My grandmother called herself a pagan, and the way she demonstrated this spiritual identity to herself was by throwing me a Spring party every year. I’m not quite sure how this tradition started, but somewhere along the way she started making black bottom cupcakes, and I still remember munching them with my friends under the budding lilacs. My memories might be false, because these days the lilacs are still pretty dormant, but I’m not making up the cupcakes.
My grandmother died in a car accident when I was fourteen, and the Spring party passed on with her.
The other day, I came across this recipe, however, and I thought the timing couldn’t be a coincidence. So here are some black bottom cupcakes for you, in celebration of the equinox. These are really good, but not entirely as I remember them, so I might end up playing a little more with the recipe. I’ll let you know if come up with any dramatic improvements, but I think that David Lebovitz has mastered this as usual. It’s just that his black bottom cupcake is a little more reserved than Grandma Shirley’s.
The Great Book of Chocolate, David Lebovitz
Yield: 12 full-size or approximately 30 mini cupcakes
For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, regular or reduced fat, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (or chocolate chips)
For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.
Make the cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups.
2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl or large measuring cup, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely, which is fine. Try to push th filling down into the center of each cupcake, if possible.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. They will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.