Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Devil's Food Cupcakes or Cake Layers

(June 7, 2007)
...submit your question to Lauren!

Judy asked Lauren:

Dear Lauren,

Love all your cupcake ideas, but need a little extra advice of how to make and ice 200 cupcakes for a Saturday afternoon event when we'll be crazy busy starting Friday noon. How early can we bake the cupcakes? How early can we frost or ice? What's the best way to store the finished cupcakes?

We're thinking of two kinds of cupcakes: carrot and chocolate. Do you have any good (and easy!) chocolate cupcake and frosting recipes? Would icing be faster, easier than frosting? Any other decorating tips to make the cupcakes easy but elegant?

Hope I haven't asked too many questions.

Lauren says...

Well, since I'm not a caterer, I'm not really the best one to give long-winded advice on baking and icing 200 cupcakes for an event. I will say, though, that since I've always made my chocolate cupcakes from my homemade Buttermilk Pancake Mix, it makes sense for you to do that too, since the mix can be made way ahead, saving you some time when you want to make the actual cupcakes. The best part is that this mix makes the most delicious chocolate cupcakes (and layer cakes, too)! Having said this, although highly convenient, you don't need to make the mix in bulk since I also provide the incremental ingredients to achieve a single batch.

Before we talk about icings versus frostings, let me address the timing involved with baking such a large number of cupcakes, in the most time and energy efficient way. If using the mix, since doubling "baking" recipes can be tricky, I suggest making several individual batches of batter over a two day time period, since the cupcakes can be stored well covered, at room temperature, for two days before serving. If you have the room, you can also freeze them for up to one month, stored in layers, separated by sheets of wax paper, in a rectangular plastic tub. (Although this is a helpful tip when making cupcakes ahead for a child's birthday party, it's highly unusual for a person to have enough freeze space for 200 cupcakes.)

As far as which is easiest, frosting cupcakes or glazing them, I'd have to say glazing is best, when looking to do things ahead. Since many frostings are perishable, you'd need to have a lot of refrigerator space to accommodate so many cupcakes. Glazes, on the other hand, are quick to apply (no spreading, just dunking the tops), they're easy to decorate and, when "set" they are able to be kept out at room temperature until serving. Glazed cupcakes, once fully set, can also be individually wrapped, without the risk of the glaze sticking to the plastic. This is very helpful, if planning to sell the cupcakes at a school fair, etc.

Keep toppings "fun." Unless you're making cupcakes for a home-based party, I suggest keeping the decorative toppings to things considered whimsical as opposed to elegant. Personally, I've made chocolate cupcakes, glazed in chocolate and topped with fresh raspberries (a gorgeous presentation) but, since any fresh fruits, edible flowers, etc. are considered perishable and need to be refrigerated, combined with the fact that any decorative adornments need to be applied to the tops of glazed cupcakes when the glaze is still wet (or they won't adhere), this option would only create more last minute havoc on your timing for this large, out-of-home event.

Some unusual and nonperishable toppings for glazed cupcakes: Crushed cookie crumbs, chopped cocktail peanuts, quartered Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or crushed Heath Bar candy (but know your audience, because of allergies), gummy bears (or worms), jelly beans, gum drops, colored jimmies, toasted coconut, and or grind one or two cupcakes in the food processor and cover the glaze with the crumbs for a "furry" effect, crushed peppermint candies.

Here is the recipe for my Devil's Food Cupcakes (and Cake Layers) with two different glazes. Enjoy.

................................................................... .....................................

