Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Cupcake Challenge: Chocolate and Yellow Cupcakes

A little while ago I attempted to make cupcakes from scratch. I have always made cupcakes from a box,  but I wanted to officially 'bake cupcakes'. It couldn't be that hard anyway. So I searched my favorite collection of baking recipes that I have always wanted to try and picked out a pretty basic one. Being naive I didn't want to buy cake flour so I baked a recipe that called for just all-purpose flour. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES and don't do this.  This was my first mistake and the cupcakes were absolutely terrible.

My failure put me into a frenzy and I am determined to make, well not necessarily the perfect cupcake, but some pretty good ones at that, hence the cupcake challenge. To start off, I did what I usually do when stumped and turned to my trusty America's Family Kitchen Cookbook and bought some cake flour. These cupcakes were a huge improvement, but I am still working on perfecting them.

Their Dark Chocolate Cupcakes were beautiful. Unfortunately I forgot to buy sour cream and used buttermilk instead resulting in rather dry cupcakes. Also I found the chocolate flavor a little lacking. Yes they were rich, but too bitter. Next attempt I will try to increase the fat ratio and hopefully this will help fix the problem. Overall they were good and in a pinch I would definitely make them again. This particular recipe doesn't call for cake flour, but I do want to try to modify it with cake flour.

Makes: 24 cupcakes
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes plus cooking time

  • 16 Tbsp. of butter (2 sticks)
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder.
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of sour cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small microwave safe bowl add the butter, chocolate and cocoa powder. Microwave the contents for 30 second intervals whisking until completely melted and combined. While this mixture cools, start combining the other ingredients.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix well. In another larger bowl whisk the eggs and vanilla together. Then slowly whisk in the sugar and the cooled chocolate and butter mixture. Finally sift the flower mixture over the batter and then mix in the sour cream.

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes and let cool completely.

As seen in the picture below, you can see the crack in the top of the cupcakes. This shows that the fat and flour within the cupcake are completely set. This means that the cupcake wont change consistency or become gooey the next day, which happens when your baked goods are undercooked. This crack often parallels with a small dome shape on the cupcake, but if you don't overcook them the dome should flatten out a bit.

Next came the Easy Yellow Cupcakes that pretty much double as vanilla cupcakes. I prefer baking without chocolate because the ingredients are simpler and cheaper. My favorite thing about these cupcakes was their super fine crumb. It was amazing. However I found these cupcakes were also too dry. When I imagine the perfect cupcake three words come to mind; dense, moist and fluffy. I know fluffy contradicts dense, but the idea is to find the perfect equilibrium between the two characteristics. This cupcake was dense and slightly fluffy, but definitely not moist. 

I am currently modifying this recipe and I am almost finished. Hopefully I will have it fixed by sometime in September. These cupcakes do not have the crack on top and are actually a tad under cooked, but this helped counter act with their dryness. 

Makes: 24 cupcakes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes plus cooking time
  • 3 cups of cake flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 12 tbsp. of butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. 

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl whisk the vanilla in with the eggs and butter.  Slowly add the sugar and then the buttermilk. Sift the flour over the batter and mix thoroughly, but do not over mix. 

Bake for 18- 22 minutes and let cool completely. 

The cupcakes to the left are my attempt to make coconut cupcakes. However, they did not turn out well and its not even worth providing a recipe. All you need to know is, do not try using coconut milk instead of buttermilk (don't make fun of me, I am still learning the art of the cupcake!).

The last little experiment I conducted was to test the difference between a basic square American oven and a convection oven similar to the round top ovens often found in Europe. A convection oven circulates the hot air making the middle of baked good cook faster. In a square oven the hot air sits at the top of the oven above the cupcakes. 

The cupcake on the left was baked with a convection oven. You can see that it is thinner and taller, which shows that the inside baked faster than the cupcake on the right which was baked in a regular American square oven. These were the coconut cupcakes so they don't look as pretty.  I do like the convection oven, but before I use it again I would need to play around with the cooking times.

1 comment:

  1. Love these cupcakes. I will be attending a kiddie party this weekend and I promised a little something to share with the celebrant (and her mom...who I am sure is all frenzy about the whole event...) I am thinking of alternating these dark chocolate and yellow cupcakes with brown and yellow frosting interchangeably. I love how they will look on my make shift cupcake stand. Thanks for the awesome recipes!
    Anyhoo, we have just recently launched a food photo submission site, that allows you to showcase all your great work and share it with all of our visitors. Your phenomenal photos have caught our attention. We’d be proud to have your work as part of our growing collection to continue to have a larger reach and further inspire all fellow food lovers out there! (sorry for the blatant shameless plug)!


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