In a moment of kitchen confidence, I offered to make dessert for the wedding of some dear friends. They were having their non-traditional wedding catered by a soulful Indian restaurant, and wanted something that made sense with Indian food, but still had that American cake thing going on. The answer: these intoxicatingly-scented cupcakes, moist and bursting with flavor, topped with a rich and flamboyant saffron buttercream. The cake is my own, its lineage now lost to the ages, and the buttercream base from Cook's Illustrated Best Recipes, flavored with my imagination. You'll dance, too! —jphilg
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
Combine the unsweetened chocolate and the butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and melt in a microwave, stirring at 20-second intervals until smooth.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ground coriander. Whisk together the orange zest, orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla.
Beat the sugar and egg on high speed in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape in the melted chocolate mixture and beat until smooth. Lower the mixer speed, and add half of the dry ingredients, followed by the wet ingredients, and then finally the remaining dry ingredients, just barely incorporating each addition and taking care not to overmix.
Divide batter between the cupcake liners, and bake in the preheated oven for 22-25 minutes, until tops spring back when lightly touched.
To make the buttercream, heat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until mixture reaches 160 degrees. Place bowl on the stand mixer and whisk on high speed until room temperature, by which time the mixture will triple in volume, becoming light and foamy.
In a very small bowl, crush the saffron threads with the orange juice, and set aside to steep while the egg mixture is cooling. Add the saffron mixture, vanilla, salt, and orange zest to the cooled egg mixture.
Reduce the mixer speed and begin adding room-temperature butter, about 2 tablespoons at a time. Don't fret if the buttercream looks curdled; just keep going. I promise. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, turn the mixer speed back to high, and beat until buttercream is smooth and velvety, about 3 more minutes.
Spread or pipe about 3 tablespoons of buttercream on each cooled cupcake, and serve immediately. To store cupcakes, refrigerate in an air-tight container for up to 3 days, but bring to room temperature before serving for best flavor and texture.