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A Sriracha Experiment

Rebecca bakes sriracha cupcakes to truly test the condiment’s versatility.

Ah, sriracha. The first time I ever saw this rooster festooned condiment was at a Noodles & Co. many years ago. It was unexpectedly spicy, but I felt powerful eating it! Now we keep a bottle at our house, of which my brother takes full advantage, squirting copious amounts into his instant ramen. It’s an obvious ingredient in savory food preparations, but I wanted to do something slightly more unexpected — a sriracha dessert.
I’ve long been enchanted with the spicy/sweet combination. Chocolate and chiles are a long established pairing, dating back to the Aztecs and Mayans, so I didn’t think it was a far stretch to replace my usual cayenne with sriracha. I was wrong.

In a FCM office vote, sriracha chocolate cupcakes were declared the winning recipe I would attempt and I set off to do some experimentation. There already was a recipe floating around the web, but tasters described the cupcake as too dry and crumbly. If I was already going to be messing around with a classic, I wanted it to use a base recipe that I knew was reliable. So I simply modified my no-fail chocolate cake recipe with a couple tablespoons of the spicy sauce. That’s reasonable, right?

As I popped the cakes into the oven, I swiped some batter off the spoon and took a taste. Where’s the peppery kick…? Ah, there it was. Hm, that’s interesting. The chocolate had not muted the sriracha at all. Maybe after baking it would calm down.

After a frosting related fiasco (protip: don’t try and watch Olympic gymnastics and make frosting at the same time) the cupcakes were finished and they smelled pretty spectacular. I took a big, trusting bite, feeling the sriracha at the back of my throat as I swallowed. Everything about it was perfect on paper: a moist, dark chocolate cupcake that hits you with a lingering sriracha kick. The problem was, I didn’t like them. At all. You see, sriracha contains not only chiles, but vinegar and garlic as well. Those distinct flavors don’t want to submit to the sweetness of the cupcake at all, and remain strong in the dessert as a whole. I didn’t finish eating mine.

Overall, I’m glad I did my experiment, even if the result was less than pleasing to my palate. Perhaps sriracha, heralded by some as the king of all condiments, must concede defeat and stay out of the dessert world.

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/3 cup black cocoa powder
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup whole milk
3 Tbsp sriracha
1 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake tins with papers

In a mixer bowl, combine sugar, flour, black and Dutch-processed cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix to combine.

In a separate bowl, combine the beaten eggs, vegetable oil, sriracha and milk. Stir to mix.  Then, with the mixer on low, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix on low until evenly distributed.

Pour the boiling water into the batter and mix on medium low until smooth.

Divide the batter between the two cake pans.

Bake for 20-25ish minutes. When a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out cleanly, the cakes are done. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

—By Rebecca Turchan

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