Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chocolate PB Sand Pail Cupcakes: An entry for Cupcake Project

True confession: The very first baking blog I started reading was the Cupcake Project. Day after day, I found myself heading back to Stef's page to read about these fantastical cupcake (and other) creations that I never imagined I'd have the skill (or courage) to try myself. One day, months after I'd started reading and a few weeks after my own fledgling blog took its first steps, I saw it: the 2011 Ice Cream Cupcake Contest! Along with the fine folks at Scoopalicious, Stef challenged her readers to create a recipe for ice cream cupcakes.

Hooked yet? That's what I thought.

Was I intimidated? Umm, heck yes. I didn't know the first thing about creating recipes--only following them. But, more importantly, I was intrigued. This contest involved some of the things I love most in the world: cake, frosting, ice cream, and writing about all of the above. And so I set to work, brainstorming and sketching and dreaming up combinations of cake/frosting/ice cream that would create a bangin' cupcake entry. I read about a bazillion cupcakes recipes, trying to get a sense for the ratios in which ingredients are combined and the ways you can tweak and substitute and add to make a recipe that's truly your own.

The result? A summery beach pail cupcake filled to the brim with sand--one of the best parts of a day at the beach. The cupcake itself is a chocolate peanut butter base. It's filled with a core of Milk 'n' Cookies ice cream (you can thank Ben & Jerry for that--trying to make homemade ice cream on top of everything else might have broken me!), which you can imagine as that cool, packed sand right near the waterline that's filled with shells and little pebbles and such (represented by the cookie bits; stay with me here). And then, in the little well on top, the cupcake is frosted with a peanut butter buttercream icing topped with brown sugar--the dry sand on top of the pail that's spilling over the sides.

I was super proud of the way these turned out. The cupcakes rose up and domed beautifully, and the smell. Oh, heavenly. (Also, I'm not going to lie to you--I licked the beaters like a five-year-old during the mixing process. I legitimately considered only baking 12 cupcakes and eating the remaining batter straight from the mixing bowl with a spoon. It is THAT GOOD, people.)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Sand Pail Cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, plus 1 tbsp
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

1. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
2. Cream butter, sugars, and peanut butter until smooth.
3. Add one egg at a time, waiting to add the second until the first is fully incorporated.
4. Add 1 cup of milk and the vanilla and mix on low speed until incorporated. Batter will be liquidy at this point.
5. Add dry mixture to the wet ingredients in thirds, mixing on low speed as you add the dry ingredients. When the mixer starts to resist, bump up to medium speed and continue to combine, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. (I also added that extra 1 tablespoon of milk here to moisten up the mixture a bit as it combined.) Batter will be thick, but light and creamy.

6. Fold in chocolate chips.
7. Line cupcake tins with wrappers and fill 2/3 of the way with batter.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
9. Cool tray on wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove cupcakes from tin and cool completely on wire racks.

Yields about 24 cupcakes (I got 28, but a couple were scrawny.)

After the cupcakes cooled overnight, I cored five of them to be my ice cream cupcakes. Those cupcakes got filled with the Milk & Cookies ice cream I mentioned above, then put in the freezer for a couple of hours to solidify the core before I frosted them.

For the buttercream:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla

1. Cream butter and peanut butter together until smooth.
2. Stir in 1 cup of powdered sugar.
3. Add vanilla extract, then 2 tbsp milk. Mix on low speed until incorporated.
4. Add 1 cup of powdered sugar and 1 tbsp milk. Continue to mix.
5. Continue adding ingredients to attain desired consistency--if frosting is too thin, add more powdered sugar. If frosting is too thick, add more milk. I found that the peanut butter made this frosting pretty thick to begin with, so I didn't need as much powdered sugar as I initially anticipated.

If you try either of these recipes and have any feedback or suggestions, I would love to hear them! Hopefully this will be the first of many Chip Chip Hooray originals. :) And keep an eye out for my entry on the Cupcake Project website--the contest ends June 15 and winners will be chosen July 1.

Links in this post:

P.S. Thanks and hugs to my Baby Chip for her photographic eagle eye!


  1. These cupcakes are adorable! I love the use of brown sugar as sand. It's so creative. I think I'll make these for my students before the end of the school year. Thanks for the great idea!

  2. Thanks for reading! I hope your students enjoy them--definitely let me know how they turn out if you try them! :)

  3. Hello Tara! I found you through Basilmomma's Blog Hop! Those cupcakes are the cutest and I could eat that butter cream frosting straight from the bowl!

    Have a great day! Sherri

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Sherri! I fully support dispensing with the cupcake route and just taking a spoon straight to that bowl of frosting. :)

  5. Yay! I think they would be delicious with some of your Wednesday Wines, Maris. :)

  6. Hi, Tara! I'm hopping over from basilmomma's, too. :) Enjoyed reading your first blog and also your "About Me" profile -- keep up the good writing and baking!
    ~ Kim (aka okielicious)

  7. Nice to e-meet you, Kim! I hope to have many more delicious and well-written posts with which to tempt you. :)

  8. This cupcake has it all. Love it!

  9. Thanks, briarrose! I'm a big fan of the avocado dip I saw as soon as I clicked on your blog--I do love me some avocados. :)

  10. I have to admit. I have not done any cupcakes so far but they always look so tasty. You just have to have one :P.

  11. oh my.. I followed your link on Basilmomma not knowing what to expect but holy cow! I love these cupcakes!! You are very talented and do just fine at creating a new recipe.

  12. These are incredibly creative and sound absolutely delightful.

  13. @Mumsfilibaba-- So true! It's like potato chips; you just can't stop eating 'em. :)

    @Maureen-- Thanks for "hopping" over! I hope you come back again to see more future recipes.

    @Jamie-- Why thank you! I love summery baked goods myself.

  14. Your cupcakes turned out fabulous and boy do they sound delicious!

  15. Thanks, Lauren! I was very proud--I brought most of the batch in to my coworkers and they got rave reviews. :)

  16. Oh my gosh. These.sound.amazing! And they look amazing too! Ice-cream filled cupcakes are an awesome summer treat.

  17. Valentina, I totally agree--I mean, I like ice cream enough as it is, so...why not just put it in everything else I like? Doubly delicious!

  18. So cute! These cupcakes are adorable and they have pretty much my favorite flavor combo in the world, peanut butter and chocolate. Yum! I also have to find that Ben & Jerry's flavor - wow, it sounds great! :)

  19. @Sara-- Oh my goodness, go out and buy that ice cream right now. You'll thank me; I promise. ;)

  20. Tara,
    So nice to meet you and your blog. Your cupcakes are amazing, and I love the the story, behind them.

    Stef's blog was one the first blogs that I began reading, because I love cupcakes. To me, she is the "Rock Star" of cupcakes. I got to meet her in January!! check it out on my blog.

    You're off to a great start!

  21. Becky, thank you so much for your kind words! The photos on your blog are so beautiful--they are definitely of the sort of quality I'd like to emulate as I get better at this. Hopefully you visit again soon!


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