Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

My friend Kalie, who I've known my whole life practically, has started hosting Guest Post Tuesdays on her blog and cordially invited me to write up a food post! The recipe I chose to write on was Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes, which have a lovely chocolate cake and frosting with a spicy kick.

For the story and recipe check out her blog, and my guest post!

Hope you all are having a wonderful week so far!
-R

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I love getting inspired by the beautiful bounty at our local farmer's market. I always find myself buying the same items though. Those items are great, such as beets, tomatoes, and lettuces, but many more are waiting to be discovered. At the beginning of the summer I stumbled upon a variety of dried peppers, which I had not noticed before. The one that stood out to me was maroon and black in color with an intense smoky smell. Not to sound too weird, but it almost had the fragrance of smoked applewood bacon. I had to try them. Initially, I used these beautiful things in my Mexican dishes, such as in Mexican style soup and salsas. I didn't really give them a thought beyond that though, not until a couple weeks ago.

With my mom's birthday approaching, and the decision to have a Mexican themed potluck, and my mom's request for cupcakes.. I had the sudden idea of making chocolate cupcakes with a Mexican hot chocolate flair. I've always loved Mexican hot chocolate. I like the spiciness of it, they always seem extra warming.

I was delighted to get working on these cupcakes. As inspiration started flowing in the kitchen, I realized I should use my coveted smoky dried peppers in place of regular store bought pre-ground chili powder. I used a clean coffee bean grinder to make my own powder, 1 ½ dried peppers seeds removed, which yielded about 3 teaspoons. 

The actual cupcake itself is not that spicy, but you get the after taste of its spicy components. The frosting is also not too spicy, but has a nice depth of flavor with the cinnamon and chili powder. It's quite mousse-like in texture, super velvety chocolate buttercream. If you want to experience a spicier bite, layer on a little powdering of chili powder and cayenne, so that the true spicy kick can be enjoyed. The closest thing these cupcakes resemble is a Mexican hot chocolate, with flavors of chili powder and cinnamon. Hope you enjoy!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes
Yield: 24 regular cupcakes or 72 mini cupcakes
Adapted from Betty Crocker 's The Big Book of Cupcakes

Cake Ingredients:
2 cups flour
3 tsp freshly ground ancho chili powder
⅛ tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
1 cup hot water
⅔ cups unsweetened baking cocoa powder
¾ cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Spicy Chocolate Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
½ cup butter, softened
3 oz unsweetened baking chocolate, melted, cooled
3 cups powdered sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground ancho chili powder
3 - 4 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
Options for dusting: chili powder, cayenne pepper, cocoa powder

Cake Process:
1) Heat oven to 350ºF. Prepare cupcake pan with liners.

2) Whisk together flour, chili powder, cayenne pepper, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

3) Pour the hot water over the cocoa powder, stir until dissolved. Set aside.

4) In a large bowl, beat the butter until completely smooth. Add in the sugar and beat until no lumps remain. (Beat away at this point, you cannot over mix the butter and sugar. You can over mix once the flour is added, where the flour will release too much gluten into your batter and create undesired results.) Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix again until well combined.

5) Pour flour mixture into the butter mixture a little at a time. Alternate with the moistened cocoa powder. Mix slowly until every bit of flour is incorporated, careful not to over mix.

6) Using a small scooper, divide batter between cupcake liners. Fill each cup about ⅔ full. For regular sized cupcakes bake for 20 - 25 minutes, and for mini cupcakes about 12 - 16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool 2 hours before frosting, or until next day. If keeping overnight, seal in an airtight container at room temperature.

Frosting Process:
1) On the day you intend to frost the cupcakes make the frosting. (This frosting becomes too hard to pipe if refrigerated.) In a medium size bowl, whip butter until smooth. Slowly drizzle in cooled melted chocolate. Mix until no streaks in butter remain. Add cinnamon, chili powder, and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Mix well. Continue to add in powdered sugar in shifts, and add milk as needed for a smoother consistency.

2) Pipe frosting onto cupcakes. Lightly dust with cocoa powder using a fine mesh metal sieve, by gently tapping over the cupcakes. For a spicier kick, lightly sprinkle with ground chili powder and a dash of cayenne.

3) Serve! If leftovers happen, save in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day. Beyond that, place in the freezer. To serve from freezer, bring cupcakes to room temperature for an hour or more before serving. Note: Refrigeration will cause the cupcakes to get stale, so your freezer is the better option. Enjoy!

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