Friday 31 October 2008

Hallowe'en cupcakes (AKA Double Chocolate Mud Cakes)

Hallowe'en is celebrated on the 31st October, and the name is derived from All Hallows' Even (with Even itself being a shortened form of evening) and is the evening before All Hallows' day, which is now more commonly known as All Saints' Day, on the first of November. This probably makes the religious origins of the holiday rather more obvious but it is now a secular and rather overhyped and commercialised occasion. I guess that it is more celebrated in the USA than here in the UK, although the retail giants are doing their bit to cash in during the otherwise holiday-less period leading up to Christmas. (However, I wouldn't say it was that lean - all the Christmas products have been out in the supermarkets for weeks and weeks now - it's barely September before they start putting them out!). Wikipedia has some more interesting background on the origins of Hallowe'en and the different ways in which it is celebrated in various parts of the world.
But anyway, enough of the background and onto the baking. Another recipe from my new (bargain) Cupcake recipe book. I wanted to try a different recipe for chocolate cupcakes. This one was actually decorated with a florentine topping in the book, but inkeeping with the time of year (and being somewhat short of time and topping ingredients) I decided to go for spooky hallowe'en spider webs. Actually, they aren't that spooky at all really, just chocolatey, but any excuse to eat chocolate is good with me!!

Gooey, shiny chocolate just after icing.

Hallowe'en cupcakes (a.k.a. Double chocolate mud cakes - actually, that sounds so much more enticing than just hallowe'en cupcakes!!!)
60g dark chocolate, chopped coarsely (I used Lindt 85% cocoa)
160ml water
90g butter, softened
220g dark brown sugar
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
40g ground almonds (but I substituted extra flour for this - use plain if you want)

150g milk chocolate (or dark if you prefer it - I would have used dark, but they weren't for me, and milk is usually more popular)
40-50g white chocolate

- Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3/150C fan assissted. Line 6-hole large or 12 hole standard muffin tin with paper cases.
- Combine chocolate and water in small saucepan; stir over low heat until smooth (NB don't overheat here or the chocolate will catch - says the voice of experience here!)
- Beat butter, sugar and eggs in small bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Persevere here - the mixture will start out really dark but will eventually become much much paler in colour, as you can see from the pictures below.
- Stir in sifted flour, cocoa, ground almonds (or extra flour if you're nut allergic) and warm chocolate mixture.
- Divide mixture among cases - it will be very runny.
- Bake large cakes about 35 minutes for large cakes, 25 minutes small cakes (I think mine took a bit longer). Turn cakes out onto a wire rack to cool.

For the topping
- Melt milk and white chocolate, at the same time if possible, but (obviously!) not together.
- Spoon milk chocolate onto the cakes (mine were quite flat topped - ideal for this kind of topping) and then put the melted white chocolate into a small piping bag (or do what I did and use a plastic bag and snip off a tiny corner).
- Pipe a spiral onto the milk chocolate. The first time I tried this (years ago) I tried to do concentric circles (ie lots of separate circles) but it's really difficult because once the chocolate starts to flow it doesn't want to stop. Spirals give just the same effect in the end, but are much easier to do!
- Using a cocktail stick, pull out from the centre to create the 'spokes' of the spider's web.
- Allow to set (or just dive in while the chocolate is still warm and gooey - mmmm!) and serve to amazed (well, slightly impressed I suppose!) colleagues.....

The butter and sugar mixture starts out really dark, but keep on with that mixing and......

it will eventually become much lighter. (Ignore the fact that my mixture is trying to curdle - I don't know why it's doing that, and it was fine when I added the flour, and the cakes turn out fine, so I guess it doesn't matter.)

Spirals of white chocolate piped onto the milk chocolate.

Nearly there - half of the spirals have turned into webs.....

These were well received and drew a couple of 'how did you do that' type questions!

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