I was told when going to visit a friend that I "must bring cake", so of course I jumped at the opportunity to do some baking! He LOVES chocolate so I made one of the most chocolaty things I could think of - quadruple chocolate cupcakes... Soft, dark chocolate cake surrounds a centre of gooey dark chocolate ganache and the cupcake is topped with swirled milk and white chocolate swiss meringue buttercream. They are insanely good! Seriously, among the best cupcakes I have ever eaten. Ever.
I topped these with a swiss meringue buttercream rather than a standard butter and icing sugar one as it is So Much Better. Light, fluffy and silky smooth it has just the right level of sweetness; I often find that cupcakes are sickeningly sweet as there is such a high ratio of buttercream to cake and standard buttercream is quite sickly; not so with these babies!
It is a bit more effort to make swiss meringue buttercream and I know it may seem a little daunting and scary but if you follow the instructions it will all turn out OK and once you've tried it you will never want to go back to regular buttercream.
The most important things to remember are to make sure that you whisk the egg whites until they are COMPLETELY COLD before adding the butter (sorry about the caps, it's very important!), then to add the butter gradually, a tablespoon at a time, and finally, to just keep whisking! If it deflates, carry on whisking, if it curdles, carry on whisking, whisk, whisk, whisk and it will come back together.
I really wanted to fill the cupcakes with a ganache centre, but I wanted to bake it in, not cut a hole in a cooked cake and pipe some ganache in. I did quite a bit of research and found that a lot of people complained that their ganache had sunk to the bottom of their cakes, or had simply melted into the cake as it cooked and had disappeared.
I figured that the best way to remedy these problems would be to freeze the ganache beforehand; so I made some ganache, put it in the fridge to set, then rolled it into teaspoon sized balls and put them in the freezer, when I baked the cakes, I divided two thirds of the batter between the cupcake cases then placed a frozen ganache ball on top of each and covered them with the remaining batter then baked them.
And it worked! I was so happy when I nervously sliced one of the cakes in half and saw a perfect ball of ganache in the centre! Seriously, I was grinning like a loon. Cake makes me unreasonably happy...
I know that these are a little more work than standard chocolate cupcakes but it is so worth the extra effort; you wont regret it when you bite into one and are transported to chocolate heaven. Everyone who ate one loved it and they certainly didn't last long...
(Please note: although I have provided a conversion from grams to US cup measurements I cannot guarantee the accuracy as I do not bake using cups, I thoroughly recommend investing in a digital metric scale, it is far more accurate.)
For the ganache:
- 100g (3.5oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- 100ml (scant ½ cup) double cream
For the cakes:
- 185g (13 tbsp) butter
- 75g (2 ¾ oz) dark chocolate, chopped
- 185g (1 cup, packed) dark brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- 160g (1 ⅓ cups)self-raising flour
- 40g (⅓ cup)cocoa powder
- ¾tsp baking powder
- 75ml (¼ cup plus 1 tbsp) milk
For the swiss meringue buttercream:
- 3 egg whites
- 150g (¾ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
- 200g (1 ¾ sticks) slightly softened, but still cool, butter
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 75g (2 ¾ oz) white chocolate, chopped
- 75g (2 ¾ oz) milk chocolate, chopped
- chocolate sprinkles/shavings to decorate
Make the ganache filling the night before you want to bake the cupcakes (or at least several hours beforehand). Heat the cream to boiling point in a small saucepan, remove from the heat and add the chocolate, leave for a couple of minutes then stir until smooth and all the chocolate has melted. Place the ganache in the fridge until it is firm. Line a small tray with greaseproof paper or clingfilm, roll teaspoon sized amounts of the ganache into balls using your fingers, dust your hands with some cocoa powder to stop it sticking, place the balls on the prepared tray and then put the tray in the freezer for at least a couple of hours. You will probably end up with more ganache balls than you need as you don't want them to be too big, I made 17; but they keep well in the freezer (and are really good to eat...straight from the freezer...).
To make the cupcakes, Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/Gas Mark 3 ½, Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases. Put the butter in a large saucepan and melt over a gentle heat. Once melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the chocolate, stir until the chocolate has melted then add the sugar, stirring well to combine.
Add the eggs, beating well until you have a smooth batter and then sift in the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder, fold in until well combined and then add the milk, mix until incorporated.
Divide ⅔rds of the batter between the paper cases, place a frozen ganache ball in the centre of each one, then divide the remaining batter between the cases, making sure that the ganache is completely covered. Try and work quickly as the batter sets after a while as the butter and chocolate cool.
Place the tray in the centre of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until a skewer inserted at the SIDE of the cupcake, NOT the centre, comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, the centre of the cake will still have a bit of a wobble - this is just the molten ganache. Leave to cool in the tin for a couple of minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the buttercream, melt the milk chocolate either in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in 10 second bursts in a microwave; repeat with the white chocolate and set both aside to cool.
Put the egg whites and sugar in an extremely clean heatproof bowl (use the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one). Place over a pan of simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water) and whisk with a hand whisk (not electric) until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture is warm to the touch, if you rub some of the mixture between your fingers it should be smooth and you shouldn't be able to feel any graininess, this will take about five minutes. If you want to get technical about it the mix should reach 60°C/140°F on a thermometer.
Remove the bowl from the heat and attach it to your stand mixer with the whisk attachment or use an electric hand whisk, whisk the egg whites until it forms a thick, glossy, bright white meringue and is completely cool, the bottom of the bowl should feel cool to the touch, this will take about 10 minutes.
Once the meringue is cold, switch the mixer to a low speed and begin to add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, make sure that each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next; the meringue will deflate a little and may begin to look curdled, don't panic! This is normal, just keep adding the butter gradually and whipping away and it will come back together. If, once all the butter has been added, your mixture is runny, the butter may have been too soft or the meringue still warm, just put the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes or so then carry on whipping. Once the buttercream is completely smooth and silky and all the butter has been incorporated, whisk in the vanilla extract then place half of the mixture in a separate bowl, fold the milk chocolate into one bowl and the white chocolate into the other (by this point the chocolate should be cool but still runny).
Attach a large star nozzle (or nozzle of your choice) to a piping bag, put the milk chocolate mix in one side of the bag and the white chocolate in the other and twist the top to seal.
Pipe a swirl of buttercream on top of each cupcake and top with chocolate shavings and sprinkles.
(recipe adapted from http://www.oetker.co.uk/uk-en/rezepte/r/triple-chocolate-cupcakes.html?tx_oetkerrecipes_pi1[search_offset]=8)