Mixed by hand, these Simple Chocolate Cupcakes are just as easy to prepare as box-mix cupcakes. They’re rich, tender, and delicious, especially topped with Vanilla Frosting, which, like the cupcakes, is easy to make without an electric mixer.
My daughter Eliza and I were recently talking about the kinds of treats her classmates bring to school for their birthdays. Clearly looking for an opening, she said, “If kids only knew how easy it was to make cupcakes, I bet they’d bake their own birthday treats.”
I wasn’t surprised to learn that most kids bring grocery store cupcakes to school. If you don’t bake regularly, the idea of making a classroom’s worth of cupcakes seems like a lot of extra work. What with the addition of birthday activities to an already full week, it totally makes sense. Eliza, though, was bound and determined to expose her fellow fifth-graders to something new.
I’ve been baking with her class one morning a week during math centers this year, and since we’re always on the lookout for recipe ideas, she wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass without exercising her persuasive skills. I’m partial to baking cupcakes, anyway, so it didn’t take much to sell me on the idea.
Unfortunately, though, her teacher banned sweets from our cooking rotation after the Simple Vanilla Cookies we made had hyped up her students. It turns out that an entire class of fifth graders with extra sugar in their systems before lunchtime makes the school day much less fun, at least for the adults who have to work there.
I told Eliza not to get her hopes up as I typed an email to her teacher, but I had a hunch that she’d go for it. Her teacher always passes out birthday sweets at the end of the day as kids are heading for home, so, after explaining Eliza’s logic, I suggested coming back at the very end of the day to let kids frost the cooled cupcakes.
Mixed by hand in a large bowl, these Simple Chocolate Cupcakes are ready to bake in no time at all. The straightforward recipe calls for pantry staples; if you have all the ingredients on hand, this recipe is as easy to prepare as a boxed cupcake mix. I’d go so far as to say that baking these cupcakes is considerably easier than driving to the store, fighting for a parking place, and picking out cupcakes from the bakery case with your kids in tow.
Eliza’s classmates prepared the batter like pros and then got to work washing dishes and wiping down counters as the tantalizing aroma of chocolate wafted from the oven. Fortunately, we’d started our baking session by turning on a fan this time around, so we managed to finish baking our cupcakes without triggering the fire alarm.
The cupcakes get their rich, chocolate flavor from cocoa powder and chocolate chips. They’re tender and delicious, especially topped with vanilla buttercream, which, like the cupcakes, is easy to make by hand without the assistance of an electric mixer. The finished frosting is sweet, delicious, and super-easy to pipe or spread on with a spatula.
It took me lots of practice to figure out how to pipe decent-looking cupcakes, but the kids totally rocked it on their first tries. If you’re new to piping, fitting a piping bag with an extra-large tip makes it much easier to get a professional look. I spared the teacher the headache of a million sprinkles on her classroom floor, but my kids will tell you that dressing up cupcakes with sprinkles is half the fun.
I chatted with Eliza’s teacher as the kids blissed out on their chocolate cupcakes during the last 10 minutes of school the day we baked. “This tastes so much better than a store-bought cupcake,” she said as she bit into the cupcake she frosted herself. “What do you think about making vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting sometime soon?”
I guess that means she lifted the ban on sweets for good, and you know what that means? Happy fifth graders and a new recipe for Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting recipe coming soon!
- Chocolate Cupcakes
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cups chocolate chips
- Vanilla Buttercream
- 6 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar
- 3-5 tablespoons milk
- ¾ teaspoons vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease or paper-line a muffin pan with 12 cups.
- Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and stir to mix. Set aside.
- Combine sugar, eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla in large bowl. Whisk until well mixed.
- Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture in two or three additions, mixing with a wooden spoon or a spatula between additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Fold in chocolate chips.
- Fill the prepared muffin cups about halfway and bake until they spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a rack. Cool completely before frosting.
- For the frosting, combine butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl. Using a wooden spoon or the paddle of an electric mixer, beat ingredients together until light and fluffy, adding more powdered sugar or milk as needed to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency that will hold up on your cupcakes. Pipe frosting on cooled cupcakes or spread it on generously with a thin, flexible spatula.