Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cupcake Bake-off

My husband had a cupcake bake-off at his work the other day. He was told by his coworkers that he had to actually make the cupcake himself. What did they think would happen? That I would hijack the project and take over and make the cupcakes myself? That's so not me. I'm not like my husband who takes over anytime I start making something in the wok (I'm only kidding, honey).

The biggest task at hand was to decide what kind of cupcake to make. After thinking about it for a day or two, my husband turned to me and said, "I want to make a peanut butter chocolate cupcake." Well, alright! Let's do it!

I started scouring the internet for "the best chocolate cupcake recipe." Well, as you can only imagine, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of recipes out there claiming to be "the best chocolate cupcake recipe." Oy.

When I landed on a recipe from Cooks' Illustrated, I knew we had a winner. We didn't have enough time to test out the recipe (which is really a no-no when you're entering a recipe in a contest, just so you know), so we had to use a recipe from a source we trusted. And as I've mentioned before, we trust Cooks' Illustrated.

The recipe is for Dark Chocolate Cupcakes, and well, they taste dark. The texture was actually very pleasant, as was the taste and moistness. I think the only thing lacking was sweetness. If we had it to do over again, my husband and I agree that a little more sugar would be ideal.

As for the Peanut Butter Icing, all I can say is wow. It was delicious. Creamy. Peanut buttery. Melt in your mouth goodness. I'm starting to notice a pattern here - whenever I make icing, it's always amazing. It makes anything taste that much better. Now I know exactly where the phrase 'icing on the cake' comes from.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, my husband made the cupcakes all by himself.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes
from Cooks' Illustrated, "American Classics 2009"
makes 12 cupcakes; do not double recipe...make two separate batches if you need more

8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) sour cream

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffing pan (1/2 cup capacity) with baking cup liners.

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 fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.

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

Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk 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 in remaining flour mixture and whisk batter until it is homogenous and thick.

Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18-20 minutes.

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

Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing
from Ina Garten, as seen on the Food Network

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

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.


  1. fun bakeoff! i'm loving that peanut butter frosting!

  2. so i guess he didn't win? or is that the next post? haha