Monday, March 2, 2015

Cupcake Wars, the first salvo

I've told you how my daughter loves to watch cooking shows, right?

The current favorite has to do with cupcakes. When I watch the show, I think "No one in their right mind could call that a cupcake, let alone eat it!" 

But wait until you get a look at what Carrie gleaned from watching those shows!

I'm calling this week's post "the first salvo" because we're talking chocolate. Delicious chocolate. Next week will be vanilla - and you don't dare miss that post!

Both cupcakes have the same basic feel to them. A delicious cake with an awesome frosting.

Wait a minute - did I hear someone say they always use a cake mix? If you've never made cake from scratch, this is the time to try it. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

Basic Chocolate Cupcakes

Yes, Carrie cooks with a candle burning for ambiance :)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups cake flour - Wondra, Soft as Silk or Swan's Down are some brand names.
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
3/4 cup coffee
3/4 cup buttermilk or sour milk
1/3 cup melted butter

Start out by whisking the dry ingredients together. Our mixer has whisk attachments, and Kitchen Aid mixers do, too. If your mixer doesn't, you can whisk them by hand.

In another bowl, whisk together all the wet ingredients: vanilla, eggs, coffee, milk and butter.

* cooking note: if you don't have buttermilk or sour milk on hand, stir 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice in 3/4 cup milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. There you go - sour milk!

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry until you have a smooth batter.

Pour into lined muffin tins and bake at 350° for about 20 minutes.

Now comes the crowning glory for these cupcakes - the frosting.

A few weeks ago, Ruthy shared her buttercream/satin icing recipe here. I think this frosting recipe might top that one. You'll have to be the judge!

Whipped Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

Carrie found this recipe on one of her favorite blogs -


7 Tablespoons all purpose flour
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
a pinch of salt

In a small saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk and heat, stirring constantly until it thickens to the consistency of a thin pancake batter.

Remove from heat and allow it to cool to room temperature. Stir it occasionally as it cools. Once it's cool, stir in the vanilla.

Cream the butter, sugar and salt together until creamy, about 3 minutes on medium high speed.

Now add the cooled milk/flour mixture.

Beat the frosting on medium to medium high speed for about 5 minutes, until the frosting has the consistency of whipped cream. A whisk attachment on your mixer is perfect for this task.

Now, this next step is quite dangerous. Taste the frosting - just a taste! You'll be tempted to finish off the entire batch, but don't!

When you taste it - just a little bit, remember! - if you can still feel sugar granules, keep beating until you can't.

Now it's time to frost the cupcakes. Carrie likes to use her piping bag with an open star decorating tip, but you can also use a plastic bag with the corner snipped off.

After you frost the cupcakes, decorate the top with some bits of shaved dark chocolate.

These are the best chocolate cupcakes I've ever had, and the frosting is melt-in-your-mouth fabulous.

Next week we'll have the next salvo in the cupcake wars - vanilla with cherry/almond frosting. Don't miss it!


  1. WOWWWWW!!!!! That looks amazing! I'm bookmarking this for the frosting. I've never seen that kind of frosting before!

    1. We hadn't seen a frosting like this before either, and with that step of cooking the milk and flour together, I was a bit skeptical. But, oh! It's so good!

  2. I'm going to try that frosting too...with tapioca flour. Do you ever wonder how some of these recipes get invented? Take that milk and flour step. What led to it?

    Sorry, I am in Speedbo motivation mode.

    1. Hmm, tapioca flour sounds interesting. Does it act as a thickener the same way wheat flour does?

      I'm heading in to Speedbo in a few minutes. I set a pretty high goal for myself (again!). But No Limits, right?

    2. Julie, I think it originates in modern times from the Waldorf Astoria's whipped cream frosting recipe where you make an initial pudding of milk/sugar/flour and cook it/cool it.... and that becomes your frosting base, then you whip it with copious amounts of sugar and butter to make it healthier, of course! That's always been a favorite of mine and I got the recipe 40 years ago from Aunt Bea who is 92 now... And still makes banana cake with whipped cream frosting!

    3. I knew you'd solve the mystery, Ruthy! I had never heard of this method before! All I know: it's delicious.

  3. Oh, wow!! These sound incredible!! I'm a huge brown sugar fan and would love that frosting.

    Now I'm hungry! LOL

    1. You WILL love this frosting, Missy! The brown sugar gives it just a hint of rich molasses flavor....

      Now I'm hungry, too!

  4. Oh mercy -- delicious!!! I'm intrigued by that frosting as well. I'm definitely trying it. Honestly, I'm so boring. When I always make standard ol' chocolate icing for chocolate cupcakes. Time to switch things up.

    1. You won't be sorry you tried this one, Kav!

      The chocolate cupcakes surprised me, too. I really don't like the taste of coffee and usually avoid recipes that use it. But, wow! I couldn't tell there was coffee in these - but they are definitely a rich, dark chocolate. Maybe it's the coffee that did it :)

  5. They sound scrumptious and just the thing to make to have for snatchable snackables around here this week. :)

    1. A warning, though, Carol - once you get a taste of these, they won't last long! I made Carrie take the leftovers to work with her so I wouldn't be tempted to snarf them all down during the day!

  6. My comment disappeared... oy, Blogger! OY!!!! These look marvelous and I'd forgotten about brown sugar frosting, the caramelly-taste of amazing goodness!!! Thank you so much for this, Jan and Carrie!!!!

  7. I must try these!!! And they're beautiful! Thanks, Jan!