The Best Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcakes

Fluffy and tender yet deeply chocolatey, these Devil's Food Cupcakes are truly sinful.  The fudge frosting swirls and sprinkles are the quintessential 'icing on the cake' for these all-occasion treats.

The Best Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcake Recipe with fluffy fudge frosting.

Now that my book is out, I’ve been really trying to focus on improving my overall cooking, recipe development, photography, and food writing.  It’s time to hone in on my photography style, create crystal-clear, workable recipes, and really find my voice.  Story telling has never been my strongest suite, but I yearn to improve upon my food writing.

(Not so) strangely, I've really noticed that actually the more I write the more comfortable and creative I seem to get with the writing process.  I recently considered looking for and enrolling into a food writing course.  I found the perfect online course aptly titled “Food Writing” as part of UBC’s continuing education program.  However, the course syllabise mostly consisted of tasks that I already do professionally – how to write a recipe, basic food photography tips, how to write a query/book proposal, etc.  And by no means do I think I am better than this course, I just don’t think it was made for me (just a few years ago I would have been all over this!!).  For me, I think it mostly comes down to "read, write, read, write - repeat" until I find my voice.

The Best Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcake Recipe with fluffy fudge frosting.
The Best Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcake Recipe with fluffy fudge frosting.

I was at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks over the weekend for a cake tasting/demonstration and book signing for "Layered" (side note – this shop is every cookbook lover’s dream!!).  There was signage on the wall announcing that Dianne Jacob was coming to town later this month.  I had heard about the latest edition of her book “Will Write for Food” a little while back, but I was too caught up in editing my own book to give it much thought.  Now that I have more time to dive in, I must say that Dianne Jacob is a rock star!  I have yet to read the book, but her blog offers a wealth of knowledge for anyone with a food blog or freelance food writing career.  Even though I already wrote my book, I know that I have so much more to learn from her and how the industry in continually changing.  I can’t wait to hear her talk in a few weeks at Books to Cooks!

Speaking of Books to Cooks, I finally picked up the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of Cherry Bombe Magazine.  My dear cake pal, Lyndsay of Coco Cake Land was featured in the issue and I had to buy a copy to keep for when she is (even more) famous one day!  The issue was titled Eat My Words.  I have yet to read the entire issue, but there are some amazing articles covering cookbook, food, and recipe writing from professionals like Ruth Reichl and Melissa Clark.  How perfect for where I am in my writing phase, right?!

One article in particular that I found informative was a piece noting Food and Wine’s Tina Ujlaki’s top 10 tips for writing a (great) recipe.  Some of the tips seem obvious, like make sure to write down and accurately measure your ingredients, but her practices would surely improve accuracy and work-flow.  My favorite was her tip to note sensory clues (color, smell, texture) instead of just going off the oven timer.   Her last tip was not to overpromise and underdeliver – more specifically, stop using things like “best ever” or other click-bait tactics and let the headnotes talk about the origin of the recipe and why someone should make it.  I mostly agree with this statement, but like most everything, there are exceptions.

The Best Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcake Recipe with fluffy fudge frosting.
The Best Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcake Recipe with fluffy fudge frosting.

I don’t use definitive terms like “best” and “ever” very often, but it’s true.  These cupcakes are the best.  Like “no need to look any further for a different chocolate cake recipe ever” kind of good - and rightfully so, as I was on a quest to develop such a recipe.   I didn’t have a signature cake that mom made for my birthday each year or a special cupcake recipe that I requested on repeat, but if I did, this would be the one.  An American hallmark turned into individual cupcakes, these guys are the ambassadors of birthdays, office parties, potlucks, and backyard bashes.

Sorry Tina, but without a doubt, these are The Best Chocolate Devil’s Food Cupcakes ever.  Extra moist and superior in deep chocolate flavor, this is the kind of recipe you store, covered in batter splatters, in an heirloom tin for your future grandchildren – even though you’ll probably make it so often that you’ll eventually commit the steps and ingredients to memory.

It must be clear that when I say “best” I don’t necessarily mean simple.  However, just because the recipe isn’t as quick an easy as my other one-bowl chocolate cake recipe, don’t be confused into thinking this recipe is difficult.  While I totally see the appeal of throwing all the ingredients in at once and getting it over with and there are whole businesses committed to such convenience (dump cakes and boxed mixes, I’m looking at you), but sometimes you gotta put in the extra work for the superior taste and texture.  I’m only talking a couple extra steps and few more dirty dishes – don’t worry.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact difference between a Devil’s Food Cake and a regular chocolate cake, but I find that typically a Devil’s Food Cake is made with butter instead of oil and has the addition of coffee or instant espresso powder to bring out the chocolate flavor.  Older recipes call for unsweetened, melted chocolate squares, but many of today’s recipes opt for the convenience of cocoa powder – which incidentally has a more intense chocolate flavor. 

Opposite of an airy Angel Food Cake in both name and flavor, Devil’s Food Cake also gets its name from a sometimes slightly reddish tint (think red velvet cake), due to the alkalizing effect that the baking soda has on natural (not Dutch process) cocoa powder.

The Best Devil's Food Chocolate Cupcake Recipe with fluffy fudge frosting.

Notes
–  Mixing the cocoa powder with boiling water first allows the chocolate flavors to bloom and intensify instead of adding it in with the other dry ingredients.
–  For the butter, make sure it is extra soft.  Since we are not relying on the cream of butter and sugar for lift and airiness (that’s what the baking powder is for here), I just popped it in the microwave for a few seconds until it was almost melty.
–  I used a full-fat coconut milk for extra flavor and tenderness, but any milk should do.
–  I used jumbo cupcake liners and made about 16 cupcakes.  I bet the recipe would yield about 20 to 24 using standard liners.  Adjust bake time accordingly.
–  I prefer my fudge frosting to be very soft (but still spreadable).  When mixing, the frosting should create a well in the center of the mixing bowl instead of clinging to the paddle.  The sprinkles should be able to stick easily and not fall off immediately (if so, the frosting is a bit dry and crusts too quickly).

 

The Best Devil’s Food Cupcake Recipe
4 ounces dark chocolate (about 70%), chopped
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ¼ cup boing water
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon instant espresso
1 cup unsalted butter, very soft – slightly melty (see Notes)
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs
½ cup milk (see Notes)

1.     Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake pan and set aside.

2.     Combine the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, and boiling water together.  Stir to combine and set aside.

3.     Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

4.     Using an electric mixer, combine the super soft butter with the sugars.  Mix for a couple minutes until thoroughly combined.

5.     Add the vanilla, almond, and eggs – one at a time, making sure each in incorporated before adding in the next.  Stop mixing and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

6.     With the mixer on low, stream in the chocolate mixture until combined.

7.     Slowly add in half of the dry ingredients and mix until combined.  Stream in the milk.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.

8.     Add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until combined.

9.     Evenly divide the batter into the cupcake pans and bake until done, about 22 to 24 minutes (see Notes).

10. Let cool on a cooling rack before frosting.

 

Fudge Frosting Recipe
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon espresso powder
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons milk
8 ounces semi or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft and smooth.  With the mixer on low, gradually add in the salt, espresso powder, sugar, cocoa, vanilla, and milk until incorporated. Mix on medium until soft and silky, yet not runny, adding more milk as needed.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the bowl.  Add in the melted chocolate and mix until combined.