Recipe Review

I Tried Ina Garten’s Famous Chocolate Cake as Cupcakes and I’m Forever Changed

published Sep 24, 2021
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Credit: Justin Burke

I have to confess that I am not a fan of cupcakes. If I want a cakey, handheld treat I’ll choose a flavorful muffin before an over-frosted cupcake anytime. With that said, I’m always willing to try anything that Ina Garten makes — even if my preconceived judgment says “you might not like this.”

So when Ina posted on Instagram that she adapted her famous Beatty’s chocolate cake recipe (which also happens to be my favorite chocolate cake of all time) as cupcakes, I knew — regardless of my cupcake judgment — that I had to see if this variation on one of my favorite recipes could change my opinion. This is what happened when I made cupcakes for the first time in 10 years. 

How to Make Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cupcakes

Adapting the chocolate cake recipe for cupcakes simply involves a decrease in bake time and doubling of the chocolate buttercream frosting to make two-dozen cupcakes. 

You’ll start by sifting all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In a separate bowl, combine the buttermilk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, slowly add the wet ingredients until just combined. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Return the mixer to low and slowly drizzle in freshly brewed coffee and mix until combined. This step can be messy — if you pour the coffee in too quickly it will slosh up and over the bowl. Portion the batter into the prepared cupcake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25 minutes.

While the cupcakes bake, make the chocolate buttercream frosting (doubling the recipe). Ina’s recipe says to melt the chocolate using the double boiler method, but I prefer to melt chocolate using a microwave when baking. Roughly chop the chocolate and add to a microwave-safe bowl and melt for 30 seconds. Stir and continue melting in 30-second intervals until all of the chocolate is melted. Set aside until cooled to room temperature. 

In a clean bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until pale yellow. Add the egg yolk and vanilla extract and beat on medium-high speed until combined. Turn the mixer to low, slowly add sifted powdered sugar, and increase the speed to medium — stopping the mixer and scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl — until smooth. Reduce speed to low and slowly add chocolate and dissolved instant coffee until evenly combined, making sure not to overwhip the buttercream. Decorate the cupcakes as desired. 

Credit: Justin Burke

My Honest Review

I’ve made this cake numerous times, but have never made it with the accompanying chocolate buttercream frosting because I was wary of the egg yolk — more on that in a second. I’m now questioning my younger self’s decisions because the cake plus the frosting are undeniably delicious. The dark chocolate cake crumb is delicate and moist. The flavor is rich but not over-the-top. Topped with the creamy, chocolate buttercream, you have a well-balanced cupcake that leaves you wanting more rather than being left in sugar shock. 

My weariness of the egg yolk was before my time baking professionally and knowing the benefits an egg yolk gives to buttercream. The egg yolk adds creaminess and richness to the frosting’s flavor while also stabilizing it. If you’re planning on bringing cupcakes to a party, these will travel well. 

I’m not sure if my cupcake pan was more shallow than what Ina tested with, but my cupcakes were done in 19 minutes; not the recommended 25 minutes. I’m glad I checked on them mid-bake or they would have burned. Ina was right; doubling the buttercream frosting will yield more frosting than needed, but I didn’t let the frosting go to waste. I filled some of the cupcake centers with frosting for the chocolate-lovers in my house. 

Credit: Justin Burke

My Top 3 Tips for Making Ina Garten’s Chocolate Cupcakes 

  1. Whisk in the sugar and salt. Granulated sugar and salt are coarse, and not every granule will pass through a sifter or fine mesh sieve. Avoid annoyance and only sift together all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder, then add the sugar and salt and whisk together to evenly combine.  
  2. Portion the batter and frosting. The cake batter is very thin and liquidy. To avoid spills, use a trigger ice cream scoop for consistent cupcake size and cleaner portioning. An ice cream scoop also works nicely for portioning the perfect amount of frosting.
  3. Check the cupcakes mid-bake. Not all cupcake pans are the same and require different bake times than what is recommended in a recipe (this recipe says to bake for 25 minutes, but mine took 19 minutes). To ensure a proper bake, check on your cupcakes halfway and adjust accordingly.