Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

I really love eating these cupcakes! I invested in Varlhona cocoa powder recently it’s really quite expensive, but after baking these cupcakes, I think it’s well-worth the money. (:

When I was making the cupcakes, the Varlhona cocoa powder gave the batter such a delicious smell that I tasted the leftover cake batter (and the cake batter that got onto my hands) – which usually I don’t… Even X came to the kitchen and said the cupcake batter smelled delicious.

These cupcakes had a really nice dark, chocolatey colour and they were tasty and crumbly, albeit a bit on the dry side. However, the frosting / buttercream helped balanced the dryness. And it was really delicious! The frosting was not too overly sweet because I didn’t add a lot of icing sugar. One thing that I would modify the next time I made this is to pipe more frosting on the cake. (:

Start off with flour, Dutch-processesd cocoa powder, baking soda and baking powder.

(If using natural cocoa powder, you woudn’t need baking powder… see the notes below!)

Sift the flour mixture – light and fluffy.

Grab two kinds of sugars…

… And grab some butter.

Get ready the buttermilk and an egg (notes on how to make your own buttermilk is below!) (:

Start by creaming the butter and the sugars until it’s really pale and creamy.

Add in the egg…

… And beat it up until it’s fully incorporated into the batter.

Add in the buttermilk and vanilla extract (sorry if the buttermilk picture gross you out!) /:

The batter will look curdly, like this.

But don’t worry, it’s going to be fine!

Dump in half of the flour mixture…

… And fold it with a large rubber spatula or a metal spoon.

There are two ways of folding – one is using the rubber spatula to cut into the middle of the cake batter and gently lifting it up to let it drop gently on the top (like folding something – imagine folding a paper). I’ve always failed at using this method – I have the tendency to overfold.

So, I used another method which is to use the largest metal spoon I can find – and after adding the flour, I moved the metal spoon in a figure-of-eight motion – stirring the bowl as I mix and not lifting the spoon out of the cake batter until all the flour has been incorporated. I learned this method when I was in secondary school and it works for me pretty well (:

Anyway, back to the recipe, add in the remaining flour mixture.

Fold until you get a gooey, rich, chocolatey mixture.

Try to refrain from licking the cake beaters, the spoons, and the spatulas…

Scoop the cake batter into cupcake cups until they are slightly more than 2/3 full.

And into the oven they went and out came rich, chocolatey cupcakes.

They rose fairly well but they cracked quite a bit, though I’m not worried about it because I’m gonna cover them with some awesome frosting.

Cream the butter, peanut butter and icing sugar (not shown here) together.

Taste the frosting as you mix them – add more icing sugar if it’s not sweet enough, or add more peanut butter if you want the peanut taste to be stronger.

Pipe them onto the cupcakes…

… And strip them!

Om nom nom!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting (makes 18 – 20)

cupcakes recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s Everyday Chocolate Cake
frosting recipe adapted from Fifteen Spatula‘s Peanut Butter Buttercream

190 grams all-purpose / plain flour
70 grams Dutch-processed cocoa powder (Varlhona) Note [1]
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon saltNote [2]
115 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 grams light brown sugar Note [3]
50 grams caster sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 cup (250 ml) buttermilkNote [4]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

85 grams icing sugar Note [5]
115 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
115 grams smooth, creamy peanut butter, at room temperatureNote [6]


Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius. Line 18-20 cupcake moulds with cupcake liners.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a separate large bowl, use an electric mixer and beat the butter on medium speed until creamy for 30 seconds. Add in 1/3 of the the sugars and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the sides down with a rubber spatula. Repeat for another two times. Scrape the sides and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until the mixture is creamy and fluffy.

Add in the egg, beat on low speed for 30 seconds then beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the sides.

Add in the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Similarly, beat on low speed for 30 seconds then medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the sides.

Add in half of the flour and fold gently with a large rubber spatula or a metal spoon. Fold in the remainig flour gently.

Divide the batter among the cupcake moulds and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until well-risen and a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool on a rack completely.


In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer and beat the icing sugar, butter and peanut butter until smooth and creamy. Scoop the frosting into a piping bag.

Pipe the frosting onto the cupcake and decorate with some Varlhona crunchy chocolate pearls.

Serve and enjoy (:


[1] Dutch-processed cocoa powder (also known as alkalized unsweetened cocoa powder) is natural cocoa powder being treated with alkali so it is not acidic. Losing its acidity, it will require the addition of baking powder for the baked goods to rise. Natural cocoa powder (such as Hershey’s) is acidic hence if you are using it, omit the baking powder and increase the amount of baking soda used to 1/2 teaspoon. (The end product will be lighter in colour if using natural cocoa powder.)

[2] I used salted butter to make these cupcakes, so I omitted the salt.

[3] Original amount of sugar that is called for: 200 grams light brown sugar and 100 grams caster sugar. This batch of cupcakes tasted ok to me – it may not be sweet enough if having it on its own, but the sweetness of the frosting made it up.

[4] To make your own buttermilk: combine 15 ml vinegar (1 tablespoon) with 235 ml milk and stir gently. Leave it aside for 15 minutes and it’s ready to be used. I’ve always been making my buttermilk this way.

[5] 80 grams of icing sugar is not a lot – hence the frosting is a bit soft and not very sweet (which was how I liked it). Do add more icing sugar if you like and taste as you go (:

[6] I didn’t pipe a lot of frosting on the cupcakes, hence I only used 2/3 of the frosting, but I really think these cupcakes deserve more frosting! I transferred the remaining 1/3 of the frosting into a small bowl and serve it together with the cupcakes. My friends who wanted more frosting can scoop more for themselves (:

I’m going to submit this recipe to Aspiring Bakers #13: Enjoy Cupcakes! (November 2011) hosted by Min of Min’s Blog.

Happy baking!


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  1. says

    Love that you decorated the cupcakes with little chocolate balls too :) and the peanut butter frosting looks heavenly – i love peanut butter, so this definitely is something i would love!

  2. says

    Joanne: Thanks Joanne (: Peanut butter frosting is my top number 1 favourite frosting now! (:

    Bobbi: Awww thank you so much Bobbi, that’s so sweet (: But I know I still have more to learn! (:


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