Cool Mint Birthday Cupcakes

Birthdays are a fantastic excuse to play with cake and for us, that means chocolate cake.  For my husband’s recent birthday, I put together these chocolate cupcakes and filled them with an easy mint buttercream frosting using a couple of my favorite King Arthur Flour recipes.  For an extra-special birthday touch, I dipped the tops in dark chocolate ganache and topped them with a little frosting flourish and a Junior Mint garnish.  The results were so good that I’m trying to think of another excuse to make them before the next birthday!

Cool Mint Birthday Cupcakes

24 freshly baked Chocolate Cupcakes
1 recipe Quick Buttercream Frosting, flavored with 1/4 tsp peppermint oil (or 1/2 tsp extract) and tinted green with 4-6 drops of food coloring
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz good quality dark chocolate, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
24 Junior Mints (plus extra for “testing”)

Bake and cool the chocolate cupcakes to room temperature.

Mix up the buttercream frosting and fill a pastry bag with a large star tip.  Poke the star tip into the cupcake and gently squeeze the frosting into the cupcake just until it feels firm but doesn’t burst.  It won’t take very much and after a couple of tries you’ll know how much to put in without exploding the cupcake.   Remove the pastry tip and smooth any icing that emerges smoothly down on the top of the cupcake.  Fill all 24 cupcakes.

Let the cupcakes sit for 1/2 hour or so while you make the ganache.  The little bit of icing on the cupcake where it was filled should harden up enough that it won’t smear.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream just barely to a simmer.  Pour the hot cream over the finely chopped chocolate.  Stir it to completely cover the chocolate with the cream and then let it sit for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate.  Stir gently to completely combine the chocolate and cream.  The mixture should be completely smooth.  Stir in the butter and the vanilla extract.  Let the ganache cool until it is just slightly warm to the touch and is still fairly liquid.

Gently dip the tops of each cupcake in the chocolate ganache.  Smooth over any missed spots with a knife or small spatula.  Let the cupcakes sit for an hour until the tops have set.  Use the remaining icing to pipe a small flourish in the middle of each cupcake top.  Immediately press one Junior Mint into the frosting.

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