The Evolution of My Taste Buds: German Chocolate Cupcakes

This past Tuesday was my only full day off from both jobs. The night before I had determined that I was not going to bake anything because that would mean my being in the kitchen for most of the day. That didn’t sound like a very exciting day off.

I woke up in the morning and ran the trail that I had hiked last week. The running must have cleared my head (and angered my stomach) because I went straight to the store for my ingredients afterward. I guess there’s just something about the idea of making something that I have never made before, something inspirational about all the food network shows I watch, something joyful about tasting a German Chocolate Cupcakes.

Let me tell you a little bit about my relationship with German Chocolate cake. It’s my dad’s favorite cake in the whole small world. When I was growing up, he used to have it almost every birthday. I started loathing my own father’s birthday solely for that reason. I HATED German Chocolate cake; rather, I hated the frosting. It was a weird color. It had shreds of coconut that felt weird to chew. It had nuts for Pete’s sake. Nuts! No frosting, or cake for that matter, should have nuts. Ever. One day, a few years ago, one of my very good friends made a German Chocolate cake and brought it to work. It was one of the best things that I had ever tasted. I guess my tastes had changed over the ten or so years that I had boycotted this kind of cake. Now, homemade German Chocolate cake one of my favorites, nuts and all…especially when Moe makes it. I aimed to try my hand at a mini version.

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These little beauties are the ones that I had mentioned in last week’s post. Remember? The ones I thought would be less work than carrot cake? Hah. I amaze myself sometimes. These definitely had much less prep time than carrot cake and are pretty much fool proof; however, the ingredients can be a bit pricey (pecans, slivered almonds, almond extract, coconut). TIP: I purchased most of these ingredients in the bulk section of my grocery store. This section is a great money saving tool that allows you to take only what you need instead of having to pay for a second bag of pecans just for one or two extra ounces.

To begin, I preheated the oven, lined the tins, and used my hand mixer (my pathetic reminder that I have no Kitchen Aid) to beat together the first few ingredients until they were light and fluffy.

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This next part of the process is painful to me: you need to mix other ingredients in two separate bowls. So what ended up happening is that I had the butter, sugars, and vanilla in bowl 1; buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee in bowl 2; and flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in bowl 3. As a girl that positively hates to dry dishes, reading this process was enough to have me consider giving up on the project then and there. Just kidding. Kind of.

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Anyway, remember to sift together the ingredients in bowl 3. This gives them a light, soft look and feel while eliminating clumps that could make the batter ugly.  Then I poured a little bit from each bowl into bowl 1 alternatively until the batter was mixed. “Do not over mix this batter!” I had this sentence in my mind from the time I bought the cocoa powder in the store. I had seen this recipe on Barefoot Contessa last week and could hear Ina Garten reminding me not to over mix. Why not? Who cares? Well, when you don’t over mix, you end up with this heavenly looking batter. No joke. I had never seen a batter with this consistency before. It looked whipped. It was almost like one of those Yoplait Whip yogurts that I like.

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At this point, it was ready to be scooped into the tins and plopped into the oven. In the show, Ina used a 2 or 3-inch ice cream scoop to place the batter in the tins. I can’t remember which, but all I know is that I didn’t have that type of ice cream scoop in my kitchen. So I used a 1/4 measuring cup that worked just fine. Normally when I make cupcakes, I don’t fill the whole cupcake liner with batter; I fill only about 3/4 of the way. But Ina had filled these pretty much to the top, so, by George, I was going to do the same thing. When I filled them all the way to the top, this lovely thing happened–the muffin effect. The word that kept coming out of my mouth was BEAUTIFUL.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? I took them out of the tins pretty quickly and let them cool while I started on the frosting. The frosting isn’t difficult, but quite a process of stirring and whisking and stirring for fifteen minutes. Melted butter, evaporated milk, brown sugar, and egg yolks are simmered over medium heat for fifteen minutes. Stir constantly, it said. So I did. It also said that if the mixture starts to look curdled that whisking it furiously would solve the problem. Yuck. Curdled is an ugly word. And of course, it happened to me. I started to see little chunks of butter-looking stuff floating around. Whisking did fix the problem. Minutes and minutes of whisking.

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When it finally had thickened up a bit, I was overjoyed to mix in the rest of the ingredients, including but not limited to coconut, pecans, and almonds (which I had toasted for a few minutes in the oven after the cupcakes had baked).

IMG_20140918_151125Now this looked like frosting. After letting it cool way down, I frosted the tops of the cupcakes—this was so much easier than frosting a whole cake. This recipe made about 14 cupcakes that looked absolutely beautiful and were a cinch to put together.

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The frosting was sweet, but very nutty tasting because of the toasted almonds and almond extract. As you have probably surmised, I absolutely detest nuts in things; they ruin desserts. So I don’t think this is the best frosting I have ever tasted. However, my dad, who is a BIG German Chocolate cake fan loved it. I also think that the cake itself was over powered by the strong flavors of the frosting, but this could be attributed to the fact that I used cheap cocoa powder. Next time, I’ll be sure to go to a store that has a bigger variety of cocoa powder. One with a richer flavor might do the trick. Overall though, these were very tasty and a big hit with the adults in my family. The hearty texture of the frosting and the softness of the fluffy cake made for a great combination. It’s another Ina Garten keeper, ladies and gentlemen.

You know what next week is right? Right? Tuesday, September 23, marks the autumnal equinox. Fall will be here—my favorite season! And I’m living in a state where there definitely are seasons. I can’t wait to watch the leaves change color, feel cooler weather, and wear warm clothing. You know what the beginning of fall means, don’t you? That’s right. It means the typical overrated pumpkin overload. ‘Tis the season when pumpkin recipes hijack Pinterest boards and marry themselves to  flavors that they probably don’t belong with. Because next week is the beginning of fall, I will be baking something that has a fall flavor to it. I can’t decide if I want maple, apple or pumpkin…but I do promise that it won’t be something too boring or odd. Or overrated.

See you next week!

Happy baking!

Use this link from foodnetwork.com to see Ina Garten’s recipe for German Chocolate Cupcakes

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3 thoughts on “The Evolution of My Taste Buds: German Chocolate Cupcakes

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