanilla bakery-style cupcakes? I couldn’t, so I did.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

So we’ve got company today–a close friend (you may remember I chatted awhile back about how it was because of him my husband and I met) visiting from Grand Cayman, and I thought it would be a great time to celebrate National Vanilla Cupcake Day. I realized that as much as I make vanilla cake with vanilla frosting (of all kinds), that I don’t often make a classic bakery-style vanilla cupcake with sweet frosting and sprinkles. I know, it’s really inexcusable, considering. So this morning I woke up and made a batch of the Magnolia Bakery vanilla cupcakes. If you’re not familiar with the Magnolia Bakery, it’s a charming bakery in New York City that has been celebrated for its from-scratch baked goods, most notably the pink vanilla cupakes and the like. I first learned of the bakery while watching Sex in the City, but I’m sad to report that I’ve never actually set foot inside the bakery or tried any of their treats.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

As you may believe, I love cupcakes, and I have made many, but I hadn’t ever baked or tried their version, so today seemed like a good time to give that a whirl. The cupcake portion of their recipe is a very classic butter cake technique and you won’t find anything too unexpected in the ingredient list, but the result is pleasingly vanilla and perfectly classic. After much blog discussion about vanilla cake, following the Fluffy White Vanilla Cake post (a post about my epic journey to discover a pure white, fluffy, cake-mix-like scratch cake), I have received dozens of emails asking me if that batter would be suitable for the ultimate cupcake. Truthfully, I find that batter amazing and ideal for fluffy cake layers, but with only egg whites, I find it doesn’t make the ideal cupcakes. That’s just for my taste, though, but I love a sweet, sturdy and “eggy” cupcake (sorry if that sounds odd, but it’s the only way I can describe that taste). This recipe calls for, among other things, 4 whole eggs, a generous amount of white sugar and a combination of self-rising and all-purpose (plain) flour, which to me is a great combination for the classic cupcake.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

If you read my previous post about my Ruffles & Roses tea party, you may remember the Fairy Cakes. For those I used another vanilla cupcake recipe from another popular New York City bakery, Billy’s Bakery, that has a very similar ingredient list, but uses a combination of cake flour and self-rising flour. That recipe, however, uses the reverse creaming method, just as my Fluffy Vanilla Cake does, and the result is very similar to the Magnolia Bakery version. To me, they are both wonderful and consistent options for the perfect vanilla cupcake and I think the biggest difference is the “cake flour” taste–some love it, and some prefer a less distinct flavour that all-purpose flour seems to lend.

Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

For the frosting, I opted to sort of combine my favourite whipped vanilla frosting with the sugary-sweet Magnolia buttercream, by increasing the icing sugar, but keeping it a bit less than what they call for. I have to admit that making these pink sprinkled vanilla cupcakes, made me happier than even I could have guessed.

If you’d like to keep up with the seemingly endless ‘National Dessert Days,” just for fun, my friends over at Best Friends for Frosting have a fabulous post including the Complete Directory List of National Dessert Days, and, trust me, I refer to it often!

Speaking of pink sprinkles, I’m not sure my life will be complete if I don’t soon order this. Why do sprinkles make us so silly happy?

Ah, yes, sprinkles. I have too much to say about them. No, really, I do, but, oh friends, it’s the middle of the night here in my world, and I think I must go to sleep! I don’t say that often, but tonight, I must. I will be back very soon to talk about all sorts of life-altering topics: flour, buttercream, frosting cakes, chocolate, pink . . . zzzz.

Off I go to dream about cakes and rainbows. Or more sleep.

Bakery-Style Vanilla Cupcakes

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes, or two 9-inch round cakes

Ingredients

    For the cupcakes:
  • 1-1/2 cups (190 g) self-rising flour
  • 1-1/4 cups (160 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks)(227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (400 g) white sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (237 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla
  • For the frosting:
  • 3 sticks (345 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 5 cups (625 g) confectioners’ sugar (icing, powdered)
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

    For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 standard muffin tins with cupcake liners of your choice (24 total).
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flours and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Add the dry ingredients in 3 parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not over beat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
  5. Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners and bake in middle of oven until tops turn golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out just clean (a few crumbs is okay), about 18 minutes.
  6. Cool the cupcakes in tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.
  7. For the frosting:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  9. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 5 minutes. Frosting will be very light, creamy, and fluffy.
  10. Add touch of gel food colour, if desired and mix until blended.
  11. Best used right away.

