Set the Net

Recipes and snapshots of life in Bristol Bay, AK

Dark Chocolate CupcakesCupcakes make me happy. Simple as that. Cupcakes make me happy.

Dark Chocolate CupcakesFall themed cupcakes make me even happier and when they are dark chocolate with creamy vanilla buttermilk frosting I am about as happy as I can get. These beauties were for a custom order in which I was asked for chocolate cupcakes of a fall theme and the rest was left to my own devices – I have to say those are the best types of orders!

Dark Chocolate CupcakesWhen final creativity is left in my hands I love making goodies for special events or parties. I am often asked why I don’t make more baked goods for order since in our rural Alaska community there is always demand for cakes or sweets for board meetings, birthdays, or weddings. The truth of the matter is I don’t like being told what the final product should look like. I think this concept rings true for many artists where creating is easier when un-dictated. Cake making to me is art and in rural Alaska edible art is something I can get behind!

Dark Chocolate CupcakesIn fact Julia O’Malley wrote an article in the New York Times (!!!) this week that highlights the importance cake plays in rural Alaska, and every sentence rang true. Even though I bake from scratch I can completely relate to mixing up mixes and recipes to fit what is on the shelf! Equally true is that every rural community has a cake lady or two (sometimes it’s even me!). Dillingham, despite being the hub of Southwest Alaska in Bristol Bay, doesn’t have a bakery instead our typical go to cake lady is Emily Hulett of Dilly SweetsDark Chocolate CupcakesI often tease Emily saying I couldn’t take orders dictating design and that I don’t know how she does it! She argues back she much prefers having a design to create toward and that she doesn’t like not having direction, so I suppose we are each filling the niche we love.

Dark Chocolate CupcakesSo with my Fall theme directive I raided the garden. A few golden and purple beets, the last of the sweet pea flowers that this time of year wouldn’t have had time to produce any actual peas anyway, and a few handfuls of low bush cranberries (lignonberries) from the tundra to round the design out.

IMG_0117I have to say I love how they turned out, they are so elegant and pretty. These dense, moist, intensely dark chocolate cupcakes are balanced well with the fluffy buttercream frosting and a cold glass of milk.


Dark Chocolate Cupcakes + Creamy Vanilla Buttercream Beet Tinted Frosting (makes 2 dozen cupcakes)

You’ll need:

for the cupcakes…

  • 16 tablespoons butter (2 sticks)
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 cup Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sour cream

for the frosting…

  • 12 tablespoons butter at room temperature  (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
  • juice from 1 cooked golden beet (for color)
  • juice from 1 cooked purple beet (for color)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • optional 24 sweet pea flowers and 74 low bush cranberries (lingonberries) for garnish 

To make:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and set rack to the lower-middle position. Line two standard muffin pans with cupcake liners and set aside.

In a small double bottom saucepan melt the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder, and espresso powder together whisking often until smooth. Set aside until cool enough to touch.

Sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment crack eggs and whisk until combined. Add in the salt, vanilla, and sugar and whisk until evenly distributed. Pour in cooled chocolate mix and whisk blending well. Scrape bowl with a rubber spatula to get mixture even.

Sift in one third of flour blend and whisk to combine, whisk in sour cream evenly, then finally add the remaining flour mixture. Whisk to create a thick homogenous batter, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula if needed.

Divide batter evenly between lined muffin cups, filling each about 2/3’s full. Bake each dozen individually for 18-20 minutes, rotating pan half way through baking time for even baking.

Cool on wire rack in pan for about 15 minutes then lift carefully each cupcake onto the rack to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting place butter and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes until well combined and fluffy. Whisk in the heavy whipping cream 1 tablespoon at a time, finishing with the vanilla and beet juices. Add juice in slowly to titrate the coloration you desire! If frosting is too runny add in additional powdered sugar in 1/4 cup increments until the desired consistency is reached. Conversely if frosting is too stiff add in additional heavy cream a tablespoon at a time to loosen frosting up.

These cupcake rosettes I piped using a Wilton 1M tip, each cupcake was garnished with at least one sweet pea flower and three low bush cranberries (lingonberries).

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcake recipe adapted from The Complete America’s Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook 2001-2017Dark Chocolate Cupcakes recipe. The frosting is a Set the Net original recipe.

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