Special occasions call for special desserts, and my dad’s surprise 50th birthday party was no exception. His favorite flavor combination is yellow cake with chocolate frosting, but my mom requested I make these chocolate cupcakes after they were a hit at another party she planned. This chocolate cake recipe is my go-to; they’re richly flavored and perfectly moist. Unfortunately, the recipe came from Ina Garten, a woman who can cook like hell but that I can’t stand. I’m sorry; she seems so snotty and unrelatable with her requirements of “good” ingredients. You can’t just use cocoa powder, you must use “good” cocoa powder. Really, Ina? Why would I want to use “bad” cocoa powder in my baking? If “good” is her synonym for “expensive”, she needs a reality check. I doubt many of her fans also reside in the Vineyard and have closets full of over-priced cashmere sweaters that are never actually worn, just draped around the shoulders. I digress.
Note: I was seriously lacking on time, so please excuse the lack of pictures and the quality of those I did manage to take. Also, I doubled the recipe (only for the cake), but this is not reflected in the ingredient picture. Just want to avoid confusion!
Also, I am a rebel cook. I rarely follow directions accurately and I don’t quite understand why some people use a timer to tell when something is done. I never sift dry ingredients together, and I generally fail to add ingredients in the “correct” order. All in all, I don’t think it matters very much. So, if my pictures don’t reflect what the recipe says word for word, it’s just because I’m doing my own thing. Feel free to follow suit.
That delicious liquid in the measuring cup is coffee. Hot, Moose Munch coffee from Harry & David (my favorite coffee). Please note my (affect a snotty tone) “good” cocoa powder. I even used a different brand of cocoa powder for the frosting, gasp!
This is a rather disgusting picture of vegetable oil (I used olive oil) and eggs. Yum.
The batter is very thin, but that’s what you’re going for here. Don’t fret.
I want one of those nifty (but not totally necessary) batter dispensers so I don’t end up with batter everywhere. I hate a mess.
Voila! These cupcakes are a gorgeous deep, chocolatey color.
I made the pastry cream filling next so it could have time to cool while I made the buttercream.
This is vaguely what it should look like when finished. I misread the recipe and used too much liquid, so hopefully yours thickens better than mine! Oh well, it was still tasty.
Time for my favorite part: buttercream frosting! I honestly make icing without measuring, I just taste as I go. It’s much more fun to do it that way!
Creamed butter is so pretty. Weird, I know. And yes, I use an ancient hand mixer from the 80’s that I got for $1 because I am a broke graduate student and I can’t afford a fancy stand mixer. I’m sure Ina would be impressed.
Finished buttercream! You can add more cocoa to deepen the flavor and give it a darker color if you’d like, but I was running out of time. Go ahead and lick the beaters; I won’t tell.
Sloppily filled cupcakes. This was my first time making filled cupcakes, so my inexperience combined with my horrible piping bag skills was a disaster. Towards the end, I had a pastry cream explosion and I gave up, leaving a few cupcakes without filling. No one seemed to notice, and I wasn’t about to waste more time trying again.
The finished product. I somehow managed to drive over two hours and walk through a very crowded Gatlin
hellberg without ruining too many cupcakes. One boy in the crowd did knock the corner of my box, but he’s still alive so it’s safe to assume he didn’t do much damage. Rude kids. I the end, my stressed, rushed baking turned out well and dad’s surprise party was fantastic. But next time, I’m giving myself more time to work. Oh, and investing in actual bakery boxes or a cupcake carrier. My plastic containers and filched shipping box from Walmart cause some of my beautiful buttercream swirls to be smushed.
Beatty’s Chocolate Cake Recipe (from Ina Garten)
(makes 20-ish cupcakes)
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups “good” cocoa powder (puh-lease)
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk (I generally sour milk with vinegar; outcome is the same)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup hot coffee
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Grease and/or line your pans.
- Sift together dry ingredients.
- Combine buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl.
- Slowly add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients while mixing on low speed. Add in the coffee and mix until just combined.
- Pour the batter into prepared pans and cook until a cake tester comes out clean, 35-40 minutes for two cake layers or 25-30 minutes for cupcakes.
- Cool completely before decorating.
Chocolate Buttercream (from SavorySweetLife)
(makes 3 cups)
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
- 1/2 cup cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream
- Cream butter for a few minutes on medium speed. Turn off the mixer.
- Add confectioners sugar and cocoa powder.
- With mixer on low speed, let butter absorb the sugar and cocoa.
- Turn back to medium speed and add in wet ingredients.
- If the frosting needs to be stiffened, add more confectioners sugar. If the frosting needs to be thinned, add more heavy cream. More cocoa powder can also be added to adjust the level of chocolate flavor.
Pastry Cream Filling (from Wilton)
(makes 1 1/3 cups)
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 cup half and half
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Blend all ingredients except vanilla in a saucepan.
- Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until the consistency of medium cream sauce.
- Remove from heat; add vanilla extract.
- Stir occassionally to prevent skin from forming, or brush top with melted butter.
Note: I misread the recipe (I was in a hurry, remember?) and added 1 cup of half and half AND 1/2 cup of milk. It still tasted great, but the consistency was runny. Oops!