Happy birthday to…. ME! I’m a huge birthday person. Growing up, my parents always made a big deal about my brother’s and my birthdays. We had every party you could think of and always knew that our birthdays were our one special day. Being that I am a June baby, I never really got to bring in treats to school, however, as I got older and started my career, I always made a special point to bring in some kind of goodies on my birthday. My first birthday at my first real job, one of my co-workers made me a cake. I still have a picture of me and that cake somewhere. Since then, the tradition has stuck. And this year is no different.
Earlier in my birthday week, I treated myself to a free coffee at a local Detroit coffee shop. I’m not normally a froo-froo coffee drinker – you know, those extra large frozen coffees that are deep chocolate and covered in whipped cream and syrup? Yeah, not really my thing. However, since I had a coupon for a free drink…and since I had spent the previous night awake with an angry teething one year old, I felt a tall frozen concoction was in order. I ordered the shop’s signature frozen drink. I waited and watched as the coffee barista poured calorie after calorie of chocolate syrup, ice cream, and other things I don’t even know into a blender. He swirled everything until it was deliciously smooth and poured it into a chocolate syrup coated cup, topped it with the traditional poof of whipped cream and more syrup. I slowly took the drink (knowing that it will probably be a year until I enjoy another) and sipped. The barista watched me carefully and asked for my approval… well… let me just say… it was like a punch in the face. Unbeknownst to me, this particular concoction had blackberry syrup swirled in it. I completely didn’t expect this fruity blast when I took a sip. I may have even stepped away from the cup. I smiled at the barista (there was no way I was going to tell him I didn’t like it) and said it was unexpectedly delicious and walked away.
Now, let me just explain this drink a little further… there was fresh roasted coffee, dark chocolate swirls and a huge hit of blackberry syrup. I wasn’t even sure if I liked it at first. And then I took another sip. Standing in the streets of Detroit, in sweltering 98 degree heat, six months pregnant… I took a HUGE sip. Before I knew it, the drink was halfway gone and I was bouncing off the walls. The baby boy inside of me was doing back flips. We were a happy couple. I decided that the blackberry dark chocolate combination was pure genius. And of course, as most things turn this way for me, I began thinking of cupcakes.
I had been trying to think of the most spectacular cupcakes to make for my birthday extravaganza. I wanted something luxuriously delicious. I wanted my co-workers to fall off their chairs, take a step back and say, whoa. And after having my frozen coffee knock out, I had figured it out. I present to you the ultimate birthday cupcake: deep dark chocolate cake, filled with rich blackberry filling, topped with the perfect espresso buttercream. Happy birthday to me indeed.
I used my basic chocolate cupcake recipe for this, with a few modifications (see my Recipes Page). Instead of adding three tablespoons of oil. I cut three tablespoons of butter into the flour mixture before adding the liquid ingredients. Then continue as the recipe states. At the very end I added four ounces of chopped dark chocolate (I used half a Ghiradelli baking bar). Bake at 350 for about 19 minutes.
For the blackberry filling, I mashed one small container of blackberries in a pan. Then I added a half cup of blackberry jam (Smuckers worked just fine) and one small package of pectin (this allows the filling to thicken – you can find it in the canning section). I brought everything to a boil and then stuck it in the freezer for a quick cool down. If it’s runny when you put it in the freezer, don’t worry. The pectin will thicken as it sits. Once cooled, fill the cupcakes. I usually stick my filling in a piping bag with a star tip attached and jam it into the top of the cupcake. Squeeze until the cupcake seems to burst with filling out of the top.
Finally, for the espresso frosting: Beat the snot out of two sticks of real butter. Slowly add 2 cups of powdered sugar (add 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition). Beat in one teaspoon of vanilla. I didn’t have espresso powder, so I dissolved three tablespoons of instant coffee into three tablespoons of heavy cream and slowly added it to the creamed butter. If you have espresso powder, I would experiment with the correct amount because espresso powder is considerably stronger than instant coffee. Swirl the frosting over the filled cupcakes. To finish, add a drizzle of the blackberry filling, some shaved chocolate and a fresh blackberry. Yum!