Plain and Simple Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes78

Posted by chockylit in Chocolate,Vanilla (Monday February 25, 2008 at 6:40 pm)

vanilla and chocolate cupcakes

We are being visited by out of town guests this week. The visitors include three youngsters who happen to be very plain and picky eaters. I definitely wanted to treat them to cupcakes, but knew that I couldn’t veer far from very straightforward flavors. I decided to do four recipes – a basic chocolate cupcake, basic vanilla cupcake and chocolate and vanilla frostings – but with quality ingredients. It was also an opportunity to further tweak my basic recipes as I am on an apparently never-ending quest for the perfect chocolate and perfect vanilla cupcake.

I am especially pleased with the chocolate one this time around. I started with my old-fashioned recipe and tweaked it some mostly bumping up the cocoa and cutting back on flour. The cake is soft and fluffy with a nice deep chocolate flavor – irresistible in my book… The vanilla cake recipe is different than my usual. It’s less dense than my usual vanilla cupcake and a bit sweeter. Both frostings are simple and came out nice.

UPDATE: Someone posted about the vanilla recipe asking if its correct in its ingredient amounts. Normally I would say confidently, yes. Sometimes I get instruction slip-ups but never ingredient amounts. Well, I looked at my spreadsheet of vanilla recipes and to be honest, I am not sure now. So, to be safe, I am removing the vanilla recipe until it can be retested.

UPDATE: Slight adjustment to remove baking soda which should help with this recipe.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Cupcakes
14 regular cupcakes / 375 degree oven

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
1-1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
4. Measure the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a small sized bowl and whisk to combine.
5. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine
6. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
7. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Note: I try to use the best quality cocoa I can find. It makes a huge difference. For this recipe I used Valrhona cocoa. Its so dark that the batter is almost purple.

Note: This cupcake recipe is the kind that will result in a flat cupcake (not domed). One thing you must be careful of is over-filling the cupcake paper. I did just that with the last cupcake and the result was a sunken hole (see photo below). If the cake continues to rise and has no where to go and will one over flow and two start to sink back on itself as it doesn’t have the structure to hold the excess batter up. So, stick to 2/3’s full and don’t be tempted (as I was) to squeeze that last bit of batter into one of the papers.

what not to do
what not to do

Chocolate Frosting
adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

5.3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar

1. Chop the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl. Melt over a pan of gently simmering water. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 – 20 minutes.
2. Dissolve the cocoa powder in the boiling water in a small bowl. Set aside.
3. In an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy. Scrape the bowl.
4. Add powdered sugar and beat to combine.
5. Add cooled, melted chocolate and beat to combine.
6. Add cocoa paste and beat to combine.

frosting and sprinkle close-up
shiny, tasty frosting

Vanilla Cupcakes
removed until it can be retested

Soft Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons milk

1. Beat butter at medium-high speed until creamy.
2. Sift powdered sugar into the mixer bowl (right on top of the beaten butter). Beat to combine.
3. Add the vanilla and the milk. Beat until combined.

Note: This makes a softer, less sweet buttercream that is good for swirling on but not for piping as it’s not stiff enough.

simple vanilla/vanilla cupcake
creamy frosting

1. Spoon about a tablespoon of frosting onto each cooled cupcake. The frosting recipes make just enough for about a tablespoon each.
2. With a small offset spatula, smooth the frosting into a swirl.
3. Top with sprinkles.

I frosted some vanilla with vanilla and some with chocolate and vice versa. I ended up with 4 combos total. My favorite was the chocolate cake with the vanilla buttercream frosting. Yum!

