On the Menu: Give your sweetie s'more cupcakes

"Marshmallow Madness!," the forthcoming cookbook from baker and blogger Shauna Sever, is as cute as, well, a marshmallow. From the puffy, pastel cover to the "Marshmallow Madness" bracket in its end pages, it embraces the sweet frivolity of its namesake treat.

Most of its pages are filled with recipes for homemade marshmallows in guises classic and creative -- fuzzy navel marshmallows, anyone? But I was immediately drawn to the confections near the end of the book, which incorporate marshmallow techniques into more elaborate desserts. While Ms. Sever's book won't come out until Feb. 28, her delightful recipe for S'mores cupcakes seemed like the perfect treat to share just before Valentine's Day.

Just like the campfire s'more, there's a graham cracker layer, a chocolate layer and a marshmallow layer. While none of the steps are particularly difficult, these cupcakes require a little bit of care and some special equipment: a candy or instant-read thermometer, a stand mixer and a food processor. While a kitchen torch is a useful thing to have, I browned my cupcakes in a broiler, rotating them once for more even browning, and was entirely satisfied with the results. These cupcakes should be eaten the day they're assembled, but the graham cracker crust and chocolate cake can be baked a day ahead.

S'mores Cupcakes

PG tested

While the batter recipe makes a scant 12 cupcakes, I had tons of leftover frosting. Next time, I'll make a double batch of the graham cracker and chocolate cake recipes, so I can have twice as many cupcakes to share. -- China Millman

The crust
  • 3 ounces graham cracker crumbs (about 6 sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
The cakes
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 6 tablespoons strong brewed coffee
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
The frosting
  • 2 teaspoons unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Make the crust: Place graham crackers, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until fine. With the processor running, pour in the melted butter and mix until the crumbs are evenly moistened, resembling wet sand. Divide the crumb mixture evenly among the muffin tins, about 11/2 tablespoons per well. Using your fingertips, firmly press each portion of crumb mixture, compacting it into an even layer. Bake until crusts are firm and slightly golden, about 7 minutes. Cool in tins on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

Make the cakes: Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Starting with the mixer on low speed, mix the dry ingredients for 30 seconds; slowly pour in the wet ingredients. Increase the speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin tins, pouring it on top of the baked crusts; the cups should be no more than three-quarters full. Bake until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when touched lightly, 22 to 25 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool.

Make the frosting: Whisk together the gelatin and cold water. Let soften for five minutes.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on high speed until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop the mixer.

Stir together the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt in a medium saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until the temperature reaches 230 degrees.

When the syrup reaches 230 degrees, quickly whisk in the gelatin. Set the mixer to medium speed and carefully drizzle a few tablespoons of the syrup into the egg whites to warm them and avoid scrambling them. Repeat 2 to 3 more times with a few more drizzles and then pour in the rest of the syrup. Beat on high speed until the frosting is tripled in size, 7 to 8 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.

Load the icing into a pastry bag fitted with a large tip. Pipe generous swirls of frosting on each cupcake or dollop it on with a spatula. Toast lightly with a kitchen torch. Alternatively, you can place small batches of cupcakes on a baking sheet and pop them under a broiler, watching closely to prevent burning and melting.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Adapted from "Marshmallow Madness!" by Shauna Sever (Quirk Books, 2012, $17)

China Millman: 412-263-1198 or cmillman@post-gazette.com . Follow her at http://twitter.com/chinamillman . First Published February 12, 2012 5:00 AM


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