This week’s book review is the novel called Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. It’s a story about Armageddon, and a devil and an angel that conspire to prevent it. And the recipe that will accompany it is for chocolate whiskey and beer cupcakes, which is completely unrelated to the novel, but when you’re trying to stop Armageddon you don’t really have time to eat, do you? And if you do stop it, you really deserve some cake.
So first, the book.
Good Omens, The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch is a fanciful imagining of Armageddon, told in the voice of a person that is used to telling stories that are a bit funny, yet could be serious. The main characters are an angel named Aziraphale, a demon named Crowley, a boy named Adam (also known as the son of Satan), and Agnes Nutter’s granddaughter Anathema. The angel and the demon decided to help in the upbringing of Adam, but there’s a mix-up and Adam ends up being raised in a perfectly normal home. They have grown to enjoy being on earth and aren’t looking forward to returning to their homes after the war. When they discover the mix-up, they hope that it will being the end of Armageddon.
This is a fun, fast-paced book that mocks many of the end of the world theories. It’s told in a story-telling voice that’s very enjoyable, and the reader gets completely caught up in the adventure that takes place. I highly recommend this, especially to Pratchett and Gaiman fans. This combination of writers is hysterical.
And now for the recipe.
This one is for chocolate whiskey and beer cupcakes, a recipe that I found on the Smitten Kitchen. While I’m not a huge fan of stout beer, I figured that it would be great with chocolate cupcakes. And I love Irish cream. This one had to be a slam dunk win, right? Wrong.
I forgot to figure in the elevation (8000 ft), which usually means adding about 2 tablespoons of flour. So when the cupcakes came out of the oven they had spread and fallen. Just a little disappointment, and I figured in would work well with the ganache. Instead of cutting out a bit of the center I had this lovely well to fill. I whipped up the ganache for the filling and mixed up the icing. Instead of the regular Irish Cream I used Bailey’s with chocolate and mint. It worked out pretty well.
So I filled the cupcakes, and iced them. Then I tried one. It was grainy, which means that I used way too much sugar, or that I didn’t mix them long enough. The good thing is that all of the issues are easily fixed, and other than the slightly grainy quality the cupcakes were pretty good. So here’s the recipe with my changes, (and I’ll put in parenthesis recommended changes, especially for those of us at high altitude).
Makes 20 to 24 cupcakes
For the Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (if you use salted omit the salt below)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-process)
2 cups all purpose flour (plus a couple tablespoons for high altitude)
2 cups sugar (I would go with 1 3/4 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 to 2 teaspoons chocolate mint flavored Irish whiskey (optional)
3 to 4 cups confections sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperatue
3 to 4 tablespoons chocolate mint flavored Baileys (or milk, or heavy cream, or a combination thereof)
Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 24 cupcake cups with liners. Bring 1 cup stout and 1 cup butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them 2/3 to 3/4 of the way. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, rotating them once front to back if your oven bakes unevenly, about 17 minutes. Cool cupcakes on a rack completely.
Make the filling: Chop the chocolate and transfer it to a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream until simmering and pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for one minute and then stir until smooth. (If this has not sufficiently melted the chocolate, you can return it to a double-boiler to gently melt what remains. 20 seconds in the microwave, watching carefully, will also work.) Add the butter and whiskey (if you’re using it) and stir until combined.
Fill the cupcakes: Let the ganache cool until thick but still soft enough to be piped (the fridge will speed this along but you must stir it every 10 minutes). Meanwhile, using your 1-inch round cookie cutter or an apple corer, cut the centers out of the cooled cupcakes. You want to go most of the way down the cupcake but not cut through the bottom — aim for 2/3 of the way. A slim spoon or grapefruit knife will help you get the center out. Those are your “tasters”. Put the ganache into a piping bag with a wide tip and fill the holes in each cupcake to the top.
Make the frosting: Whip the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, for several minutes. You want to get it very light and fluffy. Slowly add the powdered sugar, a few tablespoons at a time.
When the frosting looks thick enough to spread, drizzle in the Baileys (or milk) and whip it until combined. If this has made the frosting too thin (it shouldn’t, but just in case) beat in another spoonful or two of powdered sugar.
Ice and decorate the cupcakes.