My Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake

I know this confession is a risky one, but I think our relationship can withstand such brutal honesty: Despite the chocolate-on-chocolate celebration of my latest posts, I can sort of take or leave chocolate. True story. I mean, I like chocolate, really I do--love working with it and putting it in my face on occasion. Because really, when a chocolate craving hits at certain, ahem, personal times, nothing but chocolate will do (holler if you hear me, ladies). However, I'd never be called a "chocoholic" or be gifted a mug that says something like "Ack! Don't talk to me before I've had my morning chocolate!", or whatever.

But even so, this here chocolate cupcake was so smack-the-counter good that they've become a Real Problem. Which is to say that my typical day of three meals and one dessert has basically inverted for the lifespan of these cupcakes. You can't say I didn't warn you.

I've shared the recipe for the chocolate cake with you before--it truly is my go-to recipe that I've tweaked and amped up a bit from Martha's original recipe over the years. Love, love, love it. But the frosting is a new thing entirely, a result of my newfound love and fascination with flour frostings. I needed a chocolate version of this frosting, and I needed it to be a very specific frosting situation. For this part-time chocolate lover, it basically needed to blow my mind with chocolaty perfection, but not be cloyingly rich or overtly decadent like so many other chocolate frostings.

I wanted a cloud of chocolate atop the rich cake and some deranged combination between the flavor of melted chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse and the center of a 3 Musketeers bar. It took a few attempts to get there. But judging by the ferocity and stealth with which I hid the leftovers of this frosting in the depths of my refrigerator, I'd say it was a total success. And the marriage of the cake and the frosting--mmm, mmm! I'd consider converting to Chocoholism for a cupcake like this.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

I get about 18 cupcakes out of this recipe, but you can stretch it to a full 2 dozen if need be. It also makes two great 9-inch cake layers. Using brewed coffee instead of just water makes the chocolate taste more...chocolatey. You can dissolve 1 teaspoon instant espresso in 3/4 cup hot water instead. Mini chocolate chips melt into the cake to make it extra rich and decadent.

Makes 18-24 cupcakes

For the cake:

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Ghiradelli or Valhrona)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup strong brewed coffee (see note)
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips (or regular chips, chopped fine)

For the chocolate flour frosting:

3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons premium cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Spray the top of the muffin tin with cooking spray for extra non-stick insurance, as these cupcakes can have a serious rise and can puff over the edges of the tin's wells.

Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well-mixed. Fold in the mini chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly among muffin cups (an ice cream scoop works well here), filling each cup no more than 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, whisk together the flour, milk, cocoa powder and salt until the mixture comes together to form a thick paste. Press the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl, and press a sheet of plastic wrap right on the surface of the mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Cool in the refrigerator it for about 15 minutes, or until it's cool to the touch.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the chocolate mixture until the frosting begins to lighten in color and texture, almost mousse-like. Beat in the melted unsweetened chocolate until the frosting is fluffy, smooth and well-blended. Frost cupcakes, and store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator.