taste: german chocolate cupcakes, for sarah

hi, cupcake!

First things first: are you scared of butter? No? Then we can get started.

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart, and is thus a glimpse into a world I do not inhabit, where a person might actually choose to bake 24 – 24!! – cupcakes. I am neither catering an under-10s soccer game, nor am I running a clandestine baked-goods business out of a converted pink VW camper van parked outside my apartment building (I don’t live in Brooklyn.) So in what possible universe could I want 24 cupcakes? Even though I baked these partly as a gift, I  a) had no tupperware big enough to contain even half the cakes, and b) knew that my recipient, much as she loves German chocolate cake, has limits. However, there are dire warnings out there about adapting baking recipes. In other food arenas I will merrily double, halve, adapt and bastardize, but in cake-making, the delicate chemistry of fat, flour, baking soda and cooking times is often highly calibrated and sternly not to be messed with (although I did mess with the frosting.) So what I’m saying is – we ate these for a week.

Preheat the oven, as with most baking, to 350 degrees. In a bowl over a pan of water, melt 5oz chocolate or chocolate chips, and set aside. You may need to add a little butter (in for a penny!) to keep it smooth as it cools.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (oh wait, there’s more to come) and 1 1/3 cups sugar. This is easier if the butter is soft, especially if Santa didn’t bring you a Kitchenaid stand mixer this year. Beat in 3 large eggs and 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, measure out 2 cups all-purpose flour, one teaspoon baking soda, and one teaspoon salt. Mix together, and add to the butter/sugar/egg mixture in three batches, alternating with 1 cup buttermilk in two parts. That is, flour-buttermilk-flour-buttermilk-flour, and mix well at each dash.

Beat in your melted chocolate until everything is combined.

As I don’t have a baking pan with space for 24 – 24!! – cupcakes, I used large paper cupcake cases. But if you do, go right ahead – just butter them and dust them with a little flour first. If you use paper cases, space them out well on a baking sheet, and fill each one about 3/4 full with batter.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick or sharp knife inserted in the center comes out cleanly (Martha says “cake tester” – is that a thing you can buy? A dedicated cake tester? Oy vey.) Rotate the pans halfway through so they brown evenly.

So far, so un-German. Let’s talk frosting/icing/gooey stuff.

While the cakes are baking, separate 3 large eggs, retaining the yolks. Combine the yolks with 1 can/12 oz evaporated milk and 1 1/4 cups light-brown sugar in a small heavy-based saucepan. Add 1 1/2 sticks butter (what? I warned you!) and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly. It will take a while to thicken, but thicken it eventually will, after about 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl, and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 7 oz flaked coconut and 6 oz chopped pecans. Retain a few whole pecans for a garnish. Your coconut/pecan quantities are flexible here, so adjust to taste. Leave the mixture to cool.

Pile cupcakes with the topping – you will have loads. Martha suggests slicing the cakes in half lengthways and filling them in the middle as well, but I think this is, respectfully, overkill. You are well on your way to a new year’s heart attack as it is. Enjoy!!


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