Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Cacao Nibs

This past Christmas, my father-in-law gave me two cookbooks I'd been longing to have:  Flour by Joanne Chang and Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson.  I finally had the opportunity to dive into Flour, and after much deliberation on what to make first, the age-old favorite chocolate cupcakes won.

Joanne Chang's introduction is a fascinating read.  She has degrees in applied mathematics and economics from Harvard, and after a few years with a consulting firm in Cambridge she quit to pursue her true passion of cooking and baking.  She had a little experience baking and selling to those around her, she had no culinary school background and it seems no contacts.  But she sent letters to a few of the best-known chefs in Boston at the time, expressing an interest in working any position that would gain her some experience, and she was almost immediately hired.  While reading this, I thought to myself that she must be one heck of an engaging person to have gotten that first job.  Now she owns three Flour locations in Boston.  I'm almost as excited about eating there next April ("next" as in 2013) as I am to run the Boston Marathon again.

So, as you would expect from a woman with a degree in applied mathematics, Joanne Chang is precise.  I like precise.  I used my kitchen scale to measure all ingredients as she suggests, and these cupcakes turned out perfect.

I had some cream cheese frosting on hand, so used that instead of making the "crispy magic frosting"

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Cacao Nibs
Based on Chocolate Cupcakes with Crispy Magic Frosting from Flour by Joanne Chang.

2 ounces (56 grams) unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used Ghirardelli chips; semi-sweet tasted fine)
1/4 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder (I used our favorite, Valrhona)
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup (80 grams) water
1/2 cup (120 grams) milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (140 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Cream cheese frosting (below)
Cacao Nibs (I used Scharffen Berger)

In a medium heatproof bowl (I used a glass bowl), stir together the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder.  In a small saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, butter and water, whisking until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved (3-4 minutes).

Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture over the chocolate-cocoa mixture, and allow to sit for a minute or so.  Then whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated into the butter-sugar mixture.

Whisk together the milk, egg, egg yolk and vanilla in a small bowl, then whisk into the chocolate mixture.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda.  Stir in the kosher salt.  Add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture by thirds, whisking after each addition until fully incorporated.

Let batter sit for at least one hour at room temperature to allow the liquid to be totally absorbed into the batter.  The batter will thicken, and be less soupy.  (Alternatively, you can store the batter at this point in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 12 muffin tins by greasing and flouring or lining with paper liners.

Divide batter among the 12 muffin tins; the batter should nearly reach the rim of each.  Bake until done (25 minutes in my oven, probably 30 minutes in yours), the tops should spring back when pressed with a fingertip.

Cool completely on a wire rack, frost, and sprinkle with cacao nibs.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, and then add vanilla.  Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.  Mix until smooth and combined.


  1. Omg, these look amazing! I've never made any of this stuff from scratch and I am so excited to try!!!!

    1. Jenni, the little bit of extra time to bake a cake/cupcakes from scratch is so worth it.

      Another great recipe is Martha Stewart's One Bowl Chocolate Cake: http://www.marthastewart.com/346395/one-bowl-chocolate-cake

      Just as easy as baking a cake from a mix, but so much better!