Today is my friend Nadine’s birthday. In addition to a yearly tradition of my suffering through an early-morning yoga class with her (this year at the Bedford Post Inn Yoga Loft, which I will admit is a lovely space), I usually make her a birthday cake. It’s always chocolate, since she is a certified chocoholic, and often incorporates a seasonal berry, because what’s a July birthday without wineberries or blackberries or currants?
This spring and summer have been so busy for me that birthdays and holidays keep sneaking up on me: I was fully convinced, up until yesterday, that July 24th was Thursday of this week instead of, um, today. Oops. So for this year’s celebration, I decided to go easy on myself, and adapt my favorite easy cake recipe to go with the red currant mint preserves I had made over the weekend. I went even easier on myself and made cupcakes instead of a full cake (mostly so I wouldn’t have to dig the springform pan out of the garage, but more fitting for an after-morning-yoga birthday breakfast, no?).
Which makes these fabulous little cupcakes a brilliant dessert: they are actually quite quick & easy to prepare, yet they taste extraordinary and there is the added wow-factor of homemade currant jam (quite honestly the easiest jam you’ll ever make). Because the cake is so rich, it stores nicely at room temperature for a few days without getting stale or dried out, and just a short re-heat yields a warm & molten middle so they taste fresh out of the oven. Topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, gem-bright red currant preserves and a bright green mint leaf, they are as impressive to look at as they are to eat. Perfect for the July birthday girl (or boy) in your life. Happy birthday, Nadine!
- jumbo cupcake liners or individual ramekins (this cake is very soft and sticky; it really does not work in well-greased muffin tins, as it is impossible to get the cupcake out without it falling apart)
Red Currant Mint Preserves
- 1 pint (about 8 oz) red currants, stemmed and rinsed
- 1 cup (8 oz) sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 stems fresh mint
Mint Chocolate Cupcakes
- 7 tbsp butter
- 3 stems fresh mint, plus extra leaves for garnish
- 5 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- 10 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces (I like 70%)
- dash of cayenne pepper
- pinch of salt
- powdered sugar, for garnish
- Make red currant preserves. Combine currants, water, sugar and mint in a medium bowl. Allow to macerate at least 1 hour at room temperature (or refrigerate overnight). Scrape currant mixture into a large skillet: remove mint, shaking off excess syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat; cook at a hard boil, stirring minimally, until preserves reach the set point (220 degrees F on an accurate thermometer or a spoon scraped across the bottom of the skillet leaves a clean strip of pan for 2-3 seconds), about 5 – 8 minutes. Transfer to a heat-safe bowl to cool. (Can be made and stored refrigerated several weeks in advance, or canned in a water bath for long-term shelf-stable storage).
- Infuse butter. In a medium, heat-safe bowl, add 3 sprigs fresh mint and the butter. Melt butter, in a microwave or over low heat on the stove top; ensure that mint leaves are submerged, cover bowl, and allow butter to infuse for at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Make cake batter. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add cayenne and salt; whisk again to incorporate evenly. Remove mint from melted butter, shaking off excess butter. Add chocolate to butter and melt in the microwave (or use a double-boiler on the stove top), heating in 30 second intervals and stirring in between, until chocolate is fully melted. Allow chocolate to cool slightly, then slowly, in batches, add the melted chocolate to the eggs, stirring as you incorporate, until the batter is very smooth. Add chocolate in small amounts to start, to temper the eggs.
- Bake cupcakes. Measure batter into cupcake liners with a 1/3-cup measure (or fill ramekins 2/3rds full). Bake in the preheated oven for about 22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center just comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. Don’t worry if the centers fall a bit upon cooling: it helps to hold the preserves on top of the cupcake. Serve slightly warm, dusted with powdered sugar, topped with a healthy dollop of red currant preserves, and garnished with a fresh mint leaf.
Makes 1 and 1/2 cups red currant preserves and 11 jumbo cupcakes.
- Reheat leftover cupcakes for 10 – 15 seconds each in the microwave, or for about 5 minutes in a 300 degree F oven: this makes the middle soft, fudgy, almost molten. Delicious.
- Use a good quality eating chocolate: I like Divine, but for this batch I used Ghiradelli 70%.
- This amount of cake batter will make one 9 and 1/2-inch cake in a springform pan. See the original recipe for springform pan instructions.
- As a flourless dessert, this is not only gluten-free but a nice kosher option for Passover.
At room temperature, lightly wrapped in a clean kitchen towel, for up to 3 days. Store currant preserves separately and top cupcakes just before serving.
Summer, or year round with canned currant preserves.