Basil is Better, Chocolate is Best

I now present to you my entry into the Iron Cupcake: Earth September 2008 Competition (secret ingredient: basil)!

First, let me preface the cupcakes with some background.  Earlier in the summer, I planted a plethora of fresh herbs:  spearmint, peppermint, Italian parsley, sweet basil, oregano, and banana peppers (yes, I am aware that banana peppers aren't herbs).  However, the mints never grew. :(  Everything else did, and aside from some wimpy parsley, everything flourished.  As the season went on, I occasionally used my herbs for certain Italian dishes such as lasagna.  But I never really had a reason to eat them.  Then, alas, the weather began to get cool again and I feared that I would have no true purpose for the herbs and they would wither away and die when the frost came.  Was all my hard work for naught?  Should I have just let them die that one week when I completely forgot to water them?


Thanks to Iron Cupcake:  Earth, my herbs have a reason to live again.  At least, the basil does.  So now I finally present to you Kelsie's Chocolate Basil Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing:

From Flickr: "Basil is a delicious herb but until this challenge, I never thought of putting it in dessert. When it comes to dessert, though, I'm 100% on the chocolate bandwagon. And so this cupcake was born.

The chocolate-basil cupcake is filled with dark chocolate ganache and topped with cream cheese icing and a sugared basil leave plucked fresh from my garden."

The Cupcake

3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder (regular is OK too but not as tasty)
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup fresh sweet basil leaves, packed
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 cup AP flour (all purpose)
1 tbsp baking powder (make sure it's not expired!)
3/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Boil the water.  While that's boiling, add sugar and basil to food processor and processor until nice and green, set aside.

When the water is boiling hot, stir together the water and cocoa powder until smooth, set aside. 

Cream together the butter and sugar/basil until light and fluffy.
Add egg and vanilla and beat until smooth.

Add flour, salt, and baking powder and beat until incorporated.

Finally, add cooled cocoa mixture and stir until smooth.  
Fill muffin cups (with or without liners) 1/2 full and bake 17-20 minutes (I baked for 20).  

After the cupcakes have finished baking, set aside to cool and continue...

The Ganache

8 oz whipping cream
1 tbsp butter
1 oz sugar
12 oz chocolate (high quality; I prefer dark)

Heat the cream, sugar, and butter to boiling over the stove.  Pour over chocolate in a stainless steel bowl.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Stir out from the center until smooth and ganache-like.  Let the ganache cool in the fridge until it is of piping consistency, then pipe ganache into cupcakes.

The Icing

1 stick room-temperature unsalted butter
1/2 cup Crisco
8 oz softened, room-temperature cream cheese (not the low fat kind)
1 tbsp vanilla
2 lb powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt.

Cream together the butter, Crisco, and cream cheese.  Gradually add the vanilla, powdered sugar, and salt.  This is a thick recipe so you might have to cut back on the sugar (I did).  This is a very sweet cream cheese icing.  About half the people in my family thought it was too sweet while the other half loved it.  (Funny thing, my mom was one of the ones who loved it, even though she hates sweet icings and desserts.)

I piped the icing on the cupcakes with a 1M (2110) tip and I piped a lot, but then, I like a lot of icing.  So pipe at your discretion.  However, watch out for the ganache, which might be poking back out of the cupcake!

The Sugared Basil Leaves

You need as many basil leaves as you have cupcakes, a food-quality paintbrush, granulated sugar, and corn syrup.  Clean the basil leaves and paint them with the corn syrup (you could dip them in the syrup but then you have a lot of excess) and then dip the leaves into a bowl of sugar.  Gently set the leaf on top of your cupcake, and you're done!
More About Iron Cupcake: Earth

If you've ever seen Iron Chef on the Food Network, then you know what this competition is about:  a bunch of cupcake fanatics compete to win the Challenge by baking, you guessed it, a cupcake with the secret ingredient.  This month's ingredient was Basil (of course)!

Anyone can enter the competitions, just go to the Iron Cupcake blog to sign up.  Oh, and anyone can vote, too!  Voting will begin on Sunday, September 28th at No One Puts Cupcake in a Corner.  So please be sure to cast your vote for your favorite Basil Cupcake.  Hopefully, my cupcake will be your favorite, but the competition is tough!

Before I forget, too, there are some awesome prizes provided by the following awesome people and companies:
Etsy artist Metal Sugar
Head Chefs by Fiesta Products
Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, authors of Hello Cupcake
Cupcake Courier
Jessie Steele Aprons
Taste of Home

So that wraps up my very long post about my Iron Cupcake: Earth cupcakes.  If you have adventurous taste buds, I encourage you to try these unique and earthy but tasty cupcakes, and don't forget to share the cupcake love by voting on your favorite!