Thursday, April 17, 2008

Emergency Blender Chocolate Cupcakes: Zap-Zap! You're Ready to Bake!

Last month I was looking for a dessert recipe as a take-along for an impromtu celebration. It was already the middle of the afternoon and I was up against the clock. Fortunately, I had clipped a recipe for "Emergency Blender Cupcakes" from the Chicago Tribune and tucked it in my "Chocolate Desserts" file. I'm so glad I did because not only were these the easiest cupcakes I'd ever made, they were the best - chocolately and moist through and through. I've made them three times since and they've been perfect each time. They can be made in a blender or a bowl - either way, it's a snap. The best part? The ingredients were already in my pantry - no special trips to the market! There's no doubt that these delectable treats are now my "go to" recipe for chocolate cupcakes.

The recipe was created by pastry chef and cookbook author Abigail Johnson Dodge. Abby Dodge is also a contributing editor at Fine Cooking magazine and founded the magazine's test kitchen. After college, Abby studied pastry-making in Paris at LaVarenne and later worked under Michelin 3-star chefs Michel Guérard and Guy Savoy. Despite her rigorous formal training and high-end experience, Abby likes to bake approachable comfort desserts on a regular basis (perhaps because she's also a mom). This streamlined chocolate cupcake recipe appears in her book "The Weekend Baker", a warm and friendly volume written for home bakers. Abby was kind enough to grant me permission to publish the recipe, which includes the equally quick and delicious "Fudgy Frosting". Thanks Abby!

The recipe here is exactly as written by Abby Dodge. If I'm in a hurry, I make the frosting first, to give it a chance to set up. Please see my notes at the end of the recipe.


1 cup (4-1/2 ounces/128 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (1-1/2 ounces/43 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder* (not Dutch process), sifted if lumpy
1 cup (8 ounces/227 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup (6 fluid ounces/175 ml) hot water
1/2 cup (4 fluid ounces/117 ml) canola or corn oil
1 large egg
1-1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 375 degrees (190°C). Line 12 regular-sized muffin cups with paper or foil liners.

Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt in a blender (I combine the dry ingredients in a 4-cup Pyrex® glass measuring cup and whisk them together and then pour the mixture into the blender). Cover with the lid and blend on medium speed until blended. Pour in the water, oil, egg, and vanilla. Cover with the lid and blend on medium-high until smooth and well blended, stopping to scrape down the sides once or twice. Alternatively, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl (one with a pouring spout and handle would be ideal). Whisk until blended. Pour in the water, oil, and vanilla. Add the egg and whisk until blended, about one minute.

Pour into the lined muffin cups, dividing evenly. Bake until a tooth-pick or cake tester inserted in the center of one cupcake comes out clean, 17 to 19 minutes. Transfer the muffin pan to a rack to cool for about 10 minutes, and then carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and set them on the rack to cool completely. (At this point, the unfrosted cupcakes can be covered in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 month.)


8 ounces (227 grams) bittersweet chocolate*, finely chopped
8 tablespoons (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup (8 fluid ounces/233 ml) sweetened condensed (not evaporated) milk; measure carefully - do not use the entire can of milk
1/4 cup (2 fluid ounces/58ml) light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of table salt

While the cupcakes are baking, melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or in the microwave. Add the condensed milk, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until blended. Set aside at room temperature, whisking frequently. It will continue to thicken as it cools. When the frosting is completely cool, cover the bowl with plastic wrap until the cupcakes are completely cool and ready to frost. No need to refrigerate. (At this point, the cooled frosting can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Bring the frosting to room temperature before using it.)

Using a small spatula or table knife (I use a small offset cake spatula), spread 2-3 tablespoons frosting on top of each cupcake. (You can also pipe the frosting through a pastry bag with a star tip for a fancier look.) Dust with colored sprinkles, if desired.

*Notes: I use Hershey's natural cocoa for this recipe and it works perfectly. Semisweet chocolate works as well as bittersweet. I've found that there's no need to finely chop the chocolate. I just use an 8-ounce scored bar and break it into 4 pieces. Use the bowl method if your blender container is on the small side or if your blender motor labors a bit. I actually make 11 cupcakes from this recipe which produces a slightly taller end-product. If you make 11 cupcakes, be sure to fill the remaining empty cup with water so it doesn't burn in the oven. Feel free to frost with a recipe of your own choosing. For some reason, guys like chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream - but for me, it's got to be chocolate!