Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes w/ Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream

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If you use the term “dulce de leche” with a non-foodie, they’ll probably think you’re exceptionally fancy and cultured. Look at you, using foreign words! But in all reality, dulce de leche is just a pretty name for thick caramel-like sauce. If you like caramel at all, there’s a good chance you will love the socks off of dulce de leche, caramel’s richer, more viscous cousin.

Every time I take my periodical trips to Wegmans, I make it a point stock up on jars of dulce de leche. You can make this stuff at home too, but I’m lazy, and the dulce de leche I buy is top-quality and tastes like a caramely dream. I keep a few on hand because it’s so wonderful to bake with (or eat with a spoon like the glutton I am). And when I found myself looking for a new frosting recipe idea, I couldn’t have been happier to see this sweet edible gold awaiting me in the pantry.DSC_3710-2

When I someday release my very scientific study on how dulce de leche makes everything better, these Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes with Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream will be an influential piece of evidence. This buttercream is some of the creamiest, smoothest stuff you will ever try. Even after being refrigerated, it stays soft and velvety. Thank the silky dulce de leche for that.

What I love is that, even with the rich dulce de leche, this frosting isn’t too sweet. The inclusion of salt balances the sweetness out, while cinnamon adds dimension and a touch of warmth. The flavors are just perfect, pairing beautifully with the simple but delicious vanilla cupcakes.

I’ve tried multiple vanilla cake recipes, and this one is my favorite to-date. It is the fluffiest I’ve ever encountered, reminiscent of angel food. Plus, they stay nice and moist, just melting in your mouth with that frosting. What really distinguishes the cupcakes is a kiss of almond extract, providing an extra little something that will make taste-testers ask, “What is that?”

Go and impressive you friends and family with your fancy-shmancy Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream, served in swirling peaks atop cloud-like vanilla cupcakes. They’ll never know how easy they actually were to make. That impressive frosting will only take you 5 minutes!DSC_3747-2

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Not over-baking is the key to a soft, moist cupcake. You’re usually better off pulling them from the oven just before you think they’re done. Most recipes say to take them out after a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, but the toothpick should actually have a few crumbs on it.
  2. You don’t have to pipe the frosting like I did in the picture. But if you’d like to, and you don’t have a piping bag, you can make one. Take a large ziplock bag and put the frosting in, pushing it down to one corner. Twist off the top and snip off the bottom corner that you pushed the frosting towards. Pipe away!
  3. You can leave the cinnamon out if you’d just like a straight-up dulce de leche frosting.
  4. Get your dulce de leche fix with my Dulce de Leche Filled Cupcakes too.
  5. I baked this same vanilla cake recipe as a whole cake too, and it came out just as fantastic. It’s a wonderful basic vanilla cake recipe to have on hand.
  6. Having the milk and eggs at room temperature may not sound imperative, but it is. It makes a big difference in the cake’s texture.

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Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Ingredients:

For the Fluffy Vanilla Cupcakes
Cupcakes & cake directions adapted from Epicurious

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool

For the Salted Dulce de Leche-Cinnamon Buttercream
Frosting & frosting directions by The Smart Cookie Cook

  • 1 cups (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 16-oz. jar ducle de leche
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. coarse salt
  • 1 tbsp. milk or cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cupcakes tins with liners.
  2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into a medium bowl and mix with fork until blended.
  3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer at low speed. Add butter; continue beating at low speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
  4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer. It should be good and fluffy.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop to drop batter into the tins, filling them 2/3-full (just use a ladle if you don’t have an ice cream scoop). Bake 15-20 minutes or until puffed and set and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs. They will not brown like you might expect; in fact, if they get too golden, you probably overcooked them. Let cool for 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.
  6. Make the frosting: place butter, dulce de leche, and 2 cups of the sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer. Beat on LOW speed until incorporated then beat on medium speed until thoroughly blended (if you don’t start on a low speed, you’ll have powdered sugar everywhere). Add the rest of the sugar in 2 cups at a time, starting slow then increasing the speed until well-combined. Scrape down sides between each addition. Finally, add the milk, salt, and cinnamon and beat on medium speed until incorporated.
  7. Frost cooled cupcakes and enjoy. Store in an air-tight container.

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Sweet Spot Bake Shoppe – Chester, NJ

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After giving up an arm and a leg to get out of my classes, I got to spend a couple days visiting my sister in New Jersey last week. My family and I had to go when both my sister and my father had off from work, two very rare occurrences, which meant we had to leave Thursday. Guess who had a full day of classes, two tests, and a quiz on Thursday? The Smart Cookie Cook. Curse you, college!

