March 19, 2012

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

I've never been much of a planner. I mean, a plan-ahead-type planner. I like to plan things, but generally they're like fantasy things. Like my Oscar speech for when I win best adapted screenplay, adapted from one of my own novels, of course (which have never been published (and I've never written a screenplay in my life)).

This is pretty odd when I think about it, as most of my hobbies are things you'd think you have to plan ahead. Writing, jewellery design, baking. Blog posts. Don't get me wrong, I would love to be able to plan ahead, but the few times I've tried to outline, or design, or plan a recipe, I end up deviating so far that it ends up being absolutely no help and a waste of time. In NaNoWriMo, there's a term for people like me. We're pantsers. Because we fly by the seat of our pants. I'll go in with a vague idea for a plot, or a certain type of bead, or a flavor idea, and when I'm really lucky, I'll know a little bit more of what I want to do. Then I take that and plunge in, and see what I get when I emerge.

Mostly it's a good thing. A kid's book about the Cheese Man. A cloisonne memory-wire bracelet with Swarovski bicone beads. Applesauce cupcakes. Occasionally, it's a hot mess, but luckily I seem to have an instinct for this sort of thing.

These cupcakes are a prime example of what I can come up with when I have nothing more than a vague idea to go on. See, the bestie's birthday was Thursday, and on a whim I decided to get her Zombie Head Bon Bons from Think Geek, as I could get them free with my geek points. They're chocolate, with chewy cherry brains in the center. I thought about putting them on cupcakes for her, but because of the crazy work hours last week, I didn't have the chance. Still, the idea stuck in my head. What sort of cupcake would I make with them? Cherry and chocolate, obviously, but not like my Cherry Cordial Cupcakes, something different.

Sunday afternoon, I decided to make cupcakes. The chocolate and cherry cupcake idea was still in my head, and I had a jar of maraschino cherry juice reserved in the refrigerator, left over from the afore mentioned cherry cordial cupcakes. Then and there I decided to make cherry chocolate chip cupcakes, and I made it up from there.

You'll find that I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention taking pictures. No ninja ingredients, but not for lack of trying. I have no idea why I put the baking powder front and center, while you can barely see the milk and maraschino cherry juice. Anyway, you'll need milk, cherry juice, baking powder, salt, cake flour, sugar, butter, mini chocolate chips, and egg whites. Why egg whites? I got this idea in my head that a cherry cupcake should be sweet and light and fluffy. Don't ask why, because I don't know. But this recipe is closer to a white or angel food cake recipe than anything else.
Hi Viola! It's been a while since we saw you.
Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. While that's going...
From wannabe ninja to photobomber, I present: Maraschino Cherry Juice!
...Mix together the milk and cherry juice (please note: do not substitute Pepto Bismal). This is actually about half of what you'll need. I make things up as a go along; I'm bound to underestimate once in a while.
Add a little bit of the milk to the butter, just to get it wet, then beat in half the flour (mixed with the baking powder and salt, of course). Beat in the rest of the milk, and follow with the rest of the flour.
Whip up the egg whites separately and then fold them in, along with the chocolate chips. Fill your muffin tins and then bake at 350 degrees, or until the tops spring back when pressed.
These ended up being such a sweet pink that would be perfect for a baby shower, or a little girl's birthday party, or a tea party. Yes, I still have tea parties, doesn't everyone?
As for the frosting, I didn't take any pictures, so you're on your own, kiddo. But it wasn't hard to whip up. And full disclosure- I actually prefer these unfrosted. They're perfect on their own, but the sweet pink frosting adds an extra touch of fun and whimsy, don't you think? Or am I reading too much into frosting? I do that.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes {Printable Version}
Yield: 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
½ cup maraschino cherry juice
½ cup milk
2 ½ cups cake flour
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
4 egg whites
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
2 tbsp. vegetable shortening
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice
½ cup whipping cream

For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°. Line 2 muffin tins with 24 paper liners. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together at medium speed until fluffy. Mix together the milk and cherry juice and add about ¼ cup to the butter mixture. Beat until fully incorporated. In a large bowl, mix together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Add about half of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until just combined. Add the rest of the milk mixture, followed by the rest of the flour mixture. Beat until smooth. In a separate bowl with clean beaters, whip the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the egg whites and chocolate chips into the prepared batter. Fill the liners about 2/3 of the way (about 2 tbsp.) and bake for 15 minutes, or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when pressed. Let cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

For the frosting: using an electric mixer, beat the butter, shortening, and about 1 cup of the sugar. Gradually add the remaining sugar and the cherry juice. Add the whipping cream and beat on medium speed until just combined, then whip on high speed until light and fluffy.

Recipe by Kim