Thursday, June 09, 2011

Hot Enough For Ya?

It is June folks, and even though technically Summer doesn't begin till the Solstice on the 21st, the temperatures here would like to convince you otherwise. My trusty thermometer is on the shady back porch, and this reading is pretty cool compared to the inside of my kitchen.

Maybe I'm crazy, or maybe I really am somewhat reptilian, but this weather makes me happy! Today when I came home from work (where, in spite of recent AC repairs the median temperature in my workspace was upwards of 80 degrees - residential cooling systems are no match for the Brick Oven) I decided to bake some cupcakes!

My sweet niece is going to VA for the summer, and these are my contribution to her farewell dinner. This recipe is based on Ina Garten's Beatty's Chocolate Cake, which one of my former co-workers turned me on to a while back. Thanks Maria!

Heat your oven to 350. You can save a little energy if your kitchen is already well over a hundred degrees when you decide to bake! Also, now would be a good time to put on a pot of coffee. Who drinks coffee when it is this hot out, you ask? The really awesome people, that's who.

Combine in a good sized mixing bowl (I use the middle of my three awesome Fiesta mixing bowls)
1 3/4 c flour
2 c sugar
3/4 c cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Whisk these together. If you find any lumpy bits, or if your ingredients are old, you might want to sift these all together through a sieve. Or you might not, if you are lazy like me, just pinch the lumps apart with your fingertips.

In another bowl mix together
1/4 c sour cream
3/4 c yoghurt
2 eggs
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

Pour the dairy into the dry, and beat with a wooden spoon - you know how I feel about electric mixers. :)

Once that gets nice and shiny, and you have annihilated all tiny lumps of stubborn cocoa and baking soda, pour in one cup of strong hot coffee. You might want to break out the whisk for this, and also a scraper thingy to scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Don't get freaked out here, just keep stirring, eventually it will look like cake batter again!

Pour in 1/4 cup portions into paper lined cupcake tins. Bake for 18 - 20 minutes. Cool for a few minutes in the pans, then turn the cupcakes out onto wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
Or you could make a layer cake out of this, I don't give a crap, in that case you'd have to bake it a bit longer- but if you do that, do yourself a favor and generously grease and flour your pans. Ina Garten says to line them with parchment, but I never do that since I never have parchment hanging around. Here's a chocolate cake tip though. Mix a spoonfull of cocoa in with the flour that you use to coat the pan. It will get rid of the icky whiteness that sometimes hangs on to the edges of a cake after you turn it out of the pan.

Here's my KitchenAid mixer baby!

I asked Becca what kind of frosting she liked on chocolate cupcakes, she told me vanilla, which kind of threw me for a loop because I usually make a chocolate ganache for this cake... But I was up to the challenge. When I searched for vanilla buttercream, this recipe came up - also from Food Network. It reminded me of the icing we used to make at 4H camp in the cake decorating class. Only classier, because it uses heavy cream instead of milk, and you know, cream makes everything classier. Of course I had to go and twiddle with the recipe just a little bit, and also prove that you can in fact whip it with just a whisk and your natural arm muscles.

1 cup butter at room temperature*
3 c powdered sugar
a pinch of salt
1/2 to 1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream

*If your kitchen is already well over body temperature, your butter might get too soft. When I dumped mine out of the paper wrappers into my Pampered Chef mixing bowl, it started to puddle up. Not good... I whipped the crap out of the butter and put it in the fridge for a few minutes before I beat in the sugar. I managed to counteract the detriments of a high room temperature with a judicious application of refrigeration at intervals throughout the mixing process. Your mileage may vary. And if you have an electric mixer and an air conditioner, this will be so easy you might never want to buy cake frosting in a plastic can again.

Beat the butter till it is light and fluffy. If it is unsalted, like mine, beat in the salt.
Beat in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. I forced mine through a sieve to prevent lumps. After the 2nd cup of sugar is well incorporated,
Beat in the lemon juice, vanilla and 1 T of cream.
Whip it. Whip it good.
Beat in the last cup of sugar. Take stock of the situation. Does it need to be thicker? Maybe you should put it in the fridge for a few minutes. Maybe you need to add some more sugar. Is it a little stiff and lumpy? You could add a bit more cream. Think about it. If the kids I went to 4H camp with could make this, you can too.

Frost your cupcakes! Pipe it on with a star tipped decorating bag, or smear it on with the back of a spoon. It will taste good. I just use a little spatula thingy.

If you have to wait a while till your cupcakes are cool, go ahead and put this in the fridge in the mixing bowl covered with plastic or a lid. You'll have to whip it again before you frost, and it might get crusty if it is exposed to air. Although if it is hot and humid where you are as it is where I am, it might just get melty instead of crusty, but I guarantee it will get eaten.


Prisoner of the Universe #2-16 said...


Trisha said...

You do sound very happy in this post. I like that. I like cupcakes too. I might even be tempted to eat choco cakes with this yummy vanilla icing on top.

I'm looking for icing ideas for Z's Blue's Clues cake. Hmmmm... might add this to my list.

Happy Day, Seesta.