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Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Swiss Meringue Buttercream

Thanks to the large-scale styling & photography project I worked on, there were almost-daily impromptu dinner parties or takeaway visits with friends, mercifully willing to help out with the extra grub.

2014 turned out the be the summer of manic jam-making and pickle-brining, with late nights spent tending to simmering pots that would eventually help curb our cravings for peaches in February.

In October, the stars aligned, and granted me a chance to return to Potentino. The days started early and ended in sticky, fresh grape juice, with the smell of hot sun on rosemary and stone, and the evenings were full of singing and laughter, and the best damn company anyone could ask for.

In February, our trip to Patagonia taught me that you can look at hundreds of photographs of a place without ever even beginning to conceive of the truth of it until you’ve been there in person, and how hard it is to come home when your mind is full of mountainscapes and wind.

And lately, my belated forays into the world of driving have made it clear that you’re never to old to attempt a new skill — and that there’s nothing quite so humbling as learning to parallel park for the first time.

With so many causes for celebration, how could I refuse the chance to ring in the new year with something sweet?

The chocolate cupcakes and the caramel drizzle were excellent ideas, to be sure, but the main event here is the peanut-butter-enhanced Swiss meringue frosting. It’s almost absurdly delicious. Lick-the-bowl-unabashedly delicious. And since Swiss meringue buttercream frosting can be a bit of work, I find it’s always worthwhile to double the batch; the extra freezes like a dream and will make your next cake party that much easier.

Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream

How to do it:

Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 12 cupcakes, 5-6 cups frosting, 1.5 cups caramel

The perfect way to celebrate any occasion, big or small. Cupcake and frosting recipe adapted from Sweetapolita, and caramel adapted from The Kitchn.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (95 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) coffee, hot
  • 5 large egg whites (150g)
  • 1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup (227g) butter, room temperature, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • teeny pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup – 1 cup smooth, natural peanut butter (to taste)
  • 1 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a standard cupcake tin.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and the egg. Last, stir in the coffee.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones in two batches, beating together with a wooden spoon, or spatula. Mixture should be on the runny side.
  5. Bake at 350F for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely.
  6. Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and vinegar, and ensure it’s completely dry. Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of simmering water, whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 140°F (or, if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot).
  7. With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and has stiff peaks; the bottom of the bowl should feel neutral — NOT warm — to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so).
  8. Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, just keep mixing and it will come back to smooth).** Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
  9. In a small bowl, beat the peanut butter until it develops a lighter, fluffier texture. Beat in about 1/4 cup of peanut butter to start, then continue adding until you reach your desired taste (roughly 1 cup peanut butter maximum).
  10. In a small bowl, heat the cream in the microwave until it’s just warmer than room temperature (30-45 seconds).
  11. In a medium-sized, heavy pot over high heat, dump the sugar in the pot’s centre, and pour the water around it. Carefully stir the sugar into the water, taking care not to get any sugar crystals on the sides of the pot. Gently stir until the sugar dissolves completely, then stop stirring and allow it to boil until it reaches a deep amber color. This will take anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes, depending on your pan and your stove. You will see pale yellow streaks, then darker ones appear in the center of the bubbling sugar. When you see these, swirl the pan carefully by the handles and be attentive. When your caramel turns very dark amber, immediately pour in the cream. (You are looking for a dark caramel here, because you will be adding cream, so don’t flinch and take it off the heat when it’s still just pale gold!)
  12. Whisk vigorously — but be careful, as the caramel is going to steam and bubble up violently. Add the butter and salt and whisk smooth. Return to medium heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until slightly reduced.
  13. Let cool then pour into a jar and refrigerate. This will keep in the fridge for at least four weeks.
  14. Once the cupcakes are fully cool, pipe the frosting onto them using either piping bags, or a big Ziplock baggie with a corner snipped off. Use a spoon to drizzle the caramel on top — and if it’s become a little too viscous, heat it up for a few seconds in the microwave, though don’t let it get so warm that it melts the frosting.

*If you’re short on time or energy, store-bought caramel works just fine here.

**If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together. And if all else fails, remove a scant 1/4 cup of the mixture and heat it for 10-15 seconds in the microwave, then slowly trickle it back into the frosting, and everything should come together.

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