Dark and Stormy Cupcakes

I wanted to make a cupcake version of a mixed drink for a cocktail party, and rum cake seemed a good place to start. My great-grandmother made rum cake, and it would often show up on our Christmas Eve dessert buffet. I fondly remember its buttery slightly exotic taste. Adding ginger to rum cake batter to stand in for ginger beer and topping with lime and more ginger, I made a cupcake “Dark & Stormy” (the cocktail is made with dark rum, ginger beer and lime).

They were well received by the cocktail party crowd. Rum cake is traditionally made in a Bundt pan, and it is denser than regular cake. I forgot this at first and was upset that these cupcakes came out dense. Someone at the party reminded me of that (and also said that the cupcakes were perfect, so surely a reliable source)!

I added a fresh lime wedge and crystallized ginger after I frosted these, completing the “cocktail” (caketail?). See recipe and notes below!

Black Strap Rum

Recipe Notes

I had fresh ginger, and it really seems the way to go. Note, you can use more than I used above for a stronger ginger taste. Using ground dried ginger will be a different taste. It’s a little like making a dark and stormy cocktail with ginger ale rather than ginger beer. If you must substitute, use 1/4 teaspoon dry ginger in the cupcakes and probably less than 1/8 teaspoon in the frosting.

Dark and Stormy Cupcakes with Rum

Recipe: Rum and Ginger Cupcakes (Dark and Stormy)

Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

1 1/4 cup dark rum
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350°

Bring rum and butter to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat. Turn heat off and let cool. Add sugar to mixture and whisk to combine.

Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, then mix in grated ginger.

Combine the eggs and sour cream on medium speed in a mixer with the whisk attachment.

Slowly add cooled rum mixture to the egg mixture and combine on medium-low speed until incorporated.

Add the sifted flour mixture in thirds to the rum-egg mixture. Scrape down sides to make sure you get all ingredients combined.

Place 24 cupcake papers in pans and fill each about 2/3. Bake for 18-24 minutes (turning halfway through) or until the tops are firm to the touch. Let cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove from pans and let cool completely before frosting.

Optional: Dribble a teaspoon of rum over each baked cupcake when you take them out of the pans. I also added a few drops on top after frosting.

Frosting Recipe

My New Year’s Eve post involves baking with alcohol, which seems appropriate considering the revelry many will be up to tonight! Have a safe and happy NYE, everyone!

I was sad to learn that “cupcakes” does not translate to les petits gateaux (“little cakes”) in French. Apparently, they are too American. They are just called les cupcakes. Nevertheless, what else was I to make for my French class’s end-of-the-year party?

red wine cupcakes

Since cupcakes are not French, I decided to add a little something to them that the French love—wine! You may not realize it, but chocolate and wine can go well together. Dark chocolate and cabernet sauvignon, for example, make a luscious pair. Many sweeter wines such as Moscato and port will even work with a milk chocolate.

The wine for these cupcakes, of course, had to be French. I turned to Gowanus Wine Merchants (www.gowanuswines.com, 493 3rd Avenue, Brooklyn, NY) to help me choose a fruit forward red wine that would pair well with chocolate. I also wanted to be able to enjoy drinking the rest of the bottle with my classmates, so I needed more than just a cooking wine. Co-owner Rick Lopez, who opened the store with Tom Hyland earlier this year, guided me to a bottle of Tramontane Carignan Noir, which fit the bill.

tramontane wine

Wine went in both the cake and the icing. The recipe I used was close to this one from Sprinkle Bakes, though I used only cocoa in mine (and not Chianti!). I put straight wine into the batter, but I reduced a cup of le vin with sugar for the icing.

The cake didn’t taste like wine to me, but I do think the wine enhanced the chocolate. There was a strong hint of red wine grapes in the icing, though, which was interesting. Good interesting… The cake itself wasn’t very sweet, but the icing made up for that! One classmate commented that the cake tasted buttery, which I believe was a good thing, too.

cupcakes in class
La classe aime les cupcakes d’Amélie!

They were fun to make and definitely did not taste like your run-of-the-mill chocolate cupcakes. I think these would be great for many a special occasion.

I’m taking French at Idlewild Books, which has locations in both Manhattan and Brooklyn and also teaches Italian and Spanish. Learn more at www.idlewildbooks.com.

