Monday, June 28, 2010


My hubby’s not big on desserts.  There are a few faves, though, that he can’t resist.  One is chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  I decided to try two different but similar recipes to see which was the better:  Hershey’s Especially Dark Chocolate Cake & Frosting, and Martha Stewart’s “the best…One-Bowl Chocolate Cake.”
Martha has substituted buttermilk for regular milk in her recipe, which is an adaptation of  Hershey’s old-time recipe.  She’s also bumped up the cocoa and baking soda and reduced the oil, sugar, baking powder and vanilla.  Instead of using boiling water in the batter, Martha uses warm water and it gets mixed in with the other ingredients, instead of at the end.  I wanted to try Martha’s recipe for chocolate frosting, but I had enough of the Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting left over to frost the second batch of cupcakes. 

Hershey’s cake is moist, light and chocolatey and the frosting is perfect.   The cupcakes, which remind me a little of the old-time chocolate Tasty-Kakes, got rave reviews all around from my taste testers.  Here is a photo of Hershey’s cake, with the inside, as you can see, almost black, and note how high and nicely crowned the cupcake is:
Martha’s cake is moister and more chocolatey with a hint of fudginess without truly being fudgy.  I would pick Martha’s cake as the winner, except for two things:  if you want cupcakes, as I did, you will be disappointed in the way the batter rises, then collapses.  You will have to pile on the frosting to cover up the sink hole, and I usually frost cupcakes lightly.  Secondly, it’s hard to figure out how much batter to use for each cupcake to keep it from spreading over the rim.  For these two reasons, I can’t give this recipe a high rating.
Here is a photo of Martha’s cupcake, not as dark, but with a hint of fudginess and slightly moister than Hershey’s.  With a lot of frosting to cover the sink hole, no one is the wiser. 
Bottom Line:  Go for Hershey’s recipe.  It’s easy, it’s foolproof, and it’s a real winner in taste and texture.  You’ll get a nice highly crowned cupcake that looks as pretty as it tastes.
Especially Dark Chocolate Cake and Frosting
Adapted from Hershey’s
Rating:  9.5 out of 10
1 cup superfine sugar (pulse granulated sugar in food processor, then remeasure)
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. unbleached all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into cup
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. coffee essence (equal parts of instant coffee granules + coffee liqueur) my addition
1/2 cup boiling water

Set out all ingredients an hour ahead of baking time to bring them to room temperature.  Heat oven to 350F.  Set out a 12-cup muffin tin; line with paper baking cups.

In large bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and baking soda.  Add egg, milk, oil, vanilla and coffee essence and beat on lowest speed of mixer till combined, then beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom.  Stir in water to make a thin batter.  Divide batter evenly among baking cups, using about 1/4 cup per cupcake.  Bake about 14-16 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Cool in pans a few minutes, then transfer cupcakes to wire rack to cool completely.  Place cooled cupcakes in freezer for about 10 minutes to make it easier to frost them. 

Especially Dark Chocolate Frosting
Adapted from Hershey’s
Rating 9.5 out of 10

1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted
1/3 cup Special Dark cocoa
1-1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2-3 Tbsp. milk, regular or light (I  used lite coconut milk)
1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut flavored rum (optional, my addition)

Combine butter and cocoa in medium bowl.  Add 1/2 cup sugar and beat till smooth on medium speed of electric mixer.  Add 1 Tbsp. milk and the flavorings and beat till smooth.  Repeat with sugar and milk twice more.  Adjust frosting to make it of desired spreading consistency by adding more milk if it’s too thick, or more sugar if it’s too thin.  Beat on high speed for several minutes till frosting is whipped.  Frost cupcakes or cake immediately, or refrigerate frosting till reading to use it.  Refrigerate leftovers for several weeks, or freeze.  Yield:  enough for 2 dozen cupcakes or one 2-layer cake. 
One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
Adapted from
Rating:  6 out of 10
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. natural unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 tsp. sea salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. buttermilk (or add 1 tsp. white vinegar to regular milk, let stand 15 min.)
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. warm water
1-1/2 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Set out all ingredients one hour ahead of baking to bring to room temperature.  Heat oven to 350F.  Set out a 12-cup cupcake tin and line with 11 paper liners.  (Martha says this makes one dozen, but I got 10 cupcakes.) 

Sift into medium bowl cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  With electric mixer on lowest speed, mix till combined.  Add egg, buttermilk, water, oil, and vanilla.  Stir to combine, then beat on medium speed till smooth, about 3 minutes.  (My batter was smooth well before 3 minutes, so I only beat the batter about 1-1/2 minutes.)

Divide batter evenly among baking cups, using a little less than 1/4 cup each.  Do not fill to the top, as the batter puffs up, then sinks, and you will have cupcake collapsing over the sides.  You only want the batter to rise up to the top, not over.  Therefore, fill the cups almost 2/3 full.  You can see in the photo below that I filled the cups a little higher, and note that when they sank, they spread.  I had to cut the excess off the cupcake before I frosted them.  I’m theorizing there’s enough extra batter in the rims for one more cupcake, not 2, but I could be wrong. 

Bake 14-16 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted near center returns with just a few crumbs.  Let cool in pan a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Place cooled cupcakes in freezer about 10 minutes to facilitate frosting.  Yield:  11-12 cupcakes


Sophie said...

Oooooh,....aaaaaaah,...stunning & very attractive cupcakes, Judy!!

I can nearly smell them through my MAC!

Lea Ann said...

I'm not big on desserts either but these cupcakes look lucious. Great photos.

A Year on the Grill said...

great post... Love the side by side (well, top to bottom) comparison.

Cupcakes with sinkholes.. hate that.

Anonymous said...

OMG, those muffins look so moist! I love anything chocolate - but double chocolate with the frosting?? To die for!

Juliana said...

Wow, love the dark color of these cupcakes...they look so tasty, moist and rich...yummie!

Katrina said...

I love that term--sink hole. I hate when cupcakes do that. I heard it's because they went from hot to too cool of air out of the oven too quickly. I don't really know why that happens.
I love the high domed cupcakes. Great comparison.