True confession: I am not a cake person. Or an icing person. In fact, for most of my life, pretty much any cake + icing combo won an automatic spot on my eat-it-just-to-be-polite list. I’ve never been one for typical birthday cakes either (neither is my sister, so two out of four sibling birthdays regularly consist of non-cake desserts. Huzzah!). Over the years, we’ve done birthday ice cream, birthday cheesecake (which, I would argue, is only a cake by name), birthday brownies and birthday pie. Last weekend, Jared and I went back home for an early birthday party with my family, and it was a tray full of Rice Krispies treats topped with pink candles that rang in birthday 25. Woot!
Now I mention all this because when it comes to cake, it takes something crazy delicious to get me excited. I have found that going the homemade route rather than from-the-box makes any cake a smidgen more palatable, but it still takes an extra ingredient or special something to make it a dessert I’d want to write home about (or consume on more than one occasion). Enter peanut butter: that magical, sticky substance that makes cookies amazing, granola bars delicious and even ice cream extra special. I should have seen this one coming.
These peanut butter cupcakes from The Essential New York Times Cookbook are worthy of a try by all — even the non-cake-eaters out there. They’re fluffy and moist, with just the right amount of peanut buttery goodness spread throughout the batter. And when paired with the milk chocolate icing (the best I’ve tried, I think) and a few bittersweet chocolate shavings, they’re photo-worthy to boot.
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
From The Essential New York Times Cookbook (Amanda Hesser, p. 787)
For the cupcakes:
• 3 cups cake flour
• 1 tablespoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
• ½ cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 cup creamy peanut butter
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup whole milk (I used about a tablespoon of heavy cream and the rest skim milk, which seemed to work just fine.)
For the frosting:
• 3 cups powdered sugar
• pinch of salt
• 2/3 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder
• 3 sticks of butter (I did a bit less on the butter and upped the milk, about 2 1/3 sticks butter and 9 tablespoons milk.)
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
• 6 tablespoons whole milk (I used skim — no problemo!)
• chocolate flakes or sprinkles (optional)
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper cups. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars on a low speed until combined, then beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in the peanut butter, then beat in the eggs one at a time. On low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the batter in three parts.
Fill the baking cups ¾ full with batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 17 to 19 minutes. Cool on rack.
To make the frosting, sift together the powdered sugar, salt and cocoa powder. In a mixer (using the paddle attachment again), beat the butter until smooth. On a low speed, slowly add the cocoa mixture. Add the vanilla, then add the milk a little at a time, beating until the frosting reaches spreading consistency.
Frost the cooled cupcakes, and sprinkle with chocolate flakes or sprinkles. Enjoy!
Even little Ella was desperate for a cupcake of her own. But chocolate + pups = no gooda. At least she got to enjoy the whole house-smelling-like-a-bakery thing. That’s always a win for everyone.
Where do you stand on cakes? Love them? Not-so-love them? Do you have a favorite kind or amazing recipe that you bake for special occasions? Do tell!