So, these are definitely a little more "real" tasting. I haven't had an actual Hostess Cupcakes in a many years, mostly because I am afraid to know what's in them. Not to suggest that these homemade versions are "good" for you, but at least I know the ingredients that go into them are not chock full of preservatives.
A quick note about the filling. Today a couple friends and I got together to work on prepping for some Easter goodies. We decided to make homemade Peeps (a later post), which are basically molded marshmallows. Having made what I thought was French Meringue once, I noted that it was super similar in flavor and texture to marshmallows, so thought it would work very well as a marshmallow frosting which could be piped into little chick shapes. What I didn't know, was that I was actually making Italian Meringue. I found a very helpful article about the difference in Meringues here, via Martha Stewart. I think this is also called boiled frosting, and any number of other code names. In any case, the texture is lighter and stickier than marshmallows, but it worked for its purpose.
Make Ganache First:
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup corn syrup (this can be optional, see below)
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (or chips)
Heat cream and corn syrup until they reach a boil. Pour over chocolate and let set approximately 2 minutes. Whisk together until fully incorporated. Set aside to cool (do not refrigerate as it will get too hard).
So, you don't really need to add corn syrup to ganache, but it really does smooth out the texture and add a really nice sheen to the chocolate which is very appealing. If you have dietary restrictions or just don't like to use corn syrup more than you have to, you can skip it. Maybe just up the cream by a couple tablespoons or so, and add a tablespoon or so of butter to help the texture. You can also add vanilla, if you're so inclined.
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
In large heat proof bowl, melt:
6 tbs butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
In small heat proof bowl or saucepan, heat until almost boiling:
1/4 cup milk
1/2 -3/4 cup water
Alternating between flour mix and water mix, beginning and ending with flour, mix together with sugar/cocoa mixture until incorporated. The batter will be a bit on the runny side, which you can control with how much water you put in. I think somewhere between 1/2-3/4 cups water in addition to the milk make an excellently moist, but still stable cupcake.
Bake for 20 minutes. Cool.
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
3 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch of salt and cream of tartar
Bring sugar, water, and corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cook, undisturbed, until syrup registers 248 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Meanwhile, whisk whites with a mixer on low speed until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar. Increase speed to medium, and whisk until soft peaks form, about 8 minutes.
Reduce speed to low, and pour hot syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Increase speed to high, and beat until mixture stops steaming, about 3 minutes. Fill piping bag with frosting - fit it with any large circular tip you have on hand.
Once cupcakes have cooled, cut out the centers either with a melon baller or apple corer (you probably want a larger hole to cram as much fluff into the cupcake as possible). Fill each cavity with the marshmallow cream filling. Dip each cupcake in the ganache and swirl slightly to coat the top completely. If your ganache got a bit too hard to do this with, defrost in microwave for no more than 10 seconds and stir until smooth.
Let the ganache set for a bit. So, I happened to have a bit of leftover buttercream so I could easily pipe on the little swirls. It would kill me if I had to make a whole batch of it just for decorating the tops of these, but if you must do it, here's the recipe for a small batch of frosting:
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Beat at medium speed until creamy
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup powdered sugar
until mixture is crumbly. Scrape down the sides, then add
1/4 tsp vanilla
Beat until mixture comes together. Beat in
a few drops of milk
to smooth it out.
Fill a small pastry bag fitted with a small circular tip with the frosting and gently pipe out the swirls on top of each cupcake. They are a little tricky to make look consistent. Good luck!