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German Chocolate Cupcake

I won’t even bother with the usual feeble attempt at excusing the lags in blogging. Let’s just look at the pretty picture and forget all about it, OK? Right, moving on…

This lovely little morsel evolved out of my interest in this recipe, which I ran across mid-week and knew I wanted to try over the weekend. I love dulce de leche and I love coconut, so the idea of combining them was irresistible. I stocked up on coconut milk and happily boiled away until I had two and a half cups of caramel, which was…

…to be honest, not everything I had hoped for. I had wanted a clean coconut and caramel flavor, but the brown sugar flavor was a bit overwhelming and it imparted a less than stunning greyish cast to the finished gel. It was still tasty, though, and I still love the idea, so I might try it again soon with white sugar instead.

In the meantime, I had two and a half cups of this interesting goo. In trying to find uses for it, it occurred to me that the taste and texture were very much like the filling for German chocolate cake, only more coconutty. A few quick mental hops later, I had pulled together the following recipe by adapting one of my favorite old-fashioned chocolate fudge cake recipes, from Scharffen Berger’s house cookbook, The Essence of Chocolate. I carried the coconut theme even further by substituting coconut milk for the heavy cream in the frosting, which worked seamlessly. Since coconut milk is shelf-stable and always in my cupboard, unlike cream, which I have to make special trips for, I will probably do this all the time in the future.

As I discovered when I brought them to work this morning, German chocolate cake has a massive fan base. There are a fair amount of steps involved here, but these were such a huge hit that I will definitely pull out the recipe for special occasions. If you’re so inclined, you can turn this back into a full-sized cake by following the baking instructions for the original recipe.

German Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 36

For the coconut caramel:
2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the coconut ganache:
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cupcakes:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 cup boiling water

For the coconut-pecan topping:
1 cup coconut caramel
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

To make the caramel:

Whisk ingredients together in large heavy pot over medium heat until sugar has dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Lower heat and simmer vigorously, stirring occasionally, until mixture has thickened to a caramel texture and reduced to approximately 2 1/2 cups, about 30-40 minutes.

Transfer to glass jars and cool completely. Cover and refrigerate once cool.

To make the ganache:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and coconut milk and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 minutes.

Remove from heat, add the chocolate and butter and stir until melted. Pour into a bowl and stir in the vanilla. Cool until thickened to a spreadable consistency.

To make the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 3 cupcake tins with paper liners.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder, and baking soda on low speed.

In a liquid measuring cup, mix together eggs, oil and milk. Add liquid ingredients to mixer and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Dissolve espresso powder in boiling water. Reduce mixer to low speed and add water mixture, blending just until a very liquid batter forms.

Ladle batter into lined cupcake tins, filling each cup just over half full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tester inserted into a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely in tins.

To finish the cupcakes:

While the cupcakes are cooling, spread the pecans and the coconut on separate quarter-sheet pans and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, until pecans are fragrant and coconut is pale gold. Stir midway through toasting to prevent the coconut from burning. Set aside to cool while frosting the cupcakes.

Frost each cupcake with a generous amount of ganache, then set aside briefly to set up while finishing the topping.

Chop pecans medium-coarsely and mix together with coconut and approximately one cup of the caramel, or just enough to bind the pecans and shredded coconut together. Top each cupcake with a large scoop of the sticky mixture, and serve.

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