by Stephanie Zonis
Always great to have around, these tender, chocolatey cupcakes can be made up in a flash. They bake quickly, too, and everyone seems to love their "individual portion" size. Two frosting recipes are included: a regular confectioners' sugar frosting that can be tinted orange or left plain and used for a decorate-your-own Halloween party, and a chocolate confectioners' sugar frosting, for those who require a double dose of cocoa. (If you are planning to tint the frosting orange, it is important to read the note that follows the recipe.) Both cupcakes and chocolate frosting are made with regular unsweetened cocoa powder (non-Dutch process). You'll need a 12-cup standard muffin tin for these, where the cups are 2-1/2 inches in diameter.
If you're going to have that Halloween party, a variety of candies for decoration is best. Good choices include gummi worms (or other gummi critters), miniature semisweet chocolate chips, and candy-shell-covered chocolates (like M&M's). The plain frosting recipe below makes more than you'll need for the cupcakes, but if you have a group of kids around, extra frosting is never a problem!
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1-1/3 cups sifted cake flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup regular unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 cup water
1 egg, graded "large"
1 tsp. vanilla
Confectioners' Sugar Frosting:
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
3-2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
(if lumpy, sift before measuring)
3 to 4 Tbsp. milk
Orange food coloring (or red and yellow
coloring, to make orange)-see Note
Chocolate Confectioners' Sugar Frosting:
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
(if lumpy, sift before measuring)
3 Tbsp. regular unsweetened cocoa powder
Few grains salt
2 to 3 Tbsp. milk
Adjust rack to center of oven; preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line the cups of a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners. Melt the butter and cool it until it is warm (it should not be hot when it's added to the batter).
Into a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add water, egg, vanilla, and melted butter. with hand-held electric mixer at lowest speed (or with whisk), beat ingredients just until combined. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Beat at a low speed for 30 seconds. For ease in handling, transfer batter (which will be on the thin side) to a pitcher of about 4-cup capacity (batter will not fill pitcher).
Divide batter evenly among lined muffin cups; cups will be about two-thirds to three-quarters full. Bake in preheated oven for 14 to 19 minutes, turning pan back-to-front about halfway during baking time. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of a corner cupcake (that is, a cupcake on one of the corners of the pan) emerges with only a couple of moist crumbs still clinging to it. Do not overbake!
Remove pan to cooling rack. Immediately but gently remove cupcakes from pan to cooling rack (I use a small sharp knife to loosen the cupcakes from the top of the pan, if required, then I gently pry each from the cup with a fork. You'll leave the cupcakes in their paper linings, of course). Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.
For either Frosting:
Use a large bowl for the plain frosting, and a medium bowl for the chocolate variation. In either case, place softened (but not melted) butter in bowl. Add 1 cup of confectioners' sugar, the cocoa and salt (if making the chocolate variation) and 1 Tbsp. milk. with hand-held electric mixer, beat at medium speed until combined. Scrape bowl and beater(s) with rubber spatula.
Gradually add remaining confectioners' sugar and remaining milk, beating at medium speed to incorporate, then increasing speed to high and beating until fluffy. Frosting should have a good spreading consistency. If making the plain frosting, tint it orange after all of the other ingredients are in. I use liquid food coloring, 3 drops of yellow to every 2 drops of red, and I add color gradually, beating it in well before adding more.
Frost each cupcake with a generous dollop of frosting immediately, stopping slightly before the edges (I think these look more attractive if you can see a small rim of chocolate cupcake around the edge). The chocolate variation is enough for an extravagant "cap" of frosting on each cupcake, and the plain will definitely leave you with extra. Decorate as desired. Eat immediately, store in refrigerator, or freeze. These will keep in the fridge for up to three or four days, if tightly covered. To freeze, freeze uncovered; when frozen, cover tightly. Thaw in refrigerator, still in wrappings. If refrigerated, allow cupcakes to stand at room temperature, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.
I have two brands of liquid yellow food coloring at present; both contain FD&C Yellow Number 5, also called "tartrazine". Some people are extremely sensitive to this coloring. If you have any doubts about using it, you can leave the frosting untinted; if you have candy for decorating the cupcakes around, chances are that no one will notice! You also might be able to obtain an orange gel or paste coloring that doesn't contain tartrazine. Alternatively, think about tinting the frosting another hue--how about a light blue? C'mon, it's Halloween--you can be a little adventurous with color!
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This page originally created in 1998 and modified October 2007
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