Monday, May 12, 2008

Brooklyn Kitchen Cupcake Cookoff

dark chocolate buckwheat almond cupcakes with coconut and almond frosting aka almond joy cupcakes

"I'm full of cupcakes," was the refrain tonight at Brooklyn Kitchen's 2nd Annual Cupcake Cookoff. I missed it last year, so I was determined to make it this year. And part of being able to make it tonight involved quitting my choir early in the season. I guess at this point, food has trumped music as the no. 1 interest in my life.

I rushed home from work, changed, fed and walked the dog, downed a shot of whiskey, frosted cupcakes, and raced over to Union Pool, all in less than an hour. Then I was all by my lonesome feeling awkward among the hipsters and meat market men of Union Pool, and thirty entries of fantastic-looking cupcakes everywhere. Luckily my friends Meag and Jess showed up to save the day. Once the cupcake tasting started, everyone was quickly overwhelmed by sugar. Some geniuses started the trend of cutting their cupcakes in halves, or even quarters, to aid the sampling process. It was indeed so overwhelming that I probably only tried about a third of the cupcakes. So when it came time to vote, I felt bad about not being a fair voter.

I voted for a peach champagne cupcake as well as a ginger spice cupcake, and my own almond joy cupcake of course. The ginger cupcake was just my style - hearty and cinnamony. At one point, I had even contempated making gingerbread cupcakes with vanilla frosting and red hots. But I didn't. Because the combination of chocolate and coconut always wins the day for me. So at least if I didn't win, I was pleased to see the ginger cupcakes win a prize. It made me wish I had made my cupcakes a little heartier, with more whole wheat, true to my own heart.

the judges take stock of their picks during announcement time

The inventive flavors ran the gamut - from rainbow red velvet to mint julep to pistachio to mint chocolate chip to boston creme to chocolate stout with salted caramel (the ultimate best in show), and so on. So the comptetition was original and fierce, and I didn't win any prizes. Sad day in cupcake land. I wasn't really expecting to win, though, because I know I'm not a good baker. Or maybe I'm just too hard on myself. In any case, we thought these cupcakes were delicious, even if everyone eles didn't agree.

I was going for a rich dark chocolate with subtle hints of nutty flavor from the buckwheat flour, ground almonds, and almond extract. And a rich almond joy-like frosting because, as I said, I love coconut and nuts. The recipe was somewhat modeled after my German chocolate cupcakes, adding in a darker chocolate and cocoa powder for a more intense, less cloying chocolate flavor. I think the end result is an improvement on my German chocolate cupcakes. So here goes, made with mostly local and organic ingredients, of course:

Almond Joy Cupcakes
dry ingredients
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder

wet ingredients
5 tbsp butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg (or 2 smaller eggs, mine was humongous!)
1/2 tsp almond extract
3 oz dark chocolate (70% or 85% percent cocoa)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup boiling water
3/4 cup milk

2 cups powdered sugar
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp + 1/2 tsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup coconut flakes

Toast 1 cup slivered almonds in a dry pan over medium heat for about five minutes until some of the almonds turn golden-brown. Most of them may not look toasted, but it will subtly enhance their flavor nonetheless. Do not let them burn. Remove from heat and let cool.

Meanwhile, bring 1/3 cup water to boil. Break chocolate into pieces and combine in a bowl with cup cocoa powder. Pour boiling water over chocolate and stir until dissolved. Let cool.

Preheat oven to 350 and grease two cupcake tins.

Process 1/2 cup toasted almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Reserve remaining 1/2 cup toasted almonds for frosting.

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until combined and fluffy. Beat in one egg and then the almond extract. Add chocolate mixture and then milk, stirring continually until combined.

Combine flour, ground almonds, and baking soda in a larger bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and fold in wet mixture. Beat until smooth. Fill cupcake tins two-thirds of the way full and bake in the oven for 12-18 minutes. Make sure to check so they don't burn. Cupcakes are done when a knife or toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, combine the frosting ingredients in a bowl, beating until smooth. Add additional sugar or milk or butter depending on how stiff or creamy you like your frosting. I like mine stiff and sugar-coma-inducing over soft-grocery-store-like buttercream.

Combine coconut and toasted almond slivers in a small bowl. Frost each cupcake and then dip upside down in coconut almond mixture to coat. Continue until all cupcakes are frosted. Makes 12 large or 18 small cupcakes.


  1. Hi Julia, it was nice to meet you at the cupcake-off, and great blog! I look forward to reading this one a lot more.

  2. i am jealous that i did not get to eat all these cupcakes, but especially this one - i love and almond joy.

    what about those of us who just live *near* brooklyn? do we not get cupcakes?