There are some really pretty cupcake liners available at cake decorating stores these days. The problem is, once you bake cupcakes in them, they lose their color completely or become grease-soaked and unsightly, and the premium price you've paid for them is all for naught. I am happy to say that Reynolds has just come out with a line of colorful, yet tasteful, cupcake liners that look great before and after baking. They're called Reynolds 'Baked For You' Baking Cups, and they were nice enough to send me some samples recently. I baked up a batch of my favorite cupcakes to see how they would hold up in the oven, and I was amazed by the results. The liners remained pretty and vibrant, with no fading or discoloring. This is a great product, period, and it comes in very chic patterns. Chic enough, even, for my fashionably flavored Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Espresso Buttercream. The liners will be available in grocery stores soon, so keep an eye out for them. In the meantime, you can buy them here: http://mybrands.com/Product.aspx?pid=9156.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Caramel Buttercream
Makes about 30 cupcakes
Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes:
2 2/3 cups (11.3 oz/322 g) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups (17.5 oz/500 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1.4 oz/41 g) natural (non-alkalized) cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (160 ml) sour cream, at room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vanilla extract
10 tablespoons (5 oz/142 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup (160 ml) safflower or corn oil
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) ice-cold water
Caramel Espresso Buttercream:
1 1/4 cups (10.5 oz/300 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) heavy cream
1/2 cup (120 ml) light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 cups (4 sticks/1 lb/454 g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (.1 oz/3 g) espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) hot water
Make the cupcakes:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Linetwo cupcakes pans with muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the eggs until blended. Whisk in the sour cream and vanilla extract until blended. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix the melted butter and oil together at low speed. Add the cold water and mix to blend. Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix at medium-low speed for 1 minute. Add the egg mixture and mix for another minute until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary. Scrape the batter into the prepared muffin cups.
5. Bake the cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a center cupcake comes out clean. Set the pans on wire racks and cool the cupcakes for 15 minutes.
6. Remove the cupcakes from the pans and cool completely.
Make the buttercream:
7. In medium saucepan, combine the sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup, and salt. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, just until the sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring, and increase the heat to high.
8. Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, begin beating the eggs at medium speed while the syrup cooks to the correct temperature. When the sugar syrup reaches 225°F on a candy thermometer, increase the speed of the mixer to high. Continue to cook the sugar syrup until it reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and with the mixer off, immediately pour about 1/4 cup of the hot syrup over the beaten eggs. Beat at high speed until blended, about 10 seconds. Turn the mixer off and add another 1/4 cup syrup. Beat at high speed for another 10 seconds. Repeat this process until all of the syrup is used. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the side of the bowl and continue to beat at medium-high speed until the egg mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes.
9. At medium speed, beat the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the egg mixture. Add the vanilla extract and coffee mixture, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the buttercream until it is smooth and shiny, about 4 minutes. (The buttercream must be used at room temperature.)
Frost the cupcakes:
10. Scrape the buttercream into pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip and pipe a generous swirl on top of each cupcake.