Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chocolate Mint Kiss Cupcakes

Happy Valentine's Day lovelies!!

A few years ago I probably wouldn't have been so eager to celebrate this bittersweet occasion with you all. For I was naive then and thought Valentine's Day was only for those coupled in a romantic relationship. Since I have yet to find that in my life, my stomach would churn at the thought of having to spend "singles awareness" day alone. But my thinking all changed on this very day back in 2007. On that Valentine's day, our area had suffered a major snowstorm. I was in my junior year of college and campus had been shut down. My roommates and I lived off campus and we were completely snowed in. With no way of getting anywhere, everyones Valentine's plans were cancelled for the night. Despite the inches of snow piling up outside, we were determined to make the best of it.

I resorted to my recipe stash as the three of us decided to test our cooking skills. Settled on a Chicken Piccatta dish, we laughed until our stomach hurt as we all had our first experience trying to be domesticated. And cooking was just the start of it all. With white lights hung from the dining room ceiling, a heart speckled table cloth and candles for a bit of table ambiance, our old 1960's house was transformed into a colorful, fun, gourmet restaurant. With a bucket of snow table side to chill our bottles of wine, we drank through the night and had the most fun that a bunch of friends could ever ask for.

It was that night that I realized it doesn't matter if you have a romantic partner to share your Valentine's Day with, as long as you have friends and family that love you and that you care about. Since then, I've always welcomed Valentine's Day as a celebration of everyone in my life. For without them, I wouldn't be who I am today. So to celebrate, I thought I would show everyone how much I care with a batch of divine cupcakes! Chocolate Mint Kiss cupcakes, to be exact.

The chocolate and minty flavors of this cupcake marry together so well, it's sweeter than loves first kiss. Drizzled with hot fudge and a melted Andes Mint center, the dark rich cake base compliments the light, and fluffy buttercream frosting dolloped on top. To construct this delicious dessert, I made a few adjustments to a highly acclaimed classic chocolate cake recipe by Sweet Tooth. Replacing the buttermilk with sour cream and the vanilla extract with mint extract, I achieved the moist and minty flavor I was searching for. Also, because I'm a huge fan of time saving techniques, I used NesCafe instead of brewing a pot of real coffee (which I've never done in my life!). Keeping with the Valentine's Day theme, the shiny red foil wrappers pair well with the light pink sugar pearls and chocolate kisses perched on top.

If you're lucky enough to have a special place in my heart, I recommend you bring your appetite if our paths cross today; because this is one cupcake you won't want to miss! Whether you're celebrating this festival of love with your soul mate, family or friends, I wish you the happiest Valentine's Day anyone could ask for! Enjoy!

Andes Mints melting in the center of each cupcake

My Daddy sends me flowers every Valentine's Day :)

Flashback to 2007...this is our table for our Valentine's Day dinner in college! I can't believe I found this pic!

Chocolate Mint Kiss Cupcakes

Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Sweet Tooth

1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
8 oz sour cream (or 1 cup buttermilk)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 tsp mint extract
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
24 Andes Mint candies

Preheat to 350* and line 24 muffin tins with foil wrappers.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In another small bowl, mix together eggs, sour cream, oil, and mint extract. Using the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Add the coffee and mix to combine. Divide batter among muffin tins. Place an Andes Mint candy in the center of each muffin tin. Bake for 15 to 20 mins or until toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cupcakes stand to completely cool.

For the Frosting
via Wilton

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla extract (substitute mint extract for an extra minty taste!)
4 cups confectioner's sugar
2 tblsp milk

Cream shortening and butter with an electric mixer. Add the vanilla. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar and beat on medium speed. Add milk and beat until light and fluffy. Fill a pipping bag with frosting and pipe onto cupcakes. Decorate with colored sanding sugar, hot fudge or sugared pearls!

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