You will be well aware by now that I am firmly entrenched in the chocoholic camp - and happily so, I might add! I love really good quality chocolate, but I also enjoy the more accessible confectionary aisle types - I'm not a complete snob (though I confess to despising compound chocolate - it has to have cocoa butter!). Given these tendencies I've had an idea brewing for a while that theming cakes and cupcakes around chocolate bars would be fun. Whittaker's have just released mini slabs - basically "fun size" (I always question the use of that term on something so tiny - where's the fun?) versions of their famous peanut slabs (and the other slabs you can get now).
Perfect for peanut slab cupcakes, right? I already had a scrummy peanut butter cupcake recipe, so the translation was easy -I just needed a chocolatey icing and of course some mini peanut slabs to go on top.
The cake is very easy, though sadly not healthy. You start with peanut butter, butter and sugar, whip that up then add eggs and vanilla. Then you do that whole alternating-flour-and-milk thing. At this point I realised I only had one clean cup measure, and since I'm ridiculously lazy and didn't want to wash one of the really dirty measures, I had to use another recepticle to hold the milk while I did the alternating thing - so I measured a cup, then poured it into one of our mugs... And discovered something really useful:
Our mugs are close enough to exactly a cup! I know this may not seem revolutionary, but it simply hadn't occurred to me to check, and for someone who does as much baking as me, suddenly having 8 additional one-cup measures available is pretty exciting. ;-)
[note that I made double the recipe below to share around the office, hence using a full cup of milk]
The batter is quite thick when finished, so the cupcakes look pretty all over the place pre-baking - but the batter melts down before baking up again (if that makes sense) so they smooth out - no need to fuss around trying to make the batter sit right to get them to look good.
For the icing I went with chocolate buttercream. The one I made was too sweet so I've adjusted the recipe - for one thing I really recommend using dark chocolate, even though the original peanut slabs are milk choc - but feel free to use your own chocolate-overload icing recipe if you're not into sweet, because this is still on the sweet side.
If, like me, you don't think ahead far enough to have brought the butter to room temperature before you need to use it, give it short bursts in the microwave (10-20 seconds) and cut off the soft chunks after each burst. If you just put a big chunk in you'll melt some and some will stay hard - this way you get a pretty even softness pretty quickly - and then you can beat up a nice creamy icing that pipes beautifully.
I love the way chocolate buttercream behaves - it's sort of slippery smooth, and makes beautiful ruffly swirls on cupcakes (meringue-based buttercreams are similar - cream cheese icing and ganache, the two toppings I use most frequently, are denser and flow more solidly, if that makes sense). Several of my workmates were impressed with the swirls, but I maintain it's the quickest way to ice cupcakes - all you need is a piping bag and the right tip. My tutorial on how to do it is here in case you're inspired to give it a go. :-)
And really, what could be easier decoration than plonking a mini chocolate bar on top? Not to mention how excited people get when they realise they're getting a cupcake and a chocolate bar! ;-)
The cupcakes went down very well, though as I mentioned the icing was pretty sweet. The cake part is quite crumbly, peanutty and rich and utterly delicious, and goes wonderfully with chocolate.
So, what chocolate bar do you think would work well converted into cake?
Peanut Slab Cupcakes
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 of a cup/200g peanut butter (smooth or crunchy, to your preference)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
Preheat oven to 180 C. Beat the butter, peanut butter and brown sugar together until colour lightens. Mix in egg, then add vanilla and beat until smooth.
Mix together the flour and baking powder. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then beat to combine, followed by 1/2 the milk, beat to combine, and alternate until all mixed in and smooth.
Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners, and divide the mixture evenly between the cups. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted into cake comes out clean.
200g butter, at room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
200g dark chocolate
1 bag of Whittaker's mini peanut slabs
Melt the chocolate then set aside to cool a little. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the melted chocolate, beating all the time, until all combined. Pipe onto cupcakes and top each one with a mini peanut slab.
Makes 12 cupcakes.