Rich, tender yet not too sweet Double Chocolate Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream decorated two ways. A chocolate lovers dream.
These little Double Chocolate Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream are sublime. But before we get to these cakes…
I turned 45 this week.
As I contemplate what this means, I tell myself it’s just a number. A system to keep track of time passing and the past. A way to schedule, keep appointments, quantify how long to boil that egg, and rates of change.
It’s a number.
What I’m thinking about more than the number itself, perhaps, is a vivid recollection of my 40th birthday party, just five years ago. It was a big year. The year I made the decision to leave my career. I threw a party to celebrate it and my 40th.
I blinked and I’m 45.
My cousin, who shares the same age and birth month reminded me this week that in five more years, we’ll be 50.
For comparison’s sake, another blink.
Because of this, I’ve been thinking more about how I spend my time, my days…. my years. What I want, where I’m heading. Contemplating short- and long-term goals. Thinking about those things I’ve been wanting to do yet haven’t. Maybe I’m thinking too much?
Above all, I’m grateful for where I’m at in life. I’m healthy, save a pesky hypothyroid; safe; wiser; spending this journey with the love of my life, and am doing the work I love every day, still growing spiritually and emotionally and able to invest in those pursuits. Life is so sweet.
Can we all agree, the older we get, the faster passage of time feels? I think it’s because there’s more we want to accomplish, so the days are fuller and there never seems to be enough time to do what we want.
I’ve reduced the number of bullet points on my daily calendar in an effort to be mindful and combat feelings of overwhelm and of not accomplishing enough in a given day.
I’m just realizing that I define what enough is. It took me 45 years to figure it out.
But, during this pause for reflection, I also remind myself to slow down, take time for special moments and for pursuits of passion. Even if that special moment is to stop and watch a bee buzz into a flower to collect pollen, laugh with my mom, or to spend extra time with a friend, solving the world’s problems. Contributing to community is also an area I want to spend more time. For me, that pursuit of passion comes in the form of assisting in environmental problem-solving, action and activism.
I’ve talked about this before, contemplating life and my mind is generally chatty in regards to these things. With the passing of another year, I’m reminded that although time is relative, it moves at a sharp clip. Slow down, breathe… look up.
Baking slows me down. Because cakes are for special occasions, especially birthdays, it was time. Whether it’s a beloved layer cake or cupcake, special times call for special things. And while scratch-cakes do take some time, attention, and planning, they’re always worth the effort, not only for the maker, but for the recipient and everyone who shares in the celebration.
These aren’t over-the-top sweet cupcakes. The cake, related to a genoise, an Italian sponge cake, relies on eggs whipped to ribbon stage, creating a light-as-air, pillow-soft cake. European pastry is known for its marked less sweet approach when it comes to baked goods. It’s because of this approach that the double chocolate, coffee and vanilla bean notes shine in this recipe.
After the eggs are whipped to ribbon stage, a chocolately mixture of cocoa powder, espresso, sour cream, and coconut oil are gently mixed in. Then a flour and brown sugar mixture is slowly added into the thick, airy batter. Just before scooping the dreamy batter into the baking cups, chopped dark chocolate chips are folded in. Can you taste the chocolate heaven?
Swiss meringue buttercream is another reason these cupcakes are not over-the-top sweet. Cooked then whipped egg whites and sugar create a meringue. After the meringue is whipped to room temperature, butter is added, a little at a time, to create a silky smooth, creamy, fluffy icing ideal for crowning and decorating these double chocolatey cakes.
If you’re looking for an over the top chocolatey and sweet cupcake, I’ve got you covered with these Perfect Chocolate Espresso Cupcakes. For a dairy and egg-free chocolate cake, check out my Vegan Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Whipped Ganache.
Double Chocolate Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream take a bit of attention to detail, but they are fun to make and may just stretch your baking skills. Don’t let the methods deter your desire to make from-scratch cakes. Really. They’re not as scary as they seem.
While I don’t normally use artificial food colors, I couldn’t help myself with the sprinkles. They are so fun, colorful and festive, so I went for it. I figure it would be okay for a special occasion. Plus the crunch factor (!!).
My inner child was tugging at me.
A few tools I keep on hand to make cupcakes a snap to pull together (these are affiliate links):
- Large Cookie Scoop (3Tbs) for portioning cupcakes
- Ateco Closed Star Pastry Tip
- Pastry Bag
- Nordic Cupcake Pan
- Cupcake Pan Liners
- Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer
How do you feel about time with regards to birthdays? How do you feel about making from-scratch cake? Please share below! I’d love to know your thoughts!
Double Chocolate Devil's Food Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Buttercream
For the Cupcakes:
- 1/2 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder Dutch processed, 28g
- 3/4 C Hot Espresso or Very Dark Coffee 165g
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 C Sour Cream 70g
- 3/4 C Coconut Oil virgin unrefined, melted, 150g
- 1 1/2 C All Purpose Flour 244g
- 1 Tbs Corn Starch
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 C Light Brown Sugar packed 102g
- 2 Large Eggs
- 1/4 C Cane Sugar 60g
- 2/3 C High Quality Dark Chocolate at least 72%, chopped in small chunks, 72g
For the Simple Syrup (optional but recommended):
- 3 Tbs Cane Sugar
- 3 Tbs Water
- 1 Tbs Kahlua - for boozy optional
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream (yields about 2 1/2C or 368g):
- 2 Large Egg Whites 70g
- 1/2 C Cane Sugar 120g
- 1/8 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 C or 2 sticks Unsalted Butter room temperature 227g
- 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp Vanilla Bean Paste or Beans from 1 Vanilla Bean Pod
To Finish (options):
- Multi Color Sprinkles
- Cocoa Powder
- Chocolate Shavings
- Cocoa Nibs
- A stand mixer is quite helpful to have when making this recipe, although it can be made with a hand held mixer.
