Okay, I realize I’m not setting the bar very high with this title. I mean, what ISN’T better than a Hostess cupcake with its waxy chocolate and Crisco-sugar filling? Anyone over the age of twelve will probably agree there are many things better than Hostess cupcakes, and I’m including bonus weight loss caused by a violent stomach virus on this list. But think back to when you were young, and you saw Hostess cupcakes at the store and begged your mother to buy them. Or when you went to a friend’s house after school and her mother served Hostess cupcakes rather than a pear and a bowl of grapes like your mother did. Alas, the dream of Hostess cupcakes was always better than the reality, but they still hold a special place in my heart. You can imagine how excited I was to see them in my new Entertaining from Cook’s Illustrated Spring 2012 magazine.
The geniuses at Cook’s Illustrated set out to create a Hostess-style cupcake that actually tasted good, and as usual, they achieved their goal. The cake itself is so good that I might just use it as my new standard chocolate cupcake recipe. The marshmallow filling was the perfect consistency, and it tasted so much better than the sugared-plastic filling of commercially produced cupcakes.
This recipe was not without its challenges for me, but they were all mechanical. You may recall I struggle a bit with my fine motor skills, so I am not a “pretty” baker. My main problem was overfilling the cream so that the tops didn’t lay back on all that perfectly, and extra globs of glaze didn’t really help matters. They still looked good, but just not picture-perfect. But I will sacrifice good looks for quality product every single time, and aesthetics aside, I was quite pleased with myself. Nate proclaimed it, “The best cupcake I’ve ever had!” He doesn’t get out much, but it is still a nice compliment.
Better Than Hostess Cupcakes
by Cali Rich, Entertaining from Cook’s Illustrated, Spring 2012
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup boiling water
⅓ cup cocoa powder
⅓ cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon instant espresso
¾ cup sugar
½ cup sour cream
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons water
¾ teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups marshmallow creme (see note)
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1. MAKE BATTER: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup muffin tin. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl. Whisk water, cocoa, chocolate chips, and espresso in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla and mix until combined. Whisk in flour mixture until incorporated. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Bake until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out with few dry crumbs attached, 18 to 22 minutes. Cool cupcakes in tin 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack and cool completely.
2. PREPARE FILLING: Combine water and gelatin in large bowl and let sit until gelatin softens, about 5 minutes. Microwave until mixture is bubbling around edges and gelatin dissolves, about 30 seconds. Stir in butter, vanilla, and salt until combined. Let mixture cool until just warm to touch, about 5 minutes, then whisk in marshmallow creme until smooth; refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes. Transfer 1⁄3 cup marshmallow mixture to pastry bag fitted with small plain tip; reserve remaining mixture for filling cupcakes.
3. ASSEMBLE CUPCAKES: Microwave chocolate and butter in small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 30 seconds. Cool glaze to room temperature, about 10 minutes. Cut cone from top of each cupcake and fill cupcakes with 1 tablespoon filling each. Replace tops, frost with 2 teaspoons cooled glaze, and let sit 10 minutes. Using pastry bag, pipe curlicues across glazed cupcakes. Serve. (Cupcakes can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.)
Hold your knife at a 45 degree angle about 1/4 inch from the edge and cut in a circle. Trim off the very bottom of the lid.
Don’t be a dummy like me and listen to the directions! Use only 1 tablespoon of filling, not a big glob like this.
The trademark Hostess squiggly line proved to be my biggest challenge of this whole recipe.