Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes

Ok, first things first.  Oscar night, it needs to be discussed...although there really isn't too much to discuss here. I was very happy with all the winners of the night.  I thought Christoph Waltz, Anne Hathaway, Daniel Day Lewis, and Jennifer Lawrence all played their roles in their respective movies fantastically, and I couldn't have been happier that Argo won Best Picture.  I was literally on the edge of my seat the ENTIRE time I was in the theater watching it, despite knowing that everything would work itself out in the end, and I loved that.  If a movie to which you already know the ending can still get you that pumped up and excited, it means it must be good! Like I mentioned in my last post, I actually watched all the movies nominated for Best Picture, with the exception of Life of Pi.  This movie kept winning and winning and winning more awards, and with every award it received, I kept getting more and more annoyed with myself for NOT having seen it...oh well.  Looks like I know what I'm doing this weekend! 

But now, we move on to more current and relevant issues...chocolate birthday cupcake issues, of course.  This is always a pressing matter in my opinion.

As much as I love cake, and believe me, I do love cake, I love cupcakes even more.  Not only do they have that added cute factor because they're tiny, but there are many other reasons that cupcakes will always beat out a layer cake.  For starters, there's the frosting issue.  Now I know that cupcakes these days can come with towers of frosting, with the cake:frosting ratio up even higher than on a layer cake.  But with "normal" cupcakes like these, the amount of frosting is just perfect.  There's enough to add a hint of sugary sweetness with the cake still being the predominant taste.  Probably more important than the frosting:cake ratio is the fact that cupcakes are quick and easy to make.  I know that  I can whip up a batch of cupcakes and have them perfectly frosted and sprinkled in no time at all, whereas a layer cake requires more planning and waiting. There's the mixing, the greasing of at least 3 cake pans, longer baking times, and allowing for the cake layers to cool before leveling them (this is my absolute least favorite part), and waiting for a crumb coat to set before you can finally begin to frost the cake.  And, to top it all off, the perfectionist in me demands perfectly even slices of cake, which only adds to the pressure of serving and distributing dessert.  Perfectionists like cupcakes more, because the guess work of evenly sized desserts is already done for you (although...is this really perfectionism, or just me being lazy.....?).

ANYWAY.  Cupcakes are awesome for birthdays, and I just love them in general. 

These chocolate cupcakes are the perfect birthday treat.  The cupcakes themselves are a very light chocolate cupcake.  I wanted to make a very basic chocolate cupcake that could be easily adapted to fit any cake and frosting combination.  The chocolate cupcake is not heavy at all, and the chocolate cupcake is mild in flavor, but you can definitely tell that it's a chocolate cupcake.  Since the cake itself was mild, I decided to pair it with a richer frosting, so instead of buttercream,  I went with a rich chocolate ganache.  The combination was perfect! I wanted to make these cupcakes extra special though, but not toooo over the top that many additional steps were needed.  Filling the cupcakes seemed to be the perfect solution.  I chose to fill them with chocolate pudding, because well...who doesn't like chocolate pudding?  Exactly.  Some brightly colored confetti sprinkles finished off the cupcakes, and I had myself a batch of really delicious cupcakes, all ready for a birthday party! Or sort of, at least...

You see, today is the FIRST birthday of my cousin's baby twins!  My sister and I are actually the twin's, Valentina and Federico, godmothers, so this post is being published in their honor!  My cousin lives in Colombia, so while I haven't actually had the chance to meet these little babies just yet (hopefully this will change soon!), I have seen enough photos and videos of them to know that they are truly adorable.  Their birthday party is this upcoming weekend, and if I could be there to make them a batch of special birthday cupcakes, I'd definitely go with this recipe.  Despite this, I'm sure their birthday party will be a great success!

Happy Birthday to Valentina and Federico, and to anyone else who is celebrating a birthday today!

Chocolate Birthday Cupcakes
cupcake and ganache icing recipes from Annie's Eats


For the Chocolate Cupcakes

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream

For the Ganache Icing

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons corn syrup
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 box instant chocolate pudding, prepared according to package directions


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water, whisking until smooth.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Whisk the dry ingredients to blend. 

Combine the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat.  Cook the butter and sugar together until the butter has melted completely.  Transfer the hot butter-sugar mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat on medium speed until the mixture has cooled, about 8 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Blend in the vanilla, and then the cocoa mixture until smooth and incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the sour cream, and beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix only until just incorporated.  

Divide the batter among the prepared liners. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted into the center of each cupcake comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.  Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the chocolate ganache icing.  Add the chopped semisweet chocolate to a medium heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan, combine the cream, sugar, and corn syrup.  Heat the mixture until it's just barely boiling.  Immediately pour the cream mixture over the chopped chocolate, and let it stand for several minutes, just to let the chocolate melt slightly.  With a whisk, begin to stir the mixture until it is smooth and well blended, then whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until it is completely incorporated.  Set the ganache aside, and allow it to stand at room temperature for an hour or two, or just until it has thickened enough that it can be spread onto the cupcakes.  

To assemble and fill the cupcakes, begin by taking a completely cooled cupcake and with a small paring knife, cut out a cone from the center of the cupcake.  Fill the cavity with some of the chocolate pudding, and then replace the top portion of the cone, making sure to slice off the tip to make room for the filling.  Once the cupcake has been filled, simply spread the ganache icing over the top of the cupcake, and decorate with sprinkles, if using.   Enjoy!

Makes about 24 cupcakes


  1. Gracias Nina!!!! Te queremos mucho y esperamos poderte conocer muyyyy pronto. un besito Vale y Fede:)

  2. Nice post. All the images attached by you are really amazing. Keep it up. I'm still looking for the post of recipe of birthday cakes Thanks!

  3. Nina:

    I enjoy reading and trying your recipes. I've a question: are 2 sticks unsalted butter equal to 1 cup? My little son wants to try the recipe!

    Thanks a lot.

    1. Hi Lina, you're right! Each stick of unsalted butter is equal to 1/2 cup, so 2 sticks would be 1 cup. Hope your son enjoys the cupcakes!


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