Taste Tester found out about Brooklyn Kitchen’s Third Annual Cupcake Cookoff on Friday, three days in advance. Given the short notice, my immediate reaction was not to bother with it because there wasn’t enough time to prepare. But after a little more coaxing and a bit of obsessing over what kind of chocolate peanut butter cupcake I could think up, I decided to enter. And it worked out – I won a prize! I placed with just a handful of other winners among 60 entrants!!
Here’s the winning A-Rod Cupcake and me:
If you’re wondering about the name, we didn’t call it the A-Rod because I’m an avid baseball fan. The name seemed appropriate because the best way to describe it was, “a cupcake on steroids.” I mean, look at that thing – there’s a cookie on top of a cupcake. It was pretty ridiculous!
Despite arriving with about 40 cupcakes, we ran out fairly quickly. It was fun to hear people get excited about my crazy concoction. We didn’t really have any idea of our chances to win the popular vote for the coveted Cuisinart Stand Mixer prize, but made our best effort telling all passersby to vote for us. I never ran for Student Council President in highschool or anything, but I imagine this was kind of what it felt like.
After dreaming up my cupcake, which was a chocolate cake, filled with marshmallow fluff and topped with a layer of milk chocolate ganache, a peanut butter cookie and peanut butter ganache, I decided to do a test run. I made 11 different combinations of this cupcake to determine the best possible way of putting it together.
The test run proved worthwhile since I decided to change a few things about the recipe. My original plan included using Magnolia’s Chocolate Cake recipe and topping the peanut butter ganache with crushed Nilla Wafers. In the end, Magnolia’s recipe proved to be disappointingly dry, so I stuck with my standby, Elinor Klivan’s Chocolate Sour Cream Cupcake. It was a good move – her recipe is much more moist. Taste Tester decided that the Nilla Wafers didn’t really add anything to the mix, so I ditched that element. After a bit of deliberation – Semisweet or Milk Chocolate Ganache? Regular Marshmallow Fluff or Peanut Butter Fluff? Should we decorate it with marshmallows or Nutter Butters? – we had our cupcake.
After all that work, it felt pretty awesome to win! I won Second Place in the “Plain Decorated” category. The A-Rod may look pretty complex compared to your average cupcake but if you saw the cupcakes decorated with birds, gold or panda bears, my placement made sense.
There was a judging panel to determine winners of each category, but every attendee was able to participate in the popular vote. Everyone got one free ticket and could purchase extra tickets if they wanted. It was rigged, but it was all good since it was for charity. All of the proceeds went toward The Greenpoint Soup Kitchen. These were the ballot boxes:
Considering that the amount of participants has doubled each year, I imagine they’d have to have a different system for next year’s Cookoff. I don’t envy the people that had to count.
It was truly amazing how many cupcakes there were. Even though it was outside in a courtyard, it was pretty easy to be overwhelmed by the intense scent of sugar, let alone the sight of hundreds of cupcakes.
There were lots of crazy flavors including Parsnip, Chocolate Sourdough and Jalapeño, but believe it or not someone actually brought a plain Vanilla Cupcake, which I thought was kind of ballsy. It would take a pretty incredible vanilla cupcake to beat some of these elaborate ones.
Even though I only prepared for three days, I went into this really wanting to win. I don’t have a stand mixer and have been told of their awesomeness countless times. I haven’t let myself get one because my kitchen is too small to house one, but decided going into this that if I won it, it was meant to be. Sadly, it wasn’t so, but I went home happy with my goodie bag of prizes and the nice fuzzy feeling that our group donated money to charity. All in all, it was a great night!
Here are the contents of my snazzy prize pack:
Thanks to Brooklyn Kitchen for the sweet prizes and for hosting such a great event! And thanks to all the people that came and told me how much they liked the A-Rod Cupcake – nothing beats watching people thoroughly enjoy / freak out over something you made.
If you’re interested in more pics from the Cookoff, I have some more posted on flickr. Thanks to Milan and Kano for coming to support the team and for the lovely photos!
And now for the recipe! I’m not going to lie to you – these cupcakes take quite a bit of time to make, but man are they worth it. It’s without question one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever made and I hope you enjoy it! Recipe after the break.
The A-Rod Cupcake
The A-Rod is a chocolate cupcake filled with marshmallow fluff and topped with a layer of milk chocolate ganache, a peanut butter cookie, and a layer of peanut butter ganache. It’s a fluffernutter cupcake on steroids.
Yield: 18 cupcakes
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup water
2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
Milk Chocolate Ganache
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli)
3/8 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
Peanut Butter Cookies
1 bag Betty Crocker Peanut Butter Cookie Mix (17.5 oz – makes 3 dozen 2-inch cookies)
3 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp water
Peanut Butter Ganache
1 1/2 cups peanut butter chips
3/8 cup heavy whipping cream
3 T smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1. Make the chocolate cupcakes: Position rack in the middle of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin tin cups with paper liners.
2. Put chocolate in heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water or the bottom of the double boiler. Stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from the water and set aside.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is blended. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture, mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.
4. Fill each liner with a generous 1/3 cup of batter to just below the top of the liner. Bake until the tops feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack. Remove the cupcakes from the pan onto a wire rack and let cool completely.
5. While chocolate cupcakes are cooling, prepare the peanut butter cookies according to package directions. Set aside and let cookies cool completely before making the milk chocolate ganache.
6. Fill the cupcakes: Scoop 1 teaspoon of dough out of the center of each cupcake; discard (or eat). Fill a large ziplock bag with marshmallow fluff, snip the tip off and pipe it into the center of each cupcake. Use a spoon to separate the fluff from the bag as you go. Pipe about a teaspoon of fluff onto each cupcake. It will settle and flatten out into the cake’s crevice by the time you’re done making the milk chocolate ganache.
7. Make the milk chocolate ganache: Add the heavy whipping cream and butter to a double boiler and gently heat until the mixture is hot and bubbling slightly at the edges, but not boiling. Take it off the heat and add the milk chocolate chips in an even layer; let sit for 3-5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache sit for a few minutes until it thickens a little, then apply about a tablespoon of ganache to each cupcake. Let them sit for a minute, then before the ganache completely sets, top each cupcake with a cool peanut butter cookie.
8. Make the peanut butter ganache: Add the heavy whipping cream and butter to a double boiler and gently heat until the mixture is is hot and bubbling slightly at the edges, but not boiling. Take it off the heat and add the peanut butter chips in an even layer and top with the peanut butter let sit for 3-5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Let the ganache sit for a few minutes until it thickens a little, then apply about a Tbsp of peanut butter ganache to each cupcake.
*Note: the chocolate cupcake recipe is from Elinor Klivan’s Cupcakes!