½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1¼ cups hot water, heated to simmering
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs
White Chocolate Ganache:
16 ounces white chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
Black Food Coloring
Tip: Use standard measuring cups and spoons or scales for accurate measuring.
- 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 and hot water; stir until blended and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature. When chocolate mixture is cooled to room temperature, stir in the vanilla. Set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, 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 chocolate and vanilla mixture, blending just until mixed. Scrape the bowl down again and continue alternating with the flour mixture and chocolate mixture, ending with the last portion of the flour, and stirring just until blended.
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners. Fill about 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, 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cakes are just firm and spring back when gently pressed, or until a toothpick 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.
White Chocolate Ganache:
- Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In a small heavy saucepan over medium low heat, heat the cream until it is hot and just beginning to steam. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Remove about ½ cup of the white chocolate mixture and place in a small mixing bowl. Add 1 or 2 drops of black food color. This will be used to make the spider web design on top. Set aside to cool and thicken to a piping consistency. For piping the chocolate should be like a thick sour cream.
- Pour the remaining white chocolate mixture into a pitcher, or liquid measuring cup with a pouring spout and let set to cool. As the mixture cools it will thicken and become spreadable. Stir as it cools until it reaches a good spreading consistency, like a thick frosting, but that will spread easily over the top of the cakes.
- When the black mixture has cooled to the right consistency, spoon into a small plastic freezer bag. Put a little piece of tape on corner to reinforce the tip, and then roll over top of bag to keep neater. (You could also use a plastic squeeze bottle with a tip available in decorating stores), Twist the top of the bag to create some pressure to make easier to squeeze out. Cut a tiny corner off the tip of the bag. Set aside.
- Slowly pour a small amount of the white chocolate mixture over one cupcake. It doesn’t have to cover the top completely, or you can let it spread over the top and drip a little over the edges.
Tip: Set the cupcakes on a wire cooling rack, with a piece of plastic wrap or paper towel under the rack to catch drips and make cleanup easier.
- Pipe the black mixture on top of the white chocolate in circles, starting in the center of the cake with a small circle, and adding 2 larger circles. Use a wooden toothpick or skewer and drag the tip of the toothpick from the center of the cake to the outside edge like a spoke. Continue around the top of the cake. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
Tip: When each cupcake is completed, place in the refrigerator to “set” the spider web design and keep from flowing over the edge of the cake.
- Loosely cover to protect the spider web design and refrigerate before serving. Refrigerate leftovers.
Tip: Use leftover chocolate mixture to make delicious little graham cracker sandwich treats. Break a graham cracker into 2 pieces, cover 1 piece with a little of the chocolate mixture and then place the 2nd piece on top to make a cookie sandwich. Refrigerate.