Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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Happy Halloween! I love this day, it’s so spooky-scary in the funnest way and even though I rarely dress up I love to pop in a movie, cuddle up, maybe pass out some candy to adorable trick-or-treaters, and indulge in some treats myself…of course. These cupcakes fit the bill for the treats sans tricks, but they could really be for any occasion.

Can I tell you, I’ve been working on this cupcake recipe for days…like seriously, SO MANY batches of chocolate cupcakes have emerged from my oven and these are the best ones. They are springy and tender and oh-so-chocolatey. Plus, this recipe makes exactly 12 cupcakes…which is the perfect number for me, some for the house and some to give away. The frosting on these cupcakes just sweetens the deal and makes for one of my favorite candy inspired combos–chocolate and peanut butter! It’s creamy, sweet, lush, and gently spiced with nutmeg. Nutmeg may sound weird with peanut butter, but it’s really, really great here. There’s barely enough to notice but it gives these cupcakes depth and really add a little somethin’ extra.

So, let’s celebrate this spookiest of days with treats (and not tricks)! Huzzah!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Makes 12 cupcakes

I use a cocoa powder that is dutched (ie, processed so the acid is stripped) this type of cocoa powder results in a deep, almost black cake. My favorite brand of cocoa powder is Valrhona.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

scant 1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line a muffin tin with 12 cupcake papers.

In a mixing bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup mix together the canola oil, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until the eggs are fully incorporated. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture and fold until just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups, about 3/4 up each liner. Bake in the center of the oven about 25 minutes or until the tops spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Peanut Butter Frosting

Adapted from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

Adding the peanut butter last is key here, if you add it with the cream cheese and butter no amount of mixing will bring it together into a smooth consistency.

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1-2 tablespoons cream

pinch of salt

1/8-1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1 lb. confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of the cream until combined completely. Add in the peanut butter and beat just until combined, beat in the remaining cream if needed to reach desired consistency. Spread or pipe onto the cooled cupcakes.

This is what treat-thirty looked like yesterday. SO GOOD.

Mini Hard Cider Cupcakes

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Guys, I’ve been wanting to make these cupcakes for a while now…ever since I sent Sean to the liquor store to buy some hard cider for a braised pork thing I was doing. But, he couldn’t find my favorite (Crispin) cider, so he bought a 6-pack of a different kind and it ended up being spiced…which, of course, wasn’t what I had in mind, but total A for effort!

So, in order to waste-not, I came up with this hard cider cupcake idea and oh, man…it ended up being a happy accident. I was so surprised by how much the hard cider flavor really comes through in these minis and in the frosting. There aren’t any actual apples in this recipe, but the apple flavor from the cider really shines, plus it lends a pleasant booziness.

These cupcakes are made in my favorite way for any cake or cupcake, by beating the butter with the flour mixture…instead of beating the butter and sugar until fluffy and then gently folding in the flour at the end. I love this method because it always produces a cake with a fine, almost dense crumb, but manages to remain light and spongey, yet tender. The thing is, the butter fat coats the flour which kind of waterproofs the gluten, so when you add the liquid the water doesn’t activate the glutens and prevents them from becoming gummy and chewy. BOOM!

So if you have some hard cider waning away in your fridge, looking for some way to be consumed, or even if you’re just a fan of booze-laced treats, these tender little dudes are just the thing.

Mini Hard Cider Cupcakes with Cider Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes about 48 miniature cupcakes.

Adapted from Take a Megabite

I used Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple Hard Cider in this recipe, since Sean couldn’t find the cider I usually buy…for drinkin’. It turned out to be perfect for these cupcakes. You can use whatever hard cider you want. 

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspooon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2/3 cup hard apple cider

Preheat your oven to 350˚F and line two mini muffin tins with 48 cupcake liners.

In the bowl of a mixer or using a hand mixer and mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy, about 1 minute.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add it to the butter and beat until the mixture is combined and resembles a crumble topping. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping after each, once incorporated continue to beat for about 2 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add the vanilla, followed by the hard cider and beat until just combined. Scoop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter into each muffin liner, I like to use a mini cookie scoop with a levered handle (also known as a disher). Bake 1 pan at a time in the center of the oven for 14-16 minutes or until the tops are dry and spring back to the touch. Remove from oven and cool on a rack while you make the frosting. Repeat with remaining pan.

Cider Cream Cheese Frosting

1, 8 ounce, brick cream cheese, softened

1 lb. (16 ounces) powdered sugar

2-3 tablespoons hard cider

Beat the cream cheese in a bowl until smooth. Add the powdered sugar and the hard cider and mix to combine. Pipe or spread onto completely cooled cupcakes.

Orange Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

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These days I can’t let a birthday pass without baking something festive. Something homemade and tailored to the birthday girl/boy’s specific taste. If there is ever a time to bust out a layer cake and sprinkles, it’s on a birthday.

I thought about Sean’s birthday cake for months–chocolate is always a given, and the orange was added because the dude loves the zesty-ness of oranges juxtaposed against deep, dark chocolate. I made this cake for my guy because it’s his favorite. Because he is the best guy who makes me laugh every single day, and he doesn’t even get annoyed by my constant stream-of-consciousness singing…seriously, I’m pretty sure it’s like living in a really bad musical about the minutiae of life…and in my book that’s more than enough to deserve a birthday cake.

The cake is easy to put together, with a nice crumb and perfect tenderness. Lots of orange zest makes it bright and flavorful. The chocolate frosting has sour cream that brings a bit of tang to cut the dark richness–it spreads across the cake like a dream and takes on a fudgey quality once it’s set. A heavy dose of sprinkles make it the perfect party cake. Candles and tall glasses of milk are optional, but highly recommended.

Orange Cake

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

2 3/4 cups cake flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup orange zest (I used 6 oranges)

3 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup orange juice

1/2 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350*F. Line two 8inch round cake pans with parchment circles, grease the pans and the parchment, set aside.

In a bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a large measuring cup whisk together the vanilla, orange juice, and sour cream. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, rub the orange zest into the sugar until fragrant. Add the melted butter and beat until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition.  Add half of the dry ingredients, mix gently to combine, followed by the orange-sour cream mixture to combine, followed by the remaining dry ingredients, mix until just combined. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and bake in the center of the oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pans on a cooling rack about 10 minutes before turning out and cooling completely.

Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

Adapted slightly from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes

I subbed the corn syrup for golden syrup and added extra sour cream where the recipe called from half and half. 

12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons golden syrup

pinch of salt

3/4 cup sour cream, room temperature

Melt the chocolate, butter, golden syrup, and salt over a double boiler until smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the sour cream. Continue to whisk until spreadable, but still soft–use to frost the cake immediately. The frosting will set up to a fudge-like consistency at room temperature.