On Memorial Weekend my friend Vero had her baby shower and pink was the theme in honor of the baby on the way. And in honor of the baby's mama, I decided to make some very special dark chocolate ginger cupcakes with fresh strawberry buttercream frosting...
When I started dreaming up recipes, I knew I wanted something dense and chocolatey for the cake. And the first dense and chocolatey cake that cake to mind was the one I entered in the Brooklyn Kitchen Cupcake Cookoff. However, that recipe included coffee and rum, which most pregnant ladies avoid even in moderation, so decided to experiment substituting a ginger tea (and I mean that in the traditional sense, a beverage made from ginger and hot water) for the alcohol and coffee to see if could get the flavored liquid to chocolate to butter to dry ingredients ratio right with out the booze and caffeine. Here's what I came up with
Dark Chocolate Ginger Cupcakes
2 cups of unbleached white flour 1 teaspoon of baking soda 1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cups water 1/3 cup crushed ginger 8 ounces of unsweetened chocolate 1 cup butter 2 cups sugar 2 eggs lightly beaten 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 275
Line cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a medium sized saucepan combine ginger and water. Bring the mixture to a boil then simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Add the chocolate and butter to ginger tea then stir until butter and chocolate are melted. When mixture is completely smooth, slowly add in the sugar while stirring. Stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool for several minutes and then transfer to to the bowl of a stand mixer. Slowly add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture beating after each addition and scraping down the sides until batter is smooth. Then add the eggs and vanilla and beat until just incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake pans and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the tops of the cupcake are springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven and allow it to cool for 5 minutes or until set, then remove from the pan. Cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting I decided to go with a summery (and pink) fresh strawberry buttercream. This is a recipe I adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Buttercream recipe from the Perfect Party Cake from her book Baking From My Home to Yours. I first used this recipe for the May 2008 Daring Baker's Opera Cake Challenge and it's one of the best frosting recipes I've ever made. Again, keeping the mama-to-be in mind I substituted 4 large egg whites worth of pasteurized egg substitute for the egg whites (approximately 2 tablespoons per egg)
Fresh Strawberry Buttercream Frosting
6 ounces of fresh strawberries 1 cup granulated sugar 4 large egg whites 3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (approximately 2 large lemons) 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract Strawberries for garnish (I recommend 4 strawberries each cut into 6 lengthwise slivers for garnish)
Wash and hull strawberries and toss them into Kitchen Aid food processor. Puree strawberries and set aside.
Add sugar and egg whites into a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream. Remove the bowl from the heat. (I confess I have no idea what "shiny marshmallow cream" looks like. With my mixture, it had been over three minutes and the sugar was dissolved and the mixture was hot to the touch, so I went with it)
Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes (at this point my mixture looked more milky white and shiny).
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. Don't freak out if your buttercream curdles or separates, keep beating and it will come together again.
Once the buttercream is thick and smooth, gradually beat in the lemon juice on medium speed, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla. By this point you should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream.
Add gradually add in strawberry puree and while beating on medium speed until well incorporated.
Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly. If you aren't ready to use the buttercream immediately, place it in the refrigerator. When you are ready to use the buttercream if it's been refrigerated, you'll need to get it up to room temperature then beat by hand. Don't try to beat it with a paddle attachment right out of an extremely cold refrigerator. The buttercream will separate and you will be sad. Take it from one who knows. (Note: I didn't halve this recipe because you can freeze the extra buttercream to use later.)
I'm normally anti cupcake refrigeration but for Swiss buttercream frosted cupcakes, I make an exception, especially if you are making them in the warm summer months. I recommend clearing out room in your fridge so you can frost your cupcakes and store them on stacked cooling racks or in a Cupcake Courier. The Cupcake Courier storage is actually ideal, because they are ready for travel and the Courier itself protects the cupcakes from any fridge smells. Yes, I know it's a pain to clear that much room in the fridge but it's worth it, trust me.
Overall these cupcakes were a hit. The cake was very chocolatey and dense with a pleasant hint of ginger. Perfect for a summer picnic or baby shower!