Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate Cupcakes:

2 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 cups hot brewed coffee
2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/3 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 candy canes (for topping)

1. Preheat oven to 300°F. And line two cupcake tins with liners.

2. Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

3. Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored. Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.

4. Divide batter between cupcake tins, filling them up between half way to 3/4 of the way. Bake for 20-25 minutes, and until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. 

5. Cool cupcakes in cupcake tins on racks until completely cool. 

Seven Minute Frosting:

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
3 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1. In large metal bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup water, sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Set bowl over pan of barely simmering water and mix with handheld electric mixer at low speed. Gradually increase speed to high, beating until mixture holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes.

2. Transfer bowl from pan to folded kitchen towel on counter and continue beating until mixture is cool and billowy, about 2 minutes more. Beat in vanilla. (Frosting can be made 4 hours ahead and chilled, covered.)

Ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Heat the heavy cream and the butter in a 3-quart saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.

2. Place the semisweet chocolate in a 3-quart stainless steel bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.

<strong>Assembly:</strong>

1. Smash candy canes--using the bottom of a pan--into bits. Using a paring knife (or an apple corer), cut out a 1-inch circle out of the center of the cupcakes. Fill with a half teaspoon of chocolate ganache.

2. With a 1-inch star tip, pipe on frosting in a circular motion. Holding the torch about 6-7 inches away from the frosting, toast the tops of the cupcakes slowly, being sure to not light the cupcake liners (I did this!) on fire. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on top of each of the cupcakes. DONE!!!
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