Last week The Scientist and I had one of our very best friends staying with us and we were very happy. He emigrated to Canada eighteen months ago and this is the first time we've seen him since. He was one of The Scientist's housemates many moons ago, and they bounce off each other in some sort of geek nirvana (their first conversation started with 'so, what do you think of optical interferometers?' or some such craziness). Fortunately that's not his only charm and so I love him too. I was pondering what to call him on my blog when he mentioned that one of his Canadian friends calls him 'Skyhammer' on her blog, and I thought I couldn't really improve on that. It sounds like some sort of Norse god, doesn't it?
We were wondering what to eat for dinner while the Norse God was with us when he told us about his housewarming party in Canada at which he'd just provided a load of pizza and cupcakes for his guests to eat. We were all immediately taken with that idea, and so while The Scientist dug out a takeaway menu, I got going on the cupcakes. The Norse God picked mint chocolate flavour, and I found a great recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World for chocolate cupcakes with minty frosting and a chocolate ganache. But I had just run out of soya milk and it seemed like an ethical travesty of the highest order to de-veganize a vegan cupcake. So I turned to Cupcake Project, thinking if anyone knew a good chocolate cupcake, it would be Stef. Stef hasn't made mint cupcakes herself as they're one of the banned flavours in her quest for the perfect wedding cupcakes for her friends. But her chocolate cupcake of choice is from Chockylit's Cupcake Bakeshop - in fact it's the basis for her Better than Sex cupcakes which I won't comment on as my little sister sometimes reads this blog. Having tasted the cupcakes I can see where she was going with the general idea though... I added a teaspoon of peppermint essence to the batter, and halved the recipe as there were only three of us, but it still made 11 British fairycake-sized cakes. For the minty frosting I did follow the vegan recipe although used regular butter (sorry), and finally turned to Nigella for a chocolate ganache.
The cupcakes themselves were beautiful (and Chockylit gives some satisfyingly good scientific reasons for her method). Weirdly though, my frosting and ganache had borrowed each other's qualities: the frosting was runny and the ganache was as thick as anything, so I spread the former and piped the latter instead of the other way round. The boys didn't mind this at all, although it meant that my cupcakes were not quite the picture of perfection I had hoped (I'm competing with professional Canadian bakery cakes, after all). The Norse God sweetly said he didn't compare like that and The Scientist was too busy eating the leftover 'ganache' with a spoon to comment. Both dispatched the cakes pretty quickly after their pizzas anyway, while discussing one-dimensional profiles or something. I found the mint frosting far too sweet for my own taste, but it was really minty (in a good way), and the cakes were minty yum. I'd definitely make them again.
The Norse God has gone back to Canada now and we're very sad, but we had a brilliant time with him and hope to visit him and his cupcake suppliers in the not too distant future.
Mint chocolate cupcakes with chocolate ganache
Chocolate cupcake recipe from Cupcake Bakeshop, here
Mint frosting (with apologies to Vegan Cupcakes) [I halved this quantity and it still made at least twice what I needed - but then I found it was too runny to be piped nicely so used less per cake than intended. I'm not sure why mine was so runny - perhaps using milk instead of soy creamer?]
3 cups icing sugar, sifted
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
small drop green food colouring
Mash shortening with a fork to soften. Add1 cup icing sugar and a tbsp of milk and mix. Alternately add sugar and milk, mixing after each addition, until all the ingredients are used, and the icing is smooth and creamy. Add the extracts and mix. Pipe on top of cooled cupcakes
I used a recipe from How to Eat, but that was a book I'd been looking after for the Norse God, and he took it away with him. Here's a link to a Nigella ganache on her website