Bon Appetit’s Chocolate Fun Cake
Is there anything a parent loves more than the sound of their child happily playing alone? The high-pitched tinkle of O’s voice as she talks to her stuffed animals and god know who else in her ever-growing imaginary universe is music to my ears.
This has just started to happen and only in little fits. Mostly, she still demands our undivided attention around the clock. But occasionally, when I least expect it, she’ll drift into her own world to play with her stuffed animals and put her dolly down for naps or just look out our big picture window and talk to the bluebird who has perched on the very tip of the tree in our backyard.
This gives me five, sometimes ten, minutes of freedom that I usually waste on some mundane household task. Every once in a while I relish the time by standing in the kitchen reading a magazine or cookbook. On one hand, two years is a very, very short time to go from a newborn who can’t even burp on her own to a little person who can entertain herself. On the other hand, two years is a very, very long time for a woman in her mid to late thirties who has previously had loads of free time to have absolutely no free time. Reaching the stage when your child start to show a little independence is a beautiful thing. Anyone who has a kid knows what I mean. Anyone who has a kid who still stands/cries/whines outside the bathroom if you, god forbid, dare to shut the door while you pee or take a shower, really knows what I mean.
Because I am someone who never totally lives in the present, O’s magnificent new ability to amuse herself is tainted by pangs of grief coming from my assumption that in a decade or so (or will it happen sooner?) her sole goal in life will be to spend as much time away from me as possible. But maybe that won’t happen, right? Maybe my teenage girl will still want to spend time with me? She won’t roll her eyes when I tell her she is still my Valentine?
Yesterday, O gave me three gigantic hugs and kisses in a row, each time saying, “I love you soooo much!” She then looked at me very seriously and said, “Did you know that I love grapes soooo much?” And I get it – her love for grapes (which is pretty intense, she talks about them every day) in no way competes with her love for me. There is enough love in my toddler’s world, all of it very sincerely given, for all of her favorites: mom, dad, grapes, pink bear, gummy vitamins and snowmen (still a nightly topic of conversation, followed by a round of Jingle Bells and Up on the House Top. Explaining that Christmas is over has proven to be a challenging topic).
Yesterday, we baked our first cupcakes together and I learned two things. One, there is no greater mess than a toddler and chocolate batter. Two, the Chocolate Fun Cake recipe in the March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit is the only chocolate cupcake recipe you will ever need. (Side confession: until about 5 minutes ago when I looked at the date on the cover, I thought I had been reading the current issue of Bon Appetit. That’s how far behind I am on my magazine reading. This issue has been sitting in my kitchen for an entire year, and I just now discovered it).
Chocolate Fun Cake is moist and fluffy with an intense chocolate flavor. I can’t think of anything else you would want from a chocolate cupcake. The name “fun cake” is perfect. This is not a serious chocolate dessert – the cake tastes surprisingly like Duncan Hines, but better. Plus, no eggs (so kids can eat the batter with no worries) and no weird ingredients. I love these simple cupcakes so much that I feel no need to search for any other chocolate cupcake recipe again. Fun Cake is officially my go-to chocolate cupcake recipe from here on out.
Total Time in the Kitchen: 10 minutes to make batter, 25-40 minutes to bake
Servings: 12 cupcakes or an 8x8x2 pan
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup finely chopped semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (3 1/2 ounces) I imagine you could use chocolate chips instead.
Preheat oven to 350 F
Coat the bottom and sides of a 8x8x2 pan with nonstick spray and line the pan with parchment paper or put liners in a cupcake tin and lightly spray the liners with non-stick spray.
In a large bowl whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda.
Stir in oil, vanilla, water and chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan or cupcake tin.
Bake until a toothpick comes out clean. For a cake, this will be 35-40 minutes. For cupcakes, I baked mine 25 minutes which left them just slightly underdone and super-duper moist.
A word about frosting: the BA recipe used Peanut Butter Buttercream, which sounds insane (but very tempting). I opted for simple whipped cream, a nice contrast that keeps the cake from being too sweet.
A half-pint of whipping cream + 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract + 1 teaspoon sugar whisked/beaten until soft peaks form will give you a thin layer of frosting.
If you want a thicker layer (which I recommend) make double that amount. If you frost the cupcakes with whipped cream, make sure to store them in the refrigerator.