Monday, January 5, 2015

Chocolate-Coconut Birthday Cupcakes

Today’s my birthday, so I decided to make something sweet and delicious that appeals to my inner child (assuming I could get my feeble brain to remember that far back). When I was a tot, my favorite treats were Hostess Snowballs. Remember them? They were devil’s food cupcakes with a (faux) cream filling, neon pink 

marshmallow coating and a sprinkling of sweet coconut all over. I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the rubbery pink marshmallow, but I adored the magic combination of chocolate and coconut, and still do. I didn’t try to recreate the Snowball here (it remains in a class by itself), but used it as inspiration for my own birthday cupcake. 

The devil’s food cupcakes are both chocolaty and tender, while the French-style buttercream, made with whole eggs, is rich and scented with a touch of vanilla and dark rum. A generous handful of flaked coconut adds a sweet, nutty finish. Delightful. Happy Birthday to me; and a very Happy New Year to you….

Chocolate-Coconut Birthday Cupcakes

Makes 18 cupcakes

Devil’s Food Cupcakes:
1 ¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon (240 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoons baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons (141 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 2/3 cups (333 grams) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (75 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 large eggs
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups freshly brewed hot coffee

Vanilla Rum Buttercream:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (225 grams) granulated sugar
6 tablespoons water
3 large eggs
21 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum

¾ cup sweetened flaked coconut

Make the cupcakes:
1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. ‘?
Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed until light, about 4 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the cocoa powder 1 tablespoon at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as necessary and mixing until blended. Add the flour mixture in three additions, mixing until the mixture is crumbly. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla, mixing until the batter is doughy. Gradually add the hot coffee and mix until blended. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and, using a rubber spatula, blend the batter so that most of the lumps have disappeared (a few remaining lumps is fine). Divide the batter between the prepared cups, filling them about 2/3 full, and bake the cupcakes for 30 to 35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of each comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pans set on wire racks for 20 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the racks and cool completely.

Make the buttercream:
4. In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, begin beating the eggs at medium speed.
5. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high and cook without stirring, until it reaches 238°F on a candy thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately pour the hot syrup in a steady stream over the beaten eggs, between the side of the bowl and the whisk attachment. Beat at high speed until the egg mixture is completely cool, about 4 minutes.
6. Beat the softened butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, into the egg mixture at medium speed. Add the vanilla extract and rum, 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:
7. Scrape the buttercream into a pastry bag fitted with a medium star tip (Ateco #6). Pipe a swirl of buttercream on top of each cooled cupcake. Sprinkle each cupcake with some of the flaked coconut. Serve the cupcakes at room temperature. Store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

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