Fudgy and moist chocolate cupcakes topped with a satiny, luxurious cream cheese peanut butter frosting.
I’m warning you, guys, these cupcakes are too good to be true. According to Erez, these are the “best cupcakes [I’ve] ever made.” Then, just 2 minutes later while he was grabbing a second one (so not like him!), he told me they were the “best cupcakes [he’d] ever tasted”. As much as Erez is the type to give compliments, if he doesn’t like something, he’ll be honest about it (even when he shouldn’t…), so you can take his word on this.
In almost every cupcake recipe I’ve posted so far, I’ve mentioned my mixed emotional history with cupcakes. I used to not like them much, thinking they were only pretty treats without much flavor or substance. One time, when a customer requested some for an event, I sighed. All my attempts of convincing him to back off from the idea failed, and he left me with no other choice than going into the kitchen and baking cupcakes like crazy. It became my top mission.
My first few attempts ended in failure. Pounds and pounds of butter and sugar were ultimately thrown out. The kitties were happy, but I wasn’t. Although I eventually served cupcakes that I was proud of, they were still far from perfect (and I hope my customers don’t read my blog).
A couple of months later, I found myself in New York City. For some, the city of dreams; for me, the city of cupcakes. Seeing such a huge variety of tastes, textures, and colors opened the door to a whole new world – one that I had seen from afar, but finally understood.
Let me make this long story short. I came back home, motivated to try baking cupcakes again after requesting (i.e., demanding) some tips from a few of the bakeries I visited, and baked until I was finally able to get the result I was looking for – not too sweet of a frosting, not too dry of a cake, and flavorful as can be. Mission (finally) accomplished.
The first cupcake I tried that I really loved was this one, a combination of chocolate and peanut butter. I love adding cream cheese to frostings because it gives a slight tang that perfectly contrasts the sweetness of the sugar. In this specific frosting, there isn’t much sugar anyway since the peanut butter makes it thick enough. However, once in a while you will find me sneaking in some extra peanut butter.
This is my favorite chocolate cupcake batter, and I like to play with the recipe sometimes by replacing the milk with buttermilk or additional hot water, or using oil instead of butter for extra fluffiness and moisture. For a more cake-like cupcake, though, I like to use the creaming (butter) method.
Other delicious options (plus some tips):
- Fill cupcakes with chocolate ganache (to make a ganache, melt 6 oz. chocolate and ½ cup heavy cream in the microwave).
- Drizzle cupcakes with caramel sauce.
- Top cupcakes with pieces of peanut butter cups.
- Mix 1 teaspoon of instant coffee granules in the hot water to enhance the chocolate flavor.
- Place one mini peanut butter cup in the middle of each cupcake: Fill cupcake cups halfway with batter, place peanut butter cup in the center, and pour the rest of the batter on top.
- Use an ice cream scoop to fill the cups more easily.
- Fill any empty cups in the tin halfway with water for even baking.
- 1⅓ cups (185 g/6.5 oz) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (50 g/1.7 oz) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup (1 stick/113 g) butter, softened
- 1 cup (200 g/7 oz) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (120 ml) whole milk
- ½ cup (120 ml) hot water
- ½ cup (1 stick/113 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- ¾ cup (185 g/6.5 oz) creamy peanut butter
- 4 ounces (113 g/4 oz) cream cheese, slightly softened to room temperature
- 1 cup (120 g/4 oz) powdered sugar, sifted, plus more as necessary
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. On medium speed, beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients and beat just until combined. Beat in the milk until combined. Add the other half of the dry ingredients and beat slowly until combined. Add hot water and beat just until combined. Do not over mix – the less you mix, the lighter the cake will be. The batter should be liquid-y.
- Divide batter evenly between cups, filling them about ¾ full. Bake for 15-20 minutes (or 8-10 minutes if making mini cupcakes), until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Allow cupcakes to sit for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- For the frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter, peanut butter, and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Beat in vanilla and salt until smooth and fluffy. Add more sugar as necessary until desired consistency (thick enough to pipe). Frost cupcakes once they’ve cooled.
- Because of the cream cheese frosting, cupcakes should be stored (covered, in an airtight container) in the fridge. They’ll keep for 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be kept tightly covered at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw, still covered, on the counter or overnight in the fridge.