Monday, 15 April 2013

Black magic cupcakes with Baileys salted caramel Italian meringue buttercream

I recently bought a massive box of old cookery books. That's the thing about me, cookbooks are my catnip. I am fast running out of space to store them and, since I am constantly referring to them, they are usually stacked in crazy Jenga piles around my desk. Have you noticed that it's always the book at the very bottom of the pile you need to consult? But I digress.

Amongst the books was this gem, The All American Cookbook - America's favourite dishes for non-American cooks, by Martha Lomask. It was published in 1981 and contains some of the most unappetising food photography I have ever come across. The book has recipes for everything  from starters to cocktails, but it's the baking section that has me hooked. The names of some of the recipes are downright extraordinary: Shoofly Pie, Apple Pandowdy, Huckleberry Buckle - I want to make 'em all!

When I came across the recipe for Hershey, Pennsylvania, Black Magic cake I just knew it would be good. I didn't realise it would be SO incredibly good as to become my go-to recipe for chocolate cake. It's an absolute doddle to make but the resulting cake is light as air, moist, rich in flavour and absolutely fool-proof.

First time I baked it, I was sure the recipe had the measurements down wrong - the batter is very, very liquid and it really does not appear as if it would ever transform into a cake. But it does, as if by, well, magic (sorry, could not resist).

Variations of this recipe appear on many blogs and the original recipe may well have been produced by the Hershey Chocolate company. I am reproducing the recipe as printed in my book - but have tweaked the raising agents and flavourings a little. The cake contains quite a lot of coffee - if you are avoiding coffee you can simply use the same volume of water with 2 tbsp Camp coffee syrup. Makes either 3x20cm or 2x23cm cake layers or 30-35 cupcakes (depending on size of case used).

The cake can be dressed up (see butterecream recipe below) or down - you can use ganache, American buttercream or anything you fancy as frosting. It makes an excellent birthday or celebration cake.

The Black Magic Cake has wowed at charity sales, in store at Anderson & Co and at the recent Beverages-themed Band of Bakers event.

Hershey, Pennsylvania, Black Magic Cake (or cupcakes)

200g plain flour
350g caster sugar
75g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs (specified as size 3 in book)
225ml fresh coffee, cooled (either instant coffee or espresso)
1 tsp camp coffee syrup
1 tsp vanilla paste
225 buttermilk
100ml vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 180C. Put paper cases in your muffin tin or prepare 3x20cm pans or 2x23cm pans by spraying with cake release spray.

Put all the dry ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix using the paddle attachment on medium for a couple of minutes. Or sift them together over a bowl.

Put the buttermilk, oil, eggs and flavourings in a measuring jug. Add the coffee (can be hot) and mix together lightly. Cover the bowl of the mixer and slowly add the wet ingredients while mixing on low speed. Increase the speed to high and mix for 2-3m. Take a rubber spatula and mix the batter, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Pour into the cases or cake tins filling only halfway. Bake in the centre of the oven. In my fan assisted oven the 20cm cake layers take about 20-25m; the 23cm cakes take 30-35 and the cupcakes 20-25m.

Let them cool completely before frosting.

Baileys Salted Caramel Sauce

This is incredibly easy to make and tastes amazing. You can leave the liquor out if you prefer, but the alcohol cooks off so this is safe for children and anyone avoiding booze. This makes a generous quantity and you may have leftovers. Recipe easily halved.

300g caster sugar
60ml water
squeeze of lemon
1 tsp Maldon sea salt crystals (more or less, to taste)
200ml double cream
40-80ml Baileys or other Irish Cream liquor
30g unsalted butter

Combine the cream and Baileys in a measuring jug. Put the sugar, salt, lemon juice and water in a medium heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to the boil and cook, swirling the pan, until the sugar dissolves and the colour changes to deep amber. Remove from the heat and pour the cream mixture - be careful, this will cause the caramel to bubble and rise in the pan. When the bubbling stops, add the butter and mix till combined. Clip on a sugar thermometer and return pan to the heat. Boil till the caramel reaches 120C (240F). Let the caramel cool before using. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Reheat gently to use. Do not eat with a spoon - that's bad.

NOTE: Someone rightly pointed out that 160C is not 240F - I have amended post accordingly! Apologies for this mistake - clearly number dyslexia on my part! You can do this without the sugar thermometer - boil for couple of minutes then take off heat - the longer you cook it the thicker the caramel gets.

Italian Meringue Buttercream (with Salted caramel & Chocolate)

You may have noticed my love affair with Swiss meringue buttercream on this blog. Well, I have found a new lover: Italian meringue buttercream - the smoother, silkier, more seductive cousin of the Swiss one. The ingredients are the same - the method differs. You can make the Swiss version if you prefer, it is slightly easier.