Devil's Food Cupcakes or Cake Layers

Yield: 18 to 24 cupcakes or two 9-inch layers

Once again, my Buttermilk Pancake and Cake Mix proves to be the hero. Whether the cocoa-laced batter is baked into two dark cake layers or lots of tender cupcakes, you won't be disappointed. When baked, this batter tastes like a "Devil Dog" Oh, if you ever run out of batter when making cupcakes, just fill the empty cups half- full with very hot tap water and they'll bake just fine. When wanting to top cupcakes with a shiny glaze instead of a fluffy Chocolate Butter Frosting, I've provided instructions to make both, a Chocolate and Vanilla Glaze at the end of this recipe. Any time I've suggested a tool, a piece of equipment, or a culinary term that's unfamiliar to you, you can go to Kitchen Management to get more information.
    For the cake or cupcake batter:

  • About 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, for brushing or use flavorless vegetable spray
  • 2 tablespoons plain cake flour, to dust the cake pans
  • 2 ½ cups prepared Buttermilk Pancake & Cake Mix or see the end of this recipe
  • ½ cup sifted non-alkalized (not Dutch-processed) unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted before measuring (see the sidebar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, made tepid by submerging in a bowl of very hot tap water for 10 minutes
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk, for cupcakes and 1 1/2 cups for cake layers
  • 1 ½ cups semisweet mini chocolate chips, chopped a bit smaller in the food processor (optional and only for cupcakes)

1) To make layer cakes: Brush two 9-inch cake pans (1 ½-inches deep) generously with melted butter and line them with a round of parchment. Grease the paper, and then dust the pan with flour, tilting to coat the interior evenly. Shake out the excess flour by rapping the pan, hard, on the side of the sink.

2) If making cupcakes: Spray the tops of two standard 12-cup muffin tins (or one 12-cup and one 6-cup tin) with vegetable spray and line the cups with paper liners. (The number of tins needed will depend on whether or not you're using the optional chocolate chips. Also, if you're not using the prepared pancake mix and instead, you're using the dry mixture offered at the end of this recipe, you'll yield 24 cupcakes.) If using one oven, and making cupcakes, position the racks to the upper and lower shelves. If making two cake layers, try to fit them on the center shelf together. If working with a double oven, it's also best to bake the cupcake tins separately, in the center of the oven. Either way, preheat the temperature to 350°F.

3) To assemble the batter: Whisk the pancake mix with the baking soda and sifted cocoa, or assemble the dry mixture at the end of this recipe. Using an electric mixer, beat the softened butter and shortening with the sugar, eggs, and vanilla (all at once), until light. Stop the machine and, using a sturdy rubber spatula, scrape up the butter mixture from the bottom of the bowl and beat again, briefly. Turn off the machine and, all at once, add the dry mixture and 1 ½ cups buttermilk for cake layers (or 1 ¼ cups for cupcakes), and beat on low for 1 full minute, to incorporate well. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat on a moderately high speed (setting #6 on a KitchenAid) for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, until very light and fluffy. If making a large number of cupcakes, and not using the homemade "mix," it's best to make several individual batches of batter, as opposed to doubling the ingredients.

4) If making cupcakes: Fold in the mini chocolate chips and use a medium-sized ice cream scoop or a large spoon to ration the batter between the cupcake tins, filling each cup only ¾ full, (if you have a few unused cups, fill those half full with very hot water). Bake cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a tester comes out "just clean," without allowing them to become dry. If baking both cupcake tins in the same oven, switch their positions half-way through baking. Remove the tins from the oven and let them sit on a rack, for 5 minutes. One by one, carefully lift each cupcake out and let them stand on a rack, to cool before applying a glaze or frosting to the tops.

5) If baking cake layers: Divide the batter between your prepared cake pans and, using a small metal spreader, smooth the top. Bake the layers in the center of the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes (cakes will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and feel springy at the top center. Don't worry if the tops look a bit irregular, since they will be inverted and used flat- bottoms up.) Place two wire cooling racks, preferably nonstick and without a center pleat, on the counter. Place the cake layers, in their pans, on 2 additional wire racks (any kind) and let them sit for 5 minutes, before inverting them, bottoms up, onto the nonstick racks. Cool cake layers, completely, this way.

