When I started working on Grand Openings Can Be Murder, I impulsively had Carmen making cupcakes for the titular grand opening party. But I didn’t want them to be just any cupcakes – they were chocolate cinnamon cupcakes with lemongrass frosting – which is an actual recipe I had created for my cookbook, There are Herbs in My Chocolate. I decided that the herb and chocolate thing would be Carmen’s signature cooking style. So when she makes besos later in the book, they’re not just besos – they’re chocolate chunk besos, rolled in lavender coconut. In the second book, she makes spicy orange cookies and conchas with rosemary and cayenne. Here’s the recipe that sets the tone for Carmen’s character and establishes her cooking style. I hope you enjoy the combination of flavors as much as I do. The frosting for these cupcakes combines cinnamon whiskey with lemongrass-infused butter. The cinnamon hits you first – and then the lemon comes in as a back note. Lemongrass is too gritty/abrasive to mince into a baked good, and you don’t want to add too much liquid to a frosting, so do take the time to infuse the butter and cool it back to solid. For a non-alcoholic version, add two tsp. of cinnamon to the frosting, and add milk to make up the missing liquid.
1 c. cocoa powder
2 c. hot coffee
2 ⅔ c. all-purpose flour
4 tsp. baking powder
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1 c. butter, room temperature
2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 batch Lemongrass Buttercream Frosting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line two 12-cup cupcake pans with paper wrappers.
Combine the cocoa powder and the hot coffee in a medium bowl. Stir to dissolve. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined. Stir in the chocolate mixture and mix to a uniform color.
Scoop 2 Tbsp. of batter into each paper cup. Bake 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool completely, then frost with Lemongrass Buttercream Frosting.
Lemongrass Buttercream Frosting
1 batch Lemongrass-Infused butter
Shortening, as needed
4 c. sifted confectioners’ sugar
4 Tbsp. cinnamon whiskey
Measure the lemongrass butter, and add enough shortening to total one cup.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl frequently. Add the cinnamon whiskey and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
Lemongrass Infused Butter
2 stalks fresh lemon grass
1 c. butter
2 tsp. lemon zest
Trim and discard tough tops and root ends from lemon grass. Remove and discard tough outer layers.
Cut each stalk lengthwise in half, and cut into 2-inch pieces. Place the butter in a saucepan pan, and add the lemongrass pieces. Over high heat, melt the butter. When butter is melted, turn heat to low and stir often until flavors are blended, 15 to 20 minutes. Strain the butter into a bowl. Add the lemon zest. With a slotted spoon, lift out and discard lemon grass. Let cool, cover, and chill until solid.