I love myself a good piece of chocolate cake. What is a "good" chocolate cake? For me, it's a cake with a rich chocolate flavor and a moist and airy crumb. In order to achieve the appropriate chocolatey-ness, I like using good quality cocoa powder that has a depth of flavor. My favorite is the Valrhona cocao powder. It's definitely more expensive than the regular cocoa powder at the grocery store, but I think it's worth it. If I'm going to ingest an unspeakable amount of fat and calories, I want it to taste as amazing as possible.
Choosing peanut butter to go along with the chocolate is a no-brainer for me. I've had a serious love affair with peanut butter cups for as long as I can remember. One night, after having a seriously long night with my newborn daughter, I was dying for some instant gratification. Something fatty, sweet, and rich. After tearing the kitchen apart for something - anything, I flung open the freezer. And there is was. In all of it's glory. One half-eaten bag of Reese's peanut butter cups. Why were they in the freezer? To this day, I'm not exactly sure, but it didn't matter. The dozen semi-frozen confections hit the spot. I felt no guilt. No remorse. It only solidified my love for the peanut butter cup.
What I unfortunately do not have a love for is cream cheese, and most peanut butter frostings include cream cheese. This one however is cream cheese free. It's light, airy, and very peanut butter-ey. It's a keeper for sure.
As for "stuffing" the cupcake with those lovely chocolate and peanut butter candies, it was a bit of trial and error. What I found worked best was to fill the cupcake tin about 2/3 full. Then I place the unwrapped peanut butter cup on top of the batter, and cover it with about an additional tablespoon of batter. Since this particular cupcake batter is so thin, by the time the cupcakes cook, the peanut butter cup should have sunk down to the middle of the cupcake.
The piping and decorating are super basic. Everyone in my house is a huge fan of sprinkles, so they can never be left out!
Adapted from Martha Stewart's One-Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes
3/4 cup unsweetend cocoa powder (I prefer Valrhona cocoa)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
3/4 tablespoon white vinegar
3 tablespoons of canola or vegetable oil (any neutral flavored vegetable oil)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
18 peanut butter cups
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a standard size cupcake tin with paper liners.
Mix the milk and vinegar in a small bowl. Let it stand (the milk will separate).
Sift the cocoa, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs, warm water, milk and vinegar mixture, oil, and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
Fill cupcake tins 2/3 full, place an unwrapped peanut butter cup on top of the batter, and cover the peanut butter cup with a tablespoon of the cupcake batter.Since the batter is so thin, the peanut butter cup will sink as the cupcake cooks. By the time the cupcake is cooked, the peanut butter cup should be more toward the center of the cupcake.
Bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans half way through the baking time.
Yields 18 standard size cupcakes
Peanut Butter Frosting
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa
1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
2 cups creamy peanut butter
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
Cream the butter and peanut butter. Add the vanilla and continue to beat, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Sift the powdered sugar into the butter mixture. In a small bowl, disolve the salt into the cream. Add the cream into the butter mixture and beat with a paddle attachment unil smooth and fluffy.