I have never had the chance to craft my own recipe before. So, Dove Dark Chocolate people, thanks for the opportunity. Challenge: accepted. The requirements to participate in the Dove "30 Days of Dark" were only to use and showcase Dove Dark Chocolate, of which they sent me plenty. I talked to my friends about their ideas (thanks Michael, Diane, Brooke and Leslie) and consulted my extensive collection of cupcake cookbooks, but in the end it was a memory that did it.
I had the best slice of Black Forest cake many years ago at a tiny place in Fort Worth, Texas, called the Swiss Pastry Shop. It was so light and crisp and all cherry-sugary-dark-chocolate air. The shop/cafeteria calls it the UnCake. So that was the taste memory I wanted to bake in cupcake form. Sadly, the way their cake is made isn't something I could do in my tiny NYC-size apartment kitchen. But I could try to re-create the flavors involved, which I did.
After scouring many, many recipes for Black Forest cake and taste-testing four or five of them, I settled on an adaptation of a recipe I found online. Thank you to Victoria Threader, who ended up having the best cake recipe basis, albeit not the easiest. I took that recipe and played with it for a week or so, changing it to suit my tastes and desires. Once I settled onto the recipe that I liked best, I got to work crafting my masterpiece.
(Pay no attention to the cat trying to steal the chocolate. Bad kitty!)
First thing I did was get the kirsch. As someone who doesn't drink and hasn't had hard spirits like eau-de-vie before, I was on a mission to use an ingredient I'd not tasted, only heard of. I tried to find a sample-size bottle of it but was turned down flat at the first dozen Manhattan liquor stored I called. I must say that Sherry-Lehmann was extra helpful in suggesting I make my own kirsch by using plain vodka and cherries macerated in the fridge. I didn't have the time, so I bit the bullet and bought the expensive bottle of Clear Creek Distilleries Kirschwasser. Ouch, my wallet complained. The rest of me would be complaining too by the end of the recipe-making period. But more on that later.
Here's my ingredient-laden recipe:
Black Forest Cupcakes with Black-Cherry Filling and Kirsch Whipped Cream
(makes approximately 24 cupcakes)
Dark chocolate cupcakes:
8 ounces sweet butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
8 ounces Dove Dark Chocolate, broken into pieces
1 Tablespoon instant coffee granules, plus 1 teaspoon coffee extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup water, room temperature
4.25 ounces self-rising flour
4.25 ounces unbleached flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1.75 ounces unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound superfine (or bar) sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup buttermilk
¼ cup kirsch (not cherry brandy or heering)
¼ cup black cherry or tart cherry preserves
1 jar of black-cherry preserves, warmed slightly
Squeeze of lemon
Kirsch whipped cream:
1 pint heavy whipping cream, ice cold
2 Tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
3 Tablespoons kirsch
¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
½ teaspoon cornstarch
Dove Dark Chocolate shavings
Cherries (I used maraschino, but fresh cherries when in season are preferable)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Combine butter, Dove Dark Chocolate, instant coffee and coffee extract plus water in double-boiler and stir gently until completely melted. Put aside until cooled.
Sift together the flours, cornstarch, baking soda, cocoa, cinnamon, sugar and salt into a large bowl.
Add beaten eggs, oil and buttermilk plus the cooling chocolate mix and stir until incorporated. Do not over mix!
Fill cupcake liners approximately halfway with mixture, and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until cake tester or toothpick comes out clean from center of cupcake. Allow cupcakes to cool on rack for at least 30 minutes before filling.
To make syrup:
Heat ¼ cup of the black cherry preserves until warm but not hot, and strain, eat the leftover cherries. Add ¼ cup kirsch to strained syrup. Stir well and put aside.
To make filling:
Slightly warm a jar of black cherry preserves. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Combine. Fill a piping bag or injector, or just set aside to spoon-fill cooled cupcakes.
To make kirsch whipped cream topping:
Important: Chill all instruments used in making this topping. Take cold heavy cream and add it to chilled stand mixer bowl. Add the confectioners’ sugar, the vanilla bean paste, kirsch and corn starch. Whip until stiff peaks form. Transfer topping to piping bag, put in refrigerator. Keep cold!
When cupcakes are cooled, core the center or use paring knife to cut a hole in the cupcakes. Eat the cupcake scraps, it’s the chef’s prerogative! Fill cupcakes with the warm black cherry preserves, either by spoon or via injector. A bit of overflow is fine, these cupcake are created to be dry enough to soak up the alcohol, syrup and cherries.
Liberally brush tops of cupcakes with the kirsch syrup. Allow kirsch to soak into cupcakes (about 30 minutes) and brush again (and again if desired). I went very heavy with the kirsch syrup.
Using the pastry bag filled with kirsch whipped cream, ice cupcakes with any frosting design you please. Top with shaved Dove Dark Chocolate curls and a cherry.
Serve, and impress your friends.
So, I would have served and impressed my friends, except for the drunken mess I was in. I was taste-testing the cupcakes, the whipped cream, and the syrup, all alcohol-laden. For a teetotaler like myself, it wasn't the wisest move. By the time I had snacked on my second whole cupcake (!), I was woozy/tipsy/drunk and even the cat was a bit inebriated. Life lesson learned there.
The next day as I surveyed the mess I'd made of the kitchen (there were even dirty dishes in the bathtub-- ick!), the scraps of Dove chocolate foil wrappers bearing sayings and thoughts, which I had spread out on the table, and the remnants of the cupcakes I'd eaten I was both impressed that I hadn't tossed my cookies (er, cupcakes?) in the overnight and horrified at the mess I'd created. But I was also proud. Proud of my super-delicious dark chocolate and cherry Black Forest cupcakes and of myself.