A friend of mine recently commented on a message board that she had read an article stating that her dessert favorites of cupcakes and molten lava cake are "out" as desserts. Whatever. What follows is the BEST cupcake I have ever eaten in my whole life. I mean slap your mama, you-need-a-private-room-to-make-obscene-noises and you may need a cigarette afterward good. THAT good.
Use a high quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate for this recipe, such as one of the test kitchen's favorite baking chocolates, Callebaut Intense Dark Chocolate L-60-40NV or Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bar. Though we highly recommend the ganache filling, you can omit it for a more traditional cupcake. The cupcakes can be made up to 24 hours in advance and stored unfrosted in an airtight container.
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon confectioners' sugar
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (see note)
1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 recipe Frosting (see below)
1. FOR GANACHE FILLING: Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners’ sugar in medium microwave-safe 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 30 minutes.
2. FOR CUPCAKES: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-size muffin pan (cups have ½-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners. Place chocolate and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and whisk until smooth. Set in refrigerator to cool completely, about 20 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
3. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add flour mixture and whisk until smooth.
4. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Place one slightly rounded teaspoon ganache filling on top of each cupcake. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, 17 to 19 minutes. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before frosting, about 1 hour.
Makes about 2 cups, enough for 12 cupcakes. Publish January 1, 2003. Cook's Illustrated.
Make the ganache before making the cupcakes. While it cools, prepare and bake the cupcakes; when the cupcakes are cooled, the ganache will be ready to be whipped and used. If you prefer, you may opt not to whip the ganache. The frosting will be more dense and slightly smaller in amount. Bittersweet, milk, or white chocolate can be substituted for the semisweet chocolate. If you own two standing mixer bowls, use one instead of the medium bowl mentioned in step 1; the ganache can then be made, chilled, and whipped in the same bowl. The second mixer bowl will be needed to make the cupcakes. This recipe can be doubled.
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1. Bring cream to boil in small saucepan or in microwave. Place chocolate in medium bowl and pour boiling cream over. Cover with foil and let stand 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cool and slightly firm, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Transfer cooled chocolate mixture to bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment; whip mixture at medium speed until fluffy and mousse-like and forms medium-stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.
TO FROST: Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting on center of each cupcake. Using small icing spatula or butter knife, spread frosting to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center.