Monday, November 7, 2011

Almond Joy Cupcakes

Sometimes you come across a recipe that makes your mind spin with possibilities. That's how I felt when I saw an Almond Joy layer cake from Rachel Ray. After reading through the cake method, I knew I had to turn it into cupcakes. Note about me: I think of a lot of things in terms of cupcakes. Anyway, the cupcakes were a hit, but I thought they were really rich. The solution? Miniatures! Welcome to 2-bite Almond Joy cupcakes, one of my new favorites. I'm writing the recipe out as the original layer cake, but I'll make notes on doing cupcakes instead.

Almond Joy Cupcakes

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided
1/2 tsp. salt plus a big pinch, divided
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 bag (14 oz.) sweetened shredded coconut (4 packed cups), divided
2 cups sliced almonds
3 cups heavy cream, divided
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°. Butter two 8-inch-by-2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment and butter the parchment.
(Cupcakes: Arrange liners)

In a medium saucepan, bring 2/3 cup water to a boil. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. Whisk in the butter and chocolate over low heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 2 tsp. vanilla and 1/2 tsp. salt. Whisk in 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Pour in the chocolate mixture until smooth. Stir in 1 packed cup coconut. Divide the batter between the pans and bake in the lower third of the oven for 35 minutes or until firm in the center. Let cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes, then invert onto racks to cool completely.
(Cupcakes: Bake 18-22 minutes for standard or 15-18 minutes for 2-bite)

While the cake cools, spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 12 minutes; let cool. (Probably better to toast almonds while you're arranging all the other ingredients. They can cool while cakes are baking, etc.)

In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup cream, the remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and pinch salt and simmer, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tsp. vanilla and 3 packed cups coconut. When cool, fold in 1 1/2 cups almonds.

Split the cake layers to make 4 layers. Place 1 layer cut side up on a cake stand and spread with 1 cup of the coconut-almond mixture. Top with the second layer cut side down and spread with 1 cup more of the mixture. Repeat with the remaining 2 cake layers and filling, spreading the filling on the top. Cover the cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours to firm up.

(Cupcakes: Scoop coconut mixture on top, and top with sweetened whipped cream and almond leftovers. No need to refrigerate anything for 4 hours to firm up.)

Whip the remaining 2 1/4 cups cream with the confectioners’ sugar until stiff. Spread over the cake. Sprinkle the top with the remaining almonds.

Yield: 1 layer cake, about 24 cupcakes, or about 40 2-bite cupcakes

If you know me at all, you know I am a prep work freak. Efficiency is great on the front end because it guarantees great results and stress-free recipe assembly. I recently read a post from a blogger who forgot to add sugar to a cake. Result? Making an entirely new cake. Laying ingredients out from the start prevents these mistakes. I'm using... Measuring Cups, Easy Read Measuring Cups, Measuring Spoons, Pinch Bowls, Adjustable Measuring Spoons, 2-Cup Prep Bowls, Quikut Paring Knife, Large Cutting Board, 3-Qt. Saucepan from the Executive Cookware Collection, and a Silicone Whisk.

When a recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp. of an ingredient, you can just grab your 1/2 tbsp. measuring spoon. This is one reason I love the Measuring Spoon Set - all measurements are included. Well, that and the fact that they're shaped perfectly for spice bottles. Oh, and the way they snap together. Ok, so I'm using a Stainless Mixing Bowl for my cake batter. All I can say about these is that I'm head over heels in love with them. They're definitely my go-to bowls for most tasks.

The chocolate sauce that's going to be mixed into the flour is in the 3-Qt. Saucepan from the Executive Cookware Collection. Then the Stainless/Silicone Sauce Whisk is doing its thing to blend ingredients while protecting the pan's coating. When a recipe tells you to add eggs one at a time, don't skip the step. I wish I could say this recipe is a breeze and comes together in no time, but I'd be lying. This is actually pretty complicated, and that's one reason I won't skip little things that make a difference in the final product. Crack eggs into a separate bowl (2-Cup Prep Bowl here) before adding them to batter in case of blood, rottenness, or shell fragments. If I cracked a rotten egg into this batter, I think I'd cry and vomit... in that order.

Whisk the chocolate concoction into the flour bowl, and it's time to add a cup of coconut. I don't know if you've noticed, but this batter doesn't require a mixer - just whisks. Here I'm using the Stainless Whisk, one of my favorite products. The one here is ten years old, and it's never rusted, never come apart, and never tried to keep half my recipe in its coils. Note: This batter is addictive, so don't taste it.

I toasted my almonds on the Medium Bar Pan from the Stoneware Collection. Things like nuts remind me how great stoneware is with its even heat distribution. I don't have to worry about scorching the almonds that are 1) expensive and 2) vital to this recipe. My coconut mixture is in the 4-Qt. Casserole from the Executive Collection.

Top each cupcake with coconut/almond mixture, and pipe a little sweetened cream on top. Garnish with leftover almonds, and you're good to go! I promise these are crowd pleasers. They're rich, delicious, and soooo satisfying! Be someone's hero, and bake these today.

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