Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I love when friends have birthdays because it gives me a reason to whip up some tasty cupcakes.  Of course, not many folks would complain if they were just random cupcakes, but at least a birthday gives them some legitimacy.

 I've made these cupcakes twice, and both times they have been a smashing success.  The first time was for a coworker's birthday and I knew they were a hit when I could hear the executive director swooning in his office over the frosting.

The second time was for my friend's birthday party at a bowling alley (SO much fun!)  Once the word got out about them, they went fast.  And it was pretty funny to see people sneaking back for a second or even third cupcake.

Peanut butter and chocolate is such a classic combo, and this recipe really makes them shine.  The dark chocolate cake has cocoa powder and melted chocolate, so the flavor is rich, but not too sweet.  And the frosting is, well, peanut butter at its finest.  If you want an easy recipe that will win over the crowd, this is the recipe for you.  It makes just a dozen, but it doubles easily.

And, if you have leftover frosting (like we did), it's quite tasty on graham crackers.  Just saying.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
(Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated)
Makes 12 cupcakes

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup (1.5 ounces) cocoa powder
¾ cup (3.75 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon table salt
½ cup (4 ounces) sour cream

1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F. (If you are using a non-stick muffin pan, heat the oven to 325 degrees F.) Line standard-size muffin pan with baking cup liners.

2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. (Alternately, you can microwave the mixture at 50% power, stirring every 30 seconds until completely melted.) Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.

4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogeneous and thick.

5. Divide the batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.  Do not overbake, or they will be dry.

6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 10-15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes.

Peanut Butter Frosting
(Recipe from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten)
Makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes 

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy 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. Put in a pastry bag (or Ziploc bag with corner cut off) to pipe onto cupcakes.