Notes

[cupcake recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

1. To keep frosting smooth and creamy (and not filled with air-bubbles), work it often in the bowl with a rubber spatula, in a pressing & smearing movement to remove air bubbles.

2. To decorate these cupcakes, I used a few drops of Americolor Electric Pink Soft Gel Paste to achieve the “bakery-pink” colour. I then piped a generous swirl of frosting onto each cupcake using a plain round decorating tip inserted in a piping bag, followed by pressing the bottom flat side of a small offset spatula into the centre of the frosting swirl, working in a gentle circular motion, to create an indent and swirl onto the cupcake.

3. I try to avoid keeping cupcakes in an airtight container, as that seems to cause some of the liners to separate from the cupcakes. Cake boxes with the flaps closed seems to work well.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians! I’m not completely sure how it became October, but I’ll take it. Last week was a busy one with some special cake projects on the go, including a fresh & summery cake for Wedding Bells magazine (that will be out in the new year, so I’ll be sure to share!). I was so immersed in summery inspiration boards and colour-palettes, that I almost forgot it was briskly turning to autumn. I have to admit that this is my favourite time of year for many reasons, but my autumnal association with caramel is right up there on the list. Well, that and Oktoberfest in my German-rooted hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo, but since I haven’t been able to attend that craziness since I was in my 20s, I’ve moved on to the ever-comforting and endless list of caramel-ly recipes that call my name at this time of year.

I also tend to crave desserts with a bit more texture and depth of flavour, and these almond and pear cupcakes seemed like the way to go. Marzipan (or almond paste) gives the cupcakes a classic almond flavour and some additional ground almonds and bits of ripe pear add some wonderful texture. I decided to top them with some caramel Swiss meringue buttercream, because I think pear, almond and caramel taste incredible together and, well, caramel Swiss meringue buttercream is never a bad idea. You may remember it from this cake, with which I salted the caramel with sea salt, and since that too is never a bad idea, feel free to add some to the caramel if you wish.

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

I first learned of the sweet almond-y goodness that is marzipan, back when I worked at my first job at Cafe Mozart–a German bakery in Kitchener, Ontario. Along with incorporating marzipan into some of the authentic baked goods, the pastry chefs would tint and shape the most adorable marzipan fruits and we would sell little clear cellophane gift bags of them tied with gold ribbon. The fact that this intrigued me as a teenager, should have been my first clue that I would have ended up here, but that’s another story. Sure they looked cute, but how good could a little hardened marzipan orange or banana taste? Well, if you like almonds and sweetness, pretty great. Who knew?

That being said, marzipan is a wonderful ingredient to create almond cake and cupcakes from, among other almond-based treats. You can typically interchange almond paste and marzipan, depending on what you have on hand. The main difference between the two is that marzipan contains more sugar than almonds, and almond paste contains more almonds than sugar, but the consistency is very similar. It’s a soft-but-dense paste that can be kneaded, coloured, shaped, rolled, or, as with these cupcakes, included into the batter itself.

I usually buy mine ready-made, but you can definitely make your own, as there are many recipes out there. I love the consistency of Odense brand marzipan, and I love that I can buy it at my regular grocer (baking section in a 200 gram package). I decided to create some gilded marzipan pears as cupcake toppers because I have a thing for making fruit and veggies out of sugar pastes, and I’m still smitten with the cuteness of mini marzipan fruit. In this case, I used a small bit of florist tape rolled into a stem and glittered it with non-toxic gold sparkles, because at the time I couldn’t find anything on hand to use that was edible, but since you want to be able to eat those little pear toppers, you could use a little piece of clove for the stem or anything else you may have that you feel would work well. I made these on a whim, so I wasn’t prepared for edible mini pear stems. Bad baking blogger. Bad.

