It's back to school time! Although we don't have any kids, and no one is actually going to school, it's hard to ignore the frenzy that accompanies this time of year. I made the mistake of going to Target the other day without thinking it was back-to-school week, but the minute I pulled in I realized what I'd done. The parking lot seriously looked like the week before Christmas - total insanity! I ran in and grabbed what I needed but wound up putting off the rest of my errands for another day when things would (hopefully) be a little less crazy.
We may not be sending anyone to school or doing school shopping, but there's nothing to stop me from baking back-to-school snacks! Those are universally loved, even by 30-something adults :) Hostess cupcakes are my quintessential school snack - they bring me right back to lunchtime in the cafeteria with my friends. I remember very little about school lunches, but it's hard to forget cupcakes. I guess I had a sweet tooth even back then! Those chocolate cupcakes with the marshmallow filling and shiny chocolate glaze were pretty hard not to love...
Like so many of my childhood favorites, I haven't had an actual Hostess cupcake in years and and years. I can't even remember the last time. And these days, it just makes more sense to bake a homemade version myself; I'm always looking for another project! It probably goes without saying, but the store-bought can't hold a candle to these Homemade Hostess Cupcakes.
The cupcakes themselves are tender with a rich, dark chocolate flavor. The marshmallow cream filling is light, fluffy, and sweet - the perfect contrast to the uber chocolatey cupcakes. Topped with a smooth chocolate ganache and the classic piped swirl, they're utterly irresistible! I made the cupcakes for my mom's birthday last month, and I think we were all feeling like kids again as we ate them :)
Homemade Hostess Cupcakes
slightly adapted from Annie's Eats
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
1 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 large eggs, at room temperature and separated
1 cup canola oil
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
6 tablespoons water
Filling and Swirl Topper
3 cups marshmallow creme
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon half-and-half
5 oz semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
Sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a medium bowl (I always sift cocoa powder to get rid of any lumps). In a second bowl, whisk the egg yolks, oil, 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, and the water together until well combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir just until combined. Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed until foamy, then increase the speed to medium-high, and gradually start adding the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar. Continue beating until the egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks. Transfer 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the cupcake batter and stir in to lighten (no need to fold too gently yet). Add the remaining egg white mixture, and now gently fold to incorporate, just until you can no longer see white streaks.
Divide the batter among the prepared liners, filling each about 2/3-full. Bake the cupcakes for 17-18 minutes, or until they spring back when lightly pressed. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and allow the cupcakes to cool for a few minutes, then remove them to the rack to cool completely.
While the cupcakes cool, make the filling: Add the marshmallow creme and butter to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until well combined and smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and salt and continue beating until the filling is light and fluffy. Transfer all but 1/2 cup of this mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round tip about 1/2-inch in diameter (this is what you'll use for filling the cupcakes). To the 1/2 cup of the mixture left in the bowl, add the half-and-half, beating until well combined. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small round tip (this is what you'll use for piping the swirl on top of the cupcakes), and refrigerate.
To fill the cupcakes: insert the pastry tip into the center of each cupcake and squeeze to fill with a dollop of the marshmallow cream. If the filling overflows the top of the cupcake, just scrape it off so the top of the cupcake is smooth.
To make the glaze: Add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl. Add the cream to a small saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, then pour over the chopped chocolate. Let stand (without stirring) for 1 minute, then gently whisk until the chocolate is melted and the ganache is smooth. Set aside to cool and thicken for a few minutes.
One at a time, invert the cupcakes and dip the tops into the glaze, covering everything up to the top of the liner. Lift up and allow any excess to drip off, then flip them over and place back on the wire rack. Repeat with all cupcakes (if at any time, the ganache gets too thick to work with, reheat briefly in the microwave). Allow the glaze to set completely (at room temperature, or if you're in a hurry, pop them in the fridge). When the glaze is set, use the reserved filling mixture to pipe a swirl onto the top of each cupcake. Store cupcakes in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes