I made chocolate cupcakes. With chocolate ganache in the middle.

Honestly, I considered leaving out the center to save on chocolate. Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate (one of the chocolate bars the recipe recommends) is a tad more expensive than the old run-of-the-mill Baker’s semi-sweet.

I decided to go all the way and I’m glad I did. The centers of these bad boys makes them luscious. The cupcake is already delicious without it. The texture is perfect, as it should be. The recipe comes from a Cook’s Illustrated tester who says he baked about 800 cupcakes to perfect the ultimate chocolatey chocolate cupcake. 

It’s dark and intense. Like “While You Were Sleeping” if Sandra Bullock were replaced with Glenn Close. “Fatal Attraction” Glenn Close. And the movie had been shot by one of those early-90s directors who specialized in obsession movies, like “Basic Instinct” or “Indecent Proposal.”

Or “Fatal Attraction.”

Yeah, that kind of sums up this cupcake — aggressively pleasurable. An experience that drives those around it to do crazy things.

For instance: I killed my $14, 1 1/2-year-old Hamilton Beach mixer while whipping up the frosting. It was a slow sort of death.

Lots of strange clicking noises. Heat pouring out of its vents.

I was down to using only the whisk attachment at that point — a prior batch of homemade Oreo cream did-in the beaters, which had begun to slap against each other instead of moving harmoniously in tandem.

The vanilla buttercream icing wasn’t worth it, either. It was too sweet and too plain. It just couldn’t stand up next to this chocolate love-in-a-cup.

So I scraped away the frosting, warmed the cupcake for just a few seconds in the microwave, and topped it with vanilla ice cream, a little caramel and the tiniest pinch of sea salt.

It was crazy good.

Update — these are truly super chocolatey. Rich in a fab way. But, if you’re looking for more of your everyday yummy devil’s food chocolate cake, try this chocolate cake.

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

from Cook’s Illustrated, makes 12 cupcakes

Note: I underbaked this batch by about two minutes, which may be to blame for the slight dip in the center of the cakes. However, when I made these in the past at the recommended baking time, the cupcakes rose beautifully and remained moist as ever.

Ganache filling:

  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar


  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate , chopped fine
  • 1/3 cup (1 ounce) Dutch-processed cocoa
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 3/4 cup (4 1/8 ounces) bread flour
  • 3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For ganache filling:

Combine chocolate, heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for up to 30 seconds, until mixture is warm. Stir until smooth. Chill in refrigerator no longer than 30 minutes.

For cupcakes:

Combine chocolate and cocoa in large bowl. Add hot coffee and stir until chocolate has melted and mixture is smooth. Chill in refrigerator until cool, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper cups.

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

Once chocolate mixture has cooled, whisk in oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla until smooth. Whisk in flour mixture until combined.

Pour batter into muffin tins, distributing equally. Drop one small teaspoon of ganache on top of the center of each cupcake. Bake for about 17 to 19 minutes, until top of cake is just firm to the touch. Cool in tins for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.