Chocolate-strawberry cupcakes

I know it’s still a month away, but when I made these irresistible cupcakes for Attilio’s birthday this week I couldn’t help but think how perfect they will be for Valentine’s day. This rich yet delicate chocolate cupcake is topped with a swirl of my favorite chocolate frosting, garnished with a bright red strawberry and filled with a sweet surprise: a strawberry jelly center.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have a lot of romantic expectations around Valentine’s day. Growing up, my parents presented the holiday as a celebration of  love, all love, not just the red-roses-diamond-ring-lingerie kind of love that has come to be associated with February 14th. Every year as a child, I would craft elaborate “valentines”, little hand-made love notes complete with glitter and colorful hearts, that I would distribute to my loved ones: my parents, brother, best friend, grandmother, cat, etc.

This year I’ll carry on the tradition, but instead of glitter and glue I will be using pots and pans to prove my love to my dear ones. I’m dreaming up an unforgettable Valentine’s menu to prepare for my family. I communicate through food, so what better way to say “I love you!” than a beautiful meal followed by these chocolate delights?

If you’re looking for inspiration for your own Valentine’s Day menu, you’ll find some great ideas here. Or if you’re looking for something “hot”, take a look at my aphrodiasic menu from the archives.

Chocolate-strawberry cupcakes

for the cakes

  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) hot water
  • 1 1/3 cup (190 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup / 2 sticks (230 g) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (230 g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream

for the filling and frosting

  • scant 1/2 cup (150 g) strawberry jam
  • 1 1/2 cup (180 g) powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (20 g) cocoa powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • scant 1 cup (200 g) cream cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) butter, softened at room temperature
  • 7 oz (200 g) dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1/2 cup (120 g) sour cream
  • 16 fresh strawberries

For the cakes

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line 16 muffin cups with paper liners. Stir together the cocoa powder and hot water in a small bowl; set aside. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until well blended. Add the cocoa mixture and beat well to combine.

Add one third of the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Add half sour cream and beat until barely blended. Continue to alternate the flour mixture and sour cream, beating just until blended after each addition.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups only filling 2/3 of the way. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to rack and let cool completely.

For the filling and frosting

When the cupcakes are cool cut a 1-inch-deep piece from the top of each cupcake (do not discard). Fill each hole with 1 teaspoon jam and replace cutout pieces (see pictures below).

Sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese with the butter until smooth. Add the sugar mixture, a little at a time, stirring well to combine, then stir in the melted chocolate. Add sour cream and mix well until smooth. Frost cupcakes using a pastry bag or a spatula, and top with fresh strawberries. Store cupcakes in the refrigerator if not eating immediately.