We have two months of mega birthdays in our family. Four birthdays in June (three in this household) and five birthdays in September. I have done cakes in the past but our most recent round of birthdays spawned a request for chocolate cupcakes. And I found my most favorite ever chocolate cupcake recipe. The recipe easily halves so you can get just six cupcakes for a small family celebration, or the standard dozen for a small party. My daughter's seventh birthday was the first round of these beauties and I would say that 90% of the cupcakes were eaten down to the wrapper. I did have some vanilla too, but 8 out of 9 kids chose the chocolate. I was very pleased with the results as I tend to see lots of picked at plates of cake at most parties. These are so great, they bake up with perfect little domes, are wonderfully moist and last very well. They are also firm enough to stand up to frosting with a knife. Oh yes, no mixer required. These come together with just a whisk.
This last round for my youngest was the fourth time I've made them now. This is practically a no fail recipe. I threw it together before dinner and frosted afterward for our birthday song. Big sister talked little sis into yellow icing and I managed to find a box of natural vegetable based food colors - $19. OUCH. They are subtle and take more liquid to color but the result was a pleasing pale yellow. The same company makes the natural dyed sugar sprinkles too. India Tree. Ruddy expensive though. I am putting my colors in the fridge for longer keeping now. I absolutely adore Brown Eyed Baker's super easy recipe for vanilla bean buttercream. It is so fluffy and silky and will not form a crust even when left out for 12 or more hours. But depending on the frosting, these little cakes can be dairy free if you wish. The cupcake recipe is a simplified version of a Cook's Illustrated recipe for chocolate ganache cupcakes. Which I'm sure must be out of this world since the plain ones turn out so stellar.
adapted from Cook's Illustrated
makes one dozen standard cupcakes
3 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine (I know they say to use the best chocolate, but I use Enjoy life soy free mini chips with great results and no chopping necessary)
1/3 cup (1 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa (I use natural, there are only a few recipes where it really matters)
¾ cup hot coffee (instant coffee or espresso with hot water works as well)
¾ cup (4 1/8 oz) all purpose flour
¾ cup (5¼ oz) evaporated cane sugar
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp baking soda
6 tbsp sunflower oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar as white vinegar is derived from corn)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a standard-sized muffin pan with cupcake papers. Place chocolate (or mini chips) and cocoa in medium bowl. Pour hot coffee over mixture and let sit for a few minutes to allow chocolate to melt. (Yes, you can omit the coffee and just use hot water if you desire, but really it just enhances the chocolate and you don't taste coffee unless you have a palate that is very sensitive to a certain flavor component of coffee.) Whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool. Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk oil, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla into cooled chocolate-cocoa mixture until smooth. Add to flour mixture and whisk until smooth.Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until cupcakes are set and just firm to touch, about 17 to 19 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack to cool completely - about an hour. Frost as desired.
These are so good, I could eat them with just a dusting of powdered sugar. But they are delicious with the buttercream too. ☺ Now if only I could find a vanilla recipe I liked as well...