78 comments for Plain and Simple Chocolate and Vanilla Cupcakes »

  1. Sometimes plain and simple is just what I crave. These are perfect!

    Comment by Farah — February 25, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

  2. I love those cupcake liners; where did you find them?

    Comment by Charcuterista — February 25, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

  3. gorgeous! i’ve been looking for a recipe for flat chocolate cupcakes and yours sound delicious

    Comment by amanda — February 25, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

  4. I love plain and simple cupcakes. :) YUM! Thanks!

    Comment by Edith Owens — February 25, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

  5. I’m going to try these when I get back to Japan :)

    Comment by kat — February 25, 2008 @ 9:28 pm

  6. Lovely, lovely!! I want to eat it right from the computer monitor!

    Charcuterista: I’m not chockylit, but here is a place to find the paper pleated souffle cups:

    Comment by KN — February 25, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

  7. Yum, yum, yum…it’s a gray rainy day in the NL, red tent time is fast approaching, and I’d love to be on the couch right now with those cupcakes!

    Comment by Mari — February 26, 2008 @ 2:47 am

  8. these are just lovely. With so many fancy, ornate cupcakes, it is refreshing to see some plain and simple, yet elegant ones in terms of design and flavor!

    Comment by Scoopalicious — February 26, 2008 @ 6:36 am

  9. If only I lived next door… ;-)

    Comment by Summer — February 26, 2008 @ 7:25 am

  10. The shine on that chocolate frosting almost had me trying to eat it off the pc screen! They look delicious, perhaps my treat to myself on Mothering Sunday this weekend!

    Comment by gillie — February 26, 2008 @ 8:01 am

  11. As always, thanks for your acccurate reporting. And thanks, too, for always posting your recipes.

    Comment by Christian — February 26, 2008 @ 8:06 am

  12. my favorite cupcakes are simple chocolate and vanilla (although i’ll rarely turn down a cupcake of any stripe). these are too cute for school.

    i’ll have to try the chocolate, as i’m not 100% in love with my current chocolate cupcake recipe. i do have a vanilla buttercream that i love, though.

    Comment by Us vs. Food — February 26, 2008 @ 8:17 am

  13. Sometimes, a great version of an old classic is just what you need. These look like an exceptional take on the popular favorite!

    Comment by Cakespy — February 26, 2008 @ 8:31 am

  14. Yep that’s why I stick to the basics for my business, chocolate, vanilla and carrot! And I agree, Valrhona chocolate makes all the difference for chocolate ones.

    Comment by veron — February 26, 2008 @ 8:49 am

  15. I just made the butter cream icing you posted and it is yummy!!!! I used it to frost cupcakes for my daughter’s class and thankfully there was some left over – my youngest and I are sharing it now. :-) So much better that those recipes with shortening in them. THANK YOU!!!!!

    I used the frosting in bags to pipe it on the cupcakes and had to let it set in the fridge to harden a bit but I will be using it again and again.

    Comment by ColleenM — February 26, 2008 @ 10:13 am

  16. I made a chocolate guiness cake last night (nigella lawson) and the frosting was cream cheese and powdered sugar, but used heavy cream instead of butter. It was like your vanilla frosting above–better for swirling than for piping. It was so incrediblly creamy (because of, well, the cream duh)and had a beautiful shine.
    I’ve been a fan of your cupcakes for ages, but dont’ think I’ve ever left a comment. Keep up the fantastic work.

    Comment by meg — February 26, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  17. I love the frosting, but I do not know what happened with my vanilla cupcakes. They are horrible! I was actually wondering if the recipe is correct? I am not sure what I did wrong… Oh well! Love the frosting!

    Comment by Brooke — February 26, 2008 @ 7:38 pm

  18. The recipe is correct. How were they horrible?

    Comment by chockylit — February 26, 2008 @ 8:22 pm

  19. I am sure I did something wrong. But I don’t know what it was. The cupcakes came out with a strange crunchy, almost crystallized top, and were doughy in the middle. Filled only 2/3’s full. I tried to retrace my steps, and can’t pick out where I went off track. I did use Trader Joe’s Evaporate Cane Juice instead a regular granulated sugar. Could that be it? I bet it is!

