Chocolate Cupcakes {Six Year Anniversary!}

Chocolate Cupcakes

E2 Bakes turned six years old yesterday. While some things have stayed consistent over the last 634 posts—namely that I keep on posting—one of bigger changes in the last year is that I have finally started to appreciate the art of the cupcake.

Oh, I had cupcake recipes before this year—of course I did—but not many. Making cupcakes takes more time than making layer cakes (the dividing of batter alone…) and, contrary to popular belief, they’re not as simple as divvying up a layer cake recipe into a lot of little bits. Really great cupcakes are a bit more nuanced than that. But nuance doesn’t equal difficulty, and my best ever Chocolate Cupcakes are proof positive of that.

One surefire way to have great cupcakes every time? Don’t overfill the pans. Just don’t. Bigger is not better here—if you want bigger cake, make a layer cake. Lest I need to say it again: cupcakes are their own thing. Once your batter is prepared, fill each well 1/2-2/3 full and absolutely no more. You’ll think “this isn’t enough batter,” but it absolutely is. You can thank me when you pull 20+ soft, tender, perfectly domed little cakes from the oven. None with flat, spread-out tops for me, thanks!

The batter is a simple whisking situation, but there is a secret to getting the most chocolate flavor out of your ingredients: blooming the cocoa powder! Blooming is simply combining cocoa with a warm liquid ingredient to bring out its natural depth. I have bloomed cocoa many times on this blog, including my first post ever, wherein I melted butter, cocoa and sugar together for perfect chewy Cocoa Brownies. I’ve also done it by adding hot coffee to layer cakes and warming the butter and cocoa in my chocolate cookies. Here, the cocoa is stirred into warmed (not hot!) oil before being combined with dry ingredients and buttermilk.

Chocolate Cupcakes

While the recipe will still produce cupcakes if you skip the blooming, they will be oddly unremarkable. Not bad—nothing with a giant plume of chocolate buttercream on top could ever be bad. They just won’t be great. And I don’t know about you, but after six years of baking on here, I think we all deserve great cupcakes.

Chocolate Cupcakes
Chocolate Cupcakes 
makes 20-22 cupcakes

1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon espresso granules (optional)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

For decorating:
Chocolate Buttercream (recipe below)
chocolate sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 20-22 cups in muffin/cupcake pans with liners. Set aside.

Bloom the cocoa. Pour oil into a small microwave safe bowl. Microwave 20-25 seconds or until warm (but not hot). This step may also be done in a pot on the stove.

Add cocoa to oil and whisk with a fork to combine. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, espresso granules, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and brown sugar. In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together vanilla and buttermilk.

Whisk half the bloomed cocoa into the dry ingredients, followed by half the buttermilk. Add the remaining bloomed cocoa followed by the remaining buttermilk.

Divide batter among the liners, ensuring that they are only 1/2-2/3 full. Tap full pans on the counter 5 times to release large air bubbles, then bake cupcakes 18-19 minutes, or until slightly domed. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.

Let cupcakes cool in their pans for 5 minutes before removing to racks to cool completely.

Spread or pipe chocolate buttercream on cooled cupcakes. Finish with sprinkles. Serve.

Leftover cupcakes will keep covered at room temperature for a few days or in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Chocolate Buttercream
makes enough for 1 batch of cupcakes

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 tablespoons heavy cream

In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to beat butter until light and fluffy (about two minutes). Beat in confectioner's sugar, followed by cocoa powder and salt, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add in vanilla and heavy cream. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes, until very fluffy.

Load into a piping bag fitted with a tip (I used a star tip here), or spread with an offset icing knife.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Pancakes

Two pumpkin recipes in a row?! ‘Tis the season.

And even if it weren’t, the prospect of these fluffy, golden Pumpkin Pancakes might just get me to crack open a can of the orange stuff any ol’ time. Even in the middle of summer. But seeing as it’s October right now, I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Right here, right now though, on this autumnal Wednesday? Nobody can argue with me about seasonality. They can call me basic if they want, but if being basic means I get to have a stack of Pumpkin Pancakes for breakfast and then stock my freezer for an inevitable mid-November Pumpkin Pancake “emergency?” Well, call me basic.

Call me whatever you want, in fact. Just don’t forget to call me when you’re making these for breakfast.

