birthdays | brown sugar | chocolate | cupcakes | frosting | recipe

Happy birthday choo-choo chocolate cupcakes.

October 27, 2008

My dad’s birthday is this week, so among the 5 billion other baked goods and snacks I made or am going to make this week for Halloween, I made him some birthday cupcakes. As I was going through my Bible (not that bible, my bible, aka “the book”) looking for a recipe, I realized that I had never made regular ol’ chocolate/chocolate cupcakes. Maybe because I prefer vanilla and its a subconscious thing? No idea. So I decided dear old dad would get chocolate cupcakes (Billy’s Bakery recipe) with chocolate buttercream. Its so basic, yet its such a favorite and it really is delicious and comforting (despite my allegiance to vanilla).

I already knew what my gimmick with these was going to be. You see, my dad’s a train collector and has a huge setup of model trains. Initially I was looking for some Thomas the Tank Engine stuff, thinking it’d be really funny, but I didn’t find anything I wanted to use, it was mostly cake decorating supplies or party favors that were way too big. So in my web travels I discovered these choo-choo train cupcake wrappers, and I figured the perfect thing would be to get those and use them. They’re really beautiful and unique, yet appropriate and don’t involve what usually amounts to a 5 year olds birthday party favors (sorry, Thomas, but its true). Lyns, being the sweetheart she is, knew I wanted to use them and despite my being really busy and having a crazy week and forgetting to order them, sent them to me anyway! Thank god for her!

So here we are. Happy birthday dad!



  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (7-¾ ounces)
  • 4 large eggs (one at a time)
  • 6 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 cups cake flour (9-¼ ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Cream butter, granulated sugar and light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Add 4 large eggs (one at a time) and beat each until thoroughly combined, then add  chocolate (chocolate should be melted, then cooled for approximately 15 minutes before being added)*. Add and alternate cake flour plus baking soda with buttermilk (room temperature) plus vanilla extract.
  3. Place cupcake paper into each cup of 2 muffin pans (each pan yielding 12 muffins). Then fill each cup with 1 leveled off scoop of an ice cream scooper.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees in regular oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.



  • ½ cup solid vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup butter or margarine softened
  • ¾ cup cocoa or three 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (approx. 1 lb) sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons milk


  1. Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and vanilla.
  2. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.
  3. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.
  4. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

The cupcake recipe makes 24-27 and the frosting recipe frosts, oh… about 70 million.  Nah not really. The cupcake recipe made about 27 cupcakes and I had enough frosting for all of them plus a few more. I frosted ’em and slapped some little train toppers that I made right on top. All aboard the cupcake train! Wow, that was cheesy.

*If you only have unsweetened cocoa powder, not baking chocolate, and still want to make these cupcakes, you can. For every ounce of baking chocolate required, simply use 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder plus 1 tablespoon oil or shortening. Ta-da! If my calculations are correct, which I’m sure they are, that roughly means 6 tablespoons shortening or oil plus ¾ cups of cocoa powder for this recipe. You do not have to melt it together separately. Just add it when it says to add the unsweetened chocolate. Or, alternately, you can just add unsweetened cocoa powder to the dry ingredients. Thats what I did.

Yeah. I’m friggin’ exhausted.


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