Summer is here. Bake something summery :)

February 18, 2011

Cocoa Cupcakes with American Vanilla Buttercream

My life is all about school right now. My mom's life is all about work and so is my daddy's. I can't wait to get to this stage, too, to be honest. Sometimes life is not that easy and I guess you all know it or at least once I've been through something unpleasant. During those days I love to eat sweets to cover my nerves in sugar and calm down a bit :) When my mom found her new job her new employer prepared a welcome party for her. She wanted to bring some refreshment and small gifts for them as a thanks so she asked me to make a cake or similar dessert which she could bring there. I thought "So many people in one place, even a big cake won't be enough plus a bit messy. Cupcakes would be a perfect choice!" And here it goes, cupcakes to the stage, please!

I bet you all know them. Tiny, pretty, cute, lovely, sweet, delicious little cake topped with anything you can think of. That's what a cupcake is. Cupcake is the name for it in American English, in British English you can find it under fairy cake and Australians may know it as a patty cake or cup cake. The first mention of cupcake comes from 1796 by Amelia Simms' cookbook "American Cookery". This little sweet cake is called cupcake because it was baked in a cup or a mold of similar shape (muffin/cupcake tins didn't exist in that time). A cup cake (in American English) was a standardl-sized cake whose ingredients were measured by using a cup - like 1 cup flour, 1 cup butter etc. As for the British name - fairy cake - (as you can read on wikipedia) it is a fanciful description of its size, which would be appropriate for a party of diminutive fairies to share.

The most usual cupcakes contain flour, butter, eggs and sugar. You can feel free to add any extract (vanilla, almond etc.) or ground nuts, melted chocolate, cocoa and so on - as if making standard-sized cake. The recipe I'm using in this post is quite traditional and simple - the very basic one. The dough is a pleasure to work with and I just love how it tastes before the baking itself (I think I would love it more without the baking, in fact) and the top of the cupcake rises a lot into beautufil little "hill" :D Some like to cut the top off, but I don't - it helps me to shape the frosting and I don't have to use too much of it (so it's not overly sweet).  It's quite common that the dough is a bit drier after being baked and that's why cupcakes usually have some kind if frosting (either buttercream or sugar icing). The part I love the most about them is the decorating. You can be so creative!

Maybe now you're thinking what the difference between muffin and cupcake is. Cupcake is sweet little cake with frosting or icing. Muffin is something different - it's a type of bread baked in small molds so it can be eaten by an individual in one sitting. It's less sweet than cupcake, usually there's no frosting/icing, the dough is moister and at its best the first day after being baked and it should be served warm. Oh, and muffin can contain dried or fresh fruit, pieces of nuts, chocolate chips and so on.

American buttercream is pretty common in - guess where - America. The most simple, basic and traditional one only contains butter and sugar and sometimes milk and/or extract of your choice. I've seen some recipes using lard or margaine instead of butter, but when it comes to cream, there's only butter for me and nothing else. I just can't imagine eating margarine or even lard cream! Acoording to me, butter is the fat numero uno and especially in frosting. The buttercream is based on undissolved sugar that helps the butter to hold the desired shape. It's quite sweet and the ratio is 2:1 - two parts sugar, one part butter. I love the most Greman buttercream (also known as custard-based buttercream) where the sugar is completely dissolved and you have a smooth creamy melt-in-your-mouth buttercream. The American one is not bad at all - my sugar-loving sister loves this one the most - and I wanted to try it out. It great and tasty, but I know better (which I'm gonna share with you later on).

Whoa, that was quite a lot of explanation and description :) I'm gonna get to the recipe soon. At first I have to admitt my mom wasn't very happy with my choice of something like cupcakes, but her co-workers and the employer were satisfied and they even took the leftover cupcakes home to have some for another day which made me incredibly happy. Ok, enough, here are the recipes :)

200g caster sugar
160g butter, softened
4 eggs
240g all-purpose flour
40g Dutch processed cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
big pinch of salt
80ml milk
450g powdered sugar, sifted
225g butter, softened
50ml milk
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cupcakes: Line 18 muffin cups with cupcake paper liners. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy using your blender/hand mixer etc. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until incorporated. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Gently fold the flour mixture and milk into the butter-sugar mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour always just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fill the cupcake liners evenly to the top. Bake in preheated oven to 180C for about 10-13 minutes or until risen. Let cool for 3 minutes in the muffin cups, then transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
Buttercream: Beat butter until light and fluffy, add vanilla extract and beat well again. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Gradually beat in sifted sugar and in the end add milk. Beat for about 3-4 minutes until fluffy again. (Now you can add any food coloring if desired.)
Assembling: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a tip of your choice (the bigger the better) with the buttercream and decorate the cupcakes as desired. Sprinkle with chocolate or decorate with candied flowers etc. (I used marzipan flowers, chocolate rolls and leaves).

  • You can add any kind of food coloring to the buttercream to make it more festive/beautiful/whatever :)
  • If you want to make vanilla cupcakes, add 25g all-purpose flour, 2 tsp pure vanilla extract and omitt the cocoa powder.
  • You can use vanilla seeds from vanilla pod instead of vanilla extract in both, cupcakes and buttercream.
I'd say yum :) I only ate a small piece because most of the cupcakes were taken to my mom's welcome party but I think I really like them. The cupcakes themselves are a bit drier (I'd enjoy them more if moister) but overly it's very good and not even too sweet. The buttercream is very tasty, too, even though it's not the best one I know. When eaten together, it's delicious - the cupcake becomes sweeter and moister. Maybe the vanilla version would be overly sweet, but here the cocoa makes the trick and it's just okay :) Oh, I have to say they do look very good and everybody feels so honored to have his/her own little cake which he/she doesn't have to share with others (oh yes, you can be a bit selfish this time). It's a perfect choice for a party!


  1. Your cupcakes look delicous and lovely. I love the way you decorate them with differnt ingredients. :)


  2. Got your question about freeze dried strawberries. If the freeze dried type is not avaliable, you can make you own and here's how.

    1/2 cup strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced

    Preheat your oven to 250F. Place the strawberry slices in a single layer on parchment paper lined baking sheet and let them dry in the oven for about one hour. Let them cool completely. Should yield about 1/4 cups.

  3. Amy: Thank you for your very fast answer and your nice comment about the cupcakes :) I can't wait to try out your roses :)

  4. Your cupcakes look so delicious and are so beautifully decorated! Love them!

  5. Wow, those cupcakes are soooo gooddd!
    And dressed up sooo prettily , gosh ur an artist for sure:-)

  6. those cupcakes look devine!!! Soo pretty!!

  7. aw, thsese look so lovely! glad to have found your blog!

  8. Thank you all for such nice comments, I really appreciate it :)


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