DAIRY-FREE COCOA CUPCAKES WITH PEANUT BUTTER FILLING AND MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

Recipe courtesy of The Bear Cupboard (http://bearcupboard.blogspot.com)

Rating:  10 out of 10


CUPCAKES:

1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder, sifted

1-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, whisked then lightly spooned and leveled

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tsp. chocolate flavor (I used Spices, etc., purchased online)

1/2 cup soy milk

1/2 cup freshly brewed coffee, decaf or regular


Heat oven to 350F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.  In large bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In medium bowl  whisk egg, oil, sugars, flavorings and coffee.  Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients using a spoon or spatula.  Batter will be somewhat lumpy -- do not over mix it to make it smooth.  Using an ice cream scoop (1/4 cup), fill paper liners.  Bake about 16 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pan 5 minutes, then turn cupcakes out onto wire rack to completely cool.


PEANUT-BUTTER FILLING:

7 Tbsp. Jif Natural Creamy Peanut Butter

2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1 Tbsp. soy milk


In small bowl, combine all ingredients.  Core cooled cupcakes with a Cuisipro or other hollowing device, and fill cavity with peanut butter filling.


ITALIAN MERINGUE (HOMEMADE MARSHMALLOW FLUFF)

3 Tbsp. water

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. light corn syrup

1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, divided use

2 large egg whites, room temperature

1/2 tsp. vanilla powder or vanilla extract

pinch of salt

pinch of cream of tartar


In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, bring water, corn syrup and 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar to a rolling boil on high heat, brushing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.  Do not stir mixture, as it will cause it to crystallize.  Boil until mixture reaches 242F, or soft-ball stage.


In the meantime, a few minutes after the sugar mixture comes to a boil, in a completely clean, dry mixing bowl.  Using regular beaters on medium-high speed whip egg whites, vanilla powder or extract, salt and cream of tartar until creamy and foamy, about 2 minutes.  With mixer still on, sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbsp. of sugar over the whites and continue beating until whites hold very soft peaks, another 2 minutes.  When syrup has reached 242F, reduce mixer speed to low.  Find the sweet spot (between the sides of the bowl and the beaters) and very, very slowly and carefully drizzle in the hot syrup.  After all syrup has been added, turn mixer to high and beat till thick, fluffy and just barely warm, about 7 minutes.  Fit a 16" piping bag with a 1M Wilton tip; spoon frosting into bag and pipe onto cupcakes making high mounds of frosting.


GARNISHES:

About 1 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

About 1/4 cup honey-roasted peanuts, crushed or chopped


Place chocolate into one bottom corner of a resealable plastic bag.  Microwave on high about 30 seconds.  Continue microwaving on high at 10-second intervals until chocolate is melted.  Very carefully cut the tiniest corner to make a very small hole through which the chocolate may be drizzled onto the frosting.  Lightly sprinkle peanuts over cupcakes.


TIME-SAVING TIPS:  Instead of making peanut butter filling, just use Peanut Butter & Co.'s White Chocolate Wonderful Peanut Butter, available at Wal-Mart or Harris Teeter.  If you're not lactose intolerant, you could use a cake mix for the cupcakes, but you will have to double the other ingredients.