I recently went back home (you know, that place where you grew up and where they have to take you in and give you a bed) to celebrate the birthdays of my mom and sister.  Their birthdays are about two weeks apart, so it made sense to go home for one weekend and celebrate with both of them.

While we were organizing my trip by phone, my mom said to me, “And one more thing: Your sister and I want you to make us some cupcakes.”

Uhh, what?

I love to bake, and I post photos of my efforts on my Facebook page.  My family knows that I am trying my hand at new recipes, and they continually both razz me for and stand in awe of my desire to bake from scratch.  But this was the first time I’d been asked to perform, asked to bake something specifically for a special occasion.

Still, it’s their birthdays!  Of course I am up to the challenge.

Picking out the perfect recipe was hard work.  I combed the internet for ideas, rejecting many recipes as too pretentious, too difficult, too time-consuming, requiring too many specialty ingredients, too adventurous in ingredients for such a small gathering.  Finally I wised up and searched the archives of my old stand-by, The Pioneer Woman.

PW recently posted a delightful-looking recipe f or chocolate cupcakes coated in chocolate ganache, using her chocolate sheet cake recipe as a base.  My major adaptation was in halving the recipe, which still yielded me twelve cupcakes (and a whole lot of leftover ganache.  Not good for the waistline).

You will need:
Cupcakes
1 cups Sugar
1 cups All-purpose Flour
1/4 teaspoons Salt
1/4 cups Buttermilk
1 whole Egg
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla
1 stick Butter
2 Tablespoons (heaping) Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Water, Boiling
12 whole Hershey’s Kisses, Unwrapped
Canned Pitted Cherries (optional)

Ganache
4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
3 Tablespoons Corn Syrup
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 12 muffin cups with baking spray.

To make the batter for the cupcakes, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together eggs, buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla.

In a saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter.  When the butter is all melty, add the cocoa powder and stir.  Add the boiling water, stir, allow to bubble for a few seconds, and remove from heat.

Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the flour mixture and stir a few times.  Pour the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and stir.

Fill muffin cups a little more than half full.  Place one Hershey’s kiss in the center of each muffin cup and allow it to sink down.  Or, place three cherries in the bottom of the muffin cup and cover with cake batter.

This would be where I read the recipe incorrectly.  I made some cupcakes with cherry bottoms and Hershey’s kiss centers.  This was by no means a misstep– it was a beautiful mistake.  It did mean, however, that I had enough batter for 12 cupcakes and that some of my cupcakes were a little overfilled.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then cool on a baking rack.

For the ganache, chop the chocolate and set aside. Heat the cream and corn syrup on medium heat in a saucepan.  Once hot, stir in the vanilla.  Pour the cream mixture over the chopped chocolate and stir together until the ganache is nice and glossy.  Once the cupcakes are cool, dunk the tops in the ganache and set on a plate to allow the ganache to set.

Verdict: “Uuhhhmmmmmmm.” -Mom. “Oh my god.” -Sister.

Thank you once again, Pioneer Woman.

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