I’m having a completely bipolar experience while typing this – Gillbean, my favourite chef who doesn’t mind responding to ridiculous foodie questions at ungodly hours, is heading out for a new adventure in the Republic of Cape Town… on the one hand I’m wildly excited and ecstatically happy (it’s Cape Town! How can it not be AWESOME!!) but on the other hand I am selfishly a little sad that my friend will be far away.
Gill loves peanut butter – I can’t think of anyone who doesn’t like it (what’s a childhood without PB and J sandwiches), but she likes it extra – so these peanut butter cupcakes from Ming’s recipes (thanks Ming!) were a no-brainer for me. Last week involved a very long bus trip, which gave me ample downtime to think about these…. I had grand visions of cupcakes topped with little chocolate mountains, and chocolate seashells, and chocolate jelly beans, with little borders of toasted peanut bits…. full of sophisticated sssymbolism. Of course what really happened is that I bought the wrong size Toblerone so that the mountain peaks were substantially larger than the cupcakes, I could not find chocolate seashells for love nor money, and the chocolate jelly beans turned out to be orange-flavoured which will not taste good with peanut butter no matter how hard you pinch your nose shut while eating it. Anyway, the same amount of love went into them with their plain old Reese’s Pieces topping, plus I think if you look at them kind of on the slant with your eyes a little squiff you can almost kind of see a little Table Bay effect….
The cupcakes are dense, not at all light and airy like pouffy little cupcakes. They’re more robust, kind of like a brownie – but I suspect that mine turned out like this because I used Honey Crunch PB (my domestic helper and I LOVE Honey Crunch) instead of the regular stuff. The higher sugar content probably gave it that stickiness plus a slightly crunchy crust. We are not complaining. They are also uncharacteristically ugly which is where the chocolate glaze comes in handy – my new topping of choice, since it’s less of a topping and more of a dip; no piping bag and fiddly nozzles! My inner lazy-person just did a mental happy dance.
For about 20 PB Cupcake-inated cupcakes or 12 regular ones:
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 cup PB (Honey Crunch is YUMMO)
6 tablespoons butter at room temperature – life is too short to wrestle cold butter
1 cup brown sugar
A few drops of vanilla extract.
1/2 cup milk
Firstly, read the recipe. This step is critical to avoid adding the sugar to the flour, then having to spend 15 minutes carefully spooning the sugar back out. Natch.
Once you’ve avoided this major time-waster, either fire up the Cupcake-inator (remember to give it a blast of non-stick cooking spray – never trust Teflon) or preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Next, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a bowl. In a separate, larger bowl, mash the PB, butter, sugar and vanilla together until it’s evenly mixed. It will still look granular, now stop tasting it before you eat too much and throw the whole balance off and end up PB-scented vanilla cupcakes instead. It is that yummy, I agree.
Next, alternately add some dry mix then some milk bit by bit while mixing. STOP TASTING IT ALREADY. For crying out loud.
Either pop it into paper cases in a cupcake pan and bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven or until a toothpick comes out “almost clean” (says Ming – “almost” is such a non-specific word). Or, pop heaped tablespoonsful into the Cupcake-inator and bake for 12-15 minutes – it sounds far too long compared to the usual 6 minutes, but when I tried to remove them early they fell apart and kind of scrambled themselves. Not pretty.
Carefully remove the cupcakes to a cooling rack and allow to chill out while you prepare the glaze that will hide a multitude of scrambled sins:
Melt 2 generous tablespoons of butter; add 1.5 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder and about 125g icing sugar (sift it – if you are lazy, like me, prepare to battle granite-like lumps for a good while), then once it’s mixed stir in just enough milk to give it a nice smooth dip-able texture; add more icing sugar or milk to adjust the consistency. If you’ve checked out Ming’s recipes, you will notice that this is a half-quantity of the glaze – this is because the original quantity made far too much. I popped it into the kitchen sink, rinsed it out, then turned round to see one forlorn naked cupcake staring back. Happens… I ate it.
Plonk spoonfuls of the glaze over the cooled cupcakes – it really does smooth itself out. Before the glaze sets, get to work with the embellishments. If you can find those elusive chocolate seashells, please use them on my behalf (what are guys giving girls as little presents now anyway, if faux-Belgian chocolate seashells have gone extinct?? Clearly, I am an old spinster, and young couples these days are probably presenting each other with chocolate-coated iPods).
Gill, take off your watch, put on your flip flops, get some local jazz going, consider giving up your front teeth, and have the BEST time in the Mother City!!
(if you don’t know this song yet – trust me, newby Capetonian, you will!)
♫ Welcome to Cape Town,
come join the party,
put on your dancing shoes,
Cape Town welcomes yo-00-u ♫