I attended a baby shower for a couple of friends of mine who are delightful people with wicked senses of humor, so I do not think they will mind a post that is a combination of zombies and their baby shower. When I asked the husband what the very pregnant mother-to-be was craving he replied, “Anything chocolate”. So, I turned to a recipe I used last Easter. Sadly, I do not have pictures of the beautifully decorated baby shower cupcakes – they resembled mums – but I do have a picture of Zombie Jesus cupcakes. I have mentioned before that I am a graduate student and in my department, Anthropology, the graduate students love to get together at holidays whether they celebrate that holiday religiously or not. It is always a good, rousing time. For this Easter celebration, I made Devil’s Food cupcakes with Swiss meringue butter cream frosting piped in the shape of brains and then topped with a little decoration that said “Zombie Jesus Loves You” – a common joke around Easter (I do apologize if this offends anyone). So, this post is about a recipe I changed for the baby shower, but has a picture of the unchanged recipe with brain frosting. Though part of me thinks the mom- and dad-to-be would have been perfectly ok with brain-topped cupcakes: they are both psychologists. Since I wrote this post, they have since had their wonderful baby boy who is happy and healthy! Congrats to them!
This is a great recipe, but when I made them for Easter, they were a little dry. So, for the baby shower I made a few adjustments, and they were much more moist. I increased the amount of sour cream and added some melted 70% cacao chocolate. For the baby shower I also filled the cupcakes with almond cream. That recipe is at the end of this post. Every component of both cupcakes came from Martha Stewart, and I have to say that her baking recipes have never failed for me. I make adjustments and improvisations here and there, but her baking recipes are always good solid recipes to keep on hand.
Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes about 32 cupcakes
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¾ cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ¼ teaspoons coarse salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 ¼ cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 oz 60 or 70% cacao chocolate –I usually use Ghirardelli
1 ½ cup sour cream, room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth.
2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined.
4. Melt the 4 oz of chocolate in a double boiler (place a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water) or in microwave – I prefer double boiler method because it reduces the chance of burning the chocolate
5. Add flour mixture in two batches of the butter-sugar-cocoa mixture, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.
6. Add in melted chocolate and stir until combined.
7. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
8. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 15 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.
Swiss Meringue Butter Cream
Adapted from Martha Stewart
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Any food coloring you desire
1. Place whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers, I test it by putting a small drop of the mixture between my fingers. If it is still gritty, it needs to stay on the heat longer, if it is perfectly smooth then move on.
2. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6-10 minutes. It is very important that stiff peaks form otherwise your frosting will fall apart. If butter starts to clot, put over heat a little bit until it goes back into solution.
3. Beat in vanilla.
4. If you like add in food coloring at this time
5. Decorate the cupcakes with this frosting as you choose
Almond Cream Filling
From Martha Stewart
This is the full recipe – you should halve it if you are just filling cupcakes
2 1/2 cups half-and-half
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 large egg yolks
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1. Bring 2 cups half-and-half, the almond paste, sugar, salt, and cornstarch to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Prepare an ice-water bath; set aside. Whisk egg yolks, extract, and remaining 1/2 cup half-and-half in a medium bowl; add one-third of the hot half-and-half mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Pour into saucepan.
3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking constantly. Cook, whisking, until mixture coats the back of a spoon, 3 to 4 minutes. Pass through a fine sieve into a bowl set in ice-water bath. Stir in butter, several pieces at a time. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally.
4. Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed just until stiff peaks form. Fold into custard.
5. Prepare a pastry bag (use Wilton tip 230 or 12) and fill with almond cream. Stab each cooled cupcake with the tip and fill. It may spill out the top and you can clean that up with a paper towel or spoon.
Oh, and this is the Devil’s Food recipe used to make a skull cake with candle-lit eyes!