Monday, January 31, 2011

Dirt Cupcakes: On the quest for excellence

The dirt cupcake was an idea that kept on morphing in my head in the two weeks leading up to Daughter #2's birthday.  I knew about dirt cakes but wasn't particularly thrilled about the idea of crushing oreos to give to young children.  I kept on thinking about it and figured out that I might be able to take the same concept and put it into a cupcake.  The Dirt Cupcake concept was born.

The night before Daughter #2's birthday party, it took me two tries to get a cake that I felt resembled dirt. I knew I wanted one that was really dark, crumbled into rich looking soil and would taste good.  I used one recipe, a cake that I do love, the Chocolate Pan Cake only to realize while making them that the batter simply wasn't dark enough for me.  I baked off those cupcakes and then went back and decided to try making a different cupcake recipe.  I used Marcy Goldman's cake recipe and from the beginning of mixing, I knew that this was going to be the one that would get me the dirt crumbs I wanted.

Now many might consider me crazy for doing two rounds of cupcakes in one night, but I couldn't let it go.  For me, if another aspect of the party hadn't come out pefectly - say the paper decor or the games, I'd be less concerned.  However, the cupcakes - it's a bit my thing, so less than the image in my mind simply wasn't good enough - I wanted excellent dirt.

I was very very pleased with the end result, and although these took a bit of time, they were super fun to make and the kids at the party just loved them.  (loved the flavor too!)


Dirt Cupcakes
Easy Devil's Food Cake turned into Dirt Cupcakes
from Marcy Goldman's book A Passion for Baking

Makes 44 mini or 22 regular sized dirt cupcakes

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 cup boiling water
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup white sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line mini muffin or regular muffin tins with paper liners.

Place chopped chocolate and cocoa in a medium-size bowl and over with boiling water. Stir to melt chocolate and then cool. Whisk together in a bowl flour, baking soda and salt.

In a mixer bowl, cream butter and both sugars until fluffy and well combined. Blend in eggs, vanilla, and then sour cream. Blend in cooled melted chocolate and then fold in flour, baking soda, and salt.

Spoon batter into prepared pans. Bake until cakes spring back when gently pressed with fingertips, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool well before frosting.

Fudgy Chocolate Frosting (or feel free to substitute with a chocolate frosting you like, but I like this one for it's firmer texture and ability to "mold." A regular chocolate buttercream will be too soft.)
from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book

3 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Ghiradellis, the author uses Scharffen Berger)
3 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (again I used Ghiradelli's)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Place both chocolates in a medium stainless steel bowl and place the bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Melt chocolate and remove bowl from pot and set the chocolate aside to cool. (The chocolate should be warm, still very loose and not hot.)

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy, about 30 seconds. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar and beat at high speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add cooled chocolate at low speed, mixing until blended and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed to high and beat until slightly aerated, about 1 minute.

Assembly
Take cooled 4 regular sized or 8 mini cupcakes and crumble them so that you have a dark dirt-like mixture. Taking a cooled cupcake, spread a good layer of frosting on top and then dip the frosted top into the cupcake dirt. Press down firmly so that the crumbs adhere and if necessary shape and mold the crumbs on the cake. Continue until all cupcakes have been frosted and crumbed.

Top with a worm or gummy candy of your choice. Enjoy your dirt!

Printable recipe

the punch I used to make the cupcake toppers....punch and then taped to toothpicks.  Easy!

8 comments:

jcrewphd said...

These look so delicious and "dirt" looks great with the gummy bugs and butterfly. Did you get the butterfly cutouts from Michael's?

Jen said...

Mmmm! I love dirt! These look delicious!

Joanne Choi said...

butterflies I punched using a martha stewart crafts monarch butterfly punch. I'll post a link.

PearlsAndGreenTea said...

Hi! I've been a long time reader but I finally got around to trying one of your recipes yesterday (dak jjim) yesterday and looved it! I'm planning to write about it on my blog tom! Can't wait to try more!

jiye
pearlsandgreentea.blogspot.com

Joy said...

This looks great. I love dirt cake.

jcrewphd said...

I'm planning on making this for my daughter's preschool birthday party this week. Can I make the cupcakes and frosting the night before or do you suggest putting the frosting on the cake the morning of? I have to at work by 8 am so I would like to do as much as I can before hand. Thanks so much!

Joanne Choi said...

@Jcrew - you can complete them the night before (which is what I did) and serve them the next day....no problem. :)

Laurel {Make and Takes} said...

Oh these are so fun! I'd love to have you submit this to the M&T Spotlight at http://www.makeandtakes.com/spotlight

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