Quintessential Chocolate Cupcakes

IMG_0574

Quintessential Cupcakes by twocarolines.com


I’m introducing you to the most perfect party companion ever.  These cupcakes are always so moist, rich and chocolatey with a bit of sour for balance and the most perfect springy texture, they are consistently amazing and so easy it’s embarrassing.  Of course this recipe works great as a layer cake, in a bundt, or just poured into a 9X13, just be sure to check doneness instead of bake times.  I made this batch for a sweet baby boy’s 1st birthday and thought it would be more fun to have two kinds of frosting for the kids to choose from, I will post both but I only made half of each for 24 cupcakes.  If you don’t feel like making frosting I’m sure you’ll enjoy them with a little ganache glaze or even just sprinkled with powdered sugar.

 

Chocolate Cake:

1 box pillsbury devils food cake mix
1 3.4 oz box jello instant chocolate pudding (not the fat/sugar free)
1/2 cup melted butter or coconut oil
1 cup sour cream
4 eggs lightly beaten (room temp works best)
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup chocolate chips

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting: 

1/2 cup butter at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese (1/2 a box) room temperature
5 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting: 

1/3 cup butter
2-3 ounces cream cheese
2/3 cup cocoa powder
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (might need a bit more if frosting is too thick)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

  1. For the cake.  Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 cupcake pans then spray the very bottom so your cakes come out clean.
  2. Lightly mix together the cake mix and pudding mix then in a separate bowl mix your eggs water, oil (or butter) and vanilla well until all the eggs are incorporated.  Add the wet mixture into the cake mix making sure to mix it thoroughly for a few minutes, and then add the sour cream blending until no white streaks remain.  Last add the chocolate chips and just fold them in with a spatula so they are evenly distributed.  The batter is quite thick, but it bakes up really nice so don’t get scared.
  3. Fill muffin tins about 2/3-3/4 tall depending on how tall your want your cupcakes.  You might have a bit extra.
  4. Bake at 350 for about 19-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (bake times vary for 9″ pans, bundts etc. so check doneness with a toothpick before taking out).
  5. For the vanilla buttercream – mix butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until well combined and a little fluffed up.  Add sugar and milk alternating, then vanilla.  I usually end up adding a little more sugar or milk until I reach desired texture.
  6. For the chocolate buttercream – melt butter and mix with cream cheese until well combined.  Add about half the milk to this mixture then start to add your cocoa and sugar in alternating batches ending with sugar.  Add vanilla and salt anytime.  Put in the rest of the milk and make sure you scrape down the sides of the pan often and just like the vanilla buttercream have extra milk and sugar on hand to get to your desired texture.
  7. I think it’s easiest and pretty to pipe on your frosting for cupcakes.  I use these handy Wilton disposable piping bags and I just cut them and put in my large frosting tip then put the bag into a tall vase with the edges pulled over the top to fill it up and pipe it on to my cupcakes.  So easy, and looks pretty good for someone who’s not the worlds best decorator.

-CK 2.0

IMG_0575

Cake recipe adapted from “A Gathering of Friends” cookbook.  Vanilla Buttercream from Martha Stewart Cakes cookbook.  Chocolate Buttercream I made up.

Dark chocolate sheet cake with chocolate frosting

img_4633

Dark chocolate sheet cake with chocolate frosting

If the only thing you want for Christmas is for someone to remember your December birthday, this cake’s for you! Or maybe you know someone who has a birthday competing with Christmas so you need a cake that can stand out.  My daughter and I make a different chocolate cake every few weeks, I don’t post all of them, only the ones we decide are really extra delicious and this one was all that plus it was so easy!  I find it so fascinating how many ways there are to make a chocolate cake – this is an old school texas sheet cake recipe we modernized and I think the water, oil, AND butter make a combo that is not dense and dry as ‘from scratch’ cakes can often be.  The process of making it was really unique and fun.  I often make layer cakes, because they are pretty and I love the frosting to cake ratio on a layer cake, but a 9×13 is a birthday staple, and this is only a few more steps than your box cake and tastes so moist and springy.  Plus it’s poppin off chocolate flavor like no other – and if you add rainbow sprinkles it will make all your chocolate cake dreams come true!

Cake:
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (sprinkled with a little flour)

Frosting:
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup hot cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
rainbow sprinkles (optional)

  1. Grease a 9×13 baking pan and preheat oven to 375.
  2. Whisk sugar, flour, baking soda and salt in a large bowl until well blended.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine water, vegetable oil, butter, and cocoa stirring constantly.  Bring to a boil then pour the hot mixture over the dry ingredients and stir together just until smooth.  Let it cool slightly then mix in the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.
  4. Scrape batter out of pan and spread evenly into 9×13 baking pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20-25 minutes.
  5. For the frosting: Melt chocolate and butter either in a pyrex at low heat or in a double boiler.  Remove from heat and pour in your hot cream, stir until combined then add the vanilla and sugar beating until spreadable.  Pile it all on your cooled cake and spread out as you wish.  Sprinkle with rainbow sprinkles too!

Recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking chocolate texas sheet cake and fast chocolate butter icing.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting

img_3920

chocolate zucchini cake by twocarolines.com

I’m well known for my love of cakes, so people often ask me my favorite, well HERE IT IS! Caroline’s world famous Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting.  I just deeply love and adore this cake.  It’s the dessert I crave the most often, there’s something about it, that really sends me.  Usually when I make it, I bring it directly to an event of some sort and never get a decent picture, but it’s fun to be sharing a favorite almost a year after we launched.  I’m not ashamed to admit that this is a ‘doctor the mix’ cake, with a mix foundation that tastes better than many from scratch cakes, there are no ego’s allowed in my kitchen! The cake itself is soooooo rich and chocolatey, the zucchini makes it ridiculous moist.  And the frosting is a legit, dreamy dark chocolate buttercream just poppin off chocolate flavor like nobody’s business.  I like to put nuts on half my cake so nut haters can still enjoy but man alive does a pecan or walnut just belong on this beauty! I also adore this cake with a white sticky frosting, but if you make it that way you need to eat it day of, because the white sticky tends to break down after a day or so.  I’m so excited to share this and I hope you love it as much as I do!

Chocolate Zucchini cake:
1 package devils food cake mix (I use the pillsbury one and it always tastes great)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
2 cups zucchini
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Chocolate buttercream frosting:
1/2 cup butter melted
3/4 cups cocoa
1/3 cup milk (or cream)
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
1/2 cup or so walnuts or pecans (optional)

  1. Heat oven to 350.  Grease and line 2 9 inch round cake pans (or it bakes up beautifully in a 9×13 – just pay attention to doneness rather than bake times).
  2. In a large bowl blend cake mix, cinnamon, buttermilk, vanilla, oil, and eggs and beat for a few minutes.  Add zucchini and mix until thoroughly combined and then add chocolate chips.
  3. Distribute evenly into your cake pans and bake for about 22-25 minutes depending on your oven.  It’s done when a toothpick in the center comes out clean.  Let cool before frosting.
  4. For the frosting, mix the butter and cocoa then add the milk, vanilla, salt and powdered sugar mixing on high until totally uniform and combined.  I use a cocoa mix with 1/3 special dark cocoa and the rest regular cocoa for an ultra decadent flavor.  Add more powdered sugar, or milk alternatively to get the desired texture.
  5. Cut off the top rounds on your cakes with a large bread knife then put the first one cut side down on a plate or cake stand.  Spread 1/3 of your frosting on that layer, then put your next cake on cut side down and spread the rest of your frosting, starting at the top and being careful to never touch your frosting spatula or knife to the cake itself but only on the frosting so you don’t pull crumbs.  Spread over the sides and around the edges.  Garnish with pecans or walnuts if you would like.
img_2226

chocolate zucchini cake by twocarolines.com

 

Dense Chocolate Pound Cake

This perfect little pound cake has become my go-to when I’m in need of a SERIOUS chocolate dessert that feels decadent and fancy, but isn’t going to take me all day.  I love to serve it to friends, it has an unassuming air then you take a bite and realize you’re rapidly slipping into a blissful chocolate coma.  I made it this week for a friend and fellow chocolate lover who recently had back surgery and needed some dessert therapy.  She also happens to be one of our first followers and is such a twocarolines.com supporter that I will rescue her with chocolate sweets anytime she wants.  She called to report that she LOVED this cake and described it as absolutely “scrumdillyotious” and insisted I post the recipe ASAP because she needs more.  This ones for you Linda!

1 cup room temperature butter
1 2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, beaten
4 ounces best bittersweet chocolate, melted (I use the Trader Joe’s Pound Plus 78% dark chocolate that’s imported from Belgium)
1 1/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup boiling water
3/4 cup chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

  1.  Preheat oven to 375, grease and line a loaf pan.  The lining is important as this is a very damp cake, so I cut parchment to line the sides and the middle, then sprayed my parchment just a bit too.  To melt your chocolate, chop it up, and either melt in a heatproof bowl over a pot of boling water, or do the easy way, heat in a pyrex in your microwave on defrost, or in 20 second increments, because if you let it get to hot, it will burn your chocolate.  Just melt until  you can whisk it smooth.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla, beating in well.  Next, fold in the melted (and now slightly cooled) chocolate, blend well, but don’t over-beat.  You want the ingredients combined, but you don’t want a light airy mass.
  3. Mix your baking soda and flour, then gently add the flour mixture, alternately bit by bit with the boiling water until you have a smooth fairly liquid batter.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of flour over your chocolate chips and add those in last, then pour into your lined loaf pan.
  4. Bake 30 minutes, turn down the oven to 325 and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.  The cake does not need to be completely set, but it should be mostly set.  If it’s too squiggly in the middle, it won’t totally set.  I like to tent the top with foil for the last 15 minutes just to insure I don’t burn my chocolate on top, but I get a cake that is baked all the way through the middle.  A cake tester will come out with moist crumbs when done, not liquid batter.
  5. Place loaf pan on a rack and leave to get completely cold before turning out.  Don’t worry if it sinks in the middle, that is to be expected.  Turn out carefully, I trace the edges with a knife first.  Serve with powdered sugar, ice cream, caramel, whipped cream or Nigella even loves it with cream cheese (no clue how she does that – maybe brits keep their cream cheese at room temp?) However you serve it, the cake is so delicious and I think it’s brilliant just on it’s own.  Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from “How to be a Domestic Goddess” by Nigella Lawson Dense Chocolate Loaf Cake

 

Gooey Chocolate Lava Cake

IMG_2441

Gooey Chocolate Lava Cake by twocarolines.com

I needed a cake to top off our Memorial Day feast, something with plenty of chocolate, because it had been too many days since I’d made a chocolate dessert, something elegant, because for a Holiday meal I like to go all out, and something easy, because I was also making roasted cauliflower, fried potatoes, cornbread, fruit salad, slow cooked baked beans and a beef brisket smoked from 8 a.m. to 5:30!  This cake not only checked all the boxes, but it turned out so insanely delicious that I’m going to have to add it to my frequent chocolate rotation.  It has a brownie quality to it, with the almost batter like texture on top, but it still feels like cake because of the more substantial cake layer around the bottom.  Don’t get me wrong, these layers are not distinct, they melt into each other in a chocolate flavor and texture experience that will seriously send you spinning.  IT’S SO GOOD!  And just wait until you see how easy it is to make!

2 sticks butter melted (half for bottom layer and half for top)
1 package chocolate cake mix (I used the pillsbury devils food cake mix)
3 eggs (1 for the bottom layer and two for the top)
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup cocoa powder
16 ounces confectioners sugar (3 and a heavy half)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup chocolate chips

  1.  Heat oven to 350 and prepare a 9×3 inch round cake pan.  Just spray with cooking spray and if you want to be extra careful put a parchment round in the bottom.  My normal cake pans were not 3 inches high so I used my springform pan and wrapped it once with foil so no butter would leak out.  It worked great!  You can also use a 9X13 but in that case bake time would be really decreased and I think it would be difficult to get the bottom layer spread out all the way – an 8×8 might have high enough walls, whatever you use, pay more attention to doneness than bake time.
  2. Combine the cake mix, 1 egg and 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter until blended.  It’s very thick.  Press this layer into the bottom of the pan as evenly as you can.
  3. In a stand mixer on medium speed beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the remaining two eggs powdered sugar, and the cocoa powder.  Lower the speed of your mixer and add the remaining 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter and vanilla then beat until smooth.
  4. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on the bottom layer (This is optional, but I thought they created a nice kind of glue for the two layers and I used bittersweet just to be extra fancy) then pour the cream cheese batter over the top.
  5. Bake 40-50 minutes – in my foil wrapped spring form pan it took about 55.  It’s done when the sides are set, but the center still jiggles – like jello, not like liquid.  If you’re using a different pan than I did check at 30 minutes and every 5 after that.  Serve slightly warm or room temperature.  Its fantastic on it’s own but great with vanilla ice cream or dusted with powdered sugar.

