I did it – I had a fourth baby! As cute and fun as babies are (well, most of the time anyway), I do indeed hope that this is my last one!
In the 14 days since his birth, I’ve managed to bake a batch of these easy peanut butter cookies with chocolate chunks and astonishingly, I even had time to bake a batch of cupcakes. I received the May issue of MasterChef Australia magazine just before I wound up in the hospital in labor, and while sitting in the hospital bed the day after the birth, bored out of my mind, I read through the magazine. I look forward to Marion Grasby‘s recipe each month as she is one of my favorite former MasterChef contestants – second only to Billy Law, of course! This month, Marion had produced a fantastic-looking recipe for flourless chocolate cupcakes with salted almond frosting. At that particular time, I had no idea when I’d be able to bake them for myself.
As it ends up, however, I haven’t been too overwhelmed with four children. With two away at school three days per week (my oldest, in Year 1, goes five days per week of course, but my 4-year-old only goes to preschool three days per week), these 3 days are proving to be the ones where I can still do stuff for myself, like bake something. So, during my newborn’s second week of life outside the womb, I decided I would make Marion’s cupcakes and would stretch out the process of making them over two days, just to make it a little easier on myself.
Well, it actually took three days. On day one, I made the cupcakes. On day two, I discovered that I was short 60g of butter for the frosting. And later that day, I discovered that I didn’t have almond essence (I thought that I did!?). So on day three, I bought more butter and almond essence and finished up the cupcakes.
The chocolate cakes are made with almond meal and are completely flourless. Although there might be an extra step or two involved in making the cakes – whisking egg yolks and egg whites separately -, these are not difficult to whip up. The result is a rich chocolatey taste with a moist, fudgey, soft texture and crackly top. The cakes are really delicious all on their own and would make a great base to other frostings, I’m sure.
The frosting is the really special component to these cupcakes, though, I believe. I had never thought of or even heard of salted almond-anything before, but a search on google informs me that there are indeed quite a few salted almond-things out there. This frosting is basically your average buttercream, but with almond essence and sea salt flakes thrown in.
Frosting the cakes was troublesome for me. The frosting was a bit thick and while I thought about adding some milk (the only liquid in the recipe is the vanilla extract and almond essence), I decided against it in case it did something weird to the frosting – I didn’t want to risk it! So, as the frosting was a bit difficult to spread, and the tops of the cakes were crackly, I found that as I spread the frosting around the cake, the tops of the cakes just crumbled off and got mixed into the frosting. I had to be really careful in spreading the frosting just to end up with a few photograph-worthy cupcakes! I’m not sure if this is just how it was meant to be, or if I didn’t bake the cakes for long enough (the recipe says 30 minutes, but I took them out at about 25 minutes)? I’m not too sure.
As I mentioned the cakes themselves taste great on their own. The frosting tastes great too. But when I took my first bite of the cupcake, with cake and frosting in one bite, the perfection of the flavor combination really shone. The chocolate and salted almond flavors make an amazing pair. The chocolate flavor seemed stronger and deeper, and the hint of salt in the frosting really popped. I was super impressed with these cupcakes and no doubt these will be making more appearances in my kitchen!
I was so pleased with them that I tweeted one of my photos of the cupcakes and mentioned Marion in the tweet. Imagine my surprise when she actually replied back to me and retweeted my photo! Here was our brief conversation:
And not only was I super happy to receive a reply from one of my favorite former MasterChef contestants, I was also happy to receive a Twitter mention from Gary Mehigan’s (one of MasterChef Australia’s judges) restaurant, Fenix:
You really gotta love Twitter!
Anyway, Marion’s recipe for these flourless chocolate cupcakes with salted almond frosting is below.
Adapted from Marion Grasby & MasterChef Australia magazine, May 2012 issue
Makes 12 cupcakes
Ingredients for cupcakes:
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
150g unsalted butter, chopped
2 tbsp brandy (substitute apple juice or grape juice, if serving to children)
4 eggs, separated
220g (1 cup) caster sugar
120g (1 cup) ground almonds
55g (1/3 cup) natural almonds, sliced
Preheat oven to 170C. Double line a 12-hole (80ml/ 1/3 cup) muffin pan with paper cases. Place chocolate, butter and brandy in a small saucepan and cook, stirring, over low heat for 5 minutes or until combined (I used a stainless steel bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water so I wouldn’t burn the chocolate). Cool for 15 minutes.
Using an electric mixer, whisk yolks, sugar and 2 teaspoons water on high speed until thick and pale. Fold in chocolate mixture, then fold in ground almonds.
In a clean bowl with a clean whisk, whisk egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold one-third into chocolate mixture until just combined, then fold in remaining egg whites until just combined. Divide among paper cases and bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool cupcakes in pan.
Ingredients for frosting:
125g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond essence
1 tsp sea salt flakes
320g (2 cups) icing sugar, sifted
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, vanilla, almond essence and salt until pale and fluffy. Add sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating until well combined. Cover icing with plastic wrap to prevent it drying out. Set aside while cupcakes cool. Spread over cakes when cooled. Top with sliced almonds to serve.