Let Them Eat Cupcakes

Dressed up with nuts, berries or flowers, they're not just for kids anymore

Focus On Food

March 21, 2004|By Elinor Klivans | Elinor Klivans,Special to the Sun

Cupcakes are standard fare for bake sales and kid's parties, but dress them up with lemon curd, fruit, and nuts and they're ready for grown-up celebrations as well. While we usually think of cupcakes as small, dome-shaped cakes covered with icing, cupcakes lend themselves to a variety of creative shapes. Bake the batter into colorful ice cream cones and give your guests a sweet surprise. Cut the tops off and arrange slices into the shapes of butterfly wings for elegant spring parties. Or make up a batch of mini cupcakes with a swirl of colorful frosting.

Cupcakes lend themselves to making in stages. Bake them one day and frost them the next, or wrap and freeze plain cupcakes for up to one month. When it is time to serve them, thaw as many as you need and add frosting.

Nuts, berries, candies, chopped chocolate, sugar flowers or fresh edible flowers provide decorating options.

Chocolate-Covered Brownie Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes

Makes 12 servings

One 1.75-ounce box of 12 small, flat-bottomed ice cream cones

CUPCAKES:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 / 3 cup (4 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

CHOCOLATE COATING:

1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon colored sprinkles, nonpareils, or other small sugar decorations

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Cut 12 6-inch squares of aluminum foil and press them into 12 muffin tin openings, letting the edges of the foil overlap the edges. Place a cone in each opening, wrapping the foil around the cone to fit it sturdily into the pan opening. If the pan jiggles slightly, the cones should not fall over.

Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler, stirring until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a small bowl stir the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs and sugar until fluffy and thickened, 1 minute. Mix in the vanilla. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate mixture. Mix in the flour mixture to incorporate it. Mix in the chocolate chips. Using a small spoon, fill each ice cream cone with about 1/4 cup batter.

Carefully put the cupcakes in the oven, making sure that the cones are standing straight in the pan. Bake just until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs, but not wet batter, clinging to it, about 28 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes.

For the chocolate coating: Melt the chocolate chips and oil in a double boiler, stirring until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Scrape the chocolate coating into a small bowl. Dip the top of each cupcake cone in the chocolate coating, letting any excess drip off. Replace the cones in the muffin tin. You will have some chocolate coating left over for another use. Let the coating firm for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle it lightly with sprinkles. Let the cupcakes sit until the coating is firm, about 2 hours. Or, to speed the firming of the chocolate, carefully refrigerate the cupcakes in the pan for about 15 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

If desired, wrap a colorful napkin around each cone before serving it. Cupcake cones can be eaten out of hand or propped individually in a small glass or serving dish and served as "sit-down" cupcakes.

The cupcakes can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

NOTE: For these cupcake cones, chocolate chip brownies are under-baked slightly so they have a fudge consistency. The ice cream cone will becomes more crisp as it bakes, but it will not darken or change color.

Hummingbird Swirls

Makes 48 mini-cupcakes

CUPCAKES:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup canola or corn oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup sour cream

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup mashed banana, 1 banana

1/2 cup crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained

1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped

FROSTING:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups powdered sugar

food coloring (optional)

For the cupcakes. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 4 mini-muffin tins that have 12 openings each with mini-size paper liners.

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