Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cowtown Chocolate (Cup)cake(s)

Monday was not the best of days for me. On my way to work, I somehow managed to lose the necklace I had been wearing, at work I tripped over my laptop cord and sent it flying (with only minor cosmetic damage; Claire's watching a movie on that laptop as we speak), and then on my way home work the train stopped and we were told to get out because the last station (the closest to our apartment) was closed. So once I'd made the trek home (not too tragic: only a 25-minute walk rather than a 10-minute walk), I was ready for some Cupcake Therapy.

I think it's true for a lot of bakers that it's the process of baking, not necessarily the product, that is soothing.

That's really true for me: assembling the ingredients, melting, mixing, separating,'s a happy process because it has predictable outcomes. And it smells good.

Because I wanted process rather than product, I turned the Cowtown Chocolate Cake, which is normally a layer cake, into cupcakes. I just halved the recipe and reduced the cooking time.

I knew that this would be a good recipe because it had my stamp of approval on it: a red moose in the shape of an M that my cousin Catie gave me when I was maybe in my early teens. A lot of my cookbooks have that stamp of approval.

My past self was right: This is a very good cake recipe. Two kinds of chocolate in the cake can't hurt, and then this was topped by a really nice ganache made from unsweetened chocolate (well, since I've almost run out of Baker's, I used 86% and cut down on the sugar).
Apparently this is a famous Texas recipe. All I know is that the cupcakes were fun to make and made a nice Valentine's Day treat. I would make them again even on a good day!

Here's the recipe: double it if you want to make a full-on layer cake. You'll probably have more frosting than you need for the cupcakes, but I trust you'll find some way to use it.

Cowtown Chocolate Cake

2.5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/4 c. (2 oz.) butter, room temperature
2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. instant espresso
1/2 t. vanilla
scant 1/2 c. (3 oz.) sugar
scant 1/2 c. (3 oz.) brown sugar
2 egg yolks (save a white! and use the other white to make these)
3/4 c. (3 oz.) sifted flour
10 T. (5 oz.) buttermilk
1 egg white

Heat the oven to 350. Line about 10 muffin cups with cupcake liners. Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl--about 1 minute in 30-second bursts. Cream the butter with the cocoa, baking soda, salt, espresso, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add the sugars and beat for 2-3 more minutes until fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each. Mix in the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. On low speed or by hand, stir in the flour in 3 additions interspersed with the buttermilk in two additions; mix just until incorporated each time. In a separate small, clean bowl and with clean beaters, beat the egg white until stiff. Fold it carefully into the cake batter. Portion among the muffin cups and bake for about 30 minutes--check after 25 or so. A toothpick should come out clean. Let cool on a rack while you make the frosting.

1/2 c. (4 oz.) cream
scant 1/2 c. (3 oz.) sugar
Pinch salt
2.25 oz. unsweetened chocolate
1/4 c. (2 oz.) butter
1/2 t. vanilla

In a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, sugar, and salt to a boil. Turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pot off the heat and add the chocolate and butter; stir until it is all melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
Cool the frosting over an ice-water bath or in the refrigerator until it has become cool and a bit thicker. Use a mixer to beat it for a few minutes until it becomes a lighter color. Frost the cupcakes as you see fit. Share them with someone you love.

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