Ultra-Rich & Creamy Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting

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I am an equal-opportunity chocolate whore. I love me some cake, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, candy, mousse– you name it. (Though oddly, I’m not the biggest fan of truffles– I’m complex and mysterious like that.) However, there is nothing quite like a decadent chocolate frosting– the kind you just want to eat out of the bowl with a spoon, finger, or whatever tool you have on hand that will facilitate copious chocolate consumption. What does this mean, exactly? Chocolate frosting means different things to different people, and all frostings are not created equal– nor are all kinds of chocolate, of course. Chocolate frosting comes in so many variations, and different desserts call for different types of frosting. They can be whipped with air, dark and fudgy, melty and gooey, loaded with sugar (blech), blended with caramel, etc.

This particular frosting recipe is one that I go back to over and over and over again. It is hands-down my very favorite all-purpose chocolate frosting recipe. Ridiculously easy and super decadent, it fills your mouth with creaminess, deep chocolate flavor, and… love. Yep. I put it on top of nearly every chocolate cupcake I ever make, and it works well as a cupcake filling as well. It also plays nicely with other flavors, such as pumpkin (Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake Cupcakes), stout beer (Chocolate Stout Pretzel Cupcakes), and marshmallow.

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I recommend a chocolate in the neighborhood of 60% for this recipe, such as Guittard 61% “Lever du Soleil” couverture chocolate wafers. (Disks like these are small enough that you don’t need to chop them up further for melting purposes.) Other brands that would be lovely include Valrhona, Scharffen Berger, and TCHO— I bust out these big guns for special occasions. The specific brand is not as important as the quality of the chocolate; different brands have slightly different flavor characteristics, and it’s often a matter of personal preference. Since chocolate is the star ingredient here, you want to choose one that rouses pure, unadulterated chocolaty bliss in your mouth! It’s best to use high quality chocolate whenever possible, but it’s especially important in a recipe featuring chocolate. Sad chocolate full of flavorings and chemicals will yield a pretty sad frosting. And nobody wants that.

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Ultra-Rich & Creamy Bittersweet Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Yields approximately 3 cups, enough for 24-32 cupcakes

This is a ganache-based frosting, meaning that it is built upon a foundation of chocolate melted with hot cream, producing a silky, rich texture, to which is added sugar and butter for structure.

  • 12 ounces high-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 ⅓ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 16 pieces

Put the chopped chocolate in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Combine the heavy cream, corn syrup, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring the mixture just to a boil; stir occasionally.

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Turn on the food processor and slowly stream the hot cream mixture through the feed tube. (I recommend pouring the cream from the pan into a measuring cup in order to minimize cream spillage while pouring into the food processor.) Keep the machine running until the mixture is smooth, about 1 minute; scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla extract and process until the mixture is homogenous, about 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl again. With the food processor running, add the butter one piece at a time. Process the frosting until no butter chunks remain; it should take about 1 minute to achieve a smooth mixture.

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Pour the chocolate into a bowl and let it stand at cool room temperature until it thickens to a spreadable consistency. This usually takes a few hours on my countertop. (You can also expedite the process in the fridge if needed.) Alternatively, you can dip or drizzle cupcakes when the frosting is warm for a shiny ganache glaze.

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NOTE: It took me a few ruined batches (before I learned a few things about ganache) to realize that you should NOT TOUCH the frosting while it’s cooling. If you stir it during this stage, you will end up with a bowl of hardened, matte mess. And you will be sad. If not disturbed by a spatula, impatient fingers, or other incoming objects, you should have a bowl of beautiful, lustrous frosting that is firm enough to be scooped into a piping bag and will hold creamy swirls on top of your cupcakes.

Make ahead: I often make the frosting the day before I bake, and it keeps perfectly well, tightly covered in the fridge for several days. Bring it to room temperature on the countertop (not in the microwave) before frosting the cupcakes.

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© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2013.

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