Gluten-free chocolate-cardamom cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, spun sugar bird's nests and jewel encrusted bird's eggs

  • For the cupcakes
  • 125g dark chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)
  • 125ml boiling water
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 220g unsalted butter, softened
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla essence
  • 280g rice flour
  • 2 tbsp. cornflour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 250ml buttermilk
  • Cocoa powder, for dusting
  • For the chocolate cardamom ganache
  • 1 tsp. cardamom pods, crushed
  • 175g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 250ml double cream
  • For the chocolate buttercream
  • 660g unsalted butter, softened
  • 390g dark chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm
  • 15ml vanilla essence
  • 470g icing sugar
  • For the spun sugar bird's nests
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g corn syrup
  • Special equipment: large whisk with 3cm removed from end with wire cutters
  • For the jewel encrusted white chocolate bird's eggs
  • 500g white chocolate molding chocolate
  • Assorted vegetable-dyed sugar crystals
For the cupcakes:

1) Preheat oven to 160 degrees C/Gas Mark 3. Line mini cupcake tins with 48 mini cupcake liners.

2) Melt the chocolate in the boiling water. In a small mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until frothy and stiff but not dry. Add 100g sugar and beat until stiff but not dry. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter with remaining sugar and vanilla on medium speed until fluffy. Add the egg yolks and beat well. Blend in the melted chocolate.

3) Sift together the rice flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk to the chocolate mixture, beating after each addition until smooth. Fold in the chocolate-cardamom ganache. Fold in the beaten whites. Fill the cupcake liners halfway and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

For the chocolate cardamom ganache:

1) Crush the cardamom in a spice grinder. Place the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl. Bring the cream and cardamom just to a simmer over medium-high heat; pour the mixture over the chocolate. Let stand, without stirring, until cool. Beginning near the center and working outward, stir the melted chocolate into the cream until the mixture is combined and smooth (do not over stir).

For the chocolate buttercream:

1) In a medium bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla extract and beat for 3 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until creamy and at desired consistency.

Cook's Note: To melt chocolate, place in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally until completely smooth and no pieces of chocolate remain. Remove from the heat and let cool 5 to 10 minutes.

For the bird's nests:

1) Secure a long-handled wooden spoon under a heavy cutting board on the edge of counter, with the handle facing out and extending over the edge. Place newspaper on the floor directly under the cutting board.

2) In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar and corn syrup and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stop stirring. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Cook until the mixture turns pale amber and registers 171 degrees C (hard-crack stage) on the candy thermometer. Dip the prepared whisk into the caramel. Holding the whisk about 60cm above the spoon handle, swing the caramel back and forth like a pendulum in long arcs, allowing the strands to fall in threads over the handle. Let stand until ready to use. Gently gather the strands into a ball, shaping nests with your fingers, about 2 1/2 cm in diameter.

For the chocolate bird's eggs:

1) Heat the white chocolate over a double boiler until melted. Remove from the heat. When the chocolate begins to cool, transfer it to a pastry bag and tie off the top of the bag using a twist tie.

2) Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat. Cut a small slice off the end of the pastry bag (if the chocolate runs out to quickly let it sit a bit longer). Draw an oval egg no bigger than 3/4cm. As soon as you draw the shape, sprinkle it with an assortment of the crystal sugars, layering them on top and next to one another. (Make it easy by putting the sugars into small ramekins so you can easily get to the desired color.) Place the eggs in the fridge to set up for a few minutes.

To assemble:

1) When the cupcakes are cool to the touch, prepare a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Fill the bag with chocolate buttercream and pipe the tops of each mini cupcake, keeping the icing in low profile. Dust the top of the cupcakes with the cocoa powder. Place a spun sugar bird's nest on top of each cake. Carefully peel the jewel-encrusted bird's egg off the silicon mat. Place an egg inside each nest.

This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.

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