These egg-shaped cupcakes are the perfect treat for Easter. With endless decoration possibilities, these individual cakes offer a fun twist on dessert for the holiday. And the best part is, they taste as good as they look!
For these fun little cakes, you will need a special “egg” baking pan. I came across mine years ago at Williams-Sonoma, but they have become so popular, you can find them at various kitchen supply stores. Wilton carries a “Mini Egg Pan” that can be found at craft supply stores or on their website. Ok, so once you have the pan, the rest is relatively simple. I am about to share a massive secret, one which at times I thought I would take to the grave: More often than not, I use box cake mix. I know that many of you are thinking, “what self-respecting pastry chef uses a box cake mix?” I admit it, I do. I find the box cakes produce a fluffy, moist cake and you simply can’t beat the convenience factor. Now, these mixes are not all the same and are not suitable for all uses. For example, when I make wedding cakes, I do not use the box cake mix. A wedding cake needs a slightly denser cake that can support the weight of stacking multiple tiers. As far as brands go, I stick to one and only cake mix. Duncan Hines “with pudding in the mix” is the hands-down winner for me. A couple of eggs, some oil and water, a couple of swirls in the mixer, and you are ready to go. How can you beat that? So I would suggest box cake for this recipe. A couple of thoughts on “trouble-shooting” your box cake mix. First off, box cakes usually instruct baking at 350 degrees, which is much too hot for cakes. At this high temperature, the cake will dome too quickly and you find all your cake volume in the peak instead of distributed to make your cake taller. I would suggest trying to bake your cakes at 300-325 depending on your oven. This will help to slow down the cooking process and allow the cake to gradually rise to fill as much of the cake pan as possible. Second trick to using boxed cake mix: don’t be afraid to doctor it up. I only buy two flavors, yellow and chocolate, and then add my special twist to make the cakes “gourmet.” For example, to make an orange cake, use the yellow mix, but substitute orange juice for the water and add a couple of tablespoons of zest to the batter. In a chocolate recipe, try substituting coffee for the water. The possibilities are endless and you can make a fabulous cake with half the effort.
Ok, so now that I have spilled my deepest, darkest secret, let’s get back to these cute little cakes, shall we? After you have baked your cakes, you will need to level them so they can sit all nice and pretty. I like to level the cakes while still in the pan. This allows the pan to serve as a guide and it also ensure that each cupcake will be exactly the same height. Lay the blade of your serrated knife on the pan and slowly saw back and forth. Make sure the cakes are cool enough (I’d wait 10-15 minutes) to saw, yet warm enough to still turn out of the pan. If you find you have waited too long and the cakes are completely cool, cut off the domes and then pop the pans back in a hot oven for 2-3 minutes. This will melt the fat that is acting as a barrier and the cakes should slide out nicely.
Now its time to fill. Filling is optional and you could easily serve these cakes by themselves, however I think its a nice extra treat to find inside the cake once you have taken a bite. I chose to fill these chocolate eggs with an espresso buttercream. (You can use any frosting that you like – a mousse would be nice here as well.) Load your icing into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip (if you don’t have a piping bag, a zip-lock bag can double any day – but you will need a star tip). Using gentle force, pierce the bottom of the cake with the star tip and apply gentle pressure to the piping bag. Fill the cake until you sense a slight bulge. Be careful not to over-fill, which will cause the cake to crack open. These are small cakes, so they really only hold a couple tablespoons of filling.
After you fill the cakes, it is time to glaze them. Glazing these cakes is the easiest way to frost them because of their shape. While you theoretically should stand there with a small spatula and ice each one, it would take forever and even the most talented of chefs would not be able to make it look perfect. Pouring ganache down over each cake is the simple (and very tasty) solution. Ganache is a simple mixture of melted chocolate and hot cream. When combined, they produce a rich, silky chocolate coating that hardens slightly, but still melts in your mouth. (Chocolate truffles are just ganache – so consider these eggs “Truffle Coated”) There are several methods to making ganache, but here is my tried and true version: Melt your chocolate over the top of a double-boiler (or melt in small increments on medium power in your microwave, making sure to stir often). While your chocolate is melting, heat cream in a small sauce pan just to the point of boiling (this is called scalding the cream). Stir the hot cream into the melted chocolate. At first, the mixture will look like a separated mess, but keep your spoon swirling and eventually, a smooth shinny chocolate ganache will emerge. (A special pastry tip to keep your ganache air bubble free is to keep your spoon touching the bottom of the bowl. If you stir with the spatula at a 45 degree angle without ever lifting the spoon, you incorporate less air while still bringing the mixture together. When you go to glaze, the less air bubbles, the more perfect your finished product will look.) While your ganache is sill warm, ladle the mixture over each egg on a glazing rack ( a wire rack set over a cookie sheet – you will want to collect the extra ganache to use again). To ensure the ultimate smooth coating, after each ladle, rap the rack on the counter a couple of times. This helps to “knock off” any extra ganache and smooth what is remaining.
Once all the eggs are glazed, let them sit until the ganache sets. (You can chill them in the fridge if you are in a hurry.) The ganache will not form a hard shell like chocolate alone will, but the surface should no longer be tacky – a light touch should not leave a mark. Now comes the fun part. If you are baking with your kids, this is where they can have the most fun. Decorating the eggs is entirely up to your creativity. Sprinkles, colored sugar, icing, candy – anything can be used to make these eggs a little more fashionable. I used royal icing to decorate my eggs by piping in several different pastel colors. I chose royal icing because it hardens and makes the eggs less susceptible to smudging.
When all the eggs are lined up, they really make an impact. I placed each egg on a muffin paper that I had flattened for easier handling. To display the eggs, line a tray with Easter grass and arrange eggs on top. These are a great idea for a holiday dessert because they can double as a fun and colorful centerpiece or decoration. They would look fabulous on a tiered cake plate as well. Have fun with these – make them your own, get the kids involved – make the Easter Bunny proud!
Recipe: Perfect Chocolate Ganache
Recipe: Royal Icing