As promised in my latest post about Disney Springs, I owe you a classic cupcake recipe. Sprinkles cupcakes stays true to the classics, and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share my recipe for a Black and White cupcake (chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream). I know it sounds easy, but I can’t even begin to describe my personal battle with homemade chocolate cake. Sounds so easy- right? How hard could it be? Answer- unbelievably difficult to get the flavor right and not lose the moisture. I went through recipe after recipe, and while they looked glorious I was disappointed time after time.
Getting the perfect chocolate cake right became such a huge obsession that I can spot a fake with just one bite. I can’t tell you how many cupcake trucks I have tried, and can guarantee that chocolate cake was from- gasp- a box mix! Side note- the difference between my blog and a food critic is I only write about places I like or love. So- you are not going to get a lot of negative reviews here, and I certainly won’t throw anyone under the bus…. Sorry- I digress…. Back to chocolate cake… Honestly- I don’t totally blame them 100%- but I just couldn’t bring myself to sell homemade gourmet cupcakes and know they came from a box.
I did hours of research and even more cupcake trials before discovering a few little secrets that I swore I would never reveal. But… I do realize I can’t have a food blog and keep secrets so here we go…
Secret #1- double broiler!!! Lets get things melted and fudgy. Most do not own a double broiler and there is no reason to buy one. Simply get a metal mixing bowl and place on top of a pot with boiling water.
One of my biggest pet peeves with some recipes I tried was that the cake almost felt grainy when I used cocoa powder. The double broiler 100% solves that problem. I like to start by melting my butter, baking chocolate and cocoa powder in the broiler. It makes the chocolate smooth and creamy- but most importantly you will not have a grainy texture to your cake.
On that note- secret #2- two types of chocolate!!! Sounds like overkill but it made a huge difference. Having two chocolates added another layer of depth and flavor into the cake that recipes only calling for one did not have. I am VERY brand specific with my baking chocolate, and you will be pleasantly surprised it is not the most expensive brand. I love love love my Nestle baking chocolate. When it comes to cocoa powder I have not found a noticable difference in brand, but make sure it is natural, unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed). I usually use Hershey’s brand.
Secret #3- Let all ingredients reach room temp! This is so important with baking. Remember it is chemistry and thus, temperature matters! Therefore, let the melted chocolate and butter mixture cool, and let the eggs and buttermilk warm up. I usually set my refrigerated items out for one hour before I start baking. DO NOT microwave to save time!
Secret #4 is the one that made all the difference in the world. I don’t know if Christina Tosi would whack me with a spatula or high five me for solving a moisture problem- but….. apple sauce…. there I said it! I have heard of apple sauce used for baking many times- however it is usually used to replace an ingredient. In this case I am adding it to my buttermilk as an additional ingredient. This 100% solved my moisture problem, and I finally had a chocolate cake that I could be proud of!
Lastly- not that its a secret, but what a lot of people don’t realize is once you have the perfect chocolate cake the options are endless- change it up with a filling and/or unique frosting and its a totally new experience! Here are some of my favorite cupcakes that use this cake as a base (note: stay tuned for these buttercream recipes in a future post):
Classic Black and White Cupcake Recipe:
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes:
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
- 2-4 ounces of semi-sweet baking chocolate (*see note)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs (room temp)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk (room temp)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce (room temp)
Classic Vanilla Buttercream:
- 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
- 4-8 cups confectioners sugar (*see note)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream (*see note)
For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
Using a double broiler or metal bowl on top of pot- melt butter, semi-sweet chocolate and cocoa powder. Once mixture is completely melted allow to cool- you can put it in the refrigerator but keep a close watch that it doesn’t get too cold.
*Note about chocolate- if this is your first time making this recipe I suggest using 2 ounces of chocolate and see if you prefer this. I personally use 4 and it makes for a very rich and fudgy cake. If I don’t have 4 ounces of baking chocolate I have tossed in a 1/4 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips as a substitute.
In a medium bowl toss together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In a liquid measuring cup, measure out the buttermilk, vanilla and applesauce, and mix together. Set aside.
In a large bowl or electric stand mixer whisk the eggs until they are almost fluffy- there will be foam on top. I like to put the mixer on high for several minutes. Next, add the granulated and brown sugar to the egg mixture and beat on high until they are smooth and fluffy- 2-3 minutes.
Add the cooled butter and chocolate mixture and mix until smooth.
With the mixer on low- add the flour mixture in three parts alternating with the milk mixture. Make sure everything is well combined but do not over mix- you will lose all the air you worked so hard to get in the batter. The batter will be very thick and fudgy- try not to eat it all before you bake it!
Divide the batter into your cupcake liners- filling each 3/4 full. Place on middle rack and bake for 17-20 minutes depending on your oven.
Check with a toothpick and remove when the toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Make frosting while cupcakes are cooling on wire rack.
For the frosting: With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer beat the butter until it is VERY fluffy. Honestly- put the mixer on high and leave the room. People ask me all the time how you can get a white frosting when butter is yellow and vanilla extract is brown.
If you beat the living daylights out of butter it will turn pure white and that is when it is ready.
Once the butter is perfectly fluffy and white add the first 2 cups of the confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream.
*Note- Do not add all 8 cups of the confectioners sugar. It is so important to add it gradually. Cupcakes are chemistry- frosting on the other hand is not. It is 100% based on preference when it comes to consistency and how sugary you make it. Tip #2- the heavy whipping cream helps your frosting become super fluffy without adding too much confectioners sugar. Warning- if you add too much heavy whipping cream it is very difficult to fix- so add one tablespoon at a time and beat on high for several minutes before adding more.
Slowly add in remaining cups of sugar and cream until buttercream is perfect according to your liking. You may add a pinch of salt if the buttercream is too sweet.
Once cupcakes are cooled, apply icing with a knife or piping bag. Keep in airtight container if not serving immediately. Buttercream can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 4 days, or can be frozen for 4 months.