Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Buttercream

Although cupcakes have been big for years now, I don't imagine their popularity is dwindling. I mean, who doesn't like little individually sized cakes? And better yet, who doesn't like two or three little individually sized cakes? This girl loves them! Although baking and decorating full-size cakes is just about as fun as can be, cupcakes bake and cool faster and allow for even more decorating possibilities, from the selection of your paper liners to your choice of spreading versus piping frosting.

From that point the piping tips give you even more fun alternatives to be adventurous. Are you in the mood for a sleek round tip decoration? A classic open star tip with big ridges? The French star tip, easily resembling a seashell swirl? How about the ribbony, ethereal effect of a closed star tip? And in that case, do you prefer a traditional swirl from the outside in, or instead piping from the inside out to resemble a perfectly delicate rose?

Limitless possibilities surely make cupcakes a great choice for bakers. The classics are lovely, as are newer and more creative flavor profiles. I absolutely love these tender-crumbed chocolate cupcakes with vibrant red wine buttercream. The type of red wine you select will not only tweak the flavor of the frosting, but will also alter the color, since reds can range from red to purple in hue. The frosting itself has a slightly tart wine flavor without being overwhelmingly strong or sweet. These cupcakes are surprisingly light from top to bottom, making them great crowd-pleasers for cupcake lovers and critics alike.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Buttercream
Makes 24 cupcakes
(Buttercream adapted from Eats Well With Others)

1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk

1 cup plus 2 T. red wine
1/4 cup granulated sugar
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
Pinch kosher salt

Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 24 standard muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.

To make the cupcakes: Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder,baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl in between each addition.

Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.

Fill each liner about 1/2 to 2/3 full with cake batter, filling muffin cups evenly. Be careful not to overfill or the batter will overflow a bit when baking. Bake the cupcakes for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely.

To make the buttercream: place 1 cup of the wine and the granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer until the mixture has reduced to a scant 1/3 cup, about 25 minutes or so. It should be syrupy. Allow the red wine reduction to cool completely in the refrigerator.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until nice and fluffy. Pause the mixer occasionally to add the confectioners' sugar a 1/2 cup at a time and beat until combined (this will prevent the sugar from making too much of a mess when mixing). Beat until fluffy. Carefully add the cooled red wine reduction and salt and continue to beat the frosting until smooth. With the mixer running add the last 2 tablespoons of red wine one at a time and beat until smooth.

If the frosting seems too soft to pipe onto the cupcakes (it may or may not depending on what room temperature is on that given day), place it in the refrigerator briefly for about 10 or 15 minutes (stirring it occasionally) until it gets just firm enough to pipe comfortably (you can also add more confectioners' sugar, but that will make the frosting a touch sweeter). Fill a pastry bag fitted with whatever large piping tip you prefer with the frosting and frost cupcakes (your method of frosting will determine how much frosting you use, if you prefer frosting-heavy cupcakes, you may want to multiply the amount of frosting you make by 1 1/2).

Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 2 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.


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