It used to be that cupcakes ruled. Never quite understood the craze. At best, they are an undersized piece of fluffy cake topped with some very fattening frosting and, at worst, they are an uninspired small piece of cake with gummy frosting on top. Los Angeles is starting to sport more cupcakes shops that donut ones – and hats off to all of them: with a .50 cent product sold at $3.95 and a line outside the door, they are making millions. I am just green with envy – I wish I had thought of it.
But cupcakes are becoming so yesterday and French Macaroons are taking over – every restaurant is serving them with coffee, the hippest bakeries sport rows of cute little “almond sandwiches” in pastel shades unknown even to the fashion industry. French macaroons are, well, quintessentially French – yet, and here is my little vindication, they were probably invented in Italy as they were known in Venice during the Renaissance. Also very likely, when Caterina de’ Medici married Henry II and had to leave her beloved Florence and decamp to Versailles, she smartly took her chef along. This gentleman is credited with improving French cuisine immensely and is probably responsible for the Gallic introduction of macaroons.
Never a big fan, I am actually starting to feel sorry for the cupcake. Its saving grace, though, is that macaroons, unlike cupcakes, are difficult to replicate in a home kitchen. They are finicky, precious little bastards, easily upset so I don’t see droves of Martha Stewart devotees suddenly filling their pantries with almond paste or soccer practices becoming fertile grounds for homemade macaroons snacks. What I do see is long lines around the corner of macaroons shops – wish I had thought of it.
For a wonderful chocolate cupcake, take the recipe of the chocolate cake of last February 2 and pour the batter in a medium size muffin pan, filling 3/4 of each cup. Bake at 325 for about 15 minutes, until the cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven and let cool. In the meantime, make the frosting:
CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
14 oz 70% cacao content chocolate
2/3 Egg whites, room temperature (slightly less than half a cup)
3/4 C Sugar
10 oz Butter, room temperature
A pinch Salt
1 1/2 ts Vanilla extract
- Chop the chocolate and place in a metal bowl. Melt it over a double boiler, stirring gently.
- Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, mix the egg whites, sugar and salt. Place the mixer bowl over a pan of simmering water and heat until the egg whites are warm to the touch, 4 or 5 mins. Return the bowl to the mixer and whisk on high-speed for a good 5 mins, until you have a stiff meringue.
- Add the butter, a tablespoon or so at a time, while still whisking on medium speed. Add the melted chocolate and vanilla extract and mix until the frosting is completely blended.
- If it is too soft to decorate the cupcakes with immediately, just refrigerator for 10 minutes.