It was my younger son’s eighth birthday over the weekend, and you know what that means! Cupcakes for everyone! In my house, chocolate cupcakes are where it’s at, but when it comes to frosting, preferences are all over the map.
When I was a kid, every holiday that we celebrated with my grandparents featured a box of Pot of Gold chocolates. As a result, I associate Pot of Gold chocolates with old people, festivity, and doom. Even when I used the guide that described what filling went with which shape, I would inevitably make a mistake and then find myself sadly stuck with a coffee cream or nougat, when what I really wanted was a fruit or mint centre. I’m not great with culinary surprises, let’s leave it at that.
The basic premise of a box of chocolates is — like Forrest Gump’s mother said — you never know what you’re going to get. Wouldn’t it be nicer if you did know? This is the idea behind my Pot of Gold chocolate cupcakes: it’s a choose-your-own-frosting-adventure. One of my children is devoted to vanilla, the other loves fruity flavours. I love a mint and chocolate combination, my husband is a double-double kind of guy: chocolate frosting atop chocolate cupcakes. So in the interest of family cupcake harmony, I make all the flavours! Everyone wins! And no one has to bite into something that they think is going to be delicious, delicious strawberry but ends up being mocha.
This is a fun recipe to make with kids, not just because of the absolute lickability of the bowl, but because there is a lot of snap-crackle-popping and bubbling due to the chemical reactions of cocoa, water, soda, and vinegar. The cupcakes themselves are vegan, although the buttercream is not. I have added a vegan recipe for frosting at the end; feel free to add flavour any way you wish. The possibilities are scrumptiously endless!
For the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
Add water, oil, and vanilla, and whisk until smooth. Stir in vinegar.
Divide batter among paper-lined muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To make the basic frosting, beat butter for one minute; beat in sugar in 1/2 cup increments. Add milk in 1 tablespoon increments until fluffy consistency is reached. Then choose your own flavour; divide among bowls if more than one flavour is desired.
Vanilla: add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
Chocolate: add 2 teaspoons vanilla and 1/2 cup cocoa powder. Additional milk may be required to maintain consistency.
Peppermint: add 2 teaspoons peppermint extract.
Berry: add 1/2 cup pureed berries plus 2 teaspoons vanilla extract.
Coconut: add 2 teaspoons coconut extract OR for a vegan frosting, use 1 cup coconut oil with 4 cups icing sugar, adding 2-4 tablespoons of coconut or other non-dairy milk to obtain a fluffy consistency.
Watch how easy it is to make your own buttercream frosting: