I recently found out that that one of my old college haunts, kickass cupcakes in somerville, ma, closed quite suddenly, leaving behind a quickly vacated storefront littered with empty boxes and shreds of paper.
though I loved kickass, I have to say, their cupcakes were quite hit-or-miss. one time I bought some kind of margarita cupcake from them, and they literally injected it with tequila. it was soggy and tasted of cheap tequila and not much else. and it cost me $4. though their experiments could be disastrous, I always found them endearing because they reflected a staff unafraid to take risks.
but then they went bankrupt.
when I heard they had closed, I chalked it up as another victory for the risk-averse – to try and build a business on a food fad almost always results in failure. but then I remembered their monthly cupcake testing “happy hour”, when they served samples of new flavors for free. for an hour, kickass cupcakes became a neighborhood hangout, bringing together college students, young moms, professors, and the elderly folk of somerville. kickass truly loved cupcakes and remained committed to pushing the boundaries, and that in itself is a victory.
as my love for baking grew, cupcakes fell to the wayside. when it comes to dessert, I much prefer making large statement cakes or pies adorned by billowing swirls of cream. in comparison, cupcakes seemed plain, limited in potential, and frankly, boring. but this cupcake recipe kind of nails it. it’s a little controversial (some people didn’t love the sticky-sweet meringue coupled with the bittersweet chocolate cupcake) and it’s no kickass cupcake – I’m not that crazy, or imaginative – but it reminded me that cupcakes can be more than pretty icing atop a sweet bite of cake.
makes 18-20 cupcakes
1 3/4 cup (250g) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup (300g) sugar
3/4 cup (60g) cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup (240mL) strong black coffee (or 1 heaping tbsp instant coffee powder dissolved in (slightly less than) 1 cup warm water)
1 cup (240mL) buttermilk
1/2 cup (120mL) vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4 oz (113g) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tbsp (56g) butter
1 tsp light corn syrup
4 egg whites
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
kristin rosenau. s’mores cupcakes. pastry affair. 9 april 2012. accessed 25 feb 2015.
2 using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. with mixer on low, add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract, then beat on medium speed to mix. batter will be thin and watery.
3 ladle batter into baking cups, filling them 2/3 of the way for flatter cupcakes or 3/4 of the way for domed cupcakes. bake for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean with a few crumbs. cool cupcakes to room temperature (~1 hour) before decorating.
GANACHE|1 while cake layers bake, combine chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a saucepan over medium heat. remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature (~30 minutes) until it reaches a spreadable consistency, stirring occasionally.
MERINGUE|1 boil water in a large pot. in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together eggs and sugar, then place over large pot of water. continue whisking until sugar is completely dissolved and egg whites are warm to touch, about 3-4 minutes.
2 remove mixture from heat. using a stand mixer, beat egg whites on medium speed until they form stiff, shiny peaks, 5-8 minutes.
ASSEMBLY|1 using a knife or offset spatula, spread thick layer of ganache on top of cupcake, extending chocolate to the edge of the cupcake. let set for a few minutes.
2 fill pastry bag with marshmallow meringue and pipe meringue on top of cupcake. turn oven on broil and place cupcakes on cookie sheet so the tops of the cupcakes are ~1 inch away from the broiler. broil for 30 seconds-1 minute, until a lightly toasted brown.