These cupcakes are very possibly the best thing I've ever baked. I took the cupcake recipe directly from Cook's Illustrated, a magazine to trust if there ever was one. The best part about the recipe is that you don't have to take the time to scoop out the center of the cupcake in order to fill it. Instead, you simply plop a teaspoon of the chocolate ganache right on top of the cupcake batter before the tray goes into the oven and, 18 minutes later, voila! - beautiful cupcakes that have magically risen above and around the ganache.
I didn't use the Cook's Illustrated recipe for frosting, however, because it requires a candy thermometer and the kind of precision with timing and stirring and measuring that was largely responsible for my many failed organic chemistry experiments in college. Instead, I messed with a number of different frosting recipes until I finally got the proportions right and wound up with a chocolate buttercream that is hands-down the best frosting in the entire world - not to brag or anything, of course. Rich, creamy, and bursting with a deep (but not too sweet) chocolate flavor, it will become the only recipe for chocolate frosting that you'll ever need.
I made these for the academy awards party that my roommate and I hosted last weekend. They were completely delicious, yes, but also five times more beautiful than the stars we were watching parade down the red carpet (fine, maybe only two or three times more beautiful if you count brad and george). The cupcakes baked into perfect little domes, and the buttercream piped gorgeously and held up well throughout the evening. I think they looked adorable (and very glamorous!) sprinkled with the little silver balls, but you can of course decorate them with whatever you'd like and/or have on hand.
Bottom line: make these as soon as possible. You'll thank me, I promise.
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp confectioners' sugar
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup hot coffee
3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
Place chocolate, cream and sugar in a small bowl and microwave 20-40 seconds,
or until bowl is warm to the touch.
Whisk until smooth, and transfer to the fridge until chilled (no more than 30 minutes).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
Place chocolate and cocoa in a bowl and pour hot coffee over the mixture.
Stir until smooth, and transfer to the fridge until cool (about 30 minutes).
Combine flour, salt, sugar and baking soda and stir to combine.
Once the chocolate mixture is cooled, whisk in oil, eggs, vanilla and vinegar.
Add dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Divide batter evenly among 12-14 cups, filling each almost to the top.
Place one teaspoon (or two, what the hell) of the ganache on top of each cupcake.
Bake until set and firm to the touch, about 18 minutes.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Melt chocolate in the microwave, stopping to stir every 30 seconds.
Whip butter with an electric mixer for 4-5 minutes, or until pale yellow and fluffy.
Gradually add sugar and beat until combined.
Add vanilla and chocolate, and beat 2-3 minutes, or until frosting is smooth and glossy.
Spoon frosting into pastry bag and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.