Cupcakes 101: Chocolate

A deep chocolate flavor and moist crumb are the hallmarks of a chocolate cupcake, and this recipe will serve you well as an excellent foundation for chocolate, cream cheese, strawberry, or – in this case – luscious peanut butter frosting.

I realized I posted an Earl Grey cupcake recipe, and I haven’t even said anything about the classics: chocolate and vanilla. I have to bake some chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting for a friend this weekend, so why not start there?

It’s taken me a while to develop a chocolate cupcake I’m happy with. Many recipes for chocolate cake produce a very dense crumb that doesn’t work as a cupcake, or they seem to involve a lot of ingredients and complex strategies. Surprisingly for me, the easiest solution was found by adjusting my vanilla cupcake recipe.

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Chocolate Cupcakes yield: 24 cupcakes

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp instant espresso
  • 2 six-ounce containers vanilla yogurt (not greek)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 4 eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and line two cupcake pans with 24 liners.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, cocoa powder, and espresso until dissolved. Whisk in the yogurt and both sugars followed by the vanilla. Finally, whisk in the eggs, one at a time until combined. Scrape down the bowl to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed.

Add all of the dry ingredients to the wet, and whisk just until combined. Fill the cupcake liners with 1/4 cup of the batter and bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let them cool in their pans for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.


Peanut Butter Frosting yield: enough to make 24 cupcakes – and you – plump with frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups peanut butter*
  • 3/4 cup salted butter, softened
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 – 6 tbsp heavy cream

Cream the peanut butter, salted butter, and salt until lightened, about 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Mix in 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar. The mixture may appear dry and crumbly, but gradually increase the speed and cream for another 2-3 minutes to lighten the frosting. With the mixer running, slowly stream in 4 tbsp of heavy cream. The frosting should be significantly lighter; if not, add in the remaining 2 tbsp. Finally, add in the remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar gradually until desired sweetness and texture are reached. Personally, I prefer a light and fluffy frosting that’s not too sweet.

*I’m a fan of natural peanut butters for everything except this frosting recipe; the texture and sweetness are difficult to sort out. Here I prefer to stick with a classic: Jif.

Frost the cupcakes with reckless abandon. Top however you wish. I think I’ll be making another post about the cupcake topper I used: a salted dark chocolate peanut butter bark that turned out tastier than I expected!

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