Woe is me… One week ago I was in New York, traipsing around the city in search of its best pastries and meals. I discovered quite a few new spots and visited many of my old favorites, bringing home an uncomfortably heavy bag of loot that I was lucky enough to get on the plane without any airline agents objecting! I have such a love affair with New York, and it gets progressively harder to leave every time… *sigh* Anyway, the main purpose of this trip was to attend the fabulous party thrown by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito of BAKED, in celebration of their newly released fourth cookbook, Baked Occasions, as well as the upcoming opening of their new bakery location in Tribeca. My baking group, Baked Sunday Mornings, was invited to serve as recipe testers for the book, and we were then graced with an invitation to attend the release party event. It was fantastic to meet a number of my fellow BSMers, with whom I’ve been baking and blogging for about two years! I’ll be writing a separate piece on this soon with lots of photo highlights, but first I have some cupcaking business to attend to…
I must hand it to the gentlemen of BAKED, who have pushed me well beyond my comfort zone in using (and even… liking!) unusual ingredients in the course of baking through Baked Explorations and Baked Elements. But Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes? My rational brain knows that mayo is just an emulsion of egg yolk and oil, but if ever there was a vile substance that inexplicably fell under the category of “food”, it would be mayonnaise. If you asked me my Top 5 Nasty Foods, they would most certainly include the gloppy, stinky, white stuff. I was not exactly looking forward to making this recipe… except that I recently had to make chocolate mayo cake in a professional cake decorating class, and I had to admit that it was pretty damn delicious. And so, with much reluctance I bought this…
Now, I am an avid propagator of food porn, but I cannot, in good conscience, disseminate this kind of smut, so I shall post no further mayonnaise photos. Sometimes you have to skirt the ethical line for the sake of art, but that doesn’t mean I’m proud of it. Fortunately in this case, the ends justify the means! I just hope they don’t ask us to use anise or licorice at some point– I may have to draw the line there. (Although, we did make Lime Tarragon Cookies that were awesome, despite the hint of licorice flavor from the tarragon…) Still, I have to admit that the mayonnaise lends a wonderfully soft, moist texture to the cupcakes, and there’s no hint of its flavor after adding a generous amount of chocolate…
I mixed these up a little, and ended up with mixed results; while the original chocolate frosting is surely tasty, I was requested to make something with chocolate, peanut butter, and banana for my husband’s 40th birthday party this weekend, a challenge which I gladly accepted. I was going to make Bananas Cake plus the plain chocolate cupcakes, but given that I got off the plane at 10pm on Wednesday night and had two long workdays immediately thereafter, I decided to nix the cake and transform the cupcakes to the requested birthday specifications. Instead of the simple chocolate frosting, I stuffed the cupcakes with BAKED’s dreamy peanut butter filling from the Bananas Cake, and topped them with a banana frosting, the Bananas Cake chocolate glaze, and a sprinkling of chopped, salty peanuts.
The cupcake batter is quite easy and quick to make. Start by combining chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a bowl. As always, in a chocolate-centric recipe, use the best possible chocolate, as this will be directly proportional to the deliciousness of the final product. I used my go-to Guittard 61% “Lever du Soleil” chocolate couverture wafers and Valrhona dark cocoa powder, respectively. (I may experiment next time with TCHO or some Italian brands that I picked up on my trip this past summer.) Pour boiling water over the chocolates and whisk until smooth; the mixture will be fairly thin.
The mayonnaise replaces butter or oil, and it gets “creamed” with white and dark brown sugars. (Let me tell you, a butter/sugar mixture smells a whole lot better than this does…) You then add two eggs and vanilla extract, followed by alternating additions of flour/leaveners and chocolate. The cupcake batter will be a medium thickness.
I used my largest ice cream scoop (¼ cup?) to fill the wells of the cupcake pan– one level scoop was perfect to yield slightly domed cupcakes without the unsightly “muffin top” overhang. (Don’t fill above ¾.) They baked up just right in 18 minutes. I often end up over-baking chocolate cake because I don’t want it to sink in the middle, but these managed to retain both their tops and their moist textures– score 1 for mayonnaise!
The cupcake part went completely smoothly, as did the fool-proof peanut butter filling. I made a double batch, beating a stick of butter with a cup of smooth peanut butter, then adding 1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
The banana frosting is where I had some issues… Friends, there’s a reason why you don’t see too many banana frostings out there; I tried to cobble together something that I thought would work, but butter and banana do not play nice. Here goes, in case you want to try– there’s a lot of room for improvement:
- 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 2 small ripe bananas (not overripe!)
- 7 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Break up the bananas into chunks and place in the bowl of a small food processor; pulse until no chunks remain. (Alternatively, mash the bananas by hand, though you will probably have some lumps.) Add the banana purée to the butter and beat until “combined”. The mixture will be very curdled-looking at this point.
Add 2 cups confectioners’ sugar and beat on low, gradually increasing the speed to medium; the curdling should immediately start to smooth out. Follow this with 2 more additions of 2 cups confectioners’ sugar– the mixture should start to thicken and look ribbony in the bowl. Add the final cup of sugar, beat until incorporated, and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. The frosting is very soft, so I recommend chilling the bowl in the fridge for about 30 minutes, or until it firms up.
While the frosting is chilling, fill the cupcakes. Using a small, sharp knife, cut a cone out of the top of each cupcake, such that there is a cavity to house the peanut butter. (A few cake scraps never hurt anyone…) With a spoon or a spring-loaded melon baller, fill each cupcake with a generous teaspoon of peanut butter filling. If you wish, you can smooth the tops with an offset spatula to create a smooth surface for the frosting.
Remove the banana frosting from the fridge and give it a stir with a rubber spatula. Transfer the frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a large round cake decorating tip and decorate the cupcakes as desired. Sadly, my frosting softened up again as soon as I put it in the bag, and it didn’t hold a swirl shape terribly well.
Finally, I made the chocolate glaze by melting chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a double boiler, letting it cool and thicken a bit before pouring. Once thickened, I drizzled the glaze over the cupcakes and sprinkled some chopped, salted peanut on top. Et voilà– Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes! (The chocolate covered up the not-so-pretty frosting fairly well.)
These cupcakes are incredibly moist and chocolaty– LOVE! I will definitely be returning to this one the next time I’m in need of simple chocolate cupcakes. The frosting, unfortunately, was a bust in the end. I kept the cupcakes refrigerated as long as possible, but by the time we arrived at our birthday party destination, they were a melted mess. While I’ve come a long way in my acceptance of banana-flavored baked goods, this frosting was way close to the mushy raw banana texture that I can’t deal with. I will try either banana extract or banana liqueur in a regular buttercream next time. Additionally, refrigerating the cupcakes doesn’t work well because although the banana frosting holds its shape temporarily, the peanut butter gets too cold and firm, so there’s some textural weirdness there too. However, the birthday boy was very pleased, so all was not lost!
This recipe for Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes is our last from the Chocolate chapter– only two more to go before we start baking from the new book on Nov. 7! Check out my friends’ cupcakes while you’re visiting Baked Sunday Mornings! 🙂
© Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2014.