Saturday, June 18, 2011

Frosty B*tch

Yeah, I've been called that a few times in my life. But this post ain't about my attitude.

Frosting's never been my thing.
-Gobs of it on store-bought cakes make me ill. I can't stand corner pieces with frosting on three sides; I eat middle pieces that only have frosting on top.
-I got into a tiff once with a college housemate who insisted I ate her Betty Crocker frosting that was wallowing in the fridge.
-My Thank-God-the-CSTs-Are-Over Cupcakes were frosted with what was supposed to be buttercream but which was really just a big pile of fat and sugar. Several hours after inhaling his, one student asked me, "Um, Ms. DiStasi, did you make that frosting?"

Yet I can't quite give up on frosting altogether, and am determined earn my title in the gastronomic realm, not just the interpersonal realm. Michael Recchiuti's Chocolate Obsession  has a decadent yet simple recipe for Devil's Food Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Espresso Frosting. I've made it twice now, and both times the cupcakes were perfect. The first batch of frosting was tasty also. Too bad it was the consistency of gravy. The cupcakes were drowning in it. Of course, those close to me know the first question to ask me is, "Did you actually follow the recipe?" The answer was "No," as it usually is, but my improvisations generally don't lead me so far astray. I guess adding liquid espresso in place of instant-dissolve espresso powder isn't quite an even exchange.

The second batch of frosting was equally tasty, but I followed the recipe more closely (note I didn't say exactly) and after a stint in the refrigerator, I got frosting that stayed in place. At least until the frosting reached room temperature.

Tasty, but espresso granules are too easily mistaken for pieces of dirt.

 For my third batch, I have returned to the use of liquid espresso instead of espresso granules, as the recipe calls for, since the granules make the frosting gritty. At least, mine do, since I refuse to buy the instant-dissolve stuff Recchiuti suggests. I cut back on the cream to compensate for the extra liquid, and added a bit more white chocolate to increase the solid-at-room-temperature fat content. I dumped a bit in the stand mixer, along with a few heaping tablespoons of confectioners' sugar, which I figured was sort of like an ode to my failed buttercream. This frosting is verging on cloying thanks to the extra white chocolate and sugar, but pipes quite nicely.


The cupcakes and pseudo-buttercream frosting turned out as well as I could have hoped for, and I prepared a batch to bring to friends I met for drinks last night. I even added a little decorative espresso bean atop each one. However, since my car had been sitting in the sun all day, the frosting didn't even make it out of Oakland, much less to the peninsula. Guess I'm not a frosty enough b*tch to keep the cupcakes cool. 


Devil's Food Cupcakes with White Chocolate-Espresso Topping
adapted from Chocolate Obsession by Michael Recchiuti

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup espresso
1/4 tsp grated lemon or orange zest

2 + 3/4 oz white chocolate, chopped
1 TBSP espresso
1/2 cup (minus 1-2 TBSP) heavy cream

For the cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 12 muffin cups, or spray with cooking spray.
2. Sift flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt into a medium bowl.
3. Combine egg, milk, oil, vanilla, and espresso in another bowl and whisk by hand. Grate zest directly into bowl.
4. Pour wet ingredients into dry. Whisk to combine. Distribute batter evenly among muffin cups (they should be about half-full). 
5. Bake until cupcakes are puffed and springy to the touch, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on wire rack, then remove from pan.

For the topping:
1. Put white chocolate in bowl. Set aside.
2. Combine espresso and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate and whisk until melted. 
3. Recchiuti says to place bowl in ice-water bath for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. I just stuck the bowl in the fridge for an hour. Either way.
4. Place frosting in pastry bag or zipper bag with corner snipped off. Pipe frosting in swirl pattern over cupcakes and garnish with cocoa powder or a single espresso bean.

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