Monday, August 25, 2008

Baking for company: Cinnamon cupcakes with chile-chocolate buttercream

As I mentioned before, the boyfriend and I had dinner guests on Friday night. I'm still getting the hang of entertaining, so I wanted to make as much in advance as I could. So Thursday I set aside the afternoon to tackle this intriguing sounding cake recipe from Food and Wine (natch).

As per usual I couldn't find everything I needed at one grocery store. Why is that always the case? Whole Foods didn't have ancho chile pepper, and I couldn't bring myself to schlep to Kroger, so I did some research and decided that my valle de sol chile pepper could substitute for ancho. Once I got home I realized the recipe called for 5 whopping sticks of butter in the icing. Great googly moogly, that's a lot of butter! So instead I made a last minute switch to making cupcakes so I could get away with making half the icing. 

For some reason all of my baking makes an unholy mess, but this was my messiest experience yet. The recipe called for mixing the cake's dry ingredients in with the wet ones at medium speed. I learned the hard way that you should start much lower and work up to medium. Going directly to medium speed results in a mushroom cloud of flour which effectively covered parts of my kitchen that had nothing to do with the baking process. I had to wipe down my olive oil and balsamic bottles, my frying pans, you name it - anything in a 5 foot radius was covered in white powder. I even managed to track flour footprints onto our kitchen rug, which the boyfriend found hilarious and snapped a shot of. 

 It didn't occur to me until almost too late that cupcakes would take less baking time so I got the first batch of 16 out just in time at around 20 minutes. The second batch of just four cupcakes using the remaining batter were checked starting at 15 minutes. We had to dash out to dinner before finishing icing the last couple cupcakes so the icing went in the fridge. This icing gets really hard in the fridge, so you have to let the icing sit out for at least 15 minutes before you can spread it. Same goes for the refrigerated finished cupcakes. 

We've been letting them sit out for at least half an hour before being served, and they are much moister that way. The resulting cupcakes were pretty damn good. Cinnamon cake isn't as eyes-roll-to-the-back-of- my-head delicious as something more chocolaty would be, but it was a nice change and paired wonderfully with the spicy icing. I love Mexican spicy chocolate, which is what attracted me to this recipe, and this recipe definitely lives up to that standard. 

You could definitely add even more chili pepper/cayenne to kick this up even more. As it was, this was just mildly spicy adding a layer of flavor to an otherwise traditional buttercream. Delicious! Alas the mess was so egregious that the boyfriend has requested that I take a baking break for a bit, so my baking exploits will be on hold until I entertain again. Fortunately the cupcakes were a hit with the boyfriend's office-mates and my guests. My friend helped himself to 2.5 cupcakes, so I must have done something right!
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