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!

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