200g caster sugar
75ml water
pinch salt
5 large egg whites (150ml - I use liquid egg whites)
215-250g unsalted butter, cubed at room temperature

2 tbsp of the Baileys Salted Caramel sauce
70g of dark chocolate, melted

Put the sugar and water in a pan and clip on a sugar thermometer. Put the egg whites in the bowl of your stand mixer (make sure it's clean without a trace of grease). Bring the sugar and water to the boil. When the temperature reaches 110C (230F) start whisking your egg whites till you get a nice meringue. Keep an eye on the sugar thermometer and when the sugar reaches 120C (240F) take off the heat. Reduce your mixer speed to medium-low and very carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of the mixing bowl in a steady stream. Do not splash the syrup on the whisk or directly on the eggs - the sugar will harden and eggs will scramble! Do not splash yourself with it either - it's searingly hot.

Turn the mixer to high and keep whisking till the bowl has cooled - this can take up to 10m. Reduce speed slightly and start adding the butter, a cube at a time. Keep adding the butter and pay attention to the texture of the buttercream. It may turn liquid at first, then curdle a bit - keep whisking and it should come together. Some recipes call for a lot more butter - this makes the buttercream more stable but I prefer mine lighter. If yours does not come together you may want to add a bit more butter.

For this recipe I added 70g of chocolate (melted very carefully in the microwave, then cooled) and about 4 tbsp of the caramel sauce. The resulting buttercream is divine - but you can just leave it plain or flavour with vanilla.

Fit a large star nozzle  in a piping bag, fill with buttercream and frost your cake or cupcakes. Cool in the fridge for 30m and then drizzle with the caramel sauce and sprinkle with salt crystals.

Please note: this quantity of buttercream is enough to generously fill and frost 2x20cm cake layers or 3 if you are a bit more sparing. If will fill and cover 2x23cm layers but the cover will be more of a crumb coat. To frost the cupcakes as generously as I have in the photos, you will need to double the quantity of buttercream (or halve the cake recipe to make a more manageable amount of cupcakes!).

I will submit these to Tea Time Treats, hosted by Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage, as the theme this month is cupcakes and muffins.


  1. Oh my! Those cupcakes look and sound incredible. And such gorgeous photos. Definitely bookmarking this recipe to try.

  2. In my haste to post forgot 100ml of vegetable oil in cupcake recipe. Post now updated - and my face feels very red!

  3. What a wonderful list of names - get salted in there and you have my attention, caramel and chocolate too and I am yours! Your pictures are fabulous too. I make Nigella's dense chocolate cake quite a bit and that has loads of water that somehow doesn't seem quite right, but it always works brilliantly. I don't have a stand mixer and the one time I tried making Italian buttercream it failed miserably - will have to wait for the day I can get a stand mixer and kitchen to go with it.

  4. Yum. Have just eaten two of these very cakes post Yoga (is that wrong?). I just couldn't resist because they were so delicious and moreish. The cake is the not so sweet kind which goes perfectly with the buttercream. Thank you for sharing supergoldenbakes! I made some chocolate and guinness cup cakes recently (the Nigella ones) and flavoured the mascarpone topping with baileys but they weren't even half as nice as these ones...
    (I am posting as anonymous as can't work out how any of the other things work)

    1. Hey, always hoping to find willing tasters! Glad you liked them - there will be more bakes to share soon!

  5. This cake looks incredible! The name itself set of an 'oh my god must have this now' chain of thoughts in my head. I've not tried Italian buttercream - is the consistency much different to the Swiss variety?

  6. Italian buttercream is a bit silkier and lighter but the difference is not massive... The Swiss variety is a bit more stable for layer cakes I believe. Depends also on amount of butter added - I like to add not very much (if an entire block of butter can possibly be not much!) some recipes call for about 400g for same recipe.

  7. These look scrumptious! To say that I was making chocolate buttercream last week (using the Swiss meringue method) and I had a pot a salted butter caramel in my fridge! I should have thought of using it, duh! Well, it's definitely a must try next time!

  8. Holy, do those ever look delicious! Cook books are my weakness, too. If I see one, I'm bound to buy it!

  9. The title of this post had my taste buds salivating before I even caught sight of the glorious photos! Thank you ever so much for entering these into TTT!

  10. Thanks for the comments everyone. I can vouch for these cupcakes/cake - they really make an impression!

  11. I am literally drooling! I can't wait to give these flavours a try. Vohn x

  12. Yesterday I made some chocolate and Guinness cup cakes.the taste was so- so. i will try next time again.