And it’s fall! My favorite season. And with the cooler temperatures comes more time for baking.
For someone who loves sweets, I sure do hate cupcakes. Every single one I’ve tried from those fancy cupcake shops (and they charge $3/cupcake?!?! Blasphemy!) is way too sweet. And believe me, I’ve tried them all.
So, what to do? I came up with my own recipe. And I must say, this is the best damn chocolate cupcake I’ve ever had, because it’s light enough to neutralize the sweetness of the frosting. I based it off a recipe that I found in an old cookbook, jazzed it up with a few modifications, and boom, delicious.
For the cake part, you’ll need:
1 1/2 cups baking cocoa (NOT hot chocolate mix)
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
2 cups boiling water
1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar, depending on how sweet you want it to be
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract*
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
*if you happen to run out of vanilla extract like I did one time, orange extract makes an excellent substitute – it seriously tastes just like one of those chocolate-orange things you’re supposed to crack open.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line your cupcake pan (if desired – if not, make sure you grease the bottom and sides). Mix the cocoa, coffee granules and boiling water in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Let this sit.
Cream the butter and sugar, about 3-5 minutes. ** tip: I like to whip the butter to make sure it’s soft and smooth first, before mixing in the sugar ** Beat in one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly after each one, then beat in the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda and powder, and salt, and carefully pour 1/3 of the flour mix into the butter-eggs-sugar mixture. Then, pour 1/3 of the cocoa mix (make sure you stir it once again to make sure nothing has settled to the bottom). Alternate the flour and cocoa until it’s all thoroughly combined.
Fill cupcake pan 2/3 of the way (best thing to use: ice cream scoop – it gives you the perfect portion each time), and the second you put the pan into the oven, turn it down to 325 degrees, and bake for 21 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cupcake comes out clean.
After it cools, frost it! I love basic buttercream, but since this is a simple chocolate cake, you can really use any flavor frosting. I also like making a dark chocolate ganache and sprinkling some chopped almonds on top.
1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
I like doing the double-boiler method for this – you need a small saucepan with about an inch of water brought to a simmer, and put a heatproof glass bowl over it, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Melt the chocolate chips by stirring constantly, adding a bit of heavy cream at a time. If you don’t have patience for this method, heat up the heavy cream in a saucepan until barely boiling, and then pour over the chocolate chips and stir until all melted. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, stir, then dip the top of the cupcake into the ganache. Sprinkle with any kind of chopped nuts you like.
But today I made a peanut butter cream cheese frosting, which is great because the cream cheese cuts down on the cloying sweetness of the peanut butter. But if you like sweet, then just cut out the cream cheese (I tried that once and my coworkers loved it and said it tasted like Reese’s candy).
To make the frosting:
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
5-7 tablespoons of milk
4 cups powdered sugar
Whip the peanut butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy, then beat in the sugar a little at a time (warning: this will get EVERYWHERE but that’s part of the fun, right?), and add the milk a tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
If you don’t have a piping bag or any frosting tips, just scoop the frosting into a ziploc bag, snip about 1/2 inch off one corner, and pipe onto the cupcake. Or go old-fashioned and spread with a knife, because there’s something so rustic and charming about looking totally homemade. Devour.