Friday, March 9, 2012

Peanut Butter Cupcakes w/ Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Tonight we celebrate the birthdays of my nephew Milo and my sister-in-law, Midge. My mother-in-law asked for the classic chocolate cupcake with vanilla buttercream, but my wonderful husband knew I'd been obsessing over a peanut butter cupcake recipe I found online, and asked his sister if Milo likes chocolate & peanut butter, and she gave the thumbs up.

Intellectually, I feel like cupcakes are a bit overexposed, but I also recognize there's a reason they're so popular. Self-contained, infinitely adaptable, and simultaneously elegant and a comfort food, it's unlikely any other dessert will surpass them in popularity. I finally came to terms with this love-hate relationship with cupcakes and started TiVo'ing Food Network's Cupcake Wars (which I'd been watching whenever I found it on anyway). One thing I noticed was that the contestants who succeeded on the show always went beyond simple cake and frosting, adding fillings, drizzles, and edible decorations on top. That inspiration led me to this Peanut Butter cupcake with Peanut Butter filling, chocolate ganache and a white chocolate monogram on top.

Peanut Butter Cupcakes
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line two cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) with paper liners. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, and whisk together to evenly distribute all ingredients. In your stand mixer, mix together the brown sugar, shortening and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter alternately with the milk (a little flour, a little milk, a little flour, a little milk, etc.). Spoon into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the top of the cupcakes spring back when lightly pressed. Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cooled, use a small pair of tongs to pull a small chunk of the cupcake from the center, making space for the filling.


Peanut Butter Filling
1 cup creamy peanut butter
3 Tbspn unsalted butter
2/3 cup confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, beat the peanut butter with the butter until creamy. Sift the confectioners' sugar into the bowl and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Spoon the peanut butter filling into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Gently squeeze the pastry bag to fill each cupcake.

(From Food & Wine Magazine)

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
16 oz bittersweet chocolate
16 oz heavy cream

Put chocolate in a medium mixing bowl and set on a trivet. Place cream in a heavy saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil, then pour over chocolate. Allow to sit 5 minutes, then whisk until fully combined. Place bowl on an ice pack to speed cooling, and allow to cool for several hours, until thickened to a frosting consistency.

Spoon ganache into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe onto cupcakes.

White Chocolate Letters
3 oz white chocolate
Gel food coloring

Chop white chocolate finely and place in a small glass bowl. Add several drops of gel food coloring. Place bowl in the microwave and heat on high for 20 seconds, then 10 more seconds at a time until you are able to stir together. The chocolate will be melted before it appears melted, so check with a spoon before heating further. Stir until fully combined. Spoon into a small pastry bag with a very fine tip. Pipe letters onto a smooth silicone baking mat placed on an overturned baking sheet. Chill in the refrigerator. When firm, carefully peel from mat and place on cupcakes.

The cupcakes were well received, with my brother-in-law going for a second and my mother in law saying they looked professional - both high praise. I did, unfortunately, overcook some of the cupcakes, with some being a little burned on the bottom. When I checked them at 20 minutes, they seemed very soft on top, so I gave them 3 extra minutes - which was too much for some of them. I also failed to taste the filling before piping it into the cupcakes, and it wasn't as transformed as I'd hoped. I would definitely make these again, but would fill the cupcakes a little less, and cut back on the peanut butter and increase the sugar and butter in the filling to make it smoother and sweeter.

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