Diary of a Foodie

City Skyline Cupcake

Diary of a Foodie: Season One: Just Desserts

Makes12 regular cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes
  • Active Time:3 hr
  • Start to Finish:4 hr
RECIPE © 2006 KAREN TACK AND ALAN RICHARDSON. FROM CRAZY CUPCAKES, HOUGHTON MIFFLIN
January 2007
Perfect for a children's party, this recipe is full of imagination; you get to create your own city skyline out of cupcakes, cookies, and candies.

For Cupcakes

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Ganache

  • 24 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup

For Decorating

  • Chocolate sandwich cookies (such as Oreos) in various sizes
  • Miniature Twix bars
  • Sugar or wafer ice cream cones
  • Toblerone chocolate
  • Small peanut butter cups
  • Pirouette cookies
  • Graham crackers
  • Thin pretzel sticks
  • A Teddy Grahams cracker (if making King Kong)
  • White and yellow nonpareils
  • Special equipment:

    a muffin pan with 12 (-cup) muffin cups; a mini muffin pan with 12 (y-cup) muffin cups; paper liners (preferably brown; see cooks' note, below); 2 large (1-gallon) sealable plastic bags (not pleated); freezer space for a 15- by 10-inch shallow baking pan

Make cupcakes:

  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350F. Line muffin cups with liners.
  • Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
  • Beat together butter and sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 5 with a handheld. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in chocolate until combined well. Reduce speed to low, then add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined. Mix in vanilla.
  • Spoon batter into one of large sealable bags. Snip off 1 corner of bag to form a 1/2-inch-wide opening and pipe batter into muffin cups, dividing it evenly and filling cups about two-thirds full. Bake until puffed and a toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes for mini cupcakes, 15 to 18 minutes for regular cupcakes. Cool in pans on racks 5 minutes, then turn out onto racks and cool completely.

Make ganache:

  • Put chocolate in a large bowl. Heat cream in a medium saucepan over moderate heat until it just comes to a boil, then pour over chocolate and let stand 3 minutes. Whisk until smooth, then stir in corn syrup.

Assemble and decorate cupcake skyscrapers:

  • Spoon about 1/2 cup ganache into a small bowl and chill, uncovered, until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, put remaining ganache into a 2-cup glass measure and let stand at room temperature until ready to use. Spoon chilled ganache into remaining large sealable bag and snip off 1 corner of bag to form a 1/4-inch-wide opening.
  • Assemble the "skyscrapers" for your city skyline by stacking cookies, candies, and even some mini cupcakes if desired, on top of regular cupcakes (still in paper liners), trimming them as necessary and using chilled ganache as glue. (Use your imagination to create buildings of your own design.) Put "skycrapers" in a large (15- by 10-inch) baking pan as constructed and freeze, uncovered, until firm, about 30 minutes.
  • Reheat remaining ganache in a microwave oven for 15-second intervals at 50-percent power until pourable but not hot. Holding 1 chilled "skycraper" by paper liner of cupcake, invert it and dip building and top of cupcake (but not liner) into ganache, letting excess drip back into remaining ganache. Return "skyscraper," right side up, to baking pan. Coat remaining "skyscrapers" in same manner, returning them to baking pan. Sprinkle "skyscrapers" with nonpareils while ganache is still wet (to represent lit windows). Chill, uncovered, until ganache is set, about 1 hour. (You will have ganache left over.)
Cooks' note: Brown-paper muffin cup liners are available at some cookware stores, some supermarkets, and New York Cake & Baking Distributors (800-942-2539). We were also successful using beige-colored organic paper muffin cup liners available at Whole Foods and other natural foods stores.
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