Toffee Brownie Cupcakes with Oreo Swiss Meringue Buttercream
January blues? Me too. So here is a blues-busting recipe for you! Now I can't promise you'll be able to "eat yourself healthy" with this recipe, but I can promise a good mood boost and a moment (or two, or three...) of self-indulgence. January is hard. Treat yourself.
Specialist Utensils: 1-2 muffin tins, 12-15 cupcake cases, electric hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, hand whisk, ice cream scoop (or piping bag and nozzle if you want to test out some fancy piping skills).
Top Tip #1: These cupcakes are made from a conventional brownie recipe so won't be light and fluffy like a usual cupcake, but heavier and richer. Because of this, once out of the oven, the cupcakes tend to cave in on themselves. Don't fret though, you can just fill any large gaps with the Oreo Swiss meringue buttercream and anyone privileged to eat one of your cupcakes certainly won't be complaining!
Top Tip #2: Swiss meringue buttercream is a lighter, more stable and less sweet option to normal buttercream. It has a lovely silky texture and doesn't taste grainy like normal buttercream can sometimes. Making the Swiss meringue buttercream involves heating egg whites and caster sugar in a bowl over simmering water to cook the egg whites before they are whisked to create meringue. However, if you are worried about the inclusion of egg whites, then I would recommend whipping up some normal buttercream or whipping up some double cream to top the cupcakes with instead.
Top Tip #3: If you want to try out some fancy piping skills with this buttercream, then make sure to crush the Oreos (or similar biscuits) into a fine powder before adding to the buttercream, either by food processor or by hand - pop the biscuits into a food bag and bash with a rolling pin if you don't have a food processor. If the biscuit pieces are too large when you add them to the buttercream, they will block your piping nozzle. I made this mistake and ended up very irritated with a piping-related mess all over my kitchen. After I cleared that up and stopped being annoyed with myself, I gave up with the piping and used an ice cream scoop instead. If you have no patience with piping, I do wholly recommend the ice cream scoop.
Toffee Brownie Cupcakes
400g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
250g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
3 large eggs
250g dark soft brown sugar
200g milk chocolate, chopped into small pieces (or chocolate chips)
110g plain flour (normal or gluten-free)
1 teaspoon baking powder (ensure gluten-free if required)
Oreo Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large eggs whites
250g caster sugar
340g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
50g crushed oreos or similar biscuit (ensure gluten-free if required) plus 12-15 whole biscuits for decoration
Makes: 12 - 15 cupcakes
1. Make the brownie cupcakes: Pre-heat the oven to 160°C (140°C fan). Fill your muffin tin(s) with cupcake cases (if you only have one tin, you may have to bake in two batches).
2. Melt 300g of the dark chocolate with the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in 15 second bursts in the microwave, stirring after each 15 second burst until everything is melted. Once fully melted, add the tablespoon of cocoa powder and stir well. Leave to one side to cool.
3. Whisk the eggs using an electric hand or stand mixer until pale and thickened, then whisk in the sugar one tablespoon at a time until the mixture is thick and glossy. Gently fold in the melted chocolate mixture, then sift in the flour and baking powder and stir until smooth. Add the rest of the dark chocolate and all of the milk chocolate pieces to the batter and stir until combined.
4. Using an ice cream scoop or a normal spoon, scoop the batter into each of the cupcake cases. Fill each cupcake case until about two thirds full. The batter should fill about 12-15 cupcake cases, depending on how generous you are with each case.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes until risen and firm to the touch but still gooey inside. Cool in the tin on a wire rack until the tin is cool enough to be handled. Then take the cupcakes out of the tin and leave to cool on the wire rack. Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container in a cool place or in the fridge until ready to be iced.
6. Make the Oreo Swiss meringue buttercream: Cut the butter into small pieces and leave to soften at room temperature for about 1 hour. Thoroughly wash and dry a stainless steel mixing bowl (a glass heatproof bowl could be used but it will not cool as fast after being taken off the heat) to ensure no fat comes into contact with the egg whites (as this will stop from them from whipping into meringue).
7. In a medium pan, add about 1 inch of water and bring to a simmer. Add the egg whites and caster sugar to the stainless steel bowl and place the bowl over the pan of simmering water.
8. Whisk constantly using a hand whisk until the sugar is fully dissolved (this will take about 3-5 minutes). The mixture is ready when you cannot feel any sugar granules when rubbing the mixture between your fingers and mixture is hot to the touch. If you have a thermometer the mixture should reach 70˚C.
9. Once the sugar has fully dissolved remove the bowl from the heat and using a hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites on medium-high speed until the meringue is thick and glossy and stiff peaks have formed, and the bottom of the bowl feels completely at room temperature to the touch (this should take around 5-10 minutes with a stand mixer and possibly a little longer for a hand mixer).
10. Once stiff peaks have formed and the bowl has cooled to room temperature, reduce the speed of the whisk to medium and add the butter one tablespoon or cube at a time until fully incorporated. Once all the butter had been added, whisk in the vanilla extract and salt and keep whisking until the buttercream has reached a silky smooth texture. NB: If your mixture starts to look lumpy or curdled, don't panic but keep whisking and it will come back to smooth.
11. Crush 50g of the Oreos or similar biscuits into a fine powder using a food processor or the old-fashioned 'bash with a rolling pin' technique. If you plan to pipe the buttercream using a piping bag and nozzle, make sure the biscuits are very finely crushed to avoid the piping nozzle getting blocked. Gently fold the crushed biscuits into the buttercream.
12. If using an ice cream scoop, fill the scoop with buttercream and place a full scoop on top of each cooled cupcake. Then, press one whole Oreo or similar biscuit into the middle of the buttercream scoop. If piping, make sure to choose a fairly wide nozzle. If the buttercream doesn't hold its shape when piped, it might need cooling in the fridge for an hour or so.
13. Eat! Share at your own peril.
Storage: Store the cupcakes in an airtight container on a cool place for up to 2 days, or in the fridge for up to 5 days. Bring back to room temperature before serving. If you have any leftover buttercream this can also be stored by itself in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or can be frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost thoroughly in the fridge before using.