I doubled and slightly-modified a chocolate cupcake recipe from thescranline.com - check out Nick's site and his Instagram feed if you haven't already; he does some incredible work!
Of note...you'll need either a kitchen scale to measure ingredients in grams OR - you can use this fancy ‘grams to cups converter’. Or just use the conversions I ballparked for you. You’re welcome!
350g all purpose flour (roughly 2 ¼ c)
450g granulated/caster sugar (roughly 2 ¼ c)
100g cocoa powder (roughly 1 ¼ c)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 c /250g /16 T unsalted butter, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
350ml buttermilk (about 1 ½ ; I used a 2c pyrex liquid measuring cup with mL marks on the back)
2 t vanilla extract
Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (180C) or 320 F (160C) for a fan forced oven. Grease 3 8-inch pans with baker's floured spray and/or line pans with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, add the cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar. Turn mixer on low speed and allow it to mix for a couple minutes to help everything combine well (or sift the ingredients together). Add in the softened butter until it’s well incorporated into the dry ingredients and no lumps of butter are visible.
Next, add buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla together and whisk until well combined. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients in a slow and steady stream until no dry ingredients are visible. Scrape down the bowl and mix for another 20 seconds.
Fill the three pans evenly - I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part, and each of mine weighed out to about 550g. Bake for 30-35 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow cake layers to cool completely on a wire cooling rack before frosting. If you insert a skewer or toothpick and it comes out with wet batter, bake for another few minutes at a time until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs.
Cool for 10-15 minutes before removing cakes from pans; then set aside on cooling racks to cool completely. Set in the fridge to accelerate the cooling process if desired.
If you want to fill the center of your cake with M&Ms and chocolate chips, use a glass or medium-sized biscuit cutter to remove center from two of the three cake layers. (It works best to do this once your cake layers have cooled; they’re much more likely to crumble if you cut them when they’re warm.)
Chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
1 cup cocoa powder
6-7 cups powdered sugar
4-6 Tablespoons milk
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar and cocoa powder alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.
Chocolate ganache drip:
6 oz (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
6 oz (3/4 cup) heavy whipping cream
Meanwhile, make your ganache. Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl. Place whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring almost to a boil over medium/low heat. Pour over chocolate chips and let rest for 2 minutes, then stir until smooth and silky. (Or you can combine ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-second intervals on 50% power, stirring in between until smooth).
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, bench scraper, and piping bag with a star tip - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful!
- 1 large bag M&Ms candy (I bought the ‘shareable’ zip-top size bag)
- 1 small bag or box of M&Ms candy (about 1 1/2 cups - I bought a large bag and used about half of it)
- 1 cup chocolate chips (I used Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips)
- 1 long skewer or chopstick
Once your cakes are cool, level them (if needed/desired). This can be done with a cake leveler or a large serrated knife and a ruler. Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers - if you've cut centers out of two of your cake layers, those will be your bottom two layers. Fill the empty centers of your cakes with M&Ms and chocolate chips – I used the M&Ms from my box first since I needed it empty to use it as a decoration on top of the cake. Add a layer of frosting over the second cake layer, and put the final layer on top.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer.
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
Okay - ganache drip time!
I used a semi-sweet chocolate ganache for this cake – I found a squeeze bottle worked the best for this ganache since it’s fairly runny until it sets, but I’ve used a piping bag for similar drips before. Make sure your cake is chilled - I left mine in the freezer for close to 20 minutes. Slowly drizzle the ganache around the upper edge of the cake, pausing every inch or so to let drips of ganache run down the side of the cake. Return cake to the fridge to set the drips.
To add the finishing touches to your cake, put the remainder of your chocolate frosting into a piping bag, and pipe swirls of frosting around the upper rim of the cake – I alternated large with small swirls for a little more texture/variety. Place an M&M on top of each frosting swirl.
Now the fun part – the M&M box! I cut one of the small tabs from the side of the box I wanted angled closest to the cake, so that I could easily slip three small wood skewers into the box. Press the skewers down into the cake until your box is at the desired height- I left mine about an inch off the top of the cake. If any of your skewers are still visible, pipe on some frosting to cover them. Add M&Ms to the top of the cake – I went a little crazy at this part since I had frosting swirls around the rim to hold everything in place! Add small bits of frosting and more M&Ms and chocolate chips around the base of the cake if you’d like, or you can leave them off for a more simple finish.
Editors note – I made this cake for my mom’s birthday party, which was the evening of a day I was scheduled for a 12-hour shift, so I put it together the evening before and left it in the fridge overnight. Once it was out and coming to room temperature, the change in temperature made the M&M colors turn a little bit whitish and less bright. Just a note in case your assembly is time isn’t right before serving time – you may want to add the M&Ms to the top of the cake right before you serve it.
And that's it - you're done! High-five yourself!
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo! 🙂