Chocolate on Chocolate Cupcakes

I remember the day it occurred to me that being born in August meant never getting to bring cupcakes to school on your birthday. W was due the end of July, born on August 4. This sad fact occurred to me sometime around May, and I was crushed. I mean seriously crushed. Panicked, even. I cried, partially due to the raging hormones I’m sure, over cupcakes. Or the lack of opportunity to make them to mark the most important event in the year of a little kid.

I got over it – kind of. Most everyone is away on the first long weekend of August, which sucks a bit every time W’s birthday rolls around. And he hasn’t started school yet. But today was his preschool’s May pole party – a performance for which parents were asked to bring a little smackerel of something when we arrived at 11 am. Last time we were asked to such an event – on Valentines’ Day – the note home requested “a small snack, such as hummus”. What did that mean? No cupcakes? Would sweets of any kind be frowned upon? I spent more time debating what to bring for a preschool Valentines’ Day party snack than I might have spent composing a menu for some grand function. I settled on popcorn. Festive, and no one could accuse me of being unhealthy.

But this time we made cupcakes, dammit. Little ones. W got to choose what kind, and naturally picked chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing. We baked them together last night, he becoming so adept at cracking eggs that he no longer gets his fingers goopy. I put them in the oven before reading him his bedtime stories, and this morning the minute he woke up he ran downstairs to see if the cupcakes were baked. We frosted them over breakfast.

He wanted chocolate sprinkles, too – but there was only about a teaspoon left in the bottle, and a good half teaspoon went into his mouth and all over the floor.

I know I’ve shared this chocolate cake recipe before, probably more than once. It’s my favourite formula for chocolate cupcakes. The quick buttercream frosting ingredients were tossed in a bowl and beaten with a hand mixer (I could only find one beater – pretty sure the other is in some sort of mock-up space station in the basement), measured by eyeball: a blob of butter, shake of dark cocoa and much bigger shake of icing sugar, and a bit of water to get it all going. (I usually make frosting like this, adding more sugar or water as needed until I have something spreadable.) But what I really want to tell you about is how to make thick snaky swirls on top far more easily than even spreading it on with a knife.

Once you have something that has the consistency of frosting, scoop it into a zip-lock baggie, squish the air out of the bag and seal it. Snip off a corner and pipe it out – it will extrude nice and clean and smoothly, and when you’re done you can toss the baggie out. If you have several kids wanting to get in on the decorating action, you can give them each a bag. You could mix up different colours and alternate them, making stripey swirls. Or snip off just a tiny bit and use it to write stuff. Baggies are brilliant when it comes to cupcake decorating. Seriously- we did this while W ate his eggs on toast. It doesn’t have to be a big production. Unless of course you want it to be.

I know- they’re crazy dark cupcakes, hey? I used Bernard Callebaut cocoa (which isn’t the same as plain old Callebaut, right? You know that, right?) and was tempted to add orange juice to the frosting, but W may have detected that I messed with his chocolate on chocolate action. And I don’t want to get between a boy and his chocolate.

The recipe made 4 dozen mini cupcakes, which I baked in mini muffin cups. Every time I see one at a yard sale, I buy it, and now have approximately a hundred thousand. They’re the perfect size, even for grown-ups – three bites – perfect when you don’t want to commit to an entire cupcake. If you do, you can have three. Here’s the recipe.


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33 comments on “Chocolate on Chocolate Cupcakes

  1. bluejeangourmet
    May 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    Ziploc baggies full of frosting changed my life, allowing me to decorate cupcakes that looked respectable enough to show other people!

    you are an awesome mama, & I would like one of those cupcakes, please.

  2. Erica B.
    May 26, 2010 at 8:58 pm

    Love love love this recipe! It’s my go-to for school goodies and chocolate-lover’s birthdays. I use plain ol’ Fry’s cocoa and they still come out deep dark and deeelicious 🙂

    I hear you about August birthdays – Al is Aug 29 – close to the next long weekend – weather so iffy that we plan indoor parties (not that it felt anything less than sauna like the summer I was pregnant with her!)

  3. Avery
    May 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm


  4. Lorraine
    May 26, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    Frosting in a zip lock bag…. oh the possibilities!

  5. Avery
    May 26, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Sorry… I think I lost consciousness a little thinking about chocolate cupcakes. The new baby I’m growing will be born in early November, and I cried a little thinking about how it will probably never experience an outdoor/backyard birthday party… I’m already compiling a mental list of all of the indoor birthday activities I’ll have to do (rollerskating, wave pool, uh… pottery painting…?)

  6. Kait
    May 26, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    As an early August baby (August 2) myself — I always took pleasure in the fact that my birthday almost always falls on the long weekend, meaning not only did I not have to go to school on my birthday but my parents did not have to go to work and in present day I do not have to go to work! And the more cupcakes for me the better!!!

  7. rea
    May 27, 2010 at 12:36 am

    i could eat about 8 of those right now. not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  8. bellini valli
    May 27, 2010 at 4:39 am

    When you find a winner stick to it.

  9. Joni
    May 27, 2010 at 7:35 am

    At our school they celebrate the summer birthdays either in June or in September so those kids don’t get left out. A great idea! At least your school lets you bring cupcakes! Our school won’t allow us to bring any baking at all for fear of allergies. THAT almost made me cry!

