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Now is the time for an indulgently-rich, super-delicious, chocolate dessert! After four caramel-inspired cupcakes, let’s focus on chocolate. Store Manager Hilda Willman, who is about to graduate with an associate’s degree in Applied Science specializing in Baking and Pastry Arts at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, contributes this over-the-top cupcake recipe. Yes, this recipe really does call for 3 pounds of butter! It is always better with lots of butter!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Orange Buttercream Frosting

1 3/4 cups boiling water

1 3/4 cups unsweetened Valrhona cocoa powder
4 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

8 ounces sour cream

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups plus 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

5 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray mini muffin pans well with pan spray.

Add boiling water to cocoa in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Stir in chopped chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes, then stir until smooth. Cool for 20 minutes. Whisk sour cream and vanilla into chocolate mixture.

Sift together flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl.

Beat together butter and sugars in bowl of mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl with a spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture and chocolate mixture alternately in 3 batches, beginning and ending with flour mixture and mixing until just combined. Finish mixing batter by hand with spatula, scraping bottom of bowl.

Portion batter into muffin cups using either a small disher, or as I prefer, a large pastry bag with the tip snipped off. Fill each muffin cup no more than 2/3s full. This recipe makes about 120 mini-cupcakes. Check and rotate the pans after about 8 minutes. They take around 12-15 minutes to bake. Use a toothpick to determine doneness. They are very moist, so a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick is okay.

Let cool in pans for a few minutes; turn pans upside down onto cooling racks and remove the cakes. Let them cool upside down on racks.

For Chocolate Ganache (Optional)
8 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest

1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur

1 cup heavy cream

The ganache is optional, but if you want a decadent bite of chocolate-orange goodness, go ahead and include the ganache. It also makes the mini-cakes look more finished.

Put chocolate, butter, zest and liqueur in metal bowl. Bring cream just to a boil in a small saucepan, then immediately pour it into the bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth.

Turn the cupcakes upside down (think miniature Cahokia Mounds) placed close together on the wire racks. Ganache will be optimally shiny when it is poured at a temperature of 88-90 degrees. When the ganache has cooled to that temperature, it is time to decorate the cupcakes. You can choose to coat each cake by pouring from the bowl, or you can drizzle each one with a fork dipped into the bowl and striped over the tops of each cake or drizzled out of a small pastry bag with the tip snipped off.

Orange Buttercream Frosting
For Orange Curd
5 large egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest

1/2 cup fresh orange juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

For Buttercream
1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup water

5 large egg whites

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

26 ounces (3 1/4 cups) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened

Make the curd: Whisk together yolks and sugar in a small, heavy saucepan, then whisk in zest, orange juice, butter and salt. Cook over moderately low heat, whisking, until mixture just reaches boiling point, 5 to 7 minutes. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids. Whisk in lemon juice. Cover surface with waxed paper or film  and refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

Make the buttercream: Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, stirring and washing down any sugar crystals on side of pan with pastry brush dipped in cold water, until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, until it registers 248 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Meanwhile beat whites with pinch of salt in bowl of mixer until foamy, then beat in cream of tartar. Beat until whites just hold stiff peaks.

Slowly add hot syrup, being careful to avoid beaters and sides of bowl, beating constantly at medium speed, and continue to beat until completely cool, 15 to 20 minutes. (Do not rush this step. Meringue must be completely cool before adding butter. Otherwise, you get melted butter soup.)

Add butter, one piece at a time, still beating at medium speed, until buttercream is thick and smooth. (It will appear very thin at first, but as more butter is beaten in, it will thicken.) Beat in cure and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Buttercream can be made ahead and refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 1 month. However, it must be brought to room temperature, which takes at least 2 hours for refrigerated buttercream, and re-beaten to make it smooth and fluffy again. Personally, I think that’s more trouble than it’s worth. I make and pipe my buttercream the same day. As mentioned earlier, if you have the refrigerator space, you can serve them the next day, just be sure to bring them to room temperature before serving.

Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a star pastry tip (Tip 849 or Tip 869 works nicely) with the buttercream. Pipe rosettes of orange buttercream on the top of each cupcake. I like to sprinkle sparkly toppings on the top of each cupcake, because I think it adds a professional finish to the cakes. Some of my favorites are edible gold glitter or opal sanding sugar. They catch the light and cause your guests to “ooh” and “ahh” over your creation.

2 Comments for “Our Best Cupcakes: Black and Orange Cupcakes”  

  1. Dana

    I used this recipe recently for a party and I loved the orange buttercream. I will use it again in the future since the curd was so easy to make and the buttercream took so well to it; glistened beautifully. I made the cupcake batter twice. The 2nd time I no longer had Valrhona cocoa and chocolate. Big difference in taste! Will have to go with the better quality products in the future on these cupcakes. Thanks again!

  2. Anne

    When we post long recipes, people can be intimidated and think the recipe is hard. Thank you, Dana, for saying this recipe is easy — and especially, that the recipe is delicious!
    Yes, better chocolate produces better desserts. We make 3 chocolate cakes using 3 types of cocoa and found that there is no comparison: Valrhona is the most delicious.