Chocolate stout bacon cupcake with brown butter frosting and candied bacon
Another month, another Cupcake Gauntlet. Last month’s secret ingredient of Chinese Red Beans proved to be interesting and a challenge, and either people really liked the cupcakes, or were perplexed by them. I still stand by that sesame orange cake … I found it to be divine and definitely want to work with it again.
For anyone new to the Gauntlet, here’s the breakdown:
- Taste testers suggest secret ingredient ideas the second week of the month. The ingredient needs to be seasonal, edible and not too rare or expensive.
- Suggestions and the name of the suggester get written on a slip of paper, folded and tossed into my mixing bowl. I draw one slip.
- I have the weekend to research the ingredient (if necessary) and come up with my cupcake recipe.
- On Monday I contact the taste testers and inform them of the cupcake and announce the winner (who gets a free cupcake that week).
For this month, the second Gauntlet, I had fewer entries for the secret ingredient, but still a lot of good ones, ranging from plantains to champagne. I was crossing my fingers for grapefruit, from my newest taste tester Colleen, but it was not to be. Instead, a holdover ingredient from February came through from Drew: bacon.
Bacon is a great ingredient, but it also walks the line of “Ohmigod this has soooooo jumped the shark” blah, blah, blah. As so many people remind me, haters are gonna hate.
Because I already did a pancake-inspired cupcake with candied bacon, I knew I didn’t want to repeat any of those main ingredients, like buttermilk and maple. I also didn’t want to make a cupcake and just stick a piece of bacon on top, calling it a day. That’s not really … challenging. So I went with chocolate. And after seeing Twitter friend, local baker and my fellow Cupcake Smash competitor Stephanie of My Tiny Philadelphia Kitchen whip up a brown butter frosting for An Evening of Sweets and Treats, I decided I would try it myself for this cupcake. And it was genius. The frosting recipe I adapted was from My Kitchen Addiction. Also, if you’re new to brown butter, check out this great video from Food52.
Slipped between the chocolate cake–studded with bits of bacon–and brown butter frosting was a layer of ganache, because, really, why not? Then, using my favorite recipe for candying bacon easily in the oven, I made candied bacon crumbles to go on top of all of the cupcakes.
The final result is chocolately–helped in part by Samuel Smith’s Organic Chocolate Stout, which is intensely sweet and flavorful–and bacony as well. The brown butter frosting lends a wonderful nuttiness to the cupcake.
My only revision would be to chopped the bacon for the cupcake even smaller … like bacon bit size. The slightly larger pieces (still pretty small, though) can be a little distracting in my opinion, and sometimes fall out when you’re eating the cupcake. Which means you just need to devour it quicker, I suppose.
Start with the candied bacon so it has time to cool. Heat the oven the 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a jellyroll pan with aluminum foil and set a wire cooling rack on the foil. Set aside.
Place 3 strips of bacon in a quart-sized self-sealing bag (I found this reduced mess) along with 3 tbsp of brown sugar. Massage the sugar onto the bacon. Remove from the bag and stretch out along the cooling rack on the pan. Repeat with the remaining bacon and 3 more tbsp of brown sugar.
Once all the bacon is in place, sprinkle on 1 tbsp of brown sugar. Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, flip over the bacon and sprinkle on the last tbsp of brown sugar. (Note: My foil was a mess at this point and I ended up having to replace it mid-way through the second baking due to a smoky kitchen--from the dripping sugar and fat, not burning bacon--so my suggestion is to also replace the foil at this point).
Place back in the oven for an additional 10-15 minutes. I found that I got some nice crispy ends, that, while looked very dark, did not taste burned. If some of the middle of the bacon is still reddish, I suggest crumbling off all the dark bits (trust me) and putting the bacon back in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 more minutes (keep an eye on it). But that's my preference.
Once cooled (this surprisingly does not take long), crumble the bacon and set aside.
For the cupcakes, heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and position the racks toward the center. Line cupcake pans with papers.
For the cupcakes, combine flour, baking soda, salt and sugar, whisking to blend; set aside.
In a heavy-bottomed, medium pan, melt the butter on medium-high heat. Once melted, add 1 cup of the chocolate stout (reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for later) and whisk together. Add the espresso powder and cocoa--gradually--whisking to combine. The mixture should come to a simmer, but not a boil. You want it to thicken.
Once thickened, cool the cocoa mixture for about 10-15 minutes (the freezer is handy here).
In your stand mixer, whip together the eggs and buttermilk.
Once the cocoa mixture has cooled, slowly add a little bit of the mixture to temper the eggs, whisking constantly. Add the remaining mixture, whisking to combine (this might best be done by taking the bowl off the stand mixer and whisking by hand, then putting it back on to the mixer for the dry ingredients).
Add the dry ingredients in 3-4 stages, mixing well to combine. Add the vanilla extract and remaining 1/4 cup of chocolate stout and mix to combine.
Add the bacon crumbles and mix to combine.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each about halfway full. Bake for about 20-22 minutes. When done, transfer tins to wire racks to cool 5 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely.
As the cupcakes cool, make your ganache and frosting.
For the ganache, put the chocolate in a 2-cup measuring cup.
Heat the cream over medium high heat, bringing it just to a boil. Remove it from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
Stir to combine until the chocolate is full melted. If the ganache is not smooth enough, use an immersion blender.
Set aside to cool slightly.
For the frosting, cut the butter into even pieces. Place in a sauce pan that does not have a dark colored bottom (you need to be able to see the color change).
Heat over medium and melt the butter. Do not leave the butter unattended, because the butter's milk solids can burn, and then you'll need to start over.
Continue cooking until the butter smells nutty and the milk solids have dropped to the bottom of the pan and are light brown. Remove from the heat immediately and set aside to cool.
While the brown butter is cooling, dip the tips of the cupcakes in the ganache. Place on a tray and chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
As the ganache sets, add the brown butter and vanilla in the bowl of your stand mixer with 1 cup of confectioners sugar, mixing to combine. Gradually add the remaining sugar in 1/2 cup increments, as well as the heavy cream in single tablespoon increments.
The frosting will look gritty before it looks smooth, but don't worry. It will come together. Once you've added all the sugar and all the cream, whip on high for a few minutes.
Fit a piping bag with an extra large French tip and pipe the frosting as a single dollop onto the ganache. Add the candied bacon and enjoy!