Ah, cupcakes. You either love them or you hate them. As a lover of everything cute, of course I love them! But what is available is usually cloyingly sweet. My dilemma was that I wanted to offer cupcakes for my new business, Petites Bouchees, simply because they looked adorable in those paper cups. Yes, I’m silly that way.
But finding a recipe for cupcakes that I myself would eat proved to be difficult. First off, Vanilla Vanilla cupcakes. I realized the only frosting I am willing to eat is cream cheese frosting – oh and how delicious it is! (None of that buttercream frosting made with powdered sugar and butter only – or worse shortening!) Cream cheese helps maintain the body of the frosting without making it too sweet and it adds a pleasant tangy flavor. The cupcake itself is moist and has a wonderful crumb to go with it. Both cupcake and frosting are speckled with vanilla dots. Hint: I based my recipe -with a little tweaking- from a popular bakery in New York City and they are known for their cupcakes.
Second – Chocolate, chocolate cupcakes. I was stomped with chocolate cupcakes for a while. I always ended up with cupcakes that were both too dense and metallic tasting or would be too dry the next day. Though I cannot write the recipe here, I can tell you what can cause your chocolate cupcakes to fail miserably. I knew that there were two types of cocoa: Dutch-processed and Natural. The Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with alkali that reduces its acidity and is darker in color. Though its box does not say so I assume Valrhona is dutch-processed because it is incredibly dark and has been a culprit in some of my chocolate experiments. But I am getting ahead of myself. The natural cocoa powder like Sharffen Berger has more reddish brown color and has all of its acid. I tried a recipe one time for chocolate cupcakes that used crème fraiche. I was so excited I imagined myself biting into incredibly soft chocolatey cupcakes. It had both baking powder and baking soda in its recipe. I thought that the baking soda was there to interact with the acidity of the crème fraiche. I used Valrhona cocoa powder. The result was an odd-tasting chocolate cupcake that was as hard as a rock. The taste and hard denseness I now know come from the baking soda having not enough acid to react with thus giving the cupcake an off-flavor and failing to leaven it. Unfortunately, most recipes do not specifically tell you what type of cocoa to use. By my deduction and research, if the sole leavening is baking powder then it is safe to use Dutch-processed because baking powder is a complete leavening system by itself containing both sodium bicarbonate and an acidifying agent. If there is baking soda in the recipe, use natural cocoa. In the end, I found out I like to use more melted chocolate in the batter of my cupcake anyway and very little flour and cocoa powder – love the soft denseness but more expensive to produce – sigh… the cost of yumminess.
I really don’t know where these cupcakes will take me since they are not the mainstream sweetness and the "Hungry" Hubby is there to make sure I won’t sell out to commercialism – so I guess it’s a wait and see.