There seems to be a new obsession with cupcakes in the past five years. Regular cakes are Soooooo 2000’s and mini-cakes are the new greatest thing. Yes, they are cuter and more individualized (I don’t know about you, but I hate sharing), but cupcakes have their difficulties too. Because they are smaller, they have the tendency to dry out easier, you have to slave in the kitchen for longer doing multiple batches in the oven, and you have more inventory to frost/decorate. But, hey, I get it. I love cupcakes too.
I much prefer this match-up over the traditional “Strawberries and Chocolate” combination (not that I would turn my nose up at it if offered). Raspberries are a bit more sour and complex than strawberries, and can stand up to darker chocolate much better. Not to mention that raspberries are less cliche and more of a surprise. Here, the raspberry flavor hits you in three ways: fresh raspberries inside the cupcake and as garnish, raspberry jam in the batter and as garnish, and Chambord in the batter and frosting. Does this sound like raspberry overload? Don’t be worred – chocolate can be pretty overpowering, so you need to pack a bit more of a punch with your other flavors.
Speaking of Chambord…I seem to add alcohol (and orange juice oddly – subconscious carry-over from growing up in Florida perhaps?) in some fashion in most of my recipes. It just adds another layer of flavor, and usually the alcohol itself burns off. Chambord is a French Black Raspberry Liqueur (it used to come in a pretty sweet gilded bottle reminiscent of Louis XIV’s Versaille, but it seems to have undergone a makeover as of late). Most people use it to add to champagne for a classic cocktail or in desserts. I’ve added Chambord to both the batter and the frosting here. As the cupcakes bake, the alcohol component 99% of the liqueur burns off in the baking process. But the alcohol (although it is in a small amount) will still be present in the frosting. If you don’t like using alcohol, you can leave it out and add more milk/other liquid from the recipe. As an alternative, you could try adding raspberry puree (strain the seeds) or juice (I don’t think they make just raspberry juice, but if you can find it, go for it. Otherwise, I would suggest a combination cranberry-raspberry juice or the like).
You’ll note that the frosting ingredients and directions are a bit…non-definitive. Don’t panic. I know a lot of people prefer to know EXACTLY what to do and when. This is easy though. Trust me. This is probably the first recipe I learned how to make – frosting. It’s one of my fondest memories with my grandmother – making frosting and baking cookies. Her method was always, “Take some powdered sugar, add milk until you’re happy.” Clearly she was one of the coolest grandmas around. So if I can do it as a five-year old, you can do it. Just keep adding “until you’re happy.” My one word of caution is just go easy on the powdered sugar – you don’t want to cause people’s teeth to fall out because it’s too sweet. You have two dry ingredients to work with if you need to thicken – cocoa powder and powdered sugar. So don’t automatically go to your powdered sugar. Balance my friend!
Servings: 34 cupcakes
Timing: 45 minutes total, 20 minutes per batch of cupcakes bake time, plus 20 minute prep time between the batter and frosting…add extra time for cooling in between baking and frosting
For the Cupcakes:
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup + 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (most are unsweetened now)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (either in the microwave or set out at room temperature for a while…just don’t melt it entirely!)
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 teaspoons vanilla extract (NO IMITATION EVER!)
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk (yes, whole milk…no reduced fat allowed)
- 10 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam/jelly
- 10 teaspoons Chambord
- 1 pint raspberries
- Cupcake liners (if you prefer…I find they’re much easier to use, but I still spray my pan because I’m a messy girl)
For the Frosting/Decorations:
- 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted (go crazy in the microwave now)
- 1/2 – 1 cup cocoa powder
- 1 – 1 1/2 bags powdered sugar (this equates to about 24 ounces or 1 1/2 lbs)
- Pinch of salt (about 1/4 teaspoon)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/4 cup Chambord (but if you want more of a flavor, you can always add more)
- 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam/jelly
- 1 pint raspberries
For the cupcakes, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to get all of the cocoa powder lumps out and to combine thoroughly. In a mixer bowl, beat your softened butter and sugar on medium for about two minutes, until it’s much paler and lighter/fluffier (insert “It’s so fluffy!!!!!!!” reference from Despicable Me here). Add your eggs and raspberry jelly. Mix to combine. Combine the milk, vanilla extract, and Chambord (I usually measure my milk in the measuring cup and then just add the required amounts of the other ingredients straight to the measuring cup). Alternate your milk mixture and dry ingredients mixture, combining fully after each addition. You’ll start and end with your dry ingredients, so add 1/3 of your dry mix first, then 1/2 of your milk mixture, then 1/3 of your dry mix, then the rest of your milk mixture, and then the remaining dry mix. Make sure you incorporate fully after each addition before going to the next add-in. Also – when you are adding in your dry stuff, turn the mixer down to the lowest you can and add a bit at a time – otherwise you’ll get a chocolate flour facial and have to do yet more clean-up in your kitchen.
Line or spray (or both) your muffin tin. Add enough batter to each muffin cup to fill about 1/2 way up. Place one raspberry in each cup and press into the batter. Add JUST ENOUGH batter to the top of the raspberry to cover it. Level the batter. Put in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. Then rotate your pan and bake for another 6 minutes (for even cooking). Test your cupcakes after the 6 minutes for doneness – a toothpick or knife should come out clean…just go in at an angle so you don’t pierce the raspberry in the middle. Remove from the pan and place on a cookie rack to cool. Repeat for the remaining cupcakes.
For the frosting, combine 1/2 cup cocoa powder, salt, and 1 bag (16 ounces) of powdered sugar in a mixer bowl and whisk using the mixer to get out all of the lumps. Add your vanilla extract, Chambord, and 1/4 cup milk. Add about 1/2 of your melted butter. Whisk/mix thoroughly. Here is the part where you should trust yourself. Add more cocoa powder/powdered sugar or milk/melted butter until you’re are satisfied. You want a frosting that will stand up (so if it folds back on itself too easily, thicken it up). You also want it malleable enough that you can frost with it and it won’t break your teeth when you eat it. So just keep adding until you’re happy. Also feel free to play with the Chambord amounts depending on how strong you want that flavor. Now, to pipe the easy way. Add all of your frosting to a ziploc bag and seal completely (do not use the slide-close ones that have the zipper looking plastic block at the top…use the one that has the seal all the way across. I learned my lesson the hard way today that the frosting can escape out the top with the slide close ones…and it’s a HUGE mess). Pick one of the bottom corners and snip off the corner with scissors. The less of the corner you cut off, the smaller the pipe. The more you take off, the bigger the pipe will be. And now you have a piping bag that is more cost-effective and easier to use! Look at you, you professional! Pipe the top of the cupcakes. Melt your raspberry jelly in the microwave until COMPLETELY melted. Let sit for about 2 minutes until it thickens back up just a bit. If it is too hot, it will melt/break your frosting. Then using a spoon or knife or fork, drizzle/drop dots of some of the melted jelly on top of the frosting. Place a fresh raspberry (or several depending on your stock) on top and you’re done!
As far as storing, I would recommend storing in the fridge if you’ve already frosted. Then let sit out for about 30 minutes before you eat it (so that it’s not weirdly cold and the frosting softens up a bit). The frosting has milk in it, so you don’t want to leave it out indefinitely…and it can melt/break easily. OR you can leave the cupcakes unfrosted in an airtight container at room temperature and the frosting in the fridge. Follow the defrosting method above before you frost. OR just make the frosting and frost right before you eat! Enjoy!