What comes to mind when you think of the quintessential summer dessert?
Before moving to the South, I would have said “S’mores!”
The very thought of a gooey, chocolate-y s’more conjures memories of summer campfires. I used to spend several weeks of every summer at a lakeside camp outside of Yosemite. During the day, we would waterski, windsurf, swim or take turns diving off the top of a pontoon boat, competing for the prettiest entry or the biggest splash. There were land activities, too, like a high ropes course, rock climbing and rappelling, archery or the (dreaded) arts and crafts. This camp birthed my love of the outdoors and my wanderlust for adventure.
When we got to a certain age, one week was spent backpacking in the wilderness. Even with minimal provisions, the views and the experiences were unparalleled. We slept under the stars, “bathed” in lakes and rivers and ate spaghetti and bean burritos at every meal. We hung our food in trees to deter bears, we washed our pots out with dirt and we hand-filtered our water. We watched the sun rise and set every day. To pass the time, we would take day-hikes to snowy vistas (in August!) or lounge around reading books and playing cards. Those were some of the most wonderful days of my life. They were unencumbered by work, obligations or responsibilities. We simply had the pleasure of appreciating nature.
In the evenings, we would build a campfire and we always made s’mores. Nothing could have tasted better than those s’mores. Even today, when I eat a s’more, I think of those trips.
In California, summer days – even the hot ones! – yielded cool(er) nights. Sitting by the fire to toast a marshmallow was part of the adventure (and totally necessary to perfectly melt the chocolate squares).
In North Carolina, the thought of looking at a fire from the air-conditioned indoors gives me heat stroke. It is NOT happening. Hot summer days in the South turn into hot summer nights with no reprieve.
But, since I was longing for the taste of the beloved s’more, I found a way to create them without the use of open flames. (You do need the oven, though. Sorry.)
This recipe will not disappoint, but here are a few things to note:
- I pulverize my graham crackers in the food processor. I like the crumbs to be really fine.
- To yield one cup of crushed graham crackers, I used one ream of the Nabisco crackers. That’s 9 full-size crackers.
- Use the “plain” honey graham crackers, not the cinnamon-sugar variety
- You can use a regular or dark chocolate cocoa powder. I like to use ¼ cup regular and 2 tablespoons dark chocolate.
- I use instant coffee in this recipe, but you can also use a brewed coffee – just make sure it’s strong and hot!
- Don’t judge me for the use of Marshmallow Fluff. This is not something I keep in my house regularly, but s’mores are a special occasion. Nanny, nanny, boo boo.
So, if you’re ever craving a s’more when a campfire is unavailable, here is your solution!
S’mores Cupcakes (Nut-Free)
Graham Cracker Crust
- 1 cup graham crackers crushed (see notes, above)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons butter melted
- ¼ cup + 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder see note, above
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons brewed instant coffee strong and hot
- 1 stick butter at room temperature
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup Marshmallow Fluff
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk any kind
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F).
Line a 12-cake cupcake pan with paper liners. Set aside.
In a small bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and sugars until combined. Stir in the melted butter until the dry ingredients are moistened (it should still be a loose meal, not compacted).
Place about a tablespoon of the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of each cupcake liner. You will not use all the graham crackers. Set the remainder aside to sprinkle on the finished cupcakes.
Using the back of a spoon, press the crumbs into the bottom of each cupcake, forming an even layer.
Now prepare the cupcakes. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients with a fork until combined.
In a glass, Pyrex 2-cup measuring cup, whisk the milk, egg, oil and vanilla extract together until the egg is fully beaten.
Pour the wet ingredients on top of the dry ingredients and mix together using an electric hand mixer.
Once incorporated, stir in the hot coffee with a spatula and beat for another 30 seconds with the mixer.
Pour the batter on top of the graham crust in each cupcake tin. Fill until the batter reaches the top quarter of each cup.
Bake for 25-27 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. There should be no “jiggle” in the cupcakes when you shake the pan, either.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Gently lift each cupcake out and place on a rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Add all frosting ingredients into a medium mixing bowl and beat on high until combined. The “fluff” should be well incorporated into the butter/sugar mixture. If the frosting is too thick, add more milk - one tablespoon at a time - until it is smooth enough to spoon into a piping bag.
Spoon the frosting into a piping bag (I did this in two stages) fitted with an open tip of your choice.
Pipe the frosting onto each cupcake.
Sprinkle the remaining graham cracker crumbs onto the tops of the cupcakes OR use a kitchen torch to “toast” the marshmallow frosting.
These cupcakes will keep for 3-4 days in a sealed container at room temperature.