Although chocolate all on its own is a powerfully soothing bite, I also like the combination of chocolate and fruit. When the acidity of both is in balance, I think it works beautifully. I think this is true for raspberries, strawberries, bananas, apricots, figs, cranberries and cherries.
Cherries have been really good this season - sweet, juicy and plentiful. So I decided to use part of my stash to turn out some simple chocolate cupcakes with a buried treasure of cherries. The cherries are simmered for just a few minutes to soften them up and to flavor them with some spice for extra intrigue. The cupcake is tender and enriched with the depth of cocoa. So simple and so irresistible. If you're a fan of chocolate cupcakes - and really, who isn't - I think you'll find this combination a worthy one.
- I sometimes like to use star anise with cherries. Just a couple of points from a star are plenty in this compote to give them a nice twist. The cherries can be made a day or two ahead. Place in an airtight container and chill until ready to use.
- I first tested this recipe using cake flour and I absolutely loved the results. But the cupcakes were super tender and didn't hold together very well. So all-purpose flour will add a bit more strength to the texture. But try cake flour if you don't mind the extra tenderness.
- Since these cakes are very tender, I recommend using paper liners to avoid trying to wrestle them out of the pan. Lightly greasing the rim circumference of each well will also help ensure the tops will loosen easily.
- The high ratio of sugar to butter in the cake recipe requires you to cream the mixture for about 5 - 6 minutes on medium speed until it is light in color and fluffy in texture. It starts out grainy, then turns into small clumps, then lumps into a ball and then eventually smoothes out to a cohesive fluffy mixture. At first you’ll wonder how it’s ever going to come together but it will. Honest!
- When using a cherry pitter tool, be extra careful to account for all the cherry pits. Even though it does a great job of piercing the fruit, sometimes the pits stay lodged in the center, so check and be sure you can account for all of them!
- Drain off the juices before placing the cherries in the cupcake batter (I placed 2 at a time). The cherries should still be moist but you don’t want the batter to get soupy. Use the drained syrup and any extra cherries to flavor oatmeal or yogurt.
Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes
12 oz fresh cherries
2 tablespoons (39 grams) sugar, to taste
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 points of 1 star anise
1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 oz) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (31 grams) cocoa powder
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (3 oz) hot water
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter @ room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (112 grams) granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (112 grams) dark brown sugar, packed
2 eggs @ room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (3 oz) milk
For the cherries, stem and pit them and place in a saucepan. Add the sugar, cinnamon and star anise and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the fruit begins to soften, about 3 – 4 minutes. Take off the heat and cool. When ready to use, discard the star anise.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard cupcake tin with paper liners.
For the cupcakes, sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. In a separate bowl, whisk cocoa and hot water together until thoroughly blended.
Cream butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 - 6 minutes on medium speech in a stand mixer (see the fourth bench note above). Stop and scrape down the bowl at regular intervals. Add eggs one at a time and blend well before adding the next. Scrape down the bowl. Add cocoa mixture and vanilla and combine thoroughly.
Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions, alternating with half the milk and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stop mixing just before it is fully blended and finish by scraping the bottom of the bowl and folding with a rubber spatula until there are no streaks. Distribute equally into the prepared cupcake liners. Submerge 2 drained cherries into the batter of each cupcake.
Bake until a toothpick tests with a few moist crumbs adhering, about 20 to 22 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the edges to loosen and turn out the cupcakes. Cool completely.