Lately, I've been a bit fixated on memories of Paris. Maybe it's the rainy weather or the fact that I've been unable to shake this unending flu. Sometimes when I don't feel well, it helps me to remember times when I felt better.
There's something about Paris, the art, the architecture, its indescribable and inescapable beauty that mends and heals. One thing I remember clearly is the dessert cart at the Hotel Meurice. Why? It's the first time I ever tasted a dessert infused with lavender, the lavender eclair, in particular. Rich, yet light with just a subtle hint of purple-scented flavor and chocolate glaze. Delicious. Moreover, stopping by the Hotel Meurice for dessert is a probably the closest thing to dining inside of a cream puff itself. It's most definitely an unforgettable experience.
It wasn't until I returned home and sought out other lavender desserts that I learned just how important it is to have a light touch when working with the fragrance. Not enough - bland dessert. Too much - ruined dessert. Sadly, most lavender desserts I've experienced since the eclair fall into the latter category.
I was inspired to work with lavender in my own desserts after visiting the Cape Cod Lavender Farm this past summer. It's twenty acres of fresh grown lavender was an incredible sight to behold and a wonderful treat to take home.
What I present to you today is incredibly simple. It's not French and it doesn't involve pate choux. It simply marries the wonderful favor of deep, rich chocolate with hint of lavender essence. I give you the dark cocoa cupcake with lavender whipped cream...
Now before you shrug and say, "oh another chocolate cupcake" keep in mind that this recipe involved my researching, studying, adapting and combining recipes written between 1952-2008 and more kitchen mess and failure than I care to describe. Let's just say the effort would have made Julia proud. My only request is that you bake these cupcakes with love in your heart.
Dark Cocoa Cupcake
12 tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs room temperature
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tsp. Valrohna cocoa powder
1 cup plus 2 tbs. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
350 degrees. Twenty minutes or until inserted toothpick has no crumbs.
Whisk milk and cocoa powder together in pan. Heat gently until well blended. Mixture should be warm but not hot. Turn off heat. Add vanilla and stir.
Whisk remaining dry ingredients together and set aside.
Beat butter in bowl fitted with paddle at medium high speed about 35 seconds. Scrape down bowl. Gradually sprinkle in sugar; beat until white and fluffy 3-5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time beating a full minute after each addition. Scape down bowl.
With mixer on lowest speed add 1/3 dry ingredients mix until almost incorporated. Add 1/3 chocolate mixture mix until almost incorporated. Repeat process until ingredients are added. Be sure to scrape down bowl. Beat until mixture looks satiny about 15 seconds.
Line with cupcake wrapper. Fill 2/3 full of batter. Frost lavender whipped cream.
Lavender Whipped Cream
There are several ways to add the lavender flavoring. Whichever method you choose, taste the cream frequently to make sure the perfume taste isn't over powering - a little goes a long way.
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp. - 1 tsp. lavender petals
1/3-3/4 cup powdered sugar
Heat heavy cream until simmering. Add a small amount to lavender petals and allow to steep like a tea. Strain when the cream is infused with desired amount of flavor. Cool and refrigerate. In a stand mixer, whip the cooled cream with the desired amount of powdered sugar. Pipe whipped cream onto cupcakes using a star tip. Decorate with lavender.
2 cups chilled heavy cream
1/8-1/2 tsp. lavender extract
1/3-3/4 cup powdered sugar
In a stand mixer, whip the cooled cream with the desired amount of extract and powdered sugar. Pipe whipped cream onto cupcakes using a star tip. You can also fill the cupcakes with whipped cream. Decorate with dried edible lavender.
Note: This post is dedicated to my dear blog friend and pastry chef Zoe Francois whose new book, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients is scheduled for release on October 27, 2009. We can't wait...Congratulations Zoe!