Making a Better Cupcake Batter Starts with Your Ingredients!
Making a better cupcake batter starts at the grocery store. Surprised? If we get down to the basics, the real principles of baking anything better begins with your ingredient selection.
As a general rule, think higher quality = better baking. Here at The Butter Book, we use King Arthur’s All-Purpose Flour as this type of flour is a fairly accessible and versatile flour found in the kitchen. AP flour also is used to produce a lighter cake. We use King Arthur Flour for all of our baking needs as it is the highest-quality flour grown, milled in the U.S., and is also 100% employee-owned.
There are many types of cocoa powder on the market. A rule of thumb to remember is that the higher the fat, the richer, and more flavorful your cupcakes will be. As for the chocolate, we suggest going with a dark bittersweet chocolate for our ganache recipe as this type adds just the right amount of necessary sweetness and melts consistently well. We recommend using the high-quality brand, Guittard, it is the most premium chocolate on the market.
The same goes for butter. The higher the fat, the better your cupcakes will taste, and you'll have a better emulsification between ingredients. We use a European-style butter, Plugra, which contains 82% fat. More fat means less water, and less steam evaporated during the baking process, which helps keep your cupcakes moist.
Using a Double Boiler
For making some of our cakes, we warm the eggs and sugar mixture over a hot water bath, or sometimes called a Bain Marie, before mixing in the dry ingredients. We do this so the heat will slightly firm the eggs, ultimately making the sponge cake more stable. The hot water bath technique provides less intense heat than cooking directly on the stovetop and will prevent the eggs from scrambling.
After the mixture reaches the proper temperature, we take it off the heat and whisk it to a light, fluffy texture called the ribbon stage. You'll be able to recognize this stage when the batter falls off the whisk into the bowl like a “ribbon".
Tips for Making a Better Cupcake Frosting
Our team at The Butter Book talks a lot about how we can make things better - it's an on-going discussion that we have quite regularly. So, here, we'll focus on providing you with expert tips for making a better ganache frosting yourself! Making ganache may seem pretty straightforward, but here are suggestions to make it better!
Infusing the Spices
Instead of tossing the spices somewhere in the recipe, infuse, or steep, them in the heavy cream. Infusing spices in the cream merely enhances the flavor, making it more robust! There are two ways to infuse spices in heavy cream: cold infusion and warm infusion. Cold infusion is the process of allowing the spices to steep in the heavy cream in the refrigerator for 8-12 hours or until fully developed. For a warm infusion, we heat the heavy cream until scalded, then steep for 5 to 30 minutes or until the flavors are fully developed.
Melting the Chocolate
Let's first start with how to melt chocolate. There are a couple of ways, some choose in the microwave while others prefer over a hot water bath. If you use a microwave, always melt the chocolate on 50% power as food products that do not contain water, such as chocolate, burns quickly if at a higher power percentage. Place the chopped chocolate in a microwavable bowl and warm it in 30-second increments, stirring after each increment until melted.
Just like the batter, we prefer to use a hot water bath for making ganache and for similar reasons. Here, we don't want to burn the chocolate. If it burns, it means you have to start over. So using a hot water bath prevents that, and it also takes the guesswork out of knowing if the chocolate is melted or not. You can see it without the nuisance of opening and closing the microwave door. When you set up the hot water bath for making ganache be sure to use a larger bowl than the saucepan - this prevents water from splashing in the chocolate and making it thicker than you want. It's also more comfortable to hold when stirring. Check that the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. If it is, simply take some out, you don't want to burn the chocolate, but melt it nice and slow!
How Do I Emulsify?
To emulsify means to bring two liquids together that otherwise do not mix. Think oil and vinegar. Stirring the heavy cream and melted chocolate alone will not bring the mixture together. When we emulsify, we use a whisk and we do it in a particular way. Slowly whisk small circles beginning in the center and gradually expand your circle's range until you have reached the side of the bowl. By doing it this way, you will create a homogenized mixture. Once you've achieved a homogenized ganache, can you proceed.
What Kinds of Piping Tips Do I Need?
We love our piping tips - they do all the work! We recommend owning one set of graduated round, star, and French star tips if you are a beginner. These three designs will tackle the majority of your pastry projects.
Round or plain tips have a smooth round opening for piping spheres, tubes, or many pastry products, like ganache. We chose to use a star tip for this recipe because it has deep grooves that create a more decorative look rather than smoothed edges.
How to Hold a Pastry Bag
Once the pastry bag is filled, hold it in your dominant hand. Grasp it tightly between your thumb and index finger at the top of the filling. Wrap the loose end of the bag around your index finger. The bag should feel taut, which allows you to maintain even pressure while piping. To avoid over warming or overworking the frosting, use half of the filling at a time, then refill the bag.
Remember, the non-dominant hand is only guiding the bag. The dominant hand does all the work. It is important to get a feel for how to start and stop the flow according to the amount of pressure applied by the dominant hand.