Cupcake Collapse

Today is my mom’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Mom! We celebrated last weekend at their house with a few adults and many more grandkids (sometimes it seems like a million, at this particular event, there were eight kids from the ages of 11 months to 9 years). When we are there, I make the cake of her choice – this time it was chocolate. I have a tried and true chocolate cake recipe that I rarely stray from – Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten. I have tried in vain to adapt this cake recipe to cupcakes. Each time, the cake is too moist and delicate . . . the crumb too light to hold up in cupcake form . . . but I keep on doing it.

“All men may err; but he that keepeth not his folly, but repenteth, doeth well; but stubbornness cometh to great trouble.” – Sophocles

Stubbornness. That may have something to do with it. No repenteth-ing here. The cake was exactly what you want cake to be – flavorful, moist, light. But, the cupcakes fell apart when the wrapper was removed. This even made one of my nephews cry . . . not over spilled milk, but over a collapsed cupcake. My tweak failure doesn’t change the fact that this is a damn good chocolate cake. Next time you have a yen for chocolate cake, try it. But, please, refrain from tweaking.

Beatty’s Chocolate Cake from Ina Garten

The coffee is really key here. It makes the cake more chocolately somehow. I also put coffee in brownies.

Butter, for greasing the pans

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans

2 cups sugar

3/4 cups good cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk, shaken

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Chocolate Buttercream, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-inch x 2-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

Chocolate Buttercream

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (Garten recommends Callebaut. I use Ghirardelli because that’s the best chocolate that is locally available.)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder (Or a few tablespoons of brewed coffee. I don’t always have instant coffee around and this improvisation works just fine.)

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don’t whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.