Fourth Birthday Cupcakes

by Elissa

We recently celebrated Lane's fourth birthday. We had the party at a place that features huge inflatable slides and play areas, and it was easy to outsource food, drinks, decorations, and goodie bags to the party facility. But I was determined to make the birthday cupcakes myself. Although we are currently without an oven, our awesome next-door neighbors kindly let us use their kitchen for cupcake-baking purposes.

I decided to go with chocolate cake, cream cheese frosting, and a raspberry on top.  My go-to chocolate cake recipe is this double chocolate cake recipe from Gourmet. It features both cocoa and bittersweet chocolate, along with coffee and buttermilk, and results in a super-moist cake that really tastes like chocolate.  I would err on the side of underfilling the baking tin, as my first batch overflowed a bit, resulting in ugly cupcakes that are hard to frost. This recipe makes A LOT of batter--I got 40 cupcakes from following the recipe as written. We were expecting almost 60 people at the party, so I made a double batch.

Cupcakes loaded up in the trunk

Cupcakes loaded up in the trunk

My preferred recipe for cream cheese frosting is below--it's heavier on the cream cheese and a little lighter on the sugar than many others. And the raspberries were an easy way to add some additional color.

The party was a couple of days before Lane's actual birthday, and we brought cupcakes into school for a special afternoon snack. I had some leftover cupcakes, but I ran out of frosting. The thought of making the frosting and decorating the cupcakes just felt like too much on a Monday night, so I went out and bought some bright green cupcakes from Safeway instead.

The birthday boy at school

The birthday boy at school

The kids may have actually preferred the store-bought cupcakes, but hopefully some of the party attendees appreciated having homemade cupcakes. I know I'm always happy to have an excuse to eat chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature

4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners sugar (or to taste)

Use a mixer to blend together the cream cheese and butter, then add the vanilla extract and  gradually add 1 and 1/2 cups of confectioners sugar.  Taste frosting and add more sugar if needed, continue tasting and stop when you reach your desired level of sweetness.