I have been waiting for summer when strawberries are in peak season before sharing this delicious recipe. One of my all-time favorite baking blogs provided the basis for these cupcakes, though I opt to use my beloved chocolate cake recipe (also seen in my “WHACK!” cupcakes, just minus the orange zest).
There are many steps to making these cupcakes, but they are so worth it! With their dense, decadent center, they are definitely weighty, knife-and-fork cupcakes, and the optional strawberry heart decorations make them a big hit at parties.
(makes 24 cupcakes)
2 cups flour (I’ve tried unbleached all-purpose and bleached cake flour, and both work fine)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Scharffen Berger)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup mayonnaise, not low-fat
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups boiling water
2 Tbsp instant espresso or coffee powder
Preheat your oven to 350º and line muffin tin(s) with liners.
Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large mixing bowl until evenly mixed.
In another large bowl, beat sugar and eggs with an electric mixer at medium high speed until light and fluffy, about two minutes. Beat in the mayonnaise and vanilla until just combined.
In the meantime, dissolve the espresso or coffee powder in the boiling water.
At medium speed, beat in half of the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl after the mixtures are combined. At a very low speed, beat in half of the water and espresso for a few seconds. Add the remaining dry mixture, and again beat a few seconds. Finally, add the remaining water and espresso, and beat for a few seconds until combined. Don’t be alarmed if the batter seems runny.
Fill cupcake cups about two-thirds full. Bake 20-22 minutes on the center rack until a toothpick comes out cleanly from their centers.
Chocolate-Strawberry Filling and Ganache Glaze
9-10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (again, I use Scharffen Berger)
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 pinches sea salt
1 cup diced strawberries (preferably organic)
Chop chocolate into small pieces and transfer to a heat-proof bowl.
Heat cream in a saucepan at medium setting until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Pour cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir until the chocolate completely melts into the cream and you achieve a glossy, dark ganache.
Mix in vanilla and salt.
Pull out 1 heaping cup of the ganache and allow it to cool at room temperature. This will be the glaze.
Fold strawberries to the remaining portion, which will serve as the filling. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill until the mixture has thickened and cooled, about 30 minutes.
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
2 Tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5 cups powdered sugar
Using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until creamy.
Add the milk, vanilla extract, and 2 cups of powdered sugar. Beat at low speed, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, until light and fluffy.
Add more powdered sugar to arrive at the consistency and sweetness you like. If the frosting is too thick for your liking, add a little more milk.
Once the chocolate cupcakes are completely cooled, use a serrated knife (steak knives work well), tilted at a slight angle, to cut small concentric circles in the tops of the cupcakes to form a lift-out cone.
Press the hollow part of the cupcakes with your finger to create more of a well. Fill the cupcakes with a spoonful of the strawberry filling, then replace the cupcake tops.
Top each filled cupcake with a spoonful of glaze. (See photo above.)
Use a piping bag to top the cupcakes with the vanilla buttercream frosting.
Garnish with a whole strawberry, or use a paring knife to cut out strawberry hearts. Just halve a small strawberry and drag a paring knife through the half in the shape of a heart. Place on a paper towel to soak up excess juices, then insert in the vanilla frosting.