Professors these days are unbelievably stringent about attendance, so getting out of Thursday was no easy feat. Luckily, I figured things out as best I could and made it to NJ after all.

The past few times I visited, my sister kept harping about how I needed to try this local cupcake shop. Now, don’t cut me out of your life for this, but I’m not totally crazy about cupcakes. Don’t get me wrong; they’re delicious, and I’ll eat ‘em like it’s my job, but I would pick other desserts over cupcakes first. In general, I’d rather have a big, honking slice of cake than a puny little cupcake. What can I say, I’m a glutton.

However, this time around, I finally succumbed to my sister’s nagging, and we took a trip to the Sweet Spot Bake Shoppe in Chester, NJ. If you’ve never been, Chester is an adorable, charming little town with cute and quirky shops lining the streets. It is exactly the kind of place you’d imagine to find a cupcake bakery.DSC_1842

You may have seen Sweet Spot Bake Shoppe when they took on the ultimate cupcake challenge and competed in Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Impressive, right?

Sweet Spot is small and cozy inside. As soon as you walk in, your eyes shoot straight to a pristine pastry case filled with an array of colorful cupcakes arranged in perfect orderly lines. Each cupcake is simple but elegant; there are no fancy shmancy decorations, just a picturesque, swirling peak of frosting atop a dome of cake. Right away, you know these cakes mean business. They’re not trying to distract you with frilly fixings or elaborate artwork; they’re relying on deliciousness alone to win you over. Could the simple cupcakes accomplish such a feat?IMG_1913

We selected a Chocolate-Chocolate cupcake, a French Toast Bacon Cupcake (and mini version), and a Peanut Butter Marshmallow Cupcake. I also couldn’t resist grabbing an assortment of their cake truffles, so I picked up Chocolate-Chocolate, Vanilla Coffee Cake-Chocolate, and Cookies & Cream-Chocolate.

Every cupcake was a huge hit, so moist, fluffy, and all-around delicious. The Chocolate-Chocolate was the big favorite, which you might not have guessed since it’s such a simple flavor. It was perfectly rich with just the right amount of silky frosting. I guess it’s true you can’t beat the classics.DSC_1855

The Peanut Butter Marshmallow Cupcake freakishly mimicked the deliciousness of a fluffernutter sandwich. Who didn’t love those sweet and salty treats growing up? This cupcake was like a sweeter, even more heavenly version of that classic childhood delicacy.

I didn’t get to try the French Toast Bacon since I’m a vegetarian, but that got rave reviews as well.

The cake truffles were just like cake balls. They had the perfect balance of cake and frosting in the filling, yielding an ideally moist and tender crumb that was not overwhelmed by rich frosting, but perfectly complimented by it. Each truffle was encased in a not-too-thin, not-too-thick chocolate shell that made them all the more delectable. My favorite flavor by far was the chocolate-chocolate. However, I was disappointed by the Cookies and Cream because it didn’t taste a thing like cookies and cream. In fact, it was lacking in the Oreo department altogether.DSC_1886

Overall, I was very pleased with Sweet Spot. I would opt for just cupcakes next time as opposed to the cake truffles because the truffles, although tasty, didn’t totally thrill me. I would love to try some more flavors of cupcakes in the future; they certainly have enough of them!

Are you drooling over my descriptions but nowhere near NJ? Never fear; they ship their cake truffles! Visit their website and like them on Facebook so you can see what all of the sugary buzz is about.

 


Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes stuffed w/ Lindt Truffles + How-To Video

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Have you ever followed someone you loved around like a lost little puppy dog, unable to focus on any other aspect of life but them? We’ve all been through it, that all-consuming, gleeful, gushing, innocent puppy dog love. Our eyes cloud over with lover’s haze, we float through every hour of every day on a cloud, and no form of reason can reach us. It’s love; we don’t need a reason.