Pear & Marzipan Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

These treats were a nice change from my much-cherished vanilla cake and chocolate cake fixes, and I love the layers of flavour and natural tones. I hope you love them too.

Marzipan & Pear Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream

Yield: 24 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the Cupcakes:
  • 1 cup + 2 teaspoons (240 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 240 g (8 oz.) marzipan, such as Odense Marzipan
  • 3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (140 g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons (7 g) baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (4 g)
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) ground almonds
  • 1/2 cup diced pear
  • For the Buttercream:
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream (whipping cream)
  • 1-1/2 cups (340 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 large egg whites (120 g)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • For the Marzipan Pears:
  • 240 g (8 oz.) marzipan
  • Gold luster dust
  • Gold non-toxic glitter (aka disco dust), optional
  • Clove for stem, optional

Instructions

    For the Cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F and line standard cupcake pan with cupcake/muffin liners of choice.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift dry ingredients together, whisk and set aside.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on medium speed, cream the butter, sugar and marzipan until light, fluffy, and smooth--about 3 minutes. Add vanilla extract and for another moment until blended.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, scraping side of bowl with spatula between additions, and mix on medium-low speed until incorporated. Add dry mixture and beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then medium speed for 2 minutes.
  5. Add ground almonds and diced pear (or puree) and mix by hand until incorporated.
  6. Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, no more than 2/3 full, and bake in middle of oven until tops turn golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out just clean (a few crumbs is okay), about 18 minutes. Remove pan from oven and carefully remove cupcakes from tray onto cooling rack. Let cool completely before frosting.
  7. For the Buttercream:
  8. The first step is making the salted caramel (you can also do a non-salted caramel by omitting the sea salt), to set aside to cool while you make the Swiss Buttercream. You then add the cooled caramel sauce it to the buttercream as the very last step. I haven’t tried buying ready-made gourmet caramel sauce and adding it, but I suspect it would taste nothing short of awesome.
  9. Place 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (130 g) of the sugar and the water in a medium saucepan to a boil over medium heat. Brush down the sides of the pot with a dampened pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Stop stirring and cook until caramel is dark amber, gently swirling from time to time. Remove from heat, and slowly add cream, whisking by hand until smooth. It will be splatter, so be careful. Let cool.
  10. Place butter in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (flat beater) and beat on medium speed (I use #4 on my mixer), until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  11. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer clean with lemon juice, and place egg whites and remaining sugar into bowl over a pot of simmering (not boiling–you don’t want to cook the eggs). Whisk occasionally and gently until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160°F on a candy thermometer.
  12. Remove the bowl from heat, and place back onto the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed for 5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high, and whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5-6 minutes. Once the bottom of the bowl is neutral and no longer warm to the touch, reduce speed to medium-low, and add beaten butter, one cup at a time, whisking well after each addition.
  13. Switch to paddle attachment. With mixer on low speed, add cooled caramel and salt and beat until smooth, about 3-5 minutes.
  14. Prepare to taste the most incredible buttercream you will ever encounter.
  15. For the Marzipan Pears:
  16. Divide the marzipan or almond paste into 24 equal pieces or weigh each at 10 g for ease. Knead each piece to soften, then roll into ball and create pear shape using your fingers and make a small indent at the top and bottom of pear.
  17. Dust the pears with gold luster dust using a dry paintbrush you've designated for food and add a small bit of clove (or anything you desire for stem) and sprinkle the tops with gold non-toxic glitter (aka disco dust), if desired.
  18. Let sit loosely covered at room temperature for a few hours and place atop frosted cupcakes before serving.

Notes

*I used Ateco tip #887 in a large pastry bag to frost cupcakes.

**Store finished cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, but be sure they are completely cool first. Best enjoyed day 1.

***You could easily make quick, simple and lovely marzipan pears without any luster dust.

****Marzipan toppers can become soggy if left in airtight container atop cupcakes--try to place them on right before serving or ahead of time if they won't be in container.

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[caramel buttercream adapted from Pear and Caramel Bundt Cake from Cake Duchess

Ginger Pear Cupcakes with Miso Salted Caramel from Cupcake Project

Caramel Pear Pudding from Taste of Home Recipes

Good luck & enjoy!

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