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Black Bottom Cupcakes

Why is there vinegar in the cupcake batter? Baking soda, the ingredient that makes these cupcakes rise, starts to work only when it comes in contact with an acidic ingredient. Some common types used in baking are lemon juice, buttermilk and vinegar. Sweet balsamic vinegar, which has a flavor that goes well with the rich flavor of cocoa, is added to the batter here. It gives these cupcakes a deep, full flavor. Surprisingly, they wont taste anything like vinegar after the batter is baked.

Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room
      temperature

  • 2 1/4 cups cold water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 5 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Before you start
Be sure an adult is nearby to help.

Position the oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.

Make the filling
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the egg, sugar and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Prop up a pastry bag in a sturdy glass or mug with the bags wide opening at the top. Fold the top of the pastry bag down over the glass. Using a rubber spatula, scrape the filling mixture into the pastry bag. Set the filled pastry bag aside.

Mix the liquids
In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the water, oil, vanilla and balsamic vinegar. (Theres no need to stir these. Just put them together in the cup.) Set aside.

Make the batter
In a large bowl, using a whisk, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, sugar and salt until evenly blended. Slowly pour the water mixture into the flour mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth.

Pour in the batter
The cupcake batter will be quite runny. If your bowl has a spout, you can pour the batter directly into the muffin cups. Otherwise, it will be easiest to pour the batter into the liquid measuring cup and use it to fill the cups. Fill each lined muffin cup three-fourths full. Do not fill them any fuller than that or there will not be anywhere for the filling to go when the batter rises!

Add the filling
Pick up the pastry bag. Plugging the tip with one hand, twist the top of the bag to close it. Using one hand to guide the tip and the other to squeeze the top of the bag, insert the tip into the center of one of the cupcakes. Gently squeeze a small amount of the cream cheese filling into the batter. You will see the chocolate batter rise as the filling fills the middle.

Keeping in mind that you need to fill 24 cupcakes, squeeze a small amount into each one.

Bake the cupcakes
Sprinkle the top of each cupcake with the chocolate chips.

Put the muffin pans in the oven and bake until a thin skewer inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean (ask an adult to help!), 26 to 28 minutes.

Ask an adult to help you remove the pans from the oven and put them on the cooling racks. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then lift out the cupcakes and put them directly on the racks. Let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Sweet Treats, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2006).