It’s February, which means it’s the season of puppy love. With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, that means every fool’s falling in love and chasing the feet of their crushes. Well stop wasting your breath running after them and try a more efficient approach; everyone knows food is the way to the heart. I’ve got you a one-way ticket right here: Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes stuffed with Lindt Truffles.DSC_0475-2

These are the cutest, lovey-doviest darn cupcakes you could make this Valentine’s Day. And although they look intricate, they’re actually super simple. We start with a boxed mix of brownies to save you time. I find brownies are one of the better baked mixes you can get, but because I live by the philosophy that store-bought mixes are okay if and only if you jazz them up, we stuffed the brownies with silky Lindt truffles. It’s an unexpected bonus to bite into the fudgy, rich cupcake and find a creamy chocolate center. If that doesn’t say “I love you,” then nothing does.

These cupcakes are beautiful inside and out, with their decadent deep chocolate center and their adorable puppy love décor. A combination of creamy Vanilla Buttercream and rich Triple Chocolate Buttercream makes for endless decorating possibilities. Use the frostings in combination with M&Ms and heart-shaped sprinkles to create infinite different combinations of adorable dog faces.

My video breaks down just how easy the basic face is to make: squeeze out some frosting fur as sloppily as you like, it doesn’t need to be perfect, then make two ears and two circles for cheeks. Then you’re free to stick on eyes, draw on mouths, or pipe on slobbery tongue. Let your imagination run wild. Whatever you chose will be adorable.

Ah, puppy love; so much better in a cupcake.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Watch the video to really get a feel for how to make these cuties.
  2. This décor works on any kind of cupcake.
  3. Here’s a bunch of different combinations you can try to make different dogs:Puppy Love Cupcake Brownies
  4. Using store-bought brownie mix is fine since we doctored it up, but don’t you dare use store-bought frosting. That stuff’s nasty, and homemade is so easy.
  5. Not an artist? Don’t worry! You’ll be surprised how simple these are. You don’t need an artsy bone in your body.
  6. When melting chocolate in the microwave, you MUST cook it in short intervals, stirring in between, or it will burn.DSC_0446

Puppy Love Brownie Cupcakes stuffed with Lindt Truffles
By The Smart Cookie Cook

Yield: About 20 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 box brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
  • About 2 dozen Lindt Milk Chocolate Truffles
  • Red frosting or writing gel (I used Wilton)
  • Pink frosting or writing gel
  • Black frosting or writing gel
  • Heart-shaped sprinkles
  • Red, pink, & white M&Ms

For the Triple Chocolate Buttercream

  • 2 oz. milk chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 4 oz. semisweet or unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • ¼ tsp. salt

Special equipment: 2 ziplock bags for frosting the brownies

*NOTE: Brownies are a bit difficult to get out of cupcake liners, so you might want to just spray the pan instead.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill two cupcake tins with liners or spray with nonstick spray.
  2. Prepare the brownie mix according to box directions. Use an ice cream scoop to fill lined cupcake tins 2/3-full. Drop a Lindt truffle into the center of each one.
  3. Bake 20-25 minutes or until set and cracked on top. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with fudgy crumbs; if it’s clean, you’ll have overbaked them. Let cool completely before removing from tins.
  4. While the brownies cool, make the frostings. For the Vanilla, in a standing mixer, beat sugar into the butter two cups at a time, until well-combined and creamy. With each addition, start a low speed then increase as it starts to incorporate or you’ll have a sugar dust storm.
  5. Beat in the salt, vanilla, almond extract, and heavy cream on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  6. For the Triple Chocolate, place the chopped chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely smooth. If you stir well, this should only take 3 intervals. Let cool slightly.
  7. In a standing mixer, beat sugar into the butter two cups at a time, until well-combined and creamy. With each addition, start a low speed then increase as it starts to incorporate or you’ll have a sugar dust storm.
  8. Beat in the melted chocolate, vanilla, salt, and heavy cream on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  9. Transfer each frosting to a plastic bag, pushing the frosting down to one corner of the bag. Tie off the top and snip off that corner. Pipe fur onto each cooled brownie in little strands. It’ll look kind of like grass. Pipe on two long or short oval ears (you can vary the ear shape/size across the cupcakes to create different looks). Finally, pipe two circles of equal size, right next to one another, centered towards the bottom of the cupcake. You can experiment with different frosting combinations like making a white face with brown ears & one brown eye patch to look like a beagle.
  10. Take either two heart sprinkles or two M&Ms of the same color and place next to one another centered above the circles you made to represent eyes. You can also pipe on white/black to represent eyes.
  11. Place one M&M or heart centered right on top of the two circles to represent the nose. You could also pipe it on with one of the colored frostings.
  12. For the mouth, you can pipe it on in red or pink, or you can use an upside down heart sprinkle to look like a tongue. You can also pipe on a tongue with one of the colored frostings.
  13. Make different faces for each dog, or make them all the same. Have fun and be creative. Store cupcakes in an air-tight container.

