I usually find inspiration for things to cook by listening to my stomach. If I’m craving something, you can bet it will make it into a meal or a dessert. But sometimes its not my stomach that craves things. Sometimes its my head. If I’ve gotten an idea in my head about how to play with an ingredient in a new way, that idea won’t leave until I give it a try.
But even that doesn’t cover all of the pieces of me that do the craving. Sometimes, after a really bad day, I can feel my shoulders get closer to my ears and my stress levels are raging. And on those days, days when you haven’t yet been paid and can’t really justify going to get a massage, and you just can’t get your problems out of your head, then I start craving these.
They’re full of that lovely binge eating favorite – chocolate – and they also bring lavender, a relaxing herb whose smell I can’t get enough of. But I’m always hesitant to cook with lavender. I worry that whatever I’m making will turn out smelling like a grandmother’s hand cream, and that it will be overwhelming. I’d tried lemon and lavender cupcakes before, and the lemon just couldn’t stand up to the lavender. It tasted like two types of bubble bath mixed together. Maybe its my own prejudices, but for lavender to work with something for me, that other something needs to be more dominant. These cupcakes certainly fit that bill.
If I were the type to give my cakes cute names other than a straight list of ingredients, I might call these Bad Day Cupcakes, or Homeopathic Cupcakes, or Next-best-thing-to-a-massage Cupcakes. Instead I’m just going to call them Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes with a Lavender Honey Buttercream Frosting.
Next time you’re having a bad day and life is stressing you out, try snacking on (in my case, main lining) something that will lower your stress as you eat something very tasty! They don’t taste at all like hand cream, I promise.
Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes
makes 20 cupcakes
4 ounces bittersweet (at least 70%) chocolate, roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups (packed) brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, separated
2 teaspoons dried lavender blossoms, finely ground in spice mill
2 large eggs
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with cupcake paper.
2. Put 1/4 cup of butter and the chopped chocolate in a double boiler until just melted (or do it the easy way, microwaving it for 30 seconds at a time in a microwave) and smooth. Set it aside and let cool while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.
3. Sift flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Whisk milk and yogurt to blend in a second small bowl. With a stand mixer, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, then add the ground lavender. Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and continue beating until smooth. Mix in dry ingredients alternately with milk mixture.
4. Spoon batter into cupcake cups. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Remove to cool on a wire rack. Frost with lavender honey buttercream.
Lavender Honey Buttercream
Makes a little more than will cover 20 cupcakes, but I ice my cupcakes sparingly. If you like a lot of icing, adjust accordingly. See pictures for a visual of icing amounts I used.
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
6 cups confectioners’ sugar (can add up to two cups to achieve your preferred consistency)
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons ground lavender
2 tablespoons honey (use honey made from lavender plants to up the flavor if you can find it)
4 drops blue food coloring (optional)
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
1. Whip the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add in 4 cups sugar, then the milk and lavender.
2. On medium speed of an electric mixer, beat about 3-5 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Taste test – this is very important. If it still feels grainy on your tongue, you need to keep beating it until the sugar is fully dissolved into the butter and milk. Then taste test again, this time purely for self indulgence.
3. Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well (about 2 minutes) after each addition, until the icing is thick enough for good spreading consistency.
4. If using, add a few drops of food coloring and mix thoroughly.
5. Store the icing at room temperature. Do not refrigerate! It will set up in the refrigerator and wont spread nicely.
6. Spoon into a piping bag, and then, when the cupcakes have cooled, pipe onto cupcakes, and sprinkle with a few buds of lavender. You could also just spread on with an icing knife, whatever your style.