In celebration of the release of Transmundane Press’s fractured fairy tale anthology, After the Happily Ever After, here is a recipe for delicious dark chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese icing.
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
¼ cup dark chocolate cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 ¼ cups boiling water
¾ cup cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 ½ cups packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 lb (16 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
4-5 cups confectioners’ sugar
1-1 ½ tsp vanilla
Preferred food dye (for these cupcakes, I used a combination of gel and natural food dye – be warned, you will need a significant amount)
Sparkly decorative sugar
- Heat the oven to 350⁰ and prepare cupcake tins with foil liners (the kind that keep their shape, not the flimsy ones).
- Combine chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl. Pour boiling water over and whisk until smooth.
- Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.
- Beat the butter until creamy (about 1 minute). Add the brown sugar and beat on high until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, beating for about thirty seconds after each addition.
- On medium speed, add sour cream and vanilla. Beat until just combined (about 10 seconds).
- If using a standing mixer, reduce speed to low (if using a beater, switch to mixing by hand). Add about a third of the flour mixture then about half the chocolate mixture and mix. Add another third of the flour, the remaining chocolate, then the last of the flour mixture. Beat about 15 seconds, until just combined, then stir by hand to make sure batter is mixed.
- Spoon three tablespoons of batter into each cupcake liner. Bake 15-18 minutes until toothpick inserted comes out clean and tops spring back when pushed in. (I do a “test run” with one cupcake to make sure I have the size I want and the correct baking time before I bake the rest.)
- Let cool in tins for 5-10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting. (By the time you finish preparing the icing, the cupcakes should be fine. When in a hurry, I stick mine in the fridge.)
(Recipe adapted from Baking Illustrated’s Devil’s Food Cake recipe. The recipe called for Dutch-processed cocoa for the devil’s food cake, but I used the dark chocolate to get that flavor with the consistency of the rest of the cake.)
- Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
- Add sugar a little at a time, to taste and consistency. (Because cream cheese is a little sour and soft, I added more sugar to get a sweeter taste and a stiffer consistency, especially because all the mixing with the food dye makes the icing even softer and natural food dyes have a slight undistinguished vegetable taste.)
- Add vanilla to taste.
- Separate icing into thirds.
- If using gel or liquid food dye, add to icing, ⅛ tsp at a time, until you get your desired color (I used Wilton Azure Blue for the blue color). If using powder, mix in a separate container, two parts powder to one part water (¼ tsp dye and ⅛ tsp water) before adding to icing.
Repeat until you achieve your desired color (for the purple color, I used TruColor Natural Food Color Paint in Blue Shine and for the pink, I used TruColor Natural Food Color Powder in Purple Gel Paste).
- Refrigerate until icing stiffens slightly. (Longer refrigeration also deepens the color.)
- Prepare a large piping bag with a large star tip (like Wilton 1D). Mix icing to make more pliable and add colors side-by-side in equal parts to piping bag. Test color and consistency on a piece of wax paper (or extra cupcake you want to eat).
- When soft enough to pipe, swirl icing on cooled cupcakes to desired height.
- Decorate with sparkly sugar (for the effect only – cupcakes taste better without decorative sugar).
- Take pictures to your satisfaction and enjoy!
Amanda Iles lives in New York, where she writes about other worlds. She also copyedits, bakes cupcakes, and drinks lots of coffee. Her story, “That Time He had to Make Decisions,” is a fun rendition of a savvy and adventurous Sleeping Beauty and her sweetly obsessive prince, determined to have their happily ever after. Read it in the After the Happily Ever After anthology.