Friday, February 4, 2011

Black (and gold) bottom cupcakes

It's officially the start of Super Bowl weekend, folks!  Even if you don't have a team in the big game on Sunday, I have no doubt that you'll be attending or hosting a party of some sort.  If nothing else, you can sit back and enjoy the usually epic commercials among friends and good food.   I happened to catch a "preview" of some of the big companies' ads this morning on the Today Show but I turned away before I could see too much -- let's just say there will be plenty of monkeys and babies. Yes!

This week, my goal was to give you three delicious recipes that will satisfy hungry football fans everywhere.  I started with a quick and easy appetizer for my mom's irresistible chicken dip, perfect with crackers and veggies.  Yesterday I followed that up with a hearty main dish of slow cooker beef ragu; serve it with your favorite potato or kaiser rolls for a hot and juicy sandwich.  Today I'm going to show you how to make a sweet and portable treat that combines two of the most beloved desserts of all time, chocolate cake and cheesecake.  I present to you black-bottom cupcakes!

Without any hesitation, my first thought about this week's menu was dessert.  For the past two Super Bowls in which the Steelers have played, I've made my Pittsburgh cheesecake -- black and slightly gold Oreo cheesecake.  It's always a huge hit, but it does require a good bit of fuss when it comes to cutting, serving, and even eating.  Worth it, but not ideal for the kind of party where people are standing, sitting, leaning, and otherwise positioned in crowded rooms (with light carpeting, to boot!).

I don't consider myself a superstitious person normally, but when it comes to sports, I may behave a little strangely.  I am very particular about what I wear during Penguins games, where I watch them, and with whom.  I'm not as crazed when it comes to the Steelers... except when it comes to that Oreo cheesecake.  Both years I've made it, Pittsburgh has won.  So, naturally, I had to make it... with a few changes.  Enter black bottom cupcakes: a fluffy chocolate cupcake loaded with cheesecake filling!

Blindfold your inner perfectionist when making these cupcakes.  (If I can do it, you can, too!)  The cream cheese filling will not be centered and, quite frankly, that's part of the charm.  Just behold the glory of the black bottom cupcakes once they are finished.  The "cheesecake" is smooth and creamy while the cupcake is both chocolatey and fluffy.  I know these will be a hit with everyone, so here's hoping the cupcakes continue to act as a good luck charm, too!  "Black and yellow, black and yellow..."  I can't wait for that song to go away forever.  At any rate, go Steelers and happy Super Bowl weekend to all of you!  For which team are you cheering??

One Year Ago: Portobello mushroom lasagna and salted brown butter Rice Krispie treats

A few notes: While it seemed wrong to mess with David's master formula, I felt that he'd approve of adding even more chocolate to the cupcakes in the form of mini chocolate chips in both the cupcake batter and cheesecake filling.  What convinced me was a favorite saying of my beloved Ina's: "How bad can that be?"  So true, my friend.

Black Bottom Cupcakes
(adapted from David Lebovitz's recipe in The Great Book of Chocolate)
-makes 12

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make the filling, beat the cream cheese, egg, and sugar on medium until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips and set aside.

To make the cupcakes, adjust rack to middle of the oven and preheat to 350F.  Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners or butter, if not using papers.  In a large bowl sift together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, being sure to break up brown sugar.  In a small bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, mixing just until smooth.  (Too much stirring will result in not-so-tender cupcakes.)  Fold in chocolate chips.

Divide batter equally among the muffin cups.  Spoon a few tablespoons (about 2 1/2 for me) of the cheesecake filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing evenly among cups.  The cups will be almost completely full and this is a-okay.

Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are just beginning to fleck with gold and cake is springy when pressed.  Cool in muffin pan for 10 minutes, carefully remove cupcakes from pan and cool right side up on a wire rack completely.

Cupcakes can be stored, covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for up to 5.  I find that chilling them gives an extra cheesecake-y feel to the cupcakes.  Enjoy!

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