Chocolate “Digger” Cupcakes


Months ago my younger daughter’s school was having a charity auction.  Her teacher whom I like very much, sent a mail out to all the parents in the classroom asking for donations.  Since I just couldn’t say no to her, I agreed to donate 2 dozen cupcakes for a child’s birthday.  I sent her a couple of links from my blog with ideas – and made a couple of stipulations that it would have to be an agreed upon date, and that the person would need to pick them up at my house.  I thought I had covered all my bases.

 A nice woman purchased the cupcakes, and even though the date she suggested was not ideal (the weekend before Thanksgiving, and the week before my younger daughter’s birthday), I agreed to it.  The stress started when she told me the theme.  She had a son, and he loves “diggers” or “dump trucks.”  That would be the theme for the party – so anything I could do to work that into the cupcakes would be great.  Diggers?  Dump trucks?  Those are not in my vocabulary.  I have girls.  They are girly girls.  They love pink and purple, and the words diggers or dump trucks are not topics of conversation at our house.

 Well, I love a good challenge – and so there it was – staring at me in the face.  I had almost given up trying to figure out what to do, when she sent me some links from Etsy – where someone had made some fondant dump trucks.  I thought about doing that, but since I haven’t worked with fondant before, I decided to go the chocolate route.  I went to my favorite cake/candy decorating store and bought a mold of dump trucks, and my older daughter and I spent the afternoon making them.  It was a multi-step process, but when my husband came in to check on us, he was blown away.  They looked fantastic.  I couldn’t believe it, but I had actually pulled it off.  I ended up making some very simple chocolate cupcakes from Cooking Light, and my favorite marshmallow frosting to hold the chocolates into place – but really it was all about the dump trucks.

 They were a huge hit – and the woman that purchased them asked if I would take orders from some of her friends at the party.  I laughed and was flattered, but I will stick to my day job for now…


  • 1  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 6  tablespoons  butter, softened
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1 1/4  cups  all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/2  cup  unsweetened cocoa
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  low-fat buttermilk
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare cupcakes, place brown sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir in vanilla extract.

Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until cupcakes spring back when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Makes 18 cupcakes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Chocolate Cupcakes

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Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze (AKA Baby Cakes)

Chocolate and I have a love hate relationship.  Growing up, I was never one of those people that craved chocolate.  On the few occasions that I would actually get dessert when I was growing up (my birthday, family get-togethers, etc…) I would choose vanilla over chocolate – I definitely craved vanilla – cake, pudding, ice-cream – I even (I know, brace yourself…) took the chocolate chips out of chocolate-chip cookies.

Then I went to France.  I remember my first pain au chocolate – it was amazing.  The chocolate was so delicious and creamy – and the texture with the buttery croissant made me want to cry.  I realized then that I really did like chocolate – but good chocolate.  As an adult, I do crave chocolate from time to time – and I only cook with really good chocolate.  Just like wine, my philosophy is that no matter what the chocolate – if you can’t eat it alone, you shouldn’t be baking with it.

I found this recipe in Molly Wizenberg’s book A Homemade Life – she talks about how she loves cupcakes with a thin layer of chocolate on top – almost like a glaze.  Except for my obsession with cream-cheese frosting, I would have to say I agree – I would rather just eat the cake than have a pile of sweet frosting.  These cupcakes were amazing…it was definitely a chocolate lovers dream.  The chocolate glaze on top was just perfect for people that don’t like sweet frosting.  This cupcake was so good, that I had to rename it a Baby Cake.  These are definitely to be eaten slowly, to enjoy every bite.



  • 1 ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup well-stirred plain whole-milk yogurt (not low-fat or non-fat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract


  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Line the wells of a standard-sized muffin tin with paper liners or use silicone cupcake holders.

Put the semisweet chocolate in a medium bowl with the hot coffee.  Let stand, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and opaque.

Meanwhile, in another medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or, alternatively, a mixing bowl, if you plan to use handheld beaters, beat the egg on medium speed until it is pale yellow, about 1 minute.  Add the oil, yogurt, and vanilla, beating well. Gradually pour in the melted chocolate mixture, and beat to thoroughly combine.  Add the dry ingredients all at once, and beat on low speed until the batter is just combined.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the slides of the bowl and briefly stir to make sure that all the dry ingredients are absorbed.

Spoon the batter into the wells of the muffin tin, making sure that it is evenly distributed.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and cool for 20 minutes before – carefully: they’re tender! – removing the cupcakes.  Allow them to cool completely before glazing.

To make the glaze, melt the bittersweet chocolate in a metal or glass bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water.  Stir frequently to prevent scorching.  When the chocolate is completely smooth, it’s ready.  Working with one cupcake at a time, spoon a heaping teaspoonful of melted chocolate on top.  Tilt and rotate the cupcake to coax the chocolate out to the edge.  Alternatively, use a knife or icing spatula to spread the chocolate.  The top of the cupcake should be entirely covered with a thin layer of chocolate.  Spoon on more chocolate as needed.

Set the cupcakes aside at room temperature until ready to serve, at least an hour.  The chocolate glaze will firm up a bit and become matte. 

These cupcakes are even better stored in an airtight container the next day…

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate Cupcakes with Bittersweet Glaze

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