Warning: for chocolate lovers only. This recipe was so easy, so delicious, I mastered it in one try. The result is a sweet, soft chocolate cupcake with a glossy, smooth chocolate ganache top. I'll have to credit Giada de Laurentiis with this one, though I'm proud to say my version has a few substitutes, ricotta cheese and a little extra sugar. Though this cake may take awhile -- about 3 hours total, including prep, cooking and cooling time, it's sure to be a party favorite. The recipe makes at least two dozen treats that your friends won't be able to turn down.
Makes: About 25 Prep time: About 1 hour Cook time: About 1 hour
Ingredients: Cupcakes 5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped 1 cup water 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature 2-1/4 cups sugar 1 cup vegetable oil 3 large eggs 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 3 cups all-purpose flour (sifted, preferably) 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon fine sea salt 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Ganache 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1. Line cupcake pan with paper liners (or arrange foil cupcake wrappers on a baking sheet) and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Combine the unsweetened chocolate and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Cool for 2 minutes. Whisk in the ricotta cheese until the mixture is smooth.
3. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in your mixer. Stir in the chocolate-ricotta mixture. Then add the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and chocolate chips. Stir until just blended.
4. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl with spout and pour into the cupcake pan. Alternatively, you can use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to add the mixture to your pan. Allow batter to rest for about 10 minutes.
5. Bake cupcakes for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcake comes out with a very thin -- barely visible -- layer of chocolate. Cool the cupcakes completely before dipping in ganache, about 1 hour.
For the ganache: 1. Combine the heavy cream, vanilla extract and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook until small bubbles appear on the outside edge of the cream. Pour the hot cream mixture in a bowl, over the chocolate chips. Whisk gently until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth, about 2-5 minutes.
2. Dip the tops of each cupcake in the ganache and transfer to a baking sheet. Place the dipped cupcakes in the refrigerator to set, about 20 minutes. Allow cupcakes to return to room temperature before serving.
My Notes: Mine vs. Giada's: The first time I made this I had trouble finding mascarpone at the store, so I substituted it for ricotta cheese instead. Ricotta is light and airy and creamier than it is cheesy -- three very important elements when baking a goodie. Also, when I was making the ganache and taste-testing it, I felt it wasn't quite sweet enough. I prefer it with a tablespoon of sugar. If you choose to add it too, make sure you add it in the saucepan while you're heating the cream and vanilla in order to make sure the grains are incorporated well.
Why go semi-sweet and unsweetened? The reason it's a good idea to stick with the semi and un-sweetened chocolate is so you can control the level of sugar that goes into your cake. I love sweets just as much as the next person, but there's no greater buzzkill than when you realize you can't finish a cupcake because your teeth start hurting halfway through.
Why let the cupcakes "rest?" I learned this one from Giada! Allowing the batter to sit in the baking pan before popping it in the oven results in puffier cupcakes. This recipe should result in a puffy top so it best holds the ganache -- plus, you want a wider surface for that sweet chocolate casing.
When do I use foil cupcake wrappers? When you don't have a cupcake pan, of course. I only have one cupcake pan so sometimes it's easier for me to use the foil wrappers and arrange them on two baking sheets rather than waiting for my first batch of cupcakes to cool before baking the next one.