Happily Ever After Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes

Two nights ago, my dear friend Monica married her Prince Charming Craig.  She floated down the aisle like a princess, her face aglow with love and happiness.  And the look of love exchanged between her and Craig made me tear up.  I kept taking deep breaths and thinking about all my autumn garden chores to hold it together.  You see, both Monica and Craig had prior marriages that ended in divorce.  They moved forward raising their kids until, unexpectedly, they met and fell madly in love.  This is what I have wanted for Monica; a wonderful kind man to love and adore her.  To finally make this wonderful Disney obsessed single mother feel like the princess she is.  She embodied every current and future Disney princess as she entered the church and we stood and smiled on.  And I wiped away a stray tear.  What struck me as they said their vows, is just how courageous they were.  It takes real bravery to trust in love again and build a new family. Their daughters cried joyful tears during the ceremony and I felt so happy for them that I could have burst.  And after a weekend spent with family they are heading off to Disneyland, the happiest place on earth.

Happily Ever After Chocolate Truffle Cupcake

I baked the wedding cupcakes.  Prior to this event, I had baked maybe four batches of cupcakes in my life, one of which you have already seen on this blog. (But in my defense I have baked over 20 cakes this year while I was testing recipes.)  I was nervous so I went into research mode and checked out every cupcake cookbook at the public library; 23 cupcake books in total, including Zombie Cupcakes by Zilly Rosen just for some added levity.  After flipping through all those cupcake books, I learned that cupcakes are supposed to be cute.  The emphasis was on the cute appearance and the cake being light and fluffy.

But, I already knew that my friends were going to frost the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting in a simple rose.  I wanted to make a seductive cupcake recipe that a chocolate lover could savor.  I just didn’t find that recipe in my research.  So, I decided to create a new recipe. 

I started by tweaking Monica’s family chocolate cake recipe by adding a chocolate ganache center to the cupcake, which was lovely.  But, the cupcake texture was a bit too crumbly which often happens when you make a cake recipe into a cupcake.  So, I added some bread flour because the protein amount is higher and makes the crumb sturdier.  And then I let my inner chocoholic go crazy, I added Dutch processed cocoa for a more intense chocolate flavor, my favorite Scharffen Berger cocoa powder, a couple of glugs of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur, instant espresso powder, and more vanilla.  I baked up half the batter with the ganache center and they were nice, but not amazing.

Now, the next part of the recipe developed from a physical challenge.  This past August, I received PRP injections in my right knee and ankle to help grow some new ligament tissue.  And it worked!  Which is amazing and exciting and also painful, like most change is.  And I didn’t really think the timing through because a PRP injection leaves your ligaments severely sprained.  So, I can stand for about fifteen minutes in the kitchen before I want to start cursing from the pain.   And then I go ice my foot and calf until it’s numb and go back into the kitchen.  This meant that I had to break up the tasks into manageable steps. And some nights I just had to call it early.  So, I put the trial cake batter into the fridge for the night.  The next day when My Kid came over for dinner, I pulled out the cake batter and baked up some cupcakes to send home with him.  And those cupcakes were fantastic.  So, refrigerating the batter was the trick.  And I knew that I was almost there.  But, they needed another tweak.

A couple of days later, My Pirate and I were walking through Lowe’s talking about the cupcakes, and he said, “What if you put a truffle cake center in the cupcake?” And a light bulb went off in my head;  I could put a layer of truffle cake in the bottom of each cupcake! When I want to throw a culinary pass at My Pirate, I make him The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake that I found on Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, and in her book, A Homemade Life.

The Winning Hearts and Minds miniature cupcake

I tested several versions of the cupcakes with different proportions of batters and chocolate ganache. And then I refrigerated or froze them overnight.  The cupcakes that were frozen and then unthawed won our taste testing.  I then distributed all my test subjects to my neighbors and a friend’s family dinner. 

This is what I came up with.  I made up the cake batter and put it in the fridge for the night.  The next day I heated up the chocolate ganache and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.  While the chocolate ganache chilled I made The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake batter.  And then I put two tablespoons of The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake batter in the bottom of the cupcake liner, poured in two more tablespoons of the chocolate cake batter.  And pushed in ½ teaspoon of ganache on top of each cupcake.  Then I put them in the oven. Let them cool to room temperature.  Then wrap them up and freeze for at least 24 hours.  Remove from freezer and they will come to room temp in about an hour. 

