¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons hot water
¼ cup cold water
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cups (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
Tip: Use standard measuring cups and spoons or scales for accurate measuring.
Peanut Butter Frosting:
1 cup creamy peanut butter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1½ cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
½ cup whipping (heavy) cream
About ¼ cup salted peanuts, coarsely chopped
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two standard 12-cup muffin pans; line with paper cupcake liners.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the cocoa powder and hot water. Stir until smooth, and then blend in the cold water. Add vanilla; stir until thoroughly blended and smooth. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
- In a large bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy.
Tip: To cream, start by placing the butter in the bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed begin by beating the butter about 1 minute until it is smooth and light in color.
With the mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the granulated sugar to the butter, either one tablespoon at a time, or in a very slow steady stream, taking from 4 to 5 minutes to add all of the sugar, then add the brown sugar, taking an additional 3 to 4 minutes, beating until the butter and sugar are fully incorporated and the mixture is a light, or pale yellow color, with a fluffy texture. While adding the sugars, stop the mixer occasionally to scrape the mixture off the paddle and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula so the mixture blends evenly.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly mixed.
Tip: For each egg, crack the egg into a small bowl and whisk with a fork to thoroughly break up the egg before adding to the creamed mixture. Start with the mixer on low speed so the liquid from the egg doesn’t splatter, once the egg is partially mixed increase the speed to medium. Each egg should be fully incorporated into the mixture before adding the next egg, taking about one minute to blend in each egg.
- With the mixer on low speed, add about one third of the flour mixture, mix just until the flour is almost completely blended. Scrape the bowl down, and add about one half of the cocoa mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and cocoa mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners. Fill 2/3 full, using about ¼ cup of batter per cup.
Tip: Avoid over-filling the liners which may cause the batter to run-over the sides when baking. It is better to bake any remaining batter separately after the first pan of cupcakes has finished baking.
- Bake, rotating pan halfway through, 18 to 20 minutes, or until the cakes are just firm and spring back when gently pressed, and a toothpick, wooden skewer, or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly in cupcake pan, and turn out of pan when cool enough to handle. Repeat process with any remaining batter. Cool cupcakes completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting.
Peanut Butter Frosting:
- In a medium mixing bowl, use an electric hand mixer or wooden spoon and beat the peanut butter and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and beat until well mixed. Add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. Add additional powdered sugar or cream if necessary for the desired consistency.
- Use a small offset spatula to frost the top of each cupcake, or use a pastry bag and ribbon decorating tip to pipe the frosting.
- Cover unused frosting tightly or place in an airtight container. Frosting can be stored in the refrigerator up to one or two weeks. Rewhip frosting when ready to use to bring it back to a fluffy texture, adding a small amount of milk if necessary.
- Sprinkle each frosted cupcake with chopped peanuts.