It’s been few and far between my blog posts this year, but to make it up to you . . . I have the best chocolate cupcake recipe to share with you! But first let me share some highlights of our recent trip to Grand Cayman!
My hubby and I turn 40 this year so we wanted to treat ourselves to a relaxing vacation for us, but also something fun for the kids. We thought of somewhere in the Caribbean, but where? We previously visited some of the eastern islands, so we decided on a western island this time. It didn’t take long before we decided on Grand Cayman. What was the selling point? Their Seven Mile Beach! AND the opportunity to stay at the Grand Cayman Ritz-Carlton–right on Seven Mile Beach!
Our trip was truly memorable right from the start. When we checked into the Ritz-Carlton we were greeted with ice-cold punch and cookies for the kids! The wonderful staff at the Ritz made us feel like it was our home away from home. Our room was at the top-level and featured an amazing view of Seven Mile Beach!
It was a fun-filled week of sun, sand, swimming, snorkeling, good food, pirate caves, turtle farms, stingray back rubs (yep you read that right!), a beautiful botanic park, and a rare blue iguana! But who wants to read about our trip?! The hubby got a new toy–a GoPro. Thanks to him we got some awesome video highlights of our trip. I’m sure the kids will love seeing this 20 years from now!
Now what does the best chocolate cupcake have in common with a blue iguana? One night on our way back from dinner we stopped by the sundries store in the hotel called the Cupboard. We knew they had baked goodies and wanted to take some desserts to go. We were surprised that they were 50% off since it was half an hour before closing. I immediately decided on the passion fruit tart, meanwhile my daughter chose the chocolate banana bread, and my son of course selected the chocolate cupcake. While waiting to pay, I noticed they had a sign of the island’s native and endangered Blue Iguana. These chocolate cupcakes, a.k.a. Blue Iguana Cupcakes, were made in honor of these beautiful creatures and proceeds would benefit the Blue Iguana Recovery Program. I decided to get two cupcakes to support this cause. I am so glad I did. I ended up nibbling on my passion fruit tart, but inhaled that chocolate cupcake! The cake was light in texture with a deep chocolate taste. The buttercream I knew had to be some type of meringue method–it was also light and not too buttery, almost whipped cream melt in your mouth texture.
I was so in love with these cupcakes I even had them for breakfast, all the while in the back of my mind trying to figure out how these cupcakes were made.
When we returned home from our trip we had our videos and photos, not to mention our nice tans to reminisce about our trip. But somehow a small part of me felt a bit melancholy. I knew it was because I missed having those cupcakes! I decided, with some hope and faith, I would email the Ritz and inquire if they would share the recipe. Within a few hours (yes that soon!) I got a response back from the lovely Megan Licata, Communications Manager at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman! She said she would inquire with their Executive Pastry Chef, Benjamin Kallenbach, for the recipe and get back to me. The next day I almost fell out of my seat, when she emailed me a copy of the recipe!
I cannot express enough my gratitude to Megan for responding so quickly to my inquiry and to Chef Kallenbach for sharing the best chocolate cupcake recipe. He is truly my hero in the culinary world for his eagerness to share and for converting the recipe for home baking. Being a pastry chef is an extremely demanding job and for him to take the time to do this for me, I am truly grateful.
Baking is precision, which is why ingredients in weight are much more accurate. The original recipe for these cupcakes are listed by weight, which is how I baked them. However, in the United States, baking by volume is much more common. More home bakers will have measuring cups rather than a scale. As such, I had to make a few adjustments to the original recipe so that I could give you a volume measurement as well. You’ll see the volume measurement in parenthesis in the recipe.
The recipe for the chocolate cake is interesting. It starts off with the usual method of creaming butter and sugar, and then adding the eggs. But then it calls for adding a hot mixture of cocoa, water, and sour cream. If not tempered correctly, it could lead to scrambled eggs–chocolate scrambled eggs to be precise. The buttercream as I suspected is meringue based–Italian meringue. I’ve never made an Italian meringue buttercream, but the method of pouring a hot sugar syrup in beaten egg whites is like second nature to me because of macaron making. Why have I never tried to make this type before?! I’ve always made a Swiss meringue buttercream and favor this over an American buttercream. Now my preference without a doubt is Italian meringue buttercream–it’s much lighter in texture with a less heavy butter taste that you would get with a Swiss meringue. One last note on meringue buttercream, because I have younger kids, I’m a bit hesitant in using raw egg whites. Therefore, I use pasteurized egg whites (yes the type in the carton) and have been very successful with getting the meringue nice and fluffy.
My hope is that more visitors to the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman are aware that by purchasing just one of these cupcakes they can support the recovery program. Or even better, become aware of the plight of these animals and make some kind of contribution to their future existence. The Blue Iguana is the most endangered iguana on Earth. In 2002, the population was a mere 10-25 iguanas. The most recent assessment in April 2013, indicates about 750 iguanas! Therefore, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see such a rare and magnificent creature! We hiked for about a mile before we came across one, and the only one we would see that day. I am glad that my kids were able to see and understand the story behind the Blue Iguana. But, I would also like THEIR kids to experience this as well. It gives me comfort that the population is slowly growing and hope that these beautiful creatures will be around for a very long time.
Drawing my inspiration from this beautiful reptile, I also wanted to reflect the true color of a Blue Iguana–which is closer to a blue and aqua coloring. Therefore, I colored half of the buttercream a dark sky blue and the other aqua. I placed the sky blue in one piping bag and the aqua in another. Then I placed these two bags in another piping bag, hoping to get a two-toned effect. I loved the way it turned out.
Thank you again to the ladies and gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton for making our stay a comfortable and relaxing one. To the locals of Grand Cayman, thank you for your gracious welcome to your island–it’s what this girl from Hawaii calls the “Aloha Spirit”. To Megan for her quick response and gracious email correspondence. And a super big thank you to Chef Kallenbach for giving me a priceless gift–whenever I make and take a bite of the best chocolate cupcake ever, I will immediately be transported back to the beautiful Grand Cayman Island.