Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Valentine's Day Massacre: Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes Times Two

Overboard may not begin to describe how I approached Valentine's Day this year. I wanted to give my coworkers a delicious day to remember while dealing with the baking withdrawals I went through during the first two weeks of the month. So I reopened Terry's Crafty Confectionery Crafts (working title) for an avalanche of desserts that would make Russell Stover cry in envy including dark chocolate balsamic truffles, heart shaped sugar cookies and not one but two kinds of chocolate covered strawberry cupcakes. It was a Valentine's Day Massacre like no other because I totally killed it (yeah I went there).

The greatest Valentine's gift ever: new cupcake tins! Kevin and I truly are in a majestic Bromance.
By now, you should know that I like to make my cupcakes as complicated as possible. There needs to be as many frostings and filling as imaginable, so prepare yourself for seven (yes 7) different parts to this crazy magnificent recipe. The main goal was to emulate the Valentine's Day staple chocolate covered strawberries (I wanted to mimic those hearts with sayings on them, but chalk cupcakes just didn't sound appetizing.). I took two approaches to my self-imposed baking challenge. First, I created a strawberry cake topped with a hard chocolate. Next, I tried a chocolate cupcake surrounding a strawberry filling. Both were greatly aided by the incredible strawberry buttercream and whipped cream frostings to create some one-of-a-kind cupcakery to make your Valentine's Day special.

Type 1: The Strawberry Base

Strawberry Cupcake
Increased From Sprinkles' Cupcakes
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Time: 40 minutes (plus cooling, frosting and glaze)

1 1/3 cups fresh strawberries, de-stemmed
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
4 large egg whites, room temp
Chocolate ganache (recipe follows)
Frosting (options follow)

No, Mr. Strawberry, I expect you to die!
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Puree strawberries in a food processor. Collect 2/3 cups of puree for the batter.
  3. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the milk, vanilla and strawberry puree.
  5. Using your trusty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter over medium-high speed then gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  6. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs and egg whites one at a time until just blended.
  7. Drop down to low speed and alternate adding the dry and wet mixtures (dry -> wet -> dry -> wet -> dry) until just combined. Do any final stirring with a spatula, making sure to scrape down the side walls.
  8. Fill lined cupcake tins 2/3s with the batter and bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once. 
  9. Transfer to a wire rack to let cool then dip in ganache and frost then top with a chocolate covered strawberry.
I miss my almost weekly travels to the original Sprinkles' in Beverly Hills. It's where I first started my love of cupcakes (that and the lengthy bout with unemployment coupled with Tuesday episodes of Cupcake Wars), so I jumped on the chance to try their strawberry cupcake recipe. The cake itself is moist and has a subtle sugary strawberry taste, but ends up being almost muffin like. It's a nice base to your cupcake, but I would recommend throwing in chopped up pieces of strawberry to help emphasize that great fresh berry taste. Fresh out of the oven, this is one of the best tasting cupcakes I've had, but it loses a little something after being refrigerated.

Dark Chocolate Ganache
Servings: enough for 4 dozen cupcakes
Time: 10 minutes

8 oz dark chocolate chips
1/2-3/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Choose one of two ways to go about this. Either cook the dark chocolate and heavy cream over a double boiler while stirring until melted or heat up the heavy cream (to just before boiling) and slowly add to the dark chocolate while stirring until melted. There's less chance of it seizing with the heated heavy cream method.
  2. Dip cupcakes in the ganache and let cool.
This may be my favorite looking cupcake ever.
Prior to starting up the blog, I made some chocolate cupcakes with ganache coating with my baking teacher/partner Jenny, so I decided to use that same great recipe. The dark chocolate flavor adds a richness to the cupcake without making it overly sweet. Plus, biting into that hard chocolate shell really helps recreate that chocolate covered strawberry experience. It's a large but welcome contrast from the strawberry cake.

Type 2: The Chocolate Base

Chocolate Cupcake
Servings: 24 cupcakes
Time: 40 minutes (plus cooling, filling and frosting)

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs, room temp
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken
Strawberry filling (recipe follows)
Frosting (options follow)

I could've made even more had I not eaten half of the batter.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars together in a mixer on medium until light and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated.
  5. Mix in the melted chocolate and vanilla well.
  6. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk at low speed (dry -> buttermilk -> dry -> buttermilk -> dry). Be sure to scrape down the sides after each cycle and then lick the spatula. Be careful not to overmix.
  7. Fill lined cupcake tins 2/3 full with the batter.
  8. Bake for 18-24 minutes or until the toothpick test comes back clean. Make sure you rotte halfway through.
  9. Let cool in a wire rack then core and fill with strawberry filling and frost. Top with a chocolate covered strawberry.
This is my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe (that oddly enough was originally for whoopie pies). The cocoa powder and melted chocolate yield a fantastic chocolate taste that helps make this moist and bouncy cake a personal favorite.

Strawberry Filling
Servings: Enough to fill a solid 80+ cupcakes
Time: 15 minutes plus cooling

2 1/2-3 cups strawberrys, destemmed
3/4 c sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup water (divided 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup)

It kind of looks like a heart to truly hit that holiday spirit.
  1. Combine the strawberries, sugar and 3/4 cup water in a large saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling.
  2. Mix the remaining water and cornstarch well in a separate cup then add into the pan stirring constantly until boiling and thickening.
  3. Let cool then fill in the chocolate cupcakes.

This is a fairly basic strawberry compote recipe. It ended up not being as thick as I would've liked, so I would recommend eliminating the first 3/4 cup of water and just adding the water and corn starch at the end since the strawberries themselves will give out a lot of juice when cooked in sugar. It had a nice gooey glazed consistency similar to your standard strawberry shortcake that went nicely with the moist chocolate cake.

The Frostings:

Strawberry Buttercream
Servings: Frosting for 24 lightly frosted cupcakes
Time: 5 minutes

1/2 cup strawberries
2 sticks unsalted butter, firm and slightly cold
Pinch of coarse salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Puree the strawberries in a food processor. 
  2. Beat the butter and salt in a food processor with the paddle attachment over medium speed until light and fluffy.
  3. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until well combined (about 1 cup at a time). 
  4. Mix in the vanilla and 3 tsp of the strawberry puree until just blended. Overmixing will lead to too much air being incorporated, but the frosting should be dense.
  5. Add about a tsp worth of frosting on top of each cupcake. This will be smushed down considerably by the chocolate covered strawberry, so don't overdo it.
I wanted to complete the Sprinkles' experience, so I made one batch of the frosting. This might be my favorite buttercream yet (although it can't stand up to the soma that is cream cheese frosting). It's a very dense frosting, but it works nicely since you only need a small dollop of it. The strawberry really comes through to bring this frosting and the cupcake home.

Whipped Cream
Servings: Enough to frost all the cupcakes
Time: 5 minutes

2 cups heavy whipping cream
8 oz sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract

  1. Whisk the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla extract together at medium speed until peaks start to form.
  2. Ramp it up to high speed until it thickens (but not so much that it appears buttery).
I've used this whipped cream recipe at least 5 times now, and I think I love it more every time. It's full of vanilla flavor that somehow manages to make the chocolate covered strawberry garnish even more mouthwateringly incredible than before. This is a simple frosting, but I think it ends up working even better than the strawberry buttercream (which is saying something).

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Whole Strawberries, washed and dried well
1/2 bag dark chocolate chips
1/2 bag semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 bag white chocolate chips

  1. Mix the dark and semisweet chocolate and melt in the microwave at 50% power in 30 second intervals until completely melted stirring well after each round. 
  2. Melt the white chocolate in the same way.
  3. Dip the strawberries in the melted dark chocolate then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  4. Dip a fork in the white chocolate and drizzle it over the covered strawberry.
  5. Let the chocolate set for half an hour.
  6. Top your frosted cupcakes or eat 50 at a time.

If you're going to eat horribly on Valentine's Day, you might as well make sure you have your options. Both of these cupcakes replicate that chocolate covered strawberry feel I was going for, and both quickly entered my pantheon of cupcake greatness. If I had to pick a winner, I would have to choose the chocolate cupcakes with strawberry filling and whipped cream frosting. That strawberry center is an amazing surprise that blends expertly with the chocolate cake and whipped cream. In the end, these were bound to be a classic as soon as you bite into that giant chocolate covered strawberry garnish. Everything after that is just gravy, absurdly good sweet gravy.

But the fun of Valentine's Day was only just beginning. Stay tuned for the truffles and sugar cookies that will guarantee your sweetheart falls madly in love with you (and that your dentist despises you).

And now the moment you've all been waiting for:

The simple questionnaire to apply to be my girlfriend:

This could be you!

1) Is your name Robin or does your name cause people to expect a large Nordic man? 

2) Have you seen The Jerk? If yes, describe how hard you laughed.

3) When is Mole Day or Pi Day?

4) Speaking of pie, do you like yours a la mode or plain?

5) The greatest season of television ever was ____.

6) What are the odds of us having normal sized children?

Leave your answers in the comments and wait 2-4 weeks for processing.

Happy Valentine's Day, faithful readers! I hope it was filled with sugary goodness.
Thanks to my lack of self restraint, there's even more to come!