Set up a bain marie: The bain marie should be large enough to hold the mixing bowl you'll be mixing the cake in. Fill a sauce pot with water and heat until just steaming, not boiling. Test to make sure your mixing bowl can set in the water without the water splashing out while you gently stir the mixture. You'll need the bain marie for both the cake mixture and the buttercream.
For the Cupcakes:
- Place baking rack in the center of the oven. Preheat oven to 350F (180C) and line cupcake pans with 16 muffin cups.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the cocoa powder, hot espresso and vanilla extract. Whisk until incorporated. Whisk in the sour cream first then add the coconut oil. Whisk to a smooth and incorporated consistency. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, corn starch, sea salt, baking powder, baking soda and light brown sugar. Whisk. Set aside.
In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer add the eggs and sugar. Set on the bain marie. The bottom of the bowl should touch the water. The water should be steaming, not boiling. Whisk the mixture while it warms to room temperature. Test the temperature with your finger. It should not be hot, but just comfortable. Dry the bottom of the bowl, turn off the burner and place the bowl on the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high (speed 6 or 7) for about five minutes. The eggs will become lighter in color and airy, doubling in volume. Whip to ribbon stage. Test this by removing the whisk, dipping it in the eggs and drizzling the eggs into the bowl. If the eggs disappear into the bowl, then keep whipping. If the drizzle floats on top of the eggs forming a 'ribbon', the eggs are ready. This should take about 5-6 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.
- Remove the whisk attachment and attach the paddle. With the machine running on low, pour in the chocolate/oil mixture, slowly. Stop 1/2 way through adding the mixture and scrape down the bowl. After adding all the chocolate/oil mixture, mix in the flour mixture on the lowest setting, in two batches, stopping to scrape the bowl once. Do not over mix here. Mix just until the last bit of flour is incorporated. Remove bowl from stand mixer and fold in, very gently, the chopped chocolate. The batter will be light and airy.
- Use a #20 cookie scoop to make portioning the cupcakes a snap (or fill each cup to 3/4 full). Bake for 20-22 minutes. A toothpick should come out clean when cupcakes are done. Be sure to not open the oven door until 20 minutes as we don't want the cupcakes to deflate!
- Cool in pans on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and allow to fully cool to room temperature before assembling the cupcakes.
For the Simple Syrup:
In a small sauce pot add the sugar and water. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a lidded container and stir in the Kahlua (optional). Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
For the Buttercream:
Warm the water in the bain marie. Top off the water if needed. Heat to steaming, not boiling. Make sure the stand mixer mixing bowl can fit in the bain marie, touching the water. Have a thermometer on the ready.
In the stand mixer mixing bowl, add the egg whites, sugar and salt. Set the bowl into the bain marie, making sure the water is not boiling and the water is touching the bottom of the bowl. Whisk the egg mixture, occassionally, while heating to 160F (71C). This should take about 8-10 minutes. The mixture will become frothy and fluffy.
- Wipe the bottom of the bowl dry and place it on the stand mixer. Using the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on medium-high (speed 6-7) for about 5 minutes. The mixture will become sticky, shiny white and have cooled to room temperature (the bowl will remain hot to the touch, so to test for room temperature, touch the mixture). You've now made Swiss meringue. Now we'll add the butter to make the butter cream.
With the mixer on medium-high (speed 6), add the room temperature butter, one Tbs at a time adding more only once the previous butter has fully incorporated into the mixture. Keep adding butter until all the butter has been added. Turn the mixer up to high, speed 7 and mix until light and fluffy. This should only be about a minute or two more.
The buttercream is ready to use.
- Make sure the cupcakes are completely cool before icing. Using a skewer or toothpick, poke 5-10 holes in the top of the cupcake making sure the holes are very close to the edges of the cupcake. Brush on the simple syrup being careful not to add so much that it overflows onto the paper cups. It will be a sticky mess when trying to eat them.
- There's enough icing to pipe/spread/scoop about 2.5 Tbs of icing on each cupcake. Fit a piping bag with your favorite tip and pipe the cupcakes. Or use a large cookie scoop, 2-3 Tbs, to place a scoop on top of the cupcake. Invert the cupcake into sprinkles and roll the icing into the sprinkles, gently pressing to shape the dome.
Store the cupcakes in a lidded storage container for up to two days. But their at their best on the day baked.
Cupcakes can be made in advance. Simply freeze in a freezer bag when completely cool, making sure to press out as much air as possible in the bag. Freeze for no more than a week.
If storing the buttercream before using, store it in a lidded container at room temperature. To rewhip the buttercream simply use a hand whisk or rewhip it on a stand mixer. If it feels stiff, place the buttercream in a heatproof bowl and dip it in a bain marie to gently warm the buttercream. Do not allow it to melt, rather, just warm the bottom of the bowl, then whisk.