Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

Last night I baked these cupcakes to celebrate a special occasion.  You see, three years ago today I did this:

2007_0331Wedding0007

I know it’s cliche to say, but I really can’t believe it’s already been three years!!  It seems like just yesterday we were planning the wedding.  Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband – hope we have many more!  I thought it would be fun today to share photos of our wedding cakes, since this is a food blog and all :)  We actually had three cakes – a traditional wedding cake, a groom’s cake and a kransekake, which is a traditional Norwegian cake (you can read a bit more about it here on Wikipedia).  I wish I could remember what flavors the cakes were, but my memory fails me.  I’m sure chocolate was involved somewhere though!  I really wasn’t a baker before our wedding, and for that I am grateful.  I probably would have convinced myself it’d be a great idea to make my own cake and for me personally, that would not have been wise, given my tendency to procrastinate…   
 
Wedding Cake
This photo was taken by Shane’s cousin, Kieran – not only does he take amazing photos, but he designed my site!

The Kransekake
Kieran’s brother, Brian, generously made our kransekake and transported it to the wedding - on top of being a great baker, he builds custom bike frames!

Groom's Cake
Shane loves comic books and super heroes so this groom’s cake fit him to a T

Thanks for taking a little jaunt down memory lane with me!  And now, on to the cupcakes!  These dark chocolate cupcakes have been on my to-do list for a while now and when I saw that there was also a recipe for an easy peanut butter buttercream, I knew they’d be a good choice for Shane.  Though we have a go-to chocolate and peanut butter cupcake combo, it never hurts to try another, right?

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Buttercream

The cupcake recipe was developed by Cook’s Illustrated as an alternative to a boxed mix – they hoped to make it almost as quick and easy but with a more rich chocolate flavor.  I’d say they were successful!  Once you melt the butter and chocolate, the recipe is as simple as whisking together the components – no mixer required.  The cupcakes bake beautifully, rising just enough to give them a small dome perfect for frosting.  The buttercream also comes together easily, though you’ll probably want to use a stand mixer here if you hope to achieve light and fluffy frosting.  I thought the buttercream was delicious – not too buttery as they can sometimes be – and a perfect consistency for piping!  I sent the majority of the cupcakes to work with Shane today and his coworkers have been raving about them.  I can’t say whether they’re better than our go-to recipe yet though – I think a side by side comparison will be necessary (and soon)!

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes 
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (1 1/2 oz) Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 cup (3 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 cup (5 1/4 oz) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/2 cup (4 oz) Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

With a rack in the bottom third of the oven, preheat to 350 F.  Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.

Place butter, chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium heatproof bowl.  Microwave in 30 second spurts on 50% power, stirring in between, until the butter and chocolate are melted and the mixture is smooth.  (Alternatively, you could do this step in a double boiler.)  Set the mixture aside to cool until just warm to the touch.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder.  Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl to combine, then add the sugar, vanilla and salt and continue whisking until fully incorporated.  Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the bowl and whisk to combine.  Sift one-third of the flour mixture into the bowl and whisk gently to combine.  Add the yogurt (or sour cream), whisk to combine and finally, sift the the rest of the flour mixture into the bowl and whisk until everything is well combined – the batter will be thick.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin tins, filling each about 2/3 full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.  Cool the cupcakes in the pan on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes and then remove each cupcake from the pan and place directly on the rack to cool completely before frosting. 

Makes 12 cupcakes

Peanut Butter Buttercream
from Cook’s Illustrated

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (don’t use old-fashioned or natural brand)
3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
pinch table salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon heavy cream

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and peanut butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Add the confectioners’ sugar and salt and beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds.  Scrape the bowl again, then add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds.  Finally,  increase speed to medium-high and beat until the buttercream is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of frosting (will frost 12 cupcakes)