Devils Food Cupcakes

Forty years ago my parents made the momentous decision to pack up their lives in the thriving metropolis of London, and migrate to the sleepy town of Brisbane.  The relocation was a culture shock to them both.  They went from living in one of the largest cities in the world, to one of the most provincial.

My parents were fortunate to travel by plane when they made the lengthy journey to Australia.  The vantage point from the air allowed them to take in the vast land that would soon be their home.

As a child, I remember hearing the stories about them flying into Sydney.  Their first glimpse of Australia.  My parents noticed, what they thought were, little garden sheds peppering every house lot.  As a couple that shared the enjoyment of spending a little time outdoors, they were impressed by the seemingly widespread passion for gardening.  They soon were to discover, however, that the little sheds were the ‘outdoor plumbing’, so to speak.

Even in my lifetime, Australia (and Brisbane in particular), has grown enormously.  Much has changed since 1969.  Most importantly, over that time, Australia has become home.

To celebrate, I wish to present 40 celebratory cupcakes to my Mother to mark the occasion.   This is my first cupcake trial.  I am actually planning four different flavours.  10 cupcakes of each flavour. First is chocolate. (Then coffee, vanilla and lemon.) 

This recipe for Devil’s Food Cake is a versatile batter. It can readily be converted from cupcakes to a single round cake. (Use the same amount of mixture and directions indicated, but bake for 50 minutes in 20cm tin.) The inclusion of cocoa produces a delicate, creamy flavour. The crumb is light without being too fluffy and airy. It is a great cake to make when you do not have time to let butter soften to room temperature – the butter is first melted with sugar.

I wanted a contrast for the frosting so instead of opting for the typical (yet more-ish!) chocolate ganache, I selected a Swiss meringue butter cream. I find this one of the most adaptable frostings around. To the basic recipe you can mix in vanilla, stir in melted chocolate, add a shot of espresso, fold in fruit preserve, or some citrus zest for your own distinctive flavour combination.

I hope to use Swiss meringue butter cream for all the “40th” cupcakes. I will simply make one large batch, portion out into four, then fold in my extra flavour to complement each cupcake.

{ Devil’s Food Cupcakes}

* Ingredients *

1 cup all-purpose flour (plain flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup of cocoa
1/4 boiling water
125g or 1 stick of unsalted butter
3/4 sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sour cream

* Directions *

Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F.  Sift the flour and baking soda and powder into a bowl.  Mix the boiling water with the cocoa to make a paste.  Heat the butter and sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat.  Once the butter and sugar has completely melted, transfer to a mixer.  Beat until the mixture cools, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly.  Add the cocoa mixture until incorporated.  Mix in the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the sour cream.  Divide the batter into 12 cupcake wrappers.  Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked.  Stand for 10-15 minutes in the tin before turning out to a cooling rack.  Once cooled, frost with chocolate ganache or Swiss meringue butter cream.

Makes 12 cupcakes

{ Vanilla Butter cream }

* Ingredients *

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
250g or 2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

* Directions *

In a bowl over simmering water, whisk the eggs whites and sugar.  Cook until the sugar has dissolved and the temperature reaches 160F or 70C.

Transfer the bowl to a stand mixer and on a medium speed, beat until you reach firm peaks, about 5 minutes.  Slow the speed and add in the room temperature butter one piece at a time.  If the mixture appears to curdle, keep beating on medium speed until smooth again.  Add in vanilla or any other flavour combination until smooth.

Makes 4 cups