Recipe adapted from “I am baker.net” Ooey Gooey Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Bundt Cake with Bittersweet Chocolate Glaze

image

Chocolate bundt cake with bittersweet ganache glaze by twocarolines.com

One thing I love about baking is that it’s something I do with my children and in particular my 6 year old Afton who is quickly becoming a master of the baked arts.  IMG_0803Sometimes I pull out a few books and let her pick what she wants to make which was how this chocolate bundt cake with bittersweet chocolate glaze came about.  It’s such a pretty cake, and on a Sunday afternoon there’s nothing I like better than spending time with my people and churning out delicious sweets.  This one is from my Martha Stewart Cakes book that has been a lot of fun to bake from.  I followed her recipe pretty closely, just increased quantities a little on the ganache glaze and in the future, I might add mini chocolate chips (1.5 cups) to the cake batter, because: obvious.  It was a really flavorful chocolatey cake though, and all the ingredients are on hand which makes it an easy cake when you need to come up with something quickly.  My cutest critic Afton was very pleased with the result and I’m sure you will be too!

For the Cake:
1 cup butter

1 1/2 cup sugar 

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Glaze: 
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped (if you don’t have fancy chocolate, chocolate chips will work fine)
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons butter

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 and prepare a bundt pan by spraying with baking spray or butter then tap in flour to coat.
  2. Mix your milk and sour cream until combined.  In a stand mixer or large bowl with a hand mixer whip up the butter and sugar until light and fluffy about 3-5 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each.  Add vanilla to your butter/sugar/egg mixture.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt and mix together.  with your mixer on low alternate adding your dry ingredients and the sour cream/milk mixture in batches beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined (if using add chocolate chips last).  Batter will be thick.  Turn it into your bundt pan and even out the top.
  4. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out completely clean.  Let cool in the pan 5 minutes then put on a cooling rack while you make your glaze.
  5. To make the glaze, heat the cream in a medium saucepan until it just barely starts to boil then take it off the heat and put in your chopped chocolate.  Wait 2-3 minutes then add your butter and whisk until smooth.  If for any reason you still have chocolate chunks heat in the microwave or stove on low until you can whisk it completely smooth.  Let it sit a good 10 minutes or so in order to get a little thicker glaze then pour over the top of your cake and serve.

Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Cakes cookbook 

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

IMG_0540

Sourdough Chocolate Cake by twocarolines.com

I was just informed of today being National Chocolate Cake Day, I mean, is that really a thing?  And if it is, why aren’t we all eating chocolate cake right this minute!?  Fortunately, I always have a chocolate cake on deck somewhere and today’s chocolate cake is not only super easy, it’s dairy free (except the frosting which you can omit or make without the dairy) plus it’s a cake you can make straight up, or with a cup of sourdough start which is what I did yielding truly amazing results.  My husband loved it because of the hint of sour and the ganache frosting made it less sweet than a buttercream topped cake, and for a from scratch cake the texture was so perfectly bouncy, moist and rich.  I will give you instructions to make it without the starter because I know that only pretty hard-core bakers maintain a sourdough start, but if you do take my notes on making it with your recently fed sourdough, it’s just so fun when you can use it for something other than bread or waffles.

Cake:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa (dutch process if you have it)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon vinegar (cider or white)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup cold water (you can use milk as well but water worked great for me)

If using sourdough start do 1 cup of starter and reduce water to 4 ounces and reduce flour to 1 cup and don’t add starter until the end, just combine well before pouring into your pan.

Frosting:

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips or chocolate chopped up

1/2 cup heavy cream (half and half works too)

  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly grease an 8″ square or 9″ round cake pan that’s at least 2″ deep.
  2. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.  Whisk the vanilla, vinegar, vegetable oil, and water in a separate bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients, stirring until thoroughly combined.  (Add the sourdough now if using) Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake 30-35 until a toothpick in the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs.
  4. Once most the way cooled make the frosting.  Heat the chocolate and cream until the chips melt and stir until smooth.  I do this in a pyrex heating only 30-45 seconds at at time so I don’t burn the chocolate.  Once smooth pour/spread over the cake.  Let cool a good 10-15 minutes and serve.  Keeps well at room temperature for 3-4 days.

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour’s Original Cake Pan Cake