    Comment by Brooke — February 26, 2008 @ 8:56 pm

  20. Yeah, that would be it. The sugar crystals really factor into the texture of the cake particularly during the step where you beat the butter with the sugar until its light and fluffy. Without that step you will likely end up with something very dense…

    Comment by chockylit — February 26, 2008 @ 9:03 pm

  21. Hey, you have been tagged!

    For more info on tagging please visit my blog!

    Kel :)

    Comment by Kel — February 27, 2008 @ 1:00 am

  22. i love simple. and i love your cupcakes because not only do they look good, they taste phenomenal too. I would definitely try that chocolate recipe because i’ve been on the lookout for a GOOD chocolate cake recipe. The ones i’ve tried has disappointed me so far. and that frosting looks soooo good.

    Comment by Neesha — February 27, 2008 @ 2:26 am

  23. Ohh yay, another vanilla cupcake recipe to try!

    Comment by How To Eat A Cupcake — February 27, 2008 @ 11:58 am

  24. those look wonderful! i’m all for simple. somethings never go “out of style.”

    Comment by kate — February 27, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

  25. I really like that you use nut cups instead of the traditional muffin cups. Where do you get them? Have searched the web and cant find any that big. Please help. Thanks :)

    Comment by Jes — February 27, 2008 @ 7:25 pm

  26. Lucky, lucky children to have such wholesome ingredients in a cupcake. What a good auntie you are!

    Comment by june2 — February 28, 2008 @ 2:19 am

  27. You ever inspire me to get into the kitchen and play around some more.

    Comment by anastasia.mcletchie — February 29, 2008 @ 7:18 am

  28. Those look like you put a lot of work into them and they look deelicious!

    Comment by Priscilla — February 29, 2008 @ 7:35 am

  29. Please help. I’d like to make these this weekend, but noticed something in the vanilla cupcake recipe. It calls for one egg, yet the directions say, “Add eggs one at a time, beat for 30 seconds between each.” Which is correct?

    Comment by Jill — March 1, 2008 @ 6:43 am

  30. Ohhhhh I love your site so much! Your recipes are truly heavenly! Where do you get your inspiration? I hope you don’t mind I’ve added you to my links.

    Have a lovely weekend and a lot of cupcake love from me!

    xxx Barbara

    Comment by Barbara — March 1, 2008 @ 7:05 am

  31. Sorry! I halved the recipe, but missed that step in the instructions. I cleaned them up… Its only one egg.

    Comment by chockylit — March 1, 2008 @ 9:06 am

  32. Thanks. I’ll make note of that on the recipe.

    Comment by Jill — March 1, 2008 @ 10:08 am

  33. ooooh sprinkles!!! my son loves em’ … he will even eat zucchini if it has sprinkles on it …[not really]. thnx for the old-fashioned chocolate cupcake recipe .. was looking for one!

    Comment by Snehal — March 2, 2008 @ 10:04 pm

  34. I had the same thing happen as #17 – filled only 2/3rds, but ended up with hard, crunchy tops and super sunken undercooked middles. And I made two batches, following the recipe to the t each time. Very odd and kind of sad! I frosted them nonetheless, but they’re more cratercakes than cupcakes. :-(

    Comment by Heather — March 3, 2008 @ 2:53 pm

  35. Same as 17 and 34 but for chocolate. What have I done wrong as I followed the measurements and methods to the T. Crunchy top and sunken cake even it was measured 2/3 full. Tastes delicious nonetheless and I scooped them out for raspberry chocolate trifle instead.

    Comment by Su — March 4, 2008 @ 12:16 am

  36. Hi…I made the chocolate cupcakes and I love them!!! I just wanted to find out how to thicken the frosting a bit. Next time I’d like to ice the cupcakes. Thank you for all your lovely posts! you’re the best! :)

    Comment by Leolina — March 4, 2008 @ 12:37 am

  37. I am in the process of making the vanilla cupcakes and I am suddenly wondering if you forgot to halve the sugar when you re-wrote the recipe?! There is more sugar in these than flour, which is not the typical ratio, even for a slightly sweeter than normal cake. Actually, I think I’m going to cut the sugar in half and see what happens.

