For his birthday, Matthew had the honor of bringing in a treat to share with his entire Kindergarten class. Unlike the selection of his birthday cake, Matthew had no hesitation whatsoever in deciding on chocolate cupcakes for his class treat. Actually, his first choice was strawberry, but I convinced him that the strawberries just did not taste all that great right now and he switched to chocolate.
Matthew has been really into Star Wars as of late. His obsession has spurred him to spend hours teaching his sister all the correct Star Wars jargon. Emma has proven to be a worthy young padawan, patiently and quietly listening to Matthew page through his Star Wars books while pointing out each and every character, weapon, and starship, explaining their role and then requesting Emma to repeat the information back to him. I have to admit, it's pretty funny to hear Emma talk about "R2-D2" or "Chewy the Woooookie" or "the little green troll named Yo-DA!" So, I was really excited to find these cute Star Wars muffin liners and some Yoda and Darth Vader sugar decorations for the tops. They certainly made my decorating job much easier! I hid the decorations from Matthew so that he would not be able to see them until I dropped them off at school for him. He loved the decorations and was so excited to see the Star Wars theme! I asked him if he chose a "Yoda cupcake" or a "Vader cupcake" to eat and he replied: "A Darth Vader one, of course!!"
If you are looking for a great chocolate cake, this recipe is fabulous. It originally comes from Ina Garten and it can easily be made by my six-year-old. Only the bowl of the stand mixer and a few measuring spoons and cups are dirtied and the cake batter is ready in less than 10 minutes. The result is a fluffy, moist, and rich chocolate cake - and I think this is due to two essential ingredients: real buttermilk and strong coffee. This was probably my fourth time making this recipe and it has come out absolutely perfect every single time. The whipped chocolate buttercream that I paired with this cake was a new recipe that I had bookmarked for some time. For the cupcakes, I wanted something a little lighter than a typical chocolate frosting and this did the trick. It has a light and airy texture, pipes beautifully, and is not-too-cloyingly sweet. It was perfect for the cupcakes, but really would make a great frosting for any layer cake or even brownies! The only thing that would make it better would be the addition of a bit of instant espresso powder to enhance the deep, rich notes of the chocolate flavor. However, I didn't think the Kindergarten teacher would appreciate sneaking even the most remote amount of caffeine to an already rambunctious class. The sugar high from the cake was probably enough fun for her to deal with.
And what did the birthday boy think? Matthew hopped into the car at school pickup and declared: "Those Star Wars cupcakes were the best cupcakes you ever made, Mom!"
He knows how to make my day!
Chocolate Cupcakes with Whipped Chocolate Buttercream
from Ina Garten and I am Baker
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed strong, hot coffee
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with liners, if making cupcakes. If making a layer cake, butter and line the bottoms of two 8x2-inch round cake pans with parchment.
Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans
Bake for 18-20 minutes, for cupcakes, or 35-40 minutes for cake pans. The cake layers and cupcakes are done when it springs back when lightly pressed in the center. Let cupcakes cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before removing them from the pan to cool completely. Cake must be completely cool before frosting.
Whipped Chocolate Buttercream
1 1/2 cups butter, at room temperature
4 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch table salt
In a the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with whisk attachment whisk butter and sugar on medium-high speed until very pale and fluffy or about five minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed.
With the mixer off, add in cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. On low, blend for about 30 seconds. Add the heavy cream, one tablespoon at a time. Once all cream has been added and mixture is mostly combined, turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Now turn the mixer onto medium-high to high and whisk for 3-5 minutes or until mixture is lighter and fluffier.