Port Royals (Chocolate Cupcakes with Cocoa Star Anise Ganache and Candied Grapefruit Zest)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From the Cupcake Archives

I named this a Port Royal because 1) it sounded like a refined name for a very fashionable, delicate, and august cupcake; and 2) I have been watching Pirates of the Caribbean like I'll win a prize.

Honestly, this flavor combo was a total crapshoot. I had seen the combo before but never tried it, but was always fascinated by it. Chocolate, star anise, and grapefruit. Who knew? Seriously, who on earth thought of pairing this one together, cause I never would have. The flavors really do compliment each other, yet each one stands out as an individual. Unless you like star anise, you will not like this cupcake. If you appreciate it's slightly licorice flavor, and the tang of grapefruit then this is the cupcake for you. It was very popular with everyone who tried it, and would say that it's a real crowd pleaser due to its uniqueness. Really though, the flavors are very delicate, and I would almost call this cupcake elitist in its taste.

It does take a while to make it, mainly cause some of the prep work means requires you to start the night before, but ah well. I made these to thank a group of good people for meeting me at the Sacramento Food Bank to do some volunteer work (will post on that later), and had a few other people try them. They seem to be pretty successful, and Rob classified them as one of the best cupcakes yet.

This will be the last chocolate cupcake for a while. In Northern California, Winter has pretty much passed and Spring is making it's quick appearance before Summer comes in beating my door down. I yearn to work with lighter, brighter ingredients; rhubarb, limes, teas, and stone fruit call out to me. Also, chocolate can get pricey, so blah.

Chocolate Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
200 gram bar of Valrhona 61% cacao
3 sticks butter
2-1/4 cups sugar
8 eggs
1-1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

What You'll Do...
1) Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (a double boiler works great too). Stir until chocolate melts and combined with the butter.

2) Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes to thicken.

3) Place the bowl back into the mixer and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.

4) Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds before adding the next.

5) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until just blended.

6) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking.

Candied Grapefruit Peel
Prep the night before.

What You'll Need...
2 Ruby Red grapefruits
1 tablespoon of salt
2 cups of sugar

What You'll Do...
1) Zest the peel into long strips with a citrus zester. (You can cut off the zest as well, then cut into strips, just be sure to scrape off all of the white pith as it's nasty bitter.) Add salt and peel to 4 cups of water and let stand overnight.

2) Drain and rinse. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat to boiling and then drain. Repeat 3 times. This is to remove any bitterness from the peel.

3) In the sauce pan, combine the peel, sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook until peel is translucent, about 4-7 minutes. Drain any liquid and roll the peel in granulated sugar. Set on a plate without overlapping to prevent clumping, and allow to dry. Arrange on cupcakes.

Star Anise Chocolate Ganache
Prep the night before.

What You'll Need...
8 ounces chocolate (the higher the cacao percentage, the better)
1 cup heavy cream
5 star anise, broken up

What You'll Do...
1) Place the cream and anise in a bowl, and let sit overnight.

2) Break up the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl.

3) Heat the cream and anise in a saucepan and heat at medium high until small bubble form on the rim. Pour through a mesh sieve to catch the anise as it pours over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute.

4) Mix together till smooth, uniform, and silky. Let cool a bit. Dip and swirl the cupcake domes into the ganache. Shake off the excess. Decorate with the grapefruit zest and let stand to dry.


  1. So Garrett, these were like, the BEST cupcakes EVER! Really. And I'm not that into cupcakes. The licorice of the star anise only served to enhance the flavor of the chocolate in my mind. I couldn't distinguish licorice per se. And the candied citrus? What a pretty and tasty touch. How do you stay so thin?

  2. What a combination! I love licorice~ not sure with grapefruit. I may just have to give this a try.

  3. Is there nothing that ganache will not compliment?

  4. Wow.. those sound amazing! I heart all of those flavors, but you are right - I'd never think to combine them. I look forward to trying these, thanks!

  5. I can personally verify that these cupcakes are FABULOUS.

    The aroma itself was delicious, and the taste was a revelation.

    I love the name too. Hope you win that prize! (heh heh)

  6. Beautiful cupcake. You're turning into quite the cupcake King now, aren't you.

    The new Pirates trailer just opened today online if you're interested.


  7. These look amazing, I love the candied grapefruit zest.
    You just astound me with your combinations.

  8. I think the cupcakes are fabulous. star anise and choclate with candied zest sounds great. Picture is perfect too.

  9. I am so impressed...those look like a fantastic creation!

  10. This sounds divine!

    A really refreshing change from the usual cupcake as well.

    As winter will be hanging around here until May (more or less) I have plenty of time to bake these...

  11. I'm not a big star anise fan, so I'm not sure about that part, but I LOVE candied grapefruit with chocolate more even than candied orange. So your garnish looks beautiful. I may have to try this!

    (I love the sweet pea cupcakes from an earlier post, too. )

  12. Hi, I happen to view your blog and find this recipe interesting. Are you able to tell me how much is 3 sticks of butter?

  13. 3 sticks = 1 1/2 cups of butter.

  14. These look beautiful and so luscious, Garrett! Just what I need, another baked good to make when I already can't stand to get near the scale! Have a very Merry Christmas season and a wonderful year ahead!

  15. You know, for a year or two now I've been thinking to myself, 'one day I'm going to have time to follow Garrett's cake recipes. Then I'll be a domestic Goddess and people will marvel at my cake." It hasn't happened yet. Perhaps this summer....

  16. I have never thought of candied grapefruit with a anise, lovely idea.

  17. Why is it called port royals? But they look mouthwatering!! Love this blog has what to offer!

  18. Port Royals?
    Tried this is a local restaurant ..and it is just awesome! :)


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