Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream

I am surprised I never really got “on-board” with the whole cupcake craze that’s been going on in the culinary universe over the last few years. Don’t get me wrong, I like them. I do occasionally visit cupcake shops and buy a sampling of flavors but I’ve never really spent much time baking them.


So today I figured I should get to that already. I’ve had really good cupcakes and really bad. They must be moist, flavorful and have a killer frosting. A bit of filling doesn’t hurt either!


These are dark chocolate cupcakes, filled and topped with a chocolate peanut butter butter-cream. I sprinkled on some Reese’s peanut butter chips and a bit of ground chocolate for good measure at the end. Awesome. A few notes about these though: cake flour will result in a more tender cupcake so use it if you can and do NOT over-bake them! Be anal near the end of baking, checking with your cake tester (or toothpick) and take them out when a few moist crumbs remain. If you let it go all the way to coming out clean, your cupcakes will be on the dry side. Believe me- been there, done that. There is nothing worse than a really dry cupcake. Frosting can save a slightly over-baked cupcake but only to a point. It is almost better to err on the side of under-cooking than the alternative. Think of what you look for when brownies are properly done. Moist crumbs on your cake tester, not a dry tester.

I chose to fill my cupcakes and to do so I employed the assistance of a cupcake plunger. A small device which screws down into your cupcake about 1 inch and removes a little “plug” of cake, which you can choose to stuff back in after filling or enjoy as a chef’s taste test. I did the later. Nom nom nom.


Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 12 standard size cupcakes

(Adapted from “Dark Chocolate Cupcakes” from CooksIllustrated.com)


  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or high quality chips)
  • ½ cup dark Dutch-processed cocoa
  • ¾ cup cake flour (or substitute unbleached, all-purpose flour but the texture won’t be as fine)
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¾ cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt if you prefer)
  • ½ tsp. table salt


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the lower-middle position
  • Line standard-sized muffin pan with baking-cup liners (cups that have ½-cup capacity)
  • Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Melt together ingredients by placing bowl over a saucepan of barely simmering water (double-boiler). Stir frequently until smooth and combined- do NOT allow any water to get into the bowl or the chocolate will seize up. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch
  • Whisk flour, baking soda and baking powder in small bowl to combine
  • Whisk eggs in a second medium bowl to combine. Add in the sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until fully incorporated
  • Add cooled chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk until combined
  • Sift about 1/3 of the flour mixture over the chocolate-egg mixture and whisk until combined
  • Whisk in the sour cream until combined
  • Sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is just homogenous and thick but take care not to over-mix it


  • Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups, they will be about ¾ of the way full


  • Bake until a skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, 13-18 minutes. DO NOT over-bake or cupcakes will be dry


  • Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes
  • Carefully life each cupcake from the pan and set on a wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes
  • You may stuff the cupcakes by using a cupcake plunger to remove a bit of the center and then filling it with additional frosting before adorning the top (I recommend this!). You can alternately stuff the cupcake by inserting a narrow piping tip about 1 inch into the center of the cupcake and gently squeezing your filling into the cupcake


  • To frost: mound about 2 tbsp. icing on center of each cupcake and spread with a butter knife, leaving a small mound in the center. OR pipe with a piping bag and tip in a circular motion starting at the outer edge and working towards the center.
  • Decorate with sprinkles, mini chocolate chips or whatever you like
  • Store in airtight container, in the refrigerator if needed depending on your frosting/fillings



Chocolate Peanut Butter Buttercream

(Adapted from “Chocolate Peanut Butter Frosting Recipe” on tasteofhome.com)


  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of fine kosher or sea salt
  • 2 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar, sifter
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder, sifted
  • 4-5 tbsp. heavy cream (or use milk, to reach desired consistency)


  • Cream together the butter and peanut butter until very smooth and creamy. This is easiest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment
  • Mix in the vanilla and salt
  • Mix in the SIFTED sugar and cocoa powder
  • With the mixer running, gradually add the cream until the frosting is spreading consistency


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