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Happy Halloween: Chocolate Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream

Happy Halloween!  I wanted to make a festive dessert this year to celebrate, and after thinking about what to make, I finally settled on something simple after seeing these chocolate cupcakes on Bridget’s blog.  I knew I could trust these to be good, since Bridget is one of the most thorough food testers I know of!  She even did a pretty comprehensive testing of vanilla frostings, so I decided to go with the one she picked as the winner.  I colored these orange and used chocolate sprinkles to make them appropriate for Halloween.

I really enjoyed these cupcakes and it was nice to enjoy a nice chocolate cupcake after being slightly disappointed with the chocolate cupcakes I made for Tuesdays with Dorie this week.  These cupcakes were nice and moist thanks to the buttermilk and had a great chocolate flavor.  I thought the chocolate flavor was just right- rich but not overly sweet.  I’m also a fan of the vanilla frosting.  It had just the right amount of sweetness.  I think that many frostings are either overly sweet or too buttery, but this had a nice balance and was great with the cupcakes.  It was also very easy to make and can even be made the day ahead and left out on the counter- it didn’t dry out at all.  The only thing I would do differently is make double the amount of frosting to be enough for 24 cupcakes.  I like a lot of frosting, and these didn’t have enough for my liking.  Next time I will also pipe the frosting to make them look prettier!  The cupcakes were enjoyed by all, and I’m glad to have found a great chocolate cupcake and frosting recipe.

Old-Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake (Cook’s Illustrated)

Serves 10 to 12

To make cupcakes instead of a layer cake, divide batter between 24 muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18-20 minutes. I only bake one pan at a time. (Because I only have one pan. Also, I only made half the recipe.)

12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), very soft, plus extra for greasing pans
1¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8¾ ounces), plus extra for dusting pans
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa (¾ ounce)
½ cup hot water
1¾ cups sugar (12¼ ounces)
1½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large eggs
2 large egg yolks

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-inch-round by 2-inch-high cake pans with softened butter; dust pans with flour and knock out excess. Combine chocolate, cocoa powder, and hot water in medium heatproof bowl; set bowl over saucepan containing 1 inch of simmering water and stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Add ½ cup sugar to chocolate mixture and stir until thick and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and set aside to cool.

2. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Combine buttermilk and vanilla in small bowl. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whisk eggs and yolks on medium-low speed until combined, about 10 seconds. Add remaining 1¼ cups sugar, increase speed to high, and whisk until fluffy and lightened in color, 2 to 3 minutes. Replace whisk with paddle attachment. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg/sugar mixture and mix on medium speed until thoroughly incorporated, 30 to 45 seconds, pausing to scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add softened butter one tablespoon at a time, mixing about 10 seconds after each addition. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture (batter may appear separated). Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans; smooth batter to edges of pan with spatula.

3. Bake cakes until toothpick inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Cool cakes to room temperature before frosting, 45 to 60 minutes.

Easy Vanilla Buttercream (from Cooks Illustrated April 2007)

The buttercream frosting can be made ahead and refrigerated; if refrigerated, however, it must stand at room temperature to soften before use. If using a hand-held mixer, increase mixing times significantly (at least 50 percent). This recipe can be doubled to make enough for a two-layer cake.

Makes 3 cups

20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups Confectioners’ sugar (10 ounces)
1/8 tablespoons table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons heavy cream

In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

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9 Responses

  1. I’m so glad you agree with me about this cake! I feel like I recommend it all the time, and people go and make the Hershey’s cake instead. (Which, in fairness, I’ve never made, but I don’t see how a cake that gets all of its chocolate flavor from cocoa can be as good.)

  2. Those look great! I was a little disappointed with the chocolate cupcakes this week, too, so I’ll have to make a note to try these next time!

  3. Nice cupcakes! I’ve made the CI chocolate sheet cake a number of times (it’s my go-to chocolate birthday cake–Brianna loves it), but I don’t think I’ve tried the chocolate layer cake.

  4. These are so cute! Very festive!

  5. [...] The recipe called for a white chocolate ganache for the domino decoration, but I decided to use my favorite buttercream frosting instead, with a splash of Bailey’s.  I think you could use either one and it would still [...]

  6. [...] was easy, though, and if I make a cake like this again, I’ll try to make it work.  I used my favorite buttercream frosting for the cake, which was much easier to work with than last week.  For the cake I made [...]

  7. [...] was pretty happy with how this came out.  I used Cook’s Illustrated’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Layer Cake.  I want to work on practicing roses so that I get better at them, but I can’t complain too [...]

  8. [...] recipe chocolate cupcakes (I recommend these from Cook’s Illustrated or the Hershey’s one) chocolate frosting finely ground Oreo crumbs gummy [...]

  9. [...] cupcakes are and so I had to try them. I found the recipe on Food Network but decided to use this buttercream recipe. I added my own twist to the recipe by adding a fruit compote to the middle of the cupcake. This [...]

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