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Chocolate on Chocolate Cupcakes

By JulieVR |

Today was W’s preschool’s spring celebration – a May Pole dance in the yard behind the sandstone building – the kids wearing homemade tissue paper flower crowns danced around a ribboned pole as it began to rain. When they finished the parents grabbed all the snacks that had been set out on a picnic table under the tree before the rain/performance began, and we ushered the kids inside for our little party. Which really involved all of us crammed around some preschool-sized tables and chairs, munching on fruit skewers and goldfish crackers. A wonderful lunch.

When I asked W yesterday what he would like to make to bring to his party, he chose cupcakes. Chocolate with chocolate icing, and chocolate sprinkles if at all possible. We baked them – miniature ones – last night and frosted them this morning over breakfast. A quick buttercream icing tossed together, measured by eyeball. A blob of butter, shake of dark cocoa and bigger shake of icing sugar, and a bit of water to get it all going. (I usually make frosting like this, adding more sugar or water as needed until I have something spreadable.)

To frost, this is my favourite trick: scoop frosting into a zip-lock baggie, seal and snip off a corner; squeeze out a simple thick rope that can easily create smooth swirls atop the cakes, then toss the used bag out. Easy.

Zip-lock bags are great for all kinds of icing tricks; snip off a teeny bit of the tip and you can write with it, or shove a decorating tip into the corner and tape around it for a fancy piping bag. If you just want to drizzle something with chocolate, put chocolate chips in a zip-lock bag, seal and place in a bowl of warm water; once melted, snip the tip off, drizzle away, and toss the bag. As for the sprinkles, only a few cakes got some.

This is my favourite chocolate cake recipe – made with canola oil instead of butter and cocoa instead of baking chocolate, it’s dense and moist and intensely chocolate, yet low in saturated fat.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk (or soy milk)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup coffee (I use instant decaf – it intensifies and deepens the chocolate flavor without adding fat or calories)

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners (or, more realistically, 12 at a time).

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt, breaking up any lumps of brown sugar and cocoa. (I like using a whisk for this.)

Add the milk, oil, eggs and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Add the coffee and whisk again (or beat on low speed) just until blended. The batter will be thin.

Divide the batter among the tins, filling them about 3/4 full, and bake for 25 minutes, until the tops are springy to the touch. Tip them a bit in their pans to let the steam escape and help them cool. Cool completely before frosting them. Makes about 2 dozen cupcakes.

Chocolate Frosting

Flavor your frosting with a few drops of peppermint or vanilla extract, or use strong coffee or orange juice.

1/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa
2 cups (ish) icing (confectioners’) sugar
water, orange juice or milk – enough to make it spreadable

In a medium bowl, beat the butter, cocoa, half the sugar and a couple spoonfuls of water; beat until smooth. Beat in the rest of the sugar and enough extra liquid to make a spreadable frosting.

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About JulieVR



Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of five best-selling cookbooks, food editor of Parents Canada magazine, a CBC Radio columnist and a freelance writer. Her award-winning blog, Dinner with Julie documents life in her home kitchen in Canada with her husband and 7-year-old son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Julie's latest posts →

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18 thoughts on “Chocolate on Chocolate Cupcakes

  1. Erica B. says:

    Love these cupcakes! The recipe also makes 2 nine inch layers – very versatile and very chocolatey. :)

  2. The Cooking Ninja says:

    ooh…they are gorgeous. Love the frosting on top of it.

    The Cooking Ninja

  3. CookinMama says:

    I am not sure if I did something wrong…but the neither the cupcakes or the icing came out very good at all. I bake pretty often and this just did not work out for me at all.

  4. JulieVR says:

    That’s odd! I’ve been making this same recipe for years – it’s our family’s favourite! I usually just wing the frosting, adjusting the sugar and liquid as I add it until I have something spreadable.. what was wrong with them?

  5. Jschapire says:

    the frosting didn’t make enough to top all of the cupcakes maybe double the recipe, also add more sugar to cupcake or maybe chocolate chips would be good

  6. Maddie says:

    This recipe is lovely! I didn’t have any canola oil so I used extra virgin olive oil, and they turned out beautifully. Thanks for the tip about the piping bags too – very helpful! :)

  7. stephanie says:

    I’m interested in making this recipe but I’m not a fan of coffee. Would it still be ok without the coffee?

  8. Christine says:

    When the recipe says “batter will be thin”, does it mean look like brownie batter? Because that’s what mine looks like! yikes! What did I do?

  9. Christine says:

    I made these again and they turned out perfect! I must have added too much flour…oh well! Thanks for the DELICIOUS recipe!

  10. Amy says:

    Just pulled them out of the oven and they smell soooo good. I cant wait till they cool off so I can eat them.

  11. Inspiration has finally come and it is due to this blog.

  12. Lore says:

    I tried this recipe and ended up making another batch with a different recipe. There was almost no chocolate flavor and no sweetness. I would not recommend unless you prefer no flavor.

  13. Taylor says:

    I’m not really a big coffee fan, but I have had chocolate cake recipes with it in them so I went with it. I must have made it too strong because my cake came out a little bit bitter. (I made two nine inch cakes instead of cupcakes and paired them with cream cheese frosting). I was able to transform it into a mocha type cake, but I was a little bit dissapointed.

  14. Ashley says:

    I just made a batch of these tonight. I was worried because my batter was very runny but they turned out amazing. They were extremely moist with a rich chocolate flavor. My family raved over them. Thank you for the recipe.

  15. fornuis says:


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  17. Sarah says:

    Is this one cup of coffee grounds or brewed coffee?

  18. nishita gandhi says:

    hi, the cupcakes look amazing. But is there any way i can substitute eggs? if it is then please let me know. :)

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