I have long had a love for cupcakes. I mean, how could you not? Delicious cake and frosting-y goodness all wrapped up in the perfect, individual size. Yum!
I don’t often post sweets on the blog. Not because I don’t love them (oh, trust me, I do), but because I find baking to be much more difficult than cooking. Everything has to be so precise. If your butter is too soft or too hard, forget about it. There is so much that could go wrong. The first time I tried to make cupcakes from scratch, I had to throw away the entire first batch. It was a complete and miserable failure. My butter was still too hard and it didn’t combine with the batter correctly. Therefore, they did not bake correctly. I wish I had a picture to show you the horror of these crappy cupcakes.
Fortunately, since then, I’ve learned some tricks. OK, so maybe they’re not tricks. Maybe this is just common baking knowledge, but, if you are new to baking there are some things you should know. Your butter and your eggs should be at room temperature, which requires a few hours of sitting on the counter. If you did not plan ahead, don’t worry. Check out this great blog post at My Baking Addiction for tips on how to speed up the process.
So, what is the yummy cupcake pictured above, you might ask? Well, it actually started out as something completely different. I had planned to attempt this recipe from Annie’s Eats (key word being “attempt”). Looks incredible, right? Well, turns out, it’s not so easy to make. The cake part is easy. Done and done. But homemade caramel? A nightmare. If you can make successful caramel on your first try, you deserve an award. I think caramel is one of those things that you have to have a lot of practice at, and I also hear a candy thermometer comes in handy. I had neither practice nor thermometers on hand, so my attempts at caramel burnt. Twice. On each try, it actually never even got close to turning the golden-brown caramel color. I just had a clear, gooey substance for a long time, and then it burnt and got all chunky and crystallized. Luckily, the mess cleans up easily with hot water, since it only consists of sugar and water.
Caramel nightmare behind me, I decided to scrap this lovely caramel swiss meringue buttercream idea, and just do plain old buttercream frosting. Forging ahead — that’s what mediocre bakers like myself must do in times of trial. I tossed the caramel pot in the sink, and moved on to buttercream.
In the end, I wound up with a delicious cupcake. The cake part is from Annie’s original recipe. I got the buttercream frosting recipe here, and added a couple ingredients of my own.
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes (makes about 32 cupcakes)
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark, unsweetened cocoa powder
2¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brewed coffee*
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 cup of salted butter (at room temp)
3 teaspoons of vanilla
4 cups of confectioners sugar
Cinnamon & Nutmeg (optional)**
Finely chopped dark chocolate for garnish
*If you don’t love the taste of coffee, don’t worry. Your cake won’t taste like coffee. It just adds a richer flavor.
**I did not measure the cinnamon and nutmeg… I just wanted to add some flavor, so I sprinkled some in, and sprinkled some more until I was satisfied with the taste.
Start with your cake first. Preheat the oven to 350°F, get out a couple cupcake pans, and put your cupcake liners in place. Using an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low until blended. Add the vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and mix on low speed until everything is completely blended together.
Pour batter into cupcake liners so they are just a smidge over halfway full. Bake for about 18-20 minutes. You’ll know they are done if you lightly touch the middle of a cupcake and it bounces back. If it feel squishy and the batter hasn’t risen much, give it a couple more minutes.
While your cupcakes are baking, you can make your frosting. Once you’ve cleaned out your mixing bowl, add the butter. Mix on medium-low until the butter is all whipped up. Add confectioners sugar a little bit at at time. When the sugar is all mixed in, add cream and then vanilla. Then, you can sprinkle in some cinnamon and nutmeg.
When your cupcakes are cooled, frost away! I don’t have a frosting kit, so I use a ziploc bag. Just cut the tip of one bottom corner of the bag, put the frosting in, and get to frosting.
The frosting is so rich and sweet and delicious with the incredibly dark chocolate cake.
I will let you in on a little secret: the best way to eat a cupcake. When I was younger, I noticed my mom eating cupcakes this way, and I’ve followed her example ever since. Peel off the cupcake liner (duh), and split the cupcake in half by pulling the bottom part of the cupcake off. Take the part you just pulled off, and stick it on top of the frosting, making a cupcake sandwich.
By sandwiching it, you get equal parts of frosting and cake in each bite. In my mind, there is no other way to eat a cupcake. Enjoy!