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Pink Marbled Cupcakes for Breast Cancer Awareness

Last Friday, I went to the Party for Pink at my gym. We shook, shimmied, and twisted for a sweat-drenched hour of Sh’bam/Zumba. Everyone was adorned in our best and brightest pink gear in honor of breast cancer awareness. All of us dancing ladies (and a few men) burned up the dance floor for a great cause.

I wanted to donate some baked goods to be raffled at the Party for Pink, so I pondered all the possible girly goodies. I wound up baking two batches of Sparkling Strawberry Sugar Cookies (recipe coming in the near future) and a dozen Pink Marbled Cupcakes with Fluffy Pink Buttercream, each ornamented with a pink breast cancer frosting ribbon.

These pretty pink cupcakes scream “girl power!” Swirls of bright pink contrast the bright white base. They’re fluffy, light, and tender with a delicious flavor, good enough to eat even without frosting. However, you won’t want to pass up the Fluffy Pink Buttercream which is light, luscious, and kissed with a touch of almond extract. I must ask you though to try and restrain from spoon-feeding yourself the entire bowl of fluffy frosting before a single spoonful reaches the cupcakes.

…Not that I tried to do that or anything.

These cupcakes aren’t just pretty; their little pink ribbons remind us of an ongoing battle with a malicious disease, and the unbelievably strong women who endure the fight. Show your support with a treat that’s backed with woman power.

Gorgeous and scrumptious, these Pink Marbled Cupcakes are beautiful inside and out.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. I’ve made this recipe with whole milk and with 1%, and it does make a difference. You should definitely use whole milk.
  2. Believe it or not, having the eggs and milk at room temperature is important to the texture of the finished cake. Speaking as someone with little patience, I know that’s not always doable. Just try to plan ahead so your ingredients are ready when you are.
  3. At least 50% of what makes a cake moist is NOT over-baking.
  4. Adapt this marbling technique for any kind/color of cake.

Pink Marbled Cupcakes
Yield – 1 dozen cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the cake
Adapted from Sweetapolita

  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
  • red food dye

For the Fluffy Pink Buttercream
By the Smart Cookie Cook

  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
  • 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1/8 tsp. almond extract
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extrac
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • red food dye
  • Pink writing gel or extra frosting – I recommend Wilton Ready-to-Use Icing Tubes, which allow you to attach tips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line cupcake tin with liners.

2. In a medium bowl, combine and stir the egg whites, 1/4 cup of milk, and the vanilla. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the dry ingredients together on low speed for 30 seconds.

4. Add the butter and remaining 1/2 cup of milk, and mix on low speed until just moistened. Increase to medium speed and mix for 1 1/2 minutes.

5. Scrape the sides of the bowl and begin to add the egg mixture in 3 separate batches; beat on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition. Divide batter in half. Add a generous amount of red food dye to one half of the batter and mix until well-combined. You want a nice bright pink so it stands out.

6. Put a spoonful of white batter into each cupcake tin. Top with a spoonful of pink, but do not mix the two layers together. continue layering until tins are about 2/3 full, or a bit fuller. Use a knife to gently marble. Do not overmix; you don’t want to blend the colors, just swirl them.

7. Bake 15-25 minutes or until puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center-most cupcake comes out with a bit of crumb. Be careful to not overbake, or they will be dry. Let cool on racks for 10 minutes before using a knife to loosen the cupcakes and remove. Sit on wire racks to cool completely.

8. Make the frosting: In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for 30 seconds to soften. Add the sugar one cup at a time, beating on medium-high speed until well-combined and scraping down bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla, almond extract, a generous amount of food dye, and cream. Beat on high until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add more food dye if necessary, but do not overbeat.

9. Frost the cooled cupcakes. Draw on ribbons with the writing gel. Or, fill a ziplock bag with pink frosting, working the frosting down to one corner. Snip off that corner and pipe ribbons on.


Triple Chocolate Delirium Cupcakes

The breakdown: deep, dark chocolate cupcakes, stuffed with fluffy chocolate mousse, and adorned with rich chocolate ganache.

AKA Triple Chocolate Delirium Cupcakes.

