8/26/2008

Chili Cacao Mayan Cupcakes

I wanted something spicy, indulgent and luxurious and thus Chili Cacao Mayan Cupcakes were born…

Why Mayan cupcakes? Well, the ancient Mayans used chili peppers along with vanilla and other ingredients to spice their chocolate drinks. It’s not the hot chocolate we enjoy today, but a bitter, spiced drink enjoyed by the wealthy. After the Aztecs conquered the Mayans, the Aztec king taxed them in cacao and vanilla beans. Why? Legend says he drank as much as 50 cups of the indulgent cacao drink after dinner and wanted his pantry full of the ingredients! This cupcake is patterned after what we know of that ancient, luxurious drink. It’s also said to have great aphrodisiac properties.
Since cacao beans were used as currency by the Mayans, only the very wealthy could afford to “eat” their money. So, these cupcakes have real 23 carat gold flakes on them so you can eat your money, too. :) The symbol on the top is a chocolate replica of the Mayan symbol Hanab Ku, said to represent all consciousness that ever existed in the galaxy. I hope you enjoy them!

Chili Cacao Mayan Cupcakes
with Vanilla Bean/Dark Chocolate Icing

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 C. Dark Cocoa Powder
3 oz. dark chocolate, melted (high quality)
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. white vinegar
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. ground Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. ground annato (achiote molido)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cupcake pan or line with paper wrappers. In a large bowl, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat well. Add dark cocoa powder and melted chocolate. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla and vinegar. Mix well. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ground annato, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the buttermilk. With each addition, mix until the ingredients are incorporated. Put batter into a gallon Ziploc bag, snip off about an inch from one corner, and pipe batter into prepared cupcake pans, filling about ¾ full. Bake for about 15-17 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely. Frost with icing.

Vanilla Bean Buttercream
Ingredients:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
1 vanilla bean
4 cups confectioner's sugar (approximately 1 lb.) or more, depending on desired thickness
2 Tablespoons Milk

Directions:
In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Split open vanilla bean and scrape out seeds, add to butter mixture. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Dark Chocolate Buttercream
Ingredients:
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine softened
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups Confectioners' sugar sifted
3-4 tablespoons Milk

Directions:
Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa, melted chocolate and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Lastly, but most importantly, a HUGE THANK YOU to my funny, mind-blowingly-talented, amazing, silly, sweet, perfectly wonderful friend Annie for these photos. She felt sorry for my pitiful photo skills and came over, camera and kids in tow to take these. If you ever need a laugh or a pick-me-up, read her blog. It's hilarious.
A couple people have asked where I got the edible Gold Leaf for the cupcakes. You can get some for your own fancy schmancy desserts here.