Thursday, February 14, 2008

All Hail The Cupcake

I can hardly think of a food more perfect than a cupcake. It's portable, tastes wonderful and is the perfect size to satisfy a serious cake (and chocolate!) craving.

I like to think I'm a connoisseur of cupcakes. I will happily devote my life to tasting cupcakes and cupcake recipes to find the best ones. About a year ago, I bought a package of Sprinkles cupcake mix. If you've never heard of them, Sprinkles is a cupcake bakery that had it's first store in Beverly Hills. Well, lah-di-freakin'-dah, you might say, and you'd be right. Although they charge an arm and a leg for their cupcakes,($36 for a dozen, or $2.25 each), I forked over the $14 for the mix. I selected the dark chocolate cupcakes, because well, chocolate is my life. Ok, maybe not my life, but it's pretty high up on my list of priorities. When I finally made those cupcakes, I was blown away. They were rich and dense and moist and everything that a chocolate cupcake should be.

The best thing about those fancy Sprinkles cupcakes? The frosting. They give you their chocolate buttercream frosting recipe so that you can whip up a batch when you make your cupcakes. If you've never taken the few minutes it requires to make your own chocolate frosting, then shame on you! Once you taste homemade, you'll never want the canned stuff from the grocery store again. Besides, that canned stuff is full of hydrogenated oils, gluten and other stuff you can't pronounce, and I can't spell. So in the name of your health and well-being, I'm giving you the Sprinkles chocolate frosting recipe. Ready? Here goes-

6 oz. of unsalted butter, softened (that's a stick and half. Yes, use butter. Not margarine. Margarine is one ingredient away from being a plastic. I read that on the internets so it must be true. Anyway, use butter. Please.)

pinch of salt (I do two shakes of the salt shaker)

2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract (use real vanilla, not imitation vanilla flavoring. Believe me, there is a big difference in taste)
3 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Gihardelli, but Nestle's is also good. I don't recommend Baker's, it tends to be kind of bland, and has a 'metallic' aftertaste)

Melt the chocolate in your microwave in 30 to 45 second intervals. Don't over-nuke it! Stir it each time you check on it, and microwave it only until just melted. Mine took about three 30-second nukes. Give it a good stir, and set it aside to cool.

OK. Fire up your kitchenaid and beat the butter and the salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed and gradually add the sugar, until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the vanilla and the chocolate, mix until combined. Be careful not to overmix and incorporate too much air.

Yay, you just made frosting! Now, to use it. I made chocolate cupcakes for Kai's class party with Betty Crocker dark chocolate cake mix. They are yummy! And very close to the Sprinkles mix that I plunked down $14 for. After the cupcakes cooled, I put them in the fridge to get good and cold. I took them out from the fridge and gave each one a healthy dollop of frosting and dashed on some Valentine's day sprinkles. Take a look-

Mmm....I wonder if I can knock some of those kids out of my way at the snack table? OK, maybe not. Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

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