Rainy Day Recipe

September 10, 2008

I made these cupcakes on Monday, which was the kind of rainy day that makes one mopey and quiet and even a little broody. Worse yet, the day had started out sunny—a ruse that lured me in and had me envisioning a nice, long stroll through the neighborhood. But as dark, heavy charcoal-colored clouds rumbled into the sky, those hopes washed away like the persistent streaks of rain that were soon coming down the windows. It was the kind of Chicago fall day that I try my best to forget every year, instead conjuring visions of crisp blue skies and golden leaves floating through the sun-drenched air. That’s the fall I prefer to remember. And, every year, I get reminded.

All this was compounded by the fact that I had contracted a very serious case of the post-vacation blues. Not only was our week in Canada over and done, but my post-bar exam life of leisure was rapidly drawing to a close as well. I wondered: Was it over already? I had a sneaking suspicion that the same stealthy thief who snatched summer away from me had returned to abscond with my vacation too. Suddenly I felt like I must jealously horde my time, doling out the precious seconds to only the most worthy tasks.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

But, then I took a nap. When I woke up, hundreds of precious seconds later, the fat drops of rain were still splotching the windows. Given no other choice, I headed to the kitchen. Really, isn’t this just the kind of day made for baking (and napping)?

I set out to make these black-bottom cupcakes, which have been on my to do list for a few months. I was finally baking up a batch to bring to our friends’ house to watch the Vikings-Packers football game. Not only did they seem a football-friendly treat, but I got to thinking, as I pulled the ingredients out of the pantry, that they were even an apt metaphor for the rivalry between fans of the two teams that would play that night: the two sets of fans are distinct, separate elements but for a worthy cause (such as a Monday Night Football party), they will come together—just as the chocolate cake and cheesecake elements do in these cupcakes. Does this sound like the musings of one who had been cooped up far too long on a rainy day? Hmm, perhaps you’re right.

My cabin fever did not stop with baking metaphors, though. It had me delighted—downright thrilled—to sift the dry ingredients, a step that I often skip (tsk, tsk). But on a damp, dreary day, the methodical motions were just the mindless task I needed. Good thing too, because I came out with quite a sieve full of lumps:

Yikes! (I think the brown sugar was the culprit.) Once I sifted through the dry ingredients and whipped up the luscious cream cheese filling, then came the fun part: dolloping—first the chocolate batter and then a bullseye of the cream cheese filling! (Again: I was in need of some fresh air.) But the really, really fun part (and I’m guessing this would be the case even if I didn’t have cabin-fever-slash-post-vacation-blues) was the taste test.

You see, since I was going to be sharing these with others, I thought it only appropriate to engage in a little quality control. Musn’t serve friends undelicious things, right? Plus, I wanted to halve one for a cross-section photo or five. And halving turned into nibbling. Nibbling turned into eating. Eating turned into gobbling. And I packed up the remaining eleven cupcakes and stashed them out of sight so that none of the others would mysteriously disappear before kickoff.

The cupcakes were loved by all, but the real star of the night was a smoking-hot pot of chili our friend Matt created. Yowza, was it good! (And just what the doctor ordered for my rainy day blues.) I gently prodded about a recipe, but I think it was more of a “little-of-this, little-of-that” type of thing. So, you’ll just have to settle with this recipe for now. Which isn’t really settling at all.

Black-Bottom Cupcakes
David Lebovitz’s The Great Book of Chocolate via Leite’s Culinaria

Yield: 12 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*

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, 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. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.

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.

5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

* Whoops! I plum forgot this step. I had even chopped the chocolate and everything. I just forgot to add it. I think I was too excited about the dolloping.

* I used a small (1-3/8 inch across), spring-loaded ice cream scoop for this and it came out to three scoops per cupcake.
** I used the same scoop for this step and came out to two scoops per cupcake. Next time I might try a little less—perhaps 1.5 scoops (which would leave some left over, yes)—for a more centered, offset white middle.


18 Responses to “Rainy Day Recipe”

  1. GS Says:

    I guess it’s cupcakes for dessert at my house tomorrow night! By the way, I’m not sure that one cupcake qualifies as gobbling; in fact, I consider you to be a pillar of will power and deserving of congratulations! Thanks for this recipe.

  2. Melissa Says:

    I just recently found your blog and live in the area, so I know just what Monday’s weather was like! Congrats on your recent educational accomplishments!!

  3. Lavonne Says:

    Oh my god those look so yummy. I’ll put on the list for a rainy day.

  4. Leonor Says:

    Wonderful cupcakes!!
    They remind me of oreo cookies… How would they taste? Is there any relationship?
    I’m sure they’re delightful!!

  5. lisa Says:

    Gorgeous! Now, they’re on my to do list.

  6. Heather Kay Says:

    Found you through Foodgawker. Made these tonight the whole family loved them! Thanks!

  7. Monica h Says:

    Like Leonor said, these instantly reminded me of Oreos. They look fantastic. I must make these!

  8. Monica h Says:

    I was just thinking, these would be wonderful with a pumpkin base- I’ll have to experiment.

  9. sara Says:

    These look soooo good. I’ve always been a fan of oreo cheesecake…this seems like it would be a more chocolately version of that. Yum! Beautiful pictures, by the way.

    And yes, of course, you HAVE to taste test. How embarrassing would it be to serve something that tasted awful?

  10. Megan Says:

    these look absolutely delicious! i loved looking at the photos..and now i’m quite hungry!

  11. mari Says:

    I love baking the blues away…and cupcakes are most certainly good medicine!

  12. eggsonsunday Says:

    YUM! I have had a block of cream cheese languishing in my fridge for a few weeks, with nothing specifically planned for it…these might be just the thing! I’m totally with you on the quality control policy, btw. -Amy

  13. GS: When I first read your comment, I read “cupcakes for dinner”! Which wouldn’t be all that bad of an idea, now that I think about it …

    Melissa: Thanks! Lucky for us, the weather has dramatically improved since Monday.

    Lavonne: I should’ve mentioned: rainy day is optional. Feel free to make these any old time. 😉

    Leonor: Hmm. The chocolate part is like the intense chocolate flavor of an oreo, but the white part is like cheesecake, so not that much like oreo filling. But so good!

    Lisa: Thanks! This is definitely worth an addition to the to do list.

    Heather Kay: Welcome! I love the instant feedback. These are a great thing to make on the spur of the moment because you’re likely to have everything on hand — except perhaps the cream cheese. So glad you and your family liked these.

    Monica h: I can’t wait to start baking with pumpkin this fall! I think that’d be a really interesting variation on this type of cupcake. If you try it, let us know how it goes!

    sara: Yes, a lot like an oreo cheesecake, I’d imagine. Except heavier on the chocolate than on the cheesecake. So sort of a reverse oreo cheesecake, I guess.

    Megan: Thank you!

    Mari: The best.

    Amy: We do it because we love the people we feed, right? Riiiight. : )

  14. Zoe Francois Says:

    What fun, these are absolutely wonderful!

  15. These are so adorable! I love the drastic color change and look of these!

  16. Zoe: They were fun!

    My Sweet & Saucy: It is a good contrast—kind of like black and white cookies, but in a cupcake form.

  17. Laura Says:

    Sometimes saying something looks fabulous starts sounds redundant and boring, but seriously, these have been copied into my recipe files and just look awesome.

  18. Laura: I’m so glad to hear it! And I saw on your blog that you made them. They look great (black tops and all)!

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