Friday, June 29, 2012

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes with Chocolate Honey Truffle Frosting – get in touch with your dark side!

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I approach cooking from two very different angles:

The instinctive approach: Most of the time I am driven by a not-too-distant hunger/sugar craving and by what is currently available in the fridge/cupboard. In this instance, I think with my tastebuds - a la Accidental Paella – and it usually works out.

The theoretical approach: Sometimes, however, I think the flavours through consciously and carefully before going near the kitchen. I give consideration to the textures. I make sure I have all the ingredients before I start cooking. For example...

... In my head, almond sponge infused with sour cherry liqueur, topped with a swirl of boozy white chocolate ganache and a fat juicy cherry sounds rather good.

Here’s how that looked in my mind’s eye...
I have a vivid imagination... unfortunately the reality was "Meh!"

 My taste-tester’s verdict: “Meh!”
I had to agree. Can you imagine Sandra Dee swigging from a naggin of vodka? – This was the cupcake equivalent. It was trying to be naughty but didn’t quite succeed and certainly wasn’t WTC*.
I needed to get in touch with my dark (chocolate) side. I ditched the liqueur in favour of black cherry conserve in a chocolate sponge mixture. I went for the sharpness of crème fraîche in the truffle frosting, tempered just a hint of honey. They turned out light as a cloud, with sticky cherry bits and you’d sell your grandmother for the truffle frosting.
Taste-tester’s verdict: “Grrmmmwah!” which translates roughly as “Can’t speak. Eating.”
The frosting is best made the day before (so you don’t have to hang about waiting for it to cool)
*Worth The Calories

For 12 large cupcakes you will need...
... to pre-heat the oven to 160°C and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cupcake papers

For the chocolate cherry cake batter

150g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
50g dark Muscovado sugar (or any dark brown sugar)
3 eggs, beaten
125g plain flour
40g cocoa powder, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), sifted to remove any lumps
100g good quality cherry conserve (you want chunky bits of fruit)

1                    In a mixing bowl, beat the butter together with the sugars until smoothly blended – 3 to 5 minutes with an electric mixer gets the right texture. Add in the beaten egg in about four lots, mixing well between additions so that the mixture doesn’t curdle. (Don’t fret if it does, it still tastes the same but won’t be quite as light in texture.)
2                    Sprinkle in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda and continue beating just until these dry ingredients are incorporated into the mixture.
3                    Lightly fold in the cherry conserve. You don’t want to incorporate it; you just want it running through the mixture in rich veins of luscious cherry-ness.
4                    Divide the batter between the 12 cupcake papers and transfer to the preheated oven.
5                    Bake for 18 – 20 minutes or until risen and evenly golden.
6                    Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely before adding the frosting.
For the chocolate honey truffle frosting
200g good quality dark chocolate (70% coco solids), broken into pieces
1 tablespoon of honey (I used a honey with a floral note which sang through)
200g crème fraîche

1                    Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl with the honey.
2                    Place the crème fraîche in a saucepan over a medium heat until it is just simmering at the edges.  Immediately pour over the chocolate and leave to sit for about 3 minutes. (This helps the chocolate meld with the cream more easily).  Then stir gently until the chocolate is incorporated into the cream in a smooth shiny mixture. Cover with clingfilm, letting it sit right on the surface of the ganache and refrigerate until needed.

Worth The Calories!

3                    To frost the cupcakes, remove the ganache mixture from the fridge and let it come to room temperature (I’m talking Irish room temperature - roughly 20°C) and whisk with an electric mixer for a minute or two until light and paler in colour. Spread over the surface of the cupcakes with a spatula or get fancy and pipe swirls of the mixture over the surface and top with a fat juicy cherry. Recommended dose: 1, taken with a cup of coffee (or 2, if you’re having a particularly bad day). 

Note: If the mixture looks grainy and oily it has ‘split’. Don’t panic! Simply whisk with an electric mixer and after a minute or two it should come together in a smooth silky mix.
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