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any Ideas for upgraded "plain" chocolate cupcakes???

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello everyone,


Okay I have been baking for app. 8 years (at home) and I tried hundreds of recipes for chocolate cupcakes. Some came out ok, some came out good only once you put filling/frosting in/on them.


I am dying to find a recipe that for a "plain" chocolate cupcake that taste out of this world. I tried all kind of recipes that include sour cream/yogurt/coffee/oils/milk/buttermilk/brown sugar/honey/brown butter/almond meal/chocolate chips (I even bought the best reputed cocoa powders online (e.g. Valrhona) and mind you, I tried all kind of techniques, muffin method, creaming method, foaming method....etc like I said I know my way around the kitchen


I am not sure if you can relate, but all these recipes gave a standard chocolate cupcakes that taste .... ok good like a regular chocolate cupcake.... but not WAW. I tasted this WAW cake in one fancy place and I begged for the recipe they wouldn't give it to me. it is just a plain chocolate cupcake but the taste is OUT OF THIS WORLD. 


Any ideas? Thanks in advance

post #2 of 10

Can you give a description of what your out of this world cupcakes tasted like?

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Fablesable View Post

Can you give a description of what your out of this world cupcakes tasted like?

hmmmmm, lets see, if you make a chocolate cupcake with the usual regular ingredients we use and taste it by itself it, it will taste like a chocolate sponge crumbling the mouth sort of speak, it wouldn't taste like "worth-every-calorie" bite unless you add frosting or filling, however the plain one I had, had a VERY distinctive chocolaty flavor with the aroma of chocolate (something that is more chocolaty than your regular cocoa powder yet very settle and the taste remained in my mouth minutes after I finished it, moist yet not in a heavy way like devil's food cake)

post #4 of 10

Ok....I am going to take a stab at this as I have a few guesses by your description.


If it is the taste more than a texture thing then I would ask if you know the two variants of cocoa powders? One is natural and the other dutched. From the description you had said that it had VERY distinctive chocolate flavour with the aroma of chocolate. That says to me that they could have been using a dutched variety of cocoa. They could have also roasted the cocoa powder more to accentuate the cocoa taste. 


Natural cocoa powder (i.e.:Hershey's) is in an acidic form and the taste lends more citrus-like and slightly bitter to the taste. Dutched cocoa powder is more alkaline in form and smooth, rich and dark chocolate to the taste.  Dutch process cocoa has a more intense "chocolatey" flavor while natural cocoa looks lighter in color and tastes slightly astringent.


Chocolate is naturally acidic, so natural cocoa powder typically has a pH between 5 and 6 (for context, water is 7, right in the middle). That acidity bears out in natural cocoa's flavor, which gives the cocoa a sharp, almost citrus fruit finish. Remember, that just like a chocolate bar, cocoa powder flavor varies by brand. While all natural cocoas will have certain characteristics in common (bitterness and astringency), flavors will vary based on the cacao bean and how it's manufactured. In most U.S supermarkets, natural cocoa is the most commonly available variety of cocoa—think Hershey's, Ghirardelli, and Scharffen Berger.


Dutch process cocoa powder (ie: Valrhona - also sometimes called "alkalized," "European style," or "Dutched") is washed with a potassium carbonate solution that neutralizes cocoa's acidity to a pH of 7. Although all cocoa powders can vary in color from light reddish brown to a richer dark brown, the Dutch process gives the powder a noticeably darker hue.

Dutch process cocoa has a smoother, more mellow flavor that's often associated with earthy, woodsy notes. There are also heavily Dutched "black" cocoa powders that bring the cocoa powder to an alkaline level of 8. This the kind of bittersweet cocoa you'll find in Oreo cookies.

Since Dutch process cocoa isn't acidic, it doesn't react with alkaline leaveners like baking soda to produce carbon dioxide. That's why recipes that use Dutch process cocoa are usually leavened by baking powder, which has a neutral pH.

