March 12th was my dad’s birthday. He turned 84, and since he can no longer travel at all comfortably, my mother arranged for two of his brothers and sisters-in-law to drive up (six hours!) and surprise him with a bit more of a party than he’d been expecting. We all had a good time and heard quite a few stories about Dad’s misspent youth and the various shenanigans he and his brothers used to get up to.
Of course I could have made Dad a cake, but I had a birthday card waiting to be used that said on the front “Watch out for birthday ninjas” and on the inside “They’ll sneak up on you like regular ninjas, but with cupcakes.”
Well, with a card like that, of course I had to make cupcakes. And what better cupcakes than chocolate cupcakes with cheesecake in the middle?
There is nothing the slightest bit unusual about this recipe, versions of which are floating around all over the internet. The cake part is basically a one-bowl chocolate cake, so nothing could be easier. They should rise fine even without eggs. They are not especially attractive as cupcakes go, but what with the cheesecake centers, they don’t need to be lovely in order to be the hit of any birthday party. This recipe makes about thirty cupcakes and believe me, that is not too many.
Okay, so, here we go:
Cheesecake-filled Chocolate Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
3 C flour
2 C sugar
2 tsp baking soda.
1 tsp salt
2/3 C cocoa powder. I used about ¼ C black cocoa powder and the rest regular, which yielded wonderfully moist cupcakes with a nice chocolate flavor. Black cocoa powder isn’t acid enough to react with baking soda, which might be a concern in some cake recipes, but not in this one because of the vinegar. The baking soda will react with the vinegar no matter what kind of cocoa you use.
2 C water
2/3 C vegetable oil
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
For the filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1/3 C sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 C mini chocolate chips. Various recipes either don’t call for chocolate chips in the filling or use regular-sized chocolate chips. Without going into long-drawn-out raptures about how wonderfully my cupcakes turned out, I suggest mini chocolate chips.
Okay, I suggest you make the filling first so that it’s ready when you want it. Combine all the filling ingredients. Make it as far ahead as convenient and chill it until you’re ready to fill the cupcakes.
Combine the dry ingredients. Add the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Beat two minutes or so. Either spray the heck out of two or three muffin pans or put paper cups in them and spray the inside of the cups. Spoon a generous amount of the batter into 30 cupcake cups, filling them about halfway or a little more. Spoon a Tbsp or so of filling into each cup. Spoon a little more cupcake batter over each to completely cover the filling. Bake at 350 degrees or 20-25 minutes. Mine were done at 20 minutes and looked a little overbaked around the edges, but they weren’t overbaked at all, so I think that might have been the black cocoa powder making them look a little more baked than they were. You could probably stick a toothpick in them to check, but it’s usually pretty clear when cupcakes are baked. When they look done and feel done to a fingertip, they’re done. Cool eight or ten minutes and remove to racks to cool completely.
Now, try to exercise patience. These cupcakes are better completely cool because the cheesecake center is better cool. Refrigerate to store, and I will add that these particular cupcakes are excellent directly out of the fridge and don’t need to be brought to room temp before serving.
You may be wondering whether to use paper cups, so I will add that I baked half in a generously sprayed pale-colored muffin pan and half in a dark-colored muffin pan with lightly sprayed paper cups and they all worked. Not a single cupcake tore. The ones baked without the paper cups were prettier; the ones baked in paper cups rose higher and then tended to collapse a bit in the middle as the cheesecake filling shrank. It’s possible this difference was a function of the color of the pans, which is why I mentioned the color. All the cupcakes were equally tasty and I was quite sad when they were gone.
In my opinion, frosting is completely 100% supererogatory for these cupcakes, but hey, I’m not a big frosting fan anyway. If you’re the sort of person who feels frosting would enhance these cupcakes, you’re probably also the sort of person who already knows what kind of frosting you plan to use on them.
Either way, enjoy!