So.... I have decided to enter the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge for the second time (check out the official rules here)! The ingredient this time was Popcorn. I thought about popcorn, and wondered how it could possibly be good in a cupcake! Then I really thought about popcorn... and said to myself... it COULD be versatile, right?  I will give it a try! So, I decided to use popcorn in a "Hot" Cocoa Cupcake. I used to LOVE to dip my popcorn in my hot cocoa... I had big dreams for my cupcake. I wanted a hot cocoa cupcake with popcorn and i wanted it in a mug, just like a real cup of hot cocoa with a dollop of whipped cream and maybe a few marshmallows to top it all off! Well, I had to make some adjustments, but I think I came up with something that I can live with and tastes AMAZING!
First of all, I only had one mug in my house that I thought I could bake in, and it was way too big for a cupcake, and I started off with the idea that I was going to make my own popcorn flour, but my food processor didn't grind it into a powdery flour like I had hoped. I still used the "flour" that I made, but I couldn't substitute all of the flour for the popcorn flour like I wanted to (to really incorporate the popcorn into the cupcake).  Of course, I think cupcakes are best eaten warm - especially with this being a hot cocoa cupcake and all, but although I would love to eat warm cupcakes all the time that's not always the case. So, I decided to add my own "hot" to hot cocoa by adding a little chili powder.  I searched several recipes and finally found one from Cupcake Villains Strike Again  that I could adapt into my own Popcorn Hot Cocoa Cupcake or as I like to call them
"Hot" Popped Cocoa-cakes
The texture of these is so light and fluffy and they are so moist... when they were warm it was almost like eating a cup of hot cocoa! Then I added the frosting, and whipped cream so I had to refrigerate them. They were just as good, no, BETTER when I ate them straight from the fridge. I REALLY enjoyed these cupcakes and I will be making them again!
Here is the recipe I used.
Makes 12 cupcakes
1 C. granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 C. 2% milk
1/4 C. coconut milk
1/4 C. vegetable oil
1 t. vanilla extract
3/4 C. all purpose flour
1/3 C. popcorn flour
1/3 C + 1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 C. hot cocoa, prepared, boiling (make a mug of your favorite hot cocoa, add some popcorn, enjoy, but save 1/2 cup for the recipe - straining out the popcorn kernels and boiling it before adding it to the batter) 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12 standard cupcake pans with liners, or coat with non-stick cooking spray.  In the large bowl, stir together the sugar, eggs, milk, coconut milk, oil and vanilla, until blended.
2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, and chili powder, and gradually add to the sugar mixture, until the mixture begins to come together.  Be sure to NOT  over mix!
3. Very slowly, add the boiling hot cooa, and blend until the mixture is smooth. This batter is VERY runny, I was afraid it wasn't going to set up in the oven, but it did and yielded an AMAZING cupcake!
4. Ladle or scoop the batter into the cupcake tins, filling ¾ full.  Bake the cupcakes for 15 to 18 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Filling: Marshmallow Fluff
Topping: A layer of Chocolate Truffle Frosting* to simulate the foam on top of a cup of cocoa, with a dollop of real whipped cream and chocolate-drizzled popcorn to top it off!

*Chocolate Truffle Frosting (this made JUST enough to frost 12 cupcakes)
1/2 C. coconut milk (or 1/2 C. whipping cream) - I just used leftover coconut milk from my cupcake recipe
1 C. milk chocolate chips.
Bring coconut milk to a boil in a small saucepan. Add Chocolate chips and remove from heat. Wait 5 minutes, then stir until well blended. Cover and chill overnight. Beat with an electric mixer for 30 seconds until fluffy and spreading consistency.

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The winner of January’s Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge will receive prizes from:





 
 
So my friend Jamieanne of The Sweetest Kitchen has started the Mystery Box Cupcake Challenge. This month the secret "ingredient" is a childhood memory! My sister Heather called me to see if I had thought of entering this month. I have never entered before, and I wasn't sure what I would do. We started talking about childhood memories and the one that always sticks in my head is going to Great Grandma's house for lunch and eating her "famous" pickles and hamburgers with garden-fresh tomatoes! So, after much debate as to whether or not I should put my idea "into the oven" I decided to go against the norm and create a savory cupcake that only a Great Grandmother could love! :)

Maybe I should let you in on a little secret about Grandma's pickles, they may be the easiest pickles ever made, but she made them taste like gold! The last 2 summers I grew a garden just so I could try out her recipe. Surprisingly, the pickles taste pretty similar to what I remember. I wanted to make a jar for each of my family members for Christmas, but unfortunately I've only had enough cucumbers to fill about 10 jars (if I can't share them with EVERYONE I guess I am going to have to eat them all by myself). Anyway, about Grandma's pickles, she packed cucumbers, a head of dill or 1 Tbsp or dill seed in a jar with a clove of garlic and a dried red chile pepper, made her brine of salt, vinegar and water, poured it into the jars, sealed them and VOILA! 6 weeks later we had the BEST PICKLES EVER! Her pickles had just the right amount of garlic, heat and dill due to her "secret" ingredients! I knew I had to use these three things in my cupcake!

I am and always have been a HUGE fan of dill pickles (huge may be an understatement) but the idea of a pickle cupcake just sounded weird, even to me! I set out on a search to find a recipe I could adapt to fit my memory. I found so many savory cupcakes that pickle cupcakes started to sound more normal than any of the rest! I came across a Salmon Cupcake, a Guacamole Cupcake, a Catfish and Grits Cupcake and also a Pregnant cupcake among many other strange creations. I decided to modify the pickle cake in this recipe to make it more like my Great Grandmother's pickles. I added part of a dried red pepper (that I crushed), I used the pickles and pickle juice from one of the jars I made this summer from my Great Grandma's recipe, i used garlic salt and garlic powder and dill seed, too.

Several ideas crossed my mind for the "icing" of my cupcake, I thought about chocolate syrup (because Grandma always had a can of Hershey's syrup in her refrigerator that we would occasionally drink from) and ice cream, but after finding the recipe for the Pickles and Ice Cream Cupcake, I decided that had already been done so I would find something else. Great Grandma's hamburger recipe was never written down, but her hamburgers were so yummy! That's when I decided to create "Grandma's Pickle-burger Cupcake". A Pickle cake "bun" with a mini-cheeseburger, pickle, tomato and mustard (the way we always ate them at Grandma's)! Great Grandma's house was the best, we spent a lot of time there as kids and pickles, hamburgers and fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes are three things I will never forget!

Here is my creation!
"Grandma's Pickle-Burger Cupcake"
Picture

**I have to say, I DID try it! It wasn't nearly as weird-tasting as it sounded. The cake barely had a pickle flavor at all, it was smillar to a spiced cornbread but without the cornmeal texture (if that makes any sense). Eaten as a cupcake sandwich, it tasted just about like any other cheeseburger would.**

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