The Ultimate? I know, that’s pretty bold of me to say. Right? I’m not usually so bold. In fact, as a rule I under-sell things… you know, the whole set expectations low and deliver above and beyond. But you know what? This cupcake can stand up to the scrutiny. The flavors are all understated but combine to make your mouth say “wow”. You should try these. They are super easy and completely delicious. Seriously, you should make these tonight.
Yellow cake with chocolate chunks and vanilla bean frosting. I’m new to the vanilla bean, but I am totally a convert. The scent. The flavor. Oh my. We owe a lot to the Aztecs (chocolate and vanilla!). By the way, Dorie Greenspan wrote a nice article on vanilla beans recently where she gives a little bit of background on the beans and shares how to get the most out of your vanilla beans (very important since they are not cheap).
It was one of those nights. The kind where I wanted to bake something but didn’t quite know what to make. I wanted something easy. I wanted something good. (I always want something easy and good). And I’ve been wanting to pipe frosting for weeks now (does anyone else get these urges? I mean, really sometimes you just have to play with piping tips). Then I saw it: the box of yellow cake mix that I had bought around my birthday. Yellow cake and chocolate frosting is my birthday cake of choice. But this year a friend of mine baked me a cake so the box sat on my counter. And I am so glad that it did!
The cupcakes kind of came together organically. I started out with the mix and wanted a better texture than the typical cake mix so using the strawberry cupcake recipe as a guide, I upped the eggs and oil. But that seemed kind of plain so I reached for the yet unopened “Pound Plus” of Belgian 72% dark chocolate I had picked up at Trader Joe’s. I chopped up the chocolate kind of coarsely and stirred it into the cake batter. This gave the resulting cake a kick of chocolate without making it too sweet. The buttercream was perhaps the biggest coup. The vanilla bean gave the buttercream such a natural vanilla flavor. Sweet but not sugary.
Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes Recipe
1 box yellow cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup water
8 ounces of good dark chocolate, chopped (My definition of good is just that it tastes good to you)
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Give the liners a quick spritz of Baking nonstick spray (optional).
2. In the bowl of stand mixer, combine the cake mix, oil and water. Add eggs one at a time. Mix well (about 2-3 minutes).
3. Stir in chocolate. (It’s ok, you can sneak a little nibble. no one will notice if that one piece of chocolate doesn’t make it into the bowl… )
4. Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups (do you use a disher? It really makes this step much easier. I use something like the Norpro 2-Tablespoon Stainless Steel Scoop).
5. Bake for about 15-20 minutes (I think I baked mine for 18). Let them cool completely on a rack before frosting.
Vanilla Bean Buttercream
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 – 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk
1. Beat the butter until it gets light and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar. Add the milk and beat for 2-3 minutes.
2. Split the vanilla bean half in lengthwise and scrape out all of the seeds. (Set aside what’s left of the pod to use to make vanilla sugar). Add the seeds and extract to the bowl. Beat on high until combined and fluffy.
3. Using a piping bag or just a butter knife, frost your cupcakes.