|Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting|
People seem to have a love/hate relationship with this prolific summer squash. I am a lover of zucchini so am always looking for new ways to highlight it's delicate flavour. This squash truly shines by mid-summer. As a home cook, I'm partial to the sweet, young version, whose delicate, creamy flesh lends itself well to both raw and cooked dishes. I avoid the large, mature zucchinis that haunt the stalls at many markets in late summer which have waterlogged, fibrous bodies and bitter seeds.
Attack of the Squash People
"And thus the people every year
in the valley of humid July
did sacrifice themselves
to the long green phallic god
and eat and eat and eat.
They're coming, they're on us,
the long striped gourds, the silky
babies, the hairy adolescents,
the lumpy vast adults
like the trunks of green elephants.
Recite fifty zucchini recipes!
Zucchini tempura; creamed soup;
sauté with olive oil and cumin,
tomatoes, onion; frittata;
casserole of lamb; baked
topped with cheese; marinated;
stuffed; stewed; driven
through the heart like a stake.
Get rid of old friends: they too
have gardens and full trunks.
Look for newcomers: befriend
them in the post office, unload
on them and run. Stop tourists
in the street. Take truckloads
to Boston. Give to your Red Cross.
Beg on the highway: please
take my zucchini, I have a crippled
mother at home with heartburn.
Sneak out before dawn to drop
them in other people's gardens,
in baby buggies at churchdoors.
Shot, smuggling zucchini into
mailboxes, a federal offense.
With a suave reptilian glitter
you bask among your raspy
fronds sudden and huge as
alligators. You give and give
too much, like summer days
limp with heat, thunderstorms
bursting their bags on our heads,
as we salt and freeze and pickle
for the too little to come."
You know it had to happen when being overrun with copious amounts of zucchini that chocolate cupcakes would have to be in the line-up. September brings a return to normalcy with children starting back to school and summer holidays under our belts. For me it means that my favourite season is just around the corner. If you are going to celebrate then your neighbours might not be upset if you leave these moist and delicious cupcakes on their porch instead.The added bonus for me is when I lick the bowl I am getting my raw vegetables as well…wink. My inspiration for this recipe was Jamie of Life's a Feast who was looking for a chocolate zucchini recipe and my version of a combination of recipes. My favourite may still be a Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma, but baking today has made the choice that much more difficult. Would I change anything next time? Perhaps sprinkling the tops with sea salt, saving a little of the caramel sauce to drizzle on top?
**Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting**
For the Cake
2 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa (I like Ghiradelli)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup 2% buttermilk (or sour your milk by mixing 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white wine vinegar to milk and let it sit for 5 minutes)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup oil
2 cups coarsely chopped or grated zucchini, patted dry
1 cup chocolate chips
For the Salted Caramel Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
20 pretzel twists, optional
For the Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and a pinch of salt; with a metal whisk, whisk lightly to combine and set-aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer at medium speed process the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar, and vanilla. Add the butter and continue mixing until light and fluffy, approximately 2 minutes. Add the buttermilk and oil and continue mixing for 1 - 2 minutes to incorporate. With the machine off add the zucchini, chocolate chips, and the dry ingredients. Mix at low speed until mixed through and the flour disappears. Do not over process.
Ladle into a muffin tin that has paper inserts; fill about 3/4 full.
Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool then frost.
Prepare the Salted Caramel Frosting: Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Once melted, add brown sugar and heavy cream. Stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add salt. Allow to bubble for exactly 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Beat in powdered sugar 1 cup at a time, until you reach desired consistency.
Makes 20-24 cupcakes
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