Pumpkin Pancakes
makes 18 pancakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup pure pumpkin purée
1 1/3 cup milk or buttermilk, room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
canola or vegetable oil, for cooking

For serving:
pats of butter
chopped nuts
maple syrup

Preheat oven to 200F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In a medium mixing bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together pumpkin purée, milk (or buttermilk), melted butter, eggs and vanilla. Add wet ingredients to dry and whisk until no streaks of flour remain—there will still be some lumps. Let batter rest 5-10 minutes.

Heat your pan or griddle over medium heat for a few minutes, until heated through. Brush with oil (or grease lightly), then wipe excess out with a folded paper towel or kitchen towel.

Stir rested batter one or two strokes. Pour 1/4 cup increments of batter on greased pan. Let cook 2-3 minutes, until bubbles are forming and they are turning golden. Flip with a spatula and cook for 2 minutes, or until the bottom is turning golden. Remove to prepared baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until serving.

Continue making pancakes with remaining batter, greasing the pan only as necessary.

Serve immediately with butter, chopped nuts and/or maple syrup, if desired.

Leftover pancakes may be stacked in threes, triple-wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for a couple of months. Discard plastic and microwave 2.5 to 3 minutes before serving.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

I will never not be thrilled with sugar cookies. Plain, sprinkled, iced, rolled, maple-scented, cut out or dropped, they’re perfect in all their forms.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Today’s fall-friendly sugar cookies are spiked with pumpkin and spice for maximum seasonal coziness! They take just minutes to mix and bake, and are finished off with a simple vanilla drizzle that is so much more than the sum of its parts.

So what does one do with two dozen Pumpkin Sugar Cookies?! Eat them, duh. Or share them or submit them to a bake sale (are bake sales still a thing?). I personally like to hoard them all to myself for days on end. Like last week’s Salty Maple Brown Butter Blondies, these sweets just get better and better as time goes on. It’s true! Their high ratio of wet to dry ingredients and the inclusion of moist pumpkin purée mean these stay super soft. It’s the ideal baking situation if your fall has been as wildly busy as mine.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

Like I said, i will never not be thrilled with sugar cookies.

Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
Pumpkin Sugar Cookies
makes about 2 dozen cookies

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup pure pumpkin purée
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Vanilla Glaze:
2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt
3 teaspoons milk of choice

Arrange your oven racks in central positions. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two rimmed sheet pans with parchment. Set aside.

Place butter in a medium pot (4 quart) over medium-low heat. Stir frequently until melted, then remove from heat. Stir in sugar, followed by pumpkin purée, egg yolk and vanilla. Whisk in flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt. Let dough sit for 10 minutes.

Scoop dough in 1 1/2 tablespoon increments (I use a medium cookie scoop). Roll into balls and place at least 2.5 inches apart on prepared pans. Bake cookies 10-11 minutes, or until puffed and no longer raw looking. Cookies will relax as they begin to cool.

Set a cooling rack over a pieces of wax paper or parchment.

Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on the pans before removing to a rack to cool completely.

Make the glaze. In a small bowl use a fork to whisk together confectioner’s sugar, salt and milk. If glaze is too thick, add more milk by the 1/2 teaspoon, until desired consistency is reached. If glaze is too thin, add more confectioner’s sugar by the tablespoon until desired consistency is reached.

Load glaze into a small piping bag and snip off the tiniest corner. The glaze will be dry to the touch within 20 minutes and harden after a few hours.

For best pumpkin flavor, let glazed cookies rest for at least 30 minutes (or up to a day) before serving.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Friday Favorites: Apples

Friday Favorites: Apples​

It’s apple season and I am here for it! They were littered everywhere when we were leaving Maine a couple of weeks ago, and it took everything in me not to scoop them up and bring them home to bake! While I wouldn’t trust apples growing in NYC parks (much less on the ground), I definitely trust the ones at the markets! Whether they’re tucked into a pie, folded into a buttery cake batter, or rolled up in yeast dough, baking with apples is one surefire way to get in the seasonal spirit! Here are a few of my favorite apple recipes from the archives.

Friday Favorites: Apples​

Cranberry Apple Pie

This recipe is from the first few weeks of this blog’s existence, but I remade it last year (she needed some Glamourshots), and I’m here to tell you: it’s SO delicious. Sweet and tart and perfectly spiced, this is one to make when cranberries start showing up in a few weeks!

