These Midnight Chocolate Cupcakes are the perfect recipe to make if you’re in the mood for a very dark, chocolate cupcake. They get their name from the fact that they’re almost pitch black in color. They’re based on a much loved Betty Crocker recipe for Black Midnight Cake (which has been in dozens of Betty Crocker cookbooks over the past several decades). The cupcakes deliver as much chocolate as they promise with their dark coloring. They are moist, fluffy and pack a lot of flavor into every single bite.
The recipe has slightly more sugar than many other cupcake recipes, but that sugar helps to keep the cupcakes moist and tender, and also adds much needed sweetness to the very large amount of cocoa powder in the batter. I typically add a small amount of instant coffee to highlight the darker notes of the cocoa powder, but that can be omitted if you prefer not to have a hint of coffee in your cake. The finished cupcakes are not too sweet, even when generously spread with chocolate buttercream frosting.
These cupcakes are also made with shortening, rather than butter. Shortening is also used in the old BC recipe (in my 1950s-era cookbooks) for this type of cake. The shortening, like vegetable oil, helps the cakes to retain moisture and stay fresh and soft for several days after baking. Since it doesn’t add any flavor of it’s own to the cake, unlike butter, the chocolate flavor also seems a little more pronounced than it does in some other recipes. All that said, you can substitute butter back into this recipe with no problems whatsoever and still end up with a great chocolate cupcake.
I topped my cupcakes off with a simple chocolate buttercream and a square of star-spangled chocolate. The buttercream also has a rich chocolate flavor, even if it isn’t as dark in color as the cake. I used a chocolate transfer sheet – a sheet of acetate with a colored cocoa butter design printed on it – to make my starry night garnish. A few chocolate sprinkles would also make a lovely way to finish these off.
Midnight Chocolate Cupcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp instant coffee (optional)
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350F. Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, followed by vanilla extract and instant coffee (if using).
With the mixer on a low speed, blend in 1/3 of the flour mixture, followed by half of the water. Add another third of the flour mixture, followed by the rest of the water. Stir in remaining flour mixture just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain. The batter should be fairly liquidy.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean and the cakes spring back when lightly pressed.
Turn cupcakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely before frosting with chocolate buttercream.
Makes 16 cupcakes.
3/4 cups butter, room temperature
1/4 cup half and half or milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2-3 cups confectioners’ sugar
Combine all ingredients except the sugar in a large bowl and beat until very smooth. Gradually beat in the sugar until the frosting is smooth, thick and fluffy.
Spread on cooled cupcakes