Thursday, October 21, 2010

An Experiment in Contest Baking

Ok, so it wasn't exactly the Gold Medal Flour Baking Contest, but I did sign up to enter a baking contest put together for the annual office picnic.  With more than 100 people in the division, I shouldn't have been shocked that there were 17 entries, but still - dang!  17 entries!  

I felt good about my chances going in, mostly because my coworkers are really supportive of all my baking efforts (seriously, the stuff disappears approximately 14.8 seconds after I put it on the front desk counter).  Still, I knew that I needed to up my game and really bring the goods.
So instead of going with a recipe that is tried and true and always wins rave reviews at the office, I decided to play to the chocoholic tendencies of the office director (who was one of the judges) and just go crazy with the chocolate love by tweaking a recipe that I used for my daughter's birthday to go with the cupcake craze.  

However, I couldn't decide whether I prefered chocolate or peanut butter frosting.  Therefore, I forced my relatives to act as taste testers when they visited recently.  Trust me, they really hated this.  Really.

Even though there was some disagreement about the frosting choices, the general consensus was that there shouldn't really be a choice between chocolate or peanut butter.  We discussed filling the cupcake with peanut butter frosting; we thought about topping the cupcake with the peanut butter frosting and chopped up peanut butter cups or chocolate chips.  But after much debate and a few hours of internet research, I decided to take inspiration from one of my favorite food places in the region and build a peanut butter cup cupcake.  Which sounded weird and needed a better name.  Thus the Sky High Peanut Butter Cupcake was born.

Now, here is where I would begin with the step-by-step instructions for the recipe with lots of pictures.  Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in preparing the cupcakes and not completely screwing them up that I neglected to take pictures until the end.

So, until I get a chance to make these again, all you get are these pictures and the recipe.  Sorry about that.

Oh, and as for the results of the baking contest?  I didn't win.  I know, bummer, right?  However, one of my coworkers (who happened to be on the judging panel) told me that of the judges, only one did not give me a 9 out of 10.  That last, hold-out judge apparently said that my dessert was too rich.  (Maybe I'm just crazy, but really - is there such a thing as a dessert that is too rich?!?)  In her defense, my dessert was one of the last to get judged, so she was probably dessert-ed out by that point.  I think I would be more disappointed if I hadn't had so many people ask for the recipe and tell me that I'd been "robbed".

I work with some pretty awesome people. :)

Sky High Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Recipes from Shauna at Piece of Cake, Brown Eyed Baker, and Martha Stewart:

Double Chocolate Cupcakes (very slightly adapted from Shauna at Piece of Cake):

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee (or 1 tsp instant espresso dissolved in 3/4 cup hot water)
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Peanut Butter Frosting (from BrownEyedBaker):

2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter (I really like Peanut Butter & Co.'s "Smooth Operator")
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Chocolate Coating (adapted from Martha Stewart):

3 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate
4 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Spray the top of the muffin tin with cooking spray or wipe with a towel sprayed with cooking spray to keep the cupcakes from sticking.

Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well-mixed. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups, filling each cup no more than 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely before frosting.

Prepare the Peanut Butter Frosting: Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Transfer frosting to a large pastry bag or ziplock bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain pastry tip (I used the wrong piping tip when I made these the first time; with such a thick frosting, I recommend either using a 3/4-inch plain pastry tip or just snipping off the end of the ziplock bag for a decent-sized hole).   Leaving a 1/8-inch border on each cupcake, pipe a spiral of frosting into a 2-inch-high cone shape, using about 1/2 cup of frosting per cupcake. Transfer cupcakes to a baking sheet or large platter and refrigerate while preparing the chocolate coating. 

Prepare the chocolate coating: Combine chocolate and oil in a medium heat-proof bowl set over a medium saucepan of barely simmering water; stir until melted and smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and let cool about 15 minutes. (Alternate method:  You can also combine the chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on medium-high for 30 seconds; stir and repeat until the chocolate is melted and smooth.)

1 comment:

Linda said...

I've never tried the peanut butter and chocolate combination in a cake. It's not very common in the UK. There is one chocolate bar on sale which combines the two, but very few cakes. I'm intrigued. No wonder this disappeared so fast!