When I think about Valentine's, I always remember the elementary school parties, where everyone would hang their brown paper bag that they'd decorated with pink and red hearts and lots of glitter on the bulletin board, and then we'd all take turns dropping our cards and candy into each other's bags.
Of course, the rule was that everyone had to give a Valentine to each and every classmate so that no one was left out. This meant that the night before, many anxious hours were spent at the kitchen table after dinner, carefully choosing which card should be addressed to each classmate. It could be disastrous to give a card that said "hug me" or "you're cute" to the boy in the brown plaid pants who smelled bad and ate his boogers.
But whoever was the current object of my little girl crushes would get whichever card I deemed to be the most special and romantic, you know, like "true love" or "kiss me".
To be honest, I never liked the tasted of those little candy conversation hearts - they're too sweet and have a chalkiness that I don't care for - but I do like all the cute little sayings. So my inspiration for these cupcakes is both from those little conversation hearts and also from one of my favorite pre-packaged snack cakes - the chocolate cupcake by a very popular brand that I'm sure you all are familiar with.
For my cupcake, I baked a dark chocolate cupcake, moist and rich with sour cream, and tart cherry juice and espresso powder to enhance the chocolate. Inside the cakes is a lightly sweetenend whipped cream filling. Then I dipped them in bittersweet ganache for a smooth finish. And lastly, vanilla icing piped over the ganache.
These little cakes are fantastically delicious, and so much better than the store-bought version, if I do say so. And just too cute for Valentine's Day, as well as totally customizable for your Valentine.
Chocolate Cream-Filled Ganache-Covered Valentine's Cupcakes
- 1 box devil's food cake mix
- 1/2 cup Hershey's special dark unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon espresso powder
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup sour cream (full fat)
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup tart cherry juice
- red food coloring (optional)
- 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
- 4 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (60% cacao is good)
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
- 5 ounces (1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons) heavy whipping cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup shortening
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon meringue powder (available at Hobby Lobby)
- 1/4 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon clear piping gel (available at Hobby Lobby)
- milk or water
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a muffin pan with 24 paper liners.
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine all of the cake ingredients on low speed, then beat for 3 minutes on medium speed. Spoon the batter into the paper liners. Bake on the middle rack, rotating the pans once, for 14-18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs (don't overbake).
Cool in the pans for 2 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack, cover with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.
When the cupcakes are cool, use a cupcake corer to remove a small amount from the center of each cupcake.
With an electric mixer, whip the cream and powdered sugar until firm, stable peaks form. Scoop into a piping bag and pipe the whipped cream into the center of the cupcakes, filling them right to the top. Set aside, covered if possible, to prevent them from drying out.
Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Sprinkle the espresso powder over the chocolate. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat gently over medium low heat, just until bubbles form around the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes.
Gently stir the chocolate and cream together with a spatula, until it becomes smooth and shiny.
Take a cupcake and dip it into the ganache so that the top is completely covered; lightly shake off the excess. Repeat with all the cupcakes, using a spatula if needed to help spread the last of the ganache on the cupcakes.
Set aside, covered, and let the ganache set for about an hour.
With an electric mixer, combine the butter, shortening, powdered sugar, meringue powder, clear vanilla and piping gel in a bowl until combined. Add milk or water, just a few drops at a time, and mix until the icing becomes the right consistency for piping. If it's too dry, it won't flow smoothly out of a small round tip, so if you're not sure, test a little first and then add more liquid as needed.
Scrape into a piping bag fitted with a small round tip. Decorate the cupcakes with stripes, polka dots, hearts, phrases, and sprinkles. Have fun!
Yields 24 cupcakes
Recipe and Designs from Curly Girl Kitchen