I’ve already submitted an entry to this month’s Baking with Spirit blog challenge, but I’m going to be a little over-eager and submit a second one. “Gin” is the spirit of choice this month, and well, if you’re a regular reader, you may have noticed that I have a bit of a thing for gin. In fact, Janice, the host, very kindly mentioned this fact in her challenge post – I felt rather honoured at being lauded as a baking-with-gin expert. The flip side of that is that I wanted to come up with something worthy of such praise. The Leiter Fluid macarons are rather fabulous (if I do say so myself) but I’d already been planning on making them anyway for Skyfall’s NZ release. I wanted to make something specifically for Baking with Spirit.
I’ve been rather busy and stressed out so I didn’t think I’d actually have enough time to make something in the end. However, I had a bit of a super crappy day on Tuesday, and when I got home, I knew I had a date with my oven. It’s an electric oven, so nobody panic. I meant a date to bake with it and thus de-stress, just to make that clear. Awkward. Soooo anyway, moving swiftly on… I decided to make some white chocolate sloe gin cupcakes since I bought a bottle of sloe gin on a whim (it was on sale…) a few weeks ago but it was still unopened. A situation that obviously needed rectifying. And rectifying with panache, obviously, accompanied by a Sloe Gin & Tonic.
There are three steps to this recipe. The cupcakes themselves, which I based on my white chocolate and hazelnut “naked” cupcakes, are pretty basic – they’re just white chocolate cupcakes. The fancy-pants part of the cupcakes starts with the hidden ganache centre, an idea I borrowed from my knock-your-socks-off Cointreau-filled Masquerade Black Tie cupcakes. Ganache, incidentally, is a great way of getting a good dose of alcohol into cupcakes or any other baked goods. The cupcakes are then topped off with a white chocolate and cream cheese icing which includes a little extra dash of sloe gin, because one might as well go the whole hog. I made the icing swirly, just because I could. And it looks pretty.
Now, I’ll be perfectly honest – these cupcakes aren’t the lightest cupcakes you’ll ever eat and they’re also pretty high on the sugar front. They are not cupcakes for eating every day, unless you’d like to land yourself in a more or less permanent sugar coma. But for a one-off or a special occasion, they’re rather phenomenal. The sloe gin goes marvellously with the white chocolate, though it does make for a rather sweet combination. They’re also suitably sloe gin-y since none of the sloe gin that goes into these cupcakes is baked off – it’s all in either the ganache or the icing. And that, my friends, is the secret to making alcoholic cupcakes like a pro.
White chocolate sloe gin cupcakes
Just a warning in case you’ve skipped the preamble, these are quite alcoholic and very sweet. Do use a good sloe gin, whether shop-bought or homemade, since the flavour comes through pretty strongly, particularly in the ganache. Colouring the icing is obviously optional, but it makes it fun. You could also colour the ganache if you wanted – add the colour once the chocolate has fully melted as this will help you judge the colour better. Any leftover icing can be stored for a couple of days in an airtight container in the fridge. These are best eaten on the day, but will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box – like most cupcakes, they are best eaten sooner rather than later though.
For the cakes:
300g white chocolate
100g unsalted butter
180g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the ganache:
40g double or whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g white chocolate
40g sloe gin
For the icing:
55g white chocolate
150g cream cheese, softened
75g unsalted butter, softened
2-3 tsp sloe gin
375g icing sugar
Red food colouring gel or paste (optional)
To make the cakes:
1. Set out 14 silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray or line two cupcake/muffin tins with liners. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C.
2. Break 200g of the white chocolate into pieces and add to a heatproof bowl with the cubed butter. Gently melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on the mixture). Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate and butter are smoothly melted together.
3. Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining chocolate and set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl, stir together and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is smooth, thickened and creamy. Whisk in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture. Add the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until just combined. Finally, fold in the chopped chocolate.
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake moulds or liners, not filling the liners more than ¾ full. Bake for 20-22 mins until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to sit in the silicone moulds for a couple of minutes for the cupcakes to firm up a little before removing and them and transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.
To make the ganache:
6. Whilst the cupcakes are baking, make the ganache. Heat the cream in a small saucepan, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces) and the sloe gin, mixing with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?). Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool fully.
7. Once both the cupcakes and ganache are fully cooled, use an apple corer to hollow out a hole in the top of each cupcake (make sure not to go through the bottom of the cupcake). Fill a piping bag (or zip-lock bag with a corner cut off) with the ganache and fill each hole with the ganache (the piping bag makes it way quicker and is also easier to do neatly).
To make the icing:
8. Break the white chocolate into pieces and melt in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (again, make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on it). Once smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool whilst preparing the rest of the icing ingredients.
9. Prepare a piping bag with the tip of your choice (I used a Wilton 1M large star tip). If you want the two-tone icing effect, paint three stripes of the red food colouring gel up the inside of the bag.
10. Add the cream cheese and butter to a large bowl and whisk with an electric whisk until smooth. Add the room temperature white chocolate and sloe gin and beat until smooth. On a low setting, whisk in the icing sugar in several additions (this helps to avoid an icing sugar cloud). Add a few drops of red food colouring to get the colour you want and whisk until the colour is uniform.
11. Transfer the icing to the prepared piping bag and pipe big swirls on top of the cupcakes.