To stretch my justification even further, since these cupcakes are dense and satisfying, not too sweet and with a fresh, light, dreamy frosting, while I would usually end up eating to eat two or three as soon as they are made, I was pleasantly surprised to have my craving satisfied with just one... ok, at least for a couple of hours anyway.
Before I get to the recipes though I wanted to throw out a couple of quick reminders about the events I'm hosting. First off, in case you didn't already know, this month for Art You Eat the theme is to Go Local! to celebrate Earth Day. Entries aren't due til the end of April, so you've got plenty of time to get inspired.
Second, a quick reminder to send in your small creations for the Blogging for Babies Event to support our Little Wonders Team for the March for Babies to raise awareness for the March of Dimes. You can read all the details here. I've already received a few entries, but I've been hinting that I was trying to get my hands on some prizes. I am excited to announce that I have some prizes for the person whose entry gets the most votes as the people's choice in the round-up. So far, the prize "basket" includes two of my most favorite ingredients - a 2 lb bag of my favorite, dark, rich dutch-process cocoa made by a division of Callebaut and a bottle of Nielsen-Massey's Vanilla Bean Paste (like having a jar full of ready to go vanilla bean goodness). Because these are two of my favorites I used them both in the Chocolate Strawberry Cupcakes.
I also have an adorable "Night Owl" baby shirt (18-24 month size) created and donated by Kate from her company Bubble & Squeak - these are unique and seriously adorable baby clothes that she illustrates herself.
Stephanie, the Happy Sorceress, has also been kind enough to donate a brand spankin' new copy of Small Bites Big Nights, by Govind Armstrong - this looks like a fabulous cookbook and I'm so excited that Stephanie has donated it to the cause. I am so grateful to these two lovely gals for helping me out with this event! I may even have some more prizes on their way to announce at the round-up so I will be able to give out prizes to the top three vote getters - so that just increases your chances to win!
So, what do you have to do to win these spoils? Just check out the event details here and send in your entry on or before April 21st reminding people about the March for Babies and linking to the fundraiser. Then, once the round-up is posted, I'll take email votes for the People's Choice favorite "little wonder" creation. The entry (or entries) with the most votes, wins. Easy enough - you can enter as many creations as you want too, so get busy! I'll make sure to send an email to everyone whose email I have (so make sure to give me a good address) when the round-up is posted so that you can post a reminder and link to the round-up so you can tell your readers to go check it out and vote!
and Chocolate Covered Strawberries
NOTE: these are shown in the order I recommend making them.
(Adapted from Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcake recipe, page 215, and the Buttercream for Dorie's Perfect Party Cake, page 250, Baking: From My Home to Yours)
Homemade Strawberry Preserves
(Adapted from Jamie Oliver)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 1/2 ounces sugar
8 ounces strawberries, washed and hulled (by weight after they have been hulled)
Combine all three ingredients in the bowl of the food processor, puree until mostly smooth. Transfer to a small saucepan. Put on a medium heat to bring to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for about 6 minutes. Using a ladle remove the scum from the top and leave to cool.
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 12 cups of a regular-size muffin pan with paper liners.
To Make the Cupcakes:
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until it is blended into the butter. Add the egg, then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the vanilla, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear. Scrape down the bowl and add the buttermilk, mixing until incorporated, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl, add the melted chocolate and mix it in with the rubber spatula. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds.
Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are dry and springy to the touch and a knife inserted into their centers comes out clean. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack and let the cakes cool for 5 minutes before unmolding them. Cool to room temperature on a rack before frosting.
For the Buttercream (these measurements are actually for a half-batch of the frosting, which ended up being the perfect amount for the cupcakes):
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg whites
12 tablespoons (6 ounces or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 batch fresh strawberry preserves (recipe to follow below) (approximately 3/4 cup smooth pureed preserves)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
To Make the Buttercream:
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a pan 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. Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter 4 tablespoons at a time (half stick each time for a total of three installments), beating until smooth. Once all the butter is in, beat the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again. On medium speed add the vanilla. You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Add the strawberry preserves and beat until well combined. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream until you are ready to frost. Pipe or frost onto each cupcake and top with a chocolate covered strawberry.
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
12 small whole strawberries, washed and patted dry
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
Once the cupcakes are frosted, dip each strawberry in the melted chocolate and press onto the top center of each one.