The Best Black-Bottom Cupcakes

I have been on a bit of a cupcake bender as of late. How can one blame me? Cupcakeries are popping up every freakin' place around here! There are two good ones (Vanilla Bake Shop and Yummy Cupcakes) within a block of each other and minutes from my Santa Monica apartment. The presence of both have inspired me to perfect my own cupcake recipes at home when I'm not stuffing my piehole (cupcakehole?) with specimens from both bakeries. Luckily my other favorite thing to do this year has been spinning class. Anyway, I have been been doing a lot of cupcake experiments with buttercream frostings or ganache or somesuch. I have become used to the feeling of moving onto the icing step of cupcakes while the cakes themselves are baking. However, it's nice to have a recipe that's just sort of, more, oh, self-contained than the cake plus frosting concept. Easy and simplified, less work, but no less of a delicious and delightful final product.

Enter the Black Bottom Cupcake. Deep chocolate cake with a cream cheese and chocolate chip filling. So great with a strong cup of coffee or an ice-cold glass of milk. Chocolatey without feeling like you're lost in a sea of just one flavor. You dig?

Black-Bottom Cupcakes

Makes 24 cupcakes

Cream Cheese Filling: 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 1 egg 1/3 cup white sugar 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/8 teaspoon salt 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Cake Part: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 cup white sugar 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup water 1/3 cup vegetable oil 1 tablespoon cider vinegar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners or use foil liners and lightly spray them with non-stick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, make the filling: Beat the cream cheese, egg, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1/8 teaspoon salt until light and fluffy. Stir in the chocolate chips and set aside.

In a large bowl, make the cake batter: mix the flour, 1 cup sugar, cocoa, baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Stir together until well blended. Fill muffin tins 1/3 full with the batter and top with a dollop of the cream cheese mixture.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

I mean, can you stand it?!? It's like an invisible number of steps! I think the most important thing to take note of in this recipe is filling the cups with batter no more than 1/3 of the way full. It almost looks like a sad amount of batter in the cup at first, but then you add in the dollop of filling (my "dollop" is about a heaping tablespoon, by the way). Plus the recipe has a good amount of baking soda and the addition of cider vinegar, the combination of which really give the cakes a nice lift. If you fill the cups too full of batter, the cakes won't have as much room to rise and the filling sinks and THAT is truly sad looking. So follow the 1/3 full rule and you'll get this bliss:

Who needs frosting, anyway?? YEAH!

CakeShauna Sever