Monday, August 18, 2008

Iron Cupcake: Earth

This post is about my entry in the Iron Cupcake: Earth challenge, which is essentially a monthly, international, cupcake-baking competition that draws on somewhat unusual and challenging ingredients to encourage creativity, help fan our cupcake obsessions even further, and to build camaraderie amongst the global cupcake community.

This month's ingredient is chilli pepper, something right up my alley. I seriously LOVE chilli and it is one of those things I cannot live without. Whether it is chilli flakes, tabasco, sliced fresh chilli in soy, whole fresh chilli in stuffings, there are not many days that go by in our household where one of these do not make an appearance. So needless to say, I'm happy with this month's ingredient! While we already make a Choc Chilli cake (see the post below), I wanted to do something a bit more refined for this exercise. I thought about using Asian flavours (something with lemongrass and coriander perhaps) and I thought about fruit (mangos in particular would work) but I just couldn't get away from chocolate.

Chocolate and chilli are natural partners. My all time favourite chocolate is the chocolate chilli truffle made by Josophan's chocolates, an incredibly rich, dark, luscious chocolate to die for. The decadent texture and sublime taste are unbelievably amazing and something to put on your list of 'things to try before you die'. Seriously. Chocolate and chilli as culinary partners date back hundreds (in fact, more than a thousand) years. The Aztecs' love of the combination has been well documented and some of the earliest recipes for hot chocolate in Europe list chilli as a key ingredient. They work together. Very well.

To take this long tradition one step further, I finally decided to add coffee to the mix. Coffee and chocolate also work brilliantly together, with coffee emphasising the overall chocolateyness of a dish. So I present to you my mochachillicino cupcake: a chocolate buttercake filled with a chocolate-chilli mousse, topped with Kahlua buttercream and garnished with a marscarpone flower and chocolate-chilli covered coffee bean. It is truly delicious.

The chocolate cake itself is quite light and this is to offset the richness of the mousse. The mousse itself is sublime. I was tempted just to use Lindt's chilli chocolate but the cocoa levels are not high enough for the richness I was looking for so I went with a 70% Lindt dark chocolate and infused the chopped chillis in the melted butter to add the zing. This step gives you some level of control as to the level of heat you are after. You could pick birdseye chillis for a really strong heat, but I opted for something much more mellow, selecting a larger, milder red chilli. This mousse recipe does not contain cream - I just wasn't sure that it would work in such proximity to the chilli. It does, however, contain rather a lot of Kahlua (I am a great believer in adding various liqueurs and spirits to cakes!). I also use the best eggs I can buy, which are organic, free-range eggs from the base of the Blue Mountains. Using the best ingredients will always pay off in your baking results.

Once the cakes had cooked and cooled, I filled them with a generous amount of mousse. These were then iced with a Kahlua and espresso buttercream. As we have our own shop, it is a real bonus having access to Real Coffee. Many a short black makes its way into my cakes and frostings! A very strong coffee made at home will also do the trick though, so don't be put off trying the recipe. As I decided against cream in the mousse, I thought that a small amount of marscarpone as a garnish would complement the cake. Marscarpone is of course a key ingredient of tiramisu and its cool creaminess adds texture and provides something more neutral for the palate. The final touch was to add a choc-chilli covered coffee bean to each marscarpone flower. I simply dipped the coffee beans from our shop into Lindt's chilli chocolate (I've been desperate to use it for something) and although fiddly, they are yummy (although probably not quite hot enough for me). Next time, I'd just use really good quality chocolate coated coffee beans from Josophan's chocolates, even if I have to forego the extra chilli touch.

Mochachillicino Cupcake Recipe (makes approximately 12 cupcakes):

Start by making the mousse and choc-chilli coated coffee beans

Then make the chocolate buttercake cupcakes, fill with the mousse, frost and decorate

Chocolate cupcakes (makes 12)
125 grams butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
2 large, organic, free-range eggs
1/2 cup best quality Dutch cocoa
Scant cup of self-raising flour
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Teaspoon carb soda

- Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
- Add eggs one at a time
- Add vanilla extract
- Sift cocoa, self-raising flour and carb soda and add to mix with milk (best results if you alternate cocoa/flour & milk)
- Stir gently until combined
- Spoon into cupcake papers
- Bake at 175 degrees for approximately 16 minutes

Chocolate chilli mousse (you will have more mousse than you need, but it is very difficult to get good aeration of the egg whites using smaller amounts)

150 grams min 70% dark chocolate (I used Lindt)
1/4 cup caster sugar
50 grams butter
1 tablespoon chopped chilli of your choice (with or without seeds, depending on how much heat you like)
3 tablespoons of Kahlua
3 large organic, free-range, eggs (separated)

- Melt butter (20 to 30 seconds in the microwave should do it), add chopped chilli/s and leave to infuse for approximately 20 minutes

- Melt chocolate on a low heat over a double boiler, taking care that water doesn't touch the top pan with the chocolate in it
- Strain butter/chilli mix (discarding chilli), add to chocolate and remove from heat once combined
- Whisk egg whites until fluffy soft peaks have formed
- Add caster sugar and continue whisking until thick and glossy

- Add Kahlua to chocolate mix
- Gently mix egg yolks and add to chocolate mix
- Add one spoonful of the egg white/sugar mix to the chocolate mix to 'lighten' the mousse
- Gently fold the remaining egg white/sugar mix into the chocolate mix, taking care not to overmix
- Refrigerate until set (at least one hour)

Kahlua buttercream (enough for 12 cupcakes)
4 cups icing sugar
100 grams butter
1/4 cup Kahlua (extravagant but worth it)
1/4 cup (or more) strong coffee, until the desired consistency of buttercream is reached

- Cream butter with a small amount of the icing sugar until light and fluffy
- Gradually add Kahlua, the remaining icing sugar and coffee until the desired consistency is reached

Chocolate-chilli coated coffee beans
Best quality coffee beans
Best quality chocolate (I used 100 grams of Lindt chilli chocolate) but you could use dark chocolate and add some chilli flakes or powder or even buy regular chocolate coated coffee beans

- Melt chocolate on a low heat over a double boiler, taking care that water doesn't touch the top pan with the chocolate in it
- Add coffee beans, ensuring that they are well coated

- Remove chocolate coated coffee beans and leave to dry on grease-proof paper. Yum!!

Thanks to the sponsors for these seriously great prizes:
Gorgeous, original artwork from Etsy artist Cakespy
Uber-chic, super-sexy apron from Jessie Steele
Cupcake Courier (I'm desperate for one of these and am still to see one, much less have one in my hot little hands)
Cookbook from Taste of Home

Special thanks also to the Iron Cupcake: Earth organiser Milkwaukee Cupcake Queen. What a legend!

Voting for the kudos of becoming the Very First Earth Iron Cupcaker (no small feat!) begins on August 31 at the Milkwaukee Cupcake Queen's blogsite No One Puts Cupcakes in a Corner and remains open until 4 September. You can't vote until then, but in the meantime, you can certainly enjoy all the creative entries that are being posted.

1 comment:

Anthonette said...

These cupcakes look divine. I've never tried chocolate anything with chili, but I love spicy food! Good luck in the competition.

Anthonette in California