Historically I have not been the biggest fan of cupcakes. I think I’ve always considered them to be sort of juvenile, possibly due in part to spending countless school birthday parties watching classmates lick all the frosting off the top as if it were a puppy and they were mother dogs. Somewhere along the way I lost my appetite for cupcakes.
Recently, however, I’ve warmed back up to the concept. I admire its portability. I appreciate its pre-portioned approach. As I get older I find it increasingly daunting being affronted with a giant piece of cake right after dinner, which is probably good for my waistline but sad for my childhood. So cupcakes aren’t so bad after all, I suppose. Just please don’t lick all the frosting off, I beg of you!!!
S’mores: a quintessential summer flavor but, logistically, complicated. I’ve been craving them for weeks but the idea of sitting around a bonfire when it’s 80°, roasting the marshmallows as I, myself, roast is less than ideal. Save the real deal for a cool night, until then make these and eat them in front of the A/C.
The starting point of this recipe, the Graham Cracker Cake, comes from a vintage cookbook called “The Art of Cooking and Serving” which mainly showcases recipes using Crisco. It was published in 1934 and includes all kinds of timeless conundrums like, “She [the intelligent woman] may choose, for instance, to bring broiled chops to the table in a covered earthenware casserole, instead of on the platter which matches her dinner set, but what sane person would find fault with this method when it is the only way of keeping the food piping hot on the long journey from her particular kitchen?” Beats me. But this cake is good.
I substituted the Crisco for butter for better flavor but the cake is true to the original recipe with a few slight adjustments. The surprise ganache (another pro for cupcakes) is made with Hershey’s chocolate bars for true s’mores flavor and the marshmallow frosting is just as perfectly gooey as a roasted marshmallow sans bonfire. Just a kitchen torch or broiler will do and you won’t wake up the next morning reeking of burnt wood. Unless that’s your thing, then you do you.
For the Cupcakes:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 3 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 1/2 cups finely ground graham crackers (about 14 crackers)
- 1/2 cup flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°. Beat butter and sugar on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 3 minutes, until fully incorporated. Add eggs and continue to beat on medium-high speed for another 2 minutes, until pale yellow and fluffy. In another bowl, combine ground graham crackers (I used a food processor to grind them but you could also use a rolling pin), flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk dry ingredients so that the mixture is fully homogenized (also a good time to pluck out any larger bits of graham cracker that you may have missed). In a liquid measuring cup, measure out 1 cup of milk and add teaspoon of vanilla. Turn the mixer on low speed and alternate adding dry ingredients and liquid ingredients to egg/butter/sugar mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. The mixture will be a little grainy, and may even look curdled (this is the graham cracker mixing with the milk) but this is okay. Line a cupcake/muffin tin with liners and fill each cavity about 3/4 of the way up. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly and then transfer cupcakes to a cooling rack.
For the Ganache:
- 3 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate candy bars, chopped
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof glass bowl. Heat cream on stove in a small saucepan until simmering. Pour cream over chocolate and let stand for about 2 minutes and then stir to combine.
*For the Marshmallow Frosting:
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Set up a double boiler on stove (place heatproof glass bowl over saucepan that has a couple of inches of simmering water in it). In glass bowl, combine sugar, egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Continue to cook mixture, stirring frequently, until it reaches about 180° on an instant read thermometer and is white, bubbly, and smooth. Transfer immediately to electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high for 5 minutes or until stiff peaks are formed.
*A note on frosting: Piping frosting almost always require more frosting than spreading with a knife or spatula. The frosting recipe given will provide enough to spread frosting on the 22-24 cupcakes, but if you plan on piping you will need to double the batch.
Hollow out the inside of the cupcakes (they make a tool specifically for this, but I use the base of a pastry tip–see photo above). Don’t throw away the “core” because you will be putting them back on after you fill the cupcakes. This step is especially important if you plan on frosting the traditional way with a knife or spatula to keep the chocolate ganache from mixing with the white frosting. Put ganache in a piping bag (or plastic sandwich bag with the corner cut out) and pipe about a teaspoon into the center of each cupcake. Don’t be tempted to overfill! Place the “cores” back onto cupcake. Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes. Torch with kitchen torch or oven broiler, but be extremely careful if using the broiler because it won’t take long at all. If using broiler, start low and have all cupcakes on a sheet pan so you can pull them all out together quickly if needed.