Grandma's Chocolate Cupcakes

My grandmother recently passed away. After a two and a half year long battle with cancer, it was expected, but it was still difficult for my family to say goodbye. Can you truly prepare yourself for losing someone you love? My grandmother was such a strong figure in our family, both humble and hardworking. She will be greatly missed.

During my childhood, my sister and I would spend our winter breaks on my grandparent's farm. Our early mornings were occupied by painting ceramic figurines, using leftover paints from my grandmother's days of painting alongside The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross. Our afternoons were spent building snow caves in the large snow drifts in the yard. When we could no longer feel the tips of our noses, we ran inside to be greeted by my grandmother's handmade quilts, hot from the dryer. In the evenings, we would cuddle up in the same bed and she would read us books. Even when we grew too old for bedtime stories, we would insist anyway, enjoying the familiar tales of Rabbit and Skunk, and the silly voices my grandmother gave the characters.

Most significantly, my grandmother passed down her love of baking to me. Since I was very young, I watched her create complex German meals from scratch: kneading bread dough to make buns, rolling out dough for strudels, whipping the filling for her chocolate pudding pies. As I grew, she taught what she knew about food. As a dedicated home cook, she opened her kitchen to me, letting me work alongside her. She was a no-fuss kind of woman, never minding when I accidentally ripped holes in the strudel dough or flip the frying "shoop" noodles too soon. Instead, she would guide me to do better on the next batch. In many ways, she laid down a foundation of knowledge on food, helping me discover my love and passion for baking.

When I learned of my grandmother's passing, I pulled my personal cookbook off the shelf, filled with her handwritten recipes. I paged through the book, pausing on each recipe, remembering the moments we shared making and eating those dishes together. The last recipe in the book was her recipe for chocolate cupcakes, the memories of which made me laugh. 

My grandmother was known in our family for her chocolate cupcakes, which appeared at every holiday and family gathering. It was general knowledge that her cupcakes had a secret ingredient. My sister and I would constantly beg and plead her to tell us the secret, but her response was always the same: when you grow older. Finally, when I reached my fourteenth birthday, I was deemed old enough. She took me aside and whispered the name of the mystery ingredient—a good cup of strong coffee—and told me I wasn't to tell a soul. I happily lorded this secret over my younger sister for years

I made her chocolate cupcakes on that sad morning, hoping to keep the memories of my grandmother close, baking them to share with my grieving family. I'm sharing her recipe—and secret ingredient—with you today. Above all, my grandmother believed food creates community; food is what brings us and binds us together. Food is love. Our recipes tell the stories of our love.

When you find a moment, bake and share these cupcakes with your loved ones. Create moments to remember and hold dear long after the cupcakes have disappeared. 

My grandmother's chocolate cupcakes have a chocolate base reminiscent of a moist, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth devil's food cake. The frosting is cooked down on the stove, made with butter, sugar, marshmallows, and chocolate chips. After the frosting cools down and is whisked for a lighter texture, it's spread onto the cupcakes. My family prefers to eat the cupcakes straight from the refrigerator, where the frosting is firm and chilled, but feel free to serve them at room temperature based on your own preference (though my father will disagree with your decision on this). 

One Year Ago: Blueberry Crumble Bread
Two Years Ago: S'mores Tarts & Raspberry Rhubarb Sorbet
Three Years Ago: Chocolate Espresso Custard, Mixed Berry Quinoa Crumble, & Cookies & Cream Ice Cream
Four Years Ago:  Boozy Margarita Cake, Double Chocolate Muffins, Rhubarb Ginger Bars, & Dill Dinner Rolls
Five Years Ago: Lavender Lemonade, Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes, Cherry Almond Granola, & Vegan Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Six Years Ago: Cinnamon Raisin Baked French Toast, Chocolate Almond Oat Bars, Bizcochitos, & Quinoa Pudding
Seven Years Ago: Chocolate Chip Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

Grandma's Chocolate Cupcakes

Yields 2 dozen

Chocolate Cupcakes
2/3 cup (155 mL) vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk
2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (43 grams) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (250 mL) strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line a cupcake pan with liners.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, egg, granulated sugar, and buttermilk until uniform. Whisk in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt alternatively with the strong coffee until smooth.

Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Chocolate Frosting
1/4 cup (56 grams) butter
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
6 standard or 60 mini (42 grams) marshmallows
1/4 cup (60 mL) water
1/2 cup (85 grams) semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large saucepan over medium heat, whisk together butter, sugar, marshmallows, and water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and remove from heat. Whisk in chocolate chips until melted. Cool the frosting in the refrigerator, whisking energetically every few minutes until it reaches a spreadable texture (approximately 15-20 minutes).

Frost cooled cupcakes and serve. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator, depending on preference. 

10 Comments

Kristin Rosenau

Photographer, writer, and baker of all things sweet.

Print Recipe!