We went to a birthday party recently, for which we were charged with bringing cupcakes. There was to be both grown-ups and kids in attendance, so we wanted to bring something that appealed to both, and was easy to serve large groups (and unconfirmed numbers). The obvious solution: cupcakes. But what kind? Chocolate is always a good start. And with fresh berries in season, there’s no need to rely on sprinkles (not most grown-ups’ first choice, anyway) to colorfully accessorize a cupcake.
These cakes are both elegant and kid-friendly, topped with cream cheese frosting, which is sublime paired with chocolate – who decided carrot cake was the only acceptable vehicle for cream cheese, anyway? They would, of course, be well suited to a chocolate ganache, buttercream or simple dollop of whipped cream, as well.
A star-shaped tip creates cakeshop-style cupcakes effortlessly; inexpensive decorating sets can be found at most craft stores. If you only have the tips, snip off the corner of a heavy-duty zip-lock freezer bag and insert the tip; you may need to reinforce it with the screw-on outer ring it pairs with, or some duct tape, if need be.
Double Chocolate Cupcakes
2 cups all-purpose flour (or half all-purpose, half whole wheat)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold coffee or milk
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or other mild vegetable oil
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another bowl whisk together the coffee or milk, buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla; pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Stir in the chocolate chunks or chips.
Divide the batter among muffin tins that have been lined with paper liners, filling them 3/4 full. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until tops are springy to the touch. Tip the cupcakes on their sides in their tins to help allow steam to escape. Makes 1 1/2-2 dozen cupcakes.
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 8 oz. (250 g) pkg. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. milk or water
2 tsp. vanilla
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter for a few minutes, until smooth and fluffy; gradually beat in the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until you have a soft, spreadable consistency, adding a little extra sugar or liquid if you need it. Makes enough for 1-2 dozen cupcakes or 1 cake.