Don’t you just love this time of year? The chill in the air, the twinkling lights and sparkly tinsel, carols on the repeat mode… Yes, Christmas has got to be the best time of the year. I’m always excited when I see the first signs of Christmas decorations go up in the malls some time in November, and it’s always a feat to try to hold out whipping my Christmas music stash until after Remembrance Day. But it’s officially December now, and I’m officially in my Christmas celebration mode.
To say that this past week has been a nightmare would be a bit of an understatement. School has been sucking up my life with loads of assignments, and it wasn’t until yesterday that I finally handed in my two major projects that have been stressing me out lately. That said, I’ve had little time to sleep these past few weeks, let alone cook, which explains the slowdown in updates around here. Day after day of miso soup just isn’t very thrilling to blog about, don’t you think?
With my assignments handed in, I needed a bit of a celebratory/therapy baking session. Surprisingly, there are quite a few cupcake fans amongst my publishing peers. In the past, I’ve had lots of cookie fans, and a few cheesecake fans. Seldom did I make cupcakes back in Western though, mostly because there wasn’t an outright demand for them, and also because my classes were so small that I would still be left with a dozen cupcakes sitting on my counter (a dangerous situation for a gal who already has a bad enough sweet tooth!).
These cupcakes almost never happened. My plan to make these Chocolate Mint Cupcakes (from Cupcake Bakeshop) was almost spoiled last week when a friend in the same class told me she was going to make chocolate mint cupcakes as well. For the past week, I had desperately searched high and low for another awe-inspiring cupcake recipe, but alas, I decided to make these anyway. I had been eyeing this recipe for quite some time, and with the holiday season fast upon us, I thought it would be a perfect time for me to finally try them out.
Instead of using the Rich Chocolate Cupcake recipe for these, I reverted to my favourite chocolate cupcake recipe. This cupcake recipe produces an incredibly rich chocolate cake with the perfect crumb—not too dense, but not too light so that it wouldn’t be able to support fillings and toppings. They’re also incredibly moist, and make for a wonderful treat just on their own (preferably with a tall, cold glass of milk!). Trust me, these cupcakes will change your life. And if you’ve always been a cake-mix person, I dare you to go back to the boxed thing after trying these.
I loved the chocolate-mint ganache filling. It adds a nice, elegant touch to the cupcake, and makes for a nice surprise to the unsuspected. I followed the suggestion and used fresh mint. You can really tell that it’s fresh mint being used when you bite into the ganache centre. The mint flavour is considerably different—much fresher and almost grassy tasting. I did add a bit more chopped mint to the chocolate ganache than suggested, as well as a few drops of peppermint extract to help boost the mint flavour against the dark chocolate (I really love a more pronounced mint presence in chocolate since I adore the combination so much). I think next time, I’ll make chocolate mint truffles using this method.
As for my icing, I tried to do a really cool two-toned effect with red and white. Alas, my piping skills are still lacking, and the entire experiment failed miserably, resulting in extremely pink (!!) cupcakes. Not very Christmasy. And might I add, for the record, how incredibly impossible it is to find regular candy canes nowadays? I tried a number of different stores yesterday, and none of them had regular peppermint candy canes in stock. How ridiculous is that? There went my plans of decorating my cupcakes with crushed candy cane. Instead, I stuck pieces of After Eight chocolate sticks into the cupcake. But if anyone spots candy canes anywhere, let me know. Maybe I need to stock up on them…
I’m quite happy how these turned out in the end, except for the ugliness of them with my bad piping and pink frosting and all. However, they were delicious and quite satisfying. Then again, give me anything with chocolate and mint combined and I’m a pretty happy camper! So here’s three cheers to the official start of holiday baking 2008!