When my sister called me Friday to see if I would have time this weekend to bake cupcakes with her ““ which as anyone with siblings knows is code for “˜can I come over and watch you bake me some cupcakes that I will later claim as my own’ ““ I agreed on condition that we try one of the Bacon and Dark Chocolate cupcake recipes that have been making the rounds of the internet. The suggestion was met with a dead silence and then a confused, “Well, I trust you, I guess.”
My sister has clearly been missing out on the bacon-infused craze that’s been going strong the last couple of years. I’ve had bacon martinis and bacon vodka and wrapped pretty much anything you can imagine in it. I’ve seen bacon bowls (edible) and bacon band aids (not edible) and bacon shower curtains (really not edible). I had my first bacon cupcake over the summer. I bought it on a dare and was surprised to find that the salty, smokey bacon paired with a rich chocolate cake was absolutely incredible. I think I might be drooling a little bit thinking about it.
There are only a few variations of the recipe on the internet. I settled on using one I found on Allrecipies.com and attributed to mkecupcakequeen. The addition of coffee to the batter promised to give the chocolate a nice depth of flavor. I took the frosting from another bacon-and-chocolate baker, A Good Appetite. Full recipes for both can be found at their respective links.
Your ingredients for the cake batter will look like this:
Excepting the ramen noodles in the back, of course. If you feel particularly inspired to include those in your baking attempts, let us know how it goes.
In advance, you will need to brew a few cups of coffee — one cup you’ll allow to cool to add into the batter. The others will be given to your significant other, to apologize for your house suddenly being overrun by your sisters and their boyfriends, all of whom are milling about in your tiny kitchen while your large dogs bark hysterically. If you find yourself with a spare set of hands (or 4), have one of them fry your bacon. Ultimately, the bacon will be crumbled up and folded into the batter. It is better to go too-crisp frying than to end up with wobbly bacon. Drain and dry the bacon well with papertowels. The point of this exercise is to ultimately end up with a beautiful salty-chocolatey confection, not to end up with greasy cupcakes.
The batter itself is exceedingly simple — sugar, flour, salt, coca, baking soda and baking powder stirred together, into which you add the wet ingredients. I chose to use Special Dark chocolate, because I prefer the slightly bitter taste of dark chocolate over milk. You can use whatever you have on hand.
Make a well in your flour mixture (something your 7th grade home ec teacher might have shown you how to do, which you suspected was her just being fussy, and do not discover that it is an actual baking technique until well into adulthood) and add the eggs, oil, buttermilk, and coffee. Fold the wet into the dry gently. This can be easily accomplished using a hand mixer if you don’t have access to a fancy stand mixer — one of the the sad truths I needed to recognize about myself was that I am inherently lazy, and if I need to stand around holding my mixer, I get bored before my batters are really integrated. I borrowed the big mixer from my mother in law for this adventure and I expect she’ll see it back in her kitchen sometime in the next six months or so.
Crumble or chop up your bacon, set aside a third of the meat, and dump the remaining bacon into the batter. Keep dogs and family members from snacking on the reserves as needed.
The batter goes into your lined cupcake pans, the pans go into the oven, as is the natural order of things. The directions call for 20-25 minutes in the oven; I ultimately found that 18 minutes is just about perfection, and 20 makes the cake too dry. Keep an eye on your cupcakes and do a toothpick test at about the 18 minute mark to see how your batter is baking up. While the cupcakes are in the oven, send your siblings out to toss some balls at the dogs and get the icing ready.
Frosting is one of those things I used to just buy ready made, but making your own is incredibly satisfying. Also, people seem really impressed when you tell them that you’ve made icing from scratch, even if it’s as simple as this icing is. Butter, whole milk, cocoa powder again, a dash of vanilla extract, and powdered sugar. It’s worth it to completely follow the instructions and shift your powdered sugar. It may seem like a useless bit of fussing, but shifting the sugar leads to a really smooth, consistent frosting, but not shifting it makes it look lumpy and runny. Let me assure you, no one is impressed with lumpy, runny frosting, even if you tell them you made it from scratch.
The cupcakes that came out of the oven were some of the darkest chocolate cakes I’ve ever baked. One of my sisters even accused me of burning them. As I am easily swayed by pretty things, I assumed that this meant the cake was going to be a rich, full chocolate flavor, something I was ultimately proved right about.
This picture does not do them justice. And speaking of dark, the icing you’ve just made? It turned out pitch black instead of that milky brown color milk chocolate frosting can be. Oh, and it’s good. It’s really good. You might need to start slapping away hands. Your siblings can lick the bowl when you’re done.
Frost and garnish with your reserved bacon. If you have it around, sprinkle a little sea salt on the frosting to punch up the contrast between the salty and the chocolately. Tell anyone who thinks this is a weird step that you have just baked bacon into cake, and maybe the line has already been crossed.
So after all this effort, how do the cakes taste after you’re done admiring how pretty they are? Frankly, a little disappointing. The cake and the frosting are amazing. You will quickly decide that they are your go-to recipes for chocolate cake lovers from now on. But the bacon, the whole point of this crazy exercise? It gets a little lost. This is surely because you used standard, on-sale bacon. Something with more smoke and flavoring wouldn’t get subsumed by the chocolate. People who are excited about the novelty of eating bacon-chocolate cupcakes will probably enjoy them, and I received nothing but high praise for them, but the contrast was not very strong. It was a chocolate cupcake with, oh yeah, a little bacon at the end of the bite.
Worth making? Definitely. Make the investment in good bacon, cut the fat off it instead of leaving it on (the mouth feel of a big bite of unexpected fat in your cupcake is none-to-pleasant), brew the coffee a bit stronger than you might like to drink, and these would end up being a 10 on the baking adventure scale.