I had no intention of using the blackberries in cupcakes but I was on one of those end-of-the-season grocery store trips where I had this seasonal sense of urgency. “I didn’t eat enough tomatoes!” “There weren’t enough peaches in my diet!” “I promised myself I’d buy a case of apricots and I didn’t.” Somberly I dreamt of all the missed pies and cans of jam that I won’t get to tuck into in on a cold morning in January. Where did summer go?
So into my cart I tucked five pints of various colored cherry tomatoes, bags of soft peaches and fragrant nectarines and a flat of blackberries still dusty from the fields. The stone fruit never aspired to more than snacks for the kids and quite honestly I think the tomatoes had the same fate. But when a spontaneous evening sailing invitation came up and I volunteered to bring dessert to the little party, those blackberries found their calling.
This cake recipe is not new to this site. In fact I’m sure this is the third or quite possibly the fourth time it’s been printed here. It’s made so often in this house I have the recipe hand written and taped to the back of my cupboard for easy access. It’s delightfully easy (only takes one bowl!) and perfectly tender with a hearty chocolate flavor that satisfies my bittersweet cravings. At this point I should have it memorized. But the blackberries stirred carefully into the nearly black batter, now that is new and a very happy discovery. Tart cream cheese frosting and a bit of vanilla flecked salt was going to be the final flourish but a friend (hi, Krissy!) and I decided that a salty caramel would really put these little cakes over the top.
If I have completely missed the mark on sharing this recipe and berry season is well behind you, you’ll be happy to hear that frozen berries work very well and raspberries make a fine blackberry substitute. So regardless of the season these tart, sweet and oh so pretty cupcakes can shine any time of year.
One final word – for those of you who have shared your email address with me over the years you may have noticed a shiny, new surprise email from me! That’s right, I’ve become a big kid and started a newsletter. We’re aiming for this to be a monthly thing and we’ve got plans for all sorts of fun topics to discuss. This month we’re celebrating the in between – you know when the sun still shines but the leaves lose their green for shades of crimson and orange. Where peaches and apples briefly share the same shelf space and we can finally turn on the oven again without fear of overheating. There are a few recipes from the site that are my favorite to cook right now and then there’s a bonus recipe for a pungent Ginger, Pear Bourbon Punch that is perfect early Fall drinking. I’m aiming for a bonus recipe or something else definitely worth your while – so be sure to sign up!
Chocolate Blackberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese + Caramel
makes 3 8” inch layers or 24 cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar (I’ve used white or brown or a combination of the two and all work well)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil (or other, nearly flavorless oil)
2 tablespoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups warm water
4 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)
Prepare two cupcake pans with liners.
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl until everything is well blended.
Add the wet ingredients and whisk to combine. Fold in the berries.
Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the tops slowly spring back when gently nudged.
Let cool in the pan for five minutes before finishings the cooling on a rack.
Cream Cheese Frosting
3 (8-ounce) packages / 680 g cream cheese, at room temperature
1⁄2 cup / 115 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 – 2 cups confectioners’ sugar (depending on the desired amount of sweetness)
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean
For the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar, salt, and vanilla. Turn on low and mix until combined.
Turn up the speed to medium and beat 4 minutes more.
The frosting can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored, covered, in the fridge.
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
Combine the sugar and the water in a small saucepan. Bring a boil and let the sugar caramelize until it’s smoking and deep copper in color. I teeter the edge with my caramel – close to burnt so you get complex flavors rather than a flat, just-sweet, caramel.
Carefully add the cream (it will bubble up vigorously) then stir to combine.
Frost the cupcakes when they are completely cool. Drizzle on the caramel then top with flake salt.