For the Cupcakes:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, more for pans
1 cup cake flour or all-purpose flour
'2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped, or chocolate chips
3 tablespoons uncooked instant oatmeal
For the Frosting:
8 thick strips bacon, in 1/4-inch dice
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons crème fraîche
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Flaky salt or fleur de sel, for garnish.
To make cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 12-cup muffin tin and line with cupcake liners; set aside. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon; set aside.
In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine butter, both sugars and salt. Cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, 5 minutes. With machine running, add eggs one at a time, and mix until well incorporated, 2 minutes. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, turn mixer speed to low, and add 1/4 of the dry ingredients. When no traces of flour remain, add 1/3 of the buttermilk and mix until incorporated.
Continue alternating flour mixture and buttermilk, ending with flour. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, and gently mix in chopped chocolate and oatmeal. Divide among muffin cups; each should be 3/4 full. Bake until a tester comes out clean, 30 minutes. Turn out of tin and cool completely on a wire rack.
To make frosting, in a heavy skillet, cook bacon over low heat until fat is rendered and meat is crisp. Set a sieve over bowl of mixer, and pour skillet contents into sieve. Reserve bacon bits. You should have no more than 3 tablespoons bacon fat in mixer bowl; set aside additional bacon fat for another use.
Return skillet to heat and add butter. Butter will melt, then foam, then separate into golden liquid and white solids. Let butter cook, scraping bottom of pan occasionally to prevent burning, until milk solids toast and turn brown. Transfer browned butter to mixer bowl and refrigerate until cold.
In separate bowl, combine milk, cream, crème fraîche, vanilla and maple syrup. In mixer bowl, cream bacon fat and brown butter with salt until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar and mix at medium speed until fluffy, about 8 minutes. With mixer running, pour in milk mixture and continue mixing until smooth. Refrigerate until cold.
With small offset spatula, fluff frosting until soft and spreadable but not runny. Spread about 3 tablespoons frosting on each cooled cupcake. Sprinkle a pinch of bacon bits and a pinch of flaky salt on top. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 6 hours.
bacon recipe source: Erin Cooks, February 22, 2009; adapted from The New York Times, February 18, 2009