    Comment by Nicole — March 4, 2008 @ 3:10 am

  38. this is fantastic – i was just browsing for a chocolate cupcake recipe for some birthday cuppies :D

    will definently use this recipe. one question – will the frosting be stiff enough to be pipeable after chilling?

    Comment by wendy — March 4, 2008 @ 6:54 am

  39. Heather & Su, The commenter in #17 substituted the sugar for cane juice, hence why the recipe failed. This is to be expected. If you followed it to a T, like you said, then the other issue could be oven temperature (or specifically an oven that is not hot enough. I will test this recipe a couple of times more to see if I can make it bullet proof, but that is tough. There are many competing factors when it comes to baking success. I know it worked for me and other posters, so it can be a mystery..

    Comment by chockylit — March 4, 2008 @ 10:27 am

  40. Wendy, The frosting recipe isn’t really for piping but more for spreading. I have a lot of other recipes for pipable chocolate frosting on the blog. But if you insist on using this one, just beat in more sifted, powdered sugar at the end until its thick.

    Comment by chockylit — March 4, 2008 @ 10:31 am

  41. Made these as a treat for my teenage daughter with the buttercream frosting. They are fabulous-turned out perfectly.

    Comment by Anne — March 4, 2008 @ 6:35 pm

  42. You kinda addressed this in #20, but I ended up with dense, hard cupcakes. The only thing I did differently was mix all the ingredients with a wooden spoon: poor college student=no electric mixer. How did people make cakes before electric mixers? Would whisking it to death work?

    Comment by Joe — March 6, 2008 @ 4:14 pm

  43. I made the chocolate cupcakes with buttercream frosting today. Both turned out delicious, but I had 2 problems – maybe you could help me figure out what happened? I used large muffin-type tins. I didn’t think I overfilled, but they collapsed. One thing I did wrong was forgot to add the sugar early and cream it, so it went in after some milk and flour mix. The other problem is that they stuck to the wrapper. Any idea what could have caused that? thanks!

    Comment by Katie — March 6, 2008 @ 5:37 pm

  44. I made your chocolate cupcakes..and they were good, yet the tops turned out..crunchy-ish? I have no idea – but the next day they weren’t really like that. They collapsed slightly in the middle too..but then again, the baking powder I used was 3 months expired…so that could be it. Just the tops were odd the first time they came out. BUT THEY WERE GOOD :) Thank you

    Comment by angela — March 8, 2008 @ 7:18 pm

  45. I am anxious to hear what your guests thought of the cupcakes, though I am sure they devoured them. I hope the visit was a good one. The cupcakes, as usual, look devine!

    Comment by Carrie Fields — March 9, 2008 @ 7:06 am

  46. i made them! they were SO GOOD! thanks so so much for the recipe! i made chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting
    the chocolate frosting is just divine and not too sweet, everyone loved it :D

    but i have a few questions, maybe you can help me answer them? i tried the vanilla frosting as well but i think i overbeat it and it seemed like there was water oozing out…
    and for some reason my cupcakes were domed instead of flat (which is not much of a problem, but i’m just curious)…but i followed the instructions and used the ingredients listed…i think i might have beaten the batter too much and too much air got trapped or something.

    once again, thanks for this wonderful recipe!

    Comment by wendy — March 13, 2008 @ 3:57 am

  47. Hi!You know, your blog is really amazing!!!! I’m Italian and even if everybody thinks that our recipes are so good i’ve never seen such beautiful things in my life!!!

    Comment by Benedetta — March 13, 2008 @ 1:27 pm

  48. These are classic & adorable.

    Comment by Honor — March 14, 2008 @ 8:21 am

  49. I’ve got some plain and picky kids visiting soon, so thanks for the idea. I need something other than chicken nuggets (which is apparently all they eat for dinner!)

    Comment by Susan from Food Blogga — March 17, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  50. pls help… when u say 1 teaspoon vanilla.. wat do u mean?

    Comment by Rina — March 18, 2008 @ 2:43 am

  51. delicious..nyummm nyumm…

    Comment by nivashini — March 18, 2008 @ 6:01 pm

  52. I just wanted to update re:vanilla cupcakes. I made the recipe with half the sugar and they turned out perfectly.

    Comment by Nicole — March 19, 2008 @ 7:15 am

  53. The chocolate frosting is the best I’ve ever tasted! Sooo yummy. I combined it with spicy vanilla cupcakes, which worked really well.

    Comment by Helene — March 28, 2008 @ 11:58 am

  54. Can you please put the vanilla cupcake recipe back up soon?

    Nicole said she just used half the sugar and it turned out great.
    I would really like to try ur recipe!

    Comment by Momo — March 28, 2008 @ 2:51 pm

  55. hi there, can i say i omit the baking powder and use self-raising flour instead of plain flour?
    simple, cuz i can’t seem to find baking powder anywhere in Coles, Australia.
    also, i’ve been searching for a flat chocolate cupcake for ages…
    pls help me out, thanks!

    Comment by Quinn — April 1, 2008 @ 6:22 am

  56. I just made these for my coworkers and they’re absolutely delicious. I substituted regular Baker’s chocolate for the fancy chocolate because I didn’t have any on hand: didn’t matter! So good!

    I absolutely love your blog and the care you take with these recipes. Thanks again!


    Comment by Melody — April 1, 2008 @ 9:32 pm

  57. The chocolate cupcakes were great esp with the vanilla buttercream icing… I love them! Yummy… I tried baking as a whole big cake the other day… And it’s turn out as delicious.. Thanks for the recipe!!
    Is it possible for you to put up the vanilla cupcake recipe again cos I would like to try it.

    Comment by Khas — April 8, 2008 @ 2:15 am

  58. If anyone has the vanilla cupcake recipe chockylit posted up, could u please send it to me?

    Someone said they halved the sugar and the recipe turned out fine.

    Thank You!

    Comment by Momo — April 19, 2008 @ 2:48 am

  59. I made the chocolate, and they just never rose, except up the sides. I used exactly the same ingredients (as in, from the same containers of flour, baking powder, etc) in successful cupcakes just last week, so it wasn’t what was in them. However, I’m well aware that cupcakes are delicate flowers, and if you look at them cross-eyed they fall, so I blame an off day. The batter sure tasted fabulous!!!

    I shall try again another time.

    Comment by Sara Dawn — April 19, 2008 @ 10:17 pm

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  61. Dear Chockylit,
    I love your cupcake blog!!:)I would be so grateful if you could post the vanilla cupcakes recipe which has been removed…Thank you!

    Greetings from Germany:)

    Comment by Sylvie — March 23, 2010 @ 4:15 am

  62. nice blog and thanks for inspiring ideas..

    Comment by trifle goods for life — April 8, 2010 @ 8:40 pm

  63. I made the chocolate ones, the batter tasted awsome and the cupcakes even better. They were great and I would apreciate if you could post the vanilla cupcakes reciepe

    Comment by cupcake lover — April 11, 2010 @ 3:56 am

  64. Made the chocolate cupcakes, they turned out fantastic! Would love to see what your Vanilla cupcakes are like. Thanks for the recipe!! Much appreciated!

    Comment by Ellaryn — June 14, 2010 @ 2:42 am

  65. I tried the chocolate ones and had the some problems some others had. I keep looking back over to see what I did wrong, and can’t find it. The first batch I filled the cups 2/3 of the way, and they spilled over on the sides, sunk in the middle, and stuck to the paper when I tried to get what was left out.

    So for the second batch I filled the cups only 1/2 full. I didn’t have any spill over this time, but they still all collapsed! The tops are crunchy, and I can’t get them out of the cupcake liner. I was so disappointed! While I was mixing them, the batter looked (and tasted) divine, I thought for sure that the cupcakes would turn out fabulous!

    I’ll try one of your other recipes though! Thanks for the great blog! I’ve been wanting to learn to make great cupcakes, and I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it if I keep looking around here!

    Comment by Shannon — September 17, 2010 @ 1:58 pm

  66. Hopeful that you will repost your vanilla cupcake recipe! I use it all of the time but always came to your site when I needed the recipe and never bookmarked it. :(

    Comment by Evin — December 11, 2010 @ 9:17 pm

  67. I made these last night for a good friends b’day dinner. They were highly praised. I will definitely male them again………………

    Comment by SuzyQ — January 16, 2011 @ 6:26 pm

  68. Your recipes are great. Could you give alternatives for microwave versions?

    Thank you!

    Comment by Lyvia — May 3, 2011 @ 2:40 am

  69. Thanks for the delicious recipe. I find that it slightly sinks in the middle…but no worries as I can just cover with frosting. I baked 2 different batches with different temperature. If I follow the exact temperature…I find that the cupcake doesnt stick to the liners (sides shrink away from the liners) but if I lower down the temp about -10 deg (as I’m using fan forced oven)…it rises well (but sinks slightly). Other than that…it’s absolutely delicious…gonna use this recipe to bake for my friend’s son’s birthday picnic this Sunday and for his party in his kindy on Tuesday with spiderman theme :)

    Comment by Denise — November 9, 2011 @ 9:05 am

  70. what kind of sugar are we supposed to use in this recipe?

    Comment by maddie — November 23, 2011 @ 8:57 am

  71. I am going to turn these upside down and decorate with white icing and a cherry to make a christmas pudding look!

    Comment by Amy Ellis — December 12, 2011 @ 6:51 am

  72. will you please share your vanilla cupcake recipe? my boyfriend prefers vanilla over chocolate and i’d love to bake him vanilla cupcakes :)

    Comment by Donna — December 13, 2011 @ 9:14 pm

  73. Just made them for my cousin’s 18th bday and they look delicious! Making baby pink and purple frosting tomorrow morning, and then they’re ready to be adored :D

    Comment by Lovise — January 14, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  74. These are delicious! I have made them precisely as instructed with no problems. They are so good I wanted to know if I could make this as a cake. Since they come out flat, would the cake turn out right? Please let me know, I wanted to make it for my son’s Birthday party! :)

    Comment by Jay — May 2, 2012 @ 9:55 pm

  75. I made the chocolate cupcakes, and my results were similar to #65….crusty tops, sunken middles….What I’m curious about is the quantity. The recipe says it yields 14 cupcakes…..and to fill the 2/3 full. The batter made 18 cupcakes for me, which convinced me I had not filled them too much. Yet, they still poured over and stuck to the top of the cupcake pan. I’m not really sure what I did wrong…

    Comment by Sara — September 21, 2012 @ 5:52 pm

  76. This is a terrible chocolate cupcake recipe. Can anyone who actually tried this recipe say it turned out well?
    I under-filled the cups a bit to avoid the dreaded sinking … Made 15 cupcakes. They still overflowed and sunk.
    Take mercy on the unwary, and take down the choc cupcake recipe too.

    Comment by Nothappy — March 15, 2013 @ 7:50 pm

  77. I make them all the time. I lose a couple a batch every once in a while. I don’t know what to say…

    Comment by chockylit — March 15, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

  78. this is the best cupcake i have tasted by far!
    you can ACTUALLY taste the chocolate:)

    Comment by mercy morgan — May 30, 2013 @ 6:22 am

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