Cupcakes really are a wonderful invention, aren't they? Don't get me wrong, I love digging into a big slice of layer cake as much as the next person, but making one can be a lot of work, and slicing it (and maintaining the cake's appearance) is no, er, piece of cake either. Cupcakes, on the other hand, are a snap to mix, bake and eat. That's especially true with this recipe, since you don't even need to frost them! (Whip up a batch anyway, though, and eat it with a spoon while the cupcakes are baking and cooling.)
I've seen recipes similar in many cookbooks and on even more web sites. Instead of using any of them directly I decided to just make my own version. The chocolate cake "base" of this recipe is simply an iteration of the tried-and-true "krazy cake" recipe from yesteryear. It's not the best-tasting chocolate cake out there (though the inclusion of espresso powder helps give it a boost), but it is very likely the easiest to make.
You can even make these for vegan or lactose-intolerant friends if you use Tofutti-brand 'Better Than Cream Cheese' in place of the regular cream cheese. Leave out the egg--it should be fine without it, though likely more dense.
1 ½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup raw sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
3 tablespoons oil or melted margarine
1 cup cold water, with 1 teaspoon of espresso powder dissolved into it
Cream cheese filling:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 large egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chocolate chips
You can make this in any order you choose, but I usually make the cream cheese filling a day ahead, just so I have less to do the day I plan to finish off the cupcakes. Make the filling by dumping the first four ingredients (cream cheese, egg, sugar and vanilla) into the bowl of a stand mixer and combine on medium speed until smooth. Stir in the chips by hand, then pour into a separate (smaller) bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the cake batter, combine dry ingredients in a large-ish bowl. Add wet ingredients and whisk until combined--don't over beat, though, or you're cupcakes will despise you (as will the people looking forward to your cupcakes!).
Spoon chocolate batter into muffin tins (preferably fitted with paper liners) until they are half or two-thirds full. Add a dollop (perhaps a tablespoon) of the cream cheese filling on top. Place in an oven heated to 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes. The filling will appear nearly set when the cupcakes are done.
Cool to room temperature before eating--or place in the refrigerator until you are ready to polish them off!