Most smart bakers know to make sure everything is ready to go in advance of getting started. I am, apparently, not a smart baker.
We were celebrating a (much belated) birthday for a good friend. Some wiggling around with the schedule had the celebration moved from brunch to Sunday night dinner and I volunteered (most willingly — any excuse to bake) to bring the birthday dessert. All week I Googled for moist, rich chocolate cake recipes and then sat there trying to decide which would be better: mayo-based or buttermilk; white icing or chocolate; cupcakes or layer cake. Finally, when I shared my dilemma with a friend, she queried why I wasn’t using a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Indeed! Why wasn’t I?
She has two recipes in her books and one online at Food & Wine. Since I already bought the books, I figured I may as well try one of those and, at last, settled on the Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing. My love of this combination knows no bounds, so I’m kind of surprised I didn’t think of this recipe immediately.
Initially, it was all going very well. I ran out to the store to buy sour cream, buttermilk and coffee, along with whipping cream for the icing, then returned to begin. There was butter to soften and dry ingredients to sift (and, boy did I sift those. I learned my lesson from the Red Velvet cake when not sifting the cocoa with the flour led to brown swirls through the cake.) and, of course, photos to take to document my progress.
Cakes still make me a bit nervous. I’m worried I’ll overmix and make a tough cake and that is not eased by the fact most recipes have this whole “mix in thirds” step. What if it’s not exactly thirds? Also, I think a lot of recipes these days assume people have stand mixers, which makes this step (among others) much easier, then when trying to hold the mixer while pouring in a third of the dry mixture and not end up covered in cocoa and flour dust.
But, for the most part, it all went really well. The batter seemed incredibly light at the end (Okay, and, yes, it did taste good.) and I was all ready to put the batter into the tins. I pulled out my cupcake liners and found I only had five left. Gah! Thankfully, there’s a grocery store a little over a block away, so I turned off the oven and bolted down there where I bought some liners and then raced back. I was really worried that extra time would ruin the batter somehow.
In the end, it was only a 15-minute delay and I don’t think it affected the cupcakes. They baked up perfectly, though for less time than the recipe suggested owing, I suspect, to the fact that my muffin tins are more shallow and took less batter to fill. (I used a 1/8 cup scoop, which worked perfectly. No spillage.)
The cupcakes are not overly sweet, which was a nice counterpoint to the rich peanut butter icing.
This recipe is from Barefoot Contessa at Home.
Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing
- 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature (that’s 3/4 cup for those of us that don’t use sticks of butter)
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
- 2 tbsp. brewed coffee (Full disclosure: I don’t drink coffee. I made a cup of instant and it tasted awful to me, so I only threw in less than a tablespoon. I suspect good coffee may be a great addition.)
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup good cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and two sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately five minutes. (For those of us without a stand mixer, a handheld is just fine. It just makes it a bit trickier when mixing in the wet and dry ingredients.) Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (one rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Frost each cupcake with peanut butter icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.
Kathleen’s Peanut Butter Icing
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/3 cup heavy cream (I used whipping cream)
Place the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.