Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes for the Cupcake Book Club
Kelly, at An American Cupcake in London, loves cupcakes and baking. She also loves to read. She recently put both of these together and founded the Cupcake Book Club, where like minded, book-reading cakeaholics can get together reading a book and then baking something inspired by what they've read. As soon as I read Kelly's post, I thought 'I'm in'. You see, not only do I bake, but I read. A lot. And I speed read. To give you some idea, my last 2 week holiday, I loaded 12 books onto my Kindle and still ran out. I can average, with 8 hours reading time, a book a day. Of course, it has to be the right one. War and Peace may be a challenge. The Jo Nesbo series? Five in five days. It drives Mike mad. He can take ages to finish a book (and I'm talking months here people!) so if it's something I want to discuss with him, I have to wait impatiently. So this was perfect for me.
The book Kelly chose for the first month is by Roisin Meaney. Published as 'Semi-Sweet' in the US, it's UK title is 'Love in the Making', and by luck, that was the version of the book that I already had. I really liked this book and found it difficult to put down until I'd finished, but it's definitely what I call 'bubblegum lit'. The kind of book that is easy to read, but no less enjoyable for that. The kind of book you can loose yourself in after a long, stressful day at work without needing to think about it too hard. It's the story of Hannah, who is about to take a jump in the deep end by opening a small cupcakery in a provincial Irish town, when her boyfriend, Patrick, unceremoniously dumps her. The story follows Hannah and her family and friends over the next seven months, which is the deadline she sets with her best friend Adam, to see if the cupcakery is a success.
The characters are nicely developed and there is Leah, the girl that steals Patrick with a timely pregnancy but gets her come-uppance when Patrick is shown to be a compulsive womaniser, and Nora, Adam's sister, who is the girl you love to hate (I don't think I could see one redeeming feature about her). There is also a tragic subplot involving Hannah's parents, Geraldine and Steven, and their friends, Alice and Tom. Reading this, I knew pretty instantly what my cupcake was going to be. Adam is my favourite character in the book. He's the long standing and long suffering best friend with infinite patience and good advice. The kind every girl should have. There is a scene later in the week that Hannah opens the cupcakery, where Adam is eating a chocolate peanut butter cupcake. He's doing so, because it's one of six he bought from the 144 she made for her opening day. I love the sweet-salty combination of chocolate and peanut butter, so that immediately leapt out at me.
I've never actually made these before though, so turned to the internet for advice on the peanut butter element. I found a lovely version at The Baker Chick, a fantastic blog by Audra. Her version of Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes includes a frosting based on cream cheese, which looked really delicious, and not too greasy (I've heard that can be a problem with peanut butter frosting). It also includes a peanut butter filling, which sounded so lovely I decided to try that, too. I used my normal chocolate cupcake recipe, as it's really easy and I know it works to deliver soft, fluffy sponge.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Ingredients (makes 16)
200g self-raising flour
1/2 tspn baking powder
4 tblspns cocoa powder
4 medium eggs
225g softened unsalted butter
(or, heavens above, a 59% butter spread - which works quite well in this!)
225g light soft brown sugar
1 tblspn milk
For the filling
1 cup (113g) icing sugar
3/4 cup (200g) smooth peanut butter
56g softened unsalted butter (butter only here though - you need it!)
1/2 tspn vanilla extract
For the frosting
250g cream cheese (at room temperature to avoid lumpy frosting)
1/2 cup (135g) smooth peanut butter
1 tspn vanilla extract
3 - 4 cups (350g - 450g) icing sugar, sifted
Preheat the oven to 155 fan / 175 conventional / 350 F / Gas 4. Line your muffin tray with paper cases.
For the cupcakes, measure all the ingredients into a bowl and then beat well until smooth and creamy (I used my hand mixer for approx 2 - 3 minutes). Scoop the mix into the prepared cases, dividing it equally so that each case is no more than two thirds full. I use an old fashioned ice cream scoop for this - it's 2 1/2 inches in diameter - as it's easy to measure out fairly accurately and evenly. (I got 16 cupcakes out of this mix, so I used a small 6 cup tray as well, but for best results, I baked them separately once the 12 cup tray had finished).
Pop in the centre of the oven and bake until risen and springy to the touch (mine took 18 mins). Remove from the oven and cool in the tray for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
For the filling, measure all the ingredients into a bowl and then beat well for a few minutes until mixed well. This will give you quite a firm mixture. Audra's recipe says to bake the filling in the cupcakes. I must admit, I forgot this stage, so I just scooped out the centre of the cooked cupcakes and, using the cutest, smallest ice cream scoop I've ever seen (at 1 tspn!), made balls of the filling which I popped into the holes. You could just use a melon baller, teaspoon measure or your hands! I had quite a bit of mix left over, so unless you like peanut butter and icing sugar, then you could probably cut the amounts listed above and say, make half.
For the frosting, I always use my stand mixer, but you could use a hand mixer if you have one. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter into the mixer and using the paddle attachment, mix until it's just blended. Add the vanilla, and then add in the icing sugar. I do this cup by cup, so that I can check the consistency and stop when it's got to the stage I want. On this occasion, I wanted something that was smooth and creamy, but would be firm enough to hold after piping. I used about 3 1/2 cups in the end. If it goes a little too thick, you can slacken it again by using a little milk (try a tablespoon). One tip is to keep the mixer going for a few minutes longer so that the frosting becomes lovely and silky smooth.
I used a Wilton 1M tip to pipe the swirls on top of the cupcakes (starting at the outer edge and moving to the centre), and then finished off using some chocolate sprinkles.
I really loved these, and they are definitely something I know I will make time and time again. The soft chocolate cake goes well with the peanut butter filling, which gives a lovely peanutty hit. The frosting is gorgeous, and I could have eaten this on its own - lovely and smooth, with a hint of peanut butter and the tang of cream cheese which stops it being overly sweet.
Why don't you check out An American Cupcake in London after the 9th May, when Kelly will be rounding up all the contributions. I can't wait to see what everyone has come up with! In the meantime, I'm going to take myself off with a book, and another one (or maybe two) of these bad boys.