Let's be honest: cupcakes have a pretty prissy reputation. From their pop culture debut during the '90s via Magnolia Bakery's appearance in Sex and the City to the current endless, maddening debates about where the best cupcake can be found and what "the next cupcake" is, mention cupcakes in front of anyone older than 6 years old and you're likely to be greeted with an eye roll and a heavy dose of sarcasm.
That's all fine, and I'd even argue that the eye-rolling is warranted. That doesn't mean that there isn't room for exploration, though, in this very played-out field.
Enter the bacon cupcake. Molasses spice cake with cream cheese frosting is surprised by a wallop of porcine goodness (there is a not inconsiderable amount of rendered bacon fat lurking in that frosting) and then, gloriously, crowned with a strip of candied, perfectly crisp bacon. It's unexpected, perverse, even obscene... and it's pretty damn good.
For the molasses spice cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Begin by creaming together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed for approximately 3 minutes, until fluffy and well-combined. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, ensuring each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next egg. Once all of the eggs have been added, beat in the molasses until blended thoroughly. The mixture will look very soupy and wet at this point.
In a separate medium-sized bowl, add all of the dry ingredients and mix. You will add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in three additions. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and blend on medium-high speed until well-incorporated into the wet ingredients. Add the Greek yogurt and blend thoroughly before adding another 1/3 of the dry ingredients. After the second addition of the dry ingredients has been blended in, add in the milk and blend. Finish by incorporating the final addition of the dry ingredients and blending thoroughly. The batter should appear smooth and should not be overly thick in consistency.
Spoon the batter into paper-lined cupcake trays, filling each cupcake paper approximately ¾ full. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool on a cooling rack.
For the candied bacon:
Keep the oven at 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or wax paper. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat for approximately 2 minutes and then turn over, cooking for another 2 minutes. Remove the bacon from the skillet (it should be partially but not completely cooked). Reserve the bacon grease that is left over in the skillet; pour it into a bowl and set aside to let it cool. Space the bacon strips evenly on the baking sheet, sprinkle them with brown sugar and flip, sprinkling again so that both sides are covered in a thin brown sugar coating. Put the bacon in the oven and bake for approximately 5-6 minutes, until it is very crispy and the sugar has melted. Remove from the oven and set aside.
For the cream cheese frosting:
Beat the butter and cream cheese together on medium-high speed for approximately 3 minutes until fluffy and soft. Add the powdered sugar in one addition. Beat until the sugar is fully incorporated. Add the bacon grease, vanilla extract, and maple syrup and beat on high speed until thoroughly incorporated. Taste the frosting and adjust as needed: more maple syrup for sweetness, more bacon grease for an increased smoky, bacon-y flavor. Once the frosting is finished, chill in the fridge for half an hour until quite firm.
To assemble, scoop the cream cheese frosting into a pastry bag and pipe small spirals of frosting on top of the cooled cupcakes. Once the cupcakes have been frosted, top with a strip of bacon (note: depending on the size of the cooked bacon strips, you may need to break them in two if they are too long). Serve the cupcakes at room temperature.