Remember when I mentioned that I’d been making a lot of cupcakes lately? Out of all the recipes I’ve tried recently, this one is probably my favorite, which is pretty funny to think about considering I was that girl that shunned chocolate cake and cupcakes pretty much my whole life. I am so not that person anymore. In fact, I modified the method in this recipe to make the cupcakes even more chocolaty. I have a weakness for chocolate ganache, and I couldn’t resist piping some right into the center of these cupcakes.
I knew before I even made these that I was going to love them. Going through my Google Reader (trying to save recipes elsewhere, sniff), I found that I saved this recipe twice. Clearly it was calling to me, and I can’t believe it took me this long to finally try it. These cupcakes are decadent and completely irresistible. The idea to fill them came when I had ganache leftover from piping the edges, and I think it really took these to another level. I’m a sucker for filled cupcakes and chocolate ganache, so that was a no brainer. I didn’t even cone them. Instead I used a little trick I learned working at a cupcake shop – use your finger to poke a hole in the center of the cooled cupcake and then fill as desired. I usually wait for a reason to make cupcakes for people (these were to celebrate two neighbors), but this is one recipe that’s worth making just for the heck of it. I promise you won’t regret it.
To make the cupcakes, heat oven to 350º. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together at medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Blend in the vanilla.
With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the coffee, starting and ending with the flour. Mix until just incorporated. Fold in the toffee bits with a spatula.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cupcakes are cool, core them using your desired method (I promise the finger trick is really fast and easy!).
To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate; let stand 1-2 minutes, then whisk together until a smooth ganache forms. Whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely melted and incorporated. Chill the ganache in the refrigerator or freezer until it reaches a pipeable consistency, whisking every 5-10 minutes to ensure even cooling. Once the ganache has thickened slightly, transfer it to a pastry bag. Cut a small opening in the bag and fill each cupcake with ganache. Place the toffee bits in a bowl. Pipe a ring of ganache around the top of each cupcake, leaving a hole in the center. Dip the ganache portion of each cupcake into the toffee, pressing gently to adhere.
To make the frosting, combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a small saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until the sugar has dissolved. Test by rubbing the mixture between your fingers; you shouldn't feel any grittiness.
Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin mixing on low speed and gradually increase to high and whip until stiff peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is completely cool (test by feeling the bottom of the bowl) and light, fluffy and glossy. This should take about 10 minutes but may take longer.
Replace the whisk attachment with the paddle attachment. Set the mixer to medium-low and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well between each addition. Once all the butter has been incorporated, increase to medium speed and beat until fluffy. Blend in the vanilla and caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Place the frosting in a pastry bag with a decorative tip and top each cupcake with a swirl of frosting. Sprinkle with additional toffee pieces, if desired.