Fancy dark chocolate cupcakes. This is THE recipe for big chocolate flavor and a creamy vanilla- speckled frosting. Appropriately titled "rediscovering chocolate cupcakes" in Cook's Illustrated's American Classics issue (2009). Quality ingredients and a little more kitchen time go a long way in producing a dozen precious flawless cakes. Made with friend and fellow cupcake-lover Stacy, these were very much enjoyed by all of us, as shown below.
for the dark chocolate cupcakes:
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line muffin tin.
Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl and place over saucepan with just simmering water. Whisk until smooth and remove from heat. Set aside to cool slightly.
Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in a small bowl to combine. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs to combine; add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about 1/3 of the flour mixture into the chocolate, whisk until combined, whisk in sour cream until combined, then whisk in the remaining flour until homogenous and thick.
Divide batter evenly and bake 18-20 minutes, or until skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then carefully transfer each cake to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
for the vanilla bean buttercream:
10 tbsp (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (can omit vanilla bean and increase extract to 1 1/2 tsp)
1 tbsp heavy cream
Beat butter for about 20 seconds at medium-high speed (preferably using a stand mixer). Using a paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean into butter and beat about 15 seconds. Add sifted confectioners' sugar and salt and beat at medium low for about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat for at medium speed for 15 seconds until fully combined. Scrape bowl again, add vanilla extract and heavy cream, and beat another 10 seconds until incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.
To frost, mound 2 tablespoons icing on center of cupcake. Using a small spatula or butter knife, spread icing to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center. If desired, decorate with fresh raspberries, chocolate candies, or chocolate sprinkles.
Makes 12 frosted cupcakes.