Many recipes don't specify whether they call for natural or Dutch process cocoa, but American recipes tend to use natural, as that's what you'll find from most American supermarket brands. (Hershey's, for instance, is a natural cocoa.) When in doubt, stick to the leavening rule: recipes that rely on neutral-pH baking powder for leavening are best with similarly neutral pH Dutch process cocoa; those that are leavened by baking soda should stick to natural cocoa powder. If the recipe calls for both baking powder and baking soda, either will work, but it's best to stick to what the recipe calls for to get ideal results.

So a cake with Dutch process cocoa will be slightly darker and fudgier. The cake with natural cocoa powder produces a lighter final result with a slightly more open crumb structure.


So now when you experiment with finding your perfect 'worth every calorie' cake, it might be just a case of different cocoa to play with rather than technique. Also I would say that if you decide to use buttermilk again, use it in a recipe that calls for both baking soda and baking powder as the soda neutralizes the acidity in the buttermilk and the baking powder is left to rise the cake and leave the intense chocolate flavour of the dutched cocoa powder to show through.


Hope some of this helps and if you need some recipes just let me know :)

post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

I, beyond words, appreciate your detailed and explanatory response. If there is something I respect in a tutor, that is to explain, scientifically, what he/she is talking about as it means they do mean to teach and benefit others, not just do this and that. ( Alton Brown)


Having said that, please note that I did try a LOOOOOT of kinds of cocoa powders, (dutched and regular) but roasting it is a new idea to me. Given that you are a professional pastry chef (lucky you!) may I please ask what would your favorite cocoa powder would be? I realize it will depend on the recipe, but what do you think is the best given the choice?


Also, someone said on their page that I can melt a good quality of chocolate into the cake batter, however I was thinking that it will make the cake dry as chocolates are solid in room temperature. May I please know what do you think about that? Chocolate is a bit expensive here so it will help me to get an idea first.


Again I very much appreciate your thorough response to my question.

post #6 of 10

Well thank you and I have to say you sound like a professional baker.....that is great to hear you are not afraid of experimenting! 


I do agree with the other posts that have melted a good quality untempered chocolate (I have used good ol' chocolate bars that are tempered but not as good quality but that is a matter preference for myself ;)) into their cakes as this makes it a french chocolate cake of sorts however the consistency would be quite dense.....not what you had described but amazing in taste. Also there is the matter of the quantity and quality of cocao butter in these "chocolate bars" as mass manufactured stuff is NOT "real" chocolate :(


I really enjoy working with Cacao Barry Plein Arôme Cocoa powder although they have another one that is super intense and red in colour (which is a natural cocoa powder) called Extra Brute and I use this for my truffle coating. Also check out their website as it has a ton of information, techniques and recipes that might inspire or help you. (specifically the Inaya Chcocolate Moelleux....the recipe is in english)


Valrhona is a great company and you can always try to roast their cocoa powder to see what flavour profile you can come up with.


Chocolate, like coffee, is so versatile and great to work with. As they both come from similar regions and tend to be treated almost the same way you can come up with as many flavour profiles as you wish in your baking using these ingredients.


Hope this helps.....I look forward to hearing your adventures into this. If there is more you need just ask :)

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot Fablesable I am sincerely very VERY grateful for the information and for your nice words, believe it or not I have HD drive where I put all my favorite recipes and important notes to go to for info. I copied your posts there and I will keep them as a guide for my next experiments.

Thanks again


post #8 of 10

Anytime Merar....I would also LOVE to hear how your experiments turned out! 

post #9 of 10


I feel your pain. LOL We did endless experiments in the bakery to find the right flavor and texture. Then a Sprinkles Bakery moved into the same center. So at that point we let

our customers deci9de. After all the experimenting and tasting they picked the choco cupcake with a very run of the mill formula but with a good CCBerry cocoa. But that one we piped ganache into the middle and

dipped surface in a ganache just to cover. No buttercream or anything. Go figure. BTW Sprinkles increased our cupcake sales 10 fold.

post #10 of 10

Wow...that is awesome to hear and sounds delicious!

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