I love birthdays. I don’t know why. I just do. I know a lot of people dread them each year for the pure sake of being yet another year older, but I look at them as another year of life spent in the wonderful thing that is you and no one else. Granted, I know I might not feel the same way in a few years, but right now I’m rolling on a wave of optimism and I kind of like the feeling.
Because I enjoy birthdays so much, I have adopted Annie’s idea of making cupcakes (or any kind of personalized dessert, for that matter) for my new co-workers and friends. I like to leave the flavor options open-ended because part of what I love the most is hearing what kinds of desserts people. For some, it’s all about vanilla. For some, it’s all about cookies. And for some, it’s all about the chocolate. Being a chocoholic myself, I was completely excited when a friend at work requested something as chocolate-y as I could make it. Forget boozy add-ins. Forget any add-in at all, for that matter. Straight up offensive chocolate. Death by chocolate, to be exact.
I didn’t know what death by chocolate actually meant, but I knew I wanted to achieve something with different textures and flavors to highlight the amazing entity that is chocolate. I ended up choosing a dark chocolate cupcake with a chocolate mousse filling topped with a chocolate buttercream frosting and bits of bittersweet chocolate. These cupcakes were met with rave reviews and I was very pleased with the end product. The birthday boy was too, so that made it even better.
Death by chocolate. Are you in?
Death by Chocolate Cupcakes
Servings: approximately 18 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
For the mousse:
4 eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 and 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipped cream**Just use 1 cup of heavy cream and beat at high speed until soft peaks form.
For the frosting:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
1 and 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt
1 pound high-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Bittersweet chocolate curls, optional
1. For the cupcakes: With a rack in the center of the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line two cupcake pans with the liners of your choice.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, mixing until combined.
4. In the bowl of your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
5. Add the sugar and beat, at medium speed, for about 2 more minutes.
6. Add the eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
7. Add the vanilla, mixing well.
8. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until they are just combined.
9. Add the buttermilk and then the remaining dry ingredients, mixing until just incorporated.
10. Add the melted chocolate and gently fold it into the batter with a rubber spatula.
11. Divide the batter evenly among your prepared cupcake liners and bake until the tops spring back, about 22-25 minutes.
12. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool completely.
13. For the chocolate mousse: In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the egg yolks and milk, stirring constantly until thickened (do not let it boil), about 10 minutes or so.
14. Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chocolate chips and vanilla, mixing well.
15. Cool the mixture to room temperature.
16. In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites at high speed until firm peaks form.
17. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the cooled egg/milk mixture.
18. Fold in the whipped cream and refrigerate until ready to use.
19. For the frosting: In a small bowl, combine the cocoa and boiling water, mixing well until dissolved.
20. With your standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt on medium high speed until light and fluffy.
21. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the melted (and cooled) chocolate, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
22. Add the cocoa mixture to the frosting, mixing well.
23. For assembly: Using a small paring knife, gently cut a cone-shaped piece of cake out of the top of each cupcake.
24. Using a small spoon or a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip, lightly pipe in about 1-2 teaspoons of chocolate mousse into each cupcake.
25. Pipe (as desired) your frosting onto the top of each cupcake, garnishing with bittersweet chocolate pieces, as desired.