Friday Favorites: Apples​

Apple & Pear Galette

I love pie, but the ease of galettes wins me over every time! Here apples and ripe pears are nestled into a rustic free form pie crust. It’s a perfect autumnal dessert if I’ve ever had one!

Friday Favorites: Apples​

Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls

Want the flavors of apple pie for breakfast? Make yourself some Apple Pie Cinnamon Rolls! These were my second post ever, and having remade them for a photoshoot recently, I can confirm that they still make all my apple pie breakfast dreams come true.

Friday Favorites: Apples​

Apple Turnovers

I love turnovers! They’re like pop tarts for grown ups. This apple version is made with my go-to rough puff pastry and folded on the bias for the flakiest little triangles of apple goodness you’ve ever had.

Friday Favorites: Apples​

French Apple Cake

This is easily the most popular recipe on this blog, and for good reason. Its pure, buttery cake base and chunks of soft apple have no pie spices to detract from their balance of flavors. I clearly love apple pie things, but this simple favorite is something really special.

What’s your favorite way to bake with apples? Let me know in the comments or on social media!

Salty Maple Brown Butter Blondies

Salty Maple Brown Butter ​Blondies

This time of year, everyone seems to lose their minds for pumpkin and apples. I admit I am guilty of this too, but I think maple is truly my favorite fall flavor.

Yes, I know maple syrup is made in the spring, but it tastes like fall. It just does. It’s the color of the best crunchy leaves and it tastes like nostalgia and Saturday mornings in early November. Please excuse my waxing poetic, but you know I’m right.

Salty Maple Brown Butter ​Blondies

I’ve made tons of maple recipes over the years, including a layer cake, caramel corn, and some incredible sandwich cookies, but I never run out of new ideas for how to use it. Not gonna lie though, I think I’ve outdone myself with these Salty Maple Brown Butter Blondies.

You read that right. Salty. Maple. Brown Butter. Blondies. That’s like everything good in the world in one baked good.

The blondies themselves are a classic recipe with a little less brown sugar and a whole lot of maple syrup. They bake up without fuss and would be great by their lonesome, but then you’d be foregoing the magic of the Salty Maple Brown Butter icing. It gets poured on the blondies warm and settles into a thick layer reminiscent of maple candy. But, you know, with brown butter and flaky finishing salt.

Salty Maple Brown Butter ​Blondies

Salty Maple Brown Butter Blondies are sweet, salty, and very buttery, and have the textures of both a perfect chewy cookie and soft maple candy. Their maple flavor shines so brightly and just gets better and deeper as they age. Yes, I am telling you to take your time eating these, but I’ll be the first to admit that’s easier said than done.

Salty Maple Brown Butter ​Blondies
Salty Maple Brown Butter Blondies
makes one 8- or 9-inch square pan, about 16 blondies

Blondies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (I use Grade A Dark Color, Robust Taste)
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
tiny pinch of ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

Salty Maple Brown Butter Icing:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
pinch of Kosher or sea salt

For Finishing:
coarse or flaky salt (I used Maldon)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square pan and line with parchment, leaving overhang for bar-removal. Set aside while you make the blondie batter.

Brown the butter. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat and immediately pour the brown butter into a medium-large mixing bowl.

Whisk granulated sugar, light brown sugar, and maple syrup into the brown butter. Mix in egg and vanilla, followed by flour, nutmeg and salt.

Spread the blondie batter in prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean (no raw batter). Let blondies cool 15 minutes in the pan on a rack.

Meanwhile make the icing. Place butter in a light-colored saucepan over medium heat. Let butter melt. Butter will bubble and crackle as the water content evaporates. Swirl the pan frequently for 5-7 minutes, keeping an eye on the color. When the solids are turning brown and the butter is nutty and fragrant, remove the pot from the heat. Immediately whisk in maple syrup, followed by confectioner’s sugar and salt. Whisk until smooth.

Pour icing over the the blondies (still in the pan). Tilt the pan back and forth and coax with the back of a spoon so that the icing covers the blondies. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of flaky or coarse finishing salt. Let blondies continue to cool until room temperature.

Run a small, thin knife around the edge of the pan, then use parchment to lift them onto a cutting board. Slice with a large, sharp chef’s knife, wiping the blade clean between cuts. Serve.

Blondies will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.