When I bake for a special occasion, it’s rare that I try out a completely new recipe. Normally I like to play it a little safe and make something I know is going to turn out. But I was still on the hunt for the perfect chocolate cupcake recipe after making several that weren’t chocolatey enough or were too dry. Our friend Jill turned 30 this week and that’s definitely an occasion for chocolate if you ask me (I also hit 30 this year)!
I found a few recipes that use a combo of buttermilk and hot water to infuse moisture into the cake (inspiration here and here). That, along with some new natural cocoa powder were just the ticket to creating a fluffy moist cupcake with a deep chocolate flavor. The homemade vanilla bean buttercream was also a thing of beauty. I’m normally a chocolate-on-chocolate kinda girl, but a quick Facebook poll said most folks prefer vanilla frosting, who knew? I used my favorite buttercream standby and fancied it up with vanilla bean paste.
The most surprising thing about the cake batter is how thin it is when it goes into the pan. I was concerned that we’d end up with chocolate goo, but now I’m pondering ways to use the hot water technique for other cupcake batters because it was THAT good! These aren’t gluten, fat, sugar or guilt free, but they are just the ticket for a big celebration!
Note: You will see a few special ingredients like coffee extract and vanilla bean paste. I provided Amazon links to the products I use, but I like to purchase them at a major discount from Marshall’s or TJ Maxx!
Moist Chocolate Cupcakes
(makes 36 cupcakes)
- 3 c. granulated sugar
- 2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ c. natural cocoa powder (not dutch process)
- 2 ¼ tsp. baking powder
- 2 ¼ tsp. baking soda
- 1.5 tsp. salt
- 3 large eggs
- 1 ½ c. buttermilk
- ¾ c. canola oil
- 3 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 ½ c. boiling water
- 2 tsp. coffee extract (optional – I use this brand. Or, substitute water with hot coffee!)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 3 cupcake tins with paper liners or spray with cooking spray.
Put water in a small pan over high heat and allow it to begin boiling while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
Whisk sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl (I use my stand mixer bowl).
In a separate bowl or large plastic measuring cup, mix eggs, buttermilk, vanilla and coffee extracts until blended. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.
Pour the boiling water into the mixture. It will be the texture of melted milkshake, not to worry. Distribute batter into prepared pans, filling each cupcake about 2/3 full.
Bake for 17-20 minutes until center bounces back when pressed or a toothpick comes out clean. (Or until your whole house starts to smell like warm chocolate). Cool completely and then frost with your favorite recipe or the one below.
Vanilla Bean Buttercream
(generously frosts 36 cupcakes)
- 1 lb unsalted butter, room temp.
- ¼ c. shortening (optional – makes it smoother & more heat stable)
- 3 lb confectioners’ sugar
- ¼ c. whole milk, room temp.
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp. vanilla bean paste (I use this one purchased at Marshall’s for half the price)
- pinch of salt
The most important step for this simple recipe to work is to set out all your ingredients and get them to room temperature. If you skip this, the buttercream will curdle=not yummy.
Whip butter on high speed for 5 minutes until smooth. Meanwhile, sift the confectioners’ sugar to remove clumps.
Add the first pound of sugar to the butter and mix on low speed until incorporated. Then add the milk and mix on low speed until combined.
Add second pound of sugar and mix until smooth. Add remaining pound of sugar, shortening, vanilla bean paste, vanilla and salt and mix on low speed.
Whip on high speed for an additional 5 minutes until the icing is white and smooth. If it appears too stiff you can add an additional tablespoon of milk but you want a good thick frosting for piping. Pipe using a Wilton 1 M tip working from outside to inside to get the look above.
Fun fact: I also created the scalloped cupcake liners using coordinating scrapbook papers. I traced out a template that I found online and used my Silhouette cutter to get 36 perfect cupcake wrappers! This is a new tool for me, so if you have any other fun project suggestions I’d love to hear them!