Lower East Side, Manhattan

Prohibition Bakery
9 Clinton Street

On the Lower East Side, you will find this small cupcakery baking with booze. Oh, you read that right, these sweets are all liquored up!

Brooke Siem, a classically trained chef who has worked at restaurants such as wd~50, and Leslie Feinberg, a bartender and self-taught baker, met last year and put their skills together to form the concept for these grown-up treats.

The day I visited the bakery, I watched as Leslie perfectly piped icing onto some of the 600 tiny cupcakes Prohibition Bakery was preparing for Wine Riot that evening. She had the knack for baking from the beginning, she told me, but needed a little help with piping technique. “I had to go through piping boot camp at the beginning, Brooke said I wasn’t going to cut it.”

Prohibition’s cupcakes feature alcohol in the frosting and fillings, so it is not just a flavor, they really are alcoholic. Yes, they do card, so no boozy cupcakes if you are under 21! Can these minis intoxicate you? There are maybe 2 teaspoons of liquor in each cupcake. By my calculation, eating three of their cupcakes is like drinking half a mixed drink.

While most of these cupcakes are not kid-friendly, the pair does bake a “virgin” flavor each day, providing one option—six are featured daily—that doesn’t require ID. When I stopped by it was a cupcake called “For the Love of Bacon,” so I skipped it. (I’m sure it is lovely, I just don’t eat bacon.)

My favorite of the day was the Sangria, filled with wine and topped with an apple chip. To me, it tasted most like the drink. Brooke commented that she thinks the Margarita is the most accurate compared to the real thing. It certainly was tasty.

My boyfriend was a fan of the Pretzels & Beer, which contains pale ale, Nutella and pretzels. The White Russian, coffee-flavored cake with vodka and Kahlúa frosting, and the Car Bomb, whiskey, Bailey’s and chocolate, were also superb.

Will I be returning soon for another Happy Hour?

…for sure!

Prohibition Bakery’s Kickstarter backers have been signing the door. Want to know more about their (successful) Kickstarter campaign? That’s a story I’ll let Leslie and Brooke tell themselves. Click here for the video and more info.

green frosted Guinness cupcakeSt. Patrick’s Day was approaching, and I was pondering my cupcake options. It seemed an appropriate opportunity to try my hand at baking with booze, so I decided to make cupcakes incorporating Guinness, the best-known Irish stout.  I’m not a huge beer drinker, but Guinness happens to be one I do enjoy. It was the first drink, my boyfriend reminded me, that he ever bought me.

I followed this recipe from Holidays Central, but there are several versions across the web to consider trying. Some add Baileys and/or whiskey to complete the Irish alcohol theme. This one uses reduced Guinness in both the batter and frosting, embracing the stout flavor. The alcohol is cooked off, so these cupcakes are appropriate for all. My changes were that I used bittersweet instead of unsweetened chocolate and reduced the sugar to 1 1/2 cups.

Cooking beer on the stove top was a new one for me. The entire apartment smelled like it. I simmered a cup of Guinness with a stick of butter, adding chocolate, and that started to smell just delicious.

beer butter eggs
Beer and butter, eggs and sour cream

Also new, eggs and sour cream are not usually the first thing that goes into my mixer, and I don’t usually mix batter with the whisk attachment. It all worked out a-ok, though.

While the cupcakes were baking, it smelled a bit like baking bread. One who tasted them made a comment that they tasted a little bit like sourdough. Interesting… I did notice that the Guinness flavor seemed more intense when the cupcakes were a day old.

For the frosting, I added all of the reduced Guinness, determined to get the taste, but the mixture went a little weird, separating. I added more butter, which started to smooth it out, then more powdered sugar, until I got a consistency I like. The Guinness buttercream was still different from my regular frosting, it didn’t seem to want to completely let go of its bubbly beer nature.

Guinness cupcakes
They really did look a bit like nice frothy-topped mini pints of creamy Guinness.

I couldn’t resist going green for St. Patrick’s Day, so I colored some of the frosting with green food coloring and piped swirls and dollops on top. They were all dressed up  in green, ready to make an appearance at two St. Patrick’s gatherings that evening.

St. Patrick's cupcakesThey tasted like chocolatey beer in a decidedly pleasant way. The flavor was more subtle in the frosting, but it was there, a twist on my regular vanilla buttercream. The consensus was that they were great. My baking with Guinness got a thumbs up!