January 16, 2009


These "Indian" cupcakes were invented as a marketing ploy in 19th century Vienna. A Hungarian theatre impresario, disappointed that his Indian magician (who bore the highly un-Indian name of Kutom Bulchia) wasn't a huge success, had his chef create a speciality pastry to sell at intermission. The cakes - a light sponge sandwich of cream and apricot glaze, coated in bittersweet chocolate - outsold the magician.

Indianerkrapfen are supposed to be perfectly round, and speciality molds are available in Austria. The best readily available alternative is a Danish cast iron pancake/dumpling (aebleskiver) pan - mine was $8.99 from Amazon US (Amazon UK don't seem to stock them). Otherwise, Rick Rodgers - whose recipe I used - suggests muffin tins three-quarters full.

The cakes are fiddly to make (two of us worked on these all afternoon), but they reward the cook by looking as if they belong in a museum dedicated to the heyday of the Austro-Hungarian empire. The taste is rich but also clean: the chocolate, the sweet cream, the subtle hint of apricot and the light but firm sponge all register as distinct flavours.

The batter in the recipe below is perfect for 14 cakes, or 2 bakes of the 7-hole aebleskiver pan. After assembling our first Indianerkrapfen using the instructions below, we decided we'd like them to be larger: our final result was a sandwich made of 2 cakes, rather than 1 cake cut through the middle. We paired up our cakes, and within each pair removed 1/8 of an inch from the bottom of one and 1/8 of an inch from the top of the other. They still aren't large, but they're less delicate this way - a better vehicle for the cream, with enough cut surface area to allow for a distinct taste of apricot.

We also cut the quantity of apricot glaze given in the original recipe and added more cream to the chocolate glaze, which needs to be runny enough to coat the cakes in a thin but convincing layer. You may like to play with the consistency of both glazes until you're satisfied.

Kaffeehaus, by Rick Rodgers

Makes 7 or 14 cakes, depending on preference.

For the cakes:

3 tbsp plain/all-purpose flour

3 tbsp cornstarch

pinch of salt

3 large eggs, at room temperature

3 tbsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate glaze:

3/4 cup heavy cream

4 ounces high quality bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped

For the apricot glaze:

1/2 cup apricot preserves

1 tbsp golden rum or water

For the whipped cream filling:

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

3 tbsp confectioners'/icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat to 400F (200C). Lightly butter and flour the cups of an aebleskiver pan, tapping out the excess flour.

To make the cakes: sift the flour, cornstarch and salt together. Beat the egg whites in a medium bowl with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and shiny.

Place the egg yolks and vanilla in a medium bowl. Sift about half of the flour mixture on top and beat with the mixer on medium speed, just until smooth. Add one fourth of the whites into the yolks and mix. Fold in the remaining whites, just until barely combined. Sift the remaining flour mixture on top, and fold in until smooth. Divide half of the batter evenly (about 3 tablespoons for each) among the cups of the aebleskiver pan, filling almost to the brim. Cover the remaining batter in the bowl with plastic wrap.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool in the pan for 3 minutes. Run the tip of a sharp knife around the cakes to release them, then remove from the cups. Cool completely on a wire rack. Rinse the pan (don't use soap) then dry, butter and flour and pan, and repeat with remaining batter.

To make the chocolate glaze: bring the 1/2 cup of heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 3 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let stand until slightly cooled, about 10 minutes.

To make the cream filling: in a chilled medium bowl, beat the cream, confectioners'/icing sugar, and vanilla until stiff peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the apricot glaze: bring the preserves and rum or water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Cook, stirring, until the last drops that cling to the spoon are very sticky and reluctant to leave the spoon, 2 to 3 minutes. Strain through a wire sieve into a small bowl, pressing hard on the solids. The cakes must be assembled while the glaze is still warm.

To assemble the cupcakes: using a small serrated knife, slice the tops off the cakes, keeping the bottom slices about 1/8 inch thick.* Pull out the insides of the domed stops, leaving 1/8-inch shells. Brush the insides of the shells and the cut sides of the bottom slices with the warm apricot glaze. Set aside until the glaze is cooled and set.

Place the shells, cut sides down, on a wire rack set over a pan lined with baking/wax paper. Spoon the warm chocolate glaze over the top piece of each cake, letting the excess glaze run down the sides. If desired, use a metal spatula to scrape up the glaze, and drizzle over the shells to give them a second coat. Refrigerate the shells to set the glaze.

Transfer the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with an open-star tip. Pipe a tall swirl of cream onto each base. Use a small metal spatula to lift and place a shell over each base and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes 14 cakes. Eat on the day they are assembled.

* See above for my alternative assembly.

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