Not everything works the first time that you try it.
I had this idea. I had made Black Bottom Cupcakes a couple of times. Black Bottom Cupcakes are chocolate cupcakes with a cheesecake middle. I used the Smitten Kitchen recipe and they were always good. Extremely good. Especially when I made them in the mini muffin pan. Those are little bite size balls of delicious. (In fact, I won’t begrudge you if you stop reading now and just go make those because they are excellent.) But not long ago, I discovered Rose Levy Berenbaum’s Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting from her Rose’s Heavenly Cakes cookbook, which is a cream cheese frosting with melted white chocolate mixed in and I have been putting it on all the things. Banana cake, carrot muffins, chocolate beet cake, anything that I think might go well with white chocolate gets slathered with that frosting. And so when I thought of making these cupcakes again, I wondered if I could somehow bring that white chocolate frosting into the mix.
I took another look at the original recipe. I noticed that the cake was a simple oil based chocolate cake. I had seen another oil based chocolate cake on the Food52 website not too long ago and had loved it when I made it. (It is very similar to the Smitten Kitchen cake, but with a few key differences – white sugar instead of brown, double the salt, and slightly less oil.) All oil based cakes develop a more intense flavor as they sit and so are better the day after they are baked then the day of, but this cake was great as soon as it was cooled. I decided to use that cake for my base.
Then I looked at the white chocolate frosting and compared it to the cheesecake filling for the cupcakes. Both had cream cheese as their base, but everything else was different, including how they were prepared. The white chocolate frosting incorporated both butter and sour cream in addition to melted white chocolate and was made in the food processor. The cheesecake filling had sugar and an egg and was simply stirred together in a bowl. Also, the proportions were radically different. The white chocolate frosting called for 4 ounces of cream cheese and the cheesecake filling required 8 ounces.
I decided to use the frosting proportions and incorporate some sugar and an egg. I used half the sugar called for in the original recipe and only two tablespoons of a single beaten egg. I made the whole thing in the food processor. It looked about right, but the final result was not what I had hoped. First of all, there was not enough filling. Getting the filling into the center of the cupcake is always a bit of a challenge, but here the filling stayed firmly on the surface of the cupcake. Which is not a tragedy, but the other issue was the sweetness. The white chocolate and sugar together were overkill. Also, the texture of the filling wasn’t exactly right. It didn’t have that creamy cheesecake texture.
Back to the drawing board.
I would increase the proportions so that there were 8 ounces of cream cheese. I was keeping the sour cream and doubling it accordingly. The butter was going out and I was using a whole egg. I omitted the sugar entirely since white chocolate has sugar in it already. And I switched to a stand mixer instead of the food processor.
The resulting filling mixture was so light and fluffy that I had to stop myself from licking the mixer blade. (Raw egg. Boooo.) However, and this is important, the cheesecake filling is the only component of this recipe with egg in it so you can lick the spoons and bowls for the chocolate mixture as well as the bowl used to melt the white chocolate. You know, if you’re the kind of person who does that sort of thing. (I am.)
This second batch of cupcakes nailed it. Moist cake, creamy filling, and that hint of white chocolate. This is how I am making these cupcakes from now on.
Black Bottom Cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 cup cold water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 4 oz. white chocolate, melted and cooled (but still fluid)
- 1 egg at room temperature
- 1/8 tsp almond extract
Heat the oven to 350° F and line or butter a 12 cup muffin pan.
Set your the cream cheese for the filling out to soften. If you do not keep filtered water chilled in your fridge, then set a cup of water in there to chill. Melt your white chocolate (either in the microwave or in a double boiler) and set it aside to cool. (You want it slightly warm to the touch and still fluid.)
Now make the cupcake batter.
Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, oil, vanilla, and vinegar.
Whisk together the wet and dry mixtures until smooth. Set aside.
Make the filling.
In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it is fluffy. Scrape down sides of the bowl and add the sour cream. Beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the cooled and melted white chocolate and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. In a separate bowl, crack open the egg and beat it until the white and yolk are well mixed. Add the egg to the mixer bowl and beat on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the almond extract and beat until incorporated.
There are two options for filling the muffin pans:
1) Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full (about two tablespoons of batter) and then add a heaping tablespoon of the filling, pushing it down into the center.
2) Fill the muffin cups 1/2 full (about one tablespoon of batter). Add a tablespoon of filling to the center and then pour add more chocolate batter until the muffin cup is full. Add a small spoon of filling to the top.
Bake the cupcakes for about 25 to 30 minutes until the chocolate tops spring back to the touch and the cheesecake filling has set.
Cool on a wire rack in the pan. (The cheesecake filling will sink a little. Don’t be alarmed. It is supposed to do that.) Remove from pan and try not to eat them all immediately.
They will keep covered at room temperature for 2 to 3 days, but they taste great after being in the fridge and will last a few days longer that way.