The perfect Valentine cupcake

January 27, 2009 5:25:52 PM PST
Author and chef Peggy Fallon shares her secrets for the perfect chocolate cupcake.

Perfect Chocolate Cupcakes
Makes 14 to 16 cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch process
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold water (or 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup cold brewed coffee)
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Chocolate Fudge Frosting (recipe follows)

1. .Preheat the oven to 325° Pure convection or 350° standard Bake. Line medium (2 1/2-inch) muffin pan cups with paper liners.

2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Whisk gently to blend.

3. In another bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Add to the dry ingredients, beating just until smooth and well blended. (Batter will be thin.)

4. Fill the cupcake papers two-thirds full. Tap the pan(s) on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake 22 to 25 minutes, until baked through. Let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
(inspired by professional baker Nancy Kux)

2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light or dark corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
10 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. .In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt until blended. Place over medium-high heat and cook without stirring just until the mixture reaches a full boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add the chocolate, whisking until blended. Gradually whisk in the butter until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool until thick enough to spread or pipe through a pastry bag. (To accelerate cooling, the bowl of frosting can be placed over an ice bath; or simply cover and refrigerate.) Stir again before using.

10 steps to sweet success with cupcakes

1. .Begin by preheating the oven for at least 15 minutes. If your oven is equipped with a Pure convection setting-like the Dacor oven-by all means use it. With Pure convection, foods cook more evenly and more efficiently.

2. Before mixing, carefully read through the recipe; then measure and line up all the ingredients you'll need.

3. For convenience and easy clean-up, line the muffin pan cups with paper liners. Alternatively, evenly space free-standing foil baking cups on a baking sheet.

4. Mix the cupcake batter as directed in the recipe, and immediately fill the paper liners two-thirds full. For thin batters, use a small ladle or a liquid measuring cup with a spout for filling. For thicker batters, use an ice cream scoop to ensure each cup contains an equal amount of batter.

5. Firmly tap the pan on the counter once or twice to remove any air bubbles.

6. When cooking in standard Bake mode, place muffin pans on racks closest to the center of the oven; then, to ensure even baking, carefully rotate the pans halfway through the baking time.

If using Dacor Pure convection, eliminate this step; and feel free to double the recipe. With Dacor Pure convection multi-rack cooking, bake as many cupcakes as you need, plus extras for the freezer--filling up all 6 oven racks if you like. There are no "hot spots" in the oven, so foods bake evenly.

7. .Cupcakes are done when the tops spring back when lightly touched and a skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, or with only a small moist crumb. Remember, all foods continue to bake a bit after they are removed from the oven.

8. Place the pans on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes; then carefully invert onto the rack to release the cupcakes. Turn each cupcake right-side up and let cool completely.

9. To ensure uniform appearance, use a small ice cream scoop to dollop an equal portion of frosting onto each cooled cupcake, then frost as usual.

10. Craft stores, specialty food stores, cookware shops, and many supermarkets carry a delightful array of inexpensive candy toppings and garnishes to give cupcakes your personal touch.

The Belvedere-Hawthorne Kitchen Tour
The Belvedere-Hawthorne Kitchen Tour, Grand Raffle and Boutique is Tues, Feb. 3, from 9:30 a.m. - 2 p.m. For more information: