Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a girl named Sue. Sue played an excellent top part of Heart and Soul on the piano, never wore jeans (she was quirky), had a giant collection of funny socks (including those kind that are like gloves for your feet), and on the occasion of our meeting, wore white iridescent lipstick. She was outrageously cool. Sue drove a stick (the only person anyone knew who could), made my senior prom dress by laying out a dress of her sister’s and improvising the rest, drew my first tattoo (and in fact nearly all of them since then), shared my love of Steak & Shake and is the only person I know who looks good in yellow. She’s pretty cool still, in fact. She is the best cook in the world, throws an excellent party, can handle a roomful of rowdy drunks without batting an eye and is a talented artist (exhibit A: my house which is like a gallery of Susan L. Croal artwork).
But once, she didn’t know anything about good snacking. When we were first friends, (circa 1997, don’t go searching for photographic evidence of this attractive time in both our lives, because you will find it) Sue was handicapped by the fact that her parents were concerned about her health, and encouraged snacking of the following types: granola bars, fruit, whole grain crackers with ALL NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER. Some people are born into families who own furniture stores, or who give all their children names with the same first letter. Sue was born into a family with healthy eating habits.
Enter my dad, King of Snacks. My dad is an excellent snacker. You’ll be watching TV, he’ll go into the kitchen for a snack, (pretzels and cheese? Chips, maybe?) and come back with a whole tray of nachos with delicious toppings and sharp cheddar cheese. Without my dad, I wouldn’t know about salami-cream cheese-pickle roll-ups or pickled bologna, and what sort of life would that be? Our friendship introduced Sue to the wonders of Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Kool-aid and Hostess Cupcakes. Her taste has certainly evolved past delicious, radioactive baked treats, but mine has not. Now, Sue makes things like sabayon and macaron and Swiss buttercream, whereas I make these.
These cupcakes are delicious and sweet enough to make your teeth ache, and are adorable and give you a reason to buy marshmallow fluff. I had been wanting to make them for some time, but it seemed like a lot of steps so I didn’t. It is three distinct steps, but it was no big deal, in the end. They’re so darned adorable.
Hostess Cupcakes (makes precisely 15 cupcakes, double all three steps if you want more)
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/2 cup hot brewed coffee (I used leftover from the morning and heated it up in the microwave, ‘cuz I’m classy)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup), melted
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt or sour cream
About a cup of marshmallow fluff
2 tsp half & half or heavy cream
1/2 cup or so of powdered sugar
dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup cream or half & half
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
Cupcake Method: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a muffin tin with cupcake papers. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, and set aside. In a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer, mix together the sugar and melted butter until cooled, about 3-4 minutes.
Mix the eggs and vanilla extract into the butter/sugar mixture. Alternating and starting and ending with the flour, mix in the flour mixture and the yogurt. (1/3 of flour-mix in, 1/2 the yogurt-mix in, 1/3 of flour-mix in, remaining yogurt-mix in, remaining flour-mix in.) Fill the cupcake papers to about the top and bake for 20 minutes. This recipe makes exactly 15 cupcakes, so you’ll need three in another tin or bake in another batch.
When they’ve cooled, use the cone method to hollow out the cupcakes. Essentially, you take a serrated knife, and cutting in to make a cone shape, cut a circle into the top of the cupcake, so when you lift out the piece, it’s a little cone. Then you cut the little chunk off the top of the cone so you’re left with a sort of cupcake hat, which you can put back on top of the filling in the middle. Like this:
Marshmallow Filling Method:
Mix together all ingredients and set aside, resisting the temptation to eat it all. When you’ve cut the cones into the cooled cupcakes, spoon about a teaspoon of the filling into each cupcake and top with the little cupcake hat. Reserve a couple teaspoons or so, so you can pipe that little white swirl onto the top of the cupcakes later. Put those couple teaspoons into an ordinary sandwich bag, snip off the corner and POOF! Pastry bag.
Chocolate Ganache Method:
In a little saucepan, heat the cream until steaming. Mix the chopped chocolate into the cream until all dissolved, then stir in the butter. Let it cool until it’s thickened a bit, then spoon onto the tops of the cupcakes and spread it around with the back of the spoon. It’ll drip a little, but will definitely firm up nicely after awhile. When that’s cooled, pipe the white swirl (using your “pastry bag”) onto the tops.