With six to eight layers in a single cupcake, ganache in between them and a glossy chocolate glaze to coat them, these modern versions of Smith Island cakes are sure to please.
For best results, make the cupcakes and ganache 1 day in advance; the cupcakes will be easier to cut into thin layers. The ganache can remain covered at room temperature or can be covered and refrigerated. Allow to come to room temperature before using.
The Lewes Dairy brand of heavy cream that baker Kendall Barrett prefers is available at some Whole Foods Markets.
Cake expert Kendall Barrett brushes cake layers with simple syrup to keep them moist. Even in her Smith Island Cupcakes, she says, "added moisture and possible flavor, if you choose to flavor your punch [hence the term], is a benefit for any cake or cupcake. You expose so much surface when you cut the layers, there will undoubtedly be a little drying out."
Servings: 9 large cupcakes
- For the cupcakes
- 2 3/4 cups flour, preferably King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
- 1 3/4 teaspoons plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, preferably Plugra brand, at room temperature
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
- For the simple syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- Flavoring, such as Grand Marnier (optional)
- For the chocolate ganache
- 1 pound semisweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona, chopped
- 2 cups heavy cream, preferably Lewes Dairy brand
- For the chocolate glaze
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona, chopped
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, preferably Plugra brand
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 5 teaspoons water
For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degees. Line regular-size cupcake pans with paper liners.
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or use a hand-held electric mixer; beat on medium speed for several minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract; after they have been well incorporated, beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes until well incorporated.
Reduce the speed to low and add about 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients; beat until combined and then add 1/3 of the milk. Alternate additions of the remaining wet and dry ingredients, stopping often to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Do not overmix, which can toughen the cupcakes.
Divide the batter among the cupcake liners and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when touched. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Cover loosely until ready to assemble.
For the simple syrup: Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and let cool. Add flavoring, if desired.
For the ganache: Have ready a large roasting pan or hotel pan.
Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl.
Bring the cream to a boil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate; stir until well incorporated to form a ganache. Pour into the roasting pan or hotel pan, spreading it evenly so the ganache cools naturally, quickly and completely.
When ready to assemble, make the chocolate glaze: Heat about 1 inch of water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Place a medium stainless-steel mixing bowl on top, fitting it snugly over the opening of the saucepan. Combine the chocolate, butter, light corn syrup and water in the bowl, stirring gently to combine. Remove from the heat.
To assemble: Remove the cupcakes from their paper liners. Working with 1 cupcake at a time, turn it on its side and use a serrated knife to cut 8 very thin, equal layers, keeping them in proper order. (if you have trouble with this, freeze the cupcakes for up to 1 hour to firm them up a bit.)
Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the bottom layer with simple syrup. (This is called "punching"; see TIP.) Spread a thin layer of ganache on the bottom layer. (The ganache should be like soft fudge but very spreadable.) Repeat with the remaining cupcake layers, rebuilding the cupcake right side up and ending with a coating of ganache on the top. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes, until the cupcakes are set.
Place a large wire cooling rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the filled cupcakes on the rack. Spread a little ganache on the sides of the cupcakes to cover any crumbs (and provide a surface for the glaze to cling to).
Ladle the chocolate glaze over the cupcakes, allowing the excess glaze to drip onto the baking sheet. When the glaze has set, seat the cupcakes in clean paper cupcake liners.
From Kendall Barrett of Kendall's Cakes in Falls Church.
Tested by Vanessa Williams.
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