I'm P.C., and I have studied food and cooking around the world, mostly by eating, but also through serious study. Coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France have broadened my culinary skill and palate. But my kitchen of choice is at home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas.

I live, mostly in my kitchen, in my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.

Peppermint Black Bottom Cupcakes

Last year, for the big family Christmas Eve celebration, I was tasked with providing a dessert.  It’s a little tough to figure out the right dessert for a great big gathering, one that serves enough and pleases everyone.  In the past I’ve made cakes and pies, but you always need to make two or three, plus someone has to evenly slice and serve them.  And transport can be a tricky thing.  So it occurred to me that cupcakes were the best solution.  Easy to make, easy to transport and appealing to all ages.

During the idea search, I stumbled across a classic black bottom cupcake recipe in my files.  My mom used to make them when we were kids.  We requested them for birthdays and special occasions, though we called them cream cheese cupcakes.  These were a favorite childhood treat for me, and I hadn’t had them in years, so it seemed like the perfect way to incorporate an old family recipe into a new family celebration.  But I wanted to jazz them up a bit, give them some seasonal flavor and a little wow factor.  Add some peppermint flavor, white chocolate chips and a healthy dose of red food coloring and it’s Christmas.  I made two batches, transported them in plastic boxes and placed them on the counter in the host’s kitchen.  A crowd of children gathered around, with a few adults looking on, staring at the pink and brown swirly cupcakes, asking when they could have one.  That’s when I knew I hit the mark.

Peppermint Black Bottom Cupcakes

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 1/3 cups sugar, divided

1 large egg

½ teaspoon peppermint extract (or to taste)

Red food coloring

1 cup white chocolate mini morsels

1 ½ cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup water

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 Tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners.

Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy and smooth.  Gradually beat in 1/3 cup sugar until thoroughly combined.  Add the egg and beat until smooth.  Add the peppermint extract, then the red food coloring bit by bit until you get a nice, bright pink tinge.  Go a little brighter than the final color you want as it will soften during cooking.  Fold in the white chocolate morsels.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup of sugar, the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients.  Stir together the water, oil, vinegar and vanilla in a measuring jug, then pour into the well.  Stir just until the batter is mixed.  Spoon the batter evenly between the 16 muffin cups, filling each half-full.  Spoon a heaping Tablespoon of the cream cheese filling over the batter in the cups.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of a cake comes out clean.  Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 16 cupcakes

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