When I was younger, my paternal grandmother would bake cupcakes for my family as a treat. These cupcakes came with a fluffy vanilla base and three different types of icing: white, pink, and chocolate (not “brown”, because that sounded icky to my mind). Each cupcake would be garnished with one single walnut half, one single M&M, or one single piece of crystallised ginger.
These cupcakes were subject to a very strict hierarchy in my world. The hierarchy went, from top to bottom, Chocolate with M&M, Chocolate with Walnut, White with M&M, White with Walnut, Chocolate with Ginger if the ginger was whipped off and thrown away instantaneously, Pink with M&M, and then came Pink with Walnut, Vanilla with Ginger, and Pink with Ginger. These last three options were never eaten.
I remember, very distinctly, one afternoon deciding that I was going to be a Big Grown-Up Girl and try one of the cupcake flavours I always passed over. I picked up a Pink Iced Cupcake with Single Walnut Garnish, and skipped merrily outside to my grandmother’s front lawn to eat while I played.
Except I really didn’t want the cupcake. I nibbled the icing, then stood perplexed, frantic, conspiring, in the garden. How could I get rid of it without hurting my grandma’s feelings? Eventually, I tucked the cupcake between the roots of a big tree, trying to ignore the way the pink of the icing shone bright, bright, proudly, amongst the brown wood.
As our car pulled away from the kerb, I saw my grandma turn as a flash of pink caught her eye. As our car turned the corner, I saw my grandma stare into the roots of the sole tree in the middle of her front lawn.
I still feel guilty about that day.
What does this story have to do with The Cookbook Challenge? Not much. After all, the Black Forest Cupcakes that I made for its Cup theme are polar opposites to my grandma’s cupcakes. Where the latter were light and fluffy as clouds, the former are dark, dense, and rich; they’re more like mini mudcakes than cupcakes.
Also, there’s no way I would ever have hidden one of these babies in the roots of a tree to avoid eating it. These Black Forest Cupcakes are far, far to delectably delicious for such naughty treatment.
Black Forest Cupcakes
Recipe from High Tea at The Victoria Room, a cookbook I won last year from my darling friend Lorraine
- 425g can pitted cherries in syrup
- 165g butter, roughly chopped, at room temperature
- 100g good quality dark cooking chocolate, roughly chopped
- 100g dark eating chocolate
- 215g (1 1/3 cups) castor sugar
- 75ml cherry brandy (I used kirsch, because that’s all we had)
- 170g (1 cup) plain flour
- 2tb (40ml) self-raising flour
- 2tb (40ml) cocoa powder
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 170°C . Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
- Drain the cherries, reserving the syrup. In a blender or food processor, process 130g cherries with 125ml (1/2 cup) of the reserved syrup until smooth. Slice remaining cherries in half and set aside. Discard the remaining syrup (says the cookbook – I say keep it for drizzling on oatmeal the next morning!)
- Place butter, chocolate, sugar, brandy/kirsch and cherry puree in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring until chocolate has melted. Leave to cool.
- Once mixture has cooled, lightly whisk in sifted flours and cocoa, then add egg. Divide mixture between muffin tin.
- Bake for 40 minutes. Once cooked and firm to the touch, remove from oven and allow to cool in tin, then on a wire rack until completely cool.
- If you want to follow the cookbook perfectly, whip 165ml thickened cream with 2 tsp of cherry brandy, spread over the cupcakes, the top with cherry halves and grated chocolate. I admit that this makes for a more accurate “black forest” presentation than what I did (which was put cherry halves on the unadorned muffins). However, I was divvying these muffins up for several people and many were likely to be stored in freezers, so I needed to keep the cupcakes plain and freeze-able. Anyway, everyone knows that cream attracts bugs amidst foliage.