Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Black Forest Cupcakes

I haven't had Black Forest Cake in a reallly long time, and the perfect opportunity presented itself just this past weekend. Last week was my father's 60th birthday (Holy moley, 60!!), and I like to quickly add that my dad does not look like he's 60. Sure he's got a head full of more white and grey hairs than black, but that's been going on since I was born, so no big difference there. He could whip my butt both mentally and physically- he completed his Doctorate degree in 2009 while working full-time, and attending a school that required a trip to Chicago nearly every other weekend. He's sharp as can be, and definitely someone that I frequently consult in relation to school, work and life issues. Not to mention he's in way better shape than me! I wouldn't stand a chance against him in pretty much all physically-related competitions.

So this weekend, we planned a surprise party for him on Sunday. The whole family (his side) showed up at the same time, and the afternoon was filled with games, good eats and fun times. Something that you may not know about me is that I'm 100% German, besides the fact that I was born in Canada. Both sides of my family are German, and my father and his family moved to Canada when he was about 6 years old I believe. So Black Forest Cake was really the best choice, as it's a traditional German cake and one that the family loves!

This cake was easy peasy, despite the multiple components, and it came out perfectly. The cake was nice and light, filled with a not too sweet cherry filling, and topped with beautifully fluffy whipped cream, shaved chocolate and a fresh cherry. One thing that I'm not a fan of is really heavy cakes, that you can only have a small piece of without feeling sick to your stomach afterwards, and this cupcake is the complete opposite of that. You really can't go wrong.

There are a couple things to note from this recipe: 1) I found that the original made wayyy too much of the filling, which was OK because I had made mini cheesecakes and it could be used as a topping (to come in a later post), but not OK otherwise. I've reflected my changes below. 2) These instructions ask you to melt the butter and sugar together before beating, which is a method I'm not overly familiar with. Because I liked the recipe so much I used it again today for a different cupcake (again, to come in a later post), and I found that using the melting method vs. the traditional beating room temperature butter and sugar together made no difference. The cupcakes came out the same; the only real difference was that the melted batter was much more viscous than the non-melted batter. Is viscous the right word there? I think so. 3) The original recipe wouldn't have made nearly enough whipped cream for my taste, so if you're like me and like a good amount on top, double the amounts.

Yield: 22 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder (I finally found this ingredient at Costco!)
½ cup hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (either at room temperature or not, depending on the method you use)
1½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the cherry filling:
8oz. frozen cherries, thawed and chopped*
2-3tablespoons sugar
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon kirsch (optional)

For the frosting (double if you're a big fan of frosting): **
1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
6 tablespoon confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For garnish:
Fresh (or maraschino) cherries
Chocolate shavings

*Note: You can use either tart or sweet cherries for this filling depending on your personal tastes and what is available to you. Feel free to adjust the sugar as needed to achieve your desired level of sweetness or tartness in the filling. 
**Note: I have found that whipped cream can break down over time, as it doesn't have a stabilizer naturally. The confectioners' sugar helps, but if I know the whipped cream will be sitting for awhile, I add in an additional stabilizer from Dr. Oetker called Whip It, which really helps. If you haven't heard of it, you can check it out here.
Preheat oven to 350˚ F and line standard cupcake pans with paper liners. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and the sugar over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally to combine, until the butter is melted. Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed, 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is cooled. Alternatively, you can beat together room temperature butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Both methods yield the same result. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, beating just until combined.

Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ of the way full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, drain the thawed and chopped berries, reserving the juice in a liquid measuring cup. Add enough water so that the total liquid equals ¾ cup. Add the liquid to a medium saucepan with the sugar and cornstarch. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Continue whisking so no lumps form. Once it reaches a certain temperature, it will thicken very quickly. Once thickened, remove from the heat and whisk in the lemon juice and krisch, if using. Fold in the drained cherries with a spatula. Cover and chill until ready to use. To fill the cupcakes, cut a cone out of the centre of each cupcake. Remove the bottom half of the cone that you cut out, reserving the top to put back onto the cupcake once it is filled (and eat the pieces that you won't use!). Fill each with a spoonful of the cherry filling and place the top back on.

To make the whipped cream frosting, start by cooling your stand mixer bowl, either by placing it in your fridge, freezer, or outside in these winter temperatures for a few minutes. This helps to whip the cream faster. Add the heavy cream, confectioners' sugar, and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. If using Dr. Oetker's Whip It, add it in as well. Beat on medium-low speed for 30 seconds before increasing the speed to medium-high. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form, but be careful not to overbeat.

Frost the filled cupcakes with the whipped cream.  Garnish as desired with cherries and chocolate shavings. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Source: slightly adapted from Annie's Eats
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