vegan dark chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter cream cheese frosting

Some things just go together.  Bread & butter, the sun & wrinkles, black & everything, and peanut butter & chocolate.  With an important birthday to celebrate, it was crucial to make the most decadent version of a Reese’s cup because on birthdays, calories don’t count.  Just kidding, of course they count, and this cupcake will destroy your diet.  But go for it anyway, because life’s too short to eat non-, low- and free-.

This cupcake doesn’t just resemble sunshine, it causes clouds to part and angels to sing

 

Materials (for 12 incredibly moist and fluffy cupcakes, adapted from Joy the Baker)

Cupcakes
1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality available, i.e. NOT Hershey’s)
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of Kosher salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup oil (I used light olive)
1 tsp white distilled vinegar (I’ll explain)
1 cup cold water

 

Frosting (makes enough to generously pipe onto 12 cupcakes. Use half the recipe if lightly spreading onto cupcakes)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened at room temperature
4 ounces (1/2 stick) of butter, softened at room temperature
2-3 cups sifted powdered sugar (depending on desired level of sweetness)
2/3 cup creamy, natural peanut butter
peanut butter cups (for garnish)

 

Protocol

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F, and prepare a cupcake pan with liners and set aside.

2. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl, and set aside.

3. In another bowl, add the vanilla extract, oil, vinegar and water.

4. Gently whisk the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix to combine.  Do not use an electrical mixer, and do not overmix (batter will be very runny and wet).

5. Pour the batter into the prepared cupcake pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean and dry.  Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

So why the vinegar?  Well, vinegar is an acid, and its interaction with baking soda (a base) results in a fizzy chemical reaction that creates carbon dioxide, which helps give rise to your cakes and other baked goods.  Works great when you’re out of eggs, or don’t want to use them!

To make the frosting, place the butter and cream cheese into a small bowl and cream using an electrical mixer.  Add half of the powdered sugar, and beat to combine.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add remaining sugar, and mix for another 30 seconds.  At this point, you’ve made a luscious cream cheese frosting, and it’s perfectly acceptable to eat a large spoonful of it.  Consider it quality control testing.  To finish the frosting, add peanut butter and mix to combine.  Spread over cooled cupcakes, and garnish with chopped peanut butter cups.  Then do more QC testing.

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