Salted malted chocolate cupcakes. Salty Malt Cakes. Salty Dawgs. You see how I got there. The base is a dark, black, light and moist chocolate cake. The topping is a malty swirl of creamy buttercream. Add a drizzle of salted caramel and a crushed malted milk ball and you’ve got yourself the cupcake that all other cupcakes aspire to be. They’re sweet, they’ve got that savoury-roundness of malt, and the salty-bitterness of a good caramel. Le sigh. They are amazing.
It’s official: I’m back on board with cupcakes. My contrarian nature meant that for a long time we were estranged. Not for me the cooing over chicken-shaped sugar paste-topped cakes. Does anyone actually enjoy that? Candy Melts? Fondant? Really? I definitely admire the artistry, but for me, if something is packing a serious caloric punch, then it’s gotta be worth it in the flavour stakes. Which is why my approach to cupcakes follows more of the American style snack-cake route.
Have you ever noticed that those snack cakes, and we have them here too, just different brands (a lot of Italian ones, which I’m fine with) – they’re not actually that sweet? They’re fatty, definitely. And they have that artificial vanilla taste. And sometimes an almost-boozy flavour, especially in the ‘chocolate’ ones, which I’m not sure is to evoke a chocolate flavour, or because of some long-term storage fermentation… Either way, they always have more going on that mere sugariness. Which is why I’m taking that tack as I slowly re-appropriate cupcakes.
A sugary sponge, topped with more sugary buttercream is just a straight up tooth-stripper. When you can feel those grains as you bite into the icing? I can’t stand that. My cupcake’s gotta be creamy. It’s gotta be malty. It’s gotta be salty. It’s gotta be something that I’m happy cramming in my face while I watch Inherent Vice with my boyfriend again and again. I’m so happy to be able to give you that cupcake today. Here it is. Live it. Love it. Enjoy.
- 1 + ¼ cup (190g) plain flour
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1 + ½ tsp baking powder
- ⅓ cup (30g) cocoa powder
- ½ cup (125ml) milk
- ½ cup (125ml) grapeseed oil (or other flavourless oil)
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 2 tsp vanilla essence/extract)
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup chocolate malt powder (e.g. Ovaltine)
- 2 tbsp hot water
- 3 egg whites
- ¾ cup (150g) caster sugar
- 1 stick + 5 tbsp (190g) salted butter, very soft
- Salted caramel + malted milk balls to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a muffin tin with paper cases.
- Sift the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.
- In a separate jug, whisk together the milk, oil, vanilla and egg. Pour into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.
- Divide evenly between the paper cases, and bake for 17-20 minutes, or until dry and springing back when pressed. Place on a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the buttercream, dissolve the malt powder in the hot water in a small bowl and set aside.
- Place the egg whites and sugar into a heat proof bowl, over but not touching a saucepan filled with simmering water (aka a bain marie). Whisk gently (not to incorporate any air), until the mixture reaches 65c/145F - or until the mixture feels hot to the touch, when you rub some between your fingers, you can feel no grains of sugar.
- Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, and beat on a medium-high speed, until the mixture is tripled in volume and completely cool. It should look like meringue.
- When the mixture is completely cool, begin beating on the butter adding it a tablespoon at a time, with the mixer running still at a medium-high speed.
- When all the butter is incorporated, whisk through the vanilla and the dissolved malt powder.
- Top the cooled cupcakes with a generous slathering of buttercream, a drizzle of caramel, and a scattering of crushed malt balls.