Sweet Jesus! Have you ever seen so much chocolate stuffed into such a tiny surface area? Heed my warning: your head will explode from the mind-blowing triple dose of pure chocolate potency present in these Triple Chocolate Delirium Cupcakes. If ever there was a food that had the potential to match the effects of mind-altering substances, then it would be chocolate. And with so much of it concentrated into one petite yet powerful cupcake, you know you’re about to get high…on chocolate.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, food is my drug of choice, and chocolate is what I consider to be the “hard stuff.” I’ll pass when it comes to smoking and drinking; just give me one of these Triple Chocolate Delirium Cupcakes to inhale, and that will curb my cravings just fine.

These are, quite simply, incredible. I baked them for a co-worker’s wife birthday, and he said, and I quote, “They sent waves of chocolatey joy throughout my small kingdom.” I ain’t exaggerating when I tell you these cupcakes are amazing: super duper moist chocolate cake (the moistest ever!), with deep, intense chocolate flavor. The layer of velvety chocolate ganache on top sends the level of chocolate intensity in these cupcakes through the roof, while the light & creamy chocolate mousse inside balances out all that richness. It’s chocolate divinity, my friends.

Start the weekend right. Make these euphoria-inducing cupcakes ASAP.

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. The key to a moist cake is to not over-bake. You should pull them when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a bit of crumb, not when the toothpick is clean like many recipes say.
  2. Scared to fill cupcakes? It’s actually crazy easy. You’ll slap yourself for not trying it sooner. I’ve got a photo breakdown below, but you can also check out a step-by-step how-to video here.
  3. You can whip the ganache once it’s set to create a fluffy frosting.
  4. Cupcakes freeze very well.
  5. I made the little fondant cut-outs using mini cookie cutters. Super simple!
  6. Stop back next week to see something else delicious to do with the chocolate mousse.

Triple Chocolate Delirium Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the Cupcakes
Chocolate cake recipe adapted from The Pastry Queen

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 1 cups water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup regular cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. + 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Ganache
Adapted from allrecipes.com

*I know it sounds like a lot of chocolate, but unless you intend to whip up the ganache into a frosting, you need the whole recipe

  • 18 oz. good-quality chocolate, 12 oz. 70% cacao and 6 oz. milk chocolate (I used Lindt)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Mousse
By the Smart Cookie Cook

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

Directions:

  1. Make the ganache: Chop the chocolate into small bits. Place the chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Bring just to a boil then immediately remove from heat andpour over the chopped chocolate. Let sit for a minute then whisk until completely smooth. Whisk in the vanilla. Let sit until slightly cooled, then cover and refrigerate until it starts to firm up. You want a thick, but creamy & spreadable texture. Don’t let it completely solidify, or you won’t be able to spread it.
  2. Make the cupcakes: preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Fill two cupcake tins with cupcake liners. Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan over medium heat, cook the butter, water, and oil until butter is melted. Remove from heat and set aside. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar, cocoa powders, and flour. Whisk in the butter mixture until completely smooth. Then whisk in the eggs one at a time, followed by the buttermilk. Finally, whisk in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Make sure you stir the baking soda in well so you don’t wind up with chunks of it in the finished cupcakes.
  4. Fill the cupcake tins 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a bit of crumb. Let cupcakes cool in tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. While the cupcakes cool, make the mousse. Use a hand mixer to beat the mascarpone for 30 seconds, just to soften it up more. Add the cream, cocoa powder, vanilla, and sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Stir well with a spatula to make sure the ingredients are well blended. Cover and refrigerate until cupcakes are completely cool and ready to fill.
  6. Fill the cupcakes: use a serrated knife to carve a cone out of the center of the cupcake. Angle the knife to create the cone shape; if you just cut straight down, the piece won’t come out. Leave about a 1/4-inch around the diameter. You should cut deep, but not all the way to the bottom.
  7. Use the knife to gently lift out the cone cut-out. Cut off the tip of the cone so you’ll be able to fit it back on after filling the cupcake. You may use a spoon to dig out more of the cupcake if you’d like. Using a spoon, a piping bag, or a makeshift piping bag using a ziplock bag with a corner cut off, fill each cupcake with the chocolate mousse. Be generous, but leave just a little room at the top to put the topper back on. Stick the cupcake topper you cut out back onto the hole and press in.
  8. Once the ganache is set but still spreadable, spread onto each cupcake. Decorate however you’d like and enjoy! Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Let cupcakes sit at room temperature 1 hour before serving.