A few years ago when my husband and I were thinking about starting a family, I just couldn’t picture myself with a kid. I mean come on… a kid… that’s such a huge commitment! So much responsibility! I felt that my life would be over, and it would be all about this new baby. Hah. I know. I sound crazy. I was just so afraid of losing my sense of self. There were a lot of panic attacks, and a lot of hand holding from my husband’s end, but eventually the idea grew on me. I started to think of this future baby as someone I could be friends with, someone I could share things with, and someone who I could love.
One of the ways I got over the fear was imagining scenarios of me and this future baby / kid doing things together. I pictured us going to the park, or sitting in our future backyard just enjoying a great late Summer / early Fall day. Flying as high as possible on a swing and feeling that moment of exhilaration when you jump off midswing. I pictured us reading together before bedtime and introducing her to all the worlds that could possibly be imagined in books. From exploring new planets, to swimming in the middle of the ocean, to befriending dragons, to scolding monkeys. There’s nothing that can’t be achieved in a good book. And, because this is me, I pictured us baking.
Hah I know it’s so June Cleaver, but somehow it’s such a “Mommy and me” iconic imagine that I just can’t get out of my mind. Both of us in a sunshine filled kitchen, with this little munchkin standing next to me on a chair while we whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies (like these, or these, or these) or some cupcakes. I pictured those cupcakes coming out of the oven, and the two of us decorating them with a smear of frosting or just straight nutella and maybe some colorful sprinkles, laughing and sharing secrets, while her father sat at the kitchen table reading a book or grading papers looking up and smiling at us. “Baba look what Mama and I made! Want one?” The two of us would walk over to him, me holding glasses of milk, and her proudly but carefully carrying a plate of cupcakes. We’d sit together and share an afternoon treat while we talked about all the stuff she was learning in school and the new discoveries she’d made that week. This perfect little family moment.
Hah, now I know that image is most likely the result of ad agencies pushing warm sun kissed happy families in Betty Crocker and Nestle commercials, but it’s something that’s real in my head none the less The only difference is, there probably wouldn’t be a box mix in my kitchen. It would be a simple but home made recipe. Something that can be mixed together as easily as a box mix, in one bowl, with no fancy gadgets, but the ingredients would be top notch. And because it’s my daydream, and I can have whatever I want, the cupcakes would be chocolate. And because this is supposed to be kid friendly, the frosting they are paired with can’t be fussy either.
This recipe is actually inspired by the recipe printed right on the Hershey’s cocoa box. The only problem is, the original recipe always caved in the middle for me. Ina Garten has a very similar recipe, but I didn’t enjoy the addition of coffee, and again, there was too much liquid in the batter and my cakes would cave. After lots of testing, I finally found a combo that worked for me. I swapped out the milk and replaced it with sour cream, and adjusted the amount of baking soda and baking powder. I retain that delicious chocolatey taste, but I now have the structure and height that I want. Try it and let me know how it works for you. Happy baking!
- 2 cups sugar
- 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I use Valrhona cocoa)
- 1 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup boiling water (honestly I just use hot tap water)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
- Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir to combine.
- Add eggs, sour cream, oil, vanilla extract and water. With a hand blender or mixer, beat together for about 2 minutes, or until batter is combined. Be sure to scrape the bowl to ensure no clumps of flour.
- Fill cupcake liners about 1/2 or 2/3 of the way up.
- Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean with just a few crumbs. If you press the top of the cake, it should bounce back.