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Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache

Every year for my father’s birthday my grandma used to make him yellow cake with chocolate frosting.  My dad also remembers making this combination himself, so I’m thinking it was a boxed mix and the canned frosting stuff.

No offense Dad, its not that I don’ t think you couldn’t make it from scratch but I can’t picture you actually making it from scratch as a little kid.

Needless to say the flavor combination has lots of memories for my dad, and to this day remains his favorite dessert. I don’t know why, but every year I ask him what dessert he wants for his birthday and every year he says “yellow cake with chocolate frosting”.

So this year I decided to make him yellow cake (from scratch!) in cupcake form with an “updated” chocolate frosting. Since my dad was spending his actual birthday up at my Aunt and Uncle’s house in Jackson I decided that ganache would travel better than actual frosting.

I made the gnache, using the recipe from Alice at Sweet Savory Life, with Trader Joe’s pound plus bar, their 72% one. I think it would have been better to use the regular dark chocolate. Not that it didn’t turn out well, but I thought the chocolate flavor over powered the cupcake flavor. If you like super dark chocolate, I’m not really a fan, use the 72% bar it is in the red packaging. Or if you’d like the cupcake flavor to come through more use the regular dark chocolate bar, it is in the brown packaging. Milk chocolate is in the blue packaging :).

Like Deb from Smitten Kitchen, I think Duncan Hines makes a reliably  moist and delicious yellow cake. But still, I wanted to try my hand at making a from scratch version, and luckily for me, Deb had figured out a version.

The cake is a definite winner in my book as it got a thumbs up from my dad as tasting like the box mix cake. It takes roughly the same time as mixing up the box stuff, but at least you know whats actually in the mixture.

Not that I’m knocking Duncan Hines cake mix! Sometimes its just nice to go to the self and get the box. I even used to eat it straight from the box without actually making the batter.

Yes, I ate the powder. Yes, I’m weird.

This recipe would be awesome for a bake sale – I got 46 cupcakes out of it. Just under double what Deb from Smitten Kitchen thought you’d get out of the batter, but she’d only made actual cakes out of it. The cake itself was wonderful, very light, moist and fluffy. Since the recipe calls for cake flour instead of regular all purpose flour, the crumb is much lighter, almost like eating air. Delicious air.

Yellow Cake

From Smitten Kitchen

Unlike Deb, I haven’t made it in cake form who says you can get two 9-inch round, 2 inch tall cake layers OR two 8 inch squares OR a 9×13 single layer cake. I made cupcakes and got 46 cupcakes out of the deal. Sheesh. I gave most of them to whoever wanted cupcakes :P.

4 cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in the muffin tin.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt on to a paper plate or flexible cutting board (it’ll make it easier to pour into a bowl-lift style mixer). In a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar at medium speed until pale and fluffy – about 5 minutes. Then add in vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time mixing until it is incorporated scrapping the sides down between each egg. Reduce mixing speed to low and pour in buttermilk. It’s gonna look gross and you’re going to think you’ve just ruined everything. Do not worry, it’s supposed to look terrible at this point.

Add in the sifted flour mixture in three batches, mix only until each batch is just incorporated.

Fill each cupcake liner with batter until it is 2/3s of the way fall. These babies rise.  I use a small ice cream disher to help evenly distribute the batter. Rap the pan against the counter to remove some of the air bubles. Bake until golden  and a tooth pick comes out clean – about 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Ganache

From Sweet Savory Life

8 ounces of chocolate, chopped or just broken along the lines

1 cup heavy cream

*optional 3 tablespoons of flavored liqueor


Put chocolate in a bowl. Heat the heavy cream over medium high heat until it boils, then remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir until it has completely melted the chocolate and looks glossy.

Let the ganache cool slightly if using as a glaze then either spoon it over the cupcakes (I used a soup spoon and used the back to spread it over the cupcake – like spreading out pizza sauce). The cooler the ganache gets the thicker it will be become, so you could use it as frosting by letting it cool then whipping it up in a stand mixer.

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