If you don't have the pre-assembled pancake mix: Whisk 2 ½ cups of cake flour with 2 scant teaspoons baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder, and ½ cup nonalkalized cocoa powder. Sift this into another bowl. Increase the sugar to 1 2/3 cups.

Chocolate and Vanilla Glazes for Cupcakes

1) To make the chocolate glaze: Place 3 ½ cups of sifted powdered sugar in a glass mixing bowl. Melt the chopped chocolate either in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water stirring constantly, or in the microwave, on high, for about 1 minute, stirring after heating until perfectly smooth. Stir the chocolate into the sugar along with the light corn syrup, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir in 5 tablespoons boiling water. If too thick to spread, add more boiling water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If it ever becomes too thin, stir in some more powdered sugar. When right, the mixture should be dark and thick but pour-able and very smooth and shiny. Set this aside.

2) To make the vanilla glaze: Place 3 ½ cups of sifted powdered sugar in a glass mixing bowl and add the light corn syrup, vanilla, and milk. Mix until perfectly smooth. If too fluid, add more sugar or, if too dry, add a more few drops of milk. When right, the mixture should be bright white, quite thick, and very smooth and shiny. Set it aside.

3) To apply the glazes: Tear off two long slightly overlapping sheets of wax paper and lay them on your counter. Place two wire cooling racks over the paper and stand the cupcakes, side by side, on the racks. Working with one cupcake at a time, lift and dip the top of a cupcake into the glaze of your choice. Turn the cupcake right side up and place it on the rack. Continue with the rest. Starting over, re-dip each cupcake (starting with those dipped first) and place them back on the racks. When finished, each cupcake should be lavishly coated on top with one of the glazes. (If desired, make both glazes (cutting one of the recipes in half) and use the smaller batch to drizzle decoratively on top of the first batch of glaze.)

4) To adorn glazed cupcakes: If planning to place colored jimmies, gumdrops, shredded coconut, etc. on top of the glazed cupcakes, do it while the glaze is still wet. Once set, these toppings will no longer adhere.

5) Let the glaze on the cupcakes set: If planning to wrap individually, let the glazed cupcakes sit on their racks, uncovered, until the glaze is completely set (it will feel firm and no longer sticky), which can take a few hours, even on a dry day. When set, the cupcakes can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to two days. Alternatively, if planning to frost the cupcakes, or if glazing them and wanting to store them in groups, place the cupcakes in a single layer in a cake boxes or rectangular plastic tubs, with enough headroom for the cupcakes to sit freely without touching the top of the box or tub. If using a whipped frosting with perishable ingredients, the cupcakes can be kept at a comfortable room temperature for a several hours. Refrigerate for longer periods and bring to room temperature before serving.

    Lauren Logo Timing is Everything

  • Always having the pancake / cupcake mix on hand is a real time saver.
  • The cake layers and cupcakes can be made one day ahead of applying frosting (and then one more day, after being glazed) and kept at room temperature (refrigerated if using a perishable frosting), covered well with plastic wrap. Place the cooled cake layers on two separate cake discs (keeping them bottoms-up) before covering them.
  • The cake layers or cupcakes can be made 2 weeks ahead (not glazed or frosted) and kept in the freezer, well covered. Keep cupcakes right side up and in layers, in a securely covered rectangular plastic tub, in between sheets of wax paper. Thaw overnight at room temperature, in their original container.
  • The glazes can be fully assembled one day ahead and kept refrigerated, well covered. Bring the white glaze to room temperature before using, and reheat the chocolate glaze, very briefly, whisking, just to loosen it to a spreading consistency.

...................................................................

Questions for Lauren Groveman's Kitchen:

Name: Email:
(Email addresses will be kept completely private and confidential and will allow the reader to be kept up to date on Lauren’s media appearances, cooking classes and in-store cooking demonstrations.)

Question:

Thank you. Please check back soon to see if Lauren Groveman addresses your question in her column.

Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through Amazon.com.

For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV & radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at www.laurengroveman.com

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.