I baked off the cupcakes for the wedding and wrapped them up and put them in the freezer.  Before I returned my library books, I flipped back through Southern Living’s Big Book of Cupcakes by Jan Moon and found a chocolate cream cheese frosting recipe.  All you do is add 1/3 cup of cocoa powder to each pound of powdered sugar that you add to the frosting.  So, I mirrored all the different forms of chocolate in the cake into the frosting.  When My Pirate tasted it on the cupcake, he giggled like a little girl.  The neighbor sighed and asked me how I did it.  And a couple of my friends closed their eyes and savored every bite.  And I knew that it was ready to be served at a wedding that was all about second chances and true love.

This cupcake is worth the extra time that it takes and the postponed gratification.  Don’t serve this at a five year old’s birthday party! No, this is an adult cupcake best shared with someone that you passionately love or at your dear friend’s wedding.

Happily Ever After Cake Batter
Adapted from Markum Best Chocolate Cake
2 cups flour
1 cup bread flour
2 cups sugar—I used vanilla sugar
6 tablespoons Hershey's Cocoa
2 tablespoons Scharffen Berger cocoa
2 tablespoons Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
4 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups warm water
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla—the good stuff

Place dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.  Mix wet ingredients together.  Pour wet ingredients into flour mixture and stir until it just combines.  Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.

Chocolate Ganache
By Cook’s Illustrated
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
¼ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar

Place chocolate, cream, and confectioner’s sugar in medium microwave bowl.  Heat in microwave on high power until mixture is warm to touch, 20 to 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth; transfer bowl to refrigerator and let stand until just chilled, no longer than thirty minutes.

Winning Hearts and Minds Cake
Gâteau au chocolat fondant de Nathalie
Adapted from Je veux du chocolat!, by Trish Deseine and Molly Wizenberg
And tweaked by Laura Heldreth

7 ounces (200 grams) best-quality dark chocolate
7 ounces (200 grams) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 1/3 cup (250 grams) granulated sugar—vanilla sugar works great
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
tiny pinch of red cayenne pepper powder
splash of Godiva Chocolate Liquor
1 tablespoon Dutch processed cocoa
1 tablespoon Scharffen Berger
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 large eggs
1 Tbs flour

Finely chop the chocolate (a serrated bread knife does an outstanding job of this) or use Ghiradelli chips and melt it gently with the butter in the microwave, stirring regularly to combine. I use the microwave in 30 second bursts and it works great.  Add the sugar, instant espresso powder, salt, cayenne, vanilla, Scharffen Berger, and Dutch processed cocoa to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well, and set aside to cool for a few moments. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition, and then add the flour. The batter should be smooth, dark, and utterly gorgeous.

Happily Ever After Chocolate Truffle Cupcakes

Make the Happily Ever After Chocolate Cake batter and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours. 

Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Then, make the chocolate ganache and refrigerate for up to 30 minutes.  While it chills, mix up The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake batter.  Line your cupcake pans. 

Place 2 tablespoons of the Winning Hearts and Minds Cake batter in the bottom of the cupcake liner.  Put two more tablespoons of the Happily Ever After Chocolate Cake batter in the cupcake liner.  Top the batter with ½ teaspoon of chocolate ganache. Place in oven and bake for 17 to 19 minutes.  My cupcakes took 19 minutes in my oven. 

Cool in pan for ten minutes.  Then place on a cooling rack until room temperature, about one hour.  Then wrap in plastic wrap and foil.  Put in freezer overnight.  You can freeze them up to a month if they are wrapped well.  To unthaw, unwrap the cupcakes and place on a cookie sheet for one hour. 

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting –Adapted from Fine Cooking
1-1/4 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 cup of combined cocoas—Hershey’s, Scharffen Berger, Dutch processed
1 (2-lb.) bag confectioners’ sugar (about 7-1/4 cups)
splash of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur (optional)
To make the frosting
Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Place confectioners’ sugar and cocoa in a separate bowl and whisk together. Stop the mixer and add a few cups of the confectioners’ sugar, incorporating it into the cream cheese mixture on low speed until combined. Repeat with the remaining sugar, adding it to the mixer in two additions. Once all of the sugar is added, pour in a splash of chocolate liqueur then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
Then frost cupcakes. Top with sprinkles. Serve.  

I also made miniature cupcakes with The Winning Hearts and Minds Cake batter.  I baked them off at 350 degrees for twelve minutes.  And the bride and groom fed them to each other for the cake slicing ceremony.  They were the perfect bite size. 

Monica's wedding cupcake display