Black Black (Forest) Heart Cupcakes

From 6 Bittersweets
Cake adapted from Hershey's
Makes about 16 cupcakes

1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder dissolved in 1/2 cup hot water (or 1/2 cup black coffee)
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar plus milk to equal 1/2 cup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons Kirschwasser (cherry brandy)
Cherry Filling (Recipe Below)
Kirsch Whipped Cream (Recipe Below)
Chocolate Hearts (Recipe Below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line standard muffin pans with paper liners.

In large bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the egg, milk, coffee (or reconstituted coffee mixture), oil, and vanilla extract. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer on medium speed until well combined.

Pour the batter, which will be thin, to fill the paper liners about 2/3 full. Tap the pan firmly against the counter one time to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove them to a wire rack and let them cool completely there.

Once cool, cut a cone in each cupcake and spoon in 2-3 teaspoons of the cherry filling. Replace the cone and frost with Kirsch-flavored whipped cream. Finally, top each cupcake with a chocolate heart. Due to the cream, these must be stored in the fridge if not eating right away.

Cherry Filling
1 15-ounce can of tart cherries, drained
2 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons cherry preserves
4 tablespoons Kirschwasser (cherry brandy)

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cherries, preserves, and water. The mixture should start simmering. Stir frequently until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat, stir in the kirsch, and let the filling cool completely.

Kirsch Whipped Cream

XIAOLU'S NOTE: Chill the bowl and beaters/whisk in the freezer (if metal) or fridge for best results.

1 envelope (ΒΌ oz.) unflavored gelatin (optional)
3 Tablespoons Kirsch (cherry brandy)
2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 cup powdered (confectioner's) sugar, sifted

Combine the gelatin and Kirsch in a small bowl and let it sit for several minutes to soften the gelatin. Microwave the bowl for 1 minute and set aside to cool. Using a mixer, beat the heavy cream in a chilled bowl until it holds soft peaks. Add powdered sugar and beat until combined. Finally, slowly add in the gelatin mixture while beating until the mixture holds stiff peaks. It's best to use this immediately or if you are using it fairly soon, keep it chilled in the refrigerator until ready to pipe.

Chocolate Hearts
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Using a fairly thick and dark pen or marker, draw outlines of hearts on light-colored paper.

Place chocolate chips in a plastic zipper-lock bag and microwave at 10-second intervals, massaging the bag in between, until the chocolate is fully melted. Press as much air as possible out of the bag then close the top. Let the chocolate cool for about 10 minutes until it's still fluid enough to pipe smoothly but not so melted that it'll ooze out uncontrollably.

Lay a piece of parchment or wax paper over the outlines you made earlier. Use scissors to cut off a 1/16-inch corner (very tiny!) of the plastic bag and pipe the chocolate onto the parchment paper along the outlines underneath, filling in the hearts completely. Chill all piped chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer until firm, at least 5 minutes.