When you get right down to it, past all the cheese and expectations, Valentine’s day is about one thing- celebrating the loved ones in our lives. Everyone- boyfriends, girlfriends, family, significant others, and friends- are sure to be happy with something sweet.
When I was thinking of what I should make I mulled about it for hours because let’s face it- I LOVE the chance to do a themed treat. It had to be pink or red, of course, and involve chocolate. I thought about making something extravagant like salted caramel cupcakes or something with bourbon (hmm…) but there’s just something about the simple things done well.
Here’s what I decided to do: Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
I’m always on the lookout for the “best” recipe so I decided to try Ina Garten’s chocolate cupcake recipe to see how it compared to one of my favorites- “One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes” from Martha.
I’ve made Ina’s Chocolate cake before so I knew these would be good. To enhance the chocolate flavor, the recipe calls for a little fresh brewed coffee and boy does it make a difference. In the finished product, you can only taste a hint of the coffee but it does intensify the chocolate.
Baking Tip: How full do you fill cupcake tins with batter? It depends on how much baking powder/soda/air is in the batter causing it to rise, but it’s also a matter of opinion. Here’s a little test I did. I filled three cupcake tins in varying amounts. The first was half full, the middle ¾ full and the last almost completely full.
Baking Baking Baking…
And the results are in!
The first just barely domes over the top of the paper, the second a little higher, and some over flow action on the last. You probably know which one I like based on the one’s surrounding it. Rule of thumb: go with no more the 3/4ths full or you might have some volcano action. Yicks!
Well Ina blew Martha out of the water. Sorry Martha but these cupcakes are absolutely a-mazing!!
Now on to icing and decorations!
Icing is super easy to make and tastes SO much better when you make it from scratch. I usually make a buttercream icing and mess with the ingredients until I think it’s at the right consistency. Buttercream icing contains just a few ingredients: Butter, confectioners sugar, and a liquid to loosen it up. For the liquid I usually use milk and add a touch of vanilla.
It’s important to start with room temperature butter. Beat the butter in an electric mixer and then slowly add the confectioners sugar. You will need to add about a tablespoon or two of milk. Add it slowly until it is spreading consistency.
I planned on using half vanilla/half raspberry icing. So at this point I set about a cup of vanilla icing aside and started making the raspberry frosting.
I saw a couple of recipes that called for using raspberry jam but I thought that the sugar in the jam combined with the sugar in the icing would result in a super sweet icing. Instead I thawed a couple of frozen whole raspberries and gave them a whirl in the food processor.
I added just the pulp to the frosting and mixed it all together. The raspberry acted as a natural food coloring turning the icing a pretty pink.
A touch more powder sugar and I was ready to decorate!
Earlier I baked up some sugar cookie shaped hearts using store bought cookie dough. A nice little shortcut- especially since I was making the cupcakes from scratch. I mixed about 1/3 tube of the dough with ¼ cup of flour so I could roll it out.
I had some Baker’s semisweet chocolate on hand so I melted it and made outlines of hearts on parchment paper. While those set in the fridge, I used the rest of the chocolate to decorate some of the cookies.
And here they are!
For a couple, I used a spoon to hollow out the center and put a contrasting flavor of icing in the middle. Then I covered it with icing. You can even use a cookie cutter and leave it uncovered for a cute look.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Ina Garten from the Barefoot Contessa at Home
1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons) at room temperature
About 3/4 pound confectioners sugar
About 2 tablespoons of milk – or to correct consistency
1/4 cup frozen raspberries, thawed
Beat butter in an electric mixer. Slowly add confectioners sugar. Mix in milk to the correct consistency. Pulse raspberries in a food processor. Stir in the pulp and just a little bit of the juice. Add additional powdered sugar if needed.
Happy Valentine’s Day!