A couple of weeks ago I went on about making these cupcakes as one half of an order for a friend. The other half of it was to be chocolate and originally I wanted to make these again - my in-laws were in town and I thought a tried-and-tested recipe would avoid any unforeseen coronary inducing surprises. But then it occurred to me that she had eaten those root beer ones on several occasions and I've long wanted to experiment with turning this cake into 30-ish little dark chocolate cuppies. So I decided to suck it up and deal with some chopped chocolate and brewed coffee instead of just some cocoa and root beer.
After all, this is the famous Gourmet magazine featured cake with more than a thousand reviews on Epicurious and the cake a good friend started baking to sell after it sent her to chocolate cake heaven on her birthday last year. It didn't disappoint in smaller incarnations. Grab a plate and sit one on it. Sit yourself down and peel off the liner. For the next few minutes lose yourself savoring mouthfuls of moist, tender and immensely dark chocolate crumbs. Then try to convince yourself not to reach out for another one; as cupcakes, unlike a big layer cake, doesn't require further knife actions to get yourself another serving.
Had my client agreed to paying the price for fancier things, I would've hollowed out the centers and injected some raspberry filling into them, just as their layered cake version was adapted by Deb. I highly recommend these as filled cupcakes, along with some berry flavored Swiss meringue buttercream (SMBC) to play the glorified icing role. SMBC you say? Yes, apparently it's doing so well it has earned an acronym in the baking world. I tweaked yet another SMBC recipe for the frosting over my batch of last-minute-before-leaving-for-yet-another-business-trip Magnolia vanilla cupcakes. By now you'd expect that packing a suitcase to leave for Shanghai the next day wouldn't stop me from making more cupcakes and whipping up some purplish frosting. Not since I've only had a quarter of a cupcake the last time.
Doubling this recipe, I cut the sugar and used even less butter. The resulting buttercream was much lighter on the buttery taste and the reduced sugar was balanced out by the sweetness of the blueberry puree. I can't wait now to make chocolate and citrus SMBCs for future projects. If you haven't ever tried SMBC though, there's a chance that you may not like it, especially if you're used to heavier sugary buttercreams or cooked flour frostings. Light, silky and almost marshmallowy in texture, it pipes well and remains very stable at room temperature, even in the hot and humid conditions of my equator kitchen. It's quite forgiving and could be revived just when you think you might have screwed it up. It chills, freezes and defrosts well, serving as a good base for flavoring to match most cakes.
As I'm writing this from my hotel room far from home; missing my oven, stove and a cupcake (or two), I urge you to try this much buzzed about chocolate cake and the equally revered Swiss meringue buttercream if you haven't already because really, I wouldn't spend an entire post to repeat a recipe and talk about frosting if it won't be worth your while now would I?
Double Chocolate Cupcakes
Cake recipe from Deb's Smitten Kitchen, previously here as a layered cake.
Yields about 33 cupcakes.
- 3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
- 1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 3 large eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 300°F, if using convection oven, set the temperature at 250°F. Prepare two standard muffin tins with cupcake liners. Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer).
Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them up almost to the brim as this cake doesn't rise much. Bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes - you can check at the 25 minute mark just to be sure. Cool cupcakes completely on a wire rack before icing.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
Adjusted from Annie's Eats's recipe through Emma Gardner's Poires Au Chocolat, previously used here to frost a layered cake.
- 340 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 5 large egg whites
- 220 grams granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup blueberry puree
- pinch of salt
Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk frequently, keeping it over the heat, until the mixture reaches about 160°F/70°C and the sugar has dissolved (rub some between your fingers - if it feels grainy, it hasn't dissolved). In making all my Swiss meringue buttercream past and present, I've never used a thermometer (I’m lazy) so if you don't have one, no worries – just dip in and feel for a fairly hot and smooth mixture.
Transfer the mixture to a mixer with a whisk attached and beat on medium-high for 8 minutes, until stiff peaks have formed and the mixture has cooled to room temperature. Turn down the speed to medium and start adding small chunks of butter, checking that it has incorporated before adding more. Keep beating until it comes together, this will take about 5 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract and blueberry puree, beat until just combined.
Do ahead: Cupcakes can be made up to 3 days before, store covered at room temperature. Swiss meringue buttercream can be made ahead and refrigerated till needed. Bring to room temperature and whip to a smooth consistency before frosting. The buttercream requires no refrigeration for up to 5 days. It will keep in the refrigerator for 3 weeks and in the freezer for at least 3 months.