  10. Erica B.
    May 27, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Joni when we lived in Calgary our school didn’t allow it either (Langevin Science Program) if it’s a peanut issue Bliss & Co in chinatown is nut-free and their cupcakes are fantastic…not the same as making them yourself but a real close 2nd 🙂

  11. June
    May 27, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Wow – talk about swoonable!

  12. Stacey
    May 27, 2010 at 9:25 am

    Just wanted to thank you for brightening my day! I look forward to “checking in” every morning to see what magic you concocted for dinner. Often times, I lean in close to the computer screen to get the best look, I must look crazy to those walking by my office. I always read with a smile, sometimes a laugh or giggle. It’s like catching up with an old friend….or peering into someone’s window. Either way, thanks. It’s always the best part of my day.

  13. JulieVR
    May 27, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Stacey, you just totally made my day. Thank YOU!!!

  14. Cheryl Arkison
    May 27, 2010 at 10:55 am

    My birthday is always on a long weekend too. Never much fun for a party, but good as an adult to always have that extra day.

    You forgot the other benefit of the mini cupcake – kids are more likely eat the actual cupcake instead of simply licking off the icing.

    Finally, water in the icing? Never would’ve thunk it. I always use milk.

  15. JulieVR
    May 27, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I’ve always used water – works fine! It’s not like you can taste the milk over all that sugar anyway.

    Funny you should mention the icing part – W always fancies a cupcake as a sort of convenient holder to lick the icing off – like a cake-based lollipop! at one point during the party we looked over and saw a little girl with five cupcakes on her plate, all licked clean.

  16. Kristin
    May 27, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Those look so good! I’m totally laughing at you, so rebelious making cupcakes and all. Kind of silly how focused on nutrition every is, yet we are less healthy than ever! Yeah for cupcakes! 🙂

  17. robyn
    May 27, 2010 at 11:26 am

    So funny….I’ve always been a bit sad that my kids don’t have summer birthdays with backyard sprinkler parties.

    You can always make cupcakes or other treats for the first day of school. That will wow the other kids immediately, and W will be uber popular. 🙂

  18. JulieVR
    May 27, 2010 at 11:28 am

    It has rained on W’s last two birthdays, kyboshing my plans for a backyard sprinkler party. I think the novelty of a sprinkler party will wear off by the time he turns 5 or 6…

  19. Sue (London, ON)
    May 27, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    I have a boy with a birthday in August too and I remember when I realized he’d never have his birthday at school and unlike you I was so relieved for him! Remember the royal bumps? Oh I dreaded my birthday for weeks when I was little because… well, I was never little and the thought of my friends trying to heave me up for royal bumps was so humiliating!
    I use milk bags for piping icing. You just slice open the bag when the milk is gone, rinse it with hot water, let it dry. I use them to pipe my egg filling for devilled eggs too!

  20. colesangel
    May 27, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Julie…i was having a horribly grumpbly, cranky, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. your chocolate cupcakes and bedtime stories gave me the first smile i’ve had all day. thanks! 😀

  21. robyn
    May 27, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    If it’s any consolation, my birthday always fell within Christmas break. I have never been to school on my actual birthday, and I don’t think I’ve ever had any pangs of sadness over it. Being off school? That’s the best present! 🙂

  22. Manon from Ontario
    May 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    OMG Julie you are killing me…these look way to delish, and I’m following a weight loss program right now….but now I want one, two or three of these…grrrr, man you must have neighbors all the time at your house, I know I would definatly be over all the time!!!!

    Too bad for W….but man with a Mom like you, cooking all these goodies…I’m sure he will be all smiles on his bday!


  23. Valerie
    May 27, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Being an August child myself, my mom always let me bring some treat on the first or second day of school (I’m sure she coordinated with the other August-birthday-girl-in-my-class’ mother). Hope you get to do something like that for W.
    Also, I’m glad you got to bring cupcakes this time. I’d be devastated if that wouldn’t be allowed…

  24. Michelle
    May 27, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Yummy treat! My daughter’s bday is in a couple days and she wants cupcakes for school. My son, on the other hand, celebrates his bday in the summer, but his teachers have always been very kind in letting him share a treat before school gets out. This year, he wants to make fudge! : )

  25. Suzy
    May 27, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Gotta love a kid who wants chocolate cupcakes with chocolate icing. And a mom who uses seriously good chocolate to make them!

  26. Jan (Family Bites)
    May 27, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I could really use a plate of these myself tonight! I LOVE their dark colour…they look so decadent.

  27. eprairiegrrl
    May 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I am so going to make these for my dad when he comes to visit – he loves moist dark chocolate cake!

    Where do you get the Bernard Callebaut cocoa?

  28. Brigitte
    May 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    I worked at a playschool where we would celebrate “half-birthdays” for those children born in the summer months. They had the chance to celebrate being 3 1/2 years old or 4 1/2 years old with their classmates.
    They did get to make the special birhtday crown and bring some treats from home to share with their friends.
    Maybe you could suggest to your teacher that they start celebrating half-birthdays too!

  29. Jen Sorenson
    May 27, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Baggies are genius for piping. You can even stick pastry tips in there for ruffles and other patterns. Love the quick cleanup. And I’ve been looking for a good, dark, chocolate cupcake. Fabulous.

  30. Natalie from Ottawa
    May 31, 2010 at 7:27 am

    Julie, your photos of these mini cupcakes are AWESOME! Now I need cupcakes, thanks a lot! 🙂

  31. Victoria
    February 11, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    As someone born in August, I will say my birthday parties were mostly adults with one or two kids. My friends were ALWAYS on holiday.

    If your kid goes to day camp, that can sort of make up for “birthdays in classroom”.

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  33. Maria
    May 27, 2014 at 7:44 am

    Love the look of these! But unfortunately the links you provided for the recipes are no longer working (I guess I’m a bit late to the party!). Wondering if you can post the recipes for the cake and frosting?

    Please and thank you! I have a birthday coming up and I think these would be a hit!

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