Fudge Cupcakes with Browned Butter Frosting

I found my grandmother’s recipe book hidden amongst the shelves of Rachel Ray and Sante Fe Specialties. Her tiny black binder is packed full of magazine clippings filled with chocolate cakes, apple kuchens, and ads showcasing the must-have spring fashions of 1973. Luckily its recipes contain much less mincemeat than my great-grandmother’s recipe book (in which the mysterious substance graces almost every other page).

I can’t wait to explore the frosting section of this.

These cupcakes were made with a One-bowl Fudge Cake recipe, which was followed by a few suggestions of frosting. I chose the brown butter, which has a slightly caramel taste that is incredibly addicting. The sweet, creamy icing complements the rich, not-too-sweet moist chocolate cake. These are phenomenal. I love home-baked things, but I can honestly say these taste like they were bought from a professional bakery (which is a big deal for me). Okay, I’ll stop tooting my own horn now.

A side story about “tooting your own horn”: I was reading with a 2nd grader earlier this week, and as she was expertly breezing through a volume of Junie B. Jones when she ran across the word “tooting”. Her eyes widened and she looked both scandalized and on the verge of a fit of giggles. It was adorable, and I laughed while I explained what the expression meant. I can’t believe she’s gone through 8 years of her life without having heard it.

2nd graders may not be familiar with old expressions, but I bet you they are very familiar with cupcakes (but probably not cupcakes like these). Here is the recipe:

With all the baking mishaps I have lived through, I was more than skeptical about dumping everything in one bowl, mixing it up, and throwing it in the oven, but I put my faith in Grammy’s recipe and fought my urge to whisk my dry ingredients. Well… I did whisk the cocoa powder a little before I put it in the bowl, just to break up the clumps.

In case you are wondering, this is what happiness in a bowl looks like before and after you whip it up:

I didn’t make any modifications to the cake batter. There’s flour, sugar, and shortening under all that buttermilk in the first picture. Does it seem like a lot of milk to you? It is a lot… because this makes 24 cupcakes, which was perfect because I needed lots to share, and I didn’t have to do any extra math (always a plus).

I used Dagoba brand cocoa powder that I bought at a local organic grocery store. It doesn’t have as much sweetener as say Hershey’s or Nestle, which I liked a lot. It gave the cake a true chocolate flavor instead of a boxed-brownie flavor (that’s not to say that I don’t like boxed brownies).

Now, the icing. (I had to make two batches to ice 24 cupcakes) You put the better part of a stick of butter in a sauce pan and heat it until it gets nice and foamy and starts smelling marvelous. Then you slowly start to see the yellow melted butter turn tan and you quickly pour it over three cups of powdered sugar. You add vanilla, a pinch of salt (my one modification), and a little bit of milk, and with the help of a mixer within a minute you have creamy, sweet, rich, absolute heaven.

Because they are so dense, the cupcakes will probably not form much of a dome on top. It’s a small price to pay for the flavor, and it makes them easier to frost anyways.

For the cupcakes: 1 2/3 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 2/3 cup cocoa powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 1/2 cup shortening, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla
For the frosting: 1/3 cup butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, line a muffin pan with cupcake liners, and set aside.
Add all ingredients except cocoa powder to the bowl of a standing mixer or another large bowl. Whisk or sift cocoa powder before adding to break up any clumps.
Beat all ingredients on low for 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Then beat on high speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Fill cupcake liners about 3/4 full with batter. Bake for 16–18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean or with a slight crumb.
While the cupcakes are baking, make your frosting. Heat butter in a saucepan over medium heat until frothy and light brown (2–3 minutes). In a bowl or mixer, combine browned butter with powdered sugar, vanilla, milk, and salt. Beat on high speed until the frosting is thick but still spreadable or pipeable (1–2 minutes).
Allow cupcakes to cool before frosting.

Happy cupcake eating!

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