North Korean Cupcakes

Don’t get too excited. It’s just that these cupcakes have something in common with the recent North Korean rocket launch – failure. I’m a little perplexed that my experience was so different from everyone else’s in the comments section but then again, I did make a couple changes to the original recipe and maybe they tipped the scale. Like using Cerveza Negra in lieu of Guinness. And swapping the vegetable oil with applesauce. I also reduced the sugar by a quarter cup so my recipe looked like this:

1 330 mL bottle Cerveza Negra

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup applesauce

1 T vanilla extract

3 eggs

3/4 cup sour cream

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 3/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

Unsalted butter, melted, to coat muffin pans

1. Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. Grease muffin pans with melted butter and set aside. Put the Cerveza Negra, milk, applesauce, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk together.

2. Add in the eggs one at a time and whisk. Whisk in the sour cream.

3. Whisk the flour, sugar, salt, cocoa powder and baking soda in a medium bowl to get everything combined. Pour this dry mixture into the big bowl with the wet ingredients and whisk. I think this step might have been my first red flag but more on that later.

4. Pour the batter into prepared muffin pan. Pop in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into one of these babies should come out dry when they’re done. I was a little concerned because this batter was really runny but they were fine. My muffin pan is smaller than the standard ones and they were done in about 15 minutes.

Well, OK, they weren’t really fine. I tried one of them after they’d been cooled and it was too…fluffy. This was to be expected since they are introduced as “light in texture” but it wasn’t welcome. It made me think about how beer is used in deep-fry batter sometimes to make it light and crispy and how I really shouldn’t be reminded of that when I’m eating a cupcake. As for the promise of “heavy in the chocolate department”, well, it must be a very small department. Worst of all, some of my cupcakes were really lopsided. Dark brown and lopsided, they looked not like they came out of the oven but out of my ass.

5. I had to do something about the flavor and texture so I decided to throw in whatever chocolate I had lying around the house. I dumped in a handful of leftover semi-sweet chocolate chips. A few small blocks of unsweetened baking chocolate were grated in. It probably made about 3/4 cup chocolate.

Some of them were lopsided still but the chocolate was an improvement. For your viewing pleasure, I chose the least turdly looking cupcake and frosted it with cardamom lemon cream cheese frosting (leftover lemon cream cheese frosting + 1 t ground cardamom).

A few reflections on hindsight. Apparently, the lopsided cupcake problem has to do with baking in a convection oven which I do. The batter is too delicate for the air coming out of the fans. Some people even go as far as saying their muffins got molested and I totally get it. The red flag I mention earlier has to do with whisking my dry and wet ingredients. The original recipe says to fold in the dry ingredients which, to me, implies that the wet ingredients have some body like whipped cream or whipped egg whites. My wet ingredients came together with very little body and my attempt to fold ended up in blobs of cocoa-flour floating around in the bowl. Whisking was the only way. Something must have already gone wrong here. Which brings me to the Cerveza Negra. It’s sold in 330 mL bottles which I thought was the equivalent of a 11.2 oz bottle of Guinness. It is in US fluid ounces but I probably should have converted with UK fluid ounces. There is approximately a 12 mL difference. Aside from the different make of the beers, could this be the reason for my cupcakes’ texture and flavor in the scientific world of baking?

These question will haunt me, I tell you! Any kind of enlightenment will be most appreciated.

Fun Food Fact: I’m too deflated to do one today.


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