I was originally going to attempt some kind of red wine invention this week. But then I was talking to my friend Aaron this weekend, and he mentioned a local cupcake shop that makes peanut-butter cup cupcakes. I looked at what it entailed, and even though he claimed it was awesome, it seemed like it fell short. Their version is basically a chocolate cupcake with peanut-butter frosting. I’m sorry, all respect to this beloved local cupcake shop, but how boring is that cupcake? If you’re going to claim something is a peanut butter cup cupcake, you should make it like a peanut butter cup. Right? I instantly knew I could do better.
I envisioned a chocolate cupcake with a light peanut-butter filling inside, so it’s really like a peanut-butter cup when you bite into it, and chocolate and peanut-butter frostings. The essence of a peanut-butter cup is the milk chocolate outside and the peanut-butter inside. Otherwise, it’s just too easy. 🙂
I decided to try The Pioneer Woman’s chocolate sheet cake recipe. She claims it makes good cupcakes, and that it’s the best chocolate sheet cake ever. So, I thought, why not? I really liked the chocolate cupcake recipe I used last week, but it was a bit darker. Peanut-butter cups are milk chocolate, so I needed something a little lighter.
I halved The Pioneer Woman’s Recipe and it perfectly made 12 cupcakes. I started off by melting a stick of butter (she called for salted, but all I had was unsalted – however, salted would work perfectly well because salt tends to enhance chocolate flavor. After it melted, I added two heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder, just the regular kind. Mix it in, add 1/2 cup of boiling water, incorporate and remove from heat. Add to a bowl of 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, a pinch of salt.
Just barely mix it in. Then measure 1/4 cup buttermilk. I did not have any buttermilk, so I tried adding a little vinegar to regular milk, and it worked! Mm…curdled milk. I added 1 beaten egg, baking soda and vanilla to the buttermilk and then mixed them together. I added that to the chocolate/flour mixture, and mixed well. Amazingly easy to do in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon – no stand mixer necessary! I cooked it for 20 minutes at 360 degrees. The recipe called for 350, but I raised it for high altitude purposes, and it seemed to work. I also added two tablespoons of flour to what was called for, and used my finger to seriously indent the tsp of baking soda – it probably was closer to 2/3 tsp, which was just about right. The rule of thumb is to lessen by 1/4 – 1/2 tsp, so it was right in-between. I also added a tablespoon or so more of the “buttermilk” for a padding of liquid. Plus, I used high altitude flour. And it worked!
Beautifully rounded, no collapsing! Take that, Mile High City.
Next part: peanut-butter filling. I was picturing something light, fluffy, easy. I tried to beat the peanut-butter until fluffy, and it completely failed. It ended up as a thick mess, even with powdered sugar added. So I decided to go the buttercream route. What I really wanted was to make peanut-butter mousse, but that generally involves cream cheese. I think that would make a great filling. However, the peanut-butter buttercream turned out really well. It’s just natural-style peanut-butter, butter, powdered sugar and optional salt to enhance the peanut-butter. I topped off the cupcakes with a good old chocolate buttercream, a peanut drizzle and a quartered peanut-butter cup. The trickiest part, of course, is filling the cupcake, so I’m going to show you the cone-method of making filled cupcakes.
First, insert a small knife at an angle about halfway between the middle and outside of the cupcake.
Cut around in a circle to create a cone shape:
Fill the hole in the cupcake with desired filling. I used a pastry bag to make it cleaner.
Take the cone and cut off most of the cone part, leaving just the top. Place it back on top of the filled part of the cupcake. Then, you can frost as needed on a nice surface!
I admit, I really thought this was going to bomb once I got going. But it’s received rave reviews, and it really does taste like a peanut-butter cup. My boss told me to go on Cupcake Wars. Ha, no, never. That’s more artistry, less taste. I’m a taste junkie. 🙂
Recipe: (I always use paddle attachment unless otherwise indicated.)
PEANUT-BUTTER CUP CUPCAKES
The Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Sheet Cake Cupcakes (Makes 24 cupcakes)
- 2 sticks regular butter
- 4 heaping tbsp cocoa
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 cups flour
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 beaten eggs
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla
(High altitude: add 2 tbsp flour and/or use high altitude flour, lessen sugar by 1 – 2 tbsp, add 1 tsp – 1 tbsp more buttermilk, and lessen baking soda by 1/4 – 1/2 tsp; raise oven temp to 360.)
Preheat oven to 350 (unless high altitude). Mix flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Melt butter in a saucepan. Add cocoa, mix. Add boiling water and allow to boil for about 30 seconds. Pour over dry ingredients and mix slightly to cool. In a measuring cup, add buttermilk, beaten eggs, baking soda and vanilla. Pour into mixing bowl with flour and chocolate mixture, and mix well. Pour into prepared muffin pan with paper liners. Bake in oven for 18 – 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
PEANUT-BUTTER BUTTERCREAM FILLING/FROSTING
- 2/3 cup natural, creamy peanut-butter
- 1 stick butter, at room temperature
- 3/4 cup powdered sugar
- fine salt (optional)
Cream peanut-butter and butter in mixer with paddle attachment on high speed. Change to low speed, and slowly add powdered sugar until it reaches desired taste. Beat on high for about 3 – 5 minutes until fluffy. Add salt if desired. Put into pastry bag with any smaller tip. Using the cone method, adding peanut-butter filling to cupcakes. Reserve remaining peanut-butter buttercream for decoration.
QUICK CHOCOLATE BUTTERCREAM (frosts 24 cupcakes, I halved this)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3 – 4 cups powdered sugar
Whip the butter on medium speed for about 2 – 3 minutes. Turn speed to low and add cocoa powdered a little at a time until incorporated, periodically scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add powdered sugar a little at a time, alternating with milk until it reaches the desired flavor. Turn to medium speed and beat until fluffy and a good consistency, 3 – 5 minutes.
Pipe over cupcakes using star tip. Garnish with a little peanut-butter buttercream and a quartered peanut-butter cup. Enjoy!