Thursday, December 12, 2013

Mariana Trench Cupcakes

This cupcake recipe is unique in that I have made it more than once. I have already made it twice, and I expect I will probably have to make it many more times.

I first created this cupcake for my friend Jamie. Her 24th(?) birthday party was nautical themed because she wanted an excuse to play a huge game of battle shots. I created this dark chocolate and sea salted caramel cupcake in honor of her birthday (thus, the name Mariana Trench). I also made myself a kraken costume (pictured below), and I think that was equally glorious.

Jamie and the kraken

The second time I made this cupcake, it was by commission. I offered to make cupcakes for my friend Erin's fancy-schmancy 30th birthday party. Erin's parents rented out the bar at Mory's, Yale's members-only restaurant, and people flew in from all over the country for an amazing celebration that included open bar, appetizers, and cupcakes. I ended up making 50 of these little buggers! I told Erin that I could make any cupcake flavor she wanted or create her a new one just for her. She insisted on having these cupcakes because she "still had occasional dreams about them." All fifty cupcakes were gone within a few minutes of being announced (I think there were only 35 people there--some people double-dipped). So with just a little bit further ado, the recipe.

With the gorgeous birthday girl, Erin

Mariana Trench Cupcake Instructions

yield: 14 cupcakes

1) Prepare the cupcakes

     1/2 cup butter, softened
     1 1/4 cups sugar
     2 large eggs, room temp
     3/4 cups all-purpose flour
     1/2 tsp. baking powder
     1/4 tsp. salt
     1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Hershey's Special Dark, available at most grocery stores)
     1/2 cup milk
     1 tsp. vanilla

     a) Follow instructions #1-6 for old-fashioned chocolate cupcakes found here.
     b) Put cupcake batter into a covered container, and refrigerate overnight.
     c) Remove cupcake batter from refrigerator and let rest on counter for an hour or so.
     d) Follow instruction #7 (and subsequent tips) for old-fashioned chocolate cupcakes found here.
     e) Let cupcakes cool fully on wire racks.

     Merely by accident, I found that refrigerating the batter overnight causes any small lumps in the batter to smooth out, darkens the color of the batter, and creates a cupcake that will slightly rise (contrary to what the author said about the cupcake) and be resistant to falling.

I did not refrigerate the batter for the ones in the back.  The ones in front were refrigerated prior to baking.  You can see they turn out much prettier and fluffier!

2) Stuff your cupcakes.

   1 10-oz jar fleur de sel caramel sauce (I buy mine at Trader Joe's, but you can also get one here or by taking a 10-oz jar of your favorite caramel sauce, heating it slightly, mixing in fleur de sel to taste, and letting cool)
     a) Core your cooled cupcakes. You can either do this using a butter knife and cutting in a small cone (should extend halfway down the height of the cupcake) out or by using a cupcake corer.  If you don't make cupcakes frequently, these are a waste of money. If you do make cupcakes frequently, these are a godsend. Make sure not to throw your cupcake core out, because you will be using it again.

A cored cupcake, plus the caramel sauce I love

     b) Spoon 1/2-1 tsp. of caramel sauce into empty core.  You should make sure to leave 1/4 inch of empty space between caramel and top of cupcake.

     c) Cut the bottom crumbly cake part off of the core to just leave the tops.  Tops should be about 1/4 inch tall.
     d) Stick the tops over the caramel to once again have a cupcake with no holes in it.

3) Make your chocolate ganache frosting.

     9 oz bittersweet or very dark chocolate, chopped (I prefer dark chocolate over 80% cacoa)
     1 cup heavy cream 
     fleur de sel

     a) Follow the instructions found here.
     b) Allow ganache to cool slightly, and then dip cupcake tops into melt-y ganache.  Make sure to twist the cupcake as you pull it up or else it will drip everywhere.
     c) Sprinkle fleur de sel onto melty ganache cupcake tops.  You could stop here if you want; the rest is just to make the cupcake look pretty.

     d) Wait for ganache to cool to room temperature.  Then use a stand mixer (or a hand mixer) to whip the remaining ganache into a creamy frosting.  Remember to start at low speed and slowly increase to high so it doesn't go everywhere.

     e) Put the whipped ganache into a piping bag fitted with a star tip, twist the top of the bag, and then use your hands to warm the ganache in the bag slightly.  This will make it easier to pipe your ganache.
     d) Pipe ganache crowns onto your cupcakes, and add sprinkles or more salt if you like.

Don't you just LOVE these wrappers?  These were by far the classiest cupcakes I've ever made.  Fit for royalty!


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