Here's an easy, fun variation on a classic: German Chocolate Cupcakes, courtesy of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes book. Just like its layer cake counterpart, this cupcake is made by layering chocolate cake with a coconut pecan frosting. I had never made this type of cake before and finally had an excuse to try when my mother in-law's birthday came along.
I made the chocolate cupcakes the day before; they keep very well at room temperature. I followed Martha's recipe almost exactly, with the exception of using a slightly darker chocolate than what was called for. Instead of melted semisweet chocolate, I went for 60% cacao chocolate. I'm sure it is great with the semisweet, but I like the chocolate flavor to be a bit more pronounced, and we all loved it this way.
The coconut-pecan frosting is just as easy; you just have to babysit the stove for 10 minutes so that the ingredients don't burn while cooking. Egg yolks, evaporated milk, brown sugar, and butter are heated on the stovetop. Stirring constantly, you eventually are left with a thick, caramel-colored sort of custard. Finally, you strain out any remaining solids, add in vanilla, salt, and the coconut and toasted pecans, and stir it all together!
Mine thickened considerably upon cooling, and I found that the next day, it was even more solid. I realized that I could actually scoop out a bit of frosting and form it into a shape with my hands, and it would retain that shape. In the end that made it very simple to assemble the cupcakes. Nothing dripped or oozed out the sides as I feared would happen when I first found the recipe.
The cupcakes, when sliced straight across through their centers, were sturdy and did not crumble or fall apart from being cut in half. It was a great cake recipe for that reason; I could see it translating well into layer cake form and being very forgiving when leveled and frosted.
Most importantly, the birthday girl loved her cupcakes! They were delicious, they were attractive, and they were gone fast! What more could you want?
German Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for tins
2 cups cake flour, sifted, plus more for tins
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
5 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used bittersweet 60% cacao chocolate), melted and cooled
For the frosting:
3 large egg yolks
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk (I used fat-free)
1 1/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 package (7 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups pecans (6 ounces), toasted and coarsely chopped
Make cupcakes: 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush standard muffin tins with butter; dust with cake flour, tapping out excess. Whisk together cake flour, baking soda, and salt.
2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combined after each. Beat in chocolate until combined.
3. Divide batter evenly among prepared cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfways through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool 10 minutes. Run a small offset spatula or knife around the edges to loosen; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored up to three days at room temperature in airtight containers.
Make frosting: 1. Heat egg yolks, evaporated milk, brown sugar, and butter in a saucepan over medium, stirring constantly, until thick, about 10 minutes (it should reach the consistency of sour cream). Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl.
2. Stir vanilla, salt, coconut, and pecans into frosting. Let cool completely, stirring occasionally. Frosting can be refrigerated up to 1 day in an airtight container. Before using, bring to room temperature and stir with a flexible spatula until smooth.
Assemble cupcakes: 1. To finish, use a serrated knife (and a gentle sawing motion) to split cupcakes in half horizontally. Spread a heaping tablespoon of frosting on top of each bottom half; replace top halves. Spread more frosting on top of each cupcake. Serve immediately.