My friends and I have a long-standing tradition of celebrating what we call “Giant’s Christmas.” It started with 13 Cornish game hens and a dream, and the most recent incarnation involves making tiny (“human-sized”) versions of traditional, favorite, or random foods, and pretending we are giants at a holiday party while we eat the tiny treats. At the original Giant’s celebration, which was a Thanksgiving in May, I made miniature pumpkin pies. This Giant’s Christmas in early December, I pulled out my new mini-muffin tray and my relatively new blow torch and made my first attempt at miniature cupcakes.
I’m not sure how I got the idea to go for s’mores mini cupcakes, but I’ve learned a long time ago that when a dessert gets in my head as being “right” for a certain occasion, it’s never the wrong choice. The only time, really, that I get into trouble with pastry is when I’m trying to force a specific recipe into a time and place that it doesn’t belong. I’m a fairly practical person, but I’ve accepted that there’s an inexplicable feeling to baking and I need to accept that and not fight against it.
Originally, I spent a few hours finding competing recipes for graham cracker crust or graham cracker cake, fudgy chocolate cake, and homemade marshmallows, but (it’s always in the last place you look, even on the Internet) right before I went out to buy ingredients, I came across everything I needed in one recipe: S’mores Cupcakes, complete with a graham cracker crust, a chocolate cake, and a marshmallow on top. Who could ask for anything s’more? (I’m sorry, I had to. It’s in the Constitution.)
There was just one problem. This was a recipe for regular sized cupcakes, and I was interested in making the much smaller, human-sized cupcakes, so we giants could remember all that we are thankful for this Christmas season. Or something.
This website was really the only reference I consulted when trying to miniaturize the cupcake recipe. It’s titled “How to turn cupcakes into mini cupcakes,” and that’s basically what it offered tips on. Here are the ones that stuck with me.
- Mini cupcakes take about a third of the batter that regular cupcakes do.
- Mini cupcakes bake for about 9-11 minutes instead of the more typical 18-20 minutes.
Notice that’s a 1/3 to 1 ratio for the batter, but a 1/2 to 1 ratio for the cooking time. I find that interesting.
Number one immediately presented me with a problem. Annie’s recipe made 28 full-sized cupcakes. Did I really need (28 * 3 =) 84 human-sized cupcakes? I mean, yes, obviously, but also no. (But really yes, right?) But no. Whenever I am scaling down a recipe, I usually look first at the eggs. Although I have used my approximation of half an egg before, it’s not exact and it’s not all that easy. This recipe called for three eggs* so I decided to make two-thirds of the recipe, to use only two eggs. This involved some weird math and estimating with other ingredients, but in my opinion those are easier to fudge. Like fudge cupcakes! See how that works?
The cupcakes were a three-part process. Step one was baking the graham cracker crust for 5 minutes to set it. Step two was baking the chocolate cake on top of the graham cracker crust. And step three was piping the homemade marshmallow topping over everything. I didn’t feel it was worth the effort to use a piping bag for such a tiny and sticky finish, so I used a spoon and a swirl to top the cupcakes.
In the future, I would recommend NOT choosing a multi-layer cupcake like this (with a graham cracker crust plus a cake) for miniaturization, especially for the first time. It was painstaking to press the tiny crusts into the tiny openings in the tray. I also discovered when trying to remove the first batch of completed cupcakes that scaling down the baking time for the graham cracker crust from 5 minutes to 3 minutes was not a good idea. By the final tray (and remember, there were a lot (2/3 * 28 * 3 = 56 cupcakes) of trays, I had gotten the hang of it. Some tips:
- I used a pestle (from our mortar and pestle) to press the graham cracker crust into the bottom of the tray more firmly and evenly than I could with my fingers alone.
- Filling tiny openings 2/3 full with cake batter is difficult, especially when they already have some of the already small real estate taken up by graham cracker.
I finished the cupcakes at the Giant’s Christmas celebration by brûléeing them with my blow torch. They char and burn much more quickly than crème brûlée, my other main use of the torch, so watch out for that. It really only takes a moment (less than a second) on each marshmallow to get it golden brown. And I’m lucky that I still haven’t had to deal with a petroleum flavor from the blow torch. Either I have a really great blow torch or I have some sort of beginner’s luck technique that’s avoiding the problem.
I topped each cupcake with a small piece of graham cracker (achieved by cutting full-sized grahams with a very sharp knife) and a small piece of dark chocolate.
They were delicious.
*This has nothing to do with anything, but the Annie’s Eats blog (where the s’mores cupcakes recipe is from) taught me the importance of using room temperature (as opposed to cold) eggs in cakes. I think this has to do with easier whisking and helping the yolks and eggs combine more thoroughly. It makes a noticeable difference in the outcome of the cake, and I highly recommend it.