Sour Cream Chocolate Cupcakes

(also, “How to fake a recipe gone wrong”)

Summer BBQ series, Post 2 of 4

The thing about blogging about food you make is that sometimes you have food failures that are so atrocious that they should never see the light of day.  No one really wants to showcase their duds for all to see, but baking definitely involves a measure of “learn from your mistakes.” So while the chocolate cupcakes featured today were largely failure, you’ll see that with a positive outlook, you can sometimes turn fail into win. It’s just a matter of perspective. 🙂

Most of the time you can take any cake recipe and throw it into a muffin tin with no consequences. This recipe is an exception. The batter rises much more than any standard cake recipe, so loading it up into a muffin pan causes it to sink in the middle when it’s done. The lightness of the batter can’t support the tallish structure of a cupcake, so my end result was 24 sunken cupcakes. Those little divots mocked me.

Well thank goodness these cupcakes were going to a BBQ! The usual problem of taking frosted cakes to a BBQ is that after a while sitting in the sun, the frosting ends up being a gloopy mess. Not a problem with sunken cupcakes though! The cavities proved to be perfect for holding the frosting in its place, and once everything was smoothed out on top, they looked pretty decent given their initial state. Oh, and the frosting “surprise” was a nice touch too.

I’m glad to report that the cake recipe itself is delicious. It yields a very moist, tender crumb, even despite the sunken nature. Try making this in the two 9″ pans like the recipe recommends. I bet your results will be better than mine.

Sour Cream-Fudge Layer Cake with Chocolate Butter Icing | Cook’s Illustrated

Cake Ingredients

1 cup natural cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder , or instant coffee
1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs , at room temperature
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt

Icing Ingredients

9 ounces bittersweet chocolate , or semisweet
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup light corn syrup


1. For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9-by-1 1/2-inch round baking pans with shortening. Line pan bottoms with waxed or parchment paper; grease paper as well. Dust pans with flour; tap out excess.

2. Mix cocoa and instant coffee in small bowl; add boiling water and mix until smooth. Cool to room temperature, then stir in vanilla and sour cream.

3. Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer set at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 30 seconds. Gradually sprinkle in sugar; beat until mixture is fluffy and almost white, 3 to 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating 1 full minute after each addition.

4. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. With mixer on lowest speed, add about 1/3 of dry ingredients to batter, followed immediately by about 1/3 of cocoa mixture; mix until ingredients are almost incorporated into batter. Repeat process twice more. When batter appears blended, stop mixer and scrape bowl sides with rubber spatula. Return mixer to low speed; beat until batter looks satiny, about 15 seconds longer.

5. Divide batter evenly between pans. With rubber spatula, run batter to pan sides and smooth top. Bake cakes until they feel firm in center when lightly presesd anad skewer comes out clean or with just a crumb or two adhering, 23 to 30 minutes. Tranfer pans to wire racks; cool for 20 minutes. Run knife around perimeter of each pan, invert cakes onto racks, and peel off paper liners. Reinvert cakes onto additional racks; cool completely before frosting.

6. For the Icing: Melt the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl set over pan of almost-simmering water. Stir in corn syrup. Set bowl of chocolate mixture over a larger bowl of ice water, stirring occasionally, until the frosting is just thick enough to spread. Apply icing onto first cake layer and spread with a long metal spatula, top with second cake layer, top second layer with icing, spread and then ice sides. Serve.


Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Mousse Frosting


Ah, yes, the classic yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting. It’s the Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines cupcake that us Americans grew up with. For a recent potluck, I volunteered to bring a batch of cupcakes. However, I didn’t want them to be out-of-the-box type of cupcakes. I wanted to be inspired by the classic combination, but not recreate them with their cloying sweetness. So instead I turned to my copy of Joy of Cooking (which I am finding to be indispensable these days).

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Banana Muffins with Nutella Ganache


I looked in my cabinet today and was a bit shocked to find a neglected jar of Nutella hiding in the back. After all, how does one ignore Nutella? Nut-freaking-tella! T introduced me to this luscious hazelnut spread a handful of years ago when we used to live together. Many a college meal was comprised of Nutella sandwiches thereafter.

Rich, creamy Nutella, I would like to start an affair with you. The lustful, wild abandon type. I promise to never forget you in the cupboard again. You are not deserving of such neglect!

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Peach Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Whipped Cream


The day I made these cupcakes was a day that I needed some serious comforting. I’m glad that I can find solace in baking when everything else around me seems to be dizzyingly chaotic. And the recipe that’s my ultimate comfort? Banana bread. I’ve had this particular recipe for banana bread since I was 14. It was the first thing I ever learned how to bake, and let me tell you, it is a forgiving and versatile recipe. Back before I knew how to properly measure flour, and before I knew what “creaming” butter and sugar meant, there was this recipe. I have about four other recipes for banana bread/cake in my recipe book, but I haven’t even touched any of them because I already have my tried and true standby.

The problem on this particular day was that I had no bananas.

The secret to great banana bread is to have much-too-ripe-to-eat bananas. So now I had a dilemma on my hands. Forego baking and remain stressed out for the rest of the night, or create something new out of something old. So here. I give you my adventure with peach cupcakes.

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