Olallieberries are back! And I am so excited, because I have a few more pounds of them sitting in my freezer right now, undergoing the deep freeze so that I can still enjoy berry goodness in the dreary days of winter. If you can score massive quantities of excellent organic berries right now at your local farmers' markets, I would highly recommend getting a few flats and freezing them for later use--they hold up excellently in their frozen states and are a great treat come barren and grey January!
Anyways, with organic olallieberries burning a metaphorical hole in my freezer's pocket, I've been itching to make *something* with them for quite some time now but hadn't yet had the right occasion or recipe to do so... until this little cupcake popped into my head: olallieberry extra dark mocha cupcakes with candied cacao nibs.
The idea all started with a strong urge to make olallieberry Italian meringue buttercream. The raspberry-lime buttercream that I made for my birthday cake was such a resounding success that I thought the sweetness of the olallieberry would balance really well with the creaminess of buttercream, too. For the accompanying cupcake, I went for something more broody and sophisticated: black cocoa cake, laced with the roasted bitterness of espresso that is just barely perceptible in the flavor but makes the cake really, truly, and robustly deep and dark--a perfect accompaniment to the fresh berry puree in the frosting. Instead of the customary sprinkles to top off the cupcake, I made candied cacao nibs and crushed them. The candied cacao nibs provided a great crunch and nuttiness to the overall cupcake, and they're far tastier than sprinkles!
I made these for a doctor and some of the medical staff that I see often as a thank you, and I really hope they enjoyed them. Having grown up around doctors and nurses and hospitals (my mom's a surgical nurse), I've always associated medical personnel with coffee because I was constantly seeing them guzzle so much of the stuff! A huge part of making desserts for me is tailoring the perfect flavors and ingredients to the perfect people to enjoy them, so I hope that the combination of coffee, chocolate, and olallieberry here really hit the spot this time around--those people who take care of me every few months definitely deserve it. (Oh boy, now my mom's office is going to be jealous that they didn't get any...! o.O)
Speaking of which, make sure you take the time to appreciate the dedicated doctors, nurses, and med staff that you have, too! Bake them cupcakes. ;-P
Read on for recipe...
Olallieberry Extra Dark Mocha Cupcakes with Candied Cacao Nibs
makes ~15-18 regular-sized cupcakes
for extra dark mocha cupcakes:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
3 Tbspn black cocoa powder (you may substitute Dutch-processed cocoa powder here)
1/3 cup (5 Tbpsn) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 Tbspn espresso powder
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn baking powder
1 tspn baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
2 heaping Tbspn instant coffee
1/2 cup boiling water
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the cupcake molds with cupcake liners and set aside.
2. In a mixer bowl, combine sugar, flour, black and Dutch-processed cocoa powders, espresso powder, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Mix to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the beaten egg, vegetable oil, and milk. Stir to mix. Then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until evenly distributed.
4. Combine the boiling water and the instant coffee. Pour the hot coffee into the cake batter and mix on medium low until smooth, making sure to occasionally scrape the bottom of the bowl.
5. Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 full.
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes. When a toothpick inserted at the center of the cupcake comes out cleanly, the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
for olallieberry buttercream:
1/2 cup olallieberry puree, from about 3/4 - 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen berries
1 Tbspn creme de cassis
1 tspn freshly squeezed lemon juice
11 oz. sugar (~310 grams)
5 oz. water (~140 grams)
150 grams egg whites (~5 egg whites)
pinch of cream of tartar, optional
50 grams sugar
4 sticks (1 lb) butter, at room temperature
1. In a small bowl, mix together the olallieberry puree, creme de cassis, and lemon juice. Set aside.
2. Combine water and 11 oz (310 gr) sugar in a small pot over medium-high heat. Without stirring, bring to a boil and let cook until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F.
3. Meanwhile, place the egg whites and cream of tartar in a mixer bowl. With the whisk attachment, begin whisking the egg whites when the syrup begins to bubble on the stove. Start whisking on medium low until the whites begin to foam all over, then increase speed to high and gradually add the remainder of the sugar. Whip until soft peaks form and stop.
4. Once the syrup has reached 240 degrees F (soft ball stage) and the whites have been whipped to soft peaks, gradually pour the syrup in a small stream into the egg whites, whisking on medium high continuously. Be careful not to allow the sugar syrup to fall on the beaters.
5. Continue whisking until the bowl of the mixer is at body temperature and not warm to the touch anymore.
6. Slowly begin to add the butter, about a half tablespoon at a time.
7. Once all of the butter is incorporated, continue whisking while adding the olallieberry puree. Beat until incorporated. Use to pipe immediately.
for candied cacao nibs:
(Please note: the amounts for this recipe are approximate. I usually play it by ear when making candied nuts, so I am estimating here.)
3 Tbspn sugar
3 heaping Tbspn cacao nibs
1. Prepare a baking tray lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the sugar.
3. Once the sugar has completely melted, quickly add the cacao nibs. Stir and cook until the sugar turns a deep golden color (there might be a little bit of smoking--don't be alarmed!). Remove from heat immediately before the sugar burns and let the cacao nibs cool completely on the silpat, trying to separate them out as best as you can.
4. Once cool, crush the candied cacao nibs into small pieces. Use to top the cupcakes.