Who doesn’t love a good knock-off? Generally, they’re less expensive than their commercial counterparts, and you can always chalk any spelling errors (Versaci? Rollex?) up to the charms of owning a handmade item.
These knock-offs are just as good, if not better than the original, despite their uneven squiggles. (That’s my fault, not the cupcake’s. I tried.) It was no coincidence that I decided to make these around the same time I heard Hostess Cupcakes was having a Portrait of the American Cupcake contest where proceeds would go to benefit FreeArts, which is a charity I really care about. (I didn’t intentionally hide this contest from you, btw, it’s just there are so many other posts that had been waiting patiently for their turn to shine, and no matter HOW FREAKING GOOD these were, it wasn’t fair to just let them cut the line.)
My attention was first captured when I saw this posted on Sweetest Kitchen. Her site led me to the actual recipe on My Baking Addiction, yet another site with too many recipes for me to keep up with because they all sound fab, but I keep logging them away anyway. She got them from someone else who got them somewhere else, and so on, but you’re welcome to click on those links to follow the trail should you choose.
I was happy to see the base cake for these was the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake, the same one I used to make my Perfectly Chocolate Mini Birthday Cakes. Though once again I didn’t use the required brand name product, or as much sugar, these cakes came out just as good as I remembered from March. The filling was a basic frosting, and while I had considered using marshmallow fluff, I think the one I used was the way to go.
I followed the recipe on My Baking Addiction almost to the T, because the only change I even made was to eliminate some of the sugar from the cake. I’ll give you the original recipe below, and note where I made changes.
These were kind of a pain, they had to be done in a few stages, but they were sooooo gooooood! You don’t believe me? (Of course you do, I just say that so I have a nice segue to the fantastic quotes I heard from my coworkers).
The first is a direct quote, via IM from Adam, who almost had a pie named after him, but you’ll hear more about that in my next post, “OHhhhhh…. btw, you covered all the bases. one bite in, i thought to myself, ‘self… that little drizzle of white icing won’t be enough to get me through this choc… sweet mother of mercy… the middle is WHITE.’ ” I wish I had someone to compare his voice to for you, because “hearing” it in my head is really what did that for me. Thanks, Adam. Let’s see what everyone else had to say…
TB told me that mine put the regular ones to shame. Maat said that mine were better than the regular, and he could already feel his teeth rotting out, to which Miss J replied “Mine are singing.” Thank you coworkers, you were most receptive!
PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES – Makes 24
- 1.5 cups sugar
- 1+3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened (you can probably up some of the cocoa if you use less sugar, for substance)
- 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
- 1.5 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water
Preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line your cupcake tins with paper cups.
Stir together your sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat on medium in mixer for 2 minutes. I’m pretty sure I did this by hand, you’d think I could remember something I did a week ago but I can’t. Then, stir in your boiling water. This batter is extremely thin, like pure liquid. You will need a ladle to pour it out, or as I saw recently (and felt silly for not thinking of myself) you can pour it into a glass measuring cup with a lip and then pour it directly into the muffin tins. A much easier, and probably way less messy, solution.
Let those bake for 22-25 minutes. They will have to cool completely before you can do anything else, so you don’t have to start your filling just yet. Anyway, first you’ll want to hollow out your cuppycakes if you’re using the cone method, like I did. If not, you can skip this step!
I’ll refer you to this picture post by Beantown Baker, though I think my pictures are a pretty good explanation (and similar to hers). Anyways, make sure you use a SUPER sharp knife to make the cut-out, and cut off the tips of the cone before you fit them back in so you can maximize the amount of filling. Do this step before making the filling because once that’s ready, you’ll want to fill the cupcakes all at once, rather than cut them individually and fill them. Filling got messy and sticky, you won’t want to multitask at that point. Now it’s time for filling!
FILLING (Seven Minute Frosting)
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, beat with a handheld mixer at high speed until frosting is thick and fluffy – should take 6 to 7 minutes. Here’s the lowdown on this. I splattered everywhere. I used a smaller bowl because there wasn’t too much stuff at first. Big mistake. Try to use some sort of deep bowl or something. I don’t know, just don’t do what I did, it really got everywhere, and that stuff was sticky. While you’d be tempted to just lick it off, you can’t because it’s on the walls, the range, the counters, the towels… Yeah.
Anyways, after 6 or 7 minutes, take the bowl off the simmering water and keep mixing it until it’s cool. It takes a bit more to cool down, just make sure you really aerate it to get it fluffy.
So now is a good time to put your fluff into a disposable pastry bag. If you’re using the cone filling, use a medium sized round tip to pipe a nice-sized dollop into your hollowed out cupcake.
You can also use a long filling tip to put the filling directly into the cupcake if you have one, I didn’t. Place the top back on your cupcake and you’re set. Even when you cut out the bottom of the cone, I noticed they still don’t set right back where they were. It’s fine, you’re covering it with more chocolate in a minute, and no one will notice.
- 1/2 cup cream
- 8 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (or chips)
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Using a small saucepan, heat the cream until it’s steaming, but not boiling. You don’t want to cook it, just warm it up. My gauge was when I swirled the pan and it sizzled on the sides. Also, it was steaming. Remove it from the heat, and add the chocolate and let it stand for a few minutes. The warm cream will start melting the chocolate. (That’s not all the chocolate in the left picture, don’t panic! Also, I didn’t finely chop, everything turned out okay anyway.) Also, please do not try to take a drink from the saucepan at this point, it gets better. Add in your butter and stir everything until it’s smooth. (see, better!)
Now the directions here said to dip the cupcakes into the ganache to coat. I tried it once, against my better judgment. What happened was the cone pulled out and was left in the frosting. The extraction was yummy, but messy. For the rest of them, I used my rubber spatula to scoop up and coat the tops of each cupcake with ganache. That could account for why they’re so lumpy though. Anyways, put those in the fridge to set, about 10 minutes seemed to work, then use the remainder of the filling (you’ll have plenty) and pipe little swirls across the top. Her directions say to do the swirls before setting, which I just noticed, and I wonder if it makes a difference. I didn’t want to accidentally get my chocolate all swirled up with the filling. They held up just fine the way I did them anyway.
So, that’s that. I’m going for an evil rating of 4 on this because while no one called me evil, per se, I found myself fiending for them in an unnatural way. Like really unhealthy. Before I brought them into work I was eating the leftover cone tips (you know what I’m talking about, it’s like a whole other cupcake) with the leftover filling and extra ganache.
Who needs a cupcake? You do, make these.