As the clock crept closer and closer to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 26th, I became surer and surer that I never wanted to see another cupcake in my life.
Don’t get me wrong. I love baking and I love cupcakes—love both of those things so much, in fact, that I volunteered my time and money and ingredients to prepare no fewer than 220 mini cupcakes for Iron Cupcake Madison on that Sunday.
What’s Iron Cupcake? Exactly what it sounds like, mostly—a spirited, friendly bake-off among local people who really enjoy cupcakes. The event takes places locally all over the country via the efforts of generous and superhuman-like coordinators such as Madison’s Nancy Sorenson.
At this particular Iron Cupcake, there were a total of 17 bakers producing cupcakes on the theme of “children’s books.” The amazing range of creations ranged from Harry Potter-inspired butterbeer cupcakes to “Painting the Roses Red Velvet” cupcakes from Alice in Wonderland to peanut-butter-and-pickle cupcakes inspired by Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Since I am something of a chocoholic, I crafted Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chocolate cupcakes, with a chocolate cake base, dark cocoa , bittermousse fillingsweet ganache frosting, and caramelized sugar “golden tickets” adorning each little cake.
As a chocolate snob, I shelled out quite a bit on ingredients because I was not willing to use anything less than top-quality cocoa powder and solid chocolate. Also, the cakes were vegan, so I had to figure out suitable egg and dairy substitutes.
I’d never baked for more than eight people before in my life, so I was a bit nervous and intimidated at the thought of preparing more than 200 cupcakes, but I was also enthused. Challenges excite me, especially when they involve delicious things that I can create in my kitchen. On the morning of the competition, I woke up at 6:30 and began baking. I finished at 9:30 and began decorating immediately thereafter. At 11:45, I loaded up my cupcakes in trays and boxes, arranged them carefully in my car, and headed to the event. At 1 p.m., people started streaming in, and all 220 of my cupcakes were gone by 2:10, shortly after the event sold out with a cap of about 250 people. Amazing!
Although I did not win any prizes, I was quite happy with the way my cupcakes turned out. They’re definitely intense on the chocolate, so if you’re a milk chocolate type of person who goes for sweetness over body, you may not like these. With that said, my fellow chocoholics know who they are, and they deserve to check out the recipe:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Vegan Cupcakes
Makes about 20 standard cupcakes or two 9-inch cake layers
1 c. boiling water
2 tsp. instant espresso powder
3/4 c. whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cake flour
1 3/4 c. sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar)
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Callebaut)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 c. minus 1 T. soymilk
1 T. apple cider vinegar
2 T. ground flaxseeds
6 T. water
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the soymilk and apple cider vinegar, stir briefly, and set the mixture aside to curdle. In a medium bowl, stir the espresso powder and water together. In a larger bowl, whisk the flours, sucanat, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In the espresso bowl, add the soymilk mixture, ground flaxseeds, water, canola oil, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and beat the batter with an electric mixer for about a minute or until it is smooth and well blended. Distribute the batter among cupcake liners, and bake the cupcakes for about 23-25 minutes or until a toothpick poked in them comes out clean.
I used an amazing vegan recipe from ForgivingMartha.com. Secret ingredient: avocados!
1/4 lb. bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 lb. unsweetened solid chocolate, chopped
8 oz. coconut milk creamer
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c. vegan granulated sugar
Set the chocolate chips and chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. In a medium saucepan, whisk the coconut milk creamer with the cocoa powder and sugar. Warm the mixture over medium heat until it begins to bubble at the edges. Pour it over the chopped chocolate, stir until the mixture is smooth, and let the ganache sit at room temperature for two hours or until it reaches a spreadable consistency.