There are some decision in life that are consistently difficult to make.
I’m not trying to get weighty or serious on you here. I’m not talking about decisions in career, love, religion, or family; these are pretty much first-world-problem decisions, but difficult decisions still. Decisions such as, wake up while it’s still dark outside to get your run in before work or to sleep in and run later. Decisions like whether or not to only have one dog or to sneak in another one without telling the landlord. Decisions like vanilla or chocolate.
Admittedly, vanilla or chocolate is not always a difficult decision for me. I’m Team Chocolate all the way for everything – cake, ice cream, candy. Don’t even speak to me about blondies – in my book there are only sweet cocoa-y brownies.
Every once and a while, even for a chocolate lover like myself, vanilla become a tantalizing alternative. It has to be real vanilla, not a fake vanilla flavor, and it has to be intensely vanilla, but there’s a reason we started buying our vanilla extract in bulk. I add it to everything from pancakes to our morning oats to chocolate cupcakes. Sometimes I even double how much vanilla extract I add to a recipe, because that spicy yet delicate flavor just is so good.
The other day I was making cupcakes as a thank-you treat for Ryan’s co-workers. Cupcakes are the best way to express a gracious thank-you for wedding gifts, don’t you think? I had finally rested and recovered from the great wedding cupcake bake-a-thon and was ready to whip up some frosted little cakes again. I could not decide which to make – vanilla or chocolate? Vanilla or chocolate? Finally, I decided just to make both – and mix them together.
Ryan’s and my beautiful wedding cake inspired this recipe. We had a incredibly tasty vanilla-chocolate swirl cake with white buttercream frosting at our wedding (and for weeks afterwards – frozen wedding cake actually tastes quite delicious!). Before this cake, I had often taken vanilla chocolate swirl cupcakes and cakes for granted – why choose swirl when you could have straight up chocolate? This cake though – the swirl was a perfect balance of spicy vanilla and rich chocolate. I might have cried a little when we finished our last slice.
Making vanilla chocolate swirl cupcakes is actually surprisingly simple. You make a vanilla batter and use half the batter to fill up half of your cupcake tins. You then add cocoa powder to the remaining batter, fill up the other half of the tins, and then gently swirl together using a dinner knife or small spatula.
- 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 stick unsalted butter, divided softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tablespoon vanilla extract, divided
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon half-and-half
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Line the cupcake tin with cupcake liners.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat 1 stick of butter until creamy, for about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high until fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the egg into the butter-sugar mix and beat on medium. Then add the applesauce and 1 tablespoon of vanilla, beating until thoroughly combined.
- Set the mixer on low and add the flour and the milk, alternating so that you start with the flour and end with the flour. Blend until the flour is combined.
- Scoop half of the batter into the cupcake tins. Try to align the batter to one side of the tins rather than covering the entire bottom - having the two batters side-by-side will allow for easier swirling.
- Add the cocoa powder to the remaining batter and combine. Scoop into the cupcake tins.
- Use a spatula or dinner knife to swirl the two batters gently together in each tin. Avoid stirring too much - you want the batters to remain distinct.
- Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.
- For the frosting, beat 1 stick of butter in the mixer. Add the half-and-half (or milk if desired), vanilla, and powdered sugar and beat on low for 1 to 2 minutes until voluminous and creamy.
- Frost the cupcakes and enjoy.
- The basic white cupcake is adapted from the confetti cupcakes in How Sweet It Is' cookbook, Seriously Delish.