Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Aaron's Birthday Chocolate-Bacon Cupcakes

Aaron did a 30 day no red meat challenge from mid-January to mid-February. Because of this, he was talking about missing meat a lot. One day at his volunteer shift at the library he mentioned this and was pointed to a cookbook, called simply I Love Bacon!. Yes, the exclamation point is a part of the title. So, with his birthday shortly after the end of his challenge (it was Monday of last week), I decided to make him a bacon themed dessert. What I learned from this? Bacon makes for ridiculous frosting. Just check out the name: maple-brown butter-bacon frosting. Yeah. It’s like that. Another thing I learned? It makes a lot of frosting, so have another plan for it, like turning this cake into a chocolate version and covering it with this frosting.

Oh, and that if you don’t have any crème fraiche (and don’t have time to make any), you can sub in half heavy cream and half sour cream. That’s knowledge you can use for cupcakery.

Aaron’s Birthday Chocolate-Bacon Cupcakes from I Love Bacon!:

Makes 12

For the maple-brown butter-bacon frosting-
8 slices ¼“ thick bacon, diced into ¼“ pieces
1 c. butter
¼ c. milk
¼ c. heavy whipping cream
2 Tb. crème fraiche (or 1 Tb. heavy cream and 1 Tb. sour cream)
1 Tb. vanilla extract
3 Tb. maple syrup
1 tsp. salt
3 c. confectioners’ sugar

For the cupcakes-
8 Tb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. flour
2 Tb. unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ c. granulated sugar
¾ c. packed brown sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 large eggs
½ c. buttermilk, at room temperature
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 Tb. old-fashioned oats
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
To make the frosting, in a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 10 minutes. Using a mesh sieve, drain the bacon bits by pouring the rendered bacon fat into the bowl of a mixer. Set the bacon pieces aside.

In the same sauté pan, melt the butter and cook until it turns brown and gives off a nutty fragrance, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally so the butter doesn’t burn. When the butter is dark and begins to burn, immediately remove the pan from the heat, scrape all the browned bits loose, and transfer the contents to the mixing bowl with the bacon fat. Refrigerate the bowl until the butter is cold. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the milk, cream, crème fraiche, vanilla, and maple syrup; set aside.

Fit your electric mixer with the paddle attachment. When the browned butter is cold, cream it on medium speed with the salt until blended. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to cream at medium speed until fluffy, about 8 minutes. Slowly add the milk mixture and continue mixing until smooth and homogenous. Refrigerate until cold.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with your amazing silicone liners.

To make the cupcakes, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Put the butter, the sugars, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, turn the speed to low, and add ¼ of the dry ingredient mixture. When no traces of flour remain, add 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Continue evenly alternating the flour mixture and the buttermilk, ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix in the chopped chocolate and oats. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups; each cup should be ¾ full. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove cupcakes from the muffin tin and cool completely on a rack.
When the cupcakes are completely cool, fluff the cold frosting with a small offset spatula until soft and spreadable but not runny. Place about 3 tablespoons of frosting on top of each cupcakes, then sprinkle on about ½ teaspoon of bacon bits and a pinch of sea salt. Serve immediately or after an awesome birthday dinner.

These are so flipping good! The frosting is one of the best I’ve ever had. I know I say that a lot, but this really is. The flavor combination is out of this world. If you want to go bacon free on this one, it’d be pretty easy to do and I may try it at least for the frosting in future recipes. But if you want to make a different cupcake, I’d highly recommend this one.

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