Friday, April 13, 2012

Tiramisu Cupcakes

I have a confession that I know is going to put me very, very far in the minority of food bloggers: I’m not crazy about mascarpone cheese.

Wait wait wait, come back, don’t leave! I’ve tried to love it, believe me, I really have. And I don’t completely hate it; in fact, it turns out that when it’s combined with powdered sugar and heavy cream and dolloped on top of booze-soaked cupcakes, I really sort of love it. There. Are we friends again?

I’ve mentioned my cooking club before, and when I asked you guys for dessert recommendations for our Italian-themed feast last month, you came through again. My friend Jessie (a different Jessie from the one who suggested the Mexican spinach dip – you Jessies are awesome!) pointed me towards this tiramisu cake, which looked absolutely amazing. It was just a bit too labor- and time-intensive for me, though, when I sat down and actually read the recipe, so I opted to go for these cupcakes instead. Annie of Annie’s Eats raved about them – and something I’ve learned over the years is that if Annie raves about something, you know it’s really, really good. She came through again, in a big way; these cupcakes are phenomenal.

I think what I love most about these cupcakes is that they’re not too sweet. They’re sweet enough, but not cloying, so the flavors of the coffee and the Kahlua really come through without being overshadowed by sugar. The texture of the cupcakes is perfect, eggy and spongey, and the soaking syrup gives them such an incredible flavor. My father-in-law gave us some of his homemade Kahlua for Christmas, so I used that in the syrup, and it was absolutely perfect. The mascarpone frosting is so creamy and pairs so well with the cupcakes; one of my friends actually said she just wanted to eat the frosting with a spoon, and I wouldn’t have blamed her if she did. Although traditional tiramisu is topped with cocoa powder, I opted instead for miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips, which added a great textural element. These were a huge hit with the ladies in my cooking club and with Joe, but I think Andrew and Will are still ticked at me for making “grown-up” cupcakes that they couldn’t eat.

So, for our meal this month our cooking club is doing vegan food. Hit me with your best suggestions for side dishes or appetizers!

Tiramisu Cupcakes
adapted from Annie’s Eats

For the cupcakes:

1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour, sifted
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
5 large whole eggs plus 4 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups sugar

For the soaking syrup:

1/2 cup freshly brewed very strong coffee
3 tablespoons Kahlua
6 tablespoons sugar

For the frosting:

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
12 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
Miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Combine the cake flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to blend; set aside. Add the milk to a small saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the pan, and add the scraped pod to the pan as well. Heat over medium-high heat just until bubbles appear around the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted. Let stand 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean pod and discard.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar. Whisk lightly to blend. Set the bowl over an inch or two of simmering water and heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture is warm and the sugar is dissolved, about 6 minutes. Return the bowl to the mixer base. Whisk on high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and fluffy, and able to hold a ribbon when the whisk is lifted.

3. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture in three additions. Stir 3/4 cup of the batter into the milk mixture to thicken, then fold the milk mixture into the batter just until evenly incorporated. Divide the batter between the prepared liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the cakes are set and light golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks to cool slightly before removing from the pans.

4. To make the soaking syrup, combine the hot coffee, Kahlua, and sugar, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Place the warm cupcakes on a wire rack and place a baking sheet underneath to catch dripping liquid. Use a pastry brush to brush the soaking liquid onto the tops of the cupcakes, repeating until the syrup is used up. If necessary, poke each cupcake a few times with a wooden skewer or toothpick to help the syrup soak in. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

5. To make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a separate bowl and return the mixer bowl to its base. In the mixer bowl, combine the mascarpone and confectioners’ sugar and beat with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gently fold in the whipped cream until evenly incorporated.

6. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip (or a plastic bag with a generous corner cut away, which is what I used). Pipe a large dollop of frosting on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle the cupcakes with chocolate chips. Refrigerate until ready to serve.