Darkness of winter… & darkness of cupcakes?

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

-Edith Sitwell

That title makes me sound like Ozzy Osbourne or something… ‘the prince of darkness & his dark cupcakes.’ Hah.

So, we’re leaving today to go to Connecticut for a few days. Just a small weekend trip. As a matter of fact, depending on when you read this I’m probably either on the road or already there. Getting into some out-of-state trouble, stuffing our faces in out-of-state places, you know how it is. Going to gamble our money away in a casino, stopping by Mystic, no doubt, for some Mystic Pizza or Bleu Squid Bakery & Cheese Shop (which I once did a small, informal, messy review of on a previous trip). And of course, enjoying the drive there. At any rate… I won’t be home for a few days. So here’s a post to tide you over ’til mama gets back. Don’t say I never did anything for you! *wink*

I’ve been saying this over & over & over again for weeks, but it’s cold. It’s winter, of course it’s cold. And winter is time for food, comfort, and home. Who wants to be out in the elements when it’s absolutely freezing? Or when there’s snow all over the place? Wouldn’t you rather be home, eating (or making) cupcakes? I know I would. And yes- I’m aware I just told you I’m leaving my home today to go on a little vacay. But that’s different. I mean, vacations are nice reasons to leave home, and cupcakes from bakeries are lovely, but really, who doesn’t love a nice homemade baked good right out of the oven? As much as I hate winter, even I have to say that I relish the days and nights when having the oven on to bake doesn’t cause you to sweat through your t-shirt and have to wring your hair out when you’re done. Air conditioning, you say? HA! Even with the A/C on full blast, you try making more than one batch of cupcakes or try baking something for longer than 20 minutes on a day that’s over 95° degrees without feeling the heat. So yes, this time of year is good for that. And even though the shortest day of the year has passed, and the days are already (supposedly) getting longer little by little, we’re a far cry from June when the night seems to pull it’s curtain down around at 10 p.m. It gets dark pretty early, and I mean dark. And dark nights remind me of dark chocolate.

I’m not particularly a dark chocolate person; I’m actually one of those intolerable people who love white chocolate, which really isn’t chocolate at all. However in certain instances dark chocolate does indeed have it’s merits. Like in cupcakes, for example.

I feel like dark chocolate is appropriate for winter. Add a little coconut, which is unexpected in the cupcake itself, despite the topping… and you’ve got a cupcake that reminds you of both dark winter nights & the warm summery days to come. Isn’t that what coconut makes you think of? Tanning lotion, pina coladas & warm sunshine?

Or is that just me?

Maybe it’s just me.

At any rate, they’re kind of a juxtaposition of dark & light: dark chocolate & white coconut. Which is what winter is, isn’t it? Wow, I’m so deep. And on a much less deep note, really they’re a kind of cupcake version of a Mounds bar. Or, if you added some almonds somewhere, an Almond Joy. As a matter of fact, in the absence of coconut extract… or perhaps just instead of it… using almond extract in the cupcake might give you an Almond Joy-ish flavor.

DARK CHOCOLATE COCONUT CUPCAKES

Makes 16-18 cupcakes, depending on the size of your pans

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder (I like Hershey’s Special Dark)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut (plus more for topping, if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract*

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line your muffin tins with liners, and set aside.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and cocoa in a medium sized bowl with a whisk. In a glass measuring cup, combine the milk, egg, oil and coconut extract and mix well.
  3. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined and smooth. Add the coconut, and stir until well-mixed.
  4. Spoon around 2 heaping tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner. Put the cupcakes into the oven and lower the temperature to 325° F. Bake 20-25 minutes, just until tops are domed and spring back when gently pressed and when a toothpick inserted in the centers come out mostly clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans 5 minutes, then allow to completely cool on a rack.
*Mine is from Watkins, you can buy it online.

Uhm. Yeah. I couldn’t find ANY of my offset spatulas, so I had to frost them with a butter knife. Not the best situation but it works. At least once the coconut is on top, you can’t see the knife marks. I’m such a pro! By the way… how does one lose three offset spatulas? No idea.

DARK CHOCOLATE SOUR CREAM FROSTING

Makes enough to frost 2 dozen cupcakes, can be halved

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 pound plus 8 ounces powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream

Directions:

  1. Melt and cool chocolate (until just slightly warm). Beat butter until light and fluffy.
  2. With mixer on low speed, gradually add powdered sugar. Add salt, vanilla, cocoa powder and sour cream and mix until very smooth.
  3. Add chocolate and mix until just incorporated.*
*Don’t over-whip and add too much air into the frosting. The consistency should be rich and dense, like ice cream!

All in all, these were some pretty delish cupcakes. Nice, springy, moist cake and a really amazing frosting. You can use shaved coconut for a different effect, if you can get your hands on it. Also, perhaps using coconut milk and/or coconut oil in the cake would be an interesting touch.

Sources & credits: Grasslands Road cake stand, from Roux Royale in New Orleans, LA, Layer Cake Shop black cupcake liners.
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