I really like making things that involve stirring. Lots and lots of stirring.
Sauces, syrups, soups… stirring.
I think it’s good for my silly brain.
There’s a little groove in my palm where my favorite wooden spoon fits. I stand at the stove and I just stir.
Between the repetitive motion and the crazy-good smells wafting out of my pot, nothing is better at prying my jammed up thoughts loose.
I’m stirring an anise and orange syrup – I just worked out the final digit of pi!
While agitating a batch of roasted chile soup – Hey, I’ve cracked the riddle of the sphinx!
As I stir a mole verde sauce - I solved a Rubik’s Cube! In 30 seconds flat! Blindfolded!
You get the picture. Mental liberation through stirring.
So I was stirring a mole the other day and my brain kicked out these cupcakes. Weird, I know.
But they resulted from a stirring session so I went with it.
I should mention at the outset that these cupcakes are nothing close to a true mole. A mole is a type of sauce often found in Mexican cuisine. There are a wide variety of moles that are commonly used: black, red, yellow and green. But the thing that most notably distinguishes a mole is the intricacy of its preparation, as well as the wide variety of ingredients from which they are made. The average mole contains approximately 25 different ingredients and typically involves several different cooking techniques.
These cupcakes include a number of traditional mole ingredients, but they won’t take you hours to prepare.
And they taste good.
The chocolate meringue frosting and toasted sesame seeds on top are the sunshine at the end of this cupcake rainbow.
Bonus: just think of the thoughts that you’ll unearth as you stir this batter. And the problems you will solve while you whip the frosting.
Brilliant, with a cupcake in hand. Life doesn’t get any better.
Pasilla Mole Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
2 c. piloncillo (dark brown sugar may be substituted)
1/2 c. shortening
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. buttermilk
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. salt
10 oz. Mexican chocolate (semi-sweet American chocolate may be substituted)
2 tbsp. pumpkin seeds
1 tsp. pasilla chile, ground
3/4 tsp. cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp. cloves, dried, whole
1/4 tsp. black pepper, ground
1/4 tsp. ancho chile, ground
For the frosting:
4 large egg whites
3/4 c. white sugar, granulated
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 c. sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 350°.
Place pepitas on a baking sheet and toast for 3-4 minutes or until golden, fragrant, and some seeds are beginning to pop. Remove and allow to cool. Once the seeds are cool, process with cloves in a spice blender until powdered. Set aside.
Meanwhile, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and heat until melted – watch closely to be sure it does not burn. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool.
In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, salt, chiles, cinnamon and pepper together. In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the melted chocolate, beating until incorporated. Beat in the dry ingredients, alternating with the buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Fold the pepita and clove powder into the batter.
Line a metal muffin tin with paper liners and fill each cavity to its top. Bake cupcakes for 22-24 minutes. Set baked cupcakes aside to cool before frosting.
Meanwhile, to prepare the frosting, combine egg whites and sugar in the bowl of double boiler over simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat egg white mixture until sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture feels smooth when you rub it between your fingers. Remove the bowl from heat and beat at a high speed until stiff, dry peaks have formed and the mixture has cooled substantially. Lower the speed of your mixer slightly and continue beating until mixture is glossy, stiff and completely cool, approximately 8 minutes total. Continue mixing and beat in the cocoa powder and cream of tartar. Add the butter 2 tablespoons at a time. After all the butter has been added, beat for just 2 minutes more to eliminate any air bubbles.
Once you have finished your frosting, toast the sesame seeds in a small sauté pan over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes, tossing as they toast. Cool the sesame seeds before using to finish the cupcakes.
As soon as your cupcakes and seeds have cooled, top each cupcake liberally with buttercream and sprinkle with seeds.
YIELD: 20 cupcakes