Sunday, February 10, 2013

America's Test Kitchen, Revisited: Devil's Food Cupcakes With Vanilla Crusting Buttercream Frosting

I made these a few years ago.  I have not really had the opportunity to make them again because I have two little girls that like vanilla cupcakes better than chocolate.  I have to tell you, though, that they are really divine.  They have such a rich, heavy, dark chocolate taste to them and they bake up lovelier than any box mix.  The recipe comes from America's Test Kitchen. I made these for Valentine's Day, and as you can see here, for the festive occasion, I chose to color my homemade crusting buttercream a lovely shade of pink.

Here's the recipe, in case you'd like to make a surprise for your sweetheart.

For the cake:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups boiling water
4oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 tsp instant espresso powder
10 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Adjust the oven racks to the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and preheat to 350F. Grease 2 12-muffin tins. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the boiling water, chocolate, 1/2 cup cocoa, and instant espresso together until smooth. 

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the sour cream and vanilla and beat until incorporated.

3. With the mixer on low, beat in 1/3 of the dry ingredients followed by 1/2 of the chocolate mixture. Repeat with half of the remaining flour and the remaining chocolate. Beat in the remaining flour until just incorporated. 

4. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared muffin tins (2/3 to 3/4 full), smooth the tops, and gently tap the pans on the counter to settle the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 20-25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. 

5. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cakes, then flip them out onto wire racks. Peel off the parchment and flip cakes right side up. Let cool completely before frosting, about 2 hours. 


  • 1/2 cup solid high ratio shortening 
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tablespoon of meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract (or extract of choice)
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (1 lb.)
  • 2 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla and milk. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating on a slow speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Keep bowl or covered with a damp cloth until ready to use, or it will begin crusting. Refrigerated in an airtight container up to two weeks. 

If you don't have high-ratio shortening, you can substitute with Crisco and about 2 T. half-and-half or heavy cream (or until your icing is at the right consistency). 

This is a great week for sweets!  Enjoy!

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