In my post earlier this week (Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes), I made a statement that alluded to my feelings that cupcakes with filling are the only ones worth eating.
I’m about to prove myself a liar.
You see, I had a really hard time jumping onboard with this “cupcake” craze that has come over the country over the past several years. My experience with cupcakes was going a birthday party where we ate cupcakes made from a boxed cake mix with storebought buttercream frosting. It was 50% air and gone in three bites, and I was in no way satisfied. In all honesty, I could have downed 3 more cupcakes no problem. But social pressures always kept me, disgruntled and unsatisfied, at one cupcake.
So when the cupcake craze hit and all these boutique cupcake shops started popping up, I looked at them and said in disbelief, “There’s no WAY I’m paying $3.75 for one stinking 3-bite cupcake!”
Of course, here and there I’d get to try a free gourmet cupcake at a work party, wedding reception, etc., and realized that cupcakes can be quite delightful. I really dug it when the cupcake was filled with some perfectly matched, ambrosial filling that made the cupcake more robust in both flavor and substance. I decided I could at least respect the cupcake obsession, if not climbing 100% onboard the cupcake train.
Until one day I decided to test my faith and dropped the $3.75 at a cupcake store – only to find that the cupcake had NO FILLING! That overpriced excuse for a delicacy was no more than a glorified boxed cake mix cupcake with a fancy frosting job. Booh, cupcake boutique store. Poorly played.
But these cupcakes I’m about to tell you about…well, I’m going to eat my words. Because these cupcakes are so stinking good they don’t even need a filling.
Because they have something even more powerful. They have – bacon.
Yes, bacon, the other culinary craze of our day. I just read a rather humorous Huffington Post article the other day about “The 22 Most Hipster Foods on the Planet“. Pretty darn funny. One of my favorites was the author’s response to bacon being one of the most “hipster” foods:
“You can like bacon, but you can’t own bacon. You have to recognize that the WHOLE WORLD likes bacon too. Liking bacon does not make you tough, nor does it make you special.”
And that, my friends, is why this cupcake needs no filling. Because it has BACON. And chocolate. Lots of chocolate. And what more could you possibly need?
For those of you that are skeptical, I would exhort you to try it. The deep richness of the cocoa flavor in these cupcakes is subtly enhanced by the smoky salt of the bacon. And the bacon pieces add just enough texture and call just enough attention to themselves that it sends your taste buds into a frenzied tango as they decide which flavor to fixate on.
So I share with you this delightful little recipe (which I found in an Allrecipes magazine (a freebie bonus to the Parent’s Magazine subscription I got succored into at Motherhood Maternity…a fortunate succoring, I’d say!)). My notes are below in the directions – and I need your culinary expertise/help with one thing at the bottom, please! Enjoy!
Dark Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes
Makes 24 cupcakes
12 slices bacon
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (plus 1 tablespoon for dusting, if desired)
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup strong brewed coffee, cold (I use “Pero”, a coffee alternative)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin tins with cupcake liners.
2. Cook bacon slices until evenly brown. (I’ve done mine in both the microwave (which my husband considers heresy) and a large skillet. I’d suggest cooking the bacon 6 slices at a time to ensure they get done evenly.) Drain the bacon. Crumble the bacon into large bits (I put mine in my 1-cup food chopper and pulse 8-10 times until the bits reach the desired size.)
3. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 3/4 cup of coca powder, the sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in eggs, coffee, buttermilk, and oil. Stir just until blended. The batter will be rather thin. Mix in 3/4 of the bacon, reserving the rest for garnish. (Note: I never have buttermilk. I always just mix scant 1 cup milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and let it sit for about 5 minutes – voila!)
4. Spoon batter into prepared cups, dividing evenly. Bake in preheated oven until the tops spring back when lightly pressed, about 20 minutes.
5. Cool completely in pan set over a wire rack. When cool, frost with chocolate buttercream frosting (below). Dust with cocoa powder, and sprinkle with bacon bits.
A few notes:
Bacon: In the magazine I orginally pulled this from, the comments suggested that you cook the bacon until it’s really crispy, and then make sure you chop it up very finely. I made sure to do that the first time, and they were good. Good enough to make another batch of these less than 2 weeks later…whoops. But the 2nd time I made them, I cooked the bacon until it was done through but still slightly chewy. I then tossed it into my little 1-cup food chopper and pulsed until it was in chunks (still small-ish, but not tiny – more like the legit bacon-bits you find in salad bars). And this time – they were KILLER. I feel like you got SO much more flavor from the bacon like this. It didn’t get so lost in the deep chocolate. So my recommendation: cook bacon until still chewy, then pulse in food chopper until in “bacon bit-sized” pieces.
Coffee: I’ve never had a cup of coffee in my life, though coffee shops are one of this Granola Girl’s favorite places on this planet. I used a cup of a drink called Pero – very similar to a toasted barley drink I drank a lot of in Chile (Eco or Coronado were the brands down there). If you don’t want to use coffee or Pero, you could also just use a cup of water. I might toss in a splash of vanilla if I were using water.
Decorating: The possibilities are endless here! I love the taste you get from sprinkling the remaining bacon bits on top of the frosting. Or you can be more artistic and stand up small pieces of bacon in the frosting. My one piece of advice: If you want to sprinkle cocoa powder over the cupcakes, make sure you do that FIRST before putting the bacon on. I didn’t do that on a few cupcakes, and I thought the bacon looked weird dusted with cocoa powder…And who likes weird-looking bacon???
The original recipe gave directions for the cupcakes and then said, “frost with your favorite chocolate frosting”. I used my mom’s classic buttercream frosting that I’ve been making (or consuming) for my entire life and altered it a bit, but I also think it’d be great with a more fudgy frosting. Do you have a favorite chocolate frosting recipe that you think would go well with these? Please share! I’m still trying to find my silver-bullet chocolate frosting. I’d love to hear about yours!
Dark Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1-3 Tablespoons milk
1-2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter (I use the whisk attachment in my kitchaid. Make sure you have the sprayguard thing on – you’re gonna need it!). Add the cocoa, and cream it into the butter.
2. Add the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, mixing slowly and gradually speeding up until fully incorporated. It will be thick and “dry”. Add in salt and vanilla.
3. Add in 1 tablespoon of milk and mix until combined. Continue adding milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until you reach desired consistency (I only used 2 tablespoons last time I made it).
4. Slowly add in corn syrup while mixing.
5. Spread or pipe over cupcakes. Dust with cocoa powder immediately (while still “wet”), then sprinkle with bacon bits.
Ok, ladies and gents, here’s where I need your help: While these cupcakes don’t NEED a filling, I’m always up for adding more depth to the flavors and textures in a recipe. So if we WERE to try a filling in this cupcake, what would you do? I thought of doing a chocolate ganache-type filling, but I feel like the chocolate is already in danger of overpowering the bacon flavor, and a chocolate ganache would just tip that delicate balance of flavors over the edge. I also thought about doing a filling of bacon bits held together with a syrupy mapley goo…but I think the texture would be all wrong, and I don’t know if maple would mix well with these flavors…or would it? What do you think?