A tale as old and as classic as Beauty and the Beast deserves its own cupcake. Inspired by the recent release of Disney’s live action movie (and my friend who is obsessed with both the story and coconut), the following is a recipe for Beauty and the Beast black forest cupcakes.
Now, I know the Black Forest is in Germany, not France, but I love the play on colors in this cupcake – the black, the white, and the red. The cake and whipped cream have such simple tastes, but the sweet-sour cherry filling, along with the coconut on top, give this cake more dimension in terms of flavor and texture. Inside the cake is a cherry treat the eater wouldn’t necessarily know about from looking at the outside. Kind of like in the story, where what’s outside isn’t always a reflection of what’s within. Sometimes, you get to be surprised.
Another reason for choosing this cake is the role of the forest in fairy tales. It can represent the “wild” or the “outside,” the place where one goes to leave the comforts (or dangers) of home, get into trouble, and discover one’s true self. The forest acts as both a border one crosses and the environment where one transforms. Those who come and go from the Beast’s castle must journey through a dark forest with windy paths, wolves, snow, and other perils. One must survive the dark and dangerous place (that can be outside you or within) to get to the other side/new self/celebratory feast/happy ending.
Anyway, on to the cupcakes…
2 ⅛ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cups cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp salt
1 cup milk (whole is preferable, but I used the 2% I had on hand)
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp vanilla
2 20-oz cans pitted cherries (it’s more traditional to use sour cherries, but I didn’t)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups heavy whipping cream
⅔ cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp vanilla
Dried raw coconut flakes
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 ½ – 3 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
Preferred red food dye (for these cupcakes, I used Wilton’s no taste red since so much dye is needed to get the color)
- Heat the oven to 350⁰ and prepare cupcake tins with liners.
- Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
- Beat until well-combined.
- Spoon three tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner. Bake 18-23 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Let cool in tins for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely.
- Using a large round tip or whatever hollowing-out tool you have in your kitchen, cut out the center of the cupcake, leaving a small amount of cake on the bottom so filling doesn’t drip through. I used the tool below, which I’m not sure the name of or it’s true purpose (coring apples or other pitted fruit?), but it worked really well.
- Taste the removed parts of the cupcakes for quality control purposes. Yes, you can taste them all… just to be sure.
- Drain cherries, reserving ½ cup juice.
- Combine cherries, juice, sugar, and cornstarch in a saucepan.
- Stirring constantly, cook over low heat until mixture thickens.
- Add vanilla. Cool completely before using.
(Recipe adapted from Linda Greer’s Black Forest Cake I recipe.)
- Chill a mixing bowl before use.
- Beat whipping cream and ⅓ cup confectioner’s sugar in chilled bowl, adding more sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Add vanilla to taste.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Make buttercream by beating butter and 2 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar. Add sugar until icing is stiff – a spoon should be able to stand up in the center without falling over.
- Add red food dye until icing is your desired color. (Note: I made mine the day before and left it in the fridge overnight because the color gets deeper the longer it sits.)
- Prepare a piping bag with the red icing and a coupler so you can change out a round tip for a petal tip.
- Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Cut small pieces of wax paper big enough to cover a flower nail.
- Use a smidge of icing to stick a square of wax paper to the flower nail. With the round tip, make a cone of icing about an inch high. Chill to harden.
- Once cone is hard, use the petal tip to make a center petal at the top of the cone. Holding the piping bag in your dominant hand and the rose nail in the other, position your petal tip so the wide end is facing downward and just touches the cone. While spinning the flower nail, squeeze the piping bag and move the tip downward until the whole cone is covered in an unbroken ribbon.
- To make the outside petals, touch the wide end (still at the bottom) of the tip to the cone. Squeezing the piping bag, turn the flower nail and create an arched petal, with its center slightly above the two sides. Overlapping the previous petal, continue turning the flower nail and making arched petals until you’ve reached the bottom of the cone (a one-inch cone should have three rows of petals).
- Remove the wax paper from the flower nail and refrigerate flower until ready to use.
Putting it together
- Using a small measuring spoon, fill half of the inside of each cupcake with whipped cream. Fill the rest of the hole with cherry filling.
- Pipe or spread a relatively flat layer of whipped cream on top of cupcake.
- Press coconut into whipped cream so the flakes don’t fall off.
- With slightly open kitchen scissors, remove icing rose from waxed paper. Place on cupcake and close scissors to get the rose off.
(Fair warning: icing rose may be stiff and more enjoyable to look at than to eat.)