Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

I'm going to try really hard to avoid rambling. There's just so much I can say about these cupcakes, but I realize not everyone wants to hear me go on and on about the moist cake, the rich icing, or this combination of chocolate and peanut butter that I truly believe could be the answer to world peace. This recipe is originally for a cake: This Cake. I've spoken before about Baked Perfection being the first food blog I followed, so I'll spare you the details of why I think it's great. This recipe speaks for itself. Why am I posting it as cupcakes instead of cake? Well, I made these for my friend Shanisty's engagement party, and I have a thing about cakes at parties. The presentation falls apart after the cake starts getting cut, and some poor soul inevitably gets strapped to cake duty when he or she wants to be on stand outside sipping wine duty. Hence cupcakes: The perfect solution. Besides, it's not hard to get rid of leftover cupcakes, but you're sometimes hard-pressed to find someone who will take home slabs of half-eaten cake.

Here are a couple of recipe notes: When I make this as a cake, I do the ganache included in the recipe. As cupcakes, that's a little difficult, so I grate chocolate over the top. Ganache is better, so I might play with my decorating technique next time to accommodate liquid chocolate. Sold!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Icing

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup neutral vegetable oil, such as canola, soybean or vegetable blend
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs

1/2 cup coarsely chopped peanut brittle ( Like Deb, I skipped this)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottoms and sides of three 8-inch round cakepans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Whisk to combine them well. Add the oil and sour cream and whisk to blend. Gradually beat in the water. Blend in the vinegar and vanilla. Whisk in the eggs and beat until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and be sure the batter is well mixed. Divide among the 3 prepared cake pans.
3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean. Let cool in the pans for about 20 minutes. Invert onto wire racks, carefully peel off the paper liners, and let cool completely. (Like Deb, I put the cake layers in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm up before frosting)
4. To frost the cake, place one layer, flat side up, on a cake stand or large serving plate. Spread 2/3 cup cup of the Peanut Butter Frosting evenly over the top. Repeat with the next layer. Place the last layer on top and frost the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.

5. To decorate with the Chocolate–Peanut Butter Glaze, put the cake plate on a large baking sheet to catch any drips. Simply pour the glaze over the top of the cake, and using an offset spatula, spread it evenly over the top just to the edges so that it runs down the sides of the cake in long drips. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 30 minutes to allow the glaze and frosting to set completely. Remove about 1 hour before serving. Decorate the top with chopped peanut brittle.

Peanut Butter Icing
Makes about 5 cups

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2/3 cup smooth peanut butter, preferably a commercial brand

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Continue to beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Add the peanut butter and beat until thoroughly blended.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Glaze
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

8 ounces seimsweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half

1. In the top of d double boiler or in a bowl set over simmering water, combine the chocolate, peanut butter, and corn syrup. Cook, whisking often, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
2. Remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half, beating until smooth. Use while still warm.
Note: I made these as cupcakes, so I omitted everything for the glaze. I added chocolate for grating and nibbling while grating. This makes one huge cake or 40 cupcakes, so don't do anything crazy like double your recipe because you want cupcakes for thirty people. Also, the peanut butter icing makes plenty for decorating generously. No one gets jipped here; this recipe is a win.

I remember the first time I took a bite of cocoa without realizing it wasn't sweet. I was trying to be sneaky, but my mom got the last laugh when she walked in the kitchen to find me gagging and washing my mouth under the faucet. Fortunately, this recipe blends cocoa with plenty of sugar to please the palate. You know what I love about the Measuring Cup Set? A 3/4 cup measurement and a leveler tool. I'm adding the cocoa to other dry ingredients in a Stainless Mixing Bowl.

This is a very busy recipe, but don't be intimidated. My prep area only looks like this because I'm messy. Once you get things going, you'll realize this really is a simple cake to make; it just has a lot of ingredients. Dry ingredients: Stainless Mixing Bowl with Stainless Whisk. Sour Cream: Measure-All Cup. Water, Oil, Vinegar: Easy Read Measuring Cups and Easy Read Mini Measuring Cup. Eggs: 2-Cup Prep Bowl. Vanilla: Measuring Spoon Set. Also Pictured: Adjustable Measuring Spoons, Skinny Scraper, Measuring Cup Set, Large Cutting Board.

I'll never get over how great the Measure-All Cup is. I mean, this is what keeps me from digging at ingredients like sour cream, peanut butter, tahini, honey, yogurt, and any number of other things. I'm in love with this tool.

The Stoneware Muffin Pan is one of the secrets behind my cupcakes. I'm not saying I'm the world's best cupcake maker, but I have yet to dry my baked goods out. Because the stoneware heats evenly rather than from the outside in, cupcakes and muffins don't get hard edges, burned bottoms, or gross tops. You can bake in here without liners, but I always use them because they look nice, and they minimize cleanup. You can see how soupy this batter is, so don't be fooled into thinking you've done something wrong. It's just a very, very thin consistency, which is that much more reason to use the Large Scoop. I don't think I'd attempt cupcakes with this batter if I didn't have the scoop, but I'm impatient with inefficiency. Hence the reason I'm head over heels in love with Pampered Chef products!

This is the most incredible peanut butter icing in the history of peanut butter icing. Rich, yet not overpowering... Sweet, yet not headache-inducing. Perfection. Again, the Measure-All Cup takes center stage (show-off!), but look at that pretty butter/cream cheese/powdered sugar mixture in the Stainless Mixing Bowl. Does it get any better?

I know I'm skipping some steps like cool and ice cupcakes, but I want to get to the nitty gritty. Chocolate. Like I said, I don't do the ganache for cupcakes simply because it's difficult to decorate. Plus, people need forks and plates to handle it. Sorry, but I judge people who get out a fork when I hand them a cupcake. Harshly. Ok, so let's grate some chocolate! Just put it in the Rotary Grater, and go to town! This is a perfect tool for hard cheeses, chocolate, nuts, and any number of other things. It can be switched from right to left-handed use, and all of the pieces go in the dishwasher. The cupcakes are displayed on the Large Rectangular Platter with Handles from the Simple Additions Collection.

This is the Cool & Serve Square Tray, and I can't tell you how much I like it! Take all the inserts out, and you've got the best cupcake taker in the world. It's perfect for times like this when you have a platter of cupcakes but need something for the refills. Notice the top is tall enough to avoid contact with the icing. What's more annoying than spending time decorating only to have your work messed up in transport? Not much.

Want proof that these made it to Shanisty's party without me eating all of them? Here you go... Shanisty with the refills. These got her seal of approval, which is good enough for me. I quote a text message I received the day after the party: "People are still talking about your cupcakes."

Make these. Make cupcakes, make the cake version, do